Are these people true Ghanaians?

Sun, 5 Jul 2015 Source: Cameron Duodu

The first time I travelled outside Ghana was when Ghana was only one-year-old.

So, almost every immigration officer looked at my passport with a puzzled look on his face. Ghana? They looked into their books, where they discovered that an entry marked “Gold Coast” had been crossed out with red ink and replaced with ”Ghana”.

Even in Cairo, people who saw me in my Kente, surrounded me. I was rescued by a young lady who spoke English, and who told them that I came from ‘Ghana’, a new country in ‘Ahfrika’.

In the Soviet Union, too, I found great interest in my new nation. I was astounded to find that Moscovites were anxious to obtain my autograph, even though I was by no means the type of celebrity, such as film stars, from who autographs were collected.

In Tashkent, my admirers included a beautiful blonde, for whom I wrote:

Stop spinning round oh Earth!

Do create for me a new birth!

For I’ve met a girl called Lana

Whom I’d like to take to Ghana…. (blah… blah… blah).

Thus, when my turn came to mount the rostrum and speak about Ghana to the Afro-Asian Writers’ Conference in Tashkent, my heart was full of love; love for Ghana; love for Africa.

I told them how our people had met the first Europeans who came to our shores with – love. How our love had been mistaken for stupidity and our gold had been stolen to Europe; and how many of our people had been kidnapped and sent to North America and the Caribbean to labour as slaves who produced a vast amount of wealth for white people, who refused to let them share in the wealth created with their labour.

Now that we had won our independence in Ghana, we were determined to help the other Africans to liberate themselves; as writers, we would devote our art to the liberation of the whole African continent. And we hoped that the Russians, whose scientific achievements had enabled them to send an earth satellite into space called "Sputnik", would help us to achieve our objectives.

Now, in Russian culture, there is a special handclap given to performers who have pleased an audience. Instead of the normal scattered “pahpahpahpahpahpahpahpah!” that goes for applause, the special one is like this PAH!...PAH!...PAH!...PAH!... PAH!..PAH!...PAH!.... and continues for several minutes.

I swear if you’ve never experienced it and you get it for the first time, it can be most intoxicating.

So, I floated on air that day. Artists came to draw me for the newspapers. I was interviewed for radio and television about the new nation of Ghana. And inevitably, my feeling of pride in being born a Ghanaian, increased by leaps and bounds.

Of course those who have never felt such pride in the nation, Ghana, will never understand why some of us get so upset when our fellow citizens let our country down. This past week, I was enraged by two statements I read in our papers: first, our President’s declaration, to the chiefs of Bekwai, that he was above being “asked to provide toilets”:


President Mahama said it is common for chiefs to request the government to assist communities with the provision of toilet facilities, but emphasized that he has graduated from that and it must be handled by Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) in their respective jurisdictions.


Obviously, Mr Mahama may not have read that in the United States, for example, President Harry S Truman had a sign pasted behind huis desk that told visitors ‘’THE BUCK STOPS HERE!”

It wasn’t put there because President Truman did not know that his country had a Federal system under which each State was responsible for certain functions and that even in the Federal public service, a hierarchical structure ensured that bosses and underlings were expected to carry out certain functions under close supervision.

But Truman was saying, ”Hey, if things get so bad that a complaint about them reaches me here, then that will be the end of it – I shall make sure – by firing people if necessary – that the complaint is eternally removed!

Is that so difficult for President Mahama to understand?

The sort of stance taken by Truman about public matters in his nation is what it means to be President. If prodding him to do his job is too annoying to Mr Mahama, then we have to ask him: Sir, who forced you to sign your presidential nomination papers? What research did you do about the job description before you decided to "apply" for it? More important, who forced you to appoint such dead-wood-headed municipal and district officials into office as would ensure that chiefs would go over their heads to ask ”His Excellency The President” himself to provide their communities with toilets? How many has he sacked?

Does the President feel any shame that there are so many schools in Ghana without toilets? Or maybe because his father was a prominent politician whose standard of living was subsidised at public expense, he does not know how humiliating it is to be forced to carry out defecation in public, or under unsanitary conditions?

Sorry, Mr President: the chiefs would not have made their requests if they had not been forced by circumstances to do so! Their people are pressing them to improve matters for them, and they, as the spokespersons of their subjects, must make those requests known to your Government.

They have no intention of irritating you. Indeed, they would not have done so if the underlings you appointed close their ears to the people's needs, and rush about the country enjoying the fruits of office, in their luxurious air-conditioned "4 x 4" vehicles which the public purse has made available to them.

It is these underlings whom you have appointed whose lack of performance has forced you -- unwittingly -- to expose their inability to serve their communities, by drawing attention in such an unsavoury way, to the requests for toilets that you receive! Do you now see the necessity to prune most of them off with a sharp scythe? YOU are responsible for their continued employment.

So please remove the bad ones and appoint those who will not demean your high office. Let them know that it is not enough to meet the protests of the people with lofty but empty declamations of “I am an NDC man appointed by the President himself! Who said ‘Tweaaaaaaaah!’?”

The second statement that made my blood boil was one made by the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper: QUOTE: The Finance Minister, Seth Terkper has sought to clarify that even though Ghana is going through perhaps its worst power crisis, it is still a shining star in terms of access to electricity on the continent. “Let us remember that even during the period that we coined ‘dumsor’ and all that, Ghana has a record; the country has 72% access to electricity,” he remarked. He mentioned that when it comes to access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana is ranked second to South Africa “so we may not be too bad after all.” UNQUOTE

Now note that the words used by Mr Terkper to describe our electricity position were “access to electricity”. He used the phrase three times in the passage quoted. But was he being economical with the truth? You see, what most Ghanaians would have taken him to be saying, at face value, was that we were not so bad when it comes to being supplied with electricity, which is not the same thing as saying that we are not so bad because we have access to electricity.

Having “access to electricity” only means that installations exist which can ensure that you obtain electricity when electricity is available! It does NOT mean that you obtain electricity 72% of the time! Certainly the supply or provision of electricity means when electricity is being generated and sent to your home, office or workplace for you to use.

That is vastly different from “access to electricity”. One may have 100% access to a car and yet define one’s “means of transportation” as “90% by bus; 5% by train; 4% by walking; and 1% by car.” For ”access to” does not mean “usage of”. What is the use of a chop bar putting a sign in front of its door saying, "We are open till 6pm" when it always runs out of food by 10 a.m.?

Was the Minister being disingenuous? Was he deliberately misleading the public? Or did he not understand what his officials had been writing for him to read about our electricity situation? In either case, the statement denotes a deplorable situation: either we have a dissembling Minister or a Minister over whose eyes his own officials can pull the wool.

And as for the Daily Graphic, it pains me to the core of my being that it is so shallow these days that it can make itself the means by which a Minister can make such untrue claims to the public without being challenged. Is there nobody on the paper who could have made the distinction made here about "access" to electricity and the "availability" of electricity? The effrontery of naively reporting that the Minister "clarified" the situation! He clarified what? He rather mystified the public, perhaps with intent to further the propagandist agenda by which Ghana is being ruled these days. "Ghanaians are so stupid that they will buy anything a Minister says!" seems to be the underlying precept or principle of this agenda. Sad that the Graphic, an institution so empowered by public funds as to be capable of becoming a shining light to the rest of the media of Ghana, should prefer, instead, to take part in the charade of misinforming the public whilst pretending to enlighten it.

Well if the Minister thought that because he could fool the Graphic, he could also fool the public with his resort to semantics, he was wrong.

He was caught with his pants down by many contributors to "social media", who can see a fast one when it rears its head. These are some of the comments made on the Minister’s statement by members of an Internet forum (including NDC supporters!):

QUOTE: “Hmmm!... My wife says the only occasion she felt like killing [someone] was when mediocrity was capped [that is, rationalised away] with: 'This is Ghana!.' Just look in at the car park at the Bank of Ghana and … see First World cars and opulence. To cap it, Terkper's monthly emoluments are of course First World, while he defends Third World productivity. See why the middle cannot hold in Ghana!?" UNQUOTE =====

QUOTE: ”Are you [only] now learning that we specialize in mediocrity? We like comparing ourselves to those at the bottom of the heap!" UNQUOTE

QUOTE: “It is this type of thinking that is really killing us. [Does] having access to power equate availability of that power? … You have 72% access, better than most countries in Africa so it’s good to rest on your oars. But what is the actual energy production [or delivery] as a fraction [of] installed capacity (which is estimated to be about 17,000 GWh yearly), say over the last five years?” UNQUOTE

Yes, Mr Terkper, perhaps you’d better be reminded by Abraham Lincoln that: QUOTE: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool ALL of the people ALL of the time." UNQUOTE

Columnist: Cameron Duodu