Interview with working MP - Ken Ohene Agyapong
Honourable Ken Ohene Agyapong is the MP for Assin North in the Central Region
MR. CNN: CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF, WHERE YOU WERE BORN AND HAD YOUR EDUCATION?HON. KOA: I was born in my village/town Assin Dompim, very close to Assin Fosu in the Central Region. My primary education was in my village. I had my high School education, 1976-81 at Adisadel College and 1981-83, Winneba Secondary School. I first went to Germany, 1983-84. I also attended Fordham University, 1994-1996.
MR. CNN: HOW LONG DID YOU LIVE IN AMERICA BEFORE RESIDING IN GHANA?HON. KOA: I first came to America in 1984 and left in 1996. Since 1986, I had been going back and forth up until the year 2000 and started serving my country in 2001. I have quite a few projects in Ghana and America as well. I personally believe in business more than politics. I always say that I unfortunately became a politician because I didn?t think of it. Friends convinced me. People were approaching me all the time and asking me to serve my nation. I decided to wear the mantle and see how best I could help my people and here we are today.
MR. CNN: WHAT IMPRESSED YOU TO BECOME A POLITICIAN?HON. KOA: I will say as I made a statement earlier that people were approaching me all the time to become their leader in my district or constituency. I decided to become a politician when I saw a lot of people in dire need coming to me for assistance and I could not do it. I said if I were to be a leader of this people, I would be able to fight their causes so let me go ahead and take over this position so that I would be able to help them one way or the other because money is not the only thing to offer . Sometimes you can use influence, sometimes if you were a parliamentarian, you know the ministers, you know people in position of trust, you can push them or plead with them to develop your area. That is exactly what I am doing. As a result of the demands for my area, there is no way my money could have done anything for them. But being a member of parliament, I am able to articulate the views of my people and get their needs for them.
The interesting part is representing a community or a society where they look up to you to deliver at least not everything but about 50-60% of their needs and as a politician, that is what I am striving for. I am always out there fighting for the needs of my people. I come from an unfortunate and rural constituency where about 90% of our villages have no electricity. I have to go out there and push so that they are all connected to the national grid. I am happy that last year, we had about 36 villages with rural electrification under construction and the people are happy. I believe this year or this term, I am going to continue and by that time we should have a minimum of 80 villages connected to the national grid. Some feeder roads are to be constructed, others including Fosu, my district capital which is now an urban city so I am hopeful that I will get most of all the roads tarred for them. Just to leave a legacy for others to emulate.
MR. CNN: WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS AS A POLITICIAN IN TERMS OF CONTRIBUTIONS MADE TO YOUR CONSTITUENCY?HON. KOA: What makes me proud is when I am there and see young men and women that I have given scholarships to. As a matter of fact, during the last 4 years, I have given 67 scholarships. The first year, I gave 41 scholarships. In 2001, I gave 41 students scholarships to go to secondary schools and some did not do well so I withdrew their scholarships. I had 24 students and I am happy to say that 14 students out of that number are going to the university this year without any political influence but because of their good grades.
They are going to the university and it is unprecedented in the history of my district. These exclude people/parents who were able to afford their children?s school fees. Parents who could take their own children to high school are different from the ones I gave scholarships to.
We have a minimum of about 40 students from my constituency entering the university this year. I feel proud that there are two boys who had 6 A(s) each. Among the two boys, one?s mother sells porridge in the morning on the street, the other?s father is a watchman at Assin Fosu district and you could tell from their backgrounds that there was no way these kids could have gone to the university because they could not have afforded it. I am also proud to say that the one whose mother sells porridge had 7 (A)s when he was in the second year at secondary school and now he is in the university while his own classmates are waiting to enter into the university. I think with all that I have done for my constituency, I feel so proud of myself for assisting these poor ones to go to the university. I would say education is my greatest achievement because when I took over, there were about 70 schools that were in very bad shape. I have been able to put up from my own personal money six classrooms and about three of them for three villages. I also pushed the government and we have been able to put up in all 31 schools in 4 years out of the 70. They are in good shape and I feel proud of that.
MR. CNN: WHAT ARE YOUR FAILURES AND STEPS BEING TAKEN TO REACH THOSE GOALS?HON. KOA: I would say that I have not been able to do everything 100% therefore I should accept that I have failed in certain areas. When it comes to development, i.e. feeder roads, I did not do well because anytime I approach to do the feeder roads they were not able to assist me. I could not do well. In fact I lost in most villages because of feeder roads. This time it is going to be my target.
Again personally my failures or shortcomings would probably be going to Ghana with a typical American style that I have been so aggressive. I think it is not good for the society there. They don?t seem to understand why I am aggressive on certain issues and especially criticizing my own government. I have been getting a lot of lashes for criticizing my own government while other people also appreciate me criticizing my own government. But I would say as a human being, I have to work on my temper, personally that is my shortcomings. Sometimes I come out instantly to give response to certain issues and probably the extent I go offends other people. I would admit that I need to work on my temper.
MR. CNN: YOU HAVE MANY PROJECTS IN PLACE IN YOUR CONSTITUENCY AND HAVE MADE A GREAT CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR PARTY, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?HON. KOA: It is so funny that you asked such a question. In Ghana, we find it difficult to accept facts. Some people feel as Americans would say ?You are blowing your own horn?. That is how they perceive me. When you do something and come out and talk about it, they feel you are blowing your horn.
I would say when we first took over in the year 2001, I remember an incident that happened in my constituency, a bursar of one of my secondary schools was killed by armed robbers and when I visited the scene, I realized that it was not too far from the police station and they could have saved this man?s life. There was no telephone and no police vehicle. Within three days, I bought a vehicle with my own personal money for the Fosu Police. Then I said to myself that we needed communication lines in this constituency. As I speak to you now, we can even phone in and people are happy. Even people in my village that never dreamt of having Spacefon are all using Spacefon because we have communication lines now.
I have talked about education and the rest. I have employed many people. I gave about 700 farmers, 700 million cedis to cultivate rice. I have built a rice mill that cost me about $450,000.00. Unfortunately we don?t have enough paddies to mill. The machines and factory as a whole are ready to roll but we don?t have enough raw materials that is; the paddies to mill.
When it comes to my party, probably this is where I have problems. In the society that we are, some of the members don?t want to know what you did, they feel they have to come out and say it. I hope you don?t mind if I decline to speak about my achievements with regards to my party.
MR. CNN: Alright, that is acceptable.
MR. CNN: WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF, ASSIN NORTH AND GHANA IN GENERAL IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS?HON. KOA: During the last term, I did well by promoting Assin because I had the opportunity to be on radio a minimum of twice a week. During the times I was on radio and I mentioned my constituency and my village, people were wondering where those areas were. First people did not see it on the map and now people are visiting Assin Fosu. This term my dream is to expand the businesses in Fosu especially the market on Tuesdays and Fridays by putting up a lot of stores and encouraging others to move there and trade with the people.
We have water and I am proud to say that this time we have been given 7 million dollars to construct or rebuild Fosu water. We have to do a lot to attract people to stay permanently in Fosu. There are some infrastructures I am putting in place; get the water system done, upgrade the electricity and then complete the telephone landline system. We have a TV booster. Prior, the people could not even view whatever news that was being broadcasted. Now we have a very good booster that can even supply a radius of about 70 kilometers. We have these things put in place that they are probably waiting for me to open the TV station. We are also setting up a radio station so that people can hear our voices. Over all, we have set a lot of things in place, my chief executives and me.
I believe in the next 4 years the roads will be completed. Fosu Township has been on the drawing board for almost 3 years and this time I am pushing that within 2-3 years, they should be done. We have one major road that links Fosu to Twifu Praso. It has been on the drawing board for ages. Thank God now we have a contractor constructing the road and tarring it. I believe there would be an influx of people when this road is completed. It will encourage businesses in the area.
MR. CNN: YOU ARE ALWAYS HEARD ON THE RADIO i.e. PEACE FM, YOU AND OTHER MINISTERS HAVE CRITICIZED GHANAWEB IN THE PAST, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GHANAWEB?HON. KOA: I will be honest with you, I did not like certain publications on Ghanaweb but later on I got to know that probably it is the fault of my own government because if a newspaper puts an article on the web or the internet and we don?t respond we don?t blame Ghanaweb for it. Initially I did blame Ghanaweb because when you go to BBC?s web site, you see great stories they publish about Ghana. When you come to our own web site; Ghanaweb, you see the stories published are more of a negative aspect about Ghana but I realized Ghanaweb is fed with information (the source of the articles show that). Whatever is sent is what is featured. As such I would not blame Ghanaweb now because I did not know.
We also have to do our homework well and respond to some of these allegations. A word that I don?t want to use, I have been criticized for using that word all the time but I feel they sometimes try to be very diplomatic about issues which goes against us. If there is something on the net and we feel it is not the truth, then as a government, we have to come out and let the whole world know the side of our story and not keep quiet. There is a saying that goes like; silence means consent. If you don?t respond, you don?t expect anybody to know the truth. Because you are in government, you know the truth and if you don?t come out and respond, I am afraid you cannot blame Ghanaweb. This time we are going to be very aggressive. Honestly, until I came here and my children were asking me certain questions which I did not know where they were getting them from and they told me they got them from Ghanaweb. Previously I was not even reading news from Ghanaweb and since my children started asking questions that is when I have been always visiting Ghanaweb.
What I am saying is that in Ghana and honestly speaking, I am not ashamed to say that most politicians do not even go on the web to see what is there so it makes it difficult to even respond to some of the allegations. If I had not spoken to you, I would not have known even how to respond to some of these allegations. The truth of the matter is most of us; do not go on the web to read what is there so that we can respond. We always get feedback from people abroad and that is what is happening.
Another issue is that the reason we have been ignorant about these issues on the web is that, the publications from i.e. Palaver, Democrat, Lens and the rest, they are not popular in Ghana. People don?t read them but that is what they do. They are smarter to put it on the web for people to read and it is assumed that is what is happening or prevailing in the country. As a government, we should do our homework well and respond to some of these allegations by making sure that every blessed day we have people there reading everything on the net so that we can respond.
I think I have been a harsh critic of Ghanaweb but now I know that we are not doing our homework well. Therefore I will not blame Ghanaweb for whatever publications they put on the net.
MR. CNN: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING MPs IN THE DIASPORA AND THE FUTURE POLITICIANS WILLING TO TAKE A CHANCE TO BE IN GHANA POLITICS?HON. KOA: Well I would say it does not take a day to be a politician in Ghana especially when you have been away for so long. You need to get in touch with your people. You need to frequent your constituency, go there, visit the people and get in touch with them. You don?t just go by saying that ?I am from America and I have come to my hometown. Let the people know you are concerned about their problems, their plights and you have to be with them. You don?t go out and put on a suit and expect them to accept you as one of them. Most cases you have to put on a pair of shorts, just assess their lifestyle and get involved. Let them know you can change their lifestyle and other things for them. Trust me it is not going to be easy going from America to Ghana to win an election. You need to work at it, it takes quite a time. For those of us here in abroad if you have intentions of going into politics, you should make sure your money also goes there. Beside your money, you should have some influence to get NGO?s or some organizations to donate hospital beds and any assistance that you have to give your community. These are some of the things they look out for and say this is our man who can speak for us; this is a man who can help us get whatever we want.
My advice to colleagues/friends - abroad who are interested in future politics in Ghana, is to go out there, you have to go home, get yourself involved in all activities and let the people appreciate you and I believe in no time you will become their favorite and they will vote for you.
MR. CNN: This is the end of the interview Honorable Agyapong. Thank you very much for the insight you have given us. I am deeply honoured to have this opportunity to interview you. Also the fact that you were able to tell us that you admitted, that the government is not doing enough to defend whatever allegations on them that they read on the web. I am happy that you are going to be aggressive in this endeavor to make sure that people know the other side of the story.
HON. KOA: I would say a big thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my views but one thing I will also say is that as a member of the media, we politicians also expect you to verify. It is important that Ghanaweb take care of some of its publications that are so negative that it does not go against NPP as a party but goes against the nation as a whole. I plead with you to sometimes use your discretion. Although you have been fed with information, the same way you expect us to verify and react, we also entreat you to verify some of the stories before you put it on the web. I think it would do us a favour and help the country move forward as well as your business. Thank You.
Mr. CNN: You are welcome Honourable Ken Ohene Agyapong.
Acknowledgement: Honourable Ken Ohene Agyapong