Edo election: Echoes of 15 minutes with President Akufo-Addo

By Sunny Igboanugo on 22/09/2020

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Akufo-Addo

 

We all sat on the floor. Black, white and other colours, if there is any. The flashing and sound from the still cameras, hundreds of them kept on repeatedly in synchronism with the clicking by their owners. Date was December 9, 2008. Venue: Electoral Commission of Ghana headquarters in Accra.
Outside, you could hear the continuous commotion as the crowd increased their agitation, sometimes breaking into solidarity songs.

Before gaining access into the hall, I had not been the least surprised at the unique features of the scenario that confronted me earlier.
The crowd, a motley gathering, as would be expected which had gathered outside, was relentless as supporters of the two main political parties faced each other. You could not have described it as controlled. How could anyone expect such from that level of political gathering involving hyper-activated political supporters?
But even in that high-octane agitation, there was this distinctive kind of orderliness that completely dazed and beguiled me at the same time.Amid the deafening noise, both the crowd and the security operatives all kept to their lanes, as we say here.

Not a single person was slapped, not to talk about being shot or killed, even with the high level of provocation that appeared quite evident. I saw one particularly highly agitated young man practically poking his finger into the eyes of one of the policemen and shouting directly into his face and daring him to act. My brain did a fast check of what could have been the fate of that man, were the scenario to be somewhere in Nigeria. Perhaps by now all the telltale signs at his burial site would have disappeared or at best he could still be nursing some of the scars he would have gotten from the encounter.

But that was on the side of the security operatives. What about the crowd itself? There was also a definite feature. The barrier between the people and the security men was just a rope – not an iron bar, not spiked pole or barbwire. Just a rope that one irascible Mushin, Tudun Wada or Aguleri youth would have broken with disdain. Yet, not a single person touched it, not to talk about breaking it.

Back to the ECG conference hall. We had all waited, each person bearing his own thoughts from their individual reading of the situation and would-be outcome. Of course, in the several hours earlier, there had been allegations and counter allegations of rigging by the political gladiators. There had been press conferences where all these were spelt out particularly by chieftains of the two dominant parties, the New Patriotic Front (NPP), the then ruling party and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), its predecessor. That of course, also informed the agitation at the premises of the commission by the crowd, which believing their political leaders, came to stop the rigging.

But then, enter a confident Kwado Afari-Gyan, the ECG Chairman. Conservative, urbane, haughty, austere, sterile – pick your choice. After adjusting himself comfortably, he cleared his throat, made some initial remarks, which spoke directly to the inviolability and credibility of the exercise.

He soon proved everything he said by the time he was done. The reason for the confidence he exuded soon became evident by the time the process ended - the NPP, which produced the incumbent President John Kuffour, had been denied the opportunity of returning to power. The party actually won the majority votes, but failed to meet the requirement. It needed more than 50 per cent to form government, in fact a fraction of less than two per cent. Yet, it was not given.

Where would he get that tiny fraction of votes to give to the ruling party? Exactly the same question those wicked lecturers would ask whenever they wanted to commit havoc against their victims.
Thereafter, it was as if cold, icy water was sprayed in the firmament. The blistering, sweltering atmosphere outside became as cool as London street during Christmas. The drumbeats ended as the crowd soon thinned out and eventually disappeared.

Immediately that announcement was made, my mind raced back to Nigeria, my country. Remember it was just a few months that it had just come out of its own presidential election that produced the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, an exercise that was so flawed and fraudulent that even the product, Yar’Adua himself had to confess to its sordidness during his inauguration and went ahead to do something about it as one of his immediate priority projects by convoking the Justice Mohammed Uwais Commission.

“You are a Nigerian?” It was more of a question than a statement. How lucky could a man be! I remember one of the several times I had been that lucky. It was on an Abuja-Lagos bound flight. I was sitting jejeely by the window, pretending to mind my business, when as always, I was actually making every other person’s business my business, wondering who was going to take the middle seat, which had always been one of my biggest concerns.

Apart from never being able to get over my apprehension about flying, I was always very particular about my-would be neighbour. I once cursed my ill-luck when this particular oyibo was snoring loudly for about eight hours and prevented me from any form of sleep, while enjoying his on a trip outside Nigeria.

But what I saw, was more than my expectation – just the way I always wanted to travel. At such occasions, I didn’t mind if the trip took longer. She was all airs as she sat beside me. Her curt and impersonal response to my neighbour at the aisle was enough warning to me to maintain. That was before I heard some of the best words in memory. “Oga, can I ask you a favour?” She was actually speaking to me! I didn’t wait a second before she changed her mind from asking the “favour.”

The, the bombshell! “Please, can I hold your hand when the plane is about to take off, I’m always afraid.” Whaaat! “Of course!” I almost exclaimed. I wanted to ask her to grab me if she wished. That was exactly the way it was during takeoff and landing – one of my most pleasurable trips on air.

This was exactly what played out here, thousands of kilometres from my own country. You could actually mistake this one for some kind of ebony carving, if she didn’t move. The most beautiful set of eyes and dentition, I ever saw in any human. But it was the dimples that caught me more than anything else. I had watched her speaking to some her colleagues and was full of admiration. I never knew I was going to be that lucky. Before now, I was practically breathing the air through her as she sat close to her because her smell was completely enchanting. I didn’t know whether it was rose or lavender or even natural, but it just wafted in tiny bits through my nostrils as we sat there.

Recalling the warning of the elders that a hen that is in a strange land stands with one leg, I had kept to that injunction and simply maintained. How would I know that my reward would come that soon? After all journalism is one of the few jobs that mix business with pleasure.

How Amah, that was her name, recognised the Nigerian in me amidst hundreds of nationalities across not just Africa, but the world – my looks, the surprise in my eyes or some other telltale signs, I couldn’t explain, but she did somehow. And being a Nigerian in Ghana, as in virtually all African countries, is indeed a big deal.

She practically pulled me out of what must have been a trance as I wondered within myself how possible it was not to hand over government to a ruling party just because of a fraction of votes when in my country ballot boxes are found in several bushes long after elections and figures manufactured from the factories of electoral bodies to produce landslide victories. But as Amah and others who joined in our conversation later got me to know, this was Ghana.

But that was only part of my surprises, actually. Before then, there had been other shockers. Due to flight delays, I had come into Accra by night on the eve of the election and went straight from the Katoka International Airport to my hotel. Throughout the night, I couldn’t sleep because I was wondering how to move in the morning to monitor the presidential election, which was my mission, because I didn’t have accreditation. I was surprised when quite early in the morning; I opened my window and saw people moving around – human and vehicular.


Thinking that I might have a window to make it to the Ghana Institute of Journalism, the venue for the accreditation before the no-movement clampdown, as we have in Nigeria during election, I quickly showered, jumped into my clothes, ignoring my breakfast and moved into the street and hailed the next available taxi to my destination. It was in the taxi that I asked the driver when the restriction would become effective. The man was confused. What restriction?, he asked. “Don’t you have restriction, are people allowed to move freely?” I returned.

He nearly laughed at me, as he explained that there was nothing like restrictions, as people were allowed to move freely, and vote at any time they liked without anybody disturbing them. That was the first shocker.

I didn’t have to take his words for it. I got my accreditation alright. But I discovered I didn’t even need it. My second surprise was at the business centre where I went to take passport for the accreditation. It was that year that they carried out currency denomination that put the cedi at par with the dollar. I had changed some of my money into the local currency and when it was time to pay for the passport, I gave the photographer money. It was like paying N20,000 for a N200 job. But the man, instead of taking advantage of my ignorance, corrected me and gave me back my money. Then, they were still using coins as part of their denominations. The man, not only took time to explain some of the denominations, but actually changed some of them to coins for me for ease. Second shocker!

I then moved to the streets for my job proper. That was where I got my third shocker. I had seen a cluster at a polling station and had stopped my taxi to cover the process. I never saw any policeman, army or any person with a gun. It was while I was snapping away with my camera that one uniformed young lady approached me. After inquiring about my identity and mission and getting my explanation of being a Nigerian journalist, she returned to her post. The only thing I saw in her hand, was a baton, which she never used on anybody because there was no need. I later learnt the lady was a prisons official.

Throughout the exercise and in all the places I went, I never met a single security agent, not to talk about gun-toting or heavily-decked, drug induced police contingents hanging on vehicles hounding for the blood of fellow citizens whether deservedly or not.

Amah and her friends, had informed me about a rally at the home of the winner of that election, incidentally, the current President, Nana Akufo Addo. They could have taken me there, but had to return to their offices to file their reports.

So, I found my way there using the direction they gave me. It was indeed a big rally. After the event, I had sought to interview the NPP candidate and winner of the first ballot, but met a brickwall. Security was quite tight and I didn’t know anyone around. Then I applied the journalist instinct, which nobody teaches you in the classroom. I recalled that during our conversation, they told me that the two candidates were being sponsored by two prominent former Nigerian governors, one from the South West and another from the South South.

Akufo-Addo was being sponsored by the Niger Delta governor. So, I approached one of the many security operatives at the gate and dropped the ex-governor’s name. It worked like magic. He opened the gate and I gained access into the sitting room of the candidate, now President. Third shocker: In our interaction, the man told me himself without reservation, not off records, but knowing that I was a journalist and that I was going to publish the story that he was likely to lose the election the runoff election.

Why? I asked. He told me that Ghanaians were already weary of voting one political party and were not likely to vote his party. By then, the NPP, under Kuffour, was doing eight years. You see? In other words, the man was already preparing his mind that he was not likely to win and therefore had taken it as not a do-or-die affair.

That was exactly the way it emerged. Indeed, the gap between him and his closest rival Attah Mills of the NDC was about 20,000, but the voters at Tain constituency in the Brong-Ahafo Region, where there was an outstanding election was more than 50,000. When the result was eventually called about three weeks after, it was Mills that eventually won. Just picture the scenario!

But do you know that during the interregnum, a former Nigerian President, had flown into Ghana, to pressurise the President and the electoral body to stymie the election and hand over to the other side, even against the flow of the current in the way of the Nigerian system. It was that bad. I was still in Ghana when the former President visited and it was all over Ghana what the mission was all about.

So, what happened in Edo, on Saturday, September, 19, is not a surprise to those who have seen these things done in other places. Ghana is just a 45-minute flight away, just the same as Lagos-Port-Harcourt. They don’t eat better food than we do. We even eat better. In fact, to them, Nigerians cuts a big-brother figure, if not god. If they could do it, why not Nigeria? It is a matter of attitude – the right attitude. It is not in our stars. Bad election is not a curse, we are the cause.

I shall definitely give you all the shockers about Ghana including the concluding part of my journey with Amah, the lady with the deepest dimples and most beautiful eyeballs! In due time.

 

 

Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on September, 22 2020

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