Opinions Mon, 31 Aug 2009

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The Phone Calls That Saved Ghana

Akua Bonsu

Many members of the New Patriotic Party are still scratching their heads about why arguably the best performing president of our country who happens to be thoughtful and judicious would, by his questionable decisions in an election year, virtually beg Ghanaians to vote his party out of office. For seven years President John Agyekum Kufuor made effective decisions that culminated in sustained prosperity only to turn around and make inexplicable election-year decisions resulting in a devastating showing at the polls by his party.

There are questions surrounding why a sitting president would offer the highest national award to the presidential candidate of the opposing party, buy not one, but two presidential jets, award himself an honor accompanied by a ridiculous looking gold chain, and virtually keep at arms length his own party’s presidential candidate all in an election year. The explanation may lie in three vital telephone calls made the day after the 2004 general election.

Twenty-five years earlier in 1979, a young, frail looking Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings had shot his way into power in a coup d’état even though the nation was already on a timeline to return to democratic system of governance. Due to an agreement between him and his cohorts, he had had to surrender power and return to private life but not until he had executed without trial a handful of former heads of states and others he saw as threats like General Afrifa.

Out of power and unemployed for three months, Rawlings found life difficult and had to stage another coup d’état to return to power on the very last day of 1981. He would rule dictatorially for another eleven years before downing his army fatigues to don civilian suites to run for president. There was little doubt that he was going to win that election.

Rawlings’ eight years as a “democratically elected” president of Ghana was no different from his previous eleven as an imposed leader. Judges were abducted and killed, freedom of speech was severely curtailed, lack of competing ideas created the environment for virtually only his own to prevail, which were not effective enough to grow the economy. Not surprisingly, Ghana’s economy wallowed in despair.

By the time Rawlings handed over power to John Agyekum Kufuor in January of 2001, every single Ghanaian owed $305.26 to the world financial institutions or a collective national debt of $5.8 billion. Ghana’s economy was broken, interest rate was 50% or the bank charged borrowers 50 pesewas for every cedi they lent to borrowers, unemployment stood at 39% or nearly four out of every ten able-bodied persons could not find jobs, annual inflation rate was at 45% or commodities cost an average of 45 pesewas more than they were the previous year, etceteras.

Thus in 2001, President Kufuor and his administration were also saddled with running a nation whose credit ratings was abysmal due to her inability to service her debt. That means declaring HIPC was the most viable option, a declaration which resulted in immediate retiring of half of the nation’s debt and the institution of poverty reduction strategies. All monies borrowed thereafter needed to go specifically towards poverty reducing initiatives. By the time the 2004 elections came along, Ghana had begun on the path of recovery. Ghanaians could feel the change in the air and consequently voted not only to re-elect president Kufuor, but increased his NPP majority in Parliament from 114 to 128. And this is where the vital phone call came in.

Again Rawlings failed to handle life as a civilian in a noble fashion. Thus, after the results around the nation came in and placed president Kufuor’s victory beyond doubt, Rawlings called a meeting of some top military brass where they plotted a takeover of the government via another coup d’état. They would have some NDC factions start riots all over the country so that his takeover would supposedly be rescuing the nation out of confusion.

One of the attendees, wanting no part of what was about to happen, asked to use the restroom from where he placed the first phone call to Captain Kwadwo Tsikata (KT), who was not at that meeting. An incensed KT quickly placed the second call to the NDC presidential candidate John Evans Atta Mills and asked him to pre-empt Rawlings’ sinister plan by calling president Kufuor to congratulate him on his victory. Mills on his part shrewdly used his phone call to President Kufuor to negotiate a deal whereby the latter would ensure that the former became president in 2009. Of course President Kufuor was appreciative of Mills’ call because he had not been able to take control of the security apparatus installed by Rawlings. And inexplicably, he had not done so by the time he left office in 2009.

You hear stories that countries are run by Mafias and you waive those stories off as conspiracy theories. Not so in Ghana. Currently, the four individuals running Ghana today are Tsatsu Tsikata (T square), who is in charge of energy and finance issues, J. J. Rawlings, in charge of all security matters, Victor Awonoor, in charge of all social related ministries, and Victor Gbeho in charge of foreign affairs and Customs and Immigration. For example, honorable Duffuor (Minister of Finance) and honorable Oteng-Adjei (Minister of Energy) rarely make any significant decisions without consulting with T Square.

These four individuals have completely dominated president Mills such that the latter, at one point contemplated resigning in frustration. So with Mills not actually running the government, it remains to be seen if whatever deal Kufuor may have negotiated, if any, would materialize in the 2012 elections. The question Ghanaians must answer is whether we have a democracy or we have a ruling mafia.

Columnist: Bonsu, Akua

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