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Feature Article of Friday, 23 March 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

John Agyekum Kufuor – The Super-Statesman or villain?

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

20th March 2012

Ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor is many things to Ghanaians. The moot question to pose and conjecture about him is, ‘Is he a sagacious statesman or villainous villain?’ Kufuor, an Oxford scholar, fascinates a lot of people in Ghana. Since stepping down after a two term 4 year stint in office in 2008, he has been given a legion of honours around the world by being invited to august assemblies and institutions, not least his own alma mater of Oxford. Kufour now serves on prestigious foundations outside the shores of his native Ghana. He is indeed, the blue-eyed boy and darling of some eminent foreign institutions. What about his perception in the eyes of his own people in Ghana? Externally, Kufour seems to be more in the limelight on the international stage than when he was serving as president of Ghana. This colossus of a man, both physical, mental, social and in other respects, is ironically belittled in the eyes of his own people in his native country, Ghana. I remember that when Kufour won the general elections in 2000, some of his first acts in office were to appoint his brother, Nana Addo Kufour, as his Minister of Defence, which act did not go down well with me as I considered it insider-trading and a spite on the face of Ghanaians. Besides, he went on to appoint many of his close relations into the diplomatic service. Despite having many tribes in Ghana, Kufour ignored tribal balancing and populated his cabinet with appointees, mostly from his Ashanti tribe. Off course, his predecessor had not fared better on this score as Flight Lieutenant Rawlings had even done worse as the Ghana Army, Police, Customs and Immigration, and indeed most strategic positions, were dominated and monopolized by Ewes, a minority tribe in Ghana. I think in nation building, we need the services and contribution of all people, irrespective of tribe, gender, political colourations, and religious persuasion, among others. Ghanaians were very much incensed with Kufour for allegedly selling Ghana Telecom to Vodafone for a song. Kufour did a Napoleon Bonaparte helluva act, when he bestowed on himself a gargantuan golden chain, when he honoured some 250 Ghanaian heroes, both dead and alive, in the full glare of TV cameras, which ceremony was beamed live on TV throughout Ghana.

But then, what is the measure of a man? Are we mortals qualified to judge our fellow men? It is said that if you throw your gauntlet into the political ring, then be ever prepared for flak thrown in your direction. So let it be with Kufour. Kufour once acted as the Chairperson of the AU (African Union), and he used his adroit statesmanship qualities to help defuse tensions in places such as Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone ad Kenya. During his tenure of office, he undertook many infrastructural development projects such as the Accra – Takoradi road, Accra – Kumasi road, Malam Junction road, George Bush Highway, among others. He introduced mass transit buses throughout the country, popularly known as ‘Kufour Bus’. What I personally admire about this sagacious colossus is his sang froid and his adroit handling of the media. In his time, media freedom flourished and blossomed to its highest apogee, unlike his predecessor, Rawlings, whose reign of terror gagged the press. However,.Kufour’s kid glove treatment of the media has also led to the current spate of media indecency and unprofessional behaviours as many radio and TV stations have gone over the edge. Fancy a TV lady presenter (Delay), provoking a musical artiste, who in he glare of TV, caused an unpardonable obscenity by exposing his genitalia on TV, to prove that he is not a liar and it is true he does not wear pants! What a kubolor! Freedom of expression indeed! Kufuur, under his watch, observed the rule of law and allowed freedom of information. However, Ghanaians will not forget sad incidents such as the decapitation of the Ya Na in Yendi, the Accra stadium disaster which claimed hundreds of lives and many other sagas. Unlike the current flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Akuffo Addo, (who is vociferous, aggressive, sanguine and reactive), Kufour presents a totally opposite picture of one who is staid, elegant, placid and gentlemanly. No doubt, he won the accolade of ‘the gentle giant’. He was said to have remarked that, ‘still waters run deep ‘, and that it is not hot water which drowns a man, but cold water. Hmm! That tells a lot about the inner workings of our ex-president. I am sure that we Ghanaians are blessed to have such wise ex-leaders in our midst. These include Kufour, ex-UN Secretary General, Busumbrum Kofi Annan, and our acerbic but equally dignified, Jerry John Rawlings (no-nonsense man).
I personally applaud the recent accord and rapport between Rawlings and Kufour, and I hope this illustrious gesture of relationship will send a strong signal to unpeaceful Ghanaians who are always baying for blood and for heads to roll in Robespierrean, French revolutionary style. The unbridled media upstarts, who at the least opportunity, want to ruffle feathers, had better beware. The long arm of the law will soon descend heavily on them.

Concluding, I will particularly like to acknowledge the extraordinary role our ex-president Kufuour played during the demise of Madam Fathia Nkrumah, late wife of our first republican president, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in Cairo, Egypt. Coming from the UP/NPP/Busia –Danquah stable, one would have thought that Kufour was going to turn his back on the former first lady. It is on record that Kufour visited her in Cairo, prior to her death, at a time he learnt about her illness. What a show of statesmanship and brinkmanship! The family and numerous admirers of Nkrumah will forever be grateful to ex-president Kufour, for that wonderful and singular act of reconciliation, fence-mending and building bridges.
No man is perfect; we should give credit where credit is due. It is also said that to whom much is given, much is desired. Ghanaians have had much from our ex-presidents. What are we as individuals, doing to help our country march forward among the comity of nations?

Kwesi Atta Sakyi 20th March 2012

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