#FixTheCountry protesters finally got their opportunity to march. The Fourth Estate was there and brings you this report.
“Small boy, won’t you go for the demonstration? Or you are okay with everything happening in this country?” a fortified-looking police officer queried a teenager who stood by, peering down the street, beholding a thick and dominantly red crowd, snake its way up from Liberia Road in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
They were #FixTheCountry protesters, an amorphous group of disgruntled youth who found solace in their common denominator of disillusionment. They massed up the streets, shouting, screaming at every leader everywhere to just fix this country.
Young men and surprisingly a decent number of young women, chanted, not shy to use invectives, the Ga-themed ones, even more piercing and painful.
But those with refined political consciousness came with placards. Most prominent of the #FixTheCountry placard were the ones asking for a new constitution.
They argued that even Jerry Rawlings, the founder of the 1992 constitution for whom the document was designed to protect, had died. This, they argued, was a signal that his legacy was as dead as he.
Other #FixTheCountry placards carried condemnation like “Ghana has no vision”; some a request like “fix Akuapim North Road”; and some a suggestion like “prisoners should be housed in hotels to work on state farms”. The last, perhaps, a not so well-thought-through idea but still having the outlines of a working brain.
Here in these streets, issues were simplified. Like a woman pacing up and down, inspired by Akufo-Addo’s now viral comment, screaming “Yɛte sika so, nso ɔkom di yɛn,” to wit, “we have rich resources but we are hungry.’”
Simple frustration. No long, deep appreciation of complex social challenges because they are not complex.
Another man explained his frustration to The Fourth Estate, pointing out that Europe had better hospitals, invested in research, and found vaccines to fight Covid-19. These countries were still generous to help poor countries like Ghana, he said. He wondered how his country, after begging the world for vaccines claiming not to have money, could still turn around and ask citizens for money to build a cathedral.
In four thick but different groups, the protesters, hardly in a hurry to brace the finish line, trudged at a pace that would win Ghana gold at the Tokyo Olympics if there was a competition for slow walking.
In one group, the speakers were blaring, “Stand up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights!” as the protesters, never letting Bob Marley rest in peace, dragged the reggae star to, perhaps, his 1000th protest march since he died, to play at this protest.
This group was the Africa consciousness group, street Pan-Africanists, and Ghanaian patriotic movement.
Some 20 meters away another #FixTheCountry group was dancing to Black Sheriff’s hit song, Second Sermon, his lyrics firing them up into a fresh frenzy. Another group could be heard playing some gospel songs, a street church.
But the most powerful and electrifying was the group that commandeered the singing of the national youth anthem, “Arise Ghana youth for your country!”
Some knelt down, charged by the emotional call of their forebears on them that “the nation demands your devotion!” Some called for a new party, a youth party.
A bystander, spectating at Makola, underestimating the emotions on the streets, told off the protesters. “You people should find something better to do with your time,” he said in Twi.
He was nearly lynched. The protesters felt if he was beaten enough to require a hospital bed, which were in short supply right now, he would, after much difficulty in finding a bed, scream “FixThisCountry!”
This #FixTheCountry demonstration was organized chaos. No real leader to tell anyone what to do. Protesters would form a chain around the police to protect them. You would hear someone roaming around urging people to be careful. Others, several of them, like Ernesto Yeboah, the leader of the Economic Fighters League, would move around picking rubbish.
There were visible attempts to ensure that this march was not discredited by what someone described as the “political vultures of the government”, ready to pick apart the essence of the march when they drop dead in fatigue after the day’s work.
One of the protesters, after collecting rubbish, tried to dispose of it in a bin at a Goil fuel station but an attendant resisted him. Suddenly, a section of the crowd that witnessed this went into boo mood.
The protesters carried the hilarious spirit of social media comedian Kweku Chains, the fiery spirit of underground rapper Kweku Frimpong, and the x-rated spirit of US-based Twene Jonas’s language.
Someone clutched his girlfriend quite strongly around Accra Technical University as if worried that while they all tried to fix this country, his woman could end up being fixed by the more charismatic men at the protest.
The man who run from home without telling his wife explained that his choice of a white T-Shirt was intended not to arouse the interest of his wife who might have felt the holiday was for some good quality romantic time.
But he sold her a line about going to town for ‘something’, he said laughing at his own excuse-making creativity.
One of the “jama” leaders, charismatic-looking, had gathered his band of name-calling fixers, chanting in response to songs.
At the head office of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), they would boo when Rawlings’ name was mentioned. Boo when Kufuor’s name was mentioned. Boo when Mahama’s name was mentioned. At Akufo-Addo, their lungs worked extra hard, blood supplying oxygen even faster and they screamed a much louder boo.
But, at the mention of Kwame Nkrumah, some palpable nostalgia of Ghana’s founder electrified the crowd. Incidentally, they were just at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, and a giant billboard of Ghana’s first president reminded them of the significance of the day of the protest, which was being observed as Founders’ Day. The board had the effect of supplying more chants.
The #FixTheCountry protesters, most of whom did not look like they had read any book of Nkrumah, still felt his sense of patriotism was a missing jigsaw in a country of eyesores. They appeared to suggest Nkrumah’s corpse could rule the country better.
Journalists, enthusiastic about getting as many interviews as possible, soon realized that this march was proving a test for arm-chair journalism. They had burnt calories and had grown weary. Many slowed down, lowering their microphones, less animated as it became obvious that fitness was more important than a soundbite.
The demonstration appeared to be a palpable rejection of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the two parties that had have hogged Ghana since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1992.
It was a demonstration that could have been led by say CPP or PNC or third-force parties if their leaders had endured the hunger of staying true to their independent thoughts. But, alas, many of them like Essau have sold their birthright to a bowl of NPP and NDC pottage.
And so, at this protest, they were persona non-grata.
You can reach the writer of this story, Edwin Appiah, via email at [email protected]. You can follow him on @edwinologyLB