Whither Bound, Ghana?

Thu, 23 Apr 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa oasamoa@gmail.com

So what has really changed in Ghana since 1957??? Are we any ‘different’ than we were at the time of independence? How significant has our circumstance changed? And what has been the direction of the change (if any)? Do we still mine our natural resources (gold, diamond, bauxite) and export them so somebody else would add value and sell them back to us? Do we still export cocoa? And in what form is the cocoa exported? Do our market-women still sell their foodstuff from the floor? After 57 years, do we still subject our fellow human beings to the very dishonourable task of being ‘night soil carriers’? How do we dispose of our waste? I will leave these questions to the reader to ponder over.

Societies do evolve and one would hope that such evolution is positive. Different societies experience ‘evolution’ differently-revolutions, civil wars, natural disasters and many others. In many cases, societies (countries) that undergo any of these never remain the same. The French had a revolution and their society changed forever. America went through a revolution and the union never remained the same. So how did we (Ghana) go through a ‘revolution’ and still remain the same?? The ‘psychology’ of the Ghanaian has not changed one bit. We still lie and cheat when we can; we demand bribes everywhere (from Kotoka Airport to Aflao border). The GPRTU is corrupt, civil servants want their palms ‘greased’ before they perform duties for which they get paid every month; corruption has eaten through every facet of our society. Nobody is innocent and nobody is spared. One way or the other we have all contributed to the present state of the country. But we did have a revolution, so the question is what did the revolution change fundamentally in Ghana? We cannot discuss Ghana’s ‘revolution’ without talking about the man Rawlings. I have always held this view: that Rawlings was placed in a unique position to fundamentally change the direction of this country. Oh yes, he did change the country alright but, unfortunately, in the wrong direction. There has not been a figure (politician) as polarizing as Rawlings in the history of the country. Ghana has always been a ‘collection’ of different tribes that have found a way to co-exist in peace. In comes Rawlings and things have not been the same since. He has succeeded in pitching one tribe against the other and this uneasy tension that has been festering can now be felt in the atmosphere. I know there are those who would still want to deny this but the evidence is too strong to suggest otherwise. Recently it was reported that he went to Jirapa and whipped up anti-Asante sentiments. I have still not been able to comprehend what he meant so I will not repeat it. I have lived in Kumasi for so many years and for all those years, I observed the cordial relationship between Asantes and people of the 3 Northern regions. In fact Asantes, by and large, believe that their closest non-akan relatives are the people of the northern regions. There was this neighbour (an Asante woman) who would always call out to a friend of hers (a ‘northerner’) as ‘Tani’ and then he would respond ‘Asanteni. I must confess that I was caught off-guard the first time I heard the two of them. You go to Fante NewTown and right across from Dunkirk Clinic, you find the cargo truck drivers. Theirs have always been a collaboration between Asantes and Northerners and they’ve done just fine. But that is not the kind of picture Rawlings wants to see. For those who think that his marriage to Nana Konadu absolves him of any anti-Akan (Asante) inclinations, I would say they know nothing about the man. He had 11 years of unchallenged rule-no parliament and no recognizable political opposition. He could have ensured a fundamental change in our psyche but that did not happen. Another fellow, under similar conditions, succeeded in transforming his country (Malaysia) completely. Probity and accountability? We all know what happened to those two words. Rawlings initially set out to root out smuggling. Then a delegation from the Volta region met with him and told him, in plain language, that smuggling contributes a greater share to the Volta region’s economy and that any attempt to combat it would affect the people of the region directly. That was all that was needed to leave it alone. He’s had his turn and he did what he did. Would he, please, leave Atta Mills alone to also do his own thing? I am glad that Ghanaians, across the spectrum, are calling him out on this. If one listens to his diatribes, one would think that he (Rawlings) actually do believe that he is the best thing to happen to Ghana after ‘bread and butter’. And because he believes he was such as a wonderful ‘leader’ he thinks he has the right to tell Atta Mills what to do.

Is Prez Atta Mills going to take Ghana on a new healthy and prosperous path or is it going to be the same old story? So far his words and actions (or rather inactions) leave a lot to be desired. He recently went to Ho and practically told the people that they have Joe Gidisu (a son of the region) as the Minister for Roads and so they should be assured that their (Volta region’s) roads would be taken care of. I never knew that was the criterion for getting any development project done in one’s region!! Why, Prof Why!!

If the Eastern region has a lot of potential sites for tourism, do the people of the region need to have one of them (a son or daughter) become Minister for Tourism before any of these sites could be developed? So what should the Defense Minister do for his region and what happens to the others? A lot has already been written about the early days of his presidency, but I would look at a few as they relate to the future of politics in Ghana:

When a farmer (Kwame Marfo) from nowhere suddenly appeared from nowhere to claim responsibility for renovations in Kufuor’s house, I believe many Ghanaians were wiser and knew better. There was righteous condemnation all over against the move and rightly so! Did our politicians learn anything from that episode? Apparently not. About 20 leading members of the NDC, including the Minister of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak were reported to have flown in a chartered flight to Abidjan for the final match between Ghana and Congo, last month. When details of the trip leaked to the media, and subsequently Ghanaians, what was the ‘official’ response?? Déjà vu all over again. Enter one Kojo Bonsu. He jumps in to declare to Ghanaians and the rest of the world that it was his brilliant idea to cough up $ 12,000 (allegedly) from his own pocket to fund the trip. He wants us to believe that he woke up one early morning and decided to organize such a trip; so he contacted the following-Minister for Youth and Sports, Koku Anyidoho, Dr. Omane Boamah, Kwesi Ahwoi, and P.V. Obeng-and told them to get ready for a ‘free’ trip to Abidjan. There were others like Alex Segbefia, Ade Coker, and Jones Abu Alhassan. There were no questions asked. We are to believe that they all just said thank you and reported to the airport for the trip. Very interesting!!! And if we are to believe Kojo Bonsu, then the question would be why did he do it? Out of the goodness of his heart, I presume!! I believe Ghanaians know better and would treat it the same way they did with Kwame Marfo’s assertion. The sad truth is that these ‘cock-and-bull’ stories did not just start. Remember when Rawlings told us friends of his paid for the children’s education abroad? So as you can see, nothing has changed. The same old story over and over and over again.

Some people decided to come to the defense of Fiifi Kweetey during his ‘ordeal’ at the vetting committee. I did not know Mr. Kweetey needed anybody to defend him but anyhow, if in trying to defend him the only counterpoint is that J.A. Kufuor re-instated Dr. Anane after his ‘sexcapade’ then I would say the premise for the defense is weak, lame and mischievous. I believe there were only two people in the whole of Ghana who thought it was right or okay to bring Dr. Anane back-J.A. Kufuor and Dr. Anane himself!! In no other human endeavour is ‘perception’ as important as in politics. Perception was against Dr. Anane, period; it did not matter what the ruling from CHRAJ was. So it was wrong to bring him back and everybody agreed on that. So if one cites that instance to defend Mr. Kweetey, then I believe there is something wrong. There are lies and then there are lies!! You cannot lie about something as serious as a country’s gold reserves; especially not during the run-up to an election where passions are running so high. But NDC apologists would tell us that is nothing. Well, for me that is not even the issue with Fiifi Kweetey. I believe the economic problems facing the country are much bigger than a B.S.c in Economics. Dr. Duffuor as the substantive minister is the right choice. He would need a deputy who can compliment his knowledge and expertise. I don’t think Mr. Kweetey fits that bill. Prez Atta Mills may well want to give opportunity to our young people and that’s okay but our present economic problems do not offer us the luxury in engaging in political symbolism.

When Togbe Afede’s name came up in the transition team, there was quite an uproar against it. When it was reported that he might even be considered for the Bank of Ghana job, there were people in the financial sector who saw it as a bad idea. Somebody drew our attention to the fact that the Togbe owns a non-bank financial institution that trades on Ghana’s Stock Exchange. The Bank of Ghana has oversight responsibilities on the Ghana Stock Exchange. To this end there would be serious conflicts of interest should anybody in Togbe’s position (owner of a non-bank financial institution that trades on the Ghana Stock Exchange) be appointed as the governor. I am not in the position to know whether Atta Mills read that particular piece or not; what I do know is that he did not appoint the Togbe as the governor. Guess what he did instead! He, Atta Mills, decided to pull a fast one on us by appointing him, the Togbe, to the governing board of the Bank of Ghana. There is a problem with this appointment-perceived or otherwise. It has nothing to do with the personal integrity of the Togbe. It has to do with this same ‘evil’ called PERCEPTION. He cannot be associated with anything Bank of Ghana for as long as he owns and runs his company. He may find himself in possession of inside information that could affect his company one way or the other. To avoid any potential conflicts of interest, I would suggest the President takes another look at this appointment.

Day after day we are beginning to see how the President thinks and operates. There has been no fundamental change so far. He has four years to complete his first term. I can only hope that something new and different comes along. For now the question still remains, ‘Whither bound, Ghana?’

Written and Submitted on April 19, 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw