Letter From The President: ?Wahala? Continua

Wed, 8 Jun 2005 Source: J. A. Fukuor/Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, the people who have been organizing the Wahala demonstrations intend to go to the Brong Ahafo Region. They are going there (probably this week) to stage the fifth in a series of protest marches against my decision to increase fuel prices almost four months ago. For months, they?ve been deluding themselves that by staging the demonstrations I will be forced to reverse the fuel price increases. I?ve made it clear to all that this cannot happen. Not when the World Bank and the IMF are still squeezing my balls to ?de-regulate? the petroleum sector. Yet they are still on the streets making the same noises, singing the same tunes and displaying old, worn-out placards. I think they deserve an award for perseverance and persistence.

I encourage them to go on with the demonstrations. Having staged a successful one in my own Kumasi backyard, I expect them to ensure that similar demonstrations are held in all the regional capitals. As I wrote some weeks ago, those who partake in these protests will enjoy the benefits of a long brisk walk and their bodies will be all the healthier for it. So the benefits of the Wahala marches are not economic but physical.

I am writing again about the Wahala demonstrations because of some rather silly comments that have been made by some public officials about the Wahala demonstrations. First, I heard Kwame Niapim saying that the Wahala demonstrators are creating the impression that Sikaman is an unstable country and that they are scaring investors away. He was lying. Just last week, the majority leader in parliament angered me even more with his comments on the Wahala demonstration. An MP had asked the health minister about when monies will be made available for rehabilitating a certain hospital in the north. The majority leader interjected (rudely, of course) and proclaimed that the funds will be released when the Wahala stops. Such infantile balderdash.

Let me first respond to Mr. Niapim. I know for sure he has participated in numerous demonstrations. He knows very well that demonstrations are useful political tools. Sometimes (particularly in this case) I believe demonstrations become a useful exercise that promotes physical fitness. The Wahala demonstrators might be misguided but they are definitely not scaring any investor away. Kwame Niapim should stop telling us cock and bull stories. I believe that rather than scaring investors, such demonstrations (even useless, ineffectual ones like the Wahala demonstrations) send clear signals to the rest of the world that ours is a democratic country and mine is a democratic government. We are not like the Chinese who will hardly allow fifty people to congregate without government permission. Remember Tiananmen? We do not use brute force to break up demonstrations. In fact, we do all we can to provide security for anyone who wishes to take part in a demonstration. These are good democratic credentials any business leader worth his title will admire. I therefore disagree vehemently with Niapim?s theory. If the ?Kume Preko? demonstrations which drew thousands to the street and degenerated into violence and killings did not scare away investors, how can these peaceful, petty Wahala demonstrations, which have drawn only a few hundreds do so?

Now let me respond to the Majority leader. His comment on the Wahala demonstrations were the silliest I?ve heard so far. I want to believe that he didn?t think before he spoke those words ? that funds will be made available for development projects when the Wahala demonstrations stop. You might want to forgive him by interpreting his statement to mean that the people should get off the streets because the fuel price increases they are complaining against provides revenue for funding for development projects. If he has reflected on his comments I believe that he might already have found the folly therein. We have on-going development projects ? including KVIPs, road constructions, hospital rehabilitations etc. ? taking place across the country. So when someone asks about funds for rehabilitating an important facility like a hospital situated in what is considered to be an opposition stronghold you don?t say anything to imply that if they stop protesting against a certain government policy, they?ll get the money. If you do so, you create the impression that my government is being selective in the distribution of the ?national cake?. This does not auger well for national cohesion. It also affects our party?s prospects in the area.

I want all those who intend to say silly things about the Wahala demonstrations to zip their lips. I have nothing against them and I don?t expect anyone to oppose them. People have a democratic right to take to the streets and we should not discourage them in anyway. I have heard just heard that a group in Kumasi is planning to stage a demonstration against my failure to fulfill certain electoral promises I made in the run-up to last year?s elections. I don?t begrudge them and I would love to see how many people they draw to the streets.

Anyone in Sikaman should feel free to go on a demonstration without feeling guilty about whether his or her protests will stop investors from coming into the country or whether his actions could make government unwilling to release funds for development project. I don?t care whether you go on demonstration or not. I don?t care what you demonstrate about. You can take to the streets to protest against the way I talk or the way I walk. You can go to the streets to protest against my silence over this whole hotel saga. You can even protest against my refusal to sleep in the Castle. I don?t care because I know that your demonstrations will do more good than harm. Let the Wahala continue.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: J. A. Fukuor/Daily Dispatch