Feature Article of Friday, 8 June 2012
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi 5th June 2012
When Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987), the late former AP/UPN Opposition Party leader, passed away in Nigeria in 1987, the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Lt Gen Odumegwu Ojukwu wrote in the book of condolences that Awolowo was the best President Nigeria never had. It was a loaded statement which was part ironical, part philosophical, part conundrum, part sarcasm (my own interpretation) and part paradoxical. How could something which was never tasted or experienced be the best that never was? That statement from Ojukwu, who having been a history and classics major at Oxford University, was not to be unexpected. In reality, Ojukwu paid the best tribute ever to his arch enemy and protagonist, because death is said to be the universal leveller. It was Chief Awolowo who had acted as financial advisor to the Federal Government of Nigeria during the Nigerian civil war from 1967 to 1970, under General Yakubu Gowon. Awolowo advised the immediate change of the Nigerian currency when the war broke out, and it dealt a deadly blow to the breakaway Biafra Republic. In the South-Western Yoruba states of the then Oyo, Ogun, Bendel, Lagos and Ondo states, Chief Awolowo implemented one of the most far-sighted and nascent development programmes, which was far ahead of its time. There were many colleges of education and polytechnics set up. Many new basic secondary schools sprung up like mushrooms in every nook and cranny of those Yoruba states. The avant-garde, socialist, free medical and secondary school policies of Awolowo caused ripples and consternation in Federal government circles. Many rural roads were tarred and macadamised. It was the period many Ghanaian teachers, doctors, nurses, accountants and other professionals became like hot cakes in Nigeria, hence the Agege syndrome and mass exodus of millions of Ghanaians to Nigeria. I lived through the Shehu Shagari days in Western Nigeria, and experienced first hand Baba Awolowo’s pro-poor development policies. I experienced the Aliens Compliance Order under Ali Baba. Then in 1983, Buhari and Idiagbon took over in a military putsch, one of the worst khakistocracies ever in Africa, with flagrant infringements of human rights. I left Nigeria in 1991 under General Babangida, another military dictator and political schemer. Chief Awolowo had able lieutenants in his governors like Bola Ige, Ajasin, Jakande, among others. Baba had bagged degrees in Law and Commerce from the University of London, and he was an avowed vegetarian.
The main point of departure in this write-up is that, sometimes the stone which is rejected by the builders becomes the cornerstone. Nana Akufo Addo is today being demonised and called names in the press, with many unproven and unsubstantiated allegations against him. Is that the price we have to pay as a nation for freedom of speech? Freedom of speech does not connote committing the legal offences of libel, sedition, character assassination and the like. In civilised nations, people who have evidence against other people go to court because a person under English law is held to be innocent before the law until he is proven otherwise in a transparent manner, beyond all reasonable doubt and evidence. It is unlike Judaica-Roman jurisprudence, where a man is held guilty before the law until he can prove his innocence in the court of law (that was how Pilate tried Jesus). Many Ghanaians subsist on hearsay, rumour-mill, grapevine and the gutter press for their sources of information, the popular and notorious, ‘ak33, ak33, y3see, y3see’. When shall we as a nation grow up from our puerile and infantile behaviour? People swallow hook, line and sinker, or lock, stock and barrel any news churned out from our media houses without critically evaluating what they hear or make the effort to authenticate their information from authentic and creditable sources. So, is Nana Akufo Addo the best president Ghana never had? It is said that the sweetness of the pudding is in the eating. I think that time will tell. Opposition leaders who having been in opposition for decades and have sprung to power in Africa, include Abdul Wade in Senegal, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Wai Kibaki in Kenya, Tsvangarai in Zimbabwe, Odinga Oginga in Kenya, John Kufuor and John Atta Mills in Ghana, among many others. This attests to the fact that patience pays and democracy is on the ascendancy in Africa. Those throwing mud at Nana Akufo Addo must think twice and review their actions, because in politics, everything is possible. It is like a pendulum which can swing either way.
The man Akufo Addo has a track record of having excelled once as Foreign Minister of Ghana, Attorney General, among other key leadership positions he has held in the past. He ably chaired a UN General Assembly Committee on Iraq when he was the Foreign Minister. His critics fail to realise his leadership potential and want to judge him by what he did as a Minister, which is untenable and quite flawed because, as Minister, you have constraints due to collective responsibility, and you are at the end of the apron strings of the President, dancing to his music like a puppet or a yoyo in the wind. During the time of military khakistocracy in Ghana, he fearlessly fought for our freedom with the likes of the late Prof Adu Boahene and the late Prof Paul Ansah. We should give credit where credit is due. No man is perfect. Those who call Nana names forget the religious teaching which dares us to be the first to cast the stone against the condemned prostitute, when we ourselves have Nicodemusly gone under the cover of darkness to engage in lasciviousness with the very person we accuse in broad daylight. What a height of hypocrisy! With what is happening in the NDC camp as regards the disaffection between the Rawlingses and the ruling NDC camp, it seems the ground is giving way under the shuddering and quaking of the buried elephant. Methinks the unfurled umbrella, like a comet or meteorite, has reached its nadir in its trajectory and soon, Osono Kokroko (mammoth elephant) will triumph once again as it did in the year 2000. I am no prophet but it seems the writing is on the wall. Take the case of the current President of Zambia, His Excellency Michael Chilufya Sata. He was in opposition for a decade or so years and stood for general elections three times before the tide turned in his favour, against all odds, because the mandate of the people had spoken. Before ascending to power, he was called all sorts of names in the press. Perhaps, that is the baptism of fire for all those who are being prepared to don on the leadership mantle. To me, whichever way the tide turns, my paramount concern is the utmost good for the largest majority of Ghanaians. Whether NDC or NPP comes to power, the public interest of Ghana should be first on the agenda. To whom much is given, much is desired. All Ghanaians have a bounden duty to maintain the peace and act with decorum and dignified mien, come 7th December 2012 at the polls. God bless Ghana. Long live the wonderful, cheerful, hardworking and creative people of Ghana. Long live Africa, the land of the Khem (black) people.