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Feature Article of Monday, 20 August 2012

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

Political “Ashini” Waist Beads

Critical News, 19th August 2012

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Sigh of big relief, politics is back as the old funeral rite. Soon after the niceties were over, the NPP took the stage, spared the new President no punches and welcome to the school of hard knocks Mr. John Mahama. He is not that new to the jibes and salvos, but this is the hot seat and everything that goes wrong is your fault. If it goes well, it is to your credit too, whether you helped or not. So life has returned to near normal.

Except for the documentary or missionary piece running on Crystal TV. Mr. Crystal Dzirackor and his team at GHOne have decided to run a canonization piece for the late president. The video starts with the late President Atta Mills walking to the Pearly gates of heaven. He is lifted on to the staircase by helpers and held aloft by angels as he ascends to the garden of Gethsemane with the rest of the apostles. Then he rises above them to sit on the right side of God, where he will look after Ghanaians and supervise our deeds. Now we will win the World Cup, discover more oil and stop the sliding of the cedi. We will wake up one day and all our roads will be tarred, the potholes will have disappeared, the trash on all the side curbs would have gone and no longer will we have to work for a living. We will be fed with manna from heaven. Such is the force to be unleashed by the late President if Crystal TV is allowed by the Most Right Reverends to carry on this kind of nonsense. May a Christian please call me.
In the end, Samuel Atta Mills, son of the late president but not of his wife Naadu Mills, buried his father in a small ceremony in their hometown. Then a member of the Presidential Funerals Committee rebutted in an interview on Okay FM’s “Ade Akye Abia” Morning Show, that, “Mills’ son was not allowed to read his tribute at the state funeral because they were far behind time and most of the dignitaries were visibly tired and hungry”. Now, this makes a lot of sense because you can die from hunger in this country if you are a dignitary. What significance is it if a son does not get an opportunity to make a final tribute to his father? According to Deputy Minister of Information Agyenim Boateng, Samuel only had a small gathering of friends and family. A small party, no big funeral deal.
Martin Amidu had a run in this week with General Mosquito, NDC General Secretary. Not a very pleasant one, since he was questioning the selection of President Mahama as the presidential candidate for the NDC. Seems an internal constitutional issue needs resolving. The story will no doubt unfold in the coming weeks.
But top of the agenda for social commentators and in particular the Ghana Medical Association is the need for a coroner’s inquisition into the cause of the death of President Mills. They had a good technical argument for the call, but went back later to apologise. For calling for the right thing to be done? Herein lies our problems in Ghana. There is a part of this that is sensitive to the family, friends and Ghana culture. Above that is a need to ensure proper procedure and due process in all that we do within the legal framework of the country. Anybody dies under unclear circumstances, you need to ensure that the death was from natural causes. The law must apply to all persons. One of the late President’s favorite phrases was “it does not matter whose ox is gored”. He used this often when faced with human rights and corruption issues. Will it be made a political platform issue? It most certainly will, if the NDC team for the election appears to retain the same political DNA we see now.
With three and a half months to voting day, the Electoral Commissioner will present the voters register between the 5th and 10th September. I will go and check if my name and details are captured correctly and I hope all Ghanaians see the need. For me, every vote is so important, I want to make sure I am part of it whatever the challenge. Count down from 29th August for the 100 days to voting day.
And that would be adequate except we have a bit of a crisis with the 45 new districts the NDC Government is trying to bulldoze through Parliament. A simple matter, that has occupied Members of Parliament since we buried John Evans. Best to read the detail from this link, but here is my simple summary. A previous Legislative Instrument, LI183 was thrown out of Supreme Court earlier this year because it was flawed. Another, CI73, was drafted by the Ministry of Local Government, who had no authority to do so under the Constitution (only the EC is powered under the constitution to do this), but was bulldozed into committee hearings by the NDC majority. After 20 days, and on the penultimate day of sitting in Parliament before the CI could become legally binding, it had to be withdrawn because it was full of mistakes. Another CI has been presented, but will only mature if Parliament is recalled during the recess period to sit for 21 days. The NDC are pushing for the 45 districts to be created. But the legal status is such that the new CI is flawed because a pending case tied to this one in the Dangbe West Constituency is still unresolved.
The issue is three-fold and the arguments as I have heard them are, first that the NPP created new Districts and the NDC see no reason why they cannot do same. Two, the Constitution supports ensuring equality of development in all Ghana, so we need more Districts. Three, the NDC have identified the 45 districts clearly in areas where they have a significant voting advantage. This new CI is still error ridden and there are some implications for several constituencies.
My simple questions? If we get new Parliamentary seats, there are no physical seats in Parliament for them to use. Even with the existing Districts and Municipalities, we do not have enough funds to create jobs in the rural communities and stop the urban drift. The share of Common Fund has not grown any bigger. There is no time to do this. Besides, there is a suggestion from the Constitution Review Commission that we should elect our DCEs rather than appoint them. So why not wait and get all this together and also redefine how we create new Districts? We might have to change the parameters, maybe increase the population criteria, make the Districts larger, make their economic sizes more attractive with better taxation and other rate increases, give them more autonomy and take a very close look at the economic activities in the rural Districts.
Now we have a partisan accusation from the NPP that the EC and the NDC are in bed with this issue. Why? Oh why?. Common sense comes at such a premium in this country.
President Mahama gave a speech to the Nation. Former President Kuffuor gave a speech at the Liberty Lectures organized by the Danquah Institute. Both were political melodies, not memorable, recorded for posterity. The radio serial callers loved it, made media fodder out of both events, so the less said the better.
I love waist beads. This symbol of our African ness and charm, gives me a thrill. The Yoruba refer to it as “Ileke”, the Ga people call it “Ashin?”, many other societies name it affectionately and it has a marked significance in our culture. Some claim it is a charm and the way a woman’s bottom wiggles is influenced by her waist beads. Me I am aware of Ashin?. It has the power to attract and evoke deep emotional responses and to me it is a sign of confidence in a woman. Some women lace their beads with charm to make them irresistible to men. That is what I am looking for in our politics. Some confidence in expression of ideas, some boldness in the delivery and grandness of what we need. Build new stadiums, give my children free SHS education, clean the Korle Lagoon, yes! But, tidy the city, keep the traffic lights working, eliminate water and electricity issues? Stuff like that is a given. Any party that builds a street in Dansoman has done nothing. Build me a railway that will bring the cocoa to port faster, cheaper and more efficiently? Then you are talking. Put in measures to eliminate corruption? That is a nothing. I expect that to be in place as a standard. Our parties must cut the political claptrap and put some charm in their manifestos. Shake the program and excite me. Give me some beads to play with.
Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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