Tucked beautifully away in the forests between Akyem Asafo on the Apedwa-Bunso stretch of the Accra-Kumasi highway and Akyem Kukurantumi on the Koforidua-Nsutam road is the village of Addo-Nkwanta. This village could only correctly be called a Ghanaian village. Unlike other Akyem villages where Akyem Twi was the lingua franca, Addo-Nkwanta has a healthy mix of just about every Ghanaian tribe. When I was young, I started sentences in Akwapim Twi and ended them in Krobo, Ewe or Kyerepon. Everyone was welcome in Addo-Nkwanta, which is probably why, when the predominantly farming village got sizeable enough to deserve its own sub-Chief, or Odikro, the citizens decided, rather than have the Paramountcy in Kyebi or the divisional chief in Asafo nominate an Odikro, to select one from among ourselves.
It had never been done before. No one had elected a chief before. Before the notion was proposed, there were many claimants to the non-existing stool, not one of whom had true nobility or royal blood in their veins. Oh, there was one pretender or another to one forgotten stool or another, and the whole thing seemed messy in the beginning. Since they did not want Asafo and Kukurantumi dictating to them through an Odikro of their choosing, the Addo-Nkwantanians chose the most practical way out – elect an Odikro and leave the bestowing of stool titles and what-nots to him.
As one would expect in a situation such as this, there were over 2-hundred candidates! And ballots after ballots were cast over a period of a decade. The rest of Akyemdom sat back and chortled at all the foolishness of electing an Odikro, but the village was determined, and on the 32nd ballot and with minimal cheating, an Odikro was elected – a cassava farmer called Afrane.
He grew coco-yams too.
It’s important to never forget the coco-yams.
Anyway, after his election, every village man who thought he was important would make a 12-kilometre journey to Odikro Afrane’s farm to pay homage, since he had no palace yet and lived more on his farmstead than in the village proper. In one instance, a family that wanted to be named KrontiHene went and knelt in one of his vegetable beds, claiming, “Hail Odikro Afrane, the Magnificent.”
“Oh, have a care for your finery,” he declaimed to the prostrate family. “I have just well-manured the bed you’re kneeling in with cow dung,” he finished plaintively.
This was in the late 1970s. Ten years later, Odikro Afrane’s mother passed, and having tasted the sweet essence of power, he demanded of Addo-Nkwantanians a levy to bury his mother in style.
Of course the village refused.
Odikro Afrane was furious. But he failed to see a vital truth. He was elected mainly because we’d rather have been Odikroless than to have had a person claiming some kingship by blood rule over us, especially if that blood was idiotic, like one of the candidates from the division was.
And having given a fat middle finger to true nobility, the last thing we were going to do was to kiss the butt of one whom we had ourselves set over us. Funeral levy our village butts!
No one paid the levy.
To make matters worse for Odikro Afrane, the legendary musician C. K. Mann released a song about that same time. Some rather long medley, but one part was about Adwoa Yankey, a woman who had lost her husband and was being asked to look to God for solace. The part that offended the Odikro and thrilled the villagers was this:
Nnyɛ awo nko na wo na ewu o!
Nnyɛ awo nko na wo agya ewu o,
Ɛna ewu, egya ewu, Nnyɛ awo nko na wo na ewu o,
Aware saman kor oh!
To wit: You’re not the only one to have lost a Mother to demand a funeral levy!
Needless to say, the Odikro banned the song from being played in the village. If one was caught even whistling it, the penalty was three ram and 3 bottles of schnapps. He also banned the material dress in vogue of the same name as the song, and refused to let the village have electricity. When he himself died 12 years later, the song Adwoa Yankey was played at his funeral over loud speakers powered by the rural electrification project.
Ever since COVID-19 struck and June 2020 passed kwatakwata with only a few deaths in Ghana, the government of President Akufo-Addo has blamed every one of the country’s economic problems on the pandemic and now, on the Russo-Ukrainian war. These problems have been double-digit inflation, high cost of living, government and civil service corruption, and an increase in taxes. No one is happy except party foot soldiers and the Officer Corps of the Insult Battalion on Facebook.
But what aahn did the Ghanaian government do for We the People during COVID’s lockdowns that it has been drumming the pandemic as the reason for its present incompetence?
Let’s first take a look at what other governments did when Coronavirus shutdowns around the world pushed countries into crisis-mode. It prompted a massive rescue spending in an effort to soften the blow from what was accurately expected to be the worst economic contraction since the 1930s. The IMF reported, as of April 7, 2022, that countries around the world approved more than $4.5 trillion worth of emergency measures.
Example, all Americans earning under $99,000 – an estimated 90% of households – received as much as $1,200 per adult, while South Korea’s central government sent cheques of up to $820 to families in the bottom 70% income bracket. Hong Kong announced a handout of $1,280 per adult; Japan, $931 per person, and Singapore, $422.
Those governments not only directed their COVID relief packages in direct payments to citizens. They guaranteed new loans to businesses hurt by the shutdowns as well. In Ghana however, we only got free water for 3 months, electricity subsidy for a month or so, and some interest rate cuts by the Central Bank. And for those pittances, we got charged 1% health recovery levy in addition to an existing 5% tax on goods and services and an unflinching 12.5% VAT on the amount and taxes thus charged. And when we complained, a 1.5% electronic transaction levy was imposed further. While other countries sent cheques to their beloved citizens, our government sent us taxes and levies to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on itself and itself alone. As if the Ghanaian government and its spending elite were the only ones to have lost economic grounds to the pandemic.
And every time I hear Ogyam speak of COVID as the reason we are so broke right now, that Adwoa Yankey song comes to mind.
Nnyɛ awo nko na wo na ewu!
We might just sing that song at the next polls, or failing that, whatever the campaign song will be in 2024, which right now seems to be imbedded with five leap years.