Valerie Sawyerr writes: The cry of the oppressed!
Amaaaaandla … Aweeeeethu!
I hear chanting and stomping! That was the cry of the black South Africans as they chanted and stomped against apartheid and oppressive rule. ‘Amandla’ means ‘power’. The response ‘Awethu’ means ‘for us’. Power to the People!!!
I hear the voice of former Vice President Amissah Arthur who has gone before us towards a land of rest and peace. Rest in peace Your Excellency Paa Kwesi … rest in peace … where you no longer feel the burning oppression of the oppressor!
Really Mr. President! Really?
You fired the Electoral Commission chairperson and her two deputies on one day? Really? You no longer care about whatever impression you put out about your Government and this nation?
... And don't give me any crap about Constitutional provisions, which tie your hands to carry out the recommendations of the Chief Justice’s committee. When you referred the so-called petition to the committee, were there signatures on the petition? Was it acceptable to set up the committee based on a petition that was not signed? Does article 146 of the 1992 Constitution allow for proceedings to be initiated with flawed petitions? Did the Chief Justice not see that the petition before her was signature-less? Or was it substituted with a signed petition, which the public is not aware of? This is indeed a dark day in the democratic history of this country!
Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution sets out the core mandate of the Electoral Commission to wit • to compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law; • to demarcate the electoral boundaries for both national and local government elections; • to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda;
• to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose;
• to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters; and
• to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law.
On which of these was the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, found wanting for incompetence, misbehavior or inability to perform the function of her office arising from infirmity of body or mind, in accordance with article 146(1) of the 1992 Constitution?
Mr. President, you cleared the top hierarchy of the Electoral Commission after they had supervised a sizzling election in 2016 that ushered you and your Government into power? Please pause and think! Can you see the precedent you are setting? Does this mean that if a particular Government appoints the EC Chairperson, it is in the latter’s interest to ensure that the appointing Government wins the elections supervised by her? Is the person you intend to appoint as Chairperson supposed to ensure that your Party, the NPP, wins the elections by fair or foul means for fear that, if Government changes hands, the NDC will set up some committee based on some bizarre petition to disgrace and remove her from post? This is simply preposterous, ludicrous and outrageous. Absolutely irrational!
Do you know the dance that goes with this battle cry? It is called ‘toyi toyi’, pronounced ‘toy toy’. You raise your knees high one after the other. You push your arm straight in the air with a clenched fist. You move the fist back and forth crossing it with the other arm (one arm higher than the other), mimicking the throwing of an arrow. As the leader passionately lets out the blood-curdling cry ‘Amaaaaandla’, the people respond ‘Aweeeeethu’ stomping and chanting songs of resistance - many a time, their only weapon against the oppressor!
Now we are hearing all over the place that under article 146 of the 1992 Constitution, the President is simply a ‘conveyor belt’ for petitions. Does article 146 not presume that the petition to be conveyed should be a valid petition, not a half-baked unsigned petition? Are there no lawyers at the Presidency? Is the Attorney General not supposed to be on standby to advice the President? Are you not a lawyer yourself? So why the antics and capers?
When a properly signed petition against the Chief Justice was received by your office in February this year, why did you not put it on the ‘conveyor belt’ and move it to a committee for consideration as mandated by the same article 146 of the 1992 Constitution? Or did the ‘conveyor belt’ malfunction? Hmmmmmm … I smell something fishy! • Sir, what is your plan? • Koobi (fermented fresh-water fish tilapia) or Momoni (fermented sea fish)? • Fuuuuun! (you have to make this sound ‘fuuuuun’ with a wrinkled, up-turned nose please)
Surely, Mr. President, you cannot possibly think that you can take over this country in rambo style in this day and age. You must be joking! Why? Is the blood of Niccolo Machiavelli running through your veins?
You take over the country based on false promises and convoluted propaganda, you mess up development programs that were beginning to bear fruit or already bearing fruit, you torment the economy, you harass the people, you allow foreign entities to set up military bases in the name of $20m donations, you set up a Ghana Card system based on birth certificates and passports knowing that only about one-third of the total population have passports and/or birth certificates! Why do you want to issue national identity cards to only a fraction of Ghana’s citizens? • Sir, what is your plan? • Koobi or Momoni? • Fuuuuun!
Now you do the unthinkable!!! Simply unbelievable! Pathetically atrocious! You remove three constitutionally appointed officers in one fell swoop. Why do you want to clear the Electoral Commission of its top officers?
• Sir, what is your plan? • Koobi or Momoni? • Fuuuuun!
Mr. President did you just sack the head of the Births and Deaths Registry at this crucial moment? One would have thought this is when you need stability and continuity in that registry, to ensure that institutional memory is brought to bear upon the pressure that will descend on that department as citizens surge forward for certified true copies of long-lost birth certificates, or for new birth certificates in your Ghana Card saga. • Sir, what is your plan? • Koobi or Momoni? • Fuuuuun!
Aaaba! This one - na Kako!!! I remember ‘kako’ during the days of famine and hunger in Ghana under President Rawlings, when we were eating relief items and yellow corn. We would stand in line for hours to buy uncooked yellow corn kenkey, which we would cook at home ourselves. There was so much hunger, that the balls of kenkey were ‘booked’ or ‘reserved’ by buyers before it was taken off the fire.
What I call ‘relief items’ came in sacks in the form of a dry powdered protein meal. Maybe fish flakes or fish powder with little dots of what seemed to be dried vegetables supposed to create some form of a balanced diet. This would be mixed with rice and cooked like rice pilaf. I understand the protein powder was part of food aid meant for refugees. I remember eating the same thing for days, a little portion each day. It had a certain distinct smell which some could describe as ‘flavor’. We ate so much of it that I could not shake off the smell for a long time. At a point I would take a deep breath, hold my nose and gulp down everything on my plate under the watchful eye of my mother who had made it clear to us that we had no options because the country was in a desperate state.
Then there was this bad smell that would hit me anytime I went towards the boysquarters of our home. It was some kind of salted or preserved fish called kako. At least that is what they called it at that time. I don’t know if it is the same kind of fish that some currently refer to as kako. It had to be cooked for a long time, but once flaked into gravy with an egg or two folded in, it would go down the throat quite nicely. My mother would dry it on the boys-quarters roof, hence the welcoming smell on approach. Wow! This smell was etched on my memory and, even now, I wince when I remember it. The JJ smell, I call it!
I feel so shy for you Mr. President. I want to crawl under my sofa and stay there until you redeem yourself. We have come too far to allow you to trample all over the nation with such wanton disregard. We have struggled and toiled for our independence and the establishment of our democracy. Blood has been shed. Some have lost their lives. Some have lost their limbs. Some have become mentally handicapped. Some have developed medical conditions constantly dependent on medication and special care for sustenance. We have come too far to accept what seems to be some form of institutionalized hooliganism. We cannot allow you to break the backbone of our democratic state in fulfillment of your whims and fancies.
We raise our fists in the air, we stomp, we yell ‘Power to the People’, we belt out our national anthem with emphasis on the line ‘and help us to resist oppressor’s rule with all our will and might for evermore’. Mr. President, you do not need to take up weapons and make dawn broadcasts at GTV for us to know that we are moving towards tyrannical rule. We are the people living in the nation and we can feel the tyranny. It is all around us! It has encompassed us! It has enveloped us!
“First used in the 1530s, the adjective ‘tyrannical’ stems from the late 14th century word ‘tyranny’ meaning ‘cruel or unjust use of power’ which has origins in the Greek word ‘tyrannos’ meaning ‘master’. Tyrannical rule is the opposite of democratic rule” (vocabulary.com)
Mr. President I am no longer relaxing on my patio. I have moved into toyi toyi mode. My knees moving up and down, my right arm in the air, my right hand clenched into a fist, my arms moving in arrow mode … shouting … Amaaaaandla, and responding myself Aweeeeethu!!!! My neighbours may be wondering what is wrong with me but I will not stop until they understand that they must respond ‘Awethu’ to the battle cry ‘Amandla’.
As I stomp, I can see the understanding dawning in their eyes. I can see them raising their fists in the air. I can see their knees rising. I can see their arms moving. I can hear them chanting – ‘Mr. President, do not destroy this nation’!!!
‘A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity ... for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’. (Nelson Mandela)
I am for peace … Shalom!