Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Government by Mob Action?

Elizabeth Ohene

The great miracle that had been wrought in Ghana's political history is that the present government claims that for the first time there is no difference between "government" and the people/the workers.
It is difficult to explain to a non Ghanaian what an ANANSE story is, of course, it helps to explain that 'Ananse' means a spider and this creature is the folk hero of all traditional Ghanaian stories. Ananse is crafty, wily and even though he manages to get himself into many impossible positions, he usually comes out clean at the end of the story. Hate Ananse, curse him but there is always a sneaky admiration the type of admiration people have for Train Robber Ron Biggs.

Some people have even suggested that some of the blame for the 'Ghana disease' ought to be put at the door of Kweku Ananse. A culture based on a folk hero whose main attributes are cheating, craftiness and shirking responsibility and always leaving his friends in the lurch, must surely explain some of the problems in the society.

Some Ananse stories carry a moral at the end, some of them seek to give an explanation to a baffling natural phenomenon, for example, a story might end "that is why dogs bark at full moon" some others simply end by stating "well, that's the way life is..." but many of the stories show the folk hero outsmarting them all.

It is usually a good guide of how baffled a Ghanaian is when he resorts to an Ananse story to explain away something, generations of young Ghanaian children have been kept quiet every evening by Ananse stories and harrassed mothers have sometimes been known to make up the stories as they run out of their repertoire - that is all allowed in the Ananse folklore.

I am reduced to recounting an Ananse story of my childhood to explain a very serious situation in Ghana now.

One day, there was a great famine in the animal kingdom, things were so bad that many of the animals were dying through starvation. The King of the animals therefore called a general meeting to try and find ways to tackle the problem. After a lot of animated discussion, they all agreed that the only solution was to make whatever food that could be found in the animal kingdom into centrally-owned a property, just so the little that there was, could be shared equitably between all the animals. That way, some animals wouldn't die while some others grew fat.

Everybody agreed that this was a wise decision and all the animals went back home and started bringing in their carefully hoarded stores.

Kweku Ananse who had never been one to go to the farm and who would do anything to avoid hard work, of course, did not have one grain of corn put by for a rainy day. He pondered his situation until he happened upon a bright idea. He went quietly and changed his name 'Kweku Ananse' by deed poll to "ALL OF US" and came back home.


Come the time to eat, and after everybody had renounced any individual rights to the foods they had brought, the King tried to share what was available, "this bag of corn is for all of us," out stepped Kweku Ananse, took the bag of corn, "thank you very much" and stepped back, "this leg of beef is for all of us", "thank you very much" Ananse said, "and this basket of vegetables is also for all of us" and thing. you guessed right, Mr ALL OF US stepped forward and grabbed that too...

In a recent published interview with the Ghana Secretary for Information, Miss Joyce Aryee, she was asked about what the situation was with the privately-owned press of Mr Tommy Thompson that had been closed down.

I will have to quote that portion of her answer as published in West Africa' magazine, "The position with that press also is that it was the workers who said they closed it down. The government has not said it had closed down the press. I think there is a distinction between when the workers out of their own demands do something, and when the government, as a matter of policy, does something. Drawing the distinction is very useful..."

Very useful indeed. The great miracle that had been wrought in Ghana political history is that the present government in the country claims that for the first time, there is no difference between ‘government' and the people/the workers. 'Government' has been 'demystified'; there is in fact, no difference between the government and the people as there had been in the old bankrupt system that was overthrown on December 31st, 1981

And yet when the workers take a major step like closing down some body's press, a distinction has to be drawn that is an action by the workers, it had nothing to do with the government, they also have brains you know.

In other words, since the workers also have brains, they should not only be given credit for their own actions, they are free to do whatsoever they please, it has nothing to do with the government. Supposing 'the workers', after due consideration of their brains, decide that Elizabeth Ohene should no longer be the proud owner of her jalopy, a distinction will have to be drawn between an action taken by the workers and when, as a matter of policy, the government does something.

Will Elizabeth Ohene, in such a scenario, have any remedies at all? What protection will she have against the workers, and supposing she also feels so attached to her jalopy that she would rather not be dispossessed of it. does she have to take up arms against the workers before she can retain what is rightfully hers?

Or could it be that the government, like crafty old Kweku Ananse, has changed its name by deed poll ins "The People/The Workers' and relies on The People/The Workers to do its dirty work for it?

When somebody's privately owned property is appropriated, it is an action taken by ‘The Workers', when the courts of Judicature are invaded and judges and lawyers chased out, it is an action by The People', when private clubs and lodges are forcibly taken over, it is an action taken by "The People', nothing to do with the government, the people also have brains you know.

So, what is the Provisional National Defence Council? If these actions do not have the blessing of the PNDC and were definitely not inspired by the government, then how come nothing has been done to reverse them?


Is the suggestion that the government is powerless before an action taken independently by the workers? But then there have been instances when the workers have said things and demanded certain measures which have been roundly rejected by the PNDC. When the workers called for the sacking of Prof. Mawuse Dake, at that time, the Secretary for Works and Housing, the Chairman of the PNDC, Flt-Lt Rawlings, turned on them roundly and told them off in carefully chosen words.

In much the same way, the judicious speech is regularly made, condemning some actions by certain "elements" that give a bad name to the revolution. Of course, Amartey Kwei, even Amartey Kwei, the life-long friend of the Chairman, was executed to demonstrate the revulsion against the murder of the judges and to show that the murders were an action taken by a member of the government in his "private capacity?"

A fat lot of good that does to Mrs Justice Koranteng-Addow and her fellow victims and their families.

It is not enough for the PNDC to disclaim responsibility for irresponsible actions and blame them on the workers or the people, unless of course the PNDC is claiming that they have no control over the country. The fundamental responsibility of any government is to be able to guarantee the safety of its citizens, and if such a basic thing cannot be assured, how can the PNDC call itself a 'government'?

Since the PNDC has demonstrated that it can ignore some demands by the people and reverse some actions by the workers, the inevitable conclusion has to be drawn that the PNDC has assumed the role of crafty old Kweku Ananse and has changed its name to The People/The Workers and hides behind such a facade to commit fraud and rape on Ghana.

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