Archive for December, 2012

Reflections on Christmas Day in the City

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2012 by kola

So the much hyped Christmas Day finally arrives and everybody is busy at it. Spending Christmas in the city can be so diverse that various people go about it in a variety of different ways. I will like to consider spending Christmas by some various groups of people in society and how i think they will spend the Christmas day and the holidays in general.

The year 2012 has been an interesting year in as many calendars as come to mind. In the traditional calendar that is used by everyone there have been some very interesting dates: 01/01/12. 12/01/12, 02/02/12,12/02/12,  06/06/12, 10/10/12. 12/12/12, 20/12/2012 and the year the Mayan Calendar purports the world to end on 21/12/12. These dates have marked very special and carried lots of superstitions with them this year. But in the end we are still here.

There have been public holidays that have been fun but all these holidays have somewhat been skewed towards the insignificant and boring. Let us take for example the Worker’s Holiday, May 1st where workers went on a march past in all the regions in Ghana to mark the day but yet still had to go to work the very next day. Most of the holidays, just like Christmas, have not been favourable to the Ghanaian worker at all. The holidays have been on weekdays, apart from a few.

Another holiday under consideration will be the Nkrumah Day on May 25 instituted by the African Union executive. Ghana has adopted the holiday but most of the African countries, even our closest English speaking neighbours Nigeria, have not taken it seriously. It might be a statutory holiday but then most people end up going to work. With the kind of vision Kwame Nkrumah had, it is rather pathetic that we are holding on to his ideas and ideals still not only as a country but as a continent. His vision for a united Africa came to fruition in the African Union ratification in 2001. The man expressed this vision and was pushing for it as far as in the 1960s. On Nkrumah Day, the Hydro Electric Dam that he built is still the main source of electricity in Ghana and half the nation was kept in darkness the whole day. Is that how we honour the founder of a nation?  Well, this writing is about Christmas so let us get back to it.

The year also marked a political election year with the various parties seriously campaigning to win the hearts and hitherto the votes of the masses of Ghanaians. Politicians were busy putting their houses in order and it was sometimes humorous and at other times pathetic just seeing them going about their campaigns. In the end, we all know the result since it’s still fresh in our memories.

Then finally, the Christmas we so anticipated is here. A month to Christmas and politics was the order of the day in Accra and the urban centres. Campaign speeches, songs and slogans were rife and some of the masses complained of ‘hardship’ in the economy. Most people did not really know how Christmas was going to go and hinged the Christmas celebration on the results of the elections.

Just after the election, then the crowds set in and the Christmas spirit could be felt. In a week, throngs of people trooped into the capital to put in their Christmas shopping. Traffic in the city was unprecedented, gargantuan, woyomic and the entire terms city dwellers give a situation depending on what is trending politically, socially and economically. The Christmas fever has set in.

If you are a politician who won the election, then it means you will celebrate it differently from the one who lost, obviously. If you are a member of parliament and you lost your seat, then Christmas will be a time to mourn but interestingly, you have some arrears to collect from the Salaries Recommendation Committee. For those politicians who were counting on the money from the SRC and therefore went to borrow funds for election campaign using it as collateral, then it is a colossal loss.

If you are an average civil servant, Christmas will mean that at least you get a chicken, a gallon of oil and a bag of rice – all quantities depending on your level in the administrative structure of the civil organisation and how long you have worked in that particular outfit.

The ordinary Ghanaian can only look forward to what he/she can get from whatever job that they have, no matter what. Christmas is a time for merry making and there have been times when some people just use the occasion and holiday to just relax and take time off whatever they are doing and relax. It does not matter who you are and what you do and how much you make in your business, Christmas has always been a time for reflection & relaxation.

However as discussed earlier, 2012 has been a calendar mischief year. Christmas is a Tuesday, invariably the day after is a holiday but then there is work right thereafter on Thursday and Friday before the weekend. This has therefore led Christmas in the urban centres, where lots of businesses are located, become a time when inasmuch as one has fun, one has an eye out for and not looking forward to work on Thursday at all.

Families decorate their houses in anticipation of Christmas and on Christmas Day play carols throughout the day. Some friends hang out with each other and it is a time for old friends to come together after seeing each other sparsely during the year.

The Christmas holidays elsewhere in the world are still celebrated as 12 days but in Ghana there are only 4 days of Christmas – 25th and 26th December and 1st and 2nd January. It is back to business as usual after these days. Next year however is another rarity that happens every four years in Ghana – the swearing in ceremony of the president elect on 7th January. That is also another holiday spent as part of the Christmas for the party that won the elections. Means they get to stay in power for the next four years.

Moreover it is important that we do not forget the idea behind Christmas – that Jesus Christ was born on this day and his mission in the world was to save the world and reconcile God’s creation back to Him. In Christ-like fashion it is a time to share, to love and just do good and expect nothing in return.

Christmas is a time for merry making and joy but it is best enjoyed if this merry making and joy is shared with the less fortunate in society.

 Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!

 

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A Day In the Goat Market.. A Chapter from #TamaleChronicles

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2012 by kola

So I spent the day at the livestock market in Tamale. It was a really interesting experience.  Traveling from one place to the other in Tamale can be a very tricky business if you are new to the city. Usually you can take a minimum of 2 taxis to your destination – one to the main and central taxi or lorry station (depending on where you are going) and the other to where you are actually going. However you could travel in a roundabout way if you don’t know your way about town. On some routes there are no taxi stops or destinations but you might find taxis halfway on these routes. This means that you will have to cover half the route on foot in order to take a taxi the rest of the way.

The first time I went to the market, I took a roundabout route and realized after my transaction that I was back where I started and if I wanted to go back home I had to go via the same route I had arrived. This to me was unacceptable. I realized it would even have been easier and more convenient for me to walk to the place rather than resort to even taking a cab (and also saving me some coins). Thus began my trekking all over the big city of Tamale and also the birth of the Tamale City Blues. Everywhere I went and as much as possible, if I didn’t find it inconvenient, I walked the whole way.

Residents of Tamale have a saying they usually tell people who seek directions from them – ‘oh it’s not far, it’s right in front of you or it’s right here’. They say this because basically they Tamale residents have no concept of distance because they ride motorbikes or bicycles almost everywhere they go so distances are short for them. The first time it happened to me was in 2001 when I came to visit my then girlfriend, who was a national service person in Tamale. We were supposed to go take her service ‘allowa’ (national service allowance) so we could ‘chill’ small so a couple of us decided to go to the municipal offices where the cashier was purported to be to collect this money. The thing was that being new in town, we did not really know the municipal offices and we were at the Russian Bungalows. These are suburbs in Tamale.

Inevitably we had to ask for directions to which we were told it was ‘right here’. Not knowing any shortcuts we actually took to the main road as we were directed–‘just follow the cars to the main road and just keep going, you can’t miss it’. We ended up walking for just over an hour just following the road as we had been told before getting to our destination. Being the typical Ghanaians that we are, we had waited till the last minute to set off since we were sure to get there to collect the ‘allowa’. Imagine our anger, frustration, disappointment and dismay when we were told the cashier had left for the weekend and that we were too late.

It happened to me again quite recently when after watching a training session of the local first division team Real Tamale United I decided to walk to the Tamale Polytechnic which I knew was in the area. When I asked for directions after walking for 25minutes, I was told I was almost there and to keep walking. I got to the polytechnic campus 35 solid minutes later all sweaty but I had had a fun walk because I had my camera and had taken some interesting scenic shots. Since that time, whenever I ask for directions and I am told I am almost there or I hear ‘it is right here’, I morph into the typical city slicker that I am and stop the nearest available taxi and jump in. Taxi fares are relatively cheaper in Tamale.

Walking the streets of Tamale has opened my eyes to so many socio-cultural practices of the Dagomba. Furthermore, being a socially reclusive city, it has given me a lot of opportunity to see and understand why some people especially in the south have the kind of perspectives they have about the people in the north. Even some of the people from the south especially Accra who work here live very rigid routine lives from home to work then back home, church on Sundays then maybe an occasional outing with friends once in a blue moon.

Folk usually stay indoors and with the residents, by 8pm the whole town is nearly deserted. You cannot reconcile the city center of during the day to the city center after 10pm. Tamale being a metropolis, the only trace that can be related to the activity of the day is the filth that is left behind in the streets everyday. It was not like that but with Tamale expanding and becoming a city center that is to be expected. Folk stay indoors because there is nothing much to do than watch television and this kind of fuels the belief down south that people in Tamale stay indoors because it is dangerous to be outside since the Dagombas are violent. That is absolutely false!

The Dagombas are very passionate with whatever they do especially when it comes to expressing themselves. It is not uncommon to hear raised voices in a normal conversation between two natives and when an argument or debate gets heated, there is an offchance that one party will try to outshout the other and an onlooker might be tempted to think that it’s probably a fighting match. It’s usually not. It is just their way of making themselves heard over the din of their opponent and they are a very loud people. I always ask why is it that other people do the same thing and its okay but when people of northern origin raise their voices, they are branded violent. Let’s leave it at that for now.

I have had some very interesting experiences (some I have shared) and met some very interesting people in my excursion to Tamale. There was this one time when I was stranded in a no taxi area and I stuck out my thumb to any passion vehicle with the mindset that even in Accra nobody will stop for you and how many people really know what a thumb out meant especially in the backward place.  This to me was an European concept and I honestly didn’t think it will work in this ‘ backward’ place. To my utter surprise, every time I have stuck my thumb out in Tamale, I get a positive response where usually the driver gives me a lift to wherever I am going without recourse to the inconvenience it is causing them.

This brings me up to another point about the people of Tamale.  They take the Ghanaian hospitality to a whole new level not just for Europeans and white people (as we do in Accra) but also to their fellow humans no matter who you are. There was this one time that I got a lift on the back of a motorbike of a very pretty lady who drove me all the way to see one of my girlfriends. No questions asked. My first land lady Aunty Muni owns a supermarket that was just in front of the house and she encouraged me to take anything I will need to ‘feel at home’ since I was new to the town and now settling in. she insisted I take as many items as I need and pay when it was convenient for me and made my stay as comfortable as possible with meals in between. Somehow I could not take advantage of her too much since I was not brought up to take charity from people but to work hard for what I wanted in life.

But it was at the feet of Aunty Muni, in her supermarket, that I learnt a lot of the Dagomba customs and cultural practices. She is a very interesting person to know and proved to be a wealth of information. Auntie Muniru has lived in Tamale all her life and she has ventured to Accra only once although she got as far as Kumasi. Her reason for not going Accra is that it is too noisy. She has a sister who only goes to Accra during the ban on drumming and dancing prior to the Homowo because she finds Accra too noisy. At almost 60years old, Auny Muni has never been to Accra and she only sees Accra on the television and she sees the crowds and it scares her. She went to Kumasi a few times and wanted to go to Accra but she was told that the crowds in Accra are bigger and more noisy than in Kumasi so she told herself that she will not go to Accra since she can’tstand not only the noise but the crowds. However she has property in Accra that is being taken care of my relatives who send her money and regular reports of how her supermarkets are doing in Accra. Her children are all very well educated and now she lives with relatives from her village that she is taking care of because her children and family are scattered all over Ghana and abroad. I found her an interesting respondent to my questions.

So back to my day spent at the livestock market.  I took a shortcut I had discovered over the weekend to the market and within a few minutes I was there. I met with the man I had been introduced to earlier to buy the goat from and we decided to wait a while since I was expecting some friends I had called down south who had expressed interest to let me purchase some goats on their behalf since I was on site. With Christmas in the offing, goat delicacies and the smell of goat will waft through many homes and we didn’t want ours to be exceptions. So I waited for confirmation of the money to buy the goats on my phone. I get notifications in my account whenever there is a transaction. I told the guy about it and he gave me a curious look. I took it for granted. Furthermore since I am quite tech savvy, I decided to browse a bit whilst I waited for the confirmation of the transaction so I whipped out my Techno T9 and all hell went loose.

Another common feature in Tamale is the proliferation of phones of all kinds but the most common phone that you will find anybody using is the Techno model T9 phone.Me and a couple of friends went out to have fun and that was when we noticed that most of the people in the pub had this particular type of phone so we jokingly did a table by table survey. Very few people had any other phone – there were 2 Blackberries, a couple of Samsungs and LGs, Nokias mostly but the majority of the local people at the pub had a Techno T9. Why that model in particular I have always wondered to this day.

Anyway so I whip out my phone and I start browsing and these men are fascinated by the way I use my phone. They are talking to each other in Dagbani about how I keep laughing and just tapping away at the phone and finally my ‘friend’ comes up to me to ask  me what am doing with the phone. I show him my internet connection and he’s blown away. One of the men whips out the same phone model and asks me how he can also use it the way I am and I tell him to go see his service provider to configure it for him. I take the pains to show them how the internet can be beneficial to their business as they can put their contact on Google Trader especially at a crucial time like this when it’s Christmas and people will need livestock to celebrate. We also delve into rearing methods and the best feeding techniques as found online and they were impressed. After that, almost everything I did, I had a man on my shoulder or one craning his neck to see exactly what I was doing with my phone.Finally the transaction goes through and I get the notification and I give the go ahead for the goats to be prepared for slaughter.

It is very interesting how in the market place everything and everyone is connected to each other. The lorry station is in the middle of the market, the cloth sellers are there, the banks are near the entrance (no ATM machines in sight though), the animal feed sellers are near the livestock sellers, the butchers are behind the livestock sellers, the agro chemical shops are mixed in there in plain sight to the farmers from the villages who get down from the lorries and the timber market is across the street. All these are connected to each other in the market economy.

After selecting the goats for slaughter, the goats are taken across the street into the timber market where the livestock ‘assassinators’ are. These are the people who slaughter the livestock. They slaughter the animal and prepare it by burning the hair off it etc but they don’t cut the meat into several pieces. They deliver the whole to the owner who then will employ the services of a butcher to divide the meat into the required desired pieces. I noticed that there were several women gathering wood shavings and sawdust from under the machines at the various wood working sheds and upon inquiry was told that these women came from the villages every day to collect these shavings and sawdust and pieces of wood to use as fuel for domestic cooking. When they are done collecting for the day, they just board the lorries back to the villages until the next time when they required more wood shavings and sawdust.

These processes take time so whilst I was waiting for the goat and in between browsing the internet using my phone, with the men on my shoulder, I tried to get into conversations with whoever joined me on the waiting bench and they were many. One particular conversation got my attention and I will share it here. This man, obviously a livestock farmer, came to sit beside me complaining bitterly about the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor in the society and especially within the northern region. He raised some very serious issues and made some very interesting remarks though visibly illiterate, he was not aware of the seriousness of the issues he was raising.

In his statements, he made the analogy that inasmuch as the government was trying to promote agriculture and industry by helping the small scale farmers and producers, it is very unfortunate that some ‘bigmens’ had sabotaged or hijacked the whole project and idea in the sense that since these ‘bigmens’ had the money and the means, they were depriving the small scale farmers of what was due them so they the ‘bigmens’ could keep the small scale farmers under their thumb (in their control). This is how he purported it works; when the allocation for distribution was made, supposed to be given to the small scale farmers as loans and subsidies, these ‘bigmens’ bought the products outright since they had the money and the means and kept the subsidies for themselves and later resold it to the peasant farmers. This therefore deprived the peasant farmers of improving their lot and standards of living when they needed the government assistance to do so since the ‘bigmens’ had  intercepted what was due them. He used himself as an example that sometimes in the rainy season, he  needed to raise the ground of his animals and improve their housing and government sometimes allocated materials for this for small scale farmers or provided them with loans so they could better improve the conditions of their work. However, these loans were not given out and the materials to so that when the animals became threatened, the livestock farmers were forced to sell them cheaply to prevent any  further losses and it was then that these ‘bigmens’ intervene and buy out the livestock and provide the money for  their upkeep including improving their housing conditions and feeding.

What this means is that the poor peasant farmer is forced to tend his own property, which is his no more, for this ‘bigmens’ and I could understand the man’s frustrations. How is it possible that something that was very much his due now comes to him but he has to lose ownership of his livestock to be able to access it? The government subsidies and loans provided for the small scale peasant farmers and small scale industry are being sabotaged and astutely managed by these few ‘bigmens’. I am no journalist but I shudder with trepidation to think what information will be dredged up when an investigation Is launched into this story. The present government of Ghana has a new plan that falls under the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) which is aimed at trying to bridge the development gap between the northern and southern regions but what happens to the standards of living of the peasant people of the northern regions whilst we focus on development. What is the use of this development if they can’t access it? These are just a few thoughts that came to mind, as this peasant farmer was ranting about his beef with the ‘bigmens’ of the north. I am just passing through.

So in the end our transaction is done and my ‘friend’ the goat seller will not let me take a taxi to my destination which was to put the meat I had just bought into a deep freezer so it could be frozen and put in an ice cooler whilst I conveyed it to Accra when I was ready to leave. This is an example of the kind gesture I have spoken about earlier in this piece. The deep freezer was offered to me by one of my parents’ friends who lives in Tamale and owns the Nim Avenue Hotel located at the Russian Bungalows(check it out any time you find yourself in Tamale). He not only offered his deep freezer but also offered to provide the ice chest cooler for the transportation of the meat to Accra.When I said I needed to buy sandal gifts for my friends in Accra, he even took me to a friend of his who is a sandal maker in the production district in the Tamale Zongo and not to the retailers in town. Imagine his surprise when me and Baba Meggueda, the sandal maker, shook hands and greeted each other warmly. I had met him on one of my walks through the Zongo on a quest to find the sandal production area of Tamale. This is the height of hospitality in the Tamale metropolis and the Northern region.

So we tied the meat to the back of his motorbike and off we went. It is interesting the way the motorbike is used to do everything in Tamale. I have seen folk buy a set of living room furniture and carry it home on their motorbikes. I have witnessed carpenters buy plywood and supplies and carry it on a motorbike whilst riding pillion. I have to admit it is scary at times to see these things and think of the implications but one soon becomes used to it. The motorbike is the main means of transport in Tamale for the ordinary person. Me at the back of the motorbike was a scary as well as fantastic experience especially when the riders behave as they do when they scream at each other like we drive in the south. Imagine having my heart at my throat every moment of the way of our 25minute journey weaving through the traffic. What a ride! Words cannot adequately describe the experience.

This story is just one day in my daily experience through Tamale speckled with bits and pieces of history of other visits to provide background so you can understand what I have to experience every day in Tamale. There are so many experiences in my interactions with people In this town such as the Telco cashier who is prepared to leave her secure job and accommodation in Tamale so she can go to Accra to learn how to be a hairdresser whilst sleeping with 14 other people in a single room drawn by the lure of the big city. There is also the effect of the thick dagbani accent on both the Twi and English languages and the insinuations it sometimes cast. Sometimes ‘corn flakes’ can sound like ‘conflict’ when a sales girl says it back to you or my goat seller friend offering me, ‘masha’ slices of ‘wata million’ (watermelon).

I hope you have as much fun reading as I had writing this piece and with time I will tell you about the different people I meet on my fun trips and travels through Tamale and the rest of Ghana.

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The Kenkey Chronicles

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 by kola

So recently I had an interesting lesson on Fante kenkey after I had posted a picture on my facebook page as part of my chronicling my travel experiences in Tamale over the years.
It is kind of interesting to see a meal that predominantly exists in the south of Ghana travel all the way up to the northern region and it shows the cultural diversity even in foods that exists in Ghana.
The most enlightening of the experience is a Ghanaian sister born here but raised abroad who has had mixed experiences with food from ‘home’ when she was growing up in the United States. At first the questions my dear friend and sister asked me about Ghanaian culture made me wonder if she had been brought up under a stone but after getting to know her pretty well I understood what she must have sacrificed to keep her Ghanaian identity in a melting pot of other cultures that are not alien to African culture but don’t really give credence to being of African origin in a cosmopolitan society. But race relation and cultural diversity and shocks with be dealt with in another blog post.
“Good grief! How does one even eat one of those? That’s like food for three days!” This is her reaction to seeing the picture above. Another friend graciously offered to describe it for her and said that it was like 70% padded with leaves. In the southern parts of Ghana like in Cape Coast, this is true but in Tamale the padding is difficult to come by so the food is usually more than the padding. However unlike the original, the fante kenkey in Tamale is more flaky and cannot be held together.
Fante kenkey when unwrapped, has cooked corn dough inside to be eaten with fish and sauce or stew. However with the flaky one, it is better to make mashed kenkey with it. This is where you mash the kenkey with water or you blend it, add sugar and milk or peanuts (if you like) and drink it with bread. You can also chill it first before drinking it. The best image of it in those days is to have it in a coca cola bottle, chilled so it is sweating. It was the best snack in the good old days. When it is fermented too, it can booze you small – that is how far the ‘chrife’ (Christ fellowship) peeps came close to getting drunk. In my high school we used to put the mashed kenkey in bottles and bury them in the ground for weeks and this was usually more potent than ethanol when fermented.
(Good old days here refers to our days in high school when mashed kenkey was a delicacy)
The difference between the Ga kenkey and the fante kenkey is that the Ga one is wrapped with corn leaves and the fante one wrapped in plantain leaves, sometimes a polyestrene rubber is wrapped around the dough to keep it longer.
It is interesting to know that albeit being in the United States, my soul sister’s mom still made sure they had a taste of home so she made kenkey but she would wrap it in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil before dropping it into the hot water to boil. The leaves however account for part of the taste and smell.
The Fante kenkey has 3 varieties: the husk less white one, mainly done in Elmina with some other flat fragile leaves with the stalks pushed in but not common. This is called ‘nsewho’ derived from fante word ‘sew-pounding’. The pounding (threshing) removes the rubber-like covering (chaff) off the corn, hence the whitish look.
Then we have the fragile leaf covering one called ‘akorakora’ named after the name of the leaf and that is really more palatable among the three. It has some sweetness. Note this one have the chaff on just like ‘kom’ which is the name of the Ga kenkey. The ‘atakora’ has a bite and is very good for ‘mashke’ (mashed kenkey) and is only very common in Cape Coast, Elmina and Takoradi, same as the ‘nsewho’. They are both not much seen in Accra as commonly as the ‘ahatew’ variety which is the third variety.
Then the third is the plantain leaves kenkey which is covered with plantain leaves called ‘ahatew’. It is the most common.one and also has the chaff and is cooked without salt.
It is worth noting that all these varieties carry the generic name ‘Dokun’ which literally means kenkey.
In the spirit of discussion on food variety in Ghana, another food came to attention and that is fried plantain which is almost everywhere in Ghana. The Gas in the south call it Tatale and there was an interesting expose on it.
It came to light that the fantes call it ‘Tatare’ and a debate ensued whether it was any different from ‘kakrow’ since its preparation involves the same ingredients; plantain and flour mixed with spices; the spices for Tatare and Kakrow are mainly pepper, ginger and onions and mixing in with right portions of flour. It was established that one is flat and soft the other is round and firmer and they are all fried in red oil. Furthermore ‘Tatare’ is achieved out of shallow frying and ‘Kakrow’ out of deep frying.
Also in the spirit of the conversation, political anecdotes spiced the lessons. Anybody who has followed Election2012 in Ghana closely knows what we refer to as ‘free education’ (this was a campaign promise by one political party). The lessons we were deriving from this conversation on food was termed ‘free education’ by some whilst others said it was ‘quality education’ (another campaign promise from an opposing political party) based on experience. These women were really giving us tutorials on food in Ghana and we were rooted to the thread just waiting for the next information on the foods we so loved.
Then back to the mashed kenkey the discussion went. In recent times, smoothies have become a healthy way worldwide of eating fruits as meals. However in the spirit of new discoveries, the fante kenkey has become an ingredient in a smoothie mix. Instead of the usual ‘mashke’, slices of the fante kenkey can be added to any fruits mix in a smoothie. The recipe is usually slices of fante kenkey mixed with fruits like mango, banana, watermelon and with a dash of soymilk all blended together. Put in a few ice cubes and it’s a cold healthy drink and food mix at the same time. The ‘nt3w dokun smoothie’ is a delight. Try it! (omg! did i just give a secret recipe here?) However if you do not have the stomach for it, then please stay away but if you are a food connoisseur and you already love smoothies, this is a new thing to try.
Well I had good time learning about some foods in Ghana and thought to share it with you. Hope you are enlightened as I am. Thanks to Maureen Ama Adu and Bernadette Araba Adjei for the great tutorials, to Nana Awere Damoah for your contributions, and to Asom Dwoe for your great curiosity to know about your home foods.

GHANA GOES TO THE POLLS: ELECTION DAY IN GHANA

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2012 by kola

                             

On the eve of election in Ghana, the whole hullabaloo of political cacophony abruptly comes to a standstill basically because there is a ban on political campaigning 24 hours to the actual D-Day of the presidential and parliamentary elections.

I happen to be in Tamale in the Northern region of Ghana and as I head out to the basketball court for recreation, I happen to pass through the Tamale main market and I see this dude going around with a folded sample of the ballot with the candidates of the two leading political parties, John Dramani Mahama and Nana Akufo Addo of the NDC and NPP respectively. The latter is on the back of the folded paper with his face scratched out whilst the guy goes to each stall at the market telling the market women ‘JM is the man and he is number 1’. I found this pretty interesting because this is what has characterized both party’s campaign throughout the campaign trail – the culture of undermining the other candidate.  I am also reminded of the doctoring of tapes (the Otabil saga is still fresh in my mind) and the heated political debates on radio and Tv stations in Accra.

In the background, there is music playing to the effect that Professor Atta Mills (RIP) is no more but he has endorsed John Mahama as his successor in the Better Ghana Agenda program of the NDC.

Against the perceptions of youth violence down south in Accra, the youth of Tamale are rather calm and not forcing anybody to vote for any particular party. I enjoy a good game of basketball and we all wish each other a happy day on the day of voting. Sports really has a way of bonding people together.

It is not very surprising that on the eve of electoral voting the whole of Ghana is relatively quiet. A close friend of mine in the USA keeps talking to me on social media to ask me why the whole of the country is very quiet, even on social media, prior to the voting in the morning. She points out that in the United States, the noise grows louder as the day approaches and is loudest and deafening as the electoral results are announced especially as the rest of the world is watching closely on the various news channels all around the world.

However news keeps trickling in of voters already starting to queue in line at the break of dawn for an event that will happen hours later. People want to vote early and go home and some people reportedly sleep near the polling stations so they get to be one of the early voters to exercise their franchise and go back home.

In the morning the news stations report live from the various polling stations all over the country and information about the polls are relayed to viewers all over the country and also internationally. Ghana has been a beacon of peace not only in the sub region but in Africa as a whole. Kwame Nkrumah was right in saying Ghana was the Black Star of Africa and Ghanaians are doing pretty well to maintain the status quo.

The ability of the press to report the electoral process is very impressive and shows how far press freedom has come from the days of the revolution era in the 80s to present day.  The new millennium has been good for press freedom all over the world and Ghana is no exception. The Press has now come to be known as the fourth realm of the estate. The Electoral Commission did not include the press in the special voting process for this electoral process and this almost caused a stir but the storm was weathered pretty well. The press has been pretty impressive in this election.

This is the first time Ghana is resorting to biometric machines during an electoral process and this election not only acts as a trial run but a pioneering process for the biometric voting process. However, the biometric process is leaving more questions than answers. As has always been the case, I have wondered whether we have to copy the West piecemeal when it comes to democracy when we do not really have the systems in place to back it up like they do.

Firstly, are the biometric machines supposed to verify who the voter is or it is the main requisite for voting so that even though a voter has his identity card and his name shows up in the register, when the machine cannot pick up his fingerprint it means such a person cannot vote?  Are the machines to help us vote or are we depending on the machines? Interesting indeed since what is predominantly happening in parts of the country is that the machines are not identifying the voter’s fingerprints.

But rather interestingly to me, it is the ruling and incumbent party, the NDC who have vehemently held a press conference to lodge a complaint with the Electoral Commission to state their displeasure with the failure of the machines. The party lodged the complaint on the basis that this mostly happened in their strong holds. I really don’t know what to think about this but not to sound too partisan in my remarks the question that comes to mind is who is the government in power that provided these machines for the Electoral Commission and honestly I shudder to think of what would have happened if the NPP was in power and something like that had happened. The Conspiracy Theory mindedness of these politicians just blows my mind.

Another issue that is raised in this biometric electoral process is the issue of the visually challenged (blind) who were handed a ballot paper that had no braille markings and still expected to vote.  In some polling stations, some people protested that the people accompanying such people to the voting booth were influencing them to vote for the party they sympathized with. Very interesting indeed!

On a lighter note, how about the older persons whose fingerprint the biometric machines could not read. Is it because their fingerprints were too wrinkled or their age was not recognized by the machines. Well, that is food for thought if even biometric machines are discriminating against the aged.

My final observation is how many cards the average Ghanaian has to show who he or she is. There is a worker or student ID card, the National ID card, the voters ID card, the National Health Insurance ID card and finally a Driver’s License. Since we are copying piecemeal from the western world, why is it not just possible to put all a person’s data on a single card but then the average Ghanaian has to carry all these cards for various purposes? Sometimes I wonder what pertains in the other African countries especially since I believe that Ghana is way ahead of them when it comes to developmental issues. It is my hope that whatever governments we put in place will streamline all these things in policy making.

The electoral process is trickling to an end with people still waiting to vote in some areas because of technical glitches. The Electoral Commission has announced that those who cannot vote today will have to vote tomorrow. This is the first time the voting process has extended to the next day but there is a first time for everything like they say.

But what lessons do we learn from this Election 2012? We are all privy to the electoral process thanks to the press and also thanks to social media with individuals reporting and describing their experiences. It is very obvious that at the next electoral process there will be a new Electoral Commissioner because the current one has announced his retirement after this election. Who will be the new commissioner and what will he also bring to the table? Will he deal with the problems that this commissioner has experienced in his term of office and modify the institution? As the saying goes, only time will tell.

Meanwhile the elections reports and results keep trickling in from constituencies all over the country carried to the electorate by the press. The people of Ghana and the outside world await with bated breath the winner of the Election 2012, Ghana Decides 2012 as this election has come to be termed.

One thing that stands out is the peaceful nature that Ghanaians have conducted this poll. Ghana has maintained the status quo as the democratic beacon of Africa and as such the Black Star of Africa.

Kudos to Ghanaians in this process and I have never been so proud to be called a Ghanaian. May the best candidate win and let’s hope they stick to their promises of a better Ghana and make Ghana the ultimate winner of this poll.

I Love My Ghana!

Long Live Peace in Ghana!

Long Live Ghana!

HIstory: first elections in Gold Coast

Posted in Uncategorized on December 6, 2012 by kola

The Background
Economic crisis and changes in the colonial economy after the world war one drastically affected the colonial elite of lawyers and merchants, teachers and civil servants and made them aware more than before of the extent of the oppressive nature of the colonial system.
All over West Africa, there were sporadic riots and looting which were the effects of the social and political pressure for better wages. The African merchants were also seen to be protesting from the activities of AWAM that undermined their operations.
Pan African movements had taken a root and its effects were being felt. The activities of WEB Du Bois in collaboration with the metropolitan trained elite were just gaining ground. Pan Africanism strengthened the consciousness of blacks throughout the world that blacks could manage their own affairs and it was time to get out of being an oppressed and down trodden race and manage their own affairs
Like any new movements, the youth were the first to embrace it. In British West Africa, the ethnic unions and youth movements and associations held on to the Pan Africanist ideals. According to Adu Boahen, there were as many as fifty of such clubs and associations in the Gold Coast alone. All these clubs and associations were led either by missionary educated lawyers or young lawyers and business men – the elite and bourgeoisie.
In a time when the elitist were fighting for more African participation in the Legislative Council, these pressures didn’t augur well for the colonial government. Sitting on the Legislative Council were both ‘official’ members, ie senior European government officials who sat ex-officio and ‘unofficial’ members, representing local, but not necessarily indigenous interests. Unofficial seats were first introduced as a way of representing and protecting European settler or commercial interests, eventually African interests were recognized and given representation on the council although still represented by Europeans. In Ghana the first election to Legislative Council was in 1925 as against Nigeria in 1923 and Gambia in 1947.
Chiefs were the only native representatives on the Gold Coast Legislative Council and they were considered as figure heads because they couldn’t pass any laws. The first law passed by the chiefs was the Native Ordinance in 1927 and this and the Africanization of the civil service were spearheaded by the chiefs led by Nana Sir Ofori Atta.

The Elections
On the initiative of Gordon Guggisberg, then Governor of Gold Coast, a new Municipal Ordinance was passed which made provision for a Municipal Assembly to help with the running of the colony. This was to elect a mayor of Accra. It was also to be a trial run for elections in the Gold Coast. Invariably these youth groups will be influential in the process. In Accra, the youth movement led by Kojo Thompson, a barrister and Nnamdi Azikiwe participated in the municipal elections under the umbrella of the Manbii Party against the older and more conservatist nationalists lke Dr Nanka–Bruce and Dr Quartey-Papafio of the RatePayer’s Association .
The programs of these political parties were elections in colonial municipalities, development of higher education and compulsory education throughout West Africa, Africanization of the civil service, free and fair trade and equal treatment for African traders and producers.
Apart from newspaper campaigns and petitions, these youth movements took part in the local elections and also resorted to riots and strikes.
The dispute between the elite and the Manbii flared up following the introduction of Municipal Councils. The councils were seen as to be ineffective and voters took no interest. The Manbii Party viewed the ordinance as a threat because voting rights were contingent upon property qualifications and the new councils will certainly be controlled by the city’s elite thus letting the councils be invariably dominated by the elite.
Secondly, the new ordinance imposed a regressive house tax, rather than income tax which placed the heavy portion of tax burden on the city’s second tier income earners such as laborers, traders and market women. This ‘small’ Municipal elections had a rippling effect of even leading to de destoolment of the then Ga Mantse, who was in support of the Municipal Ordinance. But that is a story for another day.
In 1922, only 46 out of 1,117 registered actually voted in the municipal elections in Accra, none voted out of 717 in Cape Coast and only 2 out of 299 in Sekondi. Why? The youth groups threatened the populace that whoever went to vote was at risk and untold hardships will befall the people. Reports in the archives show that especially in Odododiodo near Jamestown, muscled men were put in place by the Manbii Party to guard the ballot boxes and this was no isolated incident. The official report is that voters took no interest in town council elections and this explains the massive boycott of the elections.

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2012 by kola

so i am a very opinionated person and i like to share my ideas and travel experiences. i meet a lot of people from all over the world and its interesting to share perspectives and ideas from the different cultures and parts of the world.

i have very good friends in all aspects of life – from the corridors of academia, through the cold airconditioned offices of the corporate world, past the ordinary layman in the street to the gutters of the various slums of whichever part of Ghana I find myself..

people fascinate me and as such its fun for me to talk to people and i love to share the wealth of information i gather when i state my opinion about one thing or the other be it religion, politics, sports, academic and even recreational. well, i am not called Nuttykola for any particular reason but that i have an open mind ready to absorb like a sponge.

upon advise from friends, i have started this blog post for open discussion. dont get me wrong when i say something you dont like. take me on and lets talk about it. that is the only i way i have come to learn, to adapt and be who i can be best.

hey, i am very spiritual and believe in God. albeit a Christian, other religions make sense to me cos religion is a way of life and everybody is entitled to what they believe in. atheists say they dont believe in anything but i ask, is believing in yourself not a religion? well i am here let the debate flow..

Hello World, Kola Nut finally has a blog post. this is gonna be fun!