Dec 18




As I am being driven home from Kotoka International Airport, one thing strikes me – the conversation in the car hardly touches on the coming,  December 2012  election!

Is it conceivable that Ghanaians who live abroad are more perturbed by fear  that the election will be bitterly fought, than those at home?  I meet a couple of friends for drinks.  The place is well-packed and the laughter is ‘normal’ for a Ghanaian gathering. The TV is showing an international football match. Roasted guinea fowl is being consumed at an ‘affluent’ rate. My God – this place is the essence of bonhomie!

When the election does  come up,  I am told that:

.The NDC has been supplying  “small cars” to its campaigners at some Universities. How it was thought these campaigners could hide their identities, whilst enjoying their new-found ability to engage more frequently in extramural/ex-campus activities, causes a great deal of amused speculation. Also: will the ‘owners’ of the cars be allowed to keep them if the NDC loses? “Some people who got cars in a previous election were stopped in the streets and the cars forcibly  taken from them!” one person claims. Hahahahahaha! Everyone laughs. 


.The NDP, I am informed,  has not yet cleared from Tema,  about 200 pickup trucks it had ordered before its presidential candidate, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, was disqualified. What will the party do with them now?


 “They will be sold at ‘donkomi’ (knock-down) prices!” Hahahahaha!


But behind the laughter, one can metaphorically  hear the clatter of money-counting machines: this election is costing the parties a great deal of money.


One NPP supporter is seriously angry with his own party for not making enough of the judgement debt issue, [in which one Alfred Woyomi was  gifted C51m in a “judgement debt”  by lawyers working for the NDC Government, in respect of    an allegedly  ‘abrogated’ contract that did not exist in the first place].


This law-savvy bloke says: “The fact that a case is before the law courts does not mean that  you cannot talk about it on election platforms. The sub judice rule only applies to cases that might go before a jury, not a judge. And Ghana hardly ever uses juries  these days in such cases. Anyway, how can a judge – or a panel of judges – be influenced by extraneous discussions that take place outside the court? Judges go by the arguments made before them in court by the ‘learned’ counsel representing both the prosecution and the defence. Indeed, if a judge can be prejudiced by frivolous issues like what is said on an election platform or even in Parliament, then he is not fit to be a judge.


“That is why in a jury trial, although the judge sometimes keeps the jurors ‘locked up’  in a hotel (where they cannot hear outside discussions regarding a case they are trying) the judge himself, whilst closely monitoring the jury,  is free to hear anything, if he so chooses, because he is enjoined by his oath of office  to be entirely and totally dispassionate and incapable of being influenced in any way about the case.


“So all this ‘sub judice, sub judice’ mumbo-jumbo must be understood in its proper context, otherwise it will become a mere ruse to prevent people from discussing cogent national issues – such as bogus judgement debts. That would surely constitute  a form of legal ‘gagging’ by the back-door. In effect, it would gag the media and the public as effectively as if an injunction had actually been obtained in court, restraining them from talking about the issue!  Surely, there is room, in a democracy, for the existence of both the court of public opinion and the court of law? Neither should try to  extinguish the other, and it is up to our lawyers – including our judges —  to educate the public properly about such things. In America, even though juries are used for grand jury indictments and actual cases, nevertheless the sub judice rule is highly restricted — and properly so – in defence of free speech and the  Constitutional Amendment governing it!”


.Comments on the candidates, on the other hand, cannot be restricted by any legal constraints, and they pour out, quite saucy, and sometimes witty. They  centre mainly  around the physical attributes of our would-be leaders of 2013. Someone claims that “Nana Akufo Addo is only four  feet nine inches tall and that is why, again, he will only obtain 49 percent of the votes!”  Hahahahahaha!


Another person observes that President John Mahama’s photo on his posters has been “photo-shopped”:  they’ve made his face so smooth he looks like someone who has been using  skin-lightening cream!” Agya ei! (Cry of pain) Hahahahaha!


Both main candidates, it is agreed, are well-stocked in the testosterone department. A detailed expatiation of this theme then occurs, to which I, of course, naturally close  my ears.


The little that penetrates my defences makes me ask:  How do people come by  this sort of info? (For instance, that one candidate tries to hide some of his children by attributing their parentage to a younger brother of his, though the kids bear a striking resemblance to himself?) One thing is clear – if  you want to stand for the presidency of Ghana, make sure you take the precaution of sending  all your erstwhile paramours on holiday, to some resort where the use of smart phones with giga-pixel cameras in them, is not allowed.  Hahahahaha!


Talking of smart phones, I now see why they are so popular: one guy tapes me with his phone as we talk; another demonstrates the superiority of the latest Samsung over the I-phone, in the photography department, by  snapping me with each machine  in quick succession and showing us the results — in less time than it takes to say, ‘Cheese!’


When I attempt to take a shot with my own   ancient [2011] ‘unsmart’ instrument, only a black blob appears. {Because the light was so poor!) Apparently, the  sensitivity of the lenses used in these new phones is growing in geometric proportions. My companions  look at my phone with an expression that says, “Charlie, as for this one dier, it belongs in the bin!” 


But I am resisting the temptation to keep up with the Joneses. I shall only cough up when NASA allows the phone companies to use lenses that have actually proved their efficacy in space. Which, by the way things are going, should be sooner than we think.


.I visit the Movenpick Ambassador  Hotel for the first time. It fills me with emotion, for my wife was head-housekeeper at the old Ambassador Hotel for many years and I was there almost every day to drop and pick her up from work. The new place is pretty  well appointed, and congratulations to the architect and the builders.


There’s a lot of art décor, but I cannot help asking, what became of the huge wall-paintings in the old ‘Arden Hall’? These  murals were made by Kofi Antubam, then our greatest living artist, and depicted life in Ghana in Antubam’s unmatched, eccentric vogue. I hope  I shall hear  that “We carefully preserved the Arden Hall wall paintings and will present them eventually to the National Museum of Ghana”.


You see, Kofi Antubam died shortly after completing the work, and I doubt whether he faced – and successfully met — such a challenge ever again: I mean, the Ambassador Hotel WAS the most glamorous place in Ghana in the years immediately after our independence in 1957, and the Arden Hall  (named after Sir Charles Arden Clarke, Governor of the Gold Coast at  independence) WAS the place where  most of the auspicious events in Ghana at the time took place. Our first Prime Minister, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, danced there  with the Duchess of Kent at the Independence Ball on 6 March  1957.   It will not be immodest to mention also that my wife, the late Beryl Karikari, danced a solo ballet number of her own creation, at that Independence Ball.


But am I not hoping for too much in expecting Antubams’s work to be preserved? Do we preserve  any of our ‘national monuments and heritage’ as well as we should? We just sell things and leave it to the buyers to show good sense, if they can! For instance, what has happened to the mural that was painted in front of the old Accra Community Centre, extolling the virtues of ‘free association’ in a catchy caption written in the Ga language?

What has happened to the old ‘post office siren’ which told us, each day, when noon time had arrived, and prepared our rumbling stomachs for lunch, and which was sounded at midnight only once – on  the 6th of March 1957, Independence Day?

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was taken and  stored somewhere, and a recording of its ‘voice’ was played by paying a small fee, so that our grand-children could experience, in a small way, the type of thing that created strong emotions in  their forebears, years ago?

But — who cares? By the time our grand-children begin to curse us for being wanton destroyers of our own heritage, everything will have been gone.  Just imagine the creators of the British Museum in London, the Smithsonian in the US, the Louvre in Paris or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, had thought along shallow lines like us  and allowed their artistic treasures  to rot or die, when they had the opportunity to preserve the  past both for their own  children and  mankind as a whole?


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