Feature Article of Sunday, 2 September 2012

Columnist: Nkrumah-Boateng, Rodney

And Then The Umbrellas Came To Town…

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng (rodnoat@yahoo.com)

It takes a solid pair of brass balls for the antelope to saunter lazily into the lion’s den uninvited, plant its flag within inches of the lion’s paws, look deep and defiantly into those fiery eyes and demand, ‘Yes, I am here, and what you gonna do about it, eh?’ And yet that is precisely what the ruling Umbrella Party just did by invading Oseikrom, the capital of Ashanti, deemed a World Bank of the opposition Elephant Party. The Umbrellas were clearly bent on transforming it to a rural bank for the Elephants. I was tempted to dream about the prospect of the Elephants holding a Congress at Ho, the capital of the Volta Region. Or somewhere in Ketu South. Then I promptly banished such ‘elephantine’ thoughts from my feeble brain before they developed fertile roots.

But the arrival of the umbrella army was not without preamble and drama. The Umbrella people were apparently unhappy that some Elephant flags were fluttering noisily in the breeze around the Baba Yara Stadium, one of the action scenes, and threatened to remove them. Apparently they suspected that these flags had been deliberately hoisted by the opposition people to taunt them. They demanded a ‘no flag’ zone for the elephants. Maybe the face of the Chief Elephant irritated them. Or perhaps it gave them nightmares or even diarrhoea. We will never know. But the elephants stomped about and dared the Umbrellas to go ahead, reminding them that the Baba Yara Stadium’s premises were not sovereign Umbrella territory under any law. These booklong people!! Somehow, the overheated testosterone-induced machismo noise from both camps died down.

As for the Umbrella people, they came paa…From all corners of the country, they poured into the city in droves, like an invading army. But you see, umbrellas come in grades and pedigree, so the big boys took to the skies and landed in style at the Oseikrom Airport to wild cheers, music and drumming by umbrella supporters, many of whom had never climbed the stairs of an aircraft in their lives and probably never would. The Chief Umbrella, his vice, his ministers, big party guys and some other appointees, including, ‘taflatse’, the ‘Greedy Erm…’ all came by air. The airlines made a lot of money indeed. Of course, like John The Baptist, the national security people had arrived ahead to prepare the grounds and ensure the security of the Chief Umbrella and his VVIP entourage.

The next grade came at high speed in their official Landcruisers, with police outriders screeching and clearing the way for them. Then there were those who came in their own cars, honking and proudly displaying the red, green, black and white flags of their cherished party. Finally, of course, came the ‘popular stand’ umbrellas, crammed into sweaty buses and singing their hearts out. By Wednesday evening, most of the umbrellas had arrived. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and night vendors were doing brisk business, and someone even whispered into my ear that ‘Sisters of the Night’ were not left out of the action as crisp cedi notes ,( a.k.a ‘kudi’, a.k.a l’argent, a.k.a sika, a.k.a geld, etc) flowed like a monsoon-fed river all over the city.

The next day was for business. All roads led to the stadium. Umbrella posters, flags, hats, caps, t-shirts, key rings and a host of paraphernalia were proudly displayed, and sales were rather brisk, with party faithful brightly clad in party colours. But here, only delegates could enter the stadium grounds, for this was a special delegates’ congress to enstool their nominated sole candidate. ‘Pure water’, chewing gum, hacks, orange and ‘bofrot’ vendors had wide smiles plastered on their faces as they did brisk business. After all, Christmas does not come every day.

Inside the stadium, the Chief Umbrella, accompanied by his queen, made a grand entry like an A-list celebrity couple, to deafening cheers. He smiled broadly, waved and blew kisses at the crowd. They went wild and shouted, stomped their feet and waved anything they could grab with an umbrella embossed on it. And then the proceedings began and speech after speech came.

Eventually the voting commenced. I wonder whether the Chief Umbrella bit his fingernails and sat on tenterhooks at this stage, wondering whether he was going to get the nod. Shockingly, he was able to secure the endorsement of only 99.5% of the delegates. One wonders what went through the heads of the 0.5% disloyal delegates who did not want the 54-year old Chief Umbrella, who we are incessantly told represents the youth vote, to become the Umbrella flagbearer. Maybe they were confused by the youth claim against the background of the many strands of grey hair adorning his head. But how dared they? Maybe Field Marshall Mosquito should launch an enquiry, flush out these miserable traitors and have them shot at dawn.

Then it was time for The Special One, the Great Umbrella himself and the founder of the umbrella fraternity, to address the party faithful. Now, the Special One does not do bland pepper-free speeches. Hell No!! He spits hot spices into your face and makes your eyes water. The party gurus, including the cat-killer and the mosquito, must have had sleepless nights wondering whether to invite him or not. After all, he is a political ‘santrofi’ bird-if you invite him, trouble, and if you don’t invite him, more trouble. In the end, their decision to invite him was probably inspired by the four words: ‘All Die Be Die’.

Hearts leapt into throats and threatened to lodge there permanently. Will he boom? Or has he seen the light and come back home, like a prodigal founder? They wondered and they sweated. The Special One, now all grizzled and rather rotund, but still able to breathe fire through his nostrils and emit smoke from his ears, must have savoured those delicious yet tense moments as he thought back to the old glorious days of the revolution. In those days, on his order, Ghanaians went to bed at 6pm like chickens and were not allowed out till 6am the next day. Who born dog, eh?

But today, The Special One was not going to boom-not in the ‘greedy bastards’ and ‘bootlickers’ sense, that is. As a senior citizen aged 65 years, he had decided to speak in codes and parables, a style so beloved by our white-haired elders as a mark of wisdom. And so he spoke about invective-spewing babies with granite-hard teeth, urging that the party be purged of them together with the waters they had dirtied. And those who had ears listened and nodded gravely, for The Special One was making plenty of sense. And those who knew in their hearts that he was referring to them must have smiled wanly and fidgeted ‘small’ in their seats, perhaps quickly running their tongues over their teeth to check whether they were indeed razor-sharp. And The Special One also talked about rotten bridges and many other things. He weaved and bobbed and left his audience to figure him out. Then he sat down.

Conspicuous by her absence was Empress Umbrella, who was presumably still smarting and sulking over her little embarrassment at the hands of the former Chief Umbrella last year. She stayed put in Accra-‘duku’, sunglasses and all. Perhaps she had an important PTA meeting to attend or some shopping to do at Makola. Or maybe she forgot, or pretended to forget, that all the umbrellas were having a party in Oseikrom. Plus she had demanded her umbrella back not too long ago, causing a great deal of angst and anguish in the Umbrella Party. Presumably she had wisely reckoned that she would not be given a particularly enthusiastic welcome if she set foot at the grounds. They might even boo her, those rude small boys and girls!!!

Bubbling with excitement and pumped full with adrenalin, the army headed to the Jubilee Park from the stadium for a rally, blaring horns, punishing their lungs and dancing. Oseikromanians going about their business or busily preparing their light soup as the fufu was being pounded with gusto, could only watch with wry amusement as the carnival train passed by. More speeches at Jubilee Park, followed by more merrymaking, and congress was over. After the rally, many retired to their beds whilst the more sturdy ones with solid bladders crowded the bars and made merry. Of course, in the Golden Tulip hotel and other places of similar pedigree, the choice drinks were Black Label whiskey, Courvoisier and the like, accompanied by hearty conversation, loud guffaws and all manner of roasted/grilled/fried meat. Meanwhile, the footsoldiers and others slightly above that rank sought refuge in beer, Gulder and Kasapreko Gin. Monkeys play by sizes, you see. Clearly some well-known Umbrellas looked very well-fed and had sprouted enviable pot-bellies and fleshy cheeks of various dimensions over the past few years. Money swine!!!

On Friday morning, the Umbrellas began to fold up and head out of town. It had been a dizzy, heady experience for the excited party supporters. In their moments of euphoria, some had declared that their party was united, even though it was obvious that The Special One had set rather onerous conditions for returning to the campaign and the Empress Umbrella was still sulking in Accra. They also declared that Oseikrom and Ashanti would fall into their lap in December 2012 and become another branch of their World Bank. Now, whether such talk was whiskey/brandy-induced is hard to tell, but it appears Oseikromanians were more interested in the wonders the umbrella cash was doing to their city’s economy than the 'sacrilege' of voting for the umbrella.

The Umbrellas came to town and had a good time. They adopted MTN’s slogan ‘E dey be k3k3’, which was on every Umbrella’s lips. But exactly what ‘dey be’ is hard to decipher. All we can do is mutter under our breaths and scratch our heads in vain as we ponder over this eternal mystery in complete darkness whilst we ‘enjoy’ load shedding in a Better Ghana.

Ah, well. Maybe it will be revealed to us in all its glory on Judgment (Debt?) Day, which I am told is 7th December 2012.