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Feature Article of Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

Oh Dear, Oh Dear JDM

Critical News, 18th November 2012

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

This has not been a comfortable week. We lost a humble man in Aliu Mahama and we buried him as a Statesman. Aliu, damirifa due. May your soul rest in peace.
I am niave, and I have to accept that a good education and decades of foreign exposure can be a handicap in ways. I hit this point last week, when I read that some persons in the NPP stronghold of Kwabre East constituency in the Ashanti Region were selling their ID cards to buyers of the NDC opposition for fifty cedis a pop. For some time now, I have asked friends, family and any strangers I can catch in a conversation, why we are all worried about the voters register because there is a verification system that will check any fraudulent id cards. I kept analyzing that even if you load the polling register with fictitious names, you must on voting day provide fictitious fingers with id cards to match. Because fingerprinting is unique, you cannot beat the system, which is true. Even if you bring children whose id cards say they are 18, on voting day, they are alone and can be quizzed by polling agents, so there is a built-in check at the point of stamping your vote. But I have now learnt that you can increase your vote by buying down the opposition’s vote. And I do similarly all the time in financial analysis. I advise clients that you increase your profit by either increasing your price or reducing your costs. Which is why Kwabre East has opened my naïve mind. I did not make the cross over into local politics. If you can keep the voter away from the booth, of course, they get fewer votes. For those of you who see this as simple, believe me, I did not think about it that way. One up for local content.
I am having a problem with our Ghana swagger, which is not supported by the substance of our society and infrastructure. I have tried defining this before, but I don’t think I was quite successful. We are very proud to trumpet our democracy as the lead beacon in West Africa and sometimes Africa. We keep portraying ourselves as a trade and financial hub in West Africa. We like to say we are not as corrupt as other neighbors, and we emphasise our peaceful co-existence in religious tolerance and ethnic cohesion. This is the GH swagger and even the youth buy into it. But our delivery is out of step with this swagger.
A few examples. Our banks have edifices built to international standards. The façade is more than the meat of delivery. Tellers have computers in front of them, yet they still go to the back office to confirm transactions. Half the time the computers do not work or are so slow, you spend half an hour before you cash a cheque. Then the ATMs do not work and if they do, you cannot get a receipt. We tout good governance, yet we have ex-convicts as heads of institutions and government boards. We cannot pass a Freedom of Information Bill, which has been on the drawing board for over a decade. We have a Representation of People law, which is not in effect. We have yet to decentralize properly, despite the fact that the law has existed for nearly twenty years. Roads, environment, music, you name it, it is not happening.
Best evidence is in all the wonderful glass creations housing Telcos, yet every time you listen to radio or watch television, the call drop-outs is like every caller. All the modern technology is from outside, yet we cannot make it work in Ghana. I will not mention dum so, dum so. We are serving ice kenkey in expensive china bowls.
I have issues with charismatic churches, I think they mislead their congregation and they offer fertile ground for false messengers with a bible and a flair for drama. But Reverend Dr. Mensa Otabil’s press statement against the NDC apparatchiks was a must-hold event. Clearly, the reverend minister had made those statements in the past, but the mischief by some NDC groups, (I suspect RaaP on this one as well as the JH Mensah one, which they have turned into a campaign message), to imply that his views on free education was contemporary, and what he labeled as evil, I think was off the wall. It was definitely mischievous and dirty politics, but I suppose as a minister of the faith, he saw evil in it. Of course the NPP loved it, they would like Mesa Otabil to say he is of their ilk, just as the NDC is doing all it can to prove dissent among the views of the NPP big-ups, and they see Otabil as NPP material.
But JDM’s response, I find irresponsible. To admit he is not in control of his campaign messages and strategy and therefore could not grant Rev. Otabil his wish to call the foot soldiers to book, is lame and unacceptable. These are his people, with Hannah Tetteh in charge. The dereliction of duty in such a major issue is not the way to reassure Ghanaians that you are in charge. That is his first Oh Dear.
Oh Dear, JDM, gave 12 Toyota land cruisers to the National House of Chiefs during the week to help them with their work. Each Chief received a land cruiser valued at over $65,000. I listened to panelists on Joy Fm’s Newsfile program as I usually do on Saturdays and I was most disappointed. Cardinal of all was the generous reasoning by my good friend Kweku Baako, that the luxury vehicles gift could be said to be for the Institution, not for the Chief. I wonder if there is any such institution in Ghana where the executive will allocate a $65,000 car for administration use. The timing, the positioning, the value of the item, the intention of his words, in an election year? Come on, this is a bribe, plain and simple. It is an attempt to bribe the Chiefs with an expensive toy and the people of Ghana by giving us the impression that JDM is exceptionally sympathetic to the plight of the Traditional Houses even though he is in a tasking election battle. If JDM truly intended to support the Councils with vehicles, why not give them four pickups each or some computers? Anything, besides luxury Land Cruisers. And Naa Prof. Nabila told him so. That Nana Akomeah as the NPP opposition person on the debate did not call it such was also very disappointing. We are in a democracy, when we see through the murkiness of political shadows and the opposition calls the Government on such matters.
Nana Addo is appealing to the Asantehene, JDM is pushing regional sentiment in the Northern Regions, he is also planning to meet with the Asantehene next week. Are we still engaged in ethnic politics? Not really, but we are evolving regional politics. Our regional, municipal and district devolution implies that we intend to give the districts and communities enough autonomy so they can decide their future. It is an administrative setup, which allows us to assign the destiny of their future to them. In this way, even if a Region is dominated by an ethnic group, it does not necessarily mean that we all belong to that group. Again we have very clear assigns for regional voting. Everywhere in the world is like that. Traditional strongholds. It is a selfish gene, it is a human gene.
That is why the collective strata do not meet the swagger. We want to be a certain type of person in a kind of country, with values we hope we can live up to. We dangle these virtues outside and ask them to judge us by our conduct. We disregard primarily that we the people in Ghana have to be recipients of that delivery before the world at large. President John Dramani Mahama promised Ghanaians at the last IEA presidential debate that the load shedding would end by the 15th November. On the 16th, my lights were out from 6.37am until 7.38pm. Did he lie or just promise because he felt sorry for his country folk? And now what next? Do we continue to believe what is said on the campaign every time?
But look, Hassan Ayariga is not alone. Akwasi Addae of the United Front Party gave him a run for his money on GTV’s alternate presidential debates. Akwasi, subsequently won the tornuu of the week on Joy Fm’s Weekend City Show. Paa kwesi Ndoum was clearly out-classed by the other three, he had no answer to the gunshots and salute to bad English. This could be a sitcom, but in case either Hassan or Akwasi becomes President, we could face fear and panic indictments. Probably, that is the sitcom there.
Oh Dear, DSP Tehoda got her wish in the cocaine to baking powder case. IGP Tawiah Quaye took advantage while all the big people were on the campaign trail and could not interfere, to remove Dedzo and Kofi Adzei Tuadzra from the CID. Thank you sir!
Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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