Dec 17




Waking up in the morning in the suburbs of Accra is an exhilarating experience. If one is not grateful to be alive, the birds quickly remind one that it is a unique gift to have been conceived and born into this world that was crafted on earth out of nothingness and is probably without parallel in a universe of  trillions of stars and planets,  that is still expanding to God knows where.

“Space is curved?” Did Einstein bother to explain why curves on earth are invariably relieved by straights but the curve in space keeps its curvaceous line for ever? Aw shucks!

Well, the birds don’t worry about such things. They get up and begin their songs – songs meant to indicate their territorial boundaries, or invite the company of the opposite sex  to themselves so that they can continue to propagate their cells; or to tell their kinsfolk that food or water abounds where they are.

We must thank God for small mercies, and certainly one of them is to hear the apatupre first thing in the morning. When I was a kid, we used to interpret its song, for it is quite sententious. We thought it was saying,  “Mankani da gyem, wonnkusa!” (There’s a cocoyam in the fire, but you’re allowing it to burn on one side!”) We, like the birds, were always rather partial to thoughts of food, you see.

This particular bird has three variations of song: the full sentence, as quoted above; or a shortened form which  stops in mid-sentence; or an even shorter version that ends at the “mankani” without going any further. Sometimes it sings four or more  lines at a trot; sometimes it only sings twice, and at other times, it just hollers once. What is it saying at those different times? Where is David Attenborough, when you need him?

Towards eight o’clock, a guy with a bass voice comes along and says something like “Ko-ko-RI!” It can recite that up to fourteen times, though the average length is about six times. I suspect that it is the same bird which at times changes its song to what sounds like “Kofi eh!”  Whatever it is, the song is evocative – reminding me of days spent gazing at cocoa trees to see whether a bright yellow  “Akyem”, or its close relative, the even more beautifully accoutred “Akyem Police” (with its vivid red sash) could  be spotted and catapulted down. Thank God I wasn’t any good as a hunter with a tae [catapult] for I would find it difficult  to forgive myself for shortening the life of such a beautiful bird and ending the song with which  it announces its aliveness  to the world. Ah, it’s 7.30 and one has perched. It’s begun by merely saying “whe-hwe-hwe!”, but I am sure it will soon launch into its full air for the cello and  bassoon of the throat and diaphragm. Ah, there it comes: whiyuoo!…whiyuoo! (Repeat 4 times!) And finally, at 7.48, the full bass version  chow-oh!—chow-oh!.  Alas, if I were better equipped, I should be able to capture all these sounds and incorporate them into this piece.  Meanwhile, T-cho-tcho-ii!—Tchotcho-ii! has rent the air.  Six times. And then a dead stop. What am I missing, for God’s sake?

In the evening, one bird is prominent: the “Bre-kuo!” whose name is onomatopoeia incarnate, in the sense that it couldn’t be saying anything other than “I am the obrekuo, and I say it’s time to go to bed!”  I once heard how a man in a village felt insulted because a city-dweller told him that he “went to bed on the signal of the obrekuo bird!”  The man was apparently hurt by the implied ‘insult’ that he couldn’t read the time, and, anyway, he did not own a time-piece, even if he could read.

Was that an insult, though? Whether one went to bed by the sound of the obrekuo’s song, or by looking at a watch, wasn’t the result the same – sound sleep if one had a clear conscience? But I am not being fair: one could say that it was not so much the nature of the insult as the intention to insult that constituted the offence, couldn’t one?

If I were back home, in the deep rain forest, I would also hear the okotoporieh, whose song constitutes not just a sentence but a complete verse; or the aserewa sika-nsuo [sun bird with liquid gold coloration] which uses fiddles in its throat to announce himself. Or the kyerkyer sika and the kyerkyer apantu which got their names because their tongues can’t reach farther than ‘Kyer! Kyer!’ when they try to imitate their better-endowed compatriots.

One can never cease to marvel at the sort of things that bring annoyance to people, can one?


When I go in search of a little personal body-grooming, I notice that the young lady in charge of my manicure is pissed off with the NPP.

“I got up and went to the polling station at 3.30 a.m.,” she says. “I had even meant to get up earlier – at midnight. But it didn’t work out as the person coming to look after my child didn’t show up early enough. I voted at about 12 noon! Everything went smoothly for me. But the machine wouldn’t accept the guy who was ahead of me. They tossed him aside after the sixth attempt and I voted. But shortly afterwards, the guy was accepted by the machine! Amazing machine – one moment it doesn’t know you, and the next, it is saying “Awaah! Waah! ’Tuu!”

“And after all that, to hear that the NPP has allowed them to steal the votes? What were they doing? Were they asleep? Even in an ordinary game, such as Ludo, people steal moves! Ah – if you’re dim-witted, will they sit by you and not take advantage of you? How much more a whole election? They’ve just allowed them to come back to eat the money again – yebedii keke!”

Indeed, the NPP has a lot of explaining to do.  Its supporters don’t understand how they say they were outsmarted. The NPP says the votes at polling stations were recorded unto blue sheets.Then these were transcribed on to white sheets, which the agents signed before they were transmitted to collation centres, from where they were faxed to the strong room  of the Electoral Commission. The NPP thinks  that a sleight-of-hand occurred during the processes of preparing the sheets for transmission. It is accusing some corrupt or partisan EC  officials of  changing the figures on some of the sheets, AFTER they had been signed by the party agents. Which is a criminal offence known as forgery.

One NPP chap told me that at one station, a change occurred between the numeral figure and the figure in words, causing a loss of 90 votes to the NPP. But this was detected and corrected! The point that worries me is this: should the NPP have made more of a fuss on the spot about incidents like that?, Mind you,  I am second-guessing the chaps on the spot: in the excitement of counting and recording votes, if someone makes a mistake and you spot it and he readily agrees to change it – perhaps even apologises for it —  the natural thing to do is  to heave a sigh of relief and move on,  isn’t it?

If the NPP is right, then the NDC chaps in charge of the rigging used psychology, literacy in numeracy and other clever ploys to get their party past the 50+% of votes needed for victory. Which would prove that the NPP guys were taken for mugs by the NDC’s artful dodgers!

So, even if the NPP is able to demonstrate to the Supreme Court that it was cheated, it would, by the same token, be telling the world that some of its agents ‘under-performed’ on the night.  Of course, the NPP can say that it placed its trust in an ‘impartial’ Electoral commission, which repaid the NPP’s trust by allowing ex-NDC security officers, actual NDC officials and other suspect personnel  to be infiltrated into the electoral machinery, with the sole purpose of stealing votes and undermining the integrity of the election.

Courts, of course, do not care much about how clever a criminal was when he committed his crime, but in whether a crime WAS in fact committed. So, the Supreme Court will be the cynosure of all eyes in Ghana and the world, in the next few days, as it sorts out the electoral mess. This is the next step in our love affair with democracy, for without expert supervision by the judiciary, democracy is an empty shell.  It is thus  to be hoped that legal history of great import will be made – through able advocacy, and  — even more important – the emergence of  very sagacious and brilliant adjudication, during the Ghana 2012 mother of all  election petitions.






Permanent link to this article: