Unpresidential Insults

Thu, 8 May 2014 Source: Asare, Kwaku S.

S. Kwaku Asare

Why should Kumasi residents, or for that matter anyone, be grateful to the President, or any public official, when he inspects ongoing projects in that city? The people of Ghana, including Kumasi residents, hire and compensate the President to engage in these activities and owe no gratitude whatsoever merely because the President performs his functions.

It is because of this that President John Mahama’s recent reference to Kumasi residents as an ungrateful lot is an unprecedented, unnecessary, and unpresidential gratuitous insult that should be roundly condemned by all well-meaning citizens.

Quiet apart from the glaring offensiveness of the President’s remark, it also betrays a very dangerous paternalistic mindset that has bedeviled the country’s financial administration. That is, a mindset where the President is the owner and sole distributor of the country’s resource envelope with beneficiaries expected to show gratitude for his generosity. In fact, while visiting the DIHOC shoe factory, the President instructed the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Trade and Industry to take steps to roll out free shoes for school children. Never mind that is only parliament that can appropriate funds. Never mind that the government can barely meet payroll. The President has decreed that free shoes be given to children and so shall shoes be distributed. Under this phantom budgeting system, the President will naturally expect school children and others to show gratitude. Of course, when the President reminds the nation that Kumasi has been bad, it is also a subtle reminder to the rest of the nation not to emulate Kumasi’s example as he has the power to withhold resources from them.

The President’s attack on Kumasi residents appears calculated to undermine the unity of the country. For when he says Kumasi residents are ungrateful, he is implying that non-Kumasi residents are more grateful and Kumasi residents should take a cue from their more grateful brethren. Alternatively, non-Kumasi residents should be aware that he is siphoning resources to these ungrateful, perhaps underserving, Kumasi residents and call them to order. This is the politics of divisiveness that our nation can ill-afford.

As the father of the nation, the President has a solemn responsibility to preserve the unity of the country. Carving out parts of the country and exposing those parts to ridicule is antithetical to preserving the unity that the country has enjoyed for many years. The President’s words are analogous to a polygamous father who labels the children of one of his wives as ungrateful. The President must understand that when he insults any group of Ghanaians, he insults all Ghanaians.

To be sure, Kumasi residents owe no gratitude to the President for doing his job. But exactly what does the President want Kumasi residents to be grateful for? In the President’s words, “we have inspected ongoing renovation works on the runway of the Kumasi Airport. We are fixing instruments at the Airport to allow for both day and night flights. We have also inspected the DIHOC Shoe Factory where there are new machines for producing footwear for the military here in Kumasi.”

REALLY? Does this Balance Sheet that warrant gratitude? Perhaps, the President should consult with his finance minister to ascertain how much, in taxes, Kumasi has paid for these inspection projects! Let us bring some seriousness to the Presidency!

The President is, however, correct in concluding that Kumasi residents are dissatisfied with his performance. But it is not just Kumasi residents who are dissatisfied with his performance. Ghanaians everywhere (home and abroad, on the streets and on the world wide web) are dissatisfied with the state of the nation. Daily, they are reminded of a ballooning national debt with no corresponding tangible investments.

Au contraire, the past few years have seen an escalation in the poverty rates across the country, even as few Ghanaians connected to the President, continue to benefit from questionable contracts and practices. Alas, the President has, thus far, failed to utter a word on the massive leakage of state funds at GYEEDA, SADA, SUBAH, etc. while he attends church services with some of the SADA beneficiaries.

Rather than gratuitous insults directed at the good people of Kumasi, who include Ghanaians from all walks of lives, the President should break his silence on these massive frauds and perform his functions as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer by prosecuting all the fraudsters.

The cedi is tumbling; unemployment is at an all-time high; inflation is rampant, the country lacks water, electricity and toilets (WET). The President should roll his sleeves and attend to these pressing issues. The country is becoming fed up with the President’s nationwide tours that culminate in promises that never get fulfilled; the commissioning of minor projects that should be left to DCEs; and cutting the sods of white elephants (e.g., Hope City).

A good President NEVER insults the citizens who pay his compensation package. A good President NEVER insults the very people that he is supposed to lead but has impoverished. It is time for the President to provide leadership that unites rather than divide. It is time for the President to provide leadership that builds rather than destroys.

Kumasi residents do not need roads tarred with gold. They need WET, Mr. President.

Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.