I was fresh from Legon in the 1990s with youthful exuberance; I had to escape from desperation just like those gone before; the smart ones who exploited the system to celebrity status. I had avoided the murky waters of student politics like a bug during my student days. This stance changed after graduation; politics was the way forward to riches. Past political leaders in Ghana escaped poverty through politics so why not. Then some of my Legon mates went into student politics back on campus and travelled abroad on swap schemes. They returned with scintillating stuffs to woo the pretty ladies on campus.
The members of Parliament (MPs) are given car loans every 4 years to build lavish houses all around the country. Many others rose from rags to riches through this means. Politics seems to be the only way out of the decay in Ghana. With these trappings beckoning I got involved in NASPA activities during my National Service days in Ho in the Volta region. Then I met one of the Service persons call Fiator who was so disillusioned with the rogues in political cloaks. He ranted ‘Marxism – Leninism and times of yore’ - one hen one coop; one man one loo. His ranting reached crescendo. ‘Corruption; zero rated; looting started in Eden’. In the end he talked me into contesting as an Assemblyman in my electoral area. I assessed my chances and concluded I could win; it would be daunting though.
My electoral area; West Wougon was then part of the West Ayawaso Constituency. In the early part of the year 2000 the area constituted Staff Village (Legon), La Bawaleshie, Okponglo, Shiashie, Mempeasem, Akplaga Villa (ATTRACO area) as well as parts of East Legon; i.e. American House, Christian Centre. The area was vast but in order to win, I needed a support base from the five indigenous towns. The reason was unlike the wealthy residence living in sprawling mansions, the locals usually participated in the District Assembly elections.
My support base in these five electoral areas was firm due to historic ties. I grew up in the area and most of the opinion leaders in the area were my basic school mates. I filed my application with the Electoral Commission (EC) and my posters soared high above the sky. Friends and well wishers spread the message widely. There were five contestants; I was the only university graduate. My head was loaded with fanciful ideas of employment for the youth, unemployment benefits, and job seekers allowances; a sort of welfare state for the poor. At EC mounted platforms I sold my whimsical ideas to the electorates and won all the debates. My ratings skyrocketed.
According to EC regulations the election was to be non partisan. That was only on paper. The two main political parties NDC and NPP hijacked the process. Aspiring MPs who craved for $60.000 luxury car loan booty got involved. The campaign itself involved spending a lot of money. Voters demanded money freely. Unlike the rest of us the incumbent has loads of money to spend. I was then a known NPP activist in the area but the party was in opposition and broke.
Regrettably there was another NPP member contesting. The then NPP aspiring MP for the area offered to pay the candidate that withdraws. The offer was so enticing. I really don’t have the much needed liquidity to fund my campaign. I was so tempted to take the money quietly and melt away into silence. The first thing that came to mind was my supporters especially Alidu. He and many others had funded my campaign so it was going to be a total betrayal to stash my pocket with money and vanish out of town.
Not long after this episode I had another alluring offer from NDC top notch in the area. He wanted the incumbent off the seat and was prepared to fund my campaign to achieve that aim. All he wanted in return was me to renounce my party. The man owned fleets of vans and he was prepared to commit them to my campaign. Also he would put umbrella foot soldiers in charge of my campaign. Again after another top notch; under the umbrella came with hefty cash offer on the condition that I follow him to the umbrella city. Amazingly I rejected these lavish offers that would lead me out of the decay. My conscience did not allow me; you must be ferocious to be in politics in Ghana; in Africa. Certainly it’s not meant for saints.
I adopted house to house campaign strategy. On my rounds I saw poverty and despair. Withered children roamed dark alleys in search of mothers who were certain the dusk settled on their dawn ages ago. All these notwithstanding amidst the gloom sprouted blossoms wearing scintillating smiles; flocks of stunning ladies similar to the one radio superstar KKD could not resist popping up from the mire. I met one of the blooms from the gloom and she set my life aglow. I had known Fred for years but had no clue he had such an adorable sister. I went to his house on my campaign trail and met her at the gate. She smiled coyly and my folder dropped instantly. She was sensational. She was in a sleeveless outfit that exposed her cleavage. As sign of respect (for the ‘honourable’) she bowed to pick my folder. Her dress caved in revealing a pair of blossoming pebble-like bubbles. I couldn’t let her go thereafter.
The issue of power brings vile in some politicians. Months into the campaign some of the contestants took to voodoo. One contestant buried a live boar in the dead of the night. I was told. Another was caught copulating with a nanny goat as means of fortifying his charm. Unknown to the incumbent I had an informant in his camp. He told me the incumbent’s poster had two heads, a real head and a devilish one. He warned me to be wary as evil ran amok. Days later my campaign advisor Alidu came to me looking restless. He said the aspirants were eliminating their rivals through voodoo. ‘I need to ‘cook’ myself to remain in the race’ He said. ‘I am cooked in the ‘Blood of Jesus’; I am not signing my soul to Beelzebub’ I told him. He left dispirited and that was the last time I saw him. The campaign came to end and the result was declared.
Though I did not win I had the option of acquiring wealth through deceit like the rogues in politics. I had to choose between honesty; gluttony and death. I chose life; I am glad I did. I always yearned to tell Fiator my story but never got the chance until now. The last time I saw him was at Gatwick Airport, London. I again saw him briefly on a KLM flight on transit via Amsterdam, Holland. On both occasions I could not tell him I refused to acquire riches through the easy way. I refused to go into Politics; the cheapest way to luxurious life in Ghana; in Africa.
Francis Kwaku Kuma
Lecturer - Koforidua Polytechnic