Hawkers At Police Station
Race For Rumors In Accra

Hawkers at Police StationBy Umaru Sanda Amadu

Hundreds of them. Hawkers, head potters, cobblers, truck pushers, shop keepers, and some others I don?t have descriptions for? They nudge forward. Pushing and shoving in the teeming crowd. Their destination? Less than 5 meters away- the Accra Central Police Headquarters. They are at the gates.?

Oh, you haven?t heard? They say?

But what are they following? They want to ?arrest? a criminal. Oh how? Criminals don?t hide at police stations?

Well, that?s what these people believe. That the police are harboring a criminal- a lady, who was apprehended carrying a bag full of human parts. The sun is scorching. None of these people have seen the said woman. In fact, they have not even seen anyone who has seen her.

?They say a woman was arrested carrying human parts so I came here to see things for myself. I will not leave here till I see the end of this?, said an elderly woman carrying a basin. ?They said!? That?s all you hear. As to who said, you may never find out.

So is the business here in the city. Someone imagines something, he says it to his friend, his friend tells a friend and before you can say Jack, it?s a major news item among market women and sometimes, newspaper tabloids.

Mostly, these rumors are spread by idle people. They usually sell a small heap of tomatoes. Or about five fingers of plantain, or pure water. They earn less than two Ghana Cedis a day. But they are not bothered. Or they have no other choice. They stop at every shop and with just a simple catch phrase: ?Have you heard?? They?ll tell you everything that happened (or they thought had happened) and even give you a bonus of an extra line or two of what was not contained in the original story.

Such is Accra. Hundreds of people abandon their wares to go chase a hoax. Gideon, the driver I was travelling with told me this story was probably generated by those jobless boys roaming the streets. They divert people?s attention. And when wares are abandoned for the sake of curiosity, they steal from the traders.


I think the patronage of these rumors is largely as a result of unemployment. If you spend your whole day sitting under the shades of a stall or a storey building in the Central Business District of Accra, you?ll jump to any rumor. At least, you get to satisfy your curiosity- if not your stomach. Rising every now and then to observe a scuffle or rumor would make you forget your hunger.

Back at the police station, an officer is frantically trying to disperse the crowd. No sooner have the crowd in front of the police station?s gates retreated than another more curious onlookers re-group to watch.

Their eyes fixed towards the inner perimeter of the police station as though some sort of savior had arrived in town but is being harbored by the police who want to have their turn first.

You must be familiar with the earthquake rumor in Ghana some years back. That night, people fled the comfort of their rooms to pitch camp at the beach and fields because ?they say? a massive earthquake is about to occur. Like all rumors, this one didn?t have an identifiable source but it spread faster than the wind. I remember my sister who lives hundreds of miles away calling me to ask if the rumor of that night was true and what precautionary measure she must take.

You remember the story about the disappearing testicles in Accra some years back? I was in the village in those days and I remember avoiding handshakes as much as possible because ?they say? when these strangers shake your hands, your testicles will disappear!

The rumors are many. But the patrons are even more. And they are ever ready to visit (even pay) a rumor scene.

Just cook up one. Just begin by saying ?they say? a witch has been involved in false landing, or a woman had delivered a goat, or headless man has been seeing tormenting girls in a dormitory.You would have a thousand correspondents spreading that news for you. And many people will show up. Journalists like me get caught in the fairy tales sometimes too. Just like today. Two sides. Each insisting their story is true.

The Accra Police PRO, DSP Freeman Tettey told me ?It?s a hoax. We tried convincing them that it?s not true but they are adamant. They should just accept and understand that there is nothing like that.?

But for these people here, it?s just another cinema until a new one unfolds elsewhere in the city. They would rush in their thousands to go watch and listen.

They have become parasites- feasting on rumours. Any rumor that the city of Accra will cough up.



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