‘Obra’ conveys a popular impression of life as a struggle.
That spot at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra is a sort of spiritual headquarters for Accra protests and a thematically convenient starting point of demonstrations.
Here was a red human sea of National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporters and a cross-section of Ghanaians snailing out onto the Adabraka street, disabling the need for traffic lights. The protesters muscled out vehicular traffic and took control of more than 800 metres of a valuable economic route.
Bad day for passengers.
It was the ‘Yentua’ (We will not pay) demonstration organized by the NDC to dramatise a nationwide frustration at the government’s plan to tax electronic transactions to fund an economic recovery.
Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, God forbid, would never attend an NDC demonstration. But his tweets were there, and that was all that mattered as far as the NDC was concerned.
His 2016 tweets from opposition were about the hardship of the ordinary Ghanaian and the poor leadership provided by the “extraordinary Ghanaians” in power then.
And so NDC supporters hoisted his karma-laden tweets, like a head of a vanquished foe on a spike. They were jubilating that, finally, Mahama’s biggest thorn, Bawumia, had been neutralized — by Bawumia.
In three moving trucks, loud speakers bounced bone-shaking music, “Our money” by Sidney, and rhythmic Ga songs that had the effect of forcing skeletal movement and lurid dance moves.
One truck, a generator hooked to its sound system played “Survivor” by Bob Marley and The Wailers.
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
How can you be sitting there?
Telling me that you care – that you care?
When every time I look around
The people suffer in the suffering
In every way, in everywhere
Say: na-na-na-na-na (na-na, na-na!)
We’re the survivors, yes, the black survivors
I tell you what: some people got everything
Some people got nothing
Some people got hopes and dreams
Some people got ways and means
The protesters danced to the song and did the “Jah Rastafarai” dancekit that involved raising one hand and a leg at some 30 degrees up. But suddenly, the sound system and generator broke down, much to the chagrin of the dancers.
In the absence of the hit song, Survivor, the demonstration at that section of the protest took a temporary hit.
On one side of the truck, a man offered threats: “Look, if you don’t get this thing to work,” he said pointing a finger at the operators.
An old woman slapped the side of the truck to immediately pray. “In the name of Jesus! In the name of Jesus!”
Suddenly, the truck, the song, the generator revived into “Survivor”. The crowd lit up. The vindicating look of an answered prayer drew on the old woman’s face.
The NDC leaders were found in the middle of the snaky queue. To the left, Madina MP, happy-looking-babyfaced, Francis Xavier Sosu, and to the right, worn-out, battled-rugged Baba Jamal, former MP for Akwatia. In the center, a nucleus of NDC General secretary, Asiedu Nketia, and Ningo-Prampram MP, Sam George, pulled up his game face, his bulldog face.
Asiedu Nketia showed a remarkable fitness level, not gifting the media a story about his health status by jumping into a car. He would not gift them a headline of treachery.
The “old soldier” braced the heat and when the crowd made a triumphant entry into the business district of Tudu, it was like the “General” had been ushered into his natural home.
He embraced the moment. This is his comfort zone, the assembly of simple Ghanaians who need simplified explanation of why Ghanaians are suffering.
Enter Johnson Asiedu Nketia. Enter NDC’s most revered communicator.
“Taxes are not bad,” he said in Twi. “But no country takes a tax from headporters, and hustlers to buy a plane for a president to bath in,” he jabbed.
“This is why we are saying that as for the e-levy…”
“Yentua,” the crowd finished off his sentences with telepathy.
The headporters he spoke about were very much present at the demonstration. They call them “kayayei”, a more refined term for human beasts of burden. Mostly from the northern part of the country, they endure some of the harshest conditions of life in the country.
In 2016, they heard promises from the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) that gave them hope. For this reason, they donated GHS 5000 to finance the campaign of President Akufo-Addo at a fund raising ceremony held at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.
Akufo-Addo’s Vice-President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, is on record to have kicked against taxing of mobile money transactions.
“My view is that we should not tax mobile money because a lot of the people who are using mobile money transactions are very poor people,” the vice-president said in 2020.
The “kayayei” are among Ghana’s poorest. So they turned out with their tools–aluminium pans– to join the NDC to oppose a tax being proposed by the man they funded in 2016.
About 6.1 kilometers from the Obra Spot to Parliament, the NDC supporters and allied groups marched on. They stifled city life by getting workers to peer down from their offices to discuss the e-levy.
Three “pure water” sellers stopped selling momentarily and constituted their own “Newsfile” panel to project the profit margin of the sachet water business. And security men stationed at banks traded views on their economic security.
A woman heading to the market, clutching her handbag under her arm, muttered furiously, “Yentua!” “Yentua!” “Yentua”!
Watch more photos
You can also read from the same author