Pilgrimage to Jinijini
Berekum, an Ashanti imperial settlement in the 18th Century has always been a National Liberation Movement-United Party-New Patriotic Party (NLM-UP-NPP) stronghold. Unfortunately, in 1980, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Berekum, J.H. Owusu Acheampong, together with Kweku Baah, MP for Nkawkaw, rebelled against the party leadership, and in the Fourth Republic eventually joined the third force, National Democratic Congress (NDC).
JH Owusu Acheampong was made Majority Leader in Parliament and later Minister for Agriculture. There was even a rumour that he was shortlisted for Vice President.
As a typical NDC politician, JH Owusu Acheampong dominated Berekum politics with sheer arrogance, sending soldiers to beat up fifth columnists and putting fear into the people.
After the 1996 General Elections, where the Berekum results were heard on the radio, while the Returning Officer for PRUSI was in a taxi conveying the ballot box to the collation centre, the defeated NPP executives held a crisis meeting.
Metropolitan Berekum is solid for the NPP, but always the surrounding villages vote NDC. Why don’t we pick a candidate from the next biggest town, JINIJINI, so that no matter how the villages vote, JINIJINI votes plus Berekum Central votes will secure NPP victory?
With this reasoning, the Berekum NPP executives called the Jinijini NPP executives and told them, “look here, for the next General Elections in 2000, there will be no primaries in Berekum. We mandate you, Jinijini, to bring up a candidate.”
Even though Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings released me from prison and reinstated me into uniform, the man did not want to see my face at all. He arrested and detained me for six months and compulsorily retired me from the military. I returned to the Ghana Law School to complete my professional law course, and started practicing law to earn revenue to feed my little family.
The Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) kept trailing me, shadowing my movements. I was so scared of Rawlings that I never attended any political meeting whatsoever. I had seen so much blood at Burma Camp that personal survival was key.
One hot afternoon in 1997, two gentlemen came to my law office at Osu – they were Presby Church choristers from Jinijini – I thought they had a legal problem – no – Jinijini NPP wants you to come and contest as MP for Berekum. I refused, but they came back, again and again, until I went to a funeral in Jinijini, and everybody who saw me welcomed me as the “incoming MP for Berekum.”
Finally, I yielded, contested, won and served for eight years as the MP for Berekum. I never miss funerals of relatives or celebrities, and I am almost a full time member of the local Presbyterian Church; always being invited to chair this or that harvest.
Coming up was the new voters registration exercise, and all expected that Captain would definitely come here to register at the polling station – Presby Primary A.
At exactly 9 pm on Tuesday 14, July 2020, I left my house at Kasoa, objective – Berekum. I told the driver: “Master, I am going home to register. Don’t rush. Take your time.”
As Deputy Minister for Local Government and MP for Berekum, I was junketing Accra-Berekum-Accra like a boarding student going from boarding house to the dining hall. I remember so well one night I left Cantonments at 10pm, by midnight we were in Kumasi, and by 1am we were in Berekum. This time, we left Accra at 9am and got to Berekum at 5am the next morning – eight hours!
My advisors told me: “Captain, don’t just go and register at Presby Primary. You are former MP and a senior citizen – visit every registration centre and give them something to drink – after all how much? One bail application at the Circuit Court can take care of that.”
At 9am, we were ready to take off from my house in Berekum, and we drove, first to Jinjini Presby Primary A, where I was welcomed almost as a visitor and not one coming to register. I was offered a seat by the Returning Officer; I saw one National Electoral Commission (NEC) official filling some form, as I chatted heartily with the people around. Just as I was about to complain that I want to register, the NEC official asked me to thumbprint somewhere – “don’t worry, Captain. I know everything about you!”
When everything was over, I gave them 12 bottles of soft drinks to refresh them, then I said, amidst great laughter, when you share the drinks and some remains, then you give it to the NDC observer. Then I added, amidst more laughter, “because of the leader of NDC my hatred of NDC is total!”
From there, I visited each of the ELEVEN Registration centres dotted all over the township, and I was amazed to discover that JINIJINI is no longer the village I grew up in the 1960s.
Today, JINIJINI, capital of the Berekum West District, has a population of over 30,000 people, with residential buildings everywhere, formerly, all the Presby Methodist and Catholic schools were way out of town, today, the schools have been eaten up by buildings far beyond.
At 60 plus now, I did not see any of my age mates anywhere – only youths, youths, clustered round the registration centres, chatting and whiling away the time.
Late in the morning, by 11am, all was over and I sat in the car for the return journey to Accra. When we fell into the evening traffic at Kasoa, I felt as if I was a new man, from home, coming to see the same old problems – rushing to court, meetings, and clients and so on.
In the words of King Solomon … “Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity…”
Written by Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Chronicle’s editorial stance