In 2015, I joined a major demonstration in Kumasi against the power cut phenomenon that had gripped the country and which found its way into the local parlance as ‘dumsor’. Of course, it had its fun elements, such as meeting old friends and making new ones, and the quasi-carnival atmosphere of it all.
I watched as hawkers of water, soft drinks and handkerchiefs made brisk sales.
People painted their bodies in NPP colours, danced and carried all manner of amusing placards and effigies to drive home their point.
By the time I got home, I could hardly feel my legs and I just collapsed onto my sofa.
Yes, the demonstration had doubled as a health walk.
The serious message
But beyond the fun and exhilaration of it all, an important, critical and dead serious message was being drummed home, that ‘dumsor’ was collapsing businesses that depended on electricity to run, and ruining people’s lives. I remember having to take a taxi all the way to a top hotel just to do some critical work on my laptop because the lights were out.
I once heard, on the radio, a man calling into a show to wail that his groundnut soup in his refrigerator had gone bad because of dumsor. Funny as his tale sounded, this was clearly serious business.
People were reduced to calling home when leaving work, to enquire whether they had power.
An answer in the negative made the journey home a depressing process, knowing that you were venturing into pitch blackness, and with it, unbearable heat and mosquitoes.
Our memories are not short.
“Just Fix It!”
Well, our elders say that he who has been bitten by a snake fears a worm when he sees one, so the public anxiety and complaints in the wake of the recent power outages (a ‘mini-dumsor’, as a friend jokingly put it) over a few days could quite completely be understood.
Of course, I was a victim too, and terrifying thoughts of our dumsor past began haunting me as I drenched and soaked in my airless, pitch black apartment at night.
If the lights were on, as I approached home, I said a silent prayer of thanks.
It is true that communication from the authorities is important for the customer during such anxious times.
But the explanations do not do much to assuage the anxiety.
The bottom line, really, to paraphrase Nike, is ‘Just Fix It!!’ No ifs, no buts, no long grammar, because in any event, just like me, I am sure many people do not understand the technical language about megawatts and thermal plants et al.
They simply want uninterrupted supply.
Dumsor is political
The reality is that dumsor has become a political issue and a valid theme for electoral campaign by opposition parties.
I have no qualms about that. We cannot wish it away and, indeed, we should not.
A government that refuses or fails to pay attention to this simple truth is clearly seeking electoral suicide. And an opposition that fails to raise hell over it is probably a very charitable one. Or an incompetent one.
This is such a juicy, low-hanging fruit for any opposition, and the fact is that the electorate responds to it because it impacts their daily lives, and any adverse effects are likely to influence their voting inclinations. All the opposition has to do is tap into it and hope for a bumper electoral harvest.
Clearly it is not enough for government elements to call for depoliticisation of dumsor, because it will, quite understandably, be ignored by the opposition, who are all too well aware that government rode to power, in part, on the same phenomenon when in opposition.
Indeed, the only way to get the opposition to pipe down over dumsor as a political issue and desist from milking it for electoral purposes is to fix it. Who will campaign over dumsor when the phenomenon is banished, without looking absurd and ridiculous?
Dumsor, in all its hues and shades from mini to mega, must fade from our national parlance, so that it eventually becomes a faint word reminiscent of many ages past, its memory buried in the murky mists of time.