(Ref. Story of Accra mayor Detained in Columbia) By: Kwaku A. Danso
There is a myth in Ghana that in government jobs nobody has to tell the truth. “If you get government money, you take it home”, was the saying. Those of us old enough can say that this system and mindset started in the colonial days as a sabotage to get the British to fail. The system and mindset was left intact after independence, as the same employees were left on the job. Nobody in Ghana will pick up trash, clean up, or maintain a vehicle or bus in the government jobs, because it not theirs! As my uncle would say “Kwasea!! Fools!” - Who does the government belong to!?
Our people have never understood democracy well, and are confused about the role of modern government, which chieftaincy systems haunting them in the background. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was a privilege to be among the elite in government jobs, with automatic bungalows and cars for graduates or officials in government jobs. Job performance and expectations to meet specific goals seem never to have been understood since it was for the “white man” or broni. After independence, government officials have become mostly a bunch of hypocrites, and in the last two to three decades, a bunch of ignorant people faking knowledge they do not have, and then becoming outright thieves! In the last three decades, foreign grants can vanish, and loans for water and electricity vanish in thin air! And neither the Speaker of the House of Parliament, nor the Majority or Minority leaders seem to bother, let alone the State Prosecutor or Attorney General! Everybody in government pretends the nation will take care of itself, and every new leader sworn in meets empty coffers and goes to borrow money to pay the debts of Ghana! President Rawlings left an accumulated debt of $6.2 Billion in 2000, and President Kufuor, after debt write-offs, left a debt of $8.1 Billion in 2008! None of them left a single 100 miles of a major highway to show! Ghanaian leaders have to date not been able to manage Ghana to have a common computerized database of people and properties, the basic fundamental of any modern development and economy! A bunch of PhDs are hired only to write essays on Economics, some seeming to be copied from Western textbooks using such words as “inflation” they hardly understand! In the 1980s Economic Minister Dr. Kwesi Botchwey was writing Budgets to increase petrol and kerosene prices and at the same time setting prices of goods and transport fares, and predicting reduction in inflation rate! The educated and elite Ghanaian has become not only fake and hypocrites, but more of a national and overall disgrace to the black race! Period! Not trying to be too harsh on our people but in my four decades of observation, the sad additional factor of this is the human envy! In 1989/90, Economic Minister Dr. Botchwey’s budget called for a 500% “super-sales tax” imposed on all items considered “luxury”, and these included vehicles with engine capacity exceeding 2,500 cc, and Video Recorders or VCR. This writer had to leave his VCR at the airport in 1989 since he refused to pay the duties! I also had to deposit a $500 at the airport in order to carry my Camcorder to Ghana! (to avoid selling it on the market, as the officials said). The policy of the government officials was, and still is, that when a private person acquires some wealth, or their colleagues and counterparts who went to the West and worked overseas returns home, instead of networking to upgrade and share their knowledge about technology and global affairs, something that every successful civilization does, the people in Ghana government feel envious. The government elites want to achieve the same acquired wealth in government service, and drive the same or better vehicles using the taxpayer funds that are already in deficit! Many fake knowledge of Computers and have email addresses on their business cards when in fact they cannot figure out how to turn on a computer, let alone know anything about the Internet! They perhaps feel rationalize that since they were in the same high school or University, they deserve the same! Absolute silly!
The story posted on April 16, 2010 on Ghanaweb from Daily Guide, says that the Mayor of Accra, Dr. Vanderpuije was detained in Columbia for 11 hours due to Visa problems regarding use of his American citizenship passport. He was travelling as a Ghanaian official, and the report indicates the President of Ghana was even called on the matter in order for the mayor to travel form Columbia to Brazil. It is very funny indeed! This story about an NDC appointee, when added to others we have read such as that of former NPP Presidential Adviser and Minister Asamoah Boateng, will make you laugh! Why can’t our people and nation face facts and be honest!
Nobody, and I repeat nobody in his right mind in Ghana will refuse an American, British, Canadian or other developed nation’s citizenship, with medical and retirement and other benefits if they had the chance! The envy and hatred politics of the PNDC era must end, and end now, for Ghana to move forward! Former President Rawlings sent his children for education in Great Britain and Ireland, and Ministers travel to Europe and other places for medical care at tax payer expense. Aren’t they ashamed! There is not a single person in Ghana who can swear to God given the chance to come and live in America, will not come! Period! Well, even the older women who say they don’t want to travel out of fear of air travel want their children to come to America or Britain or what we call abrokyire!
Folks, there is an age when we all have to take responsibility and give advice. This writer has contributed to Ghanaian socio-political ideas for over 40 years now. I feel like advising those behind. Please let’s stop lying to ourselves! I live in California and in East Legon, Accra, Ghana in a house I built, and nobody can deny me that or challenge me. Nobody! It is left to those behind if they need the help of those ahead. Without knowing the man, I can almost bet people like Mayor Alfred Vanderpuye do not need the money Ghana will pay him, and many others can chose to ignore public service. I am not suggesting people ignore the constitution or certain laws of Ghana, but for God’s sake, when a dictator who opts to turn the country to a civilian rule makes a constitution with certain stipulations such as the indemnity clause, and chooses to take away the citizenship of others, their right to serve their constituents or nation, it smells of nothing short of envy and stupidity! The nation of Israel would perhaps not exist nor attain its development as it is today without the help of the Jews in America and overseas! Fact! Let’s be honest about it. The Bank of Ghana in 2008 showed about $8.1 Billion of the $16 Billion Gross National income of Ghana came from remittances through forex bureaus! (And most foreign aid does not come through forex bureaus). Ghana will collapse and fall back into the dark ages if all her sons and daughters overseas washed their hands off. Period! Like it or not, that is a fact!
Why should Mayor Vanderpuije, in serving his country, abandon his US citizenship if the US does not require him to do that! There is no study to suggest that Ghanaians coming from overseas are more honest than those locally trained, and neither the reverse. However, if the man does not suffer from the temptation to steal from public funds, most probably because he has extra income coming from America, such as medical care, pension and social security income at age 65, and less likely to be tempted for bribery, it helps our nation! Didn’t Kwame Nkrumah send these men and women overseas to come back and help? Huh! What kind of retirement benefits, medical benefits, will Ghana government give him when he is 65 years old? A younger friend of mine who teaches at the Ghana Law school, told me last November he has to start his farm in his village because his retirement income will not be enough to sustain him! Huh!
It is interesting to note that former US President Bill Clinton, in a meeting with former President Rawlings at the White House, said the Dual citizenship of Ghana was a “clever idea” in his own words. It is quite possible Mr. Rawlings did not understand the mind of the American in terms of global economic benefits. Did our leader and his staff ask for help? No! Ghana is blessed that there are so many our people with high qualifications and experience in the Sciences, Engineering, Technology, Management, and Medicine, scattered all over the world, who also have love for Ghana. How many of these would betray Ghana even if push comes to shove! Not a chance! In Science we call it statistically improbable!
Americans hired the Germans and Europeans and even Russians they ridiculed as “communists”, after WW2, like Albert Einstein, to work for them to develop their Nuclear programs. Today Ghanaians have people with inventions and patents in Electronics, Computer Sciences, Medical sciences, and we should care less their political inclination. On this earth, every human being is trying to survive and it’s not either or in most cases of real life. Let us use our minds to tap all talents and develop our nation as others have done, using all the experienced Ghanaians who have worked for the Western nations and have love enough to return home to work for our nation! It should be a pleasure and a major benefit for us if these men and women will sacrifice to do that! Who in their right mind will leave American to come to work in Ghana unless they had great love! Many are not aware the PV Obengs and so forth who made these restrictions did it out of envy! A bunch or sore losers making laws to restrict their compatriots overseas, whiles most of them have turned out to be mere public thieves taking bribes, as publicized, but the society is afraid to tackle for political reasons!
Folks, completing an MBA, PhD or M.Eng., or BA Cantab., from UK, Canada or America and packing one’s bags to come home to Ghana does not guarantee we can build our nation like the Westerners have done! The management and leadership style of President Mills in the last 15 months compared to his compatriot in America, an African-American President Barack Obama, shows the difference in performance that is very interesting, like night and day! Whiles Obama is on the job every day and every week, solving problems for American in domestic economic crisis, health care, and Global terrorism and Nuclear proliferation issues, and communicating, our beloved President Mills in Ghana who also obtained his Law degree overseas seems crippled and encaved in the slave Castle, unable to articulate any solutions! No advice seems to get through!
Can a nation of hypocrites and envy survive? It has become obvious that we need our men and women who have worked overseas to return home and work in the public sector! My experience shows that our people have uncommon love for their nation, whether they live in Ghana or overseas, and we are lucky and blessed as a nation. Whether we need to create a new constitution or amend the one we have is no heavy task, if there are a few with goodwill. The President of Ghana is paid to work like any other leader in the world. Despite the toughest economic challenges facing the new President of America, the first black President, Barack Obama has set the standard for leadership and management, and nobody in the world can claim black people cannot manage. President Mills therefore has no excuses, economic or otherwise. It is people who create wealth and economy. The peers of President Mills are watching from around the globe, whether he knows or believes there are skilled Ghanaians or not. The society is also watching him. We expect him to take leadership role to solve Ghana’s problems, to eliminate the outmoded laws, customs, restrictions based on envy, hypocrisy, tribalism and sectional integrity. We expect him to set guidelines and measures in place to eliminate corruption, greed and the hypocrisy, and get Ghana’s economy moving as it should.
Yes, we too can do it!
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
(The writer is an Engineering Management and Financial Services Consultant and lives in Livermore, California, USA with dual home in East Legon, Accra, Ghana. He is the President of GLU – Ghana Leadership Union (NGO) and Moderator of the GLU forum. He may be reached at email@example.com)