You would have to be psychic or one lucky gambler to predict that what started out as a boring routine ride, inching our way through Accra’s morning rush hour traffic, would degenerate into an outpouring of pain, and suppressed laughter. On the radio, a Member of Parliament was declaring how he deserved monthly salaries commanded by chief executives – in the region of GH¢8,000. Nobody expected it when a carpenter one row behind me all but rained curses on the poor legislator’s head. The man was shaking in rage as he proceeded to smear all politicians from the same dung bucket. He said he was through with politics. Another one bites the dust.
It would seem the sheer sums being floated with ease were turning his head in circles, and upon reaching snapping point, caused him to spew out a flood of unprintable words. Not so. Having given up on politics not too long ago myself, I found it impossible to tune off, though I stared hypocritically out of my window with a look of disinterest that would win me no Oscars. Soon after campaigning for the now Assemblyman in his area, the successful politician had summoned all his campaigners to a meeting at their usual spot. As had been agreed, it would be a members-only get-together to usher in the good times.
Their demands were few. The gathering had been the big man’s idea. All they needed were jerseys for their local football team, easily obtainable from Kantamanto. Though not from the immediate area, he was one of them, as he had touted to the meagre handful of interested parties who bothered to listen to the ramblings of a District Assembly aspirant.
Time was going, but they really didn’t mind. They spent their Sundays listening to Glo Premier League commentary while playing draughts and cards, anyway. Half-an-hour in, they called him. There were smiles all round as the caller reported that he was on his way. My guess is that a goal or two had been scored around the league centres when the second call was made. The plea was for patience. Honourable was on his way. Two hours after the scheduled 3 o’clock meeting, and after whistles had blown in stadiums across the country, what would prove to be the last call went out. “The MTN number you have dialled cannot be reached. Please, call back later.” They needed not bother.
Traffic enriches good stories. Nobody in our car seemed to care that the policemen at the Ghana Standards Board traffic lights had stopped us longer than necessary. Neither were we upset when other trotros blocked the exit at Spanner Junction – or Spiner Junction, depending on who your mate is.
He continued. The reality of the situation was coming full circle, and the pieces began to fall in place: his secrecy, his never letting anyone accompany him home, and finally, his 054 number. He could easily buy a new SIM card for cheap and discard it after getting elected. Would they ever see the Assemblyman again? Possibly, but the damage had already been done. In this voter’s eyes, politicians were just another breed of scum, the dregs of society’s lowest, vermin to be avoided like the plague they carried.
This kind of trotro talk was really nothing new to me. Soon after the 2008 elections were over, artisans with no knowledge of what GDP stood for, never mind wrapping their minds around the concept, roundly bashed Alhaji Bawumia, swearing on everything from their father’s knees to their grandmother’s graves that he had looted the Bank of Ghana dry. I smiled.
However, can you blame them? After all, have politicians not been known, upon receiving government appointments, to miraculously put their houses up for rent, move out and have a new occupant in, all in the span of one weekend? Have some not promised Utopia and yet delivered ashes into the laps of the masses, while the well-connected get gym memberships to deflate their rapidly expanding waistlines?
Perhaps, this man felt deceived too, whether or not the feeling is justified. I could help it no more as I bit my lip to stifle a laugh. He looked too aggrieved to appreciate eavesdropping men in ties and spectacles laughing at his hurt. As if being stood up wasn’t enough, they were stuck with the drinks bill to settle. The booze that was to have celebrated victory for this band of foot soldiers had been consumed to drown their regret at helping yet another politician with his own selfish ambitions, only to turn his back on the people who had done the real hard work to get him there. I could see genuine raw hatred in his eyes. He was through with politics. Another one bites the dust.