By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016
Folks, you must by now have read or heard news reports about the confrontation between supporters of the NDC and NPP during a public forum in the Odododiodoo constituency in Accra. That event aimed at offering the Parliamentary candidates the opportunity to present their programmes of action to improve the lot of the constituency.
And if the report is to be believed, the event went on well until the nastiness of a misunderstood democratic process erupted to mar it all. We will not bother ourselves about what precipitated the nastiness or the outcome. We will interrogate upper-level issues to suggest that what happened was misguided, uncalled-for, and irresponsible. The nub, then, is that Odododiodoo has set a very bad example that must not be emulated anywhere in the country because it isn’t good for our democracy.
Let’s begin with some foray into the history behind this kind of political hooliganism. In truth, this particular constituency is noted for this kind of political upheaval, given what had happened before Election 2012 when clashes between activists of the NDC and NPP occurred therein, one of which saw the NPP’s Ursula Owusu being dealt severe blows.
We heard the wailing and all that followed to prove that some kind of dirty politics was going on. In the end, nobody was dealt with by law. This Odododiodoo fracas was replayed elsewhere until the outcome of Election 2012 settled differences (regardless of the NPP’s useless petition). The NPP lost that seat. Now, it is seeking to regain it.
For Election 2016, it is fielding the very candidate who had lost to the NDC’s Nii Lante Vanderpuije, raising the stakes to a whole new level, especially because of many developments, including the negative stance of a stalwart like Attoh Quarshie against Akufo-Addo’s handling of the affairs of the party and the fact that the constituency has benefited from the Mahama-led government’s development projects agenda to influence voter attitudes.
Anybody seeking to undo the incumbent MP, then, must have a lot to contend with. Mobilizing supporters for a shouting match isn’t the solution. Neither will physical confrontations. That is where we seek to draw attention to the physical confrontations between the NDC and NPP supporters in Odododiodoo as a drawback. It has come at an early time in the electioneering period and is condemnable for all that it is and portends. No constituency should follow suit. We will unpack it all.
Before then, we want to remind the people of that constituency of what they are as far as Ghanaian politics is concerned. We will do so from two angles: one, on the basis of the history behind their struggle to be what they are today; and two, on the basis of what their own people have established them to be, meaning that they should do better than setting bad precedents in contemporary Ghanaian politics.
Let’s shoot off. Those conversant with the pre-colonial agitations by the people of Odododiodoo should know what the “Ga Shifimo Kpee” and its slogan of “Ga shikpon, Ga meanoo” struggle to ward off the colonial powers are. (Let me explain it all here: “Ga lands belong to Gas”, which is all captured in the historical fact that the shrine still standing in the middle of the street in Ga Mashie with the inscription “Ofite Osaa” (“If you spoil it, you repair it”) means a lot.).
Nearby is the Swalaba fish market. Folks, remember that fishing is the preoccupation of the indigenes, even if boxing has made a big name for them, counting on the exploits of such notables as Oblitey Commey (the Boxing Fisherman), Ike Quartey, and many others after them.
Too much digression here to be pardoned. But the point is that Odododiodoo is known for a good cause. It embodies a good part of Ga Mashie, where the Gbese stool resides. It can’t be undermined, even if there is a dispute over the legitimate occupant of that stool (probably because the processes toward establishing and confirming legitimacy have been politicized). The only time in our contemporary history when an acceptable occupant reigned may be forgotten by some trouble-makers therein; but those who can recall the Gbese Mantse, Nii Opese Manku, who got burnt to death in his residence overseas sometime ago will know it all.
Why is Odododiodoo not setting a good example? Can the citizens not recall the harsh days of the Acheampong era when Gbese became an attraction for “Yellow corn” kenkey? I still do because I remember standing timidly among the heavily built men guarding the pots of “Yellow corn” kenkey at Bukom Square in 1977 who won’t budge for poor ones like us to have our fair share.
That was in the tumultuous days of Kutu Acheampong when “Olonka” was the national slogan for hunger. It’s difficult to forget, folks. The “Rawlings Chain” epidemic of the early 1980’s may be regarded as a replica; but there is more to it. In the Acheampong era, the hunger was caused by too much deluge (rainfall), unlike the Rawlings one that was caused by drought. In all that, I still remember the place of Odododiodoo, where we survived the whirligig of Nature to be what we are today.
Now comes the origin of the name “Odododiodoo”, which is itself interesting as stuck to my memory. I credit Prof. Atukwei Okai (former General Secretary of the West African Association of Writers, PAWA) with it. In a poem that he excellently rendered ex tempore at an important function in the late 1980’s, he put the name “Odododiodoo” on centre-stage. That was when he was in his element as an academic, even before becoming a Rawlings appointee as the Secretary for the Greater-Accra Region.
In that capacity as a politician in that revolutionary era, he drew attention to himself when he said that “a ball of kenkey (the favourite Ga delicacy, which is now every Ghanaian’s choice) must be like the fist of a man”. And Rawlings quickly took him on, asking him: “When you talk of the ‘fist of a man’, which man do you mean? A pigmy or a giant?” He lost the political office not long thereafter and faded away from politics into his comfort zone in the academy; but his projection of “Odododiodoo” stuck.
In the creation of political zones for local government purposes, Kwamena Ahwoi and his team settled on the name “Odododiodoo” for that part of Accra. And it is a central part of the Ga identity. No serious politician will toy with it. And when trouble begins from there in Accra, it means a lot to wake us up.
Now that the Odododiodoo constituency has emerged as problematic in this early period of the campaigns for Election 2016, we should be concerned and act proactively to remind the residents of that area that the problems that have kept them below the poverty line cannot be solved overnight by the politicians playing them against each other.
One simple question that they need to ask themselves is: Since time out of mind when they have given their mandate to politicians, what has happened to change their living conditions? Answers to this simple question should guide them on how they behave when dealing with those politicians. If they cannot answer that question, they should be mindful of the bait dangling in front of their eyes.
Folks, we note here that Odododiodoo is an important part of Accra. It is Ga Mashie, where everything about the Ga State resides and revolves. Those who know the area will not wonder why it is what it is and will continue to be so over the years. For the sake of political expediency, some may want to manipulate the situation by inciting needless political violence to serve their narrow and selfish interests.
What has happened there so early in the political electioneering process that we are commenting on isn’t necessary. It won’t solve the age-old problems of the residents of that part of Ghana or others elsewhere. Why, then, should anybody muddy the waters? All said and done, it must be clear that Odododiodoo has set a bad example in senseless political violence to be condemned. The problems facing the people cannot be solved through political violence. Democracy eschews this kind of senselessness.
The truth is that the politicians milking the system dry know how to hit heads against each other to the blind side of the citizens whose sweat, blood, and toil they seek to survive. Their survival bid does no good to the ordinary citizen. So, why should the ordinary citizens kill each other for such politicians?
Folks, there is too much to deal with. We can’t ever exhaust it all; but we want to say here that the citizens can serve better purposes if they recognize what is at stake and avoid acts that pit them against each other for the benefit of the politicians putting the wedge between them. And a careful analysis of the calibre of politicians that we have in Ghana shows that mostly those migrating from careers into politics are self-seekers to be feared and dumped.
They are a danger to the public weal. From their outlook and posturing, and from their public posturing, our politicians have proved to be heartless and should be closely watched and dealt with. Those allowing themselves to be bought to cause trouble should think twice. That is why residents of the slum area called Odododiodoo should tread carefully.
I shall return…
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