Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How Ashale-Botweians* Used Their Kokromoti Power

If readers of this blog have been paying attention, you have noticed that whilst Ghana has been preparing for its presidential and parliamentary elections for many months and there has been much talk about it on our radio stations and in our local newspapers, I have had nothing to say about it. The truth is that I haven't been inspired to blog about it. I feel that regardless of who wins the elections, very little is going to change in the life of the average person and so what is there to be excited about? This entry isn't your usual political commentary or elections report. You can check Ghanaweb.com or Myjoyonline.com for that. Instead I bring you an account of how Ghanaians voted at the Happy Home Nursery School Polling Station at Ashale-Botwe, a suburb of Accra and what is more interesting, of how the voting served as a social event which brought us together to relive old times. For those who are confused by the title of this entry, Kokromoti means thumb and Ghanaians refer to voting as a way to exercise their kokromoti power. Fun huh? The funny thing is that people actually vote with their pinky and not the thumb:) What's the twi word for pinky?

First, let me give you a sense of the polling station. The Nursery School shares a wall with Peace Be House, which is the house for which the street is named. Peace-Be Street is one of the major streets in Ashale-Botwe and separates East Ashale-Botwe from West Ashale-Botwe. There are two mosques on this street, as well as a makalanta (islamic school). I don’t know if this qualifies the area as a zongo. One of the few clinics in the area can also be found on the street. The clinic, which is owned by the famous Dr. Asare of Pantang Psychiatric Hospital is also called Peace-Be Hospital. All these landmarks serve to make the Happy Home Nursery Polling Station one that people can find their way to, and consequently one of the biggest in Ashale-Botwe.

My mother owns the nursery school, which means that I live at the polling station. On the Saturday morning, the day of the elections, at about 4:30 am, I woke up to the sound of the voices of people who had already started queuing in readiness for the voting which was to begin at 7 am. I did not get out of bed till about 6:30 am when I started off for my friend’s house at a different part of Ashale-Botwe to get my camera so I could take some photographs. Besides the front of my house where one could already find a long line, everywhere else in Ashale-Botwe, life went on as usual. There was no tension in the air, no excitement even. The few posters and party flags could be found hanging in front of people’s houses, but that was about it. By the time I returned home, the line was even longer as can be seen in the picture

Instead of entering my house, I sat under the mango tree shown in the picture, chatted with the neighbours and some other area peeps (people) and tooks some photographs. One friend helped me take the the pictures shown below until the police man in the first photo stopped us. The police man, who was being exceedingly post kaya (tr: self important?) about executing his duties explained that only those with special authorization from the electoral commission were allowed to take photographs and videos. Oh well...post kaya! To be fair, he needed to be firm which he was and so we should have been happy that here was a policeman doing something right. i.e. enforcing the rules but I didn't feel positively about it. I just felt like he was chopping post (merely demonstrating his power) .

As can be seen from the pictures, and as you’ve probably already read about most other polling stations, the voting was peaceful.

What made it more interesting for me is that I got to see area people that I hadn’t seen in years! I saw one guy (I’ve forgotten his name) who used to bully me when I was a kid and we had a short conversation. He reminded me of one other bully called Razak but I did not see Razak in the lines. Then one of my neighbours’ nephews who used to chase one of my cousins also came around and we talked about old times. He reminded me of life in those days, how we used to be, saying that I was only a little girl then and showed me a photograph of his two daughters, whilst delivering poorly concealed jabs aimed at encouraging me to get married. This guy used to be a die hard Daddy Lumba Fan. Most of the lyrics to the songs I know, I learned from him because he used to sing so loudly in his house that I picked up the lyrics. I especially remember when Daddy Lumba came out with the Auntie Atta’ ei, mɛ ware wo ba baa no, ne ho yɛ me fɛ oo, oo, oo. This guy wouldn’t let us sleep. hehe. He mentioned too that the NPP song ...Nana Nana nana ɔyɛ winner oo, was sung by daddy Lumba. I did not know that. I guess he’s still a Daddy Lumba lyrics buff. My two aunts and uncle, who I hadn’t seen in over a month also came to vote, and I chatted with them for a while. One of my mother’s friends told me dɛ nansei maayɛ fine paa (these days, I am looking nice), because I’ve gained some pounds. Most people stayed in line and waited their turn though exceptions were made for people who had to report for work, pregnant women, women with small children and people like my mother who some people felt should not stand in line since she had offered her tables, benches and her house as a polling centre. I think she still stood in line though, and chatted with her sisters until it was her turn. One of the highlights of the day was when, my friend, acted like the typical Ghana man by ogling, then photographing the duna (tr: ass) shown in the photo. If that tells me anything, it tells me that people weren't just standing around waiting to vote:) It is not too far fetched to think that area chicks might have been checking out area boys and vice versa.

By 5pm when the voting was supposed to close, the lines were still very long, and so I left with my friend, went to a nearby filling station/restaurant and had some grilled akɔmfɛm (guinea fowl) and chilled mango juice. The beauty of it is that I am a fanti chick, and undecided voter, vaccilating between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Convention People’s Party (CPP) and my friend is a Ga man and an National Democratic Congress (CPP) supporter, but we could have Akɔmfɛm together whilst discussing who we thought was going to win. Neither of us voted. I was not in Ghana at the time of registration and my friend was deterred from registering by the long lines.

Voting finally closed after 8pm, with the NDC winning both the parliamentary seat and the presidential votes. According to my father who stayed for the counting, the tally came to 576 for NDC and 413 for NDC. He did not pay attention to the numbers for the CPP, PNC and so on. It is worth noting that the incumbent parliamentarian who was an NPP man lost to a NDC man.

Moving forward (no pun intended), we expect one of two things. One, we'll have a president by tomorrow afternoon or two, we'll have to head back to the polls in two (or is it three?) weeks if neither of the top two candidates wins more than 50% of the votes to clinch the win. Moving past the election of a new president, what changes do we expect in our lives? I predict that very little will change in my own life. Hopefully Ghana will continue to experience steady growth in its economy, and particularly increased growth in the private sector. A couple more roads may be built and railway transport will probably remain under-utilised, Ghanaians will continue to pride ourselves in being the black stars of Africa, and an example worth emulating (delusions of grandeur? hehe...I keep hearing from Ghanaians that the whole world is watching us but listening to BBC this morning, Zimbabwe seems to be worried about their cholera problem and the USA seeks to salvage its automobile industry; Is the world really watching Ghana?), and the ever-positive Ghanaian spirit will live on, but I do not anticipate any extraordinary positive changes in the next four years. I desperately hope I'm wrong. Witnessing Ashale-Botweians at the polls has made me curious to know the procedure for becoming a member of parliament:) If anyone knows, please share, and I'll also let you know when I find out. Yep, you're thinking what I'm thinking. In the meantime, I remain interested in change we can create ourselves.

*The name Ashale-Botweians is inspired by a fellow blogger who likes to write about Accraians:)


  1. start from page 2: http://www.ec.gov.gh/userfiles/file/presidential_parliamentary_elections_laws.pdf

  2. Erm, Esi, actually, people vote with their thumb and not their pinky. The pinky is only marked to avoid double voting. Pinky on ballot = rejected ballot. ;-)

  3. My bad...Thanks for the correction, Yaw.

  4. Ah now i'm thinking about it and am totally confed. I guess it's obvious that this sister has never voted:) Why the heck are there no black markings on the thumb then? If voters vote with their thumb, then i expect they'll dip the thumb into some liquid before impressing that marked thumb onto the ballot. right? But i see no such marking on the thumb. Someone please give me a blow by blow account.

  5. Sorry I can't give you a blow by blow account of the thumb action, b/c I've never voted in Ghana...am I even eligible? Hmm. Anywhoo its good to hear an non-polticized account of the voting experience in your area. I've been looking for such accounts to give a brief insight into what happened on that day; yours is the first I've read.


  6. Esi..firstly, they dip their little finger in an indelible ink, that stains it for weeks to pevent them from casting another vote at another polling station. Secondly, they vote with their thumb by pressing it against an ink pad, then on to the ballot paper.

    Consult me in private to know how to get that indelible ink off your little finger in less than an hour. :)

  7. Wait a sec, you went to your friend's house at 6.30am?!! :) Is that a generally acceptable calling-in hour, or was this a special election day dispensation? LOL

  8. Earthkwaque, are you suffering from papa samo syndrome? i.e. have been out of Ghana too long? Don't forget that in Ghana people wake up very early to sweep their houses and so on, even if they have nothing special to do on that day. There have been many times when my mother has complained that my little brother is lazy because he's still sleeping by 8 am on a saturday morning. Imagine! You dey kai the song: Okwaadonto, wo da da da da okwaadonto? But for real, when i got out of my house, there were so many people already up and about so it didn't occur to me that someone might still be sleeping...in any case, he was up and watching the elections on CNN or some other international channel. Funny when you think that the election was happening right in his own backyard and he was still watching it on TV. lol.

  9. I knew you'd say something like that! :) And I dey kai the song; I guess I'm ɔkwaadonto! LOL Come to think of it, the reason for which I tallied the most lashes in primary school was arriving late for assembly! Ghanafo na hwɔn akokɔ ways...