To those who were ‘tiny tots’ at the time this term morphed into the Ghanaian political lexicography, an explanation would be salutary. And here it is:
In the early 1960s, Ghana’s once impregnable foreign exchange position became so straitened that we began to ‘barter’ cocoa for badly-needed imports.
Among the imports we got for cocoa were Volga cars made in the [then] USSR.
Now, before the arrival of the Volgas, Ghanaian taxis were among the most luxurious in the world. Two-shillings could get you a ride in a beautifully-polished Mercedes 180 or 190, an Opel Kapitan, or a Peugeot 304. A taxi rank like the one at Attukpai, in Adabraka, was like a motor-car showroom. If your car was a sakabo (rickety old thing) you were laughed at till you quit the taxi business.
However, the rulers of the country at the time also liked to ride in Mercedes cars. So their cars were sometimes mistakenly hailed by people who wanted a taxi ride. This annoyed them and they stopped giving import licences for. Mercedes cars (except to ‘approved individuals’).
Maybe if the Volga car from Moscow had arrived whilst the Mercedes and Opel cars were still being imported, things would have turned out different.
But as it turned out, although the Volga car was not such a bad vehicle, it did look a bit like a Mercedes designed by a sleepy committee of technocrats who were not that concerned with the aesthetics of motor-car manufacturing.
And unfortunately for the Volga, its arrival in Ghana coincided with the release of a hit tune by E K’s Band, entitled ‘Ponkor Abodam’.
The lyrics of this song ran like this: ….Ade biara a Wode beye me, Fa ye me ooo! Na mmom Se ‘ponkor abo dam a, Ne wura no de Ommor dam bi!….
(Whatever you want to do to me/You go ahead and do it/ For if the horse has gone mad/It doesn’t mean that/The Rider too has gone mad!) Well, I don’t know how these things work, but somehow, Ghanaians decided that the Volga car should be named after this song. So it became ‘Ponkor Abodam!’
Okay, the Volga did look a bit high off the ground but Mad Horse?!
Then, the politicians got to work. It was rumoured that if you sat in a ‘Ponkor Abodam’ and the driver engaged you in conversation, you’d be well advised not to respond, for he might be a security operative trained to trap you to say something which he could report to the authorities.
This was serious for if you were found to hold ‘anti-government’ views you could be given a five-year prison sentence without trial under the Preventive Detention Act.
Poor Soviet car manufacturers – they could never have discovered that there were hidden subtexts around their poor vehicle, which had little to do with its intrinsic qualities but a whole lot to do with the political atmosphere in which the car was being operated as a taxi in Ghana.
I was reminded of the ‘Ponkor Abodam’ story when I saw a story that has gone viral on the Internet, according to which the Ghana Government had requested the World Bank to include the supply of sanitary pads to secondary schools as part of an aid package.
But they are unmentionable in polite society?
Anyway, what about the thousands of schools that do not have toilets? Isn’t that a greater priority?
Surely, the Ghana Government could have said sanitation facilities, and not specified sanitary pads?
But even if they wanted sanitary pads to distribute to schoolgirls (which is praise-worthy in itself) they could have used an euphemism and not spelt it out so nakedly in a whole World Bank document?
Euphemism? What euphemism? To this Government, a sanitary pad is a sanitary pad!!
What about substituting something more generic for that word and then specifying what you really want in subsidiary clarifications? They could have said ‘book satchels’, or since the World
Bank is based in America, ‘backpacks’?
But that means one expects those who compiled the list to know something about embarrassing their nation before the whole world.
Is it not the same Government that embarrassed the nation by dilly-dallying until forced to fly $3.5 million in physical cash to the Black Stars in Brazil, in order to get the players to play against Portugal?
And if you talk, will they not quote the words of a popular song of the moment at you – Yenntie obiara!? [We shall not listen to anyone!]
Does Yenntie obiara not mean that no matter who you are; no matter how sensible what you say is; no matter how persuasive or strong is the argument that you advance; no matter how patriotic your suggestion is – it won’t be listened to?
And does not that stem from the belief that
1. The Government was elected by the people of Ghana for four years and should be allowed make any mistakes it wants to make?
2. That another election is not due until 2016?
3. That if you do not know, democracy is an ‘elective dictatorship’?
4. That in an ‘elective dictatorship’, you vote once every four years and then hold your peace, until another election comes round? And
5. That even if you are allowed to hold a demonstration to tell the world that the Government is not listening to good sense, only 500 or so people will attend it, because there is no petrol to carry people around, or it is the rainy season, or they have some other excuse?
Do you expect a popularly-elected Government to listen to 500 people, out of a population of 25 million?
If that were to be the case, what would be the point of holding elections?
Kai, you think anyone care about the fact that Governments are elected to do the things that people expect of them?
That is a joke. Hahahahahah! That is a joke!?
Yes, yes, yes, yes – and yes again!
We shall not listen, and if you don’t like it, go and jump!
You go and burn the sea!
Certainly we are not going to listen to some envious wannabes, who do their politics on Facebook and Twitter!