Feature Article of Saturday, 3 July 2010
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The other day, a good friend on whose website most of my articles also regularly appear, E-mailed to find out what I thought about the raging controversy over the alleged housing construction deal struck between the Atta-Mills government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and a South Korean construction company with a funny name that is represented by the letters STX. The deal itself, as criminally unimaginative as it appears, remains the least bit of my concerns. My concern has more to do with how it came about that our leaders totally vacated their capacity for common sense and none of my friends and relatives back home either wrote or called to tell me about it.
I have not been overly concerned because as a former African-American graduate school adviser opined to me some seventeen years ago, every nation of people gets exactly the caliber of leaders that it well deserves, be such leaders clinical megalomaniacs, pathological liars and dictators or a combination of all of the above, as it were. And in our time, we have had the liberal and erudite likes of Drs. K. A. Busia and Hilla Limann who, in retrospect, just like Dr. J. B. Danquah, the immortalized Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics, appeared to have both intellectually and philosophically been too far ahead of their time. And so like pigs with nuggets of gold and diamond thrown at them, we hurriedly and mindlessly dispatched these leaders with noetic fanfare; and now, we have had to live under the very democratic political dispensation they fervidly championed but which we stolidly chucked out to the proverbial dogs.
The curiousness of it all is that, for the most part, we neither seem to be rueful about the egregious errors of our past ways, nor wisely ashamed of having so fatuously and protractedly acted against our own best interests. Indeed, the tragic aspect of it all is that quite a remarkable percentage of our fellow countrymen and women remains stuck in abject denial. And so, yes, we appear doomed to reprising the errors of our political patriarchs, the loudest and most vacuous among them, till kingdom come.
Anyway, part of my delay in addressing the STX-NDC outrage hinges on the very painful fact that as Basil Davidson poignantly observed in his bio-historical classic about Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, titled The Black Star, Ghanaians appear to be too complacent and even seemingly deliberately stolid for their own good. Else, what would have caused Messrs. Atta-Mills and Mahama to so facilely presume South Koreans to be better architectural connoisseurs where Ghanaian taste in private housing is concerned? And also, the damning cultural and ethical implications of having citizens of an alien culture determine the shape and nature of one’s habitat in the specious name of modernization? The painfulness of this whole episode, and I hope such contractual foolery is abrogated in short order, for me, personally, as a bona fide Ghanaian of proud “Adanse/Adansi” stock inheres, of course, in the fact of my ancestors having been among the first in pre-colonial Ghana to have constructed houses with stones, and thus our quite functional ethnic descriptive.
I also don’t quite remember any of my ancestors inviting the Koreans to teach us how to weave our Kente-cloth, or even set up looms for us, even though these days our globally recognizable fabric of royalty is far more likely to have been manufactured in Korea than in Asante-Bonwire. The fact of the matter is that there is something both psychologically and psychically wrong with us as a people, and the sooner we come by a cure for these clearly curable ailments the better and prouder and normal human beings we are apt to become!
On an even more serious note, suffice it to observe that those who find the NDC-STX deal to be unpardonably outrageous must have been living on some alien planet during the last two decades, and more, as the Rawlings-led pseudo-revolutionary P/NDC set about the rather anti-social business of summarily dismantling the very industrial foundations of our country at giveaway prices, about the same method, I am expertly informed, by which the Mills-Mahama government forged its deal with STX. And so when Danquah Institute chief Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko highlights this national outrage in a perspicuously analyzed article titled “The Quest of the STX to Build a Better Korea with Ghana” (6/18/10), you can bet your proverbial bottom-dollar that Ghanaians, indeed, are in very deep trouble!
Still, this deal in which a far poorer Ghana suicidally attempts to bail out “an Asian industrial miracle” is not without precedent in the Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party, which once offered a fabulously generous supplier’s credit to an Eastern-European country for capital equipment which were either never supplied on time or even never at all (See Kwame Arhin’s The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah). It is all too predictable, therefore, that such an outrageously unimaginative venture would be embarked upon by people calling themselves proud “Nkrumacrats.” The blame, however, must be directed at the Ghanaian electorate, at large, as well as recklessly cynical politicians like former President J. A. Kufuor who, in the run-up to Election 2008, named then-Candidate Atta-Mills to the highest encomium category of the land.
The scandalous implication here, of course, was that the electoral triumph of the presidential candidate of the then-ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) would undesirably detract from the “heroic achievements” of the “Gentle Giant.” I don’t know what Mr. Kufuor must be thinking about the NDC-STX Affair; I simply hope that such thought is thoroughly devoid of regret. Still, directly or obliquely, Mr. Kufuor cannot claim total innocence of this villainous attempt by Messrs. Mills and Mahama to mortgage at least 10 years’ worth of Ghana’s oil wealth for the pittance of 200,000 units of two- and three-bedroom homes over the span of 5 years at $ 10 billion! Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership’s executors have been reading and interpreting “Tenure Kufuor” in much the same manner that I have been doing.
I am also heartened by the frontal approach adopted by the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), although the move appears to be more predicated on outright desperation than anything else, in view of the almost apologetically plaintive tenor of its suit/petition before the Mills-Mahama government. In other words, why would GREDA president Dr. Alex Tweneboah plead for a “sit-down” with the government in order to “jointly consider a [Korean-inclusive] alternative to the STX deal, almost as if the anti-local development NDC government was justified, in the first instance, in single-mindedly forging its scandalous deal with the Koreans? Was the government neither aware of the presumable primacy of GREDA in the development of Ghana’s housing market and industry nor the indispensability of local architects and artisans in the development of our country?
Most likely, the government’s decision to ignore GREDA has something to do with our generally lackadaisical work ethic as a nation, something that Mr. J. A. Kufuor, as sitting president, incessantly lamented. In brief, as a people, we are inexcusably lax in our work habits even as we rail to the contrary, given the shaft. And so maybe it is about time to begin doing a serious assessment of why Ghanaian entrepreneurs routinely lose out in contractual bids to foreign firms. Or is it just that we are still in the self-alienation stages of our post-slavo-colonial traumatic stress syndrome (PSCTSS)?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a former book-review editor of The New York Amsterdam News and presently sits on the Governing Board of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI). Okoampa-Ahoofe is also the author of 21 books, including “Ama Sefa” (iUniverse.com, 2004). E-mail: email@example.com. ###