By Komla Adom
It may be early days yet, but certainly worth the thought. Memorabilia, or maybe just a fancy jargon – before the new president runs out of office, he may have been popular for one thing or another, maybe not just one. It’s a thing with our presidents and how they manage to indelibly ink their memories in our minds as Ghanaians. It’s the story of the legacies of the Johns!
Ghanaians of a certain age (especially those born anytime before the 80s) can never forget the period which was characterised by deep curves around the collarbone…especially among adolescents, as a result of food shortages and long periods of starvation in the late 80s…
This, popularly called the Rawlings’ Chain, came to be associated with Ft. Lieutenant Rawlings’ rule and governance of the country. Guess what, it didn’t end there, other presidents – subsequent Johns after the former military ruler have somehow had something they are remembered for, after their tenure in office.
Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings…John Kufuor…John Atta Mills…and now John Mahama…individuals who have served the Ghanaian people as presidents during different periods of the country’s history…
Their style of leadership may have been different, however, all three vacated the office not without very interesting popular memories, call it legacies!
Remember the Rawlings Chain? In the late 80s and early 90s Ft. Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings was popular for the Rawlings Chain. Some adolescents at the time bore the brunt of long periods of hunger and starvation…due to food shortages…
It was characterised by sunken flesh around the neck region of many adolescents…a clear definition of the collarbone under the neck, caused by leanness of the normally fleshy cover of the collarbone….
According to 53-year old Nii, the phenomenon saw many people starve for days, with famine also rife at the time.
“In those days, it boiled down to agriculture…you know, there was famine and foodstuffs were unavailable,” he told me.
As a result, “people couldn’t have enough rations. Those who had it, sometimes had to buy half-cooked kenkey from vendors to go and prepare at home, else they starved,” he mused.
“…So it all boiled down to agriculture and its associated challenges, that’s how we got…The Rawlings Chain…,” Nii concluded, as he looked on while his colleagues played draughts.
In came John Agyekum Kufuor – thought to be the Gentle Giant. Before he left office in 2008, the now former president was popular for this! – Called the Kufuor Gallon.
The mostly yellow water containers got the “Kufuor gallon” tag from Ghanaians, because its purpose became very synonymous with struggles for drinking water across the city, at the time when former President John Agyekum Kufuor was in office.
At the time, many parts of the country were hit with water shortages, leaving people to trek long distances to queue for water with these containers. The young and old were not left out of the search.
Long queues of yellow-gallons…long queues of human beings all in search for that commodity.
Many found the spectacle quite distressing, especially in densely populated areas with endless queues of such containers in front of overstretched boreholes at one corner, or scores of disappointed individuals roaming with the empty containers in search of water…
“I didn’t quite know about the name until I moved to Accra…and during that period, finding potable water to cook, wash or bath was a nightmare. We used these gallons to walk long distances in search of water,” Maame Adjoa noted…
These Kufuor gallons have since served various purposes in our homes and workplaces…to store fuel, oil, and locally-brewed alcohol among other fluids…
But, there’s another. The Kufuor bus! Usually tangerine-colored, with stripes of black. Buses of the MMT, popularly known as “Kufuor Buses”, that were christened after ex-president John Agyekum Kufuor to ply various destinations like Accra-Madina, Accra-Ashaiman, Accra-Tema, Accra-Amasaman and Accra -Adenta routes in the metropolis, became popular.
During the tenure of the Gentle Giant, two hundred buses, at a reported cost of $9.2 million, were given to Senior High Schools as part of the government’s continuous effort at promoting quality education.
But, as has become characteristic of the politics in these parts, Ghanaians were divided on the propriety or otherwise of this gesture!
According to various articles authored by some civil society groups, some respondents (69%) considered the donation as an exercise meant to achieve political gains.
In the same vein, 31% of Ghanaians also believed that the exercise was positive, and in the right direction, irrespective of the timing….till date, the buses continue to serve the transport needs in parts of the country.
For the late President John Mills, it was his intangible words of constantly preaching peace that made the mark. He is famously remembered for charging us to mind our own business. “Dzi wo fe asem” and “Yen dze, y3 p3 asomdwe” would remain his most famous quotes…
Even though he did not live to end his tenure of office, he is remembered for something…his reassuring but cautious soft-toned counsel!
President John Mahama, however, may never be forgotten, when it comes to the erratic power supply issues the country faced for almost four years….Dum-so! Even though he promised to fix the challenge, many remained skeptical. For some people, the situation deteriorated during his term of office, and will remember him in that light!
But it is what is turning out to be President Mahama’s legacy that is creating jobs for many young people in the Northern and two Upper regions and facilitating transportation and movement that is becoming popular. The Mahama Camboo!
With a few days for President Mahama to handover to President-elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo…the camboo appears to be a lasting legacy the people of the Upper West Region would relish and cherish.
The small shoe-like tricycle is the most popular form of transportation for people in these parts of the country.
But how did it become known as Mahama Camboo? We find out from some owners and users of the Camboo in the Upper West regional capital, Wa.
Abu, who sells motorbikes and tricycles at T.A. Tanko Company Limited, admitted, “These became known as Mahama Camboo, because they became popular in his tenure. I recall he visited Wa sometime back, and when he did, he sat in one of them.”
“Under MASLOC, many people here, especially the youth, benefitted from these camboos, and they have created employment for us here,” he added
The cute, sometimes yellow, green, black, blue or red tricycle aka Mahama Camboo to many people here, trumps the legacies of all the past presidents.
Not only is it easing transportation and movement in the central business district of the region, but it continues to create jobs for many others…especially the youth…
So, the Rawlings chain….Kufuor gallon…The intangible but instructive quotes by John Mills… and now the Mahama Camboo…what could Ghana’s new president be popular for in this light after four years…?
Only time, would tell…..