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23.10.2008 Politics

Rawlings Goes Antoa

By Daily Guide

The dreaded Ashanti river deity, 'Antoa Nyama' has popped up again, as an enraged Jerry John Rawlings dares President John Agyekum Kufuor to come along with him to the shrine to prove his innocence or otherwise, in the mysterious deaths of some 34 women shortly before the 2000 polls.

Rawlings invited other key officials in President Kufuor's administration including  Nana Akufo-Addo and Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey to join him for the 'Antoa' interrogation at the shrine.

Screaming his heart out, Mr. Rawlings told his supporters that he is ready to subject himself to the oath of 'Antoa Nyama', as a demonstration of his innocence.

The NDC founder threw the challenge to the President while on a campaign trail in Nsuta-Kwamang-Biposo in the Ashanti Region on Tuesday, swearing that he would not rest until justice is served.

The former president's show of reverence and confidence in the deity, the umpteenth, appears to have reaffirmed the National Democratic Congress' (NDC's) belief in the prowess of the river deity and other shrines.

The mention of the deity's name is coming on the heels of an earlier one when the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NDC, Daniel Ohene Agyekum used it to cast a spell on the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and media men for writing what he said was a mendacious story about the party.

The action, which drew public opprobrium across the country, saw the chairman under the glare of TV cameras using tell-tale objects of fetishes, eggs, a bottle of Schnapps and fresh green leaves.

As if to tell Ghanaians who did not subscribe to the use of the deity by his regional chairman that they can go to hell, former President Rawlings dared President Kufuor to come along with him to swear on the river god to ascertain the truth about the brain behind the murder of the 34 women.

His visit to the region was to bolster the campaign of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer, Prof Atta Mills. The renewal of faith in 'Antoa Nyama' confirms the NDC's belief in the power of juju, which the party has been trying to extricate itself from. Just a little over a week ago Ohene Agyekum, a self-professed Christian, caused a stir by invoking 'Antoa' to deal with some NPP personalities and journalists.

Ohene Agyekum's bizarre action was greeted with mixed reactions by NDC gurus, with John Mahama, running mate to Prof Mills describing the Ashanti regional NDC boss' action as 'a mark of courage'.

According to John Mahama, Ohene Agyekum was not the only Christian who would go to 'Antoa', pointing out that there were a lot of people who invoked deities and still take the front pew in churches.

The mysterious murder of women hit Accra before the 2000 elections in the country and saw victims with virtually no major bruises on their bodies.

The victims were said to have had their blood drained by their attackers who sometimes left used condoms and needles close by, while the bodies were left in various stages of nudity.

Mr. Rawlings, it would be recalled, accused the ruling NPP, then in opposition, of arranging to bring in the dead bodies from neighbouring Togo to create panic in the country.

Charles Ebo Quansah, now on death row at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison, was arrested and charged for the murder of 8 of the women who lost their lives during the mysterious killings.

In yet another version to his charges, former President Rawlings pointed a finger at 8 ministers in Kufuor's cabinet to cause panic.

Before settling on 'Antoa', Mr. Rawlings had asked for a chemical interrogation of suspects or the engagement of a lie detector.

Veering into another subject outside 'Antoa', he stressed that a South African company which was engaged by the NPP had told the party that the NDC, due to its hard work, was not going to lose the elections.

This claim sounded confusing to people who listened to him because it was not clear which election the former president was referring to.

The NPP, he said, however used all manner of tricks including the murder of women to make the NDC unpopular.

In the heat of affirming his party's proclivity to deities, the Ashanti Regional NDC Chairman received the support of his party General Secretary, Asiedu Nketia, a.k.a. General Mosquito.

The  party scribe stated that he was all for the chairman in the matter, implying that he supported the employment of the river deity to cast a spell on individuals and journalists.

Ohene Agyekum had stated that it was not the first time he was cursing somebody or a group, explaining that he once did the same thing to some Ashanti chiefs.

Asked about what happened to those persons, he said that after casting a spell on somebody he does not turn back to find out what happens to them.

Brought up in the Catholic tradition, Mr. Rawlings made an interesting headline when a few years before his party lost elections, he stated that he does not fear God but loves him.

Various interpretations were given to the assertion.

While some condemned the assertion as sounding blasphemous, others, especially those apologetic to Rawlings, regarded it as an innocuous piece of talk to show that God should not be feared but loved.

The former President, while engaged in a misunderstanding with his number two person, the late Vice President Kow Arkaah, asked the man to join him at the shrine of 'Antoa' to unravel the truth.

He was also said to have challenged his vice to join him in swallowing a frog to prove his innocence in a case.

It will be recalled that the vice president was pummeled during a cabinet meeting in 1995.

Mr. Arkaah later died after a mysterious motor accident in 2001.

By A.R. Gomda