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August 17, 2008 | Feature Article

Sikaman Palaver: Pot bellies to reduce?

THE government of General I. K. Acheampong was probably the most creative if not imaginative, coming to think of it. When the rains stopped falling and agricultural production slumped, General Acheampong referred his countrymen to God. The matter had nothing to do with his government, he said.

Then came the 'tighten your belt' era in the late 1970s when civil servants stopped having lunch not because they had become religious overnight. The money was nowhere near the back-pocket. When the General saw the waist of a civil servant, he was moved to tears. He ordered yellow corn, hoping it would improve the waist-line of wispy Ghanaians.

Of course, the General had told his countrymen that he had no magic wand. Even Kofi Larteh, the celebrated magician, could not produce rains; how much less an army general? And if that civil servant's waist was going to break mid-line, all he could do was to order yellow corn for him and his kinsmen.

After all, if poultry and pigs could be fattened on yellow corn, why not human beings? Even during the Second World War, Germans were feeding on dog meat, because there was nothing else to eat. Dogs were hoisted on barbecue stands and carved out for hungry stomachs. So the yellow corn idea constituted rational thinking.

It came to pass, therefore, that Ghanaians decided to reduce themselves from human beings to pigs to feed on yellow corn kenkey, yellow corn banku, koko and all the yellow sub-varieties. Great government!

Sooner than expected, workers went on strike. It was obvious that although there was an abundance of yellow corn around, money to buy it was, however, non-existent. The very imaginative and creative Acheampong government introduced the most imaginative package for workers - Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), if I'm not wrong.

The pittance was an insult in the faces of Ghanaian workers. Most outrageous of all, Makola women who were manipulating the Ghanaian economy like a marionette often increased prices whenever the government increased workers' wages. So the COLA which was peanuts to begin with was quickly wiped off by inflation induced by Makola econometrics.

The typical Ghanaian civil servant was reduced to a pitiful human specimen. He had nowhere to look for salvation. The churches were crying out to the almighty to save the masses. The tigaris and awoyos were not left out. The Buddhists and Hare Krishnas chanted mantra. Then God listened to all the prayers and sent Kung Fu, better known General Fred Akufo. His moustache was praised as having the latest of designs.

It soon came to be realised that the high-profile moustache notwithstanding, the bread and butter issues of independent Ghana were still a matter of concern to many. Austerity budgets came and passed and the military oligarchy finally came with a message - Democracy is the way out.

A young air force officer, however, felt a bit differently. Democracy, yes! But not when people did not answer for their misdeeds before the country could start on a new slate. May 15, 1979 registered the loudest protest thereof and on June 4 there was a boom! Jerry Rawlings was born.

With the coming of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council came the shedding of blood. "Let the blood flow!" was the call from Ghanaians of all walks of life. They had suffered enough. And the blood flowed rather freely.

Jerry Rawlings second coming on 31st December 1981 was welcomed with much less enthusiasm. Ghanaians wanted to build a democracy, however badly or naively this would turn out to be. To have nipped the new democratic course in the bud elicited misgivings among Ghanaians.

When starvation came from nowhere and the collar-bones of Ghanaians showed glaringly, the term 'Rawlings Chain' was coined. God had mercy on Ghana and the rains fell. The bumper harvest of 1983/ 84 brought relief to Ghanaians, but to some it was belated. They had eaten kokonte prepared from poisonous species of cassava and died.

If things of this nature happened, Ghanaians got awoken to the realisation that food self-sufficiency is very important in the life of any nation.

The latest near-disaster was the rice import-export crisis. Luckily, Ghanaians have other staples in corn, cassava, cocoyam, etc. The great Asabee, on his own designed a menu chart for Ghanaians and got some bashing for the effort. It includes kokonte (face-the-wall), soaking and mangoes. I am sure the man would have made a good nutritionist, if you consider that jiji and groundnut soup is a national delicacy of no mean reputation.

But going beyond the family menu to marco (Makola) economics, one will realise that the trends are changing. Instead of governments asking citizens to tighten their belts, governments are this time around asking a cut in the remuneration of ministers and government functionaries. Cote d'ivoire and others have done it. Is Ghana following suit?

Bringing this to the basics, it means that if the government is getting cash-strapped, then ministers need to reduce their pot-bellies. No free petrol, no entertainment allowance and no accommodation of unnecessary incidentals. In effect, the pot-belly will gradually reduce to reflect the changing times.

I have been discussing this with Korkorti my bosom friend, and guess what he recommended! Motorcycles for ministers - Pruum! Pruum! Ministers can quickly scoot off to Asanka Delight' or 'Chop Better' for a good lunch at midday. If they want real class, they can try Trafix at the National Theatre. But along the roads, they'll see civil servants still buying roasted plantain and groundnuts, yam and koobi.

This scooter recommendation is necessary for ministers to know what is happening on the ground, to have a feel of what the people are experiencing. When they go back to cabinet, they'll know what to say and how to say it. You cannot talk on behalf of anybody when you don't feel what he feels. He who feels it knows it, so says Bob Marley of Trenchtown, Jamaica.

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MyjoyOnline
MyjoyOnline

The author has authored 338 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author's column: myjoyonline

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