Mr Frazier heads off to the Afram Plains through Nkawkaw. Within 90 minutes he arrives at Adeiso, the ferry crossing point of the Volta Lake. Some 10 years ago, the journey from Nkawkaw to the waterfront was an excruciating undertaking over bare rock, gullies and sandbars. But now the road, though not first class, is pleasurably passable.
The boat from the Plains arrives and disgorges 10 50-tonne trucks stacked with bags of charcoal to the high heavens and seven tonners of same capacity of yams. The Plains, indeed, fit the breadbasket and the fuel depot accolades.
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On the boat, Mr Frazier meets an old pal who says he is returning from a meeting in Accra. This gentleman relocated from Atiwa to the Plains in 1992, the same time Mr Frazier was flirting with the idea of settling there. Poor Mr Frazier. He is still looking into the bottle with both eyes open and envies his friend for what he has been able to do. As the saying goes, land is not a piece of beautiful carpet to be admired. It must be worked with a lot of sweat.
“How is the farm?” Mr Frazier asks.
“Okay. The rains were late in coming. But the yams have not disappointed at all.” He beams with a contented grin.
“How about the market?”
“Not bad. The market mammy cheats but as you know, we farmers also have our own small ways of making ourselves happy. For the moment, I’ve sold only five tractor loads ‘to see to my how far.” The grin broadens.
He asks Mr Frazier earnestly, “How was the vote?” (By the vote he is referring to the General Election.)
“Quite peaceful. But there has been a dispute over the results; this is nationwide, not Kumasi alone. NPP is going to court before end of December over the matter.”
“Do they have the evidence?”
“They claim they have.” Quickly he adds, “Mind you, they are seasoned lawyers.”
Mr Frazier wants to get away from the subject since he does not know what specific suit and reliefs NPP will be seeking from the court. His friend knows more than he does and is only picking his brain.
“They want the election nullified in certain areas because biometric verification of voters did not take place when the law says without it there can be no voting. Is such a thing possible when we know a lot of the machines broke down?”
“How are the cattle?” Mr Frazier changes the subject.
“Doing well. But could do better.”
His friend is not done yet with the General Election and switches back.
“But I have a registration card that bears my picture and name as it is in the register. My neighbours can swear I am the one trying to vote. Is that not verification?” He asks.
“If only the judges will look at it that way,” says Mr Frazier.
“And they say that a total of 127,097 votes could not be accounted for. But I ask, who stole it? My brother, for more than two years they have been reminding their members to shine their eyes against vote theft. How did it happen?”
“Maybe they went to sleep momentarily.” (Mr Frazier laughs when he remembers the famous Arsene Wenger saying, “It’s stupid to work hard during the week and perform poorly on match day. Who do you blame, referee or coach?”)
“How much yam will you sell before Christmas?”
“None for now. I will wait for good prices a few months after the festive season. Only hungry farmers sell off their harvests so early.”
“And have you heard this one too, that the total votes do not tally with what is captured on the verification machines? What a charge when we know the problems about the machines?”
“Let them present the arguments. The judges know better than you and I.” Mr Frazier is not enjoying this conversation as a number of travellers inch on their benches closer to the two and appear eager to participate in the chat.
A gentleman shouts, “Look, I am NPP but I will say this: The judges are human beings. They are not some robots primed to behave in a certain fixed manner. The judges feel, hear and see the goings-around. They reason. Do you expect them to say ‘oh the regulations say this and they are not followed and therefore the vote is nullified in spite of the problem with the machines? Even bribed football referees do not behave that way.”
The boat is about to dock at Ekye Amanfro. The unique location on an elevation from the water is a most beautiful sight to behold. Unfortunately, the planners in the District Assemblies give no thought to quality and aesthetics when small settlements are developing into bustling towns. Houses stand end to end. Thatch mixes freely with aluminium and bathwater flows in front of kitchens. As for masonry and carpentry, it appears as if only apprentices work here.
Ekye Amanfro looks like an ugly wart on what could have been a beautiful nose of a gateway to the Afram Plains. Mr Frazier tells his friend his feelings about this town and he replies simply, “It’s all in the Agenda.”
“My friend, Nana is doing all this because he wants power sharing and he doesn’t have the courage to say so. Now NPP is talking of reform. Do they want a Prime Minister position created for them? Let them talk to Kofi Annan.” He shakes his head and says, “It’s funny when people think that an election is free and fair only when it is won by the Opposition.” He jumps into his brand new pick-up truck and waves Mr Frazier bye-bye.
Mr Frazier arrives at his village, Agyata, some 10 kilometres from the waterfront. It is a scruffy little settlement, much older but five times smaller than Ekye Amanfro. Apart from electricity, a beautiful Basic School on the roadside and a public borehole, infrastructure in the form of private dwelling house is very rudimentary. There are only windowless thatched hovels.
Mr Frazier’s foreman Kwakuvi does not relish these unannounced visits, especially after the harvests. He drags off to bring the “books” when he is ordered. Fact is he has not made an entry since Mr Frazier’s last visit.
“How many tractor loads of yam have you sold?”
“Only a few head pans to look after the kitchen.”
The wife shouts from the kitchen, “We have sold nothing oh.” (They expect foolish absentee farmer to accept this claim.)
Mr Frazier queries, “I notice you have a new Multi TV Dish and an expensive motor bike; where from the money?”
“This is not from the farm. It is from charcoal burning.”
Mr Frazier inspects the yam barn and is not satisfied with the explanations for several empty spaces but what can an absentee farmer do? The conversation is not friendly but Kwakuvi manages to sneak in the one question:
“How was the vote?” Sounding regretful, he says, “I voted skirt and blouse.”
“Why did you do that?”
“It is Mahama and Haligah we know. Then comes this burger to overthrow Haligah at the primary. Haligah turns Independent. We go along with him but he loses. Now we notice we wasted our votes.”
“It’s true oh!” The wife shouts from the kitchen.
The next day, Mr Frazier visits Mame Krobo, a bustling market town five kilometres off the Ekye Amanfro-Donkorkrom Road. The town is full of farm tractors and farmers. The market is a rambling sprawl with bags of charcoal dominating half the space, yam and maize the other half. A mound of 100 tubers for the biggest size of yam is priced at GH¢240, the next size is GH¢210, followed by GH¢160 and the smallest is GH¢120. (They call it simply two point four, two point one, one point six etc.)
As for maize, it is GH¢90 (nine hundred ‘tasn’) for the maxi bag. Early next year, the price will be “one milo.” A cartel seems to operate in this market. Prices are fixed and the same everywhere.
Mr Frazier approaches a stout Krachi man who earns his living bagging and stitching maize but claims to be a farmer. He looks at Mr Frazier’s inked small finger and asks the ubiquitous questions: “How was the vote? Is it possible the judges can say that President Mahama didn’t win?”
“Big man, look. Abato (voting) is with kokromoti. We farmers are happy with the government. We stand in the sun all day to use our kokromoti. No judge can select a government for us. We won’t agree daa.”
Farmers drink, eat and talk politics and they judge their contentment by farm prices. They are saying that since 2008, cost of in-puts such as fertiliser and ploughing services have remained stable but farm produce have been fetching good prices. That is what informs the way they vote.
Article by Joe Frazier