Feature Article of Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.
WHY THE $1.3 MILLION DON’T SMELL ROSY!
The payment of $1.3 million to an American lobbyists over a short period (Ref. Ghanaweb Jun 12, 2008), and no other than a woman who is now married to one of the famous Bishops and pastors in Ghana, and whose new wife was introduced to the President in a ceremony, leaves many with eyes open and ears wagging, asking what is going on?!
Politicians do strange things, but public service still requires scrutiny by others. There are some who have argued and suggested that the world is a tough place, a competitive place, and that in a competitive world, whatever a person does to take advantage of others and build wealth is fair game. Whiles human organizations such as nations have been found to have this group think, in public service that selfish mindset should not be tolerated. We all know what world that mindset has led to among nations claiming to be great. In Business and Economics there is a term coined to justify this, called SCA - Strategic Competitive Advantage. Humans seek advantage of each others and compete in business, in sports, and in trade, and it appears that in Africa we always seem to be on the short end of the negotiating stick, perhaps a symbol of a culture gone archaic and not awakened enough, or perhaps due to pure greed of our leaders and public officials.
Recent revelations on the GLU (Ghana Leadership Union) Forum by Prof. Michael Gyamerah of Ken Silverstein’s report in the Los Angeles Times (March 4, 2004)depicting how one African-American woman, a former US Employee and government executive attached to handle issues on Africa, formed a consulting company right after leaving her job and was paid $1.3 million over a 2 year period by the Kufuor administration is newsworthy. It deserves more than a casual comment by some of us on our forum. It deserves perhaps an investigation. Investigation? I should perhaps add a big “if”, and that is, if we had a functioning Speaker of the House and Attorney General who had any independent status as ethical men working to serve the people of Ghana in such matters. The Attorney General of Ghana was quoted recently as bragging at a conference that Ghana under the NPP does not have any political corruption because no MP or Minister has ever been prosecuted. Perhaps what the man did not know was that no Attorney General of Ghana in recent memory had had a clear job definition.
The ETHICS of RELATIONSHIPS There is a famous phrase in America that what a man and woman do in their own bedrooms is none of government’s business. These days when men and woman are claiming to be the same, some argue in America that the term should be changed to reflect modern times, and whatever two consenting parties do in a bedroom is none of the governments business. In a busy world, some news reports deserve sitting down with attention to ponder, especially when this one further reveals it is that same woman, Rosa Whitaker, who was introduced to the Ghanaian President Kufuor a few years ago in a public affair, as the new wife of a “man of God”, Bishop Duncan Williams. Some will recall that it is the same Duncan Williams, a man appointed or taking the title as Bishop of this one-center gargantuan and impressive Ghanaian Church, and who commands a very huge and respectable congregation, who around 2005 time had just left or was leaving his long standing wife, a woman who was co-pastor of the Action International Church (off Spintex Road in Accra). The details may be left to the bedroom. However, there was a major national and sad rumor-filled scandal! This writer happens to be in Ghana at the time and had chosen that Church to attend service at that time for the first time when this news was part of the sermon and prayers. Anybody who grows to be our age (I saw Kwame Nkrumah live as a child – so you guess!) knows that when a man professes “no time” for his wife of many years, but has time for other women, there is something fishy, either from the wife, or with the man, or both! There is nothing in-between. Period!
Folks, it is not that $1.3 million is such a major investment if it did achieve something we could not otherwise achieve. After all we are a proud African nation who pride ourselves in ignoring an accumulated debt of $8 billion and building a Presidential mansions for $60 million and spending over $30 million in 50 year holiday parties. No matter how we think, leadership should involve ethics, and ethics should involve the use of other peoples’ money, the taxpayers of Ghana! Else no man should stand up and say society should give him the mandate. Period! This writer has argued and suggested that the laws governing public crimes in Ghana should be ten times more rigid for public officials who use their offices to deceive and to cheat and steal from common public funds. In fact some may recall that there has been a creditable argument put forward to consider the death penalty and even some of the legendary disciplinary methods ascribed to Chaka Zulu of South Africa. In the latter, which some say was uncivilized, one may recall that corrupt or offending public officials were hanged on stakes in public as a major deterrent in this most famous African empire. It worked!
SO WHEN? Due to long decades of “waiting to exhale” (if you don’t mind the expression from the movie of that name) on Ghanaian and African politicians to do the right things for their people, this writer had developed some philosophy over the decades that might be of interest to the young to ponder for the future of our society. Every society is built by her people, and we have so far failed in the last half century despite the academic achievements or what appears as empty “book-long” (as Kofi Wayo would put it). We need to note that this is the same time that it took for smaller nations like Singapore to move from a third-world to a first-world status, according the UN Economic and Human Development indices and definitions. Our leaders are selfish and greedy and the men and women who were sent overseas were forgotten, not as a part of the investment equation in rebuilding the nation, per the vision of the founders. Every decision we make to elect a new leader must reflect our fundamental needs first, and perhaps our effort should be made towards finding a strong means to seek redress from our leaders, and recall them from office if found incompetent, corrupt and non-performing as leaders other than waiting 4 years to un-select them. By that time they are so rich and powerful, and bribe delegates and even the electorate. Democracy with bribery of delegates is no democracy! For a young nation, that time is too long and we must find other solutions. Prof. George Ayittey of American University has suggested in some of his books (Ayittey: Indigenous African Institutions) that Africans had systems of governance that were working before we adapted the white man’s systems. As much as many may not agree in all, there is merit in self analysis if after 50 years our African leaders are still unable to practice the modern method and are confused about the old systems. President Kufuor of Ghana realized in June 2008, after almost 8 years practicing what some brag as one of Africa’s best democracies, that it was good to have phone numbers for citizens to call to complain when they have grievances or complaints about government services! What a discovery in leadership, after our Oxford and Harvard degrees! Huh! So When? God, when? When can our leaders realize they are elected to serve the people?
LEARNING and POOR JUDGMENTS In life, we all learn from others. There is nothing wrong in seeking the assistance of others to open closed doors. However, within that culture, even in Washington DC, often lie political corruption and insider trading. Ghanaian officials would rather avoid Ghanaian experts overseas for obvious reasons of fraudulent thinking. Were it not for the poor vision and self centered thinking of our leaders, why do we need a foreigner to promote us and make appointments for us to see American business persons, or to receive grants allowed by the US government, after 50 years of knocking at the doors of progress and to open doors of civilization and trade? Why, when in fact we have hundreds of men and women trained and well versed in American business and socio-culture, as well as paid Embassy and Consulate staff? Could we not have hired three full time lobbyists under the management of our Embassy at $80,000 per year each, for a few years! Why does America not use consultants to see Presidents in Japan, Europe, Africa and the rest of the world to promote their products, but use hired local staff to do such work?
One may recall that when President Kufuor came to power, he hired a British Consultant group to “turn around” Ghana Airways. After some three years and over $15 million spent on consultants, Ghana airways folded leaving a bag with a debt of over $150 million for the poor taxpayers of Ghana to bear.
Again President Kufuor and his government continued a mistake made by the NDC government in hiring Malaysian managers to manage Ghana Telecom. The NPP rather abrogated an NDC-originated contract, lost some millions of dollars of the taxpayer money in a court battle and then hired a Norwegian consulting group and paid them many times what Ghanaian Engineers and Managers would receive. The Norwegians left with no appreciable increase in subscription rates, quality or reliability improvement in the services of Ghana Telecom – except a few wealthy connection men who made billions on cellular phone technology without laying one inch of fiber optic or other lines that will help build Ghana’s backbone infrastructure!
Again let us recall that in 2001 when President Kufuor was new as President, he had proposed paying a British Consultant some 3,000 British pounds as consultant about leaning up Accra.
SELF IMAGE What all these depict to others is a President with low self image, lack of faith in his own people, or simply a man who has no clue what modern technology and productivity in modern civilization implies and the capabilities of his own human resources globally.
The old chest-thumping African pride some of us saw in our culture while growing up occasionally stands in the way of many of us learning and admitting that our leaders have failed. Poor judgments have been made by our leaders and they need to be investigated and if need be indictments brought to bear. However with non-performing sleeping Attorney Generals and Speakers of the House or Parliament, unable to act unless the President shouts, and with a President who is hardly awake, progress in Ghana is in dire trouble. It will be a very naive person who would suggest or imagine that African governments are being managed by well-meaning Presidents and leaders for the interest of the people. Even where huge signs of freedom and democracy have been painted, inscribed and written as constitutions and other documents, this issue comes to question. Ethical and moral issues and lack of discipline and enforcement of laws has become commonly acceptable culture in Ghana. We are talking about a nation where the President and his Ministers can vote for interest-free loans to themselves to buy cars, $90,000 to buy a Mercedes Benz for the Speaker of the House, $450,000 orders of bullet-proof Toyota Landcruiser vehicles for the President, $100,000 and over to renovate their residences, and are not able to account for $603 million in loans and grants to build rural and urban water for the citizenry! This is the state of societal ethics in Ghana!
The funny thing to note is that these same Ministers thump their chests with pride and build huge metal and poly tanks as water reservoirs powered by motors in their houses to supply water! What educated men! They should check the bottom of these water reservoirs after a few months to see the message written “Thou Fool, tonight thy Soul may be taken of thee”, as God told the arrogant rich man in the Bible. Selfishness, greed, and simple stupidity, therefore are not unusual factors to consider when it comes to such issues of our Ghanaian and African public service.
I wrote this for our forum and will share a modified version.
THE TWG CONSULTANCY ISSUE So what was in this deal for the President and his Ministers who chose to ignore the Trade Attache and Consulates in our Embassies, who have inadequate or no brochures to give potential visitors and investors, but rather can spend $1.3 million of our peoples money on consultants? Come ooon! Guys and gals! How much was the price of services inflated to benefit the President and his Ministers in this deal? Don’t let us pretend anymore on our social ethics.
During the Rawlings era, Finance Minister Kwame Peprah, Deputy Selormey, and others allowed an African-American woman from Atlanta, described by the Ghanaian Chronicle as “bosomy” and with “contacts in high places in the Ghana government”, to dupe the government of some $20 million. Rosa Whitaker of the Whitaker group is arguing that $1.3 million in consultation fees is small potatoes. Maybe she is right, in an in America with a trillion dollar economy. The African American woman said she acted as Consultant, lobbyist, and front person to get access to President Bush, set up meetings for President Kufuor, provided access to the American government and helped sponsor or implement a legislation called the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). There is no doubt she needs to be paid. The general access to the global conglomerate world of greed usually ascribed to Washington DC, USA, deserves some public comments from some of us.
However, once again I ask: What is one’s first impression of a woman who marries a married Bishop or for that matter any prominent man, when the man has been married, presumably happy, for a long time!!
We all learn as we grow, but that woman Rosa may have a nice smile but may not smell rosy to most. What was that all about Duncan Williams going to the Castle to introduce his new wife? Does Kufuor smell Rosy to you either? We all know now Kufuor will do anything to score political points and acclaim! It appears there is no better politician in Ghana than Kufuor, when viewed in context. The man knows how to get away by manipulating our weak fama-Nyame (give-it-to-God) culture.
Look, for Rosa and others, nothing against you personally. There is a con-game going on in Ghana why $603 cannot deliver water, and until you and I take the nice rosy glasses off of life, we may never see anything wrong, just that the water does not come through the pipes! I have been watching Judge Judy on our America TV and I see how she doubts everybody, even after they have been sworn in. You wonder why! For those at home not aware, Americans can lie, cheat on their taxes, steal and take bribes like any others in the world. They are no better than you and I in the rural African villages, and perhaps even worse due to the desire and nature of the struggle for materialism in their Western society. That is why they insist on accountability of public officials and have video monitoring cameras at even Drug Stores. Can Kufuor and his Ministers show the public where the $103 million World Bank grant (Jan. 2005) and $500 Million loan (Jan. 2006) were used for?
Folks, many may not trust that Rosa Whitaker woman, especially married to that Duncan Williams preacher-Bishop man, unless and until there is a better public disclosure. Being talented has never prevented crooks in public service! Too many crooks have caused us too much pain!
FACT is that it appears most parts of our Embassy or the Consulate Trade Attaché Staff are hopeless and useless. The Kufuor government should have been smart enough to call some of us who have lived in America for long, including NPP-USA Chairman Kofi Boateng and others, and asked for advice on how to turn our Embassies around to be productive. So far as most of us are concerned, the Embassies are useless and hopeless, some with as little knowledge of their host countries we are simply wasting our moneys!! Some even will take bribes right here in America to process Visas and papers.
According to many, to hire a consultant and pay her $1.3 million over a short period is merely part of the Kufuor administration incompetency and fraudulent practices and admission of failure in managing our Embassies and Consulates to do their work. It is amazing if Akuffo Addo, as foreign Minister had made any appreciable improvement in the services provided by these embassies.
Some of us especially this writer, like and have special relationships over decades with our African Americans and would love for them to integrate freely into our societies, so far as they don’t use their bosoms to negotiate at our expense (if we can cite Chronicle). First I find them more aggressive and courageous and that is good for global business. I find the Ghanaian leaders of late cowardly, showing less originality and simply following others dictates. We have seen enough. The African-Americans need us and we need them as working partners, sisters and brothers. We as black people need to learn to work together! Period! There is no doubt that the services of that woman, as others like her, are valuable considering the closed door lobbying culture already in Washington and what others call Western capitalist greed . However, in what capacity? Does she claim to be Ghanaian now that she is married to one and legally can claim so? The relationship with Bishop Duncan Williams, and with President Kufuor, unless anybody can tell and prove to us otherwise, does not smell rosy! In public life, unless well explained, anything that looks like a duck and walks like a duck must be a duck, as Senator and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton once said.