Counting the days… January 7, 1993: How I nearly messed up myself

BY: Vance Azu
Vance Azu

When I decided to share with readers my experiences, successes and tribulations as a journalist for 30 years, my utmost desire was to be as frank and factual as possible.

The idea is to share some experiences, as well as impart knowledge to my colleagues and all those aspiring to pursue journalism as a career.

As I stated in my earlier epistles, I started journalism in 1991, during the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime headed by Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings.

Gradually, the world order started experiencing some changes — there was the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in December 1991, with military regimes around the world, especially Africa, also experiencing tumultuous times.

1992 elections

The wind of change engulfed our dear country, and by 1992 we had, through a referendum, decided to reintroduce multi-party democracy. That paved the way for the formation of political parties, with the PNDC itself metamorphosing into  the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

 Interestingly, when the NDC contested the 1992 presidential election, it won, a development which elicited wild protests from the motley opposition parties, led by the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Those protests culminated in the boycott of the parliamentary election, which was to follow the presidential election two weeks later, by the opposition parties — the NPP, the National Independence Party, the People’s Heritage Party, the People’s National Convention, among others.

However, in spite of the disagreements, the governance of the state did not grind to a halt. The inauguration of the Fourth Republic, the President-elect and the first Parliament of the Fourth Republic had been scheduled  to take place on January 7, 1993 (a constitutional requirement).

As a young reporter with The Mirror at the time, I was very active in the coverage of most of the political events that preceded the elections.

Given my privileged situation as a reporter with The Mirror, I vowed to be part of the epoch-making event on January 7, no matter what the circumstances.

Fortunately for me, I was the only junior reporter assigned to join the Daily Graphic team of reporters, comprising the late Joe Bradford Nyinah, who was then the Castle Correspondent; Debrah Fynn, the Correspondent at the Consultative Assembly (the team that drafted the 1992 Constitution), and Joe Rockson Asmah, the photographer at the seat of government.

Part of team of reporters

I was elated to be part of the team that would translate events at the Black Star Square to readers and Ghanaians in general. 

While preparing for that momentous event — the swearing in of Flt Lt Rawlings as the first President of the Fourth Republic — I made a request to my tailor to design a new political suit  for me for the grand event.

On the eve of the swearing-in ceremony, Wednesday, January 6, 1993, I joined my friends at Osu to chill. I remember that after quaffing some quantity of the beverage, I followed it up with banku with shitoloo (grilled fresh salmon), with hot pepper, which we bought from the Osu Night Market.

I got home a little after midnight, washed down and slept. Around dawn (4a.m.) I started experiencing some rumblings in my stomach. I woke up and went to attend to the call of nature.  By mid-morning I had run three times.

With this sickening experience, I started contemplating whether I should make it to the inauguration or not. After some consultations with some of my colleagues and friends in the newsroom, I decided to attend the programme, with the hope that it would be a short ceremony, at least a two hour programme.

With this conviction, I joined my senior colleagues to the Black Star Square after informing them about my predicament.

Black Star Square

Not quiet long on our arrival at the ceremonial grounds, the event  started. Indeed, it was colourful, particularly, the arrival of Jerry Rawlings, whose entourage was led by a team of horses from the Mounted Squadron of the Ghana Police Service.

 It was my first experience of seeing horses being put to productive use. Apart from that there were other intriguing sessions, which till this day, are embedded in my mind.

Luckily, the event was over in two hours, without any bowel movement. Just when the team was about to set off to the office, Joe Nyinah said we had to go back to the Castle to pick Jerry Rawlings’s speech.

 The news wasn’t exciting to me. I complained to the team about my discomfort because the movement that I dreaded most during the inauguration was about to rear its ugly head. There was little I could do.

We joined the traffic that had built up from the Black Star Square to the Castle. As we moved along I started experiencing the disturbing movement in my stomach.

Finally, we arrived at the Castle car park. I got down to look for a washroom around the Castle Post office and the other offices in that enclave.

Sadly, the washrooms had been locked. Heaps of sweat started forming around my forehead. Sensing danger, I decided to do my ‘own thing’ in the corner of one of the buildings, come what may, and suffer the consequences if I were caught.

Meanwhile, I saw a number of armed soldiers on guard duty in that enclave. I looked left, right and in a split of a second removed my trousers and emptied my bowel.

When I returned to the office vehicle my senior colleagues, asked me whether or not I had got a place to ease myself and I narrated what happened to them.

They all burst into laughter, and since that day, Debrah Fynn teased me with this nasty episode, until he proceeded on retirement four years ago.

The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily graphic

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