Thursday, July 07, 2011

Fun and GAMEs with FONKAR, OLONKA and GARI

The Cocobod House in Sunyani, the capital of Brong-Ahafo. Source:
Apparently, all roads [in Ghana] lead to the capital of the Brong-Ahafo region, Sunyani this weekend. From all accounts, these roads are already congested and laden with heavy traffic transporting ruling party faithful to the congress to elect a party flagbearer. Over the past 6 months, there has been much discussion about the hotly-contested race between the incumbent president of Ghana, Professor John Evans Atta Mills and an unlikely contender in the person of the former first lady of Ghana, Mrs. Nana Konadu Agygeman Rawlings. I will not even want to delve into the much-dissected reasons why Mrs. Rawlings is challenging the one-term incumbency of President Mills and the implications of such a move. 

Rather, what I find fascinating is the proliferation of grass-root pressure groups  supporting each side. 
It all started with the emergence of FONKAR (Friends of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings) which burst onto the political scene with a glossy website, beautiful portraits of Mrs. Rawlings and a list of her achievements. With the birth of FONKAR came the first real  indications that Mrs. Rawlings had her eye on the presidency not in the distant but rather the immediate future.
As time went on and the whispers of Mrs. Rawlings running started to become a reality, the FONKAR website suddenly became filled with President Mills' pictures and a strange "we was wrong"  disclaimer that they (FONKAR) had been supporting Mrs. Rawlings for a 2016 bid and not a 2012 one. The plot grew even thicker when FONKAR emerged to say their website had been infiltrated by the Mills camp. Clearly an easy chair and popcorn were required to follow all the action.

Eventually, the incumbent side kicked off their own game-plan with the wittily-named GAME (Get Atta Mills Endorsed) campaign. This launch was followed by curious radio ads by Friends of President Mills in the Eastern Region** declaring their love for the President and deep gratitude for the new roads, school uniforms and abolishing schools under trees. With the GAME campaign in full swing, came accusations by the FONKAR side of intimidation and abuse of incumbency. There was also talk of a GAME budget running up to 90 Million Ghana cedis  ($60 million) and an elusive tape (that never surfaced) to supposedly buttress the accusations. The twists and turns were becoming riveting.

Well, the President laughed off the astronomical budget claims and I mean literally laughed it off. His rich laughter can be heard on an audio clip from an interview first broadcast on Asempa FM. Of course I was hoping the laughter would be followed up with an actual budget outline since having the Friends of Atta-Mills in the Eastern region ads in heavy rotation on the radio cannot come cheap!

Aside from the very active FONKAR and GAME, there are other pressure groups in operation:

  • GARI: Get Agyemang Rawlings in
  • FOAM: Friends of Atta-Mills
  • OLONKA: Original Ladies of Nana Konadu Agyemang.
  • SADAM: Sons and daughters of Atta-Mills

The clear overlap between the mandates of  some of these groups could only lead me to one conclusion; the real battle is about which side  can come up with the wittiest acronyms!

Meanwhile, over in the main opposition camp (yes, there ARE actually opposition parties in Ghana and not just opposition from within one's own party), a nationwide campaign by the presidential candidate Nana Akuffo-Addo has kicked off. This Listening Tour/Campaign sounds mysteriously like then-candidate Mills' House-to-House Campaign in  2007/2008. Ironically, this very strategy was laughed off (literally laughed off) by the then-incumbent and now-opposition New Patriotic Party. Well, I guess it is true what they say that "he who has the last laugh, laughs longest" since the house-to-house campaign proved that it indeed had GAME. After all, it Got Atta Mills Elected (GAME).

**Not sure why I heard only ads by Friends of Atta-Mills in the Eastern Region. If anyone heard ads by other friends in other regions, please let me know. 


Maya Mame said...

I love this piece, Abena. I've laughed so much over these abbreviations, I don't know where they get them from, but it sounds like there's been some hunger going on in the NDC camp, I mean, Gari? Olonka? Lol!.

My absolute favourite is of course, SADAM, just can't work out whether they are for or against Atta-Mills.

I am also glad that Akuffo-Addo/NPP has realised that it is the humble road that will lead to victory in the end.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Maya Mame, you made me laugh out loud! How could I miss the blatant hunger undertones?! Footsoldiers on the FONKAR side are subliminally stating their state of mind.

I'm now listening to Presidential director of Communication Koku Anyidoho making fun of Nana Addo's listening tour. Recent history shows that he perhaps he should not be too quick to dismiss the tour.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Maya Mame I'm also yet to be convinced that the NPP has really taken onboard lessons from the 2008 electoral defeat.

Raine said...

I thought FONKAR was a joke till I realized it was a 'legitimate' group. Have you seen the email that circulated a few weeks ago with all the ridiculous acronyms out there?

Ghanaians LOOOOOOOVE acronyms in general.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Raine hahahha! i missed that email. I think you have hit the hammer on the head; acronym-making is like a national pastime...

Maya Mame said...

Yes, Abena, I guess we'll have to wait till next year to see whether anything has actually been learnt. Have to admit I am already dreading election time!

And yes, Raine, surely Ghana is the most acronym loving country in the world! When first moved there I couldn't understand whether they were speakend another language on the news: Gimpa, Gnat, Afag, Knust (when pronounced as a word), etc. Took a while for me to figure it all out...

Abena Serwaa said...

@Maya Mame I hear you on Election 2012 dread. An older, wiser person I spoke to recently made me laugh by saying one of the two main parties have to be watched closely because they have a particular adeptness at cheating in elections.Skills fine-honed over the years. Not that I agree with him in the slightest but I could not help but laugh because of the way he said it.