Feature Article of Sunday, 17 April 2005
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
In his memorandum to Ghana?s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), dated October 13, 2003, Maj. Boakye Djan claims that among the sterling feats of the so-called Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was the stabilization of market prices, which had skyrocketed beyond the reach of the proverbial average Ghanaian. In reality, however, as the following paragraph from his aforementioned memorandum attests, the AFRC edict forcibly freezing the prices of basic consumable commodities was squarely geared towards the parochial interests of members of the Ghana Armed Forces: ?One aspect of our criminal justice operations that needs a brief mention here is the question of instant justice. It is about a cluster of cases around the market forces that had run out of control by our time [i.e. June to September 1979].
In popular language it was about trade malpractices such as hoarding and overpricing of goods and services in what had come to be called Kalabule. Inevitably, the ordinary people, the rank and file in the Forces in particular, were at the mercy of these rampant[ly] sharp prices and dealings; although and by some twist of irony it was these soldiers who were also at the receiving end of abuse from agents of these market forces.? In sum, in the foregoing abstract from his NRC memorandum, Maj. Boakye Djan impudently presumes the ideological terminology of ?ordinary people? to primarily allude to ?the rank and file? of Ghanaian soldiery. Thus, contrary to his stentorian assertions, the infamous June 4th Revolution was categorically undertaken for the economic benefit of Ghanaian soldiers; any apparent benefits that redounded to the general interest of the country?s civilian populace, or the commonweal, was, perforce, purely incidental. And this is why the AFRC deputy chief?s whole theory of that woefully misbegotten junta being poised to launching ?unity wars? in Africa in order to create ?free maximum zones of development and resistance against external interests? must be seen for the pathological crock that it certainly is. The preceding also glaringly belies the sophomoric appreciation, on the part of the membership of the AFRC, for the basic dynamics of political economy. And this is why the junta?s visceral approach to the country?s economic crisis was simply to issue a price-control edict summarily freezing the prices of such basic essential commodities as soap, milk, sugar and eggs without a simple understanding of the fact that in a capitalist economy the value of merchandise is incontrovertibly or logically determined by supply and demand, rather than the mere issuance of arbitrary edicts by government.
Indeed, it was the preceding political bankruptcy exhibited by the stomach- (or gut-) oriented AFRC junta that caused the downfall of the succeeding Limann administration, rather than the pat explanation of zero-sum game of parliamentary democracy advanced by the self-styled Osahene of Jinijini-Drobo Traditional Area in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. In sum, the arbitrary and summary freezing of commodity prices between June and September 1979, during which three protracted months the so-called Armed Forces Revolutionary Council held the reins of governance, literally brought the Ghanaian economy to its knees. And so by the time that the People?s National Party (PNP), headed by the late Dr. Hilla Limann, assumed political stewardship, the country was a virtual economic basket case. It thus blatantly and egregiously appears that having summarily destroyed the country, by bringing Ghana?s economy to a screeching halt, Maj. Boakye Djan and some of his ?nimble? fellow ?revolutionaries,? literally, cut themselves loose by, allegedly, extorting huge sums of money from the incoming PNP administration and absconding to the erstwhile colonial Mother Country of England to enjoy their pelf. Which is why, as already adumbrated elsewhere in this column, his title of Osahene, whoever conferred it on him, is rather presumptuous and outright risible. For Maj. Boakye Djan (pronounced: Booachie Jan) has roundly demonstrated himself, as well as his AFRC junta, to have been more about unalloyed megalomania and kleptocracy than democracy. Interestingly, it may also be recalled that this is not the first time that a Ghanaian soldier who caused considerable socioeconomic and political mayhem to the destiny of our dear country has assumed the presumptuous traditional (Akan) military title of Osahene (or Chief Warrior). We first witnessed the resurgent Brigadier-General A. A. Afrifa, during the 1970s, return to his home-village of Krobo, on the outskirts of Asante-Mampong, which also happens to be this writer?s matro-agnatic ancestral home, and assume the rather quaint and primitivistic title of Okatakyie, Brave Warrior, a title which unarguably hung on his scrawny physique as more of a relic than substance. And here, it may also be of interest to observe that the assassinated Brig.-Gen. Afrifa?s immediate younger sister was one of my late mother?s best friends between the 1950s and early 1960s. The other of the trio of fast friends was Auntie Christie ? I forget her sur- or maiden-name ? who later became headmistress or principal of Asante-Mampong Girls? Middle School.
Furthermore, in the abstract quoted at the beginning of this article, as has become his hallmark, Maj. Boakye Djan blames the untold atrocities perpetrated against Ghanaian market women in the wake of the so-called Rawlings-led June 4th Revolution: ?There were numerous reports of market women jeering and throwing buckets of urine at these soldiers who went in uniform to the markets to shop. Therefore and perhaps predictably, the initial reaction to these inflated prices started with spontaneous looting, unauthorised arrest and spot punishment of suspects mainly traders and business people, and the destruction of market places like Makola as the symbol of market forces gone mad.?
And here, it is imperative to note that those who amply appreciate traditional Ghanaian culture are fully mindful of the fact that ordinarily men, regardless of social status or stature, simply do not grocery shop for their wives ? except for a few isolated cases in the Muslim community that this writer personally witnessed while growing up in Central-Accra. It is exactly the other way around. And, indeed, it is an open-secret that Ghanaian men who make a habit of grocery shopping for their wives are often accused of being effeminate, stingy and unromantic. This is because it is tacitly accepted that a corollary benefit of having a woman grocery shop for the family is that she would, literally, cut corners and save a little bit of the housekeeping money for her petty personal effects. That is the woman?s widely accepted way of not incessantly pestering her husband for knick-knack wherewithal. And in situations where an adult male is single or a bachelor, he often engages the services of a girlfriend, female relative, maid, or even a neighbor?s wife, with whose husband the bachelor is on cordial terms, to grocery shop for him in the course of grocery shopping for her own family. In sum, what Maj. Boakye Djan flatly fails to acknowledge in his memorandum to Ghana?s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) is the fact that those male soldiers who made a habit of grocery shopping for their wives while at work and in military uniform patently did so in order to ensure that they purchased consumable commodities well below their standard market (or even manufacturer?s) value. Invariably such below-market prices were stipulated by these gun-slinging soldiers, who routinely threatened to ?quench? or ?waste? their victims if they would not be allowed their way. Indeed, the idea of male soldiers grocery shopping in military uniform was primarily to intimidate the traders, largely illiterate or marginally schooled women, into selling their wares at a considerable loss. And when that happened, the exponentially inflated commodity prices that our so-called Osahene alludes was actually shifted unto the sagging shoulders and battered wallets of the ordinary Ghanaian civilian. Furthermore, the mere fact that these soldiers decided to spend their work-hours grocery shopping for their wives, lovers and concubines, tells the studious observer a lot about the work ethic of the average Ghanaian soldier during the period under discussion.
Indeed, it is rather unfortunate for Maj. Boakye Djan, as well as his AFRC henchmen, that his so-called housecleaning revolutionary exercise occurred under the eagle eyes and bloodhound-nostrils of well-educated Ghanaians, then high-school teenagers, like this writer. And, guess what? We know how to write quite fairly well, and we intend to etch the untold atrocities of the Osahene and his cronies into the indelible Ghanaian, national epic memory; that way, needless to say, posterity shall never forget. But whether posterity is apt to forgive these neocolonial terrorists is not up to us to presently determine. Indeed, as the Jewish post-Holocaust dictum goes: ?Never Again!? It could not be more germane to the foregoing Ghanaian case.