Logorligi Pilgrimage to Jubilee Flagstaff

Mon, 18 Mar 2013 Source: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

Critical News, 17th March 2013

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

I found myself in Akosombo this weekend. Not by design, I happened to be going elsewhere and ended up there. So I decided to stay and find out whether what ECG is saying that VRA has no energy to supply is true. Motorway drive is risky, you have to be very vigilant, the Trotros and rickety trucks stop all through the distance, you would think it was a rest stop to Tema. At 11am when I got to the end of the motorway, there was a traffic jam. For no reason. All 4x4 Prados and Land Cruisers riding the side roads with as much impunity as Chris Brown smoking wee in the face of Ohene Djan. By the time I hit the Afienya road, I had killed a full 45 minutes of my time. Funny thing, I thought I could see the Flying School from the road, but there were so many kiosks lining the sides, I saw nothing. Is it still there? A relic of my youth, gone? Anyway, the Afienya road was a pot-holed variety of asphalt corn roll where it merged with deep-pitted red dirt, as if someone had deliberately taken a giant barber’s razor to the ground and dug up portions. Then right there in front of the police station, a taxi had broken down, creating a most awful jam. Right there, in front of policemen, standing by nonchalantly, chatting away while we cursed each other idiotically jamming the road around the brick-jacked-up taxi with splayed front wheels.

This week, I wanted to say something nice about the police traffic unit, who I concluded were doing a splendid job controlling jams. But after a constable took my ten cedis earlier in the week because he said I was talking on my cell phone, which I was not, I forked out a tenner, and he took. Guilty with reason, police are still bumming petty cash where they can.

Back to Akosombo trip. Thirty minutes after taxi baloney I am finally through after serving my turn as traffic warden. I haven’t done the Shai Hills view for at least two decades and I was impressed to see the hills still there, even though an endless number of quarries were crunching at the rock, generating chippings for the voracious property market at the expense of my vision of a mighty roller coaster ride undulating along the ridges, the laughter of children carrying across water-rafted ravines, emptying into the coffers of the Tourism Fund. Oh well, opportunity missed. There is a toll road before Atimpoku. That portion of the road is the most bumpy pothole ridden. The irony is that even as we approach the largest man-made lake in the world and the key to all our energy needs, we don’t even care enough to simply fix the road-run to our lifeline.

In Akosombo the lights were shining bright and the lake was full. There is power there, so what is the ECG going on about? The whole of Akosombo was bright and the Volta Hotel has maintained its standard of excellence throughout this time, making a mockery of our diffident maintenance culture.

At first I didn’t believe the Daily Guide story that Government had invited priests from the churches to come along a pious trip to Israel. But it looks like a real invite. In its Friday edition, the paper printed a copy of the letter circulated to the Churches, offering them $10,00 to fly and pray (for JDM’s soul?) I think Owusu Bempah spooked the NDC spiritual team with his prophecy. So when I got to Shai Hills, and was struck by a sign-posting to the Assemblies of God Miracle Healing Church, I thought, why not? The Catholic Priests might have learned a thing or two if they visited this church; except when I turned down the road out of curiosity it was just four sticks and a kpata hanging. It could have been a reasonable per diem, and in local currency. But I do not for one minute believe that our President is a pious god-fearing person. I do not believe that every evening before he goes to sleep, our President kneels before his Christian father and takes all his problems to the Lord. Both he and his mentor Prof. Mills already broke commandment 7 of the Decalogue and he might be in danger of breaking number 8 as well. When he started lifting his eyes and arms to the skies in the run-up to the election that was when I decided that this was just “election piety”. All our politicians do this. It tells you how powerful religion in Ghana.

With the Supreme Court not taking much nonsense from NDC foot soldiers who wanted to join the Voting Petition, (they voted 9-0 to halt the potential and very likely Asiedu Nketia palm wine move) it jogged my memory to some of Nkrumah’s “logorligi” game play.

Quick history trip.

Between Independence and 1960, Nkrumah passed several laws to establish a stronghold over political opponents and Ghanaians. The most known is the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) of 1958 so the Prime Minister could detain certain persons for up to five years without trial on grounds that they were a potential danger to the Nation. In July 1957 he passed the Deportation Act empowering Government to deport from the country anyone “declared by the Governor-General to be a person whose presence in Ghana is not conducive to the public good”, with no right to appeal. Under the Ashanti Lands Act of 1958, Government took over control of all Kumasi and Ashanti Stool lands of which the Asantehene was a trustee. Then finally on 21 February 1959, the Constitution Amendment Act dissolved all Regional Assemblies and discontinued further elections in Ghana. Nkrumah did this because he wanted at all costs to be President for Life. It was so important that he control Ghana and establish his hegemony that he preferred to repress the will of the people to his gain.

And the reason this has all become important is that the NDC have a majority in Parliament and the NPP have taken a protracted stance with their Mahama boycott position, which does not auger well for democracy.

In January 1959 in response to a public statement by Kofi Baako (Kweku “documents” Baako’s father) that he would lock up any lawyer who misbehaved, the Ghana Bar Association, fighting back, asserted that “the upholding of these rights (freedom of expression, association etc.) cannot be subordinated to political expediency, for therein lies the rule of tyranny and not the rule of law”.

And when then Acting Chief Justice Van Lare said “our courts of law must command and enjoy the esteem and confidence of the public. The judiciary is just as essential to our system of good government as is the legislature and the executive. Justice is extraordinarily important in this country at this stage of our development, where political party feeling runs so high that politics should and must be rigidly excluded from the courts, whether subordinate or superior, whether in the day-to-day working or in the selection of their personnel”, it was too late.

Since 1951 the opposition had been booted out of existence through a systematic and sometimes brutal process using constitutional apparatus. In 1951, opposition candidates made up 25 of the 104 seats in the Legislative Assembly. 33 of 104 in 1954, 33 of 104 in 1956 but the time came in 1959 when they retained only a single seat out of 102. The CPP made it impossible for the opposition to campaign effectively, for voting to be free, or the ballot secret. To register as an opposition candidate required an act of faith. Whatever went on behind the screens in the polling booths was no secret to CPP polling assistants; for the blinds had been rigged so high and the ballot boxes for the parties positioned so far apart that by watching the voter’s feet, it was easy to tell for which candidate he was voting. Some voters came out from polling booths only to be beaten up for voting for the opposition candidate. (sources: Dennis Austin, Politics in Ghana 1946-1960 and Peter Omari, Kwame Nkrumah – The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship)

So we have come a “logorligi” way since then, maybe more sophisticated in the way we vote-rig. It has been around since independence and the route to Jubilee/Flagstaff is a hard marathon run. Mahama Ayariga must go into conclave with Nii Lante Vanderpuye if he wants to name-change.

Oh my word of advice. When you go to the Volta Hotel to eat Banku and Tilapia at 30 cedis a plate, don’t. Turn back and go to Blue Gate at Osu. For half the price you get a piece of tilapia that is twice the size and seasoned better with lots more pepper, onions and tomatoes. The teachers want to strike. No money!

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney