The Action Year Goes Home II

Fri, 16 Dec 2011 Source: Krapa, Herbert

President Mills’ action year was not without the kind of crisis that his administration has come to be known for. The difference this time was in the magnitude of the gaffes, and intensity of the consequences. There were just too many of them in the action year, that one could easily rename it the ‘crisis year’ without a formal ceremony or a laborious explanation. This sequel has indeed become necessary because part I of it could simply not capture all the action in the crisis year.

7th January, 2011, will go down in history for the wrong reasons. It was the day when the world was stunned by comments made by Ghana’s president, John Mills, on the Ivorian crisis. It was his response to a simple and harmless question that sought to know what our country’s position was with regards the crisis in our neighbouring country. His response, the infamous ‘Dzi wo fi asem’, a complete mess, played a role in worsening the crisis in that country. Standing miles away in Accra, and with those four fante words, Mills stabbed the African Union in the back and reversed the global effort, sparking more problems in the Ivory Coast. Whilst the leaders of the world: ECOWAS, AU, EU and the UN Security Council were busily considering all the possible options available to remove the defeated Gbagbo, Mills, was also busily telling them to mind their home business. They spoke with one voice, that, Laurent Gbagbo lost the presidential election and should yield peacefully the presidency of Cote d’Ivoire to the winner, Allasane Ouattara. They were thinking about the safety of the Ivorian people and the enhancement of democracy in the West African country. But Mills had other plans. His friendship with Gbagbo was more important and he stood firmly by that. His comments strengthened Gbagbo’s resolve not to hand over power, and he did not. In the end, some 3,000 people were killed in violence. Today, Ghana, like many other African countries, continues to play host to Ivorian refugees who fled here as a result of the worsening crisis in their country at the time. We could not mind our home business after all.

The NDC promised to rid Ghana of filth in their first hundred days in office. The Ghanaian people believed it and voted for them, maybe. Ironically, three years after the NDC came to power, our country was hit severely by a cholera epidemic and some sixty people were killed as a result. But the reasons are not far away. This year, Ghana was adjudged by the World Health Organization and UNICEF as the second filthiest country in West Africa and fourth in Africa. Some five hundred patients are still recovering from the outbreak, and it still hasn’t been one hundred days since the NDC came into office.

The implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) became a nightmare for President Mills and his NDC in the action year. It led to huge upheavals in the labour front, which was characterised mainly by protests. The Ghana Medical Association declared a nationwide strike, and it became the longest recorded strike of doctors in the country’s history. It lasted for nearly three weeks and the consequences were fatal. The Ghana Association of Biomedical Laboratory Scientists (GABMLS) in November, declared a nationwide strike too, also over discrepancies and distortions in their placement on the SSSS. Teachers were promised in the 2010 State of the Nation Address by the president that they would be migrated onto the SSSS in 2011. He said they will smile all the way to the bank in 2011 to collect their salaries. Rather, teachers miserably cried all the way from the bank when their accounts failed to reflect the strength of the spine. The Coalition of Concerned teachers embarked on an indefinite strike action in February to register their displeasure against the unfair treatment meted out to them with regards to their migration onto the SSSS. In March, teachers throughout the country joined them. They embarked on a strike action to protest against their new salaries under the SSSS. The rehearsals for our 54th Independence anniversary celebration stopped abruptly because teachers who were supposed to take pupils through drills, were busily demonstrating and singing war songs. Hopefully, the innocent pupils did not pick up a few of the war songs for possible future use. In October, about 3,000 frustrated unpaid professional teachers in the Tamale Metropolis also hit the streets in protest of their unpaid arrears. Members of the Upper East Regional Secretariat of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) also joined their counterparts in the Greater Accra, Northern and Upper West regions in their indefinite strike actions. Basic schools in Garu, in the Upper East region were closed down as teachers embarked on an indefinite strike over delays in the payment of their October salaries. The labour front was simply in a mess and one wonders what kind of action Mills had in mind when he declared 2011 action year.

In the action year, the Fonkar-Games peaked in Sunyani. For the first time in Ghana’s history, a sitting president seeking re-election as presidential candidate of his own party was challenged. Members of his party were not happy with his performance as president. They said he is incompetent, visionless, mediocre and corrupt. Ordinarily it shouldn’t be a problem but with the case of Mills, it was and the Ghanaian people paid dearly for it. An already distracted and incompetent Mills was left with no options than to relegate his duties as president and engage in a fierce contest to lead his party. The tax payer’s money was involved in some part time assignments. Herbert Mensah’s allegation that the president earmarked GH¢90million for his flagbearership campaign is yet to be disproved. Reports have it also, that the president paid delegates between GH¢5,000 and GH¢15,000 each on the day of the election. In the midst of it, a lot of revelations were made. It became clear that even his party people admit he has been a failure and they did not hide it. They trumpeted it to the loud hearing of the world. They called him names and told us what kind of consultation keeps him going. The president won in the end, but he remains even more worn out by the acrimony that spiced the competition.

The action year came with massive corruption too. Six-unit classroom blocks which cost GH¢72,000 in 2008 now cost GH¢ 280,000, an increase of over 300% in a matter of three years. When called up by parliament to justify the unreasonably astronomic increase in the construction of these schools, the Education Minister, Betty Mould Iddrisu fumbled. She could only say that the projects were emergency ones. The General Secretary of the NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah was badly exposed in the action year for transacting business with the Bui Power Project while serving as a Board member. Mosquito, as he is popularly called has become a big time block manufacturer overnight, supplying cement blocks to the Bui Dam developers at relatively higher prices. Due to this and others, the Bui Dam, which was scheduled to be completed in 2012, will have to wait one more year. Ghana had to find $118million more to top up the $620million originally scheduled to be used for the construction. And yet, Mosquito does not think the tax payer has been bruised. He says there is no conflict of interest, and President Mills agrees with him.

In May this year, the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, revealed that the Flow Meters on the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah had never functioned since they were installed in January, 2011. The Ghanaian people heard about it and were not happy. We protested. Government admitted the blunder but said Ghanaians were not being cheated. But the Ghanaian people were not convinced, and rightly so. The Flow Meters were finally fixed in August, after seven months, and the quantity of oil produced and supplied within that time, was measured with sticks, and we all know what that means with the NDC in office. Notwithstanding the installation of the Flow Meters, Ghana can still not verify independently how much oil is produced. Till date, government has still not verified the calibrations on the Production Line Meters and the Export Flow Meters. Whether the meters have been tampered with or can be tampered with remains a mystery. This year, an Accra High Court upheld the case of Mr Kweku Kwarteng and two others, and ordered the National Petroleum Authority to remove illegal margins disguised as ex-refinery differential from the prices of petrol, kerosene, diesel, LPG and MGL local. The NPA is also expected to return to Ghanaians an amount of ¢661million, which was illegally taken from us. This odd and sad occurrence can only take place when the NDC is in power.

The NDC is currently in the news for putting up a $20 million headquarters in Adabraka. Attempts by national executives of the party to respond to the claim have left the Ghanaian people even more confused and alarmed. National Organiser, Yaw Boateng Gyan, has confessed publicly that he has heard some gossips about a certain project being undertaken by the party, but did not know where the building is located. He mentioned also about an NDC land at Oyarifa. Deputy General Secretary, Kofi Adams, has also not been able to say anything tangible on the ownership of the Adabraka edifice. He says this today, and that tomorrow. The only concrete thing he has said so far is that the party has a land at Oyibi. A claim is made on Adabraka and it becomes Oyarifa and then Oyibi and I’m wondering where next the project will be located in the coming days. Propaganda Secretary, Richard Quashigah has been asking the Ghanaian people: “if the NDC is putting up a building and so what?” He too has only heard rumours about the project. But his deputy, Solomon Nkansah, has said that indeed the project belongs to the NDC and he knows that for sure. Asiedu Nketia, who happily announced to delegates at the Sunyani congress, that “the party has acquired its own land and is putting up an ultramodern national party headquarters”, has been conspicuously missing in the action. “Work is at an advanced stage and it is our expectation that the office would be ready for occupation by the middle of next year (2012)” were his words in Sunyani.

But there were other matters aside the corruption and mismanagement. It was in the action year that Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, the engineer and Head of the Cardio-thoracic Centre, at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, was given an unprofessional sack for no apparent reason. A distinguished surgeon, par excellence, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng returned to Ghana to practice as Ghana's first locally-based cardiothoracic surgeon, and established the National Cardiothoracic Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in 1992, as there were no cardiothoracic surgery facilities in the country at the time. After many years of selfless and distinguished service to his nation, the NDC decided to put political interests and differences ahead of the national interest. The Ghanaian people stood by the side of Prof. Frimpong Boateng sparking a huge uproar in the nation as to why the government had to pay back such a distinguished citizen with impunity. But Mills as always stood on the side of wrong.

A series of events in the action year, also testified to the alarming levels of arrogance, abuse of power and lawlessness since President Mills took office in 2009. Deputy Interior Minister, Kobby Acheampong had his turn when he caused the arbitrary arrest and detention of eight police officers on a motor check duty at Ekumfi Esaafa on the Cape Coast - Winneba highway. The only ‘offence’ of the police was that they sought to enforce the law on speed limit on our increasingly dangerous roads. The man who described Nana Akufo-Addo as a “fruit cake” and has gained notoriety over the years for his use of intemperate language and hurling of insults on others is today offended because he claims the police abused him verbally. Kobby Acheampong, like all other government appointees who are quick to abuse their office, violate the law and use intemperate language on others, are still at post.

But maybe, it all makes sense. Three months ago, after failing to seize the attention of the world with his flat, uninspiring schools under trees speech at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, President Mills on his arrival at the Kotoka International Airport summarised it all. He told journalists that he was unaware of any agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that restricts Ghana on the amount of loans she can take in a year.

Mr President: on 12th May, 2011, your Finance Minister, Kwabena Dufuor together with the Governor of the Central Bank, Amissah Arthur, signed on your behalf, a Memorandum of Understanding with the IMF which stated clearly in part that “in 2011, commercial borrowing will not exceed $800 million.” It is shameful and unacceptable that you did not know this. It is too delicate and critical a matter, that it could happen on your blind side. I’m sorry but you are not in charge Mr President and the Ghanaian people are paying dearly for your incompetence and the absence of leadership in the country.

But if the president is not in charge, then who is? Did the Ghanaian people vote for the president or for the one(s) he has gifted the power to? What are the motives of these people? Are they truly greedy and selfish as their former boss, Mr. J J Rawlings reveals? And if our president is not in charge, what do we do when the time comes?

By Herbert Krapa


14th December, 2011

Columnist: Krapa, Herbert