Operation Blessed Grace

I enlisted as a soldier on 2nd November 1977 and after a short stay in the Ghana Military Academy at Teshie, I was selected and sent to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom, for training as a regular officer in the Ghana Army.

I learnt something interesting in the Army: anytime a group of soldiers go out for any exercise or battle, the Commanders give the activity a special name – “Exercise Hot Foot” or “Operation Desert Fox” or something like that.

When I was at Sandhurst, one of the most feared training exercises was called “Exercise Marathon Chase” where for five days continuous we were trained in how to chase the enemy across vast countryside – always having early breakfast at 0400 hours and late lunch at 1600 hrs!!!! (I wonder whether they still do Exercise Marathon Chase at Sandhurst)

According to history, one of the greatest military operations was “Operation Barbarossa” when Adolf Hitler’s Germany invaded Russia during the Second World War.

Since leaving the Army in 1983 I have till date carried this “Exercise” “Operation” mentality into civil life – the good thing about it is that before you start any activity, like going to a funeral in Keta or Takoradi, you must plan every aspect of the journey – timings, vehicles, personnel, and so on and so on, then give it a name: “Operation Deep Cross” or something interesting like that.

Ask my personal friends and NPP Executives in Berekum and they will tell you a million “Operations” that I have carried out with them.

And so it was normal for me, while planning a campaign tour to the Afram Plains on Friday 4th April, 2014, to design every aspect of the programme and code name it as “OPERATION BLESSED GRACE”.

At exactly 2:45am on Friday 4th April 2014 I left my Psalm 40 lodge at Kasoa and drove at breakneck speed through the empty streets of Accra to my office at Asylum Down; reaching there at 0310 hrs, to find my two car convoy for Operation Blessed Grace ready.

We said a word of prayer and at exactly 3:30am we all set out from Asylum Down – Accra: objective – Afram Plains on campaign tour in my bid to become the NPP General Secretary.

Closed my eyes and fell asleep, only to wake up to see the car at a standstill, “Eric, what is the problem?” I asked the driver.

“Captain we are in ADAWSO, ready for the pontoon”. Time check – 0530hours. Operation Blessed Grace was on course. Very well. The pontoon will cross at 6:30am – so again I closed my eyes – only to open them again to see the sun high in the air – it was 8:30amm!!!

“Why – when is the pontoon crossing?”

“They say 8:30am, sir!!!”

Not long after, the horn blew, and all of us waiting to use the pontoon walked to the bay or quay or the crossing point.

I have used the Afram Plains pontoon on two occasions – first as a Deputy Minister in 2005 when I visited the area and secondly in 2007 when I was campaigning for NPP Flagbearer.

In those days, ADAWSO was a forlorn village, woebegone struggling and seemingly abandoned to its fate. I confess that the Adwaso of 2007 is very different from today – the road from Kwahu Tafo to Adawso is tarred with bitumen and the village looks very neat, with the pontoon area well developed with waiting hall, and a gate – solid. I was impressed.

We boarded the pontoon and within20 minutes we had crossed the wide River Volta to the other end, called EKYE AMANFROM.

We drove over 20 kilometres to district capital called TEASE where we met the two Constituencies of both Afram Plains North and Afram Plains South. It was a very useful engagement.

But as we drove in and out of the Afram Plains looking at the vast arable land left and right, the bread basket of Ghana with Maame Krobo as the yam market capital – I told myself that we in Ghana have no cause whatsoever to import food from anywhere in the world.

Living in Afram Plains is almost a tragedy – they seem like a deprived area, lack of resources, logistics and they look like people living in a different country altogether.

Thanks to God we finished interacting with the NPP Constituency executives and we motored down to Ekye Amanfrom thankfully in the nick of time to meet the pontoon ready to cross.

While en route, I climbed into the vessel’s cock pit or the Captain’s Cabin and interacted with them. They told me the pontoon was built in Ghana at Akosombo by an Egyptian construction firm – Arab Contractors.

The crossing over, we continued our Operation Blessed Grace, passing through the Kwahu townships of Tafo, Asakraka, Bepong, Mpreaso and so on.

But reader, there is this unbelievable work of nature that is frightening, exciting and very bewildering. Just before Adawso, there is this square rock, looking like a six storey building, sitting squarely on the mountain, called BRUKU by the locals.

I was told that there is a fetish with its own priest who worships the BRUKU god!!! Honestly, reader, all these years from 2005 till date I still cannot understand the wonder of nature: how BRUKU came to stand there. In fact, you need to see it to appreciate the mystery surrounding BRUKU.

Operation Blessed Grace was on course.

Our next stop was KADE Constituency and we were advised that a shorter route will be through Nkawkaw. New Abirem Kade instead of Nkawkaw Suhum Asamankese Kade.

So we set off – Operation Blessed Grace phase two.

All day we had not eaten, because one of my junior lawyers. Hon Ofosu Asamoah had promised us a correct lunch in Kade, scheduled for 1:00pm. It was now 2:30pm, so we bought corn on the streets of Mpreaso and set off towards Kade.

We ate up the road, descended the Kwahu Mountain passed through Nkawkaw township then hit the main highway from Nkawkaw to New Abirem.

The road is bad. An old tarred road, full of potholes and a crazy patchwork of tar here laterite there – a very busy road too. I was chewing my corn coolly when all of a sudden the taxi in front of us came to a sudden break then to avoid hitting him from behind, our driver swerved to the left only to see an oncoming car at top speed headlights and all then again to avoid collision our driver swerved to the left only to see a steep valley below.

What saved us, by God’s Grace was a small tree by the roadside which forced us to veer to the right and push through the thick growth nearby and come to a stop: our left tyres hanging perilously on the brink of the valley below – oh God – what an accident!!!

I was pulled out – my corn not yet fully eaten – then cars upon cars piled up – the taxi was gone – and a Good Samaritan volunteered to call a tractor nearby to come and help pull us from the brink.

Before I realized calls were coming in from radio stations, that we hear you have been involved in an accident – and I kept on trying to explain what had happened.

We stood there for about one hour as cars passed by regularly, until the tractor came and fortunately pulled us out to safety and then Operation Blessed Grace resumed – objective Kade, now delayed by over three hours.

Meanwhile, calls continued coming through one from Asempa FM – from a host called KABA who after initial issues slammed home a provocative remark that “Captain, they say the front runners- you are not one of them!!!

I was really provoked but I restrained myself with great difficulty: who says I am not one of the front runners? How do you determine the front runners? Just from media blitz?

Can you imagine: early one morning, at about 0730 hours, I was seated among all the full house Executives in Nandom Constituency, Upper West, in Operation Consuming Grace – we were all eating a hurriedly assembled breakfast of “kose” and “porridge” when I received a call from Accra that some former MP with his own jaundiced views was saying at an Accra radio station that I was not among those who can win the election for General Secretary.

I just laughed it off.

The problem with some of us is that we sit in Accra and pretend that Ghana is like all of us in Accra – and that what we see do or think in Accra is what constitutes Ghana – too tragic a position.