VISITING MY UNUSUAL FRIEND, DAMPARE
By Kwesi Yankah
They call him Dr George Akuffo Dampare, Ghana’s Inspector General of Police. I decided to pay him a visit last Tuesday, and test his body language since becoming a big man. There are several friends who, as soon as their appointment has been announced at midday, begin waving at you from a distance by evening, and with their left hand! In the village, offended peers would refer to your distant hand wave as, ‘he has harvested me like plantain.’ A sign of arrogance.
Our very first encounter was 2018, when I was also a big man, a minister they call it. He came to my office a couple of times as Commissioner of Police, representing his boss the IGP, for an official meeting. The meeting over, I asked myself whether the young man’s demeanor was ‘normal.’ Overly courteous, polite to a fault, soft spoken, arms crossed behind, all smiles, self-effacing, virtually boyish. Far from the demeanor of a tough-talking, muscle flexing officer. Was he play-acting? I started revising my notes, for there might be a few policemen manifesting ‘abnormality’ in Ghana.
One could trace in all this, a part Akwapim ancestry and upbringing. Nature up the hills was in constant dialogue with the mountain people, sprinkling particles of politeness. Those our friends could hurl an offensive abuse prefaced with profuse apologies, and get offended persons expressing gratitude for injuries suffered. But the Dampare blood is not only Akwapim; there are also traces of Akim, Kwahu and Guan, he tells me.
But I generally fear the police, having once been bitten. Years ago, my restless pen played mischief and gave a soft blow to the police in my Mirror column. It was 1991, and I boomed with the title, ‘Arrest the Ghana Police.’ And what was their offense? I had done close checks in Accra, and noticed that the several vehicles emitting poisonous fumes in Accra traffic, included several police vehicles. I listed them brazenly. To top it all, was one saloon car with the registration number, GP3, used by the third in command of the Ghana police! And so therefore I yelled in my column, ‘Arrest the Ghana Police.’
A few days after my ‘order’ for Ghana police to be arrested, I was arrested by the police myself. It was for an offense of ‘insecure parking,’ for which I had profusely pleaded with the police on duty. But the tough talking policeman on the Accra-Winneba road would not budge. He seized my driver’s license, and asked me to report to the Accra Regional headquarters the following Monday. Had he discovered my identity as the author of that blasphemy, and exacting a revenge? It was a possible coincidence. But the officer to whom I reported at the headquarters, knew me and the above blasphemy. Inspector Ben Mensah was his name. He immediately burst into laughter seeing me in police grips. “You Kwesi Yankah you said they should arrest the Ghana Police. Book-long people. Here you are. Today you will see, we will take you to counter-back,” he chuckled and fumed in jest, feigning widened eyeballs.
Moments after, I was cautioned to be careful next time; and my driver’s license returned to me. License regained, I virtually took to my heels not looking back lest the Inspector might change his mind. That was years ago. At the time, 1991, Dampare was a toddling police constable, a year old on his new job as police.
Fast forward 2018; our first encounter in my office. 2021, here was this amiable Dampare, the highly refined, ‘unusual’ gentleman appointed as the new Inspector General of Police; at 51 the youngest in the Fourth Republic.
Within two years: visible signs of a new image loom around the Ghana police we knew. You see, whenever Ghana gets fed up with herself, the yearning for change cannot be mistaken. You could see smiles playing around our lips as we started seeing strange things happening: Big men pulled over by the police for over speeding, arrested for wrongful parking, charged for jumping the red light; small and big men arraigned before court for motor traffic offences, all on TV camera. No longer do you know who I am? Unprovoked police brutalities on demonstrators fading; dialogue by IGP himself with potential street protestors ahead of action; speedier arrest of armed fugitives; orderly bye elections, quicker response to stressful calls. Was this Ogyakrom?
My visit last week to Dampare was to congratulate him on a good job done so far, and trick him with the question, when is the 9-day wonder ending? I could see right from the reception desk a few ‘strange’ things. ‘Do any of you care for water?’ That was from a PR officer as I sat with others awaiting our turns to be called. I sat by Kwasi Agyeman, the dynamic boss of the Ghana Tourism Authority. The PR officer’s unusual question confounded us, and we all looked over our shoulders making sure the question he asked was not a tongue slip.
At the reception, the television showing was DSTV Channel 362, the Ghana Police Channel inaugurated late last year, and commanding the attention of over one million viewers from Ghana, whose feedback was rolling on the screens.
The Big Boss, IGP himself, was soon to come over grinning from ear to ear. Dampare greeted us all, and bowed to shake my hands taking me along to his office. Here was an IGP of 2023 still wearing the demeanor of an uncrowned subordinate of 2018: same civility, politeness, mental reflexes and all. A simple affable IGP, shedding the bloated ego of an overlord, for the sake of enhanced law and order in Ghana. The police is, after all, a friend.
Our dialogue over, Dampare asked his assistant , Superintendent Dankwa to take me on a visit to the new TV studios beaming frequent dialogues with the public. Soon a flurry of TV cameras and shuffling of feet by a studio crew, primed me for a 3, 2, 1, 0: a brief TV interview. But my friend had played another unusual trick on me. Without prior notice he had assembled the Police Management and Advisory Board in a common room, for an unplanned address by me. This got me rolling my sleeves, and braving a few words of encouragement, congratulating them all on the great team work, that is giving Ghana a new image of the Ghana police.
And Oh, I nearly forgot one thing! Consider this other prank my unusual friend, Dampare, unleashed which may have led to the huge success of my visit.
Our chat in his office had begun with his opening prayer!
With such unusual friends, don’t we miss our previous version of law and order?
Congratulations! IGP Dampare and the Ghana Police.