Manasseh’s Folder: The Yvonne Nelson Revolution

dumsor vigil
[/one_half_last] One after the other, the groups passed; singing, chanting and stamping their feet in unison. As if “asafo companies” possessed by the goddess of music, they charged towards the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange with spontaneous compositions around the two most unpopular synonyms in the country presently – Mahama and dumsor:

“Dumsor is what you get! Dumsor is what you get! You said you needed Mahama, so dumsor is what you get!” came one composition.Clad in black with a moderate sprinkle of red, the half-kilometer long line of protesters embarking on the #DumsorMustStop vigil appeared like an army of migratory driver ants whose habitat had been threatened.

Indeed, they were a people whose nation was under the threat of irredeemable retrogression from the gross mismanagement of a seemingly clueless government. The worst is the power crisis, which has plagued the nation for the past three years. Businesses are folding up. People are dying. Others are losing their sources of livelihood.

Just last week, Joy FM reported a harrowing experience at the Kaneshie Polyclinic, where health personnel delivering a woman had to ‘cut’ her using torchlights. These are among the endless list of untold hardships which the power crisis has brought on Ghanaians. So the people were on the street to send a message to those who are paid to fix the problems.

Organisers of the vigil were told that they were doing the bidding of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). But what those critics have forgotten, granted that their claims are even true, is that NPP supporters are not Afghans. They were told their vigil would not add a single megawatt to the power we have. What they have forgotten is that silence emboldens the oppressor. They were told to be patient with the president, for Rome was not built in a day. What believers in this cliché do not know is that Rome would never have been built if the builders were stealing the building materials with so much impunity as we see here.

The protestors defied all odds and subtle attempts to suppress them and poured into the street in their numbers. The procession was so long that the singers and other performers were divided into many sections. With the Ghanaian’s incredible sense of humour even in the midst of crises, some of them lightened up the occasion for fellow protesters and people who had lined up the street to catch glimpses of what was happening.

The section or group that attracted many curious eyes was the one which had the celebrities, led by actress Yvonne Nelson, a young woman no prophet would ever have predicted to be part of such national cause. She was the initiator.

Prior to this event, Yvonne Nelson did not matter in the scheme of state affairs. No, she didn’t. Her name would not come up in any serious national discourse. Many consigned her significance to entertainment. That was where her name and fame began. And ended.

But as the sun grudgingly shuffled away from the cloudless sky on that Saturday evening, I was certain it carried with it a message to our ancestors on the other side of the world. If that sun met the brave and fearless Asante Queen of Ejisu, Yaa Asantewaa, it would surely announce the birth of her incarnate. And Yaa Asantewaa would definitely be proud of Yvonne Nelson.

The size of an animal, they say, does not matter. What matters, according to our sages of old, is the taste in its soup. But in the case of the #DumsorMustStop vigil, both elements of size and taste were very much present. The crowd was huge. And the individuals that made up the crowd were persons of substance. Yes, they were.

Yvonne ‘Yaa Asantewaa’ Nelson, Sarkodie and a host of showbiz personalities, who organised the vigil, were expected to attract their typical youthful and fun-loving fans to the event. But they got people who may never have known about their existence until May 2015. Just as I descended from the Total filling station towards Okponglo, I spotted the Head of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, and another lecturer of the department, Prof. K. Ansu-Kyereme. I also saw Prof. Kwame Karikari, former Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa. Dr. Esi Ansah and Dr. Lloyd Amoah of Ashesi University, among other academics, were present.

Motivational Speaker, Mrs. Comfort Ocran, and other women of her class were there. Lawyers, top business executives, medical doctors, students, a handful of politicians, people from the lower, middle and upper classes of the society congregated on Saturday.  In fact, I am trying hard to avoid the cliché “people from all walks of life.”

Apart from President Mills’ funeral, I can say this vigil gathered more journalists in one location than any other event I know of in Ghana. And to think that there was no “soli” makes this enormous assembly of the fourth estate impressive. Me and this my mouth!

People came in their numbers. They came with their frustrations. They came clutching primitive sources of light which our forefathers used before the first white man sailed across the azure sea to our land with strong wine and the Bible. That’s what many people use in this era of erratic power outages. They came with one message, to tell the President of the Republic of Ghana that enough was enough. They came to remind President John Dramani Mahama that in the 21st century, electricity is a necessity, not a luxury to be enjoyed by a select few. They came to tell the rulers of our sacred land that they were fed up with the promises and needed solutions to myriad of problems crippling the economy.

And their voices went far. Apart from the 274 newly composed songs whose lyrics rose in unison like a sacred religious incantation, the numerous media organisations carried that strong voice to every corner of the planet. Social media was awash with live updates, images and videos of the vigil. All those who listened to the BBC’s Akwasi Sarpong on Focus on Africa that Saturday evening heard Ghana’s #DumsorMustStop vigil in the headlines of the world broadcaster. I can imagine how embarrassed he would feel in the presence of his colleagues and producers with such news coming from his home country.

The road to the successful vigil was short, but appeared long and bumpy. It started a couple of weeks ago. Before the announcement of the vigil was made, members of the creative arts industry who had long appeared ambivalent about the affairs of the state woke up to the reality. Prolific rapper Sarkodie has composed a number of songs on hardships people are enduring, especially due to the power crisis. Yvonne Nelson’s tweet about the power crisis spread like Australian wild fire. The strongest message to the President yet, however, came from actress Lydia Forson. Apart from the use of one word, which many found offensive, Lydia Forson’s article carried the exact sentiments of all well-meaning Ghanaians apart from those who did not understand the witty write-up or those who have lost their brains to politics.

The celebrities were insulted. They were labeled as prostitutes by some government communicators. As usual, their measurements were taken and, within minutes, well-fitting political cloaks were sewn and forced on them. But they stood their grounds. They believed in their convictions, and their resolve to suffer for their principles culminated in massive protest march we witnessed last Saturday. As Sarkodie puts it, “History was made.”

As I drove home that evening, my heart glowed pride. It glowed with hope, the hope that the revolution I have always longed for had begun. Yes, revolution! For the past few years, I have longed for a revolution. But my kind of revolution is not the one we know in this country. It is not the Ft. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings kind of revolution, the revolution I used to admire until recently.

Growing up, I read about how “kalabule” or corruption was crippling this country until the “Saviour,” the “Junior Jesus” (J.J.) Rawlings, stepped in. Architects of the corrupt practices were stripped naked, flogged, imprisoned or had their assets seized. Some were killed.

Probity and accountability are words we associate with Rawlings and his revolutions. Since I stumbled on the Indemnity Clauses of the Transitional Provisions in the 1992 Constitution, however, I have never ceased to wonder why Rawlings still has the guts to mention probity and accountability as cherished values of the revolution because of what he and his team achieved through drafters of the constitution. Section 34 (3) of the Transitional Provisions states:

“For the avoidance of doubt, it is declared that no executive, legislative or judicial action taken or purported to have been taken by the Provisional National Defence Council or the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council or a member of the Provisional National Defence Council or the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council or by any person appointed by the Provisional National Defence Council or the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council in the name or either the Provisional National Defence Council or the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council shall be questioned in any proceedings whatsoever and, accordingly, it shall not be lawful for any court or other tribunal to make any order or grant any remedy or relief in respect of any such act.”

The indemnity clauses basically say that whatever sins that were committed during and after the revolutions cannot be punished by any court of law. Whatever they have stolen should not be retrieved, and whatever wrong they did within the period should go unpunished. Is this probity and accountability?

Knowing, that a change of government could lead to a turn of events, Section 37 of the Transitional Provisions states: “Notwithstanding anything in Chapter 25 of this Constitution, Parliament shall have no power to amend this section or sections 34 and 35 of this Schedule.”

Smart guys they are, aren’t they? For this and other reasons, I don’t support any form of violent revolution. After bloodshed and destruction, the messiahs often end up being worse than the supposed tyrants from whom they seek to liberate the people. I am also against revolutions which are engineered from outside the country or with backing from outside forces. Libya provides a perfect case study for the dangers of allowing outsiders to weep more than the bereaved.

The kind of revolution I have always dreamt about is the revolution of minds, the revolution of conscience, the kind of awakening engineered by non-partisan actors that tells leadership that the affairs of the state can no longer be business as usual. It is the kind of revolution in which people from all walks of life rise to demand accountability and responsible leadership from elected officials.

For the first time in the nation’s history the clergy, the middle class, academia, civil society, media and all identifiable groups seem to be singing with one voice. This is the kind of revolution needed to get our politicians to think beyond their stomachs and the next election and spare a thought for the next generation. This pressure from the masses is necessary because there seems to be no credible alternative in opposition.

The NPP today is about the most dormant, if not useless, alternative opposition party in the Fourth Republic. They appear disorganized and disoriented. Apart from Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Deputy Minority Leader; Dominic Nitiwul and MP for Efutu, Alex Afenyo Markins; the opposition appears dead. Even the Suame Mugabe, Osei Kyei “Messi” Bonsu, who started the leadership of the opposition in parliament vibrantly, is inexplicably quiet and lost.   The executives of the party are fighting needless wars and in their spare time some go to Oseikrom to eat fufu. When they finish belching and realize it is 2016, they will dust their old manifesto and present it for election. What a pathetic lot! We cannot trust the NPP so much to be any better if the citizens do not get up and speak up!

We citizens have a role to play in getting this nation out of this mess, but it must start from pushing leadership to act. Leadership, they say, is the cause. Everything else is effect.

The Ashanti Region, especially Kumasi, had become a lawless region that had been overrun by criminals. Armed robbers were able to parade in the streets of Kumasi in broad daylight and terrorise residents in Rambo-style operations. When ACP Kofi Boakye went to Kumasi, things changed. Infrastructure at the Regional Police Command has seen significant improvement and the morale of police officers in the region is at its peak. It didn’t take extra budget to achieve that. It did not take rocket science. It took leadership. Responsible leadership!

President John Mahama visited DCOP Kofi Boakye and congratulated him. He charged all Ghanaians to emulate DCOP Kofi Boakye’s kind of leadership. I was happy when I heard that the President wanted ALL GHANAIANS to emulate DCOP Kofi Boakye. Why? Our president is not a Togolese. Unfortunately, however, we have a leader whose trafficator signals right when he is turning left and vice versa.

In the past, everyone minded their own business and the politicians, like mice in the absence of cats, had their way. But now Ghanaians can no longer take it. President Mahama and his team must, therefore, sit up and listen to the people and act. In the wake of the Yvonne Nelson Revolution, it is important to remind President Mahama of his own post on his official Facebook page on April 8, 2014 at exactly 15:23 GMT:

“If the Arab Spring has taught us anything, it is that, it is no longer acceptable to be ambivalent about the needs of the poor and marginalized in our societies…”

In Ghana, a peaceful revolution of the minds and conscience of the people has been set in motion and no one should make any attempt to stand in the way of the people, as they demand acceptable conditions of living and good governance. Anyone who has the intention of stifling this movement should be reminded of what John F. Kennedy once warned, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

#DumsorMustStop! And #GhanaMustWorkAgain!

The Writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7FM. His email address is,