Feature Article of Monday, 25 June 2012
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I personally lost respect for Brig.-Gen. Joseph Nunoo-Mensah – and I have, in the past, known several quite respectable relatives of his in Kumasi – when in the wake of the brutal assassination of his cousin, Maj. Sam Acquah, by key operatives of the Rawlings-led Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) junta on June 30, 1982, the man honorably resigned his post as Chief of the Defense Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, only to return, literally crawling on all four limbs, to take up a salaried position with the very reprobate characters who had barbarically orchestrated the murder of his kinsman.
Really, could this man be remarkably endowed with any sense of moral self-respect and dignity, I mused back then. But then, again, what kind of military general can stoop so low as to take marching orders from a flight-lieutenant who has just overthrown a democratically elected government? What does such servile and outright wretched behavior tell us about the caliber of the men who run our nation’s highest security organization?
And so when the so-called National Security Advisor of the Mills-Mahama government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) suddenly emerges out of the proverbial woodshed railing against the campaign promise of the presidential candidate of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) to provide free education for our nation’s youths up to the Senior High School level, one begins to wonder if the man has not been injected with some liquefied contraband by his paymasters.
For starters, his rationale for vehemently opposing free Senior High School education defies both common sense and human decency. In the repugnantly shallow opinion of Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah, for example, graduating a lot of Senior High School students would lead to “a higher rate of graduate unemployment.” Has the former Akufo-Addo campaign manager counted the staggering cost of breeding a half-illiterate society? In other words, my all-too-fundamental contention here is that in terms of quality-of-life evaluation, a Senior High School graduate, even an unemployed one, is far more likely to devise a creative and productive mode of existence than one woefully lacking in the kind of intellectual development and growth that comes with the acquisition of an SHS level of education.
Or maybe, Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah has yet to learn of the tired old maxim that: “Knowledge Is Power?” Indeed, the immortalized Professor Albert Einstein put it best and poignantly, when the Nobel Physics Prize Laureate posed the following challenge to cynics like the Mills security advisor: “If you think the cost of education is prohibitive, try ignorance.” In other words, does the former Akufo-Addo campaign operative even half-appreciate the humongous cost of illiteracy and abject ignorance to the Ghanaian taxpayer? Well, I didn’t expect him to; for people like Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah only care about themselves and their immediate family members and close friends and business associates. Indeed, the very noble concept of “Statesmanship” appears to be rather too abstract and sophisticated for the man to appreciate, let alone to adopt in principle.
To be certain, and well beyond the quite noble policy of free education, ought to be discussed the type and content of education afforded Ghanaian youths. By and large, the orientation has been neocolonialist, with the curriculum almost entirely focused on how to become a docile cog in the proverbial industrial machine, rather than the socio-culturally responsive kind of American education that focuses on the training of young and creative minds on how to significantly add value to the quality of life of the larger society and the world beyond in lucrative ways. And, needless to say, a central part of this kind of socially responsible education involves training our youths at both the secondary and tertiary levels on how to create jobs and expand the national economy.
You see, one cannot blame a career “zombie” like Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah who, all he had to do was enlist into the Ghana Military Academy and be handed a plum post to mind upon graduation, and largely one that involved unquestioningly and/or obsequiously taking instructions from his superiors, as well as dishing up his own.
Needless to say, the aim of this article is not simply to mount any form of defense for the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, in whose pay the former Chief of the Defense Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces once served, and thus whose personality and character Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah may be readily presume to far better appreciate than the present writer. What is of paramount interest to me here is to dispassionately engage the very critical and progressive policy notion of “Free Education” in the context of Ghana’s long-term development.
Indeed, Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah may be quite right in claiming that Nana Akufo-Addo’s free SHS education policy was forged largely out of the former Foreign Minister’s desperate bid to clinching the presidency, a position that his own father once ceremonially held. Still, what needs to be pertinently asked is precisely what National Democratic Congress hacks like Brig.-Gen. Nunoo-Mensah have done with the power entrusted them, for nearly four years now, by the Ghanaian voter.
Indeed, had I been resident in Ghana and experienced the Woyome scale of abject corruption perpetrated by the likes of Messrs. John Evans Atta-Mills, John Dramani Mahama, and Joseph Nunoo-Mensah, like Nana Akufo-Addo, I, too, would be desperate for power, particularly if I had a quite respectable record in mainstream Ghanaian politics to prove that I could perform considerably better than my good, old Uncle Tarkwa-Atta.
*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 Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.