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Opinions of Sunday, 1 April 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Gyan, code 1733 and the blue man

By George Sydney Abugri

This nation appears truly bound straight for the nut house, Jomo: Do you reckon anyone, no matter who he is or thinks he is, has the right to flood my phone mail box with an incredible 78 text messages in as many seconds or less?

I switched on my phone one morning this week and to my horror, triggered off a staccato “peepeepeep” that went on like a smoke alarm manufactured in Fairyland, until all 78 text messages which had been sent from short code 1733 while the phone was switched off, had registered. Now, that is what I call a most uncouth and downright criminal invasion of my privacy.

I said to myself, if any security spook from you-know-where, is trying to bug my phone may an avenging angel of the Lord break his neck and why not, one leg as well. Then I thought better of the whole thing and did what led to an incredible discovery:

Some telephone operators and their business collaborators are having quite an unprecedented field day in Ghana, using messaging short codes and harassing the public 48-hours a day in the name of business promotions.

Each of the 78, unsolicited incomprehensible text messages read either “subscription request not identified” or “could not fetch content.” What language is that, do you know? Wacky is the word, Jomo. Absolutely wacky.

Sixty-three of the 78 messages remain unread, just in case I decide to go to court to reclaim my rights and some joker shows up and declares that it never happened.

I plan too, to talk the matter over with Kofi Kapito, so that we can breath down the government’s neck to publish or cause to be published, a constantly updated list of all short code numbers in use and the operators using them and also give us an undertaking to regulate the use of the short codes for this kind of rank nonsense {sorry, for business promotions.}

I thought messaging short codes were for value-added telephone services such as television and show business program voting, importing of ring tones and to canvas charity donations for humanitarian causes and not for corporate pranks.

That is not the news though, Jomo. The real news is that in spite of being an unrepentantly incorrigible pessimist, I must note that a visible national effort is underway to minimize the possibility of post-election conflicts, violence and bloodshed:

The electoral commissioner is bee-busy compiling Ghana’s first ever biometric voters register. Dr. Afari-Gyan has stopped short of threatening to skin alive and impale on a pole for all to see, the skull of any citizen who takes the criminal but not unusual step of registering as a voter more than once but he has vowed to ensure that every electoral fraudster is thrown in jail, slapped with a court fine or both.

I also heard police operations Chief Commander John Kudalor warning the other day, that while the police will act with professional discipline during the elections, the police will also act decisively in cases of violent or unlawful conduct on the part of anyone, without prejudice.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that the NDC and the NPP, both irredeemably notorious for politicizing everything with a name, did not jump to the defence of the six muscular men in black jackets who drove around voter registration centers at Taifa in Accra, intimidating citizens seeking to register. Now, that is what I call neat and tidy politics, Jomo.

This election is so critical for obvious reasons, that we shall call a criminal a criminal. Anyone who engages in violence or electoral fraud will carry that apt description and not be referred to as a macho man, foot soldier, party supporter any other words from the political dictionary of rank nonsense.

For some unexplained reason, the police in Kumasi, Sunyani, Techiman and other places do not appear to have acted with similar law enforcement dispatch and small armies of trouble makers had a field day throwing and taking blows and firing guns shots nine clear months before the first voter in the queue casts a ballot.

One radio reporter’s verbatim account from one location: “I can see so many people holding machetes, short guns, single barrel guns and they are shooting…”

The phenomenon of heavily built men with bursting sinews and biceps like oak tree trunks zooming around on snarling motor bikes snatching ballot boxes and intimidating voters is apparently yet to be made a very unattractive prospect for the so-called macho men of the election season.

Take it as my person al opinion: Dr. Gyan is one of the most experienced polling referees in Africa and certainly one of time-tested integrity as far as electoral commissioners come in a continent addicted to political power stealing and the wars that come in their aftermath.

All the same, Dr. Gyan will do our mighty republic and her fumbling march toward true democracy a whole universe of good by noting the recurrence during the first few days of the biometric registration of voters, of those situations which often lead to suspicion and conflict during and after elections:

The late delivery or non-delivery altogether, of voting materials and equipment, the unnecessarily long queues, the failure of election officers to show up at polling stations long after the scheduled starting time for voting and the problem of defective and malfunctioning equipment.

There was the bizarre case of prospective voters, most of them blue collar workers, whose finger prints could not be registered biometrically even though the equipment was functioning perfectly. Sympathetic registration officials washed the hands of the unlucky prospective voters with soap but a fat lot of good that did when they tried taking the fingerprints again.

Uhunh! See? That is what happens when you insist on living a caveman’s life in a high-tech age, Jomo: Road and building contractors, factories and other industries have staunchly refused to provide protective gear for the blue collar workers.

You will often find construction workers chiseling away at metal, concrete, quarry stones and other hard surfaces with their bare hands, and to think that this is millennium number three! Some blue collar workers handle chemicals without wearing gloves. The result of all that: Scarred fingers with no prints.

That this is dehumanizing, unfair and against international labour laws is bad enough but to be well and truly disenfranchised as a result as well...!

Anyhow, all said and done, there should be no need to go to war in December, especially as the procedures for registering all legitimate grievances are well defined. These procedures should be repeatedly harped upon during public education programmes for the benefit of lovers of peace and war mongers alike, between now and December.

If in spite of everything we still insist on having a chaotic and bloody election as we have repeatedly done, let us go ahead and have one beautiful post election war, Jomo. After all, it has taken a Ghanaian to draw a peace plan for burning Syria and his plan is still intact!

Website: www.sydneyabugri.com

Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com.