By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 13, 2010
4. GEN. IGNATIUS KUTU ACHEAMPONG (CHAIRMAN OF NRC/SMC I)
General Acheampong’s name will evoke prolonged derisive laughter, not only because he left behind coinages associated with the ills of his administration (such as “Kalabule” to reflect the decadence and the vagaries of economic vampire or the “Fa wo to be gye Golf” syndrome) but also because of utterances that he had made or had been alleged to have made:
Fed up with public complaints of hunger and deprivation under his rule, especially when the weather conditions caused food shortages nationwide, Acheampong shocked Ghanaians with: “Me ye Nyame na ma to nsuo”? (“Am I God to cause the rain to fall?”). Then, he was rumoured to have turned round in an aside to one of his colleagues: “Akwasi, do you know that if I cut some (referring to the usual hard liquor), I can talk nonsense paaa…?
Then, when his colleagues in the government were blaming him for womanizing and making a fuss of himself, Acheampong asked them: “How many of you here can tell me that he sleeps with only his wife”? In effect, they were all guilty of what they were accusing him of, which should lead us to question the justification for the palace coup against him.
Do you remember his solution for students’ agitations, especially by those from the University of Ghana, Legon, in Accra (or the “Kumasi Legon boys,” as he put it) who were demanding a “guarantee” from his government to do the right thing before returning to the lecture halls? He asked those in charge of the national kitty whether they couldn’t go to Makola to buy “guarantee” shoes for those students. Apparently, “guarantee” at the time was a high-heeled six-inches (or more) tall footwear worn by young men in those days. To him, a “guarantee” was a “guarantee.”
Then, when he was seriously campaigning to install himself in office with his Union Government mantra, he couldn’t hide his overzealousness: “Fellow Ghanaians, do you want PORTY PALITICS or Union Government? The Union Government idea is not my own but it comes from my mind…”
Before we leave Acheampong, let’s remember what was attributed to him: “We, members of the National Redemption Circle… (Because his government was contemplating naming a roundabout—the former Sankara Circle—after itself)… oh, no, sorry… National Redemption Council, will never on any one occasion entertain rancour, enmity, bitterness, nepotism, tribalism, favouritism, magnanimity … that’s all…”
5. DR. HILLA LIMANN (PRESIDENT, PNP GOVERNMENT)
Dr. Hilla Limann may be teased with Nana Kwame Ampadu’s “Agatha Fi Me Nim” but he has nothing more to his humorous side. Those claiming that he was getting so befuddled as not to know what to do but chew kola nut and spit it to stain the Osu Castle walls were just being mischievous.
6. GEN. AFRIFA (CHAIRMAN OF NLC)/GEN. AKUFFO (CHAIRMAN OF SMC II)/JOHN AGYEKUM KUFUOR (PRESIDENT, NPP GOVERNMENT)
I don’t know Gen. Afrifa and Gen. Akuffo for any of these jokes nor can I recall any that is attributable to Kufuor. That is not to say that they were “dry” in office. Rumours on their acts of omission or commission could be enough to evoke laughter. That must be it.
7. EDWARD AKUFO-ADDO (TITULAR PRESIDENT, NPP GOVERNMENT)
This ceremonial President has left only one big joke behind, as far as I can remember. At a national ceremony to mark the country’s independence anniversary in Accra, he vacated his seat to take the salute (I think) only for a common man to sneak through the security cordon to sit on that prestigious chair. Being reserved for the President of the country only, this chair was revered. Thus, this act by the commoner had security implications but it also evoked much laughter. That has been the only time in the country’s history that an undesignated occupier had ever sat his butt on the Presidential Chair at a national function.
8. FLT.-LT. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS (CHAIRMAN OF AFRC/PNDC; PRESIDENT, NDC GOVERNMENT)
Flt.-Lt. Rawlings comes in as someone whose humorous sides had multiple and variegated effects. They could land him in trouble as well as provoke contempt.
The people of Cape Coast will forever remember him for his “unpalatable” reference to their lack of any sense of hygiene as he captured it in his “egyiramua” (cat) analogy: “Even if the cat defecates, it knows better to cover its faeces with sand, not to leave it in the open to pollute the environment.” That was sometime in 1996 when he had spent many hours helping the people desilt their choked gutters. With its negative impact on efforts to promote tourism in the littoral areas, environmental pollution along the beaches had been a major cause of worry to the government, which Rawlings sought to bring home to the people. But drawing an analogy between their habits in responding to the call of nature and that of the cat to suggest that the cat was “wiser” than them ruffled feathers that are still not back in place. A genuine joke gone awry, you may call it.
This military-civilian amalgam was in more trouble when he ventured into an area that he should have avoided. Flt.-Lt. Rawlings had told a gathering of Christians that “I don’t fear God… I love him…” He shocked many people and they were not prepared to listen to his explanation that if he feared God, he couldn’t approach Him to seek any help from Him. He could do so only if he loved God. No one wanted to give him any ear to explain the situation. Their minds were made up.
The howls of disbelief that this claim evoked were pushed further by his opponents to suggest that he didn’t respect God and the Biblical injunction: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Extending matters further, his opponents didn’t need any further proof to conclude that he was even challenging God’s authority. How could he, then, call himself a Catholic or seek guidance from God? They quickly wrote him off as anti-God. You see what trying to be overly philosophical can lead to?
Have we forgotten this one too from him? You must have heard that he said: “What God has put asunder, let no man put together…” More trouble for him. “What God has put together, let no man put asunder” is the real one, as the religious community of Christians would remind him.
When he picked himself up and ventured into the language of his wife, he seemed to have torn people’s sides with laughter: “Anoma antoa ogyina ho…” (subverting the known Akan proverb of “Anoma antoa, wobuada…”— Literally, “A bird that stays at one place goes hungry,” right?)
Think about other searing ones like “Kufuor niee… Nii Ayii niee…,” which had a very damaging political meaning.
In the recent past, Flt.-Lt. Rawlings has come out with several others, all heavily loaded with ugly political undertones: “Greedy Bastards”; “Who born dog?” “Atta the Mortuary man,” and many more.
9. PROFESSOR JOHN EVANS ATTA MILLS (PRESIDENT, NDC GOVERNMENT)
We are now at the end. Here comes President Mills and his “ecomini” (Is it an instance of confusion, malapropism, or mispronunciation?). Ask his critics and they will tell you that it is a rare demonstration of an inner state of confusion. They are quick to say that he can’t have firm grips on the reins of governance because he is confused, as is demonstrated by his coinage of “ecomini….” and a stubborn reference to “opipipipiiiiiiii” in response to the taunts from the Opposition MPs in Parliament in 2009 when he dropped that bombshell of “ecomini.” The use of this mispronunciation as ring tones on cell phones seemed to perpetuate this howler.
If you want to know why our leaders have left this side of their “inner selves” on our minds, consider the circumstances in which those utterances were made. You will definitely realize that some of them were either boxed to the corner by their incompetence to make such funny statements or that they were indeed desperately trying to douse the fire of anger that had erupted against their style of governance. Indeed, we’ve had goofballs as leaders to fret over.
We will continue to complain about their inability to move our country forward and call for TRUE leaders to emerge and help us use our resources to advantage. But even then, those we condemn have left us with moments of humour, which we must relish, even if grudgingly. In all senses, we must use these bits of humour to release tension any time we feel let down and are compelled to ruminate on our country’s fate. A few laughs here and there may help us live our lives in peace. Come on, then, and split your sides with genuine laughter!