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I Beg to Differ, Kofi Jumah

Tue, 9 Apr 2013 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

The remark attributed to Mr. Maxwell Kofi Jumah, the former New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament (NPP-MP) for Kumasi-Asokwa, to the effect that Doctors and Teachers are not in the same pecking order, both socially and salary-wise, with MPs is rather unfortunate, particularly being that until relocating to Ghana Mr. Jumah lived in the Tri-State Area (of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and thus ought to know far better than this (See "Doctors and Teachers Can't Compare Themselves to MPs - Jumah" JoyOnline.com/Ghanaweb.com 4/4/13). It is rather unfortunate because until he made the patently impolitic remarks attributed to him, I had quite a lot of respect for the former New Jersey resident.

It may be recalled that Mr. Jumah's remark comes in the wake of vehement protestation of the rather curious and politically suicidal decision by the Mahama government to paying out the whopping sum of $100,000 (One-Hundred-Thousand American Dollars) in the ritual form of ex-gratia to both recently retired and roundly rejected members of Ghana's national assembly or parliament. And so in a sense, Mr. Jumah cannot be wholly faulted for so cynically and sarcastically pleading his own cause, since he is one of the roundly rejected MPs who will be receiving the so-called ex-gratia.

What I find amusing with the firebrand NPP operative regards his rather presumptuous suggestion that, somehow, politicians and parliamentarians have necessarily achieved much more in life than their fellow citizens in the first-responder or frontline professions of medicine and education. Nothing could be farther from the truth; I also don't remember Mr. Jumah who, I am reliably informed, rented an ordinary apartment in New Jersey and worked a 9 am to 5 pm job somewhere in Lower-Manhattan, or New York, New York, being said to be either academically superior or professionally more significant than any of my colleagues and associates. And so maybe Mr. Jumah would do himself a lot of good by informing the Ghanaian public about his precise line of work during his residency here in these United States of America.

I also find myself to be heavily restrained from discursively putting one group over and against another, although I feel compelled to quickly point out that when I arrived at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1985, the Mayor of New York City, the recently deceased Mr. Edward I. Koch, draw a greater salary than the President of the United States of America; and that was the case for a while, until the younger President Bush had his salary doubled to nearly half-a-million shortly after assuming the reins of governance in 2000 or 2001. I also know quite a remarkable number of college professors and elementary and high school teachers who draw higher salaries than United States' Congressional Representatives and State Senators and Assemblymen and women. And so Mr. Jumah's argument is neither here nor there.

What is important to note here, however, is the fact that, yes, institutionally speaking or in theory (and only in theory), politicians who belong to the executive branch of government are socially envisaged to be of a higher status than civil servants of all shades and stripes, but primarily because they are engaged in the making of hefty and far-reaching policy decisions. Considering the currently ramshackle state of Ghanaian democratic political culture - both at the policy-making and electoral levels - it is extremely difficult for any patriotic and level-headed Ghanaian citizen not to feel nostalgic (but only nostalgic, nothing more) of the kind of progressively "benign" dictatorship that was spearheaded by the slain Gen. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

To be certain, the six-year period that marked the tenure of the Acheampong-led National Redemption Council (NRC) and the Supreme Military Council (SMC I) juntas' domination of the postcolonial Ghanaian political landscape has yet to be either excelled or even paralleled by any government of Fourth-Republican Ghana, with the arguable exception of the Kufuor administration of the New Patriotic Party. And so I simply have quite a hard time concurring with Mr. Jumah that, indeed, Ghanaian parliamentarians have anything admirably tangible to show for their much-vaunted "Honorability."

If only rampant and largely gratuitous parliamentary boycotts were a high water mark of democratic refinement, then, of course, I could unreservedly concur with the contention of the former Kumasi-Asokwa NPP-MP. Maybe Mr. Jumah ought to decently deport himself by reminding his audience about his abject use of sexist and uncomplimentary, and definitely unparliamentary, language that saw him so readily and shamefully ousted at the polls by his primary target of wanton and abusive villification.

Needless to say, I have my own giant axe to grind over the generally lackluster and downright regressive work ethic of Ghanaian Doctors and Teachers; but my grievance against the latter far pales in depth of anguish and raw anger in comparison to my grievance against our pathologically neocolonialist robber barons who go by the patently undeserved label of "Honorable Members of Parliament." Some Members of Parliament, indeed!

It also goes without saying that there is absolutely everything remiss with the timing of the payment of the parliamentary ex-gratias, especially coming as it does at a time when the government appears to be in dire need of the wherewithal to creditably revamp our national healthcare and educational systems. At least such payments could have tarried for quite awhile; for as Mr. Jumah himself acknowledges, even the average parliamentarian is more financially better off than such cutting-edge educators as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, for example.

But, perhaps, what is even more significant to observe is the imperative need for Ghanaian politicians to learn how to create and secure their own jobs and facilitate the drastic abatement of the parasitic and patently unhealthy tendency of making parliamentary representation a lifelong career, all to the detriment of the sustainable, or long-term, development of the country at large.

I must also hasten to point out to cynical politicians like Mr. Jumah that quite a legion of educators like this writer do what we do because we dearly love our jobs, not merely because we cannot get ourselves elected to partake in the scandalously infantile and boyish parliamentary culture of wanton and gratuitous boycotts, for which people like the ousted Kumasi-Asokwa MP and his associates have become so notorious.

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*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Department of English

Nassau Community College of SUNY

Garden City, New York

April 4, 2013

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Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame