The Disturbing Thinking of Spio-Garbrah
Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers – Voltaire, French philosopher
By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, the Chief Executive Officer of the London, UK based Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization, on the surface appears big-minded. But there is more to that image than what we see on the facade. As the French thinker Voltaire would say, the questions Dr. Spio-Garbrah ask, overtime, has revealed his troubling thoughts in relation to the health of the governing National Democratic Party (NDC) and, by extension, Ghana’s progress. Until recently, Spio-Garbrah was one of the vice president of the NDC.
In addition to this, under Jerry Rawlings’s regimes, Dr. Spio-Garbrah served as Minister of Communication, one-time Ghana’s Envoy to the United States and Mexico, Minister of Education, and Minister responsible for Mines and Energy. Further to all these high-profile positions, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is a member of UNESCO executive board, member of board of directors of South African Telecom, AngloGold Ashanti and Vodacom.
These should make the 57-year-old Dr. Spio-Garbrah a very fulfilled man. But he isn’t, he is an insatiable, resentful man. Dr. Spio-Garbrah wants more money and power, affected by the African Big Man syndrome. No doubt the Ghanaian press have nicknamed him “Oliver Twist,” an allusion to the hungry, poor fictional character in English writer Charles Dickens’ novel published in 1838, who tremblingly comes forward, plate in hand, in some sort of half-way house, and makes his famous appeal: “Please, Sir, I want some more.”
And Yes, Dr. Spio-Garbrah has presidential ambitions, too. But in 2006, Dr. Spio-Garbrah was overwhelming defeated by incumbent President John Atta Mills – 81 percent to 8.7 percent in the NDC’s flagbearership race. Mills went on to become President of Ghana in 2008.
Despite Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s large portfolios that come with equally large earnings, Mills went on to appoint him to AngloGold Ashanti as a board member, where he takes home US$120,000 yearly. In addition, at the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is paid over US$76,000. In addition to all these we don’t know how much Dr. Spio-Garbrah earns from South African Telecom and Vodacom. Press reports also indicate that Dr. Spio-Garbrah wants to be the Chair of board of two state institutions – Ghana Education Fund (GETFund) and Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
How fortunate Dr. Spio-Garbrah is!! Over 96 percent of Ghanaians do not have Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s income (even so some with either the same or bigger qualifications than him). Most live on just US$2.00 a day, according to the United Nations, but they do not complain as stridently as Dr. Spio-Garbrah. For majority of Ghanaians, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is awkward, unthankful, morally and spiritually fragile, and not content of what he has.
This is the mind of a man who wants to rule Ghana. Ato Ahwoi, an NDC big-wig, has enjoin Dr. Spio-Garbrah to concentrate on “policies, issues and programmes” and not seditious rabble-rousing trivialities that boil down to wrangling the Mills presidency which are detrimental to Ghana’s progress in the long-run, considering the brittle Ghanaian/African political and security environment and the fact that Ghana’s democracy is just 18 years old.
Notwithstanding his juicy plums, Dr. Spio-Gabrah is unappreciatively ominous to President Mills and his team, siding with the menacing Rawlings, who for failing to command-and-control the Mills presidency, which he has earlier imagined (though wrongly) as manipulable, has been tormenting it.
Regardless of this, as Dr. Spio-Garbrah himself revealed, after Mills won the presidency, Mills is alleged to have privately promised Dr. Spio-Garbrah that he will appoint him Ghana’s Foreign Minister. But along the way Mills is alleged to have reneged. For this, the never-satisfying Dr. Spio-Garbrah became bitter, and for the past two years Dr. Spio-Garbrah has been working to undermine the Mills presidency.
With flicker of egotism, Dr. Spio-Garbrah sees the Mills presidency as mediocre, derogatorily a Team B, not in charge, under-performing and inefficient, and has derailed from the NDC’s agenda. More damagingly, Mills is constantly molested as sexually “impotent,” sick, blind, under the grip of Nigerian spiritualists, has turned the seat of government, the Osu Castle, into prayer camp, and hallucinatory. Rawlings ruthlessly roars that Mills and his team are “traitors and enemies.”
What a depressingly poisoned atmosphere within a governing political party and its negative spillover into Ghana!!! What kind politics is this? What kind of political party is this where there are almost constant near-pandemonium among its top figures? Why all this mindlessness? Where is the Ghana national interest!!! Because President Mills didn’t make Dr. Spio-Garbrah Ghana’s Foreign Minister and didn’t appoint him as the chair of GETFund and COCOBOD and didn’t obey Rawlings’ orders. But Mills did appointed Dr. Spio-Garbrah to AngloGold Ashanti as a board member.
(In the context of Africa’s political history, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is indirectly saying the President Mills regime should be overthrown because it is inefficient. Rawlings had overthrown President Hilla Limann on December 31, 1981 on such naive excuses, backed by the warped mentality and encouragement of elites of Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s variety)
This has distracted Mills from greater concentration for his development agenda for Ghana. In his own NDC house has emerged unconstructive forces not wishing the Mills presidency well and constantly niggling the government. Why? Mills refused to be dictated to and declined to appoint certain people to certain positions upon the whim of the likes of the Rawlingses and Dr. Spio-Garbrah.
To further ruffle the Mills presidency, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is one (the other is ex-President Jerry Rawlings wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang) of the contestants for the NDC flagbearership slated for Sunyani, in Ghana’s Brong Ahafo Region, from July 8-10 against the incumbent Mills. Despite levelheaded NDC apparatchiks such as Victor Smith, Ghana’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, advising against Dr. Spio-Garbrah and Nana Konadu Agyemang to redraw their candidatures and let President Mills continue to lead the NDC for the 2012 presidential election, Dr. Spio-Garbrah and Nana Konadu Agyemang can’t be persuaded.
While they have the democratic right to contest Mills for the NDC flagbearership in July, their positions have more to do with hatred, aggrandizements, and less to do with party strategy, better issues and policies than Mills’, inefficiency of the Mills administration and inability to command-and-control Mills and his team. In Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s political universe, his personal interests outweigh that of the NDC and Ghana!!!
Of particular lesson, in terms of Ghana;’s democratic growth, is Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s peculiar thinking and actions. While democracy has given him the platform to speak his mind today, to the extent of the sometimes thumping President Mills, democracy has also revealed Spio-Garbrah’s parsimoniousness that was concealed under his long years in Rawlings’ autocratic military regimes.
Dr. Spio-Garbrah reveals the problematic nature of the African intellectual. Sometimes deceitful, sometimes morally pathetic, sometimes misunderstanding Africa, sometimes disorientated, sometimes ridiculous, that prompted the likes of Idi Amin (Uganda), Samuel Doe (Liberia) and Rawlings (Ghana) to mount power in spite of their despicable backgrounds, and in the process mess-up Africa.
Contradictorily, Dr. Spio-Garbrah says he is contesting President Mills for the NDC flagbearership because Mills is engaged in divide-and-rule politics. He also said Mills didn’t deliver on his promised Foreign Ministerial post for him. For this, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is sour and for the past two years he has been upsetting the Mills presidency. It is as if out of a population of over 23 million, Dr. Spio-Garbrah is the only Ghanaian with the highest qualifications and the comportment to be appointed Ghana’s Foreign Minister.
In his years in Rawlings’ authoritarian regimes, Dr. Spio-Garbrah didn’t speak so openly on the deadly wrongs of the regime, including deaths, tribalism, threats, high human rights violations and crass corruption. This is in a regime where transparency and accountability were feeble, despite its high-tension sloganeering to this effect borrowed from the screwy Libya.
In Dr. Spio-Garbrah, Africans could discern that one of the gains of their emerging democracy is, it has allowed them to see their elites and leaders in the appropriate light. Dr. Spio-Garbrah reflects how the African has come to see how bigoted their elites are.
In all measure, it is the sort of elites like Dr. Spio-Garbrah that nurtured and propped them. In Dr. Spio-Garbrah, Ghanaians/Africans could easily infer the greediness, arrogance, moral weaknesses, irrationality and immaturity that characterized the Rawlings regimes and that has snowballed into the ruling NDC where there are almost permanent confusion and distraction that have affected not only the Mills presidency but also the entire Ghana.
As Dr. Spio-Garbrah exemplifies, Africa’s complicated problems are all about its leaders and elites. Ex-President John Kufuor, a veteran of African politics, has stated that Africa’s problems are heavily the result of its leaders and not its people. Dr. Spio-Garbrah is part of the leaders and the elites who are making life uncomfortable for Africans because their self-interest overshadow that of struggling Africans.