Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ghana Politics 101: When on the Radio DO use popular cliches/catchphrases.... By all Means Necessary


Ghanaians have two favorite pastimes;  Football and Politics. What better instrument to enjoy both these two passions than the radio! Indeed, the radio is the medium of the choice to reach masses all over the nation and there are a plethora of stations in different languages such as Akan, English, Ga, Ewe, Foreign-Acquired Brooklynese and even Ghana-Acquired Brixtonese!

Anyway class, I digress, our lesson today is about the aspiring politician and how the radio can be a useful tool to  share views, ideas or stupidity. If you are a politician and making a radio appearance then there are some important phrases you should be familiar with that are well-understood by listeners across the country.Some people may call these clichés but I call them 'useful catchphrases.' Examples are below:

  • "Ghanaians are discerning". Perhaps one of the most overused catch-phrase in recent times especially since the 2008 election appears to support the validity of the statement. For the aspiring politician, this phrase will be sure to endear you to many but may seriously irritate others tired of hearing it.

  • "In 2008 a  ball of kenkey cost 20 pesewas as against 30 pesewas in 2009". If you listen to the radio, you will discover that the real barometer for the cost of living is the price of a ball of delicious kenkey. If it is not the price of kenkey then it will be a 'tin of milk' or perhaps a 'tuber of yam'. If you will ever use this cliché then be sure to make a quick trip to one of the large markets to ensure that your price-list is current.  Nothing worse than a politician caught quoting out-dated prices.


Tubers of Yam 

Source: http://en.wikivisual.com

  • "Under the current administration, the people are suffering": This is a versatile and timeless must-use phrase. It  is applicable to any regime in fact anywhere in the world. Let's face it, the masses will always suffer.   
  • "Sycophant": Its a big word. Its hard to prounouce and do we actually know what it means? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a sycophant refers to  a 'servile self-seeking flatterer'. In Ghana, it appears leaders of all shapes, hues and political colours enjoy surrounding themselves with 'servile self-seeking flatterers'. Well, at least that is what people on the radio keep saying!   
  • "Grass-roots/foot-soldiers/cadres": These all refer to political party supporters known for doing all the leg-work to ensure a party takes power, remains in power or will come back to power. Discontent among this group can lead to real problems for any party. Keeping foot soldiers happy appears to be a priority for many a political party in power.

  • "I have studied the terrain": Politico-speak used to demonstrate an expertise or profound knowledge in matters affecting the masses. Usually the terrain surveyor knows squat.

  • "Come 20XX, we will vote them out": I missed most of  "Come 2000...", was around for much of "Come 2004..."  as well as "Come 2008...." and there are already grumblings of "Come 2012...." This expression can be used by any opposition politician looking to galvanize support and give the masses confidence in the potential of people power. 

  • "The ordinary man living in Chorkor":  Has any regular radio listener noticed that the Accra neighbourhood of Chorkor seems to provide a barometer for how the masses are living and feeling? One wonders if the people of Chorkor have seen improvements in their area since every politician seems to have them at heart!


Polling Booth in Chorkor, Accra. December 2008
Source: Associated Press/BBC

  • "I know the true situation on the ground": Any politician claiming to know how the masses or political foot-soldiers are feeling will claim to know the situation on the ground. Someone who knows the situation on the ground is also likely to use the kenkey barometer or claim to be a regular visitor to Chorkor. However, like the terrain surveyor this person is NOT likely to know much about the true situation on the ground.
Homework Assignment: Do you have any catch-phrases and cliches that are essential for any politician hoping to be on the radio? Please do share!

11 comments:

Kodjo said...

A lot of them talk about our "democratic dispensation" - meaning this era of representative democracy.

Raine said...

This doesn't count but I'd like to share anyway.

I listened to a radio interview featuring Ghana's lone 'COWBOY'.

The interviewer asked something along the lines of: "Are you being paid honorarium for your services?"

In his Gha-merican accent, he yelled (in a 'smart' tone):

"What is honorarium?! Do you mean aquarium??? Because what is honorarium??!!"

Had a pretty good laugh that day.

Anonymous said...

Very funny post...made me read about 5 pages of archives. Keep it up!

What I can't stand at all is: "At the end of the day..." This is expression is not limited to politicians, aspiring or otherwise, but generally used in Ghanaian speech. At the end of which day? What about at the end of the week, month, year, decade or century?

Other Ghanaian political favorites which you may have overlooked:

1. "Socio-economic" blah blah blah (I remember this from the JJ Rawlings days where nothing was simply social or economic)

2. "Capacity-building" (basically training...Ghanaians like making things sound unnecessarily complex)

3. That nebulous place referred to as "the hinterland" (basically anywhere outside of Accra)

LaTonya Bynum said...

Thanks for educating me about what is popular is Ghana. Radio is to Ghana as TV is to America. Internet will bring us closer together at some point. Dejavu! Stay in touch and let me know more about Ghanians. TV in America does not do Africa ANY justice.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Kodjo; how could I forget Democratic Dispensation? That is a classic!

@Raine: Hehehehe! That had me LMAO! I'm also shocked that he did not know honorarium since Latin words related to money are quite popular on the radio!!!! Honorarium, per diem...ex-gratia

Abena Serwaa said...

@Anonymous: *LOL* You had me laughing out loud this morning! Speaking of formal language, have always wondered about the overuse of adjusted and alighting. As for the hinterlands, I think it annoys me most since I hail from the 'nebulous hinterlands'.

Abena Serwaa said...

@LaTonya: thanks! You are so right about radio being the equivalent of tv in the US.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha. I avoid listening to people talking politics on the radio as much as possible because it just sounds like a lot of YELLING. However, I've noticed a similar trend in the newspapers. Any new product or building is "outdoored". Also anything new that happens in our society is a "phenomenon".

Abena Serwaa said...

@Anonymous: LOL, there is a whole buncha yelling but for some reason I usually can't tear myself away! You are right about the 'outdooring' of like everything. Also, how much sod is actually being cut on a daily basis in this country? You would think there is like hyper-development going on up in here!

Maya Mame said...

Abena Serwaa, clearly, you've been hearing my husband A LOT on the radio as I've caught him using several of these and often tease him of his supposed Chorkor connections. Just read it out to him and we had a good laugh. My mother also contributes that last year leading the country was described by all as "a Herculian task".

Great writing!

Abena Serwaa said...

@Maya Mame; Thanks the compliment. That is so funny about your husband on the radio! The 'Herculian task' is another great one I had completely forgotten. In fact, it appears our President is feeling a little overwhelmed by the 'Herculian task' of leading our great nation at this very moment!!