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I bring you very foamy greetings from the shed of Akwasi Sorfree, the best palm wine tapper in Wasaman, where, departing from his regular practice, Wofa Kapokyikyi is having a calabash of palm wine. He told me that from time to time, even Memuna gets tired of fula. No Liberty Fun Club visits today.
Wofa was quite pensive today. Me, I just sat and enjoyed the conversations around the benches under the shed.
“A fool in a pensive mood is not making any judicious plans; he is still a buffoon,” Wofa whispered, almost to himself.
“Ei, Wofa Kapokyikyi! Please explain.” I had no incline what he meant by that.
“My son, a rich man who becomes poor is still better than a poor man who is trying to become rich.”
“Ei! As for today, you are really swimming in parables.”
Wofa was not finished. “A mad man who gets cured still have some tricks with which to frighten children. And a fool who is assumed wise only has to open his mouth to clear any doubts.”

I had to get closer to Wofa Kapokyikyi to confirm whether he was in the spirit. He wasn’t. He was very sober, which was even more dangerous. For what a man says when drunk, he thought about whilst sober, and Wofa’s thoughts, when being cooked in his fertile mind, were caustic.
Oh yes, I bring you greetings from Wofa Kapokyikyi, who told me that Kotei the jack-of-all-trades, who recently graduated from village electrician to cable TV fixer, has finally come to install the apotowiwa on top of his roof so that his television set can now receive images from the capital.
Wofa says he has been following the proceedings, news, discussions, accusations, fights and all the drama from the House of State this year, and his mind was still trying to manage all the twists and turns.
“I love the state of our Parliament now. For every story, there are about four versions of the near-truth. And then the truth. I love it more when each storyteller calls the other a liar. Makes it even more colourful when the lied to is not believed, when he states his version of the truth which cannot be distinguished from the lies which the liar tries to discount.”
“Ei, Wofa, son of Premang Ntow and grand nephew of Bassanyin!” That was all I could say. I started to think that the palm wine wasn’t getting on well with the physiological mechanisms of my Wofa’s metabolism.
It is getting tangled and mangled and appearing far from simple eh? It is sounding convoluted and you are getting discombobulated eh?
Exactly! That’s the idea, to make you appreciate my confusion with the train of thoughts that Wofa was peregrinating today.
“You see, my wofaase, our big men in the House of State have given onto themselves the ‘Insult Privilege’. They have arrogated to themselves alone the power to disrespect MPs. To insult MPs. To fight MPs. They say to the ordinary people, ‘You have no right to disrespect us or to speak ill about us. We don’t need your help. We can do it ourselves. To one another.’ Who am I to disagree?”
Wofa paused and took a sip from his calabash. The foam formed a white line above his upper lip. I wondered how that line would have formed if Wofa had an Andamic moustache. He didn’t give me much time to wonder.
“You remember the accusations and counter accusations about the black polythene courier bags? You remember the naadoli-cowric statement that was covered with a polythene sheet? Did you see the fight that brought us good memories of the zoom-zoom days?”
I nodded. I did remember all of them, I answered.
I asked Wofa if the continuous use of the Insult Privilege wouldn’t dent the image of Parliament. 
He chuckled.
“How can you dent further a milk tin that has been used for various rounds of chaskele?” He said this slowly, nodding slowly.
He was done with his palm wine. Just one calabash. He stood up and held one of the bamboo pillars holding the roof of the shed in place.
Amakye the town crier who was sitting across us and had his transistor radio glued to his ears just increased the volume as we heard the latest news from the House of State. The voice within the radio said some of the big men of the house had used their special nkrataa to take some people across the cornfields and left them there. The radio voice said the man making the accusation was called Jon. Not John o, not any of the former Odikros.
We all said “Hmmmm”. Except Wofa, who said “Oyiwa!”
“Did you notice that in the visa matter of Jon vs the MP4 (apologies to Efo Kofi Gbedemah),” Wofa asked, beginning to walk towards the police station junction, at which we would turn left towards home, “ that only ‘nieces’ and ’wives’ were carried along, and not nephews or brothers?”
I followed him down the road, with my mind made up on one thing: palm wine is not good for my Wofa Kapokyikyi.
Till I come your way again, hopefully when Wofa Kapokyikyi reverts to sampling the normal spirits at the Liberty Fun Club, I remain:
Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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In the first year after Odekuro Obenfo Yohani Atta Nikanika died, there arose a new Odekuro named Odekuro Okasafo Yohani Mahani Nikaboka, son of Dramaha, who also was a scribe, an Otwerefuo. Odekuro Nikaboka was said to have a friend from the land beyond the cornfields who was as wise as Solomon.

One day, a messenger went crying in the wilderness, proclaiming this special friendship of the mighty one with the wise one and the magicians of the land and all the citizens rose up with one voice asking to know if this friendship was real or that it existed only in the fertile mind of Amakye the towncrier. When Agari the chief of the Ahenfie scribes was asked to speak to the citizens on behalf of Odekuro on the said matter, Agari decided to speak to the citizens on behalf of Odekuro before speaking to Odekuro to find out what he should say on Odekuro’s behalf.

It came to pass when Agari had spoken to deny any knowledge of Odekuro about the existence even of the temple Solomon built, let alone its builder, there was night and then the day followed.

As each day brings its own wahala, so the next day reveal a new tale from a different tail. Agari the Chief Scribe, having spoken with Odekuro to now ask him what should be said to the magicians and citizens on Odekuro’s behalf on the matter, came back to the market square to deliver another version of the tale of the day before, shifting the direction of the story from north to south.

It was then that Wofa Kapokyikyi said his famous words, that whatever Agari said must be allowed to cook for one day and one night.

Time passed and Odekuro the son of Dramaha continued to rule and Agari continued to grow. Soon, the citizens of Sikaman grew weary of the ways of the son of Dramaha and asked him to go tend to his farms and enjoy his days in the arms of the wife of his youth. In his stead, they anointed and installed Odekuro Odieasem Nana Tutubrofo Dankwawura. There was evening and the morning, a new day.

In the morning of the new day, Odekuro Tutubrofo went out hunting for sub-chiefs and deputies and came back with smaller stools to share amongst the chosen few. As per the practice of the traditional council, the names of the called were submitted for consideration by the sub-council appointed by Abrewa to probe the backgrounds and characters of Odekuro’s called. The vetting council sat day and night to decide which of the called would be chosen, for had it not been said that many would be called but few would be chosen?

Wofa Kapokyikyi had told me years ago that the way from the called to the chosen was through a narrow gate and, sometimes, the called tried to lubricate the narrow gates.

So when yesi-yesi started filtering that Egya Gyarko, son of Boakye (who had been called by Odekuro to man the power house to support the nika-nika of Sikama) had supplied judicious helping of lubricating oil to ease the joints of the members of the vetting sub-council, all ears were itching for the filla. But it turned out that filla no get legs, na Agari dey carry am.

Wofa sent me out to get him the full rundown and I did that with alacrity. I didn’t have to go far. I met Ziboyo behind the Ahenfie and he told me that the summary of the matter is this:

Agari said Munchinga said yesi JoeWise says yesi Egya Gyarko gave JoeWise the lubricating oil to give to Munchinga to give to Agari and his friends so they could keep wide open the narrow gates so Egya Gyarko could pass on to the glory of the chosen few.

A good case study of Yesi-Yesi?

When I told Wofa Kapokyikyi, he repeated that if Agari was involved, then thawing was required. There was evening and the morning, a new day.

In the morning of the new day, JoeWise went shouting from the rooftops that he didn’t give any lubricating oil to Munchinga. The entire village was confused.

When Agari was asked whether he was sure it wasn’t JayWise he was referring to, instead of JoeWise, he clarified that he didn’t deal with JoeWise or JayWise, but rather with Munchinga and that only Munchinga could tell who was the source of the lubricating oil. The chorus was unanimous: “We want Munchinga! We want Munchinga!”

When Munchinga, who had just woken up from a deep sleep and was rushing to a funeral at Ankosia, was asked whether he had received any lubricating oil from JoeWise, he said ‘Walahi-talahi!’ and swore by Allah the Magnificent that he hadn’t even seen lubricating oil in his entire life. The confusion became basaaa!

When Odekuro was informed about the basaacious commotion that was brewing in the Sikamanian pot, he went into a conclave with Abrewa and the Tufuhene. The steaming pots that were brought to the entrance of the Ahenfie, just before the three – Odekuro, Abrewa and Tufuhene – exited from the inner chamber, gave an hint of the decision that had been taken. The Tufuhene confirmed it a few minutes later: a ko-num-tee was set up to drink some tea and deliberate on the palaver.

More thawing time. There were many evenings and many mornings. And market days came and went.

The morning of the new day after many evenings, the verdict of the ko-num-tee was declared to the entire village by Amakye the towncrier, as follows:

The metemetemism of a rumour does not metamorphose a rumour into fact.

The ko-num-tee said Agari had indulged in yesiyesimisms and found him guilty of ko-num-tempt. When I asked Wofa Kapokyikyi what that meant, he said it meant Agari attempted to drink some of the tea from the chambers of the ko-num-tee. I was even more confused.

But just as I tried to seek clarification, Efo Dogbevi, the letter-writer who lives at Anloga, who was passing by, overheard our conversation and asked Wofa Kapokyikyi a question, as follows: “Wofa, if a cat steals fish, another cat accuses him of that act and the accused cat denies it, leading to a committee of fish-loving cats being set up to investigate…do you expect the committee of cats to publish a report that confirms that cats love fish?”

I don’t remember what Wofa Kapokyikyi said in response. What I remember was only that Wofa asked me, when Efo had left, whether Efo was also part of the catholics.
I could only turn to my favourite book: the Book of Nahum. And say hmmm.

Till I come your way again, with some chinginga to soothe my confusion, I remain:

 

Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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Kwame Emerepabeba was a political activist in the Brahabebome constituency. He was always on the case of the serving Member of Parliament (MP), questioning most of his actions and highlighting what he should really be doing for the constituents. He was the voice of the voiceless. The people impressed on him to stand against the MP. He told them he wasn’t interested in parliament, only in their welfare, to ensure they got their due. The delegation of the chiefs and opinion leaders finally made him relent and reluctantly accept their nomination. He won in a landslide and entered parliament.

Months passed and Kwame wasn’t seen in the constituency. When he finally visited, he spent a couple of days, explaining that he had to rush back to attend to some urgent issues of national importance.

The opinion leaders sent a delegation to Accra and managed to corner him for a quick meeting. They minced no words in expressing their surprise that he wasn’t making time to engage with them and hadn’t also heard him advocating their cause. His response was succinct too: good table manners, he explained; when you are chopping, you don’t talk.

Our politicians fight to serve us, but seem rather to be asking us to pay them back for that privilege. The best example is the issue of ex-gratia. But first, even in deciding their salaries, there is a deviation from norm, in my humble view.

In most public sector departments and even in private companies where workers are unionised, three parties decide on salary increments: the employer, the employee and the union/facilitator. I was privileged to serve on such a committee on behalf of the employer. Negotiations are tough and go back and forth. Factors such as inflation, performance of the company, health of the company’s finances, productivity and industry benchmarks are considered. The asking rate is high, and the starting offer is low, and the two parties ‘dance’ (as it said) around the issues gingerly, helped along by the facilitator, until a middle ground is reached, which is usually a compromise position. Such is the practice as I know it.

Except when parliament and the executive are fixing their salaries and allowances in Ghana. The executive approves on behalf of the legislature and the legislature does the same for the executive. No third party is involved. And, oh, they can chose to backdate and pay promptly.

What irks me most about the emoluments of MPs is the 4-year cycle of paying themselves end of service benefits (ESB). Take note that ESBs have been abolished for a greater percentage of public servants. According to information from the public affairs directorate of Ghana’s parliament, some of the MPs received amount ranging from GHC211,000 to 275,000 each.

Apart from the fact that most workers in Ghana do not enjoy ESBs and our MPs gleefully do, when there are supposed to be serving us and not lording over us, I have two fundamental questions on my mind: how is are the ESBs calculated and why should we pay even continuing MPs every four years?

The retrenchment packages used in most private companies I know are worked on the basis of a number of months’ salary per year for each year worked. In one of the companies I worked for, it is 2 months of every year worked. Some do 3 or 4 months. At GHC200,000 per MP as ESB, that translates into GHC50,000 per year. So how were the ESB calculated? Was it done on basis of amount per month, meaning GHC 4,167 per each month works or if we go with the current salary of GHC 7,200, they were paid 7 months’ salary for each year worked?

Who are the Article 71 office holders?

Article 71 of the constitution of Ghana lists the following officers of the state whose salaries, allowances, facilities and privileges are to be determined by the President on the recommendations of a committee of not more than five persons appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State:

(a) the Speaker and Deputy Speakers and members of Parliament;

(b) the Chief Justice and the other Justices of the Superior Court of Judicature;

(c) the Auditor-General, the Chairman and Deputy Chairmen of the Electoral Commission, the commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and his Deputies and the District Assemblies Common Fund Administrator;

(d) the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and the other members of

(i) a National Council for Higher Education howsoever described;

(ii) the Public Services Commission;

(iii) the National Media Commission;

(iv) the Lands Commission; and

(v) the National Commission for civic Education;

The same Article also states that “the salaries and allowances payable, and the facilities available, to the President, the Vice-President, the chairman and the other members of the Council of State; Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers, being expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund, shall be determined by Parliament on the recommendations of the committee referred to in clause (1) of this article.”

Section 3 concludes: ‘For the purposes of this article, and except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, “salaries” includes allowances, facilities and privileges and retiring benefits or awards.’

What is the definition of ‘service’ especially the period? If an MP serves for 12 years, shouldn’t the entire period constitute one service for which we pay him/her end of service benefits at the end of that period? Why should we have 3 service periods? Does this conundrum ala MPs apply similarly to other Article 71 office holders like the Justices and Chairpersons of the various commissions? I doubt it, very much. For instance, is a two-term President paid twice, after the first four years and again at the end of his tenure?

Former MP PC Appiah-Ofori was quoted as saying “MPs pay the school fees, hospital bills, funeral bills among others for their constituents but if you refuse to foot these bills, they will vote massively against you.”

According to a report on Joyonline, Rashid Pelpuo, MP for Wa Central, disclosed on Metro TV’s Good Morning Ghana that most MPs are in “serious debt and find themselves under intense pressure to satisfy numerous demands on them from their constituents.” Hear him: “MPs pay their drivers, maids, rent, buy their own fuel and manage their constituencies. Ask them how many did not have to borrow money to manage their constituencies. Before the end of the month they are broke.”

So are we paying MPs to be philanthropists and to help them pay their debts, which include loans they took to fight to serve us? Or, are they serving us?

Who says what the cap of these increases and burden on the public purse will be?

Meanwhile, a few people are at the table. Dinner is served – no talking please.

Chop time.

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In most public sector departments and even in private companies where workers are unionised, three parties decide on salary increments: the employer, the employee and the union/facilitator. I was privileged to serve on such a committtee on behalf of the employer. Negotiations are tough and go back and forth. Factors such as inflation, performance of the company, health of the company’s finances, productivity and industry benchmarks are considered. The asking rate is high, and the starting offer is low, and the two parties ‘dance’ (as it said) around the issues gingerly, helped along by the facilitator, until a middle ground is reached, which is usually a compromise position. Such is the practice as I know it.
 
Except when parliament and the executive are fixing their salaries and allowances in Ghana. The executive approves on behalf of the legislature and the legislature does the same for the executive. No third party is involved. And, oh, they can chose to backdate and pay promptly.
 
Who says what the cap will be?

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