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Opinions Fri, 7 Oct 2016

Cowards don’t throw down gauntlets

By Eric Bawah

In the medieval days, the phrase “throwing down the gauntlet” means to challenge or confront someone to a formal challenge or a duel. A gauntlet is a heavy armoured gloves worn by medieval knights.

In an age when chivalry and personal honour were paramount, throwing a gauntlet at the feet of an enemy or opponent was considered a grave insult that could only be answered with personal combat and the offended party was expected to take up the gauntlet to acknowledge and accept the challenge. Only persons who are willing and prepared to fight throw down gauntlets. Cowards don’t throw down gauntlets.

When Dr. Alhaji Bawumia gave his magnum opus lecture at the National Theatre recently and the VEEP, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, an economists threw the challenge and served notice that he was going to reply Dr. Bawumia at the appropriate time, I became highly relieved, agitated and expected nothing but a thought-provoking lecture from the former Governor of the Bank of Ghana. As I wrote in my introduction, throwing a gauntlet at the feet of an enemy or opponent was considered a grave insult that could only be answered with personal combat and the offended party was expected to take up the gauntlet to acknowledge and accept the challenge.

Speaking at the Greater Accra Regional Zonal campaign launch of the NDC, the Vice President, Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur served notice that he was going to teach Dr. Bawumia the ABC of economics because Dr. Bawumia, an internationally respected economists knew nothing. As the Chairman of the Economic Management Team of the current government, my understanding was that Mr. Amissah-Arthur knew more than what Dr. Bawumia knew so I was expecting real fireworks. And having presided over the near collapse of all sectors of the economy, I sincerely did not know what the man will have to say to debunk the facts and figures presented by the economics whizz-kid

As we waited with patience to hear the story of Mr. Amissah-Arthur on the state of the economy, the NDC went to Sunyani to launch their manifesto. There was this good friend of mine who is a dye in the wool supporter of the NDC who told me that, at Sunyani, Paa Kwesi Amisah-Arthur would fly like a butterfly and sting Dr. Bawumia like a bee when he mounted the podium at Sunyani. On that fateful day, I decided not to go out until I listened to all the speeches at the Sunyani Manifesto launch. I did not pay much attention to the likes of Kofi Adamu and his other upstarts because I knew they will have nothing good to offer except to insult and cast aspersions at Nana Addo and Dr. Bawumia.

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When the Vice president threw down the gauntlet, Dr. Bawumia picked it and told the whole world that he was ready for the duel. That is how brave knights acted in the medieval days. The moment you pick up a gauntlet thrown down by your opponent, there is no going back but to stay in the ring and fight. That was exactly what Dr. Bawumia did. In my mind’s eye I could see the economics whizz-kid swaggering in the ring, moving from one corner to the other, waiting for Paa Kwesi. I travelled down memory lane to watch the days of the Gladiators in ancient Rome where such actions took place in movies.

Then Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur was invited to speak and I adjusted by chair and sipped a glassful of cold water because I thought the day of reckoning had come.

There he stood on the podium with his eyes fixed on the teeming NDC supporters who were also expecting the VEEP to deliver the coup de gråce. Instead of staying in the ring for the duel to begin, the man chickened away and jumped through the ropes of the boxing ring. Hear the former fine gentleman who has been forced by the NDC to be a braggart overnight: “My friend who is a professor at the University of Ghana has advised me not to debate Dr. Bawumia since he (Bawumia) was merely doing politics but not economics”. No wonder Julius Caesar once said cowards die many times before their death. Mr. Amissah-Arthur knew very well that the 170 points given by Dr. Bawumia was nothing but the gospel truth but he was pushed by the hawks in the NDC to say he was going to challenge Dr. Bawumia’s presentation.

The other time when the same Dr. Bawumia delivered similar lecture at the Central University and Professor Kwesi Botchwey was asked to deliver one, the gentleman started by telling his listeners that he was not going to challenge what Dr. Bawumia had said and went on to deliver his speech which eventually vindicated Dr. Bawumia. Professor Botchwey had been the Finance Minister during the revolutionary days for twelve good years and knows better. Professor Botchwey’s delivery on that day was as incisive as that of Dr. Bawumia. Two fine brains were at work and we the lesser endowed in economics became the beneficiaries. This was what I was expecting Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur to do but not to run away from a duel he proposed.

ENTER FIIFI KWETEY: HALF-BAKED ECONOMIST, HALF-BAKED POLITICIAN

The day an announcement was made on radio stations that Fiifi Kwetey was to call a press conference to set the records straight, I laughed. Even when he was nominated by Mr. John Mahama as the Deputy Minister of Finance, I doubted his ability to perform since he is a novice in that field. If a crack brain like Professor Gyan Baffour, the MP for Wenchi was made the Deputy Minister of Finance during the Kufour administration and Fiifi Kwetey was made the Deputy Minister of the same ministry under NDC government, you can understand why things have gone from bad to worse since the NDC took over power. In computer science, we say garbage in, garbage out.

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I took time to listen to Fiifi Kwetey and finally concluded that it was all like a tale told by a fool. You don’t get any substance from such a tale. Cocaine economy? If cocaine trade can boost an economy then I wonder how Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and some of the South American countries which deal in cocaine in large scale would look like as far as their economies are concerned. Is Fiifi Kwetey aware that in Colombia for example, some cocaine cartels own submarines which they use to smuggle cocaine to the US? And anyway since the NDC came to power, has the party and the government, for that matter, been able to stop the cocaine trade? If a lady like Naa Ayele Ametefe could smuggle cocaine through the VIP Launch at the Kotoka International Airport only to be arrested in the UK, which government has ever opened the leeway for people to carry on with the trade unimpeded more than the NDC (Narcotic Drug Cartel)? And why is the economy in shambles despite the free trade of cocaine since the NDC took the reins of power? Can’t the government of the NDC too make the best out of it if indeed Kufour’s administration got the economy on sound footing because of cocaine business? Master, if you have nothing to say, keep your mouth shut because we are too smart to be taken for a ride.

If the NDC thinks they are pushing the likes of Fiifi Kwetey to the forefront of the battle to get what they want, the reality is that Fiifi has totally lost credibility in Ghana politics. This is a man who shamelessly told Ghanaians that former President Kufour had stolen all the state gold reserve and sold them. And when he was confronted during his vetting, he accepted that he lied to the people of Ghana. What credibility and honour have been left in the conscience of such a pathological liar? And yet he is always rewarded with one ministerial position or the other while he walks with chest out as if he too matters in the scheme of things.

Under Fiifi Kwetey as the Minister of Agriculture, farmers were reeling under harsh conditions as simple farm inputs were hard to come by and agriculture has woefully failed to the extent that the growth rate is 0.04%. Under Fiifi Kwetey as the Minister of Agriculture, Ghana imported and still imports tomatoes, onions, cabbages, raw pepper and even cocoyam leafs from neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast etc. The Mass Cocoa Spraying Programme introduced by the Kufour administration has collapsed under the watchful eye of Fiifi Kwetey. The so-called Food Buffer Zone created by the late Professor Mills has become a dream gone sour under Fiifi Kwetey.

You see, if you live in a glass house, you don’t throw stones. I was expecting credible and economics gurus in the NDC to answer Dr. Bawumia but not this guy who only came to the limelight (or is it dim light?) when the NDC came to power. Anyway, he was trained to lie because after all, was he not the Propaganda Secretary of the NDC before the party came to power? The thing is in his blood and he will live and die with it. Fiifi should wise-up and stop the insults because what goes up comes down. Pendulums don’t swing in one direction only.

Columnist: Eric Bawah