The thought of being on social media frightens me, said 65-year-old Glenn Adu.
A retired teacher born in the small German town of Bruhl, near Cologne, to a German social worker and a Ghanaian immigrant, he convinced his Polish-German wife to move back to Ghana with him. That was in 2019 to a “retirement home” overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Abia, a suburb of Prampram. Though he talks to his children and grandchildren on FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls and texts, Glenn finds social media sites overwhelming.
His wife once signed him up on Facebook and Instagram, so he keeps in touch with his childhood friends, former colleagues and students, but he doesn’t even remember the passwords to any of them. He just doesn’t care. About 6ft, bespectacled and eyes hidden behind thick lenses, a nicely trimmed moustache with greyed curly dark hair, Glenn loves to sit in a handwoven rocking chair in a porch overlooking the fishing bay, where canoe fishermen operate from. His brown coffee table often has a glass of wine or beer on it, depending on the time of the day. Glenn loves to chat, and chats with him is never boring, though long, sometimes.
I first bumped into him picking shells one Saturday morning at the beach near his house. He and his wife were walking their dog at the beach. Even as strangers, we spent half an hour talking about the beach, and what can be done to address the incessant plastics making their way ashore. We also talked about his birthplace Bruhl, where I briefly lived. I got a text from him on Tuesday about a trending video involving a “big person” and wanted to check if I had seen it. I said no. He then asked if I was on TikTok, the Chinese video sharing platform. I said no.
I wondered how a man with less appetite for social media will be interested in TikTok. Apparently in a conversation with a neighbour, the latter had referred to a video of an MP whose whereabout was a subject of public discourse, after she surfaced on TikTok. The neighbour thought a man on retirement has more than enough time to spare, so devoting a portion for it on TikTok won’t be a bad idea. The neighbour is also retired. He sold the TikTok idea to Glenn and convinced him he will find hilarious videos to occupy him, during those lean hours of boredom. Glenn has a natural gift for humour.
Among the accounts, Glenn’s account followed was that of one Sarah Adwoa Safo. It later turned out to be the Member of Parliament for Dome Kwabenya and Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, who was given an extended leave of absence on the grounds of ill health.
Ms. Safo, whose father is a respected spiritual figure and inventor, has been off the public space for months. She is said to be sheltering abroad, specifically in the belly of Uncle Sam. But a Monday night video of the MP from a TikTok account linked to her and widely shared especially on news platforms, showed a seemingly healthy Ms. Safo happily singing to Diana Hamilton’s “Awurade Ye” (Do It Lord).
Just as the conversation around the video was raging on several WhatsApp chatrooms, a second video dropped. In that video, Ms. Safo was again singing. And if my understanding of Twi is anything to go by, the song talks about times and seasons. She said whatever God has said about her followers shall come to pass, so they should not grow weary in their faith.
“My father Apostle Kwadwo Safo said…God does his things in his time, and if it is your turn he will give it to you, so be patient.”
She again reminded her TikTok followers about God’s promise to make them the “head and not the tail.” She said God’s blessings on the followers will surprise those whose carnal minds cannot comprehend the changes they see. Gossip Analysts say the video is “ekutia” directed at her critics who wish to see her back in politics.
The obsession for Adwoa Safo’s TikTok videos even dominated religious WhatsApp chatrooms. A friend told me about how a bible study conversation was briefly taken over by Adwoa Safo’s TikTok videos. A member mistakenly sent one of the videos onto the page. She deleted it after realisation the material had landed on the wrong page. He apologised. Those who knew about the video but hadn’t seen it, asked if it was the Adwoa Safo’s TikTok video. Somebody from the group sent a message backdoor to ask if the video could be forwarded to him.
He expressed disappointment with an emoji when he was told a Three Ghana Cedis a day data is not enough to download videos.
Adwoa Safo’s TikTok account has since been deactivated, leaving new converts like Glenn in a state of shock and disappointment.
Though Ms. Safo’s video lasted 1 minute and a second, the conversation around it will linger on for days, if not weeks.
Anny Osabutey (PrampramFisherman) is an avid country traveler, broadcast journalist, writer, documentarian, amateur filmmaker/photographer and Co-founder of the Prampram Tourism Centre.