Captain Arqhu-One and I were unsurprised we’re not invited to the Flagstaff House, because we knew too well the president’s style. She drove herself over to see the captain of the century because the general conundrum and ice around a Ghanaian president were missing. As we waited our turn to meet her, I began reminiscing on her personality and achievements.
Madam President, first in many respects, was a school teacher-turn-president without prior political experience. Indeed, she’d never been a politician and that was the most awe-inspiring stake that guaranteed her a greater chance of success. For one thing, voters grew weary of regular political parties and politicians who made winning the next election a topmost importance and worked towards attaining that single goal, whether the rungs on the way up were sustainable or not. Voters, thus, were waiting their turn to welcome a statesman or woman who would rank the next generation over ex-gratia.
Maa Krys, as she was affectionately called, had no prior intention of becoming president. She was one day greeted by her presidential campaign posters staring at her from walls and billboards and was subsequently persuaded to sigh her own presidential nomination form without knowing the full cost involved initially. Her political opponents, party bigwigs, thought she was going to chicken out under the weight of anti-feminist propaganda, yet that’s what worked to her advantage; the same message became the proponents’ catch 22.
I recalled the first time I jokingly called her Madam President. She had just served me a bowl of fufu when I visited her home. I used to be a consistently irregular visitor to her home; I mostly arrived unannounced. That dusk, she gifted me a glare without truculence in response, but I had known her enough to surmise I had blurted a stale joke. However, after she had warmed herself into the assigned role and journalists commenced trying to either worm or snake their way into her circle of consciousness in order to have a quick interview, I was rather privileged. My questions and equipment did not go through any censorship; neither was I searched when I went over to interview her. She was so calm and caring to a fault but none of that reared a head while the interview lasted.
When she became president, she applied the truthfulness, dedication and discipline of a classroom teacher to her job. No lies, no corporate gimmicks. The first independent candidate to have ever won two landslides effortlessly. There was, without doubt, no predecessor to fall back on for counsel, so her husband bolstered himself up to become, without equivocation, the brain behind her success throughout. My good old friend, a veteran teacher and lawyer was the architect of his wife’s presidential success.
History books would tell the generations yet unborn that it was the second time ever that that once corrupt West African country was being ruled by a teacher. First, it was a teacher of tax laws who was killed midway through his tenure. For one thing, he was loved and loathed in equal measure before his unfortunate demise. The interesting thing about this male teacher-president was that he was loathed by members of his own party but loved by members of the position. Unusually, he was loved and loved undercover. He restored the hope of many people to the effect that African politicians could be trusted. He fulfilled most of the promises he made to the people, albeit opposition. Teachers and other public servants remembered him for realistic wages. And so, when the citizenry heard that another teacher was running for office, they jumped onto her boat with both feet.
In all, there was a feat which Mama Krys achieved but which eluded her predecessors. It was something all of them often paid lip service to in their electioneering campaign promises by theorizing novelties they intended use when voted into office. But once in office, they became blind to corruption and try as much as possible to skirt the subject at all cost. One former president who promised to fight corruption with every sinew in him later told reporters that corruption was everywhere and even predated homo sapiens. Another former president investigated corruption but lacked the killer punch to prosecute corrupt government appointees; he thought going public with findings would create enemies so he shelved the dockets until his death in office. One could even surmise that he believed not prosecuting perpetuators of malfeasance was a novel effort at national unity, for he was accused of political vendetta long before his swearing-in. The chronicling of our national socio-political history had a special spot for a female president.
The first gentleman, a layer, teacher and musician by calling, was a smart worker. This darling of a devout husband developed three versions of a mobile phone app for tracking government appointees. And it was Madam President’s silver bullet in the fight against corruption. Instead of her husband selling the apps to government for a colossal amount of money, he just demanded a paltry $1,500 to enable him patent it and thereafter, demanded annual royalties and maintenance fee of two hundred dollars. What a family?
Her son would also come up later with his app that made it possible for even a high school student to track his mother’s earnings and tax returns, and that’s what earned her respect. It’s incredible her salaries and allowances were not secret. The media frenzy that characterised the app and its use made all government appointees kowtow to the pressure to become and remain transparent because the Right to Information Law was given a truer meaning yet. It was therefore not surprising she won two landslides without forming a political party.
Shockingly, she did not struggle to push bills through because her policies were well articulated, and motives for being in government were transparent. Being a linguist, she relied on the nuances in polysemy to wheedle parliamentarians into passing a law that tracked all public sector workers, without knowing they were tethering themselves. She, in fact, made political positions something of a faithful calling. Her style of governance exposed bad nuts on contact.
Unlike her predecessors whose were disliked during their second term in office, mainly because of economic mismanagement and the ritual return to the IMF once in every six years, her people were calling for an extension of her tenure but her husband would have none of that. In fact, her name was a household one because a product titled after her was found in almost every standard kitchen across the country.
It all happened when she appeared on a bake-and-cook sale reality show on television. Her name later became associated with a culinary franchise that was patented with her permission. A former Member of Parliament who always looked for a business opportunity in every situation reached out to the president after social media became awash with a particular snippet of how okra could be preserved by maintaining its slimy trademark all year round. When this business mogul who found the opportunity offered her a 17% stake in the business, she initially declined, yet after consulting with her lawyers, she decided to channel the funds into a foundation that would offer scholarships to deserving students who could not afford vocational school tuition fees. How it happened was interesting: she was billed to prepare Fantse etew with Ewe fetri detsi during a lean season, and that was a tough one. Fresh okra was not readily available because it was that time of year when 50grams of okra cost an arm and a leg.
She, unsurprisingly, went to the studios with packaged fresh okra for the job. The okra had already been chopped, slimed, parboiled and frozen during the bumper harvest. At the end of the day, her novelty of preserving the chlorophyll and slime in okra for offseason use became newsworthy. It’s simple to explain because the president was a good chef before the national assignment took her out of the kitchen. Some innovative Makola traders without the national standards board authority’s stamp began packaging okra like the way Madam President did and labelled it Presidential Fresh Okro. The product sold like a certified hand sanitizer in Covid19 times. The braggadocious former apparatchik in parliament dispatched a team of marketers from his media outfit to research how they could, within weeks, cut a niche in the market with the packaged okra. After reaching a deal with the major stakeholders, the packaged okra was launched in a lavish event attended by the president. It came in cans just like palm nut soup base from Nkulenu. It was labelled My Mama Krys Original Okro. There were flavours like plain okra, okra with turkey berry, okra with kontomire, okra with ayoyo and okra with gboma.
When they finally met, she conversated with Captain Arqhu-One for hours on end. Her body guards had a field day because there was barely anything they could do. It was when the president was about to leave that she mentioned my first name, much to her guards’ surprise. When I got closer, I realized I was wrong assuming an overrated social stratification about her.
“Call me Krysta, Nigna.”
“Your Excellency Krysta.”
“Her Excellency Dr. Mrs. Krysta Odoom,” that was a playful me.
A mutual chuckle.
“How’s your outfit doing?”
“Not bad at all.”
“You’ve gained weight. She’s been looking after you superfluously.
“Sure, she has.”
“Remember to hold us accountable, but objectively. Undercover journalism is permitted but not political vendetta, let me borrow someone’s words.”
“Yes Doc. Sorry, Your Excellency.”
“Sorry, Your Excellency, Krysta, Ghana’s finest president.”
“You’ve not changed a bit.”
“Tell me,” I teased.
Then we talked about the Comprehensive Entrepreneurship Education bill, the Comprehensive Sexual Education woes and the rest. She could not end the conversation by inviting me first to church and dinner later. Both received accent.
It’s all over her: integrity and respect for all. She’s able to mix with people from all walks of life. She did not have to say it, but the security details just learnt how to handle civilians. And in her tenure, there was nothing like party vandalism, and no constituency secretary held power higher than the Municipal Chief Executive. All indeed were equal before the law. She was able to develop the country and satisfy her people because unlike the regular political parties, her allegiance primarily was not to the party hierarchy, and neither did she owe any party foot soldier a dime; she was not afraid of losing elections and did she fear suspension from a political party either: she belonged to none. No one could say they campaigned for her: the masses just got tired of the two political parties and male leaders, so they tried something novel and it worked. What’s more? Her policies were geared towards sustainable national development and not winning votes.
She’s the country’s gift to the region because the regional unions applauded her for eliminating kickbacks from contracts and it was evident–roads now cost less than what earlier pertained and the quality was higher because no one was demanding a 10% cut. And thus far, integrity was the jewel in her crown.
We’re talking still when the UN Secretary General sent for Captain. The latter told the envoy she’s hosting the President. In this case, Dr Gogovy had no choice but to come over. What a day? Never had I, in my life, met so many high profile leaders in a single day. When Dr Gogovy came in with his wife, it became clear that all three families knew one another. I didn’t rule out any surprises. And that was Fareeda who’s now a Special Assistant to Mrs. Gogovy. She’s now taller, fairer, smarter, richer and all.
All of a sudden, my phone rang with a jolting buzz. I held it tighter to prevent a slip. Instinctively, I held it again and edged out of the palour. An instinctive grip clutched it tighter, for no known reason.
Once out of that VVIP world, I checked; it was not a call. My 3:30am alarm had just gone off, meaning I must wake up and get ready for my flight back home. It was then I realized where I was. I reckon now I was researching why the wing tip defense mechanism was invented for the Airbus A380 and what level of vortexes it could prevent, that’s before I fell asleep. I could now certify I was just dreaming about our futures.