AWAM is an acronym that everyone of my generation will be very familiar with. Over the years, it has metamorphosed into “KUKUULU”, bastardized from COLLUSION and all describing the well worn art of “Cartelism” and manipulating the terms of trade to the disadvantage of the customers and in favour of the traders. We know what awam is but very few of us know its origins and place in our nations’ history and life.
The ASSOCIATION OF WEST AFRICAN MERCHANTS (AWAM) was the grouping of trading companies who sold manufactured European goods in the Gold Coast. AWAM members, made up of the still familiar names of UAC (the United African Company); UTC (Union Trading Company); “Oliphant”(G. B. Olivant, and a host of Lebanese and Syrian retailers, fixed and maintained uniform prices for all the goods they sold, whether it was wax print, Exeter corned beef, Peak Milk, Geisha Mackerel or the harmless “wape” So whichever shop one went to “the difference was the same”.
The antics of AWAM led to the boycott of their shops by Mr. Theodore Taylor, best known as Nii Kwabena Bonney, Osu Alata Mantse; which boycott coincided with a peaceful march to OSU Castle by returning soldiers from the 2nd World War who demanded that they should be paid the same pensions as their British counterparts. Three of the protesters, namely Sergeant Adjetey, Lance Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey-Lamptey were shot dead on the 28th February 1948.
The news of the slaughter and the confusion after the events led the youth to loot the AWAM shops on a massive scale. These were the events that led to a declaration of martial law, the jailing of the Big Six and the setting up of the Watson Commission that delivered a constitution for our independence. In recognition of the having paid the ultimate price to kick start our fight for independence, the road to the seat of Government was renamed the 28 FEBRUARY ROAD and the heroics of the three men were recognised in the revised words of our national anthem, viz. “Red for the blood of the heroes in the fight.”
THE 28TH FEBRUARY ROAD IS NOW CALLED THE PROF. JOHN FIIFI ATTA MILLS HIGHSTREET. In one swoop, we have wiped out the memory and acknowledgement of those who literally gave up their lives so we could become a free nation. We have rubbished and made their pivotal contribution to our boast as Black Africa’s first independent country by replacing them with John Attach Mills, another who served his nation well, and also died in action, speaking metaphorically…
The FIIFI MILLS that I got to know through Ato-Ahwoi is protesting in his grave at what he will consider to be an utmost abomination and a slur on this nation’s foundation heroes for someone to give their pride of place to him. His sense of justice, His humility, His deep understanding of the history of our country, His commitment to the Nkrumaist idealism and above all His sense of decency, will lead to him REJECT THIS FALSE ADULATION that places him on a higher pedestal than Adjetey, Attipoe and Odartey-Lamptey.
It is in the same vein I abhor the treatment meted out to Ohene DJAN, Chairman of the COS (CENTRAL ORGANISATION O SPORTS), under whose reign SPORTS meant more than just FOOTBALL (now reduced to the worship of the EPL, LA LIGA, SERIE A & THE BUNDESLIGA).
Under Ohene Djan, Ghana Sports blossomed and boomed. The modern day football addicts will applaud his incomparable record of winning three African Cups for Ghana; a feat only added to by the C. K. Gyamfi-led team of 1982 Incidentally C.K. had captained one of the teams that won under Ohene Djan.
Beyond football. Ohene Djans masterful stewardship led to Ghana wining a Bronze medal at boxing at the 1960(??) Olympic Games through the stylish Eddie Blay. He brought the legendary Cassis us Clay turned Mohammed Ali to Ghana in the immediate aftermath of the stunning defeat of Sonny Liston. There were World BIG Championship fights involving REAL CAHMPIONS like Sugar RAMOS who pumped our Floyd ROBERSTON into a pub. Reducing our hero to a feeble “ME NYAA”, when he could take no more. The battles between JOE TETTEH (Accra’s hero) and JOMO JACKSON (Kumasi’s Golden Boy) were more exciting and fearsome than the RAMBO series.
In athletics, Ghana came second in the 4 * 110 yards relay at the 1962 Olympics in Australia, and went on to smash the Commonwealth record in the 1966 Games in Kingston, Jamaica. ( 45 years b4 BOLT), both led by the incomparable and still living Mike Ahey, who also won Gold in the long jump. His record jump stood for over 40 years until Ignatius Ghanasah broke it and then defected for lack of love and care on our part. Stanley Allotey, Okantey, Ohene Frimpong and my very own brother, Sandy Osei Agyeman, now making our women look so beautiful with his Most Valuable Products, were athletes of international standing inspired by the Ohene Djan stewardship. Ohene Djan promoted the annual INTER-CO Athletics Meeting to become the talking point.
Ironically, Hockey, the game whose recent machinations has inspired this piece and nurtured and developed Fiifi Attach Mills as a player of international standing, was one of the sports in which Ghana came to excel and achieved high standards. Ohene Djan did not fear to put a woman in charge of the development of our national hockey game and the lady equalled if not surpassed her achievement as the designer of our national flag.
My only beef with Ohene Djan was that he decimated the Kotoka team by poaching Baba Yara into the model club, Real Republicans, formed to provide the nucleus of Black Stars, which of course accounted for Ghana winning two Africa Cup of nations’ tournaments. Yes I was peeved at the time and resented the COS Chair but, even though Kotoko lost the grudge march of 28th July 1963 to the “Real Repu” an event that filled Kumasi’s gutters with fufu and triggered a premature delivery by my grand aunt of the baby girl she had craved for after five boys I forgave Ohene Djan after Ghana won the Africa Cup.
And then after all these years what do I see. Some bearded man who is nearly of my generation and therefore should be familiar with the foregoing Anansesem, gets to become political boss of our nations’ capital , and presto he starts to unravel and belittle those whose toil, sweat, imagination and dedication, built this dear nation of ours. Suddenly, being ethnocentric had become a more important priority that recognizing and celebrating those whose achievements we still bask in even as our glory days are long past and we are clutching at faded and jaded memories of our once great nation.
Again, Prof. John Attah-Mills is turning and sweating in his grave to observe that the women who inspired him to become one of Ghana’s best hockey players has suddenly had insult heaped upon her in the name of honouring him Attah- Mills. The worst part of this whole sod saga is my brothers, Bossou and Chaucer’s mom, add Theodosia II to the fray, has been insulted and humiliated when she is still alive and well and should be basking in the adulation of fellow Ghanaians for the exemplary service to Mother Ghana.
Mr. President, Great job you did in quickly reversing the abominable act of the TRIBALISTIC MAYOR OF GHANA’S CAPITAL CITY. But John as you permit me to call you (thanks to Alice), your good deeds are not complete yet in this matter. On the face of the arguments I have adduced in this piece, I think it is right, proper and necessary for you to restore the 28TH FEBRUARY ROAD and THE OHENE DJAN SPORTS STADIUM names immediately.
Mr. PRESIDEN, ( now I want to add the full gravitas) You must do this to reflect the theme of one of the classic sermons preached at the departing of our kith and kin from this world, to wit, “IT IS NOT HOW YOU START, BUT HOW YOU FINISH”. In the matter of recognizing those who have built our nation, You have started to right the wrongs of the urbane yet deeply ethnocentric Mayor of our Capital city. Now is the time to complete and reverse the blot on our collective conscience.
As for FIIFI, we will find very suitable things to name after him in recognition of his humble and devoted service, especially in his dogged insistence that peaceful coexistence is the bedrock for building a prosperous and united nation, able to enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices made by our founding heroes.
As for my dear Mayor, if you really believe that this dear capital city is only for your people, then I shall reactivate my campaign to move Ghana’s capital to Kintampo, the geographical centre of our country. If the Nigerians did it with Abuja, don’t see why we cannot do it even better.
The title is derived from one of the seminal hits of the 1970s & 80s PUNK ROCK revolution. It was the most popular hit of a group called THE STRANGLERS. For today’s generation you can catch in on Youtube and enjoy the energy and the cynicism of instant sycophancy.