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Feature Article of Friday, 5 October 2012

Columnist: Antobam, Kobina

Kiss The Oil Money Goodbye

By: Kobina Antobam

I feel the need to state the obvious even if you are already aware of it. It is very clear that the vast Ghanaian population, excluding a select few, are looking at disappointment in the face and it’s not pretty. Disappointments are always disheartening and ugly. But that’s exactly what we deserve for our meekness and dependency afflictions. I honestly feel your pain, your sadness and your helplessness, too. Nevertheless, I still have to rub it in. This is it: Long before there was an extraction of the very first drop of oil from the bottom of the Ghana seas, the oil gravy train that you were certain was going to carry you to prosperity paradise left the station without you or any other Ghanaian passengers on board, except a select few. I bet that gravy train never stopped at your station at all. That train stopped, and will continue to stop, at only a few resplendently gold-gilded elite “railway stations.” Not your station!

In just a year since the country began to pump oil, I can confidently and safely counsel ordinary Ghanaians that we should all kiss the oil money goodbye. Get a hold of yourself and accept here and now that the oil money was never meant for you or for me. Credible evidence has solidly established that you and I and every other everyday Ghanaian will never see or get touched by a pesewa of the oil revenue.

To separate Ghana from other cursed oil-rich countries, a recent administration promised us satisfactory and above-board complete transparency. They clearly patronized us and told us how Ghanaians were a better and honorable people and assured us that THEY would never allow anyone to steal a pesewa from the oil revenue. They were quickly voted out of office.

But, oh, how THEY lied! The thieving cliques had been formed behind closed doors long before they came out and gave us those highfalutin speeches of promise and hope and press releases full of pretentiousness, transparency fallacies, and crude prevarications. The powerful political Mafioso in the country had already spread it prickly Velcro of tentacles over the oil money. The well-dressed criminal gangs and the ruling misfits had emerged from their backward villages and had taken over the oil right from the get go. There is little you or I can do now. So take my advice and go pound your thick starchy fufu, fill up your belly, throw all cares to the wind and take a long well-deserved nap. Read on after you wake up.

Let me say it again: All of you sad naïve greenhorn Ghanaians who celebrated and sang “We’re in the money; we’re in the money” when oil was discovered are now dazed and stupefied and are garbling chants, “Where did it go? Where did it go?” exactly like that popular cartoon character Elmer Fudd who hopelessly hunted the elusive “wascally wabbit,” Bugs Bunny. Your bubble has long been deflated and you don’t even know it.

If you dreamt four or five years ago that the oil was going to bring you skyscrapers in all major cities, safer multilane super highways crisscrossing the country, more and improved life-saving medical facilities, better school facilities, uninterrupted flow of reliably clean and safe water and reliable electrical power, state of the art countrywide transportation systems; if you thought you would see infrastructure construction boom all over the country that would hire the numerous unemployed street youth in order to reduce unemployment and crime; if you thought that, with oil, we would stop going abroad by shelving Ghana’s ubiquitous panhandling straw hat, and no longer beg for foreign aid and loans; if you thought that there would really be a concrete transformative prosperity that would touch you personally, then I would like to slap you out of your lethargic slump and scream at you to kiss all those dreams goodbye.

The oil money has been gone. It’s been irretrievably mortgaged by Ghanaians with shrunk misfired brains to China, the IMF, foreign crooks masquerading as honorable investors and business people, Ghanaian criminal politicians, exploiting faceless Swiss and other foreign banking conglomerates, select families and particular chiefs, and you are not included. Yes, you are not one of the select few, and I am not one of them either!

You will easily understand when you take a closer look at the sudden influx into Ghana of the numerous neighboring Africans of dubious characters, Western European racists and crooks, Middle Easterners, Far East Asians, and many other ne’er-do-well outsiders who never ever cared about the black-skinned African, who are trooping to Ghana in excessive numbers, stretching the limited resources of little old over-stressed motherland, Ghana, and destroying her precious tropical landscape and fragile ecosystem with reckless abandon and with our government’s unforgivable tacit nod.

Let’s say that you are one of the millions of Ghanaians who have to get up every day at 4:00 a.m. in order to beat the unceasing punishing traffic jams to get to work at 8:00 a.m., and then you struggle to get home before 10:00 p.m. The next time you sit on the hard metal seat in that cramped death trap trotro, look out of the window and stare hard at all the nice air-conditioned sports utility vehicles and luxury sedans that stream by in the lanes next to your trotro. Many of those overpriced luxury vehicles have been paid in full with your stolen oil money. The fact that you are in the trotro and you many never own an SUV or even a modest private car, however hard you dream and work, means that you are never going to be one of them.

Also, once in a while take weekend “leisure” trips with your family in your favorite bone-shaker trotro and do some sight-seeing walks through luxury East Legon and other elite suburbs and stare hard at those super luxury mansions that you and your family will definitely never live in. Most of those homes and their luxury furnishings that belong to politicians that you stupidly voted into office were likely constructed with your stolen money. Future and bigger mansions are also definitely going to come from your oil money that you thought was going to be used to build newer schools for your little boys and girls, and to build neighborhood hospitals if your poor kids got sick. If you still abidingly hold your breath in the earnest hope for any material improvements in your neighborhood or living condition, you will die a sad miserable wretch. They have your oil money and they don’t care two hoots about you.

Do you want evidence that your oil money has already been divvied up among the few powerful Ghanaians? Okay, I will give you evidence. One, right under your nose, daily influence peddling payments are taking place and you refuse to open your eyes to see. Your politicians, without the least compunction, characterize the payments to them as gifts from citizens for jobs well done. Gifts, my foot! Two, THEY (Kufuor and company), with the savagery of tribal disdain and frontal fiscal attack and extremism, connived and allocated a handsome percentage of the oil revenues to themselves when the original contract was signed. But you have stupidly found a way to accept that daylight robbery as justifiable and deserving while demonizing and trivializing any scrutiny into that deal. Three, well-publicized numerous judgment debt settlements are popping up incessantly and you still foolishly believe that your oil money is intact. Four, excessively overpriced inconsequential projects are being announced everyday that help put millions of cedis in the pockets of your nincompoop politicians through contract padding and graft, and you still have unflinching trust in your political crooks.

If you still don’t see how your oil money is dissipating or disappearing, with a million dollar court settlement here and a ten billion dollar court settlement there, then you are a hopeless doubting Thomas who will wait till they count the actual stolen currencies in front of you before you believe. And if you still don’t believe me, then you have the prerogative of being ensconced blissfully the rest of your miserable life in your desolate and pathetic world of make-believe.

Anyway, an advice for you lost souls of Ghana: voting a different party into office will not stop the ingrained thieving deviancy of your leaders. They are well-cloaked thieves. Also, to the thieving Ghanaian politicians and the judgment settlement happy crooks, especially the most popular poster child of judgment payments, Woyome, a closing word of caution has reference to your life and your livelihood. These poor Ghanaians that you cerebrally dismiss as fools, so that you can grab your millions here and there, will one day awaken from their stupor and may violently come after you for answers. A friend often says in jest: “Every day for thiefman, one day for master.” You, today’s politically powerful Ghanaian, may be the thiefman now, but the dog chain selling street kid and the poor shoeshine boy will one day be your rowdy masters with a machete in hand. Remember what drove vengeful, angry, hungry, skinny Jeremiah John Rawlings of the 1980s and his notoriously bloody, bristling, and abrasive “housecleaning exercises.” History often repeats itself.

Good day.

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