Alfred Agbesi Woyome, the businessman at the centre of a GhC51m payment scandal that hit the NDC government last year, had been ‘verbed’ before the Africa Cup of Nations got underway. But the tournament gave the coinage new life. In one of those moments of linguistic serendipity by which new words live or die, ‘to woyomise’ was suddenly dropped into an ecology of wins, losses, taunts and boasts, and took root.
At heart, ‘woyomise’ means ‘to rob outrageously’. But it began shading into something roughly equivalent to the ‘pwn’ of US gaming lore : to visit upon someone or something an act of devastation so utter, so wildly and brazenly disproportionate, that it enters the realm of comedy, like dropping a case of dynamite on a roadrunner.
As Ghana progressed through the group stages and quarter-finals, ‘woyomise’ showed up in expressions of confidence, encouragement and superiority. “Let’s woyomise these guys!” was typical.
(#EOCO refers to the Economic and Organised Crimes Office, which was ordered to investigate Woyome’s activity.)
At the bitter end the consensus was that “Ghana has been woyomised,” or that “Asamoah Gyan has woyomised us,” which brought back some of the themes from the source material – there was a sense of having been publicly robbed, not by opponents or outsiders but by one of Ghana’s own.
Whether this turns into a ‘-gate’ moment in the Ghanaian English lexicon, where the terminology of a specific political moment tips over into common usage, will probably depend on how the Woyome saga plays out. For now the meme feels fleeting and humorous, driven by opportunistic gags and social media camaraderie. There’s even a fake Twitter account:
It all seems to reflect Ghanaians’ sense of disbelief at the scale and apparent audacity of the affair, and represents a kind of comic redress in the absence, thus far, of anything more concrete (Woyome was charged on February 6 and is on remand at time of writing).
There’s also – particularly for supporters of the opposing NPP – a strong incentive to keep the case in the public eye during the 2012 election race. Fortunately for them, the ‘woyo(m)’ prefix travels well. Behold this exhaustive list, from which ‘woyonomics’ is the only obvious oversight.
A comment on power rationing in the Volta Region: