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Can Randy Abbey and Gabby Darko Leave FDB Alone?

Sat, 13 Aug 2011 Source: The Herald

“The Mighty and the Almighty” is the title of a book written by one-time US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Former US President Bill Clinton, while commenting on the preface of Madeleine’s book, wrote: “… the only way not to step on toes is to stop walking.”

When characters that know no law – people without regard for the laws lead, lawlessness becomes the rule. When the unlearned and the uncultured become the leaders of a society, the society knows no peace. When persons without morals hijack the leadership of a society, immorality becomes the norm.

When the President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, came to Ghana in 2009, he said in his address to Members of Parliament: “What we need is strong institutions not personalities”. His statement was hailed by all well-meaning Ghanaians as timely, but which unfortunately, we know all these years.

For us to get started in our quest for solid national development, we need to build sustainable and strong institutions. We need strong institutions for service delivery, government efficiency, and strong policy and programme implementation.

We also need to build capacity divorced from our individual, regional, religious and personal aggrandizement in order to encourage public and private sector sustenance.

The Food and Drugs Board (FDB) is a state institution mandated with the responsibility of ensuring that products on sale are wholesome for consumption.

Over the years, the Board operated as a lame duck, so we had influx of unwholesome products flooding the market from all over the world, including those manufactured locally.

The questions many have asked over the years are, who will save the Ghanaian people? Who will brace the odds to make sure the right things are done? Who can re-awaken the dominant will of the Ghanaian? Who can inform and guide the masses on the streets in the cities and the hinterlands to rid this country of charlatans, masquerading as doctors and herbalists? Who will lead the struggle for our well-being?

The answers were provided by President John Evans Atta Mills, when he appointed Dr. Stephen Opuni to provide the needed leadership to re-awaken and invigorate the Food and Drugs Board to perform the duties required of it.

As a people, we are used to doing things the same way; so often times, when someone comes in and tries to initiate a paradigm shift, he or she is met with stiff opposition and dislike, because of a simple axiom that ‘ this is how it is done here’.

If we want to be honest with ourselves and give praise where it is due, we would realise that a day or a week never passes when a notice comes from the Board warning us to be wary of one product or another on the market which is unwholesome for consumption.

If products coming from China and some parts of Europe come in under questionable circumstances and are unwholesome for consumption, must our own people be driven by profit motives to also poison us?

In condemning some of these people let me hasten to ask, what is wrong with us as a people that we cannot safeguard our ports of entry and put reliable, efficient, patriotic and God-fearing individuals to man these borders?

How, in heaven’s name, do these products get into the market? Of course, it is not through any voodoo means, but the negligence, incompetence and greed of some of our security personnel stationed at our ports of entry.

If the work of the FDB is to achieve results, other security agencies manning our borders and points of entry must collaborate and ensure strict compliance with the rules and regulations governing the importation and distribution of products.

In Ghana, some people are untouchable, so all the good work of Dr. Opuni and his men at the Board came under scrutiny by individuals whose bread has been buttered by some of these people who have fallen foul of the law.

The first person to draw Dr. Opuni’s blood was Madam Semanhyia, who ridiculously accused him of soliciting sexual favours from her. I have to restrain myself, else I will use certain unprintable words to describe her and her wild allegations. When the matter came up, the media hastily, without giving the man the benefit of the doubt, latched on to it and made a lot of capital about it.

When the true state of events unfolded and the matter was taken to court, Madam Semanhyia could not substantiate her allegations.

The latest challenge staring Dr. Opuni and his men in the face is the showdown they are purported to have had with the manufacturers of ‘Yafo Yafo’ and Kingdom Herbal Centre. To quote Kennedy Agyapong, “they got nerves”.

For a moment, I said wow, a replay of George “Owels Animal Farm”, where men are created equal, but some are created more equal than others.

Dr. Opuni has, once again, been boxed into a corner, painted as a bugaboo and turned into a media punching bag. This is an episodic thing. The Board’s legitimate sanctions have powerful echoes which often wake up their army of critics in the media, and have taken a political twist, with people like Gabby Asare Okyere Darko of the Dankwah Institute and The New statesman, as well as the man with many faces in Ghana today, Randy Abbey.

I have always been very fascinated by the Randy Abbey character, a social commentator, a journalist, a politician and a football administrator.

Randy Abbey and Gabby Asare Okyere-Darko, who are they speaking for? The ordinary Ghanaian or their paymasters? Because I don’t foresee both Randy and Gabby walking into a shop to buy herbal drugs. They have the wherewithal to afford orthodox treatment. So they don’t give a hoot whether or not the herbal medicine coming out of Kingdom Herbal is produced under hygienic conditions or not.

Why must everything be politicized in Ghana? In 2008, two men were executed in China for their roles in a contaminated milk powder scandal that led to the deaths of at least six infants.

In the ‘Melamine’ scandal that rocked China and the rest of the world where over 300,000 children fell ill after drinking milk intentionally laced with melamine, the milk was sold mainly by the now bankrupt Sanlu Group.

The truth must always be told; we always wait for things to get to a breaking point before we act in this country. The menace of unwholesome products is not a new thing. Every time we come close to overlooking this scheme and its rubbish, another story comes to rile us.

Interestingly, when the Police cum FDB officials raided the premises of Kingdom Herbal, the owner, Mr. Frank Paul, was in the hospital receiving orthodox treatment, ostensibly because his medicines cannot cure him. This is double standards if you ask me.

The Chief Executive Officer of Frank Paul Ventures, manufacturers of Yafo herbal medicines, has taken a swipe at the Chief Executive Officer of the Food and Drugs Board for what he says is an unwarranted hatred and persecution to get him out of business.

Mr. Kwaku Boakye says that the “FDB’s activities against his business are politically motivated, challenging claims that some products of his company are not certified by the FDB”.

My friend, I am sorry you can’t have my sympathy, if your attempt to evade the law is by hiding under the cloak of politics, then what won’t save you.

First of all, Frank Paul is not the only businessman in Ghana who is a friend to Nana Addo, and a member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). The health of the citizens of this country is above any party, and more so, one individual.

Apparently when the premises of Frank Paul Ventures was searched, officials of FDB found already printed labels with the same batch numbers and were post dated for 2012.

The filthy pictures of the factory scares anybody who would want to buy your product; the premises is not well kept, the conditions under which the medicines are produced are nothing good to write home about.

Yet, you go on radio and try to court public sympathy, the same public you are trying to kill by your actions. Mr. Boakye said: “FDB officials and policemen, without a warrant, broke into my residence at Mamprobi, Accra, earlier today”, adding that before this recent visit, the FDB and National Security operatives visited his other residence at East Legon to search his entire house.

Indeed, ours is a nation ruled by the hearts of men and their desires and best wishes covered by behind greed and blurred visions.

If not in this age of modern medicine, our average lifespan is falling down, because the conditions arising from the numerous crimes against our state are killing us.

Our hospitals are gradually becoming graveyards because we don’t have enough medical staff to treat us. In addition we are now left in the hands of another gang of criminals who claim to be herbalists, and pastors who claim that they can perform miracles like in the days of Christ.

These criminals in the churches are riding in their “private cars” while the masses are dying out of ignorance – their sham miracles have proven incapable of curing us, even when we fail to get it. Dr Opuni should be left alone; he is only doing his duty.

Columnist: The Herald