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Opinions of Monday, 16 December 2019

Columnist: Solomon Mensah

TALKING DRUM: Nana Addo, his colonial citizens & the ‘buy Ghana rice’ nonsense!

I have always feared for patients— the sick I mean— who find time to listen to or watch news about Ghana or follow the country’s politics. I consider their plight as a suffering soul being hit with coup de grâce. Indeed, it is only he who wishes for a quick death that passionately follows these events with all their hearts.

It is not the case that we do not have qualified journalists to do a good job here in Ghana. Far from that. If I am not exaggerating, Ghana has great journalists that could compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world. The issue, rather, is that often these journalists’ stories reveal that the single scarcest commodity in the country is common sense. Yes, a revelation of lack of common sense mainly on the part of some of our leaders. That, which makes the listening to or watching of such news depressing!

Few weeks ago, TV3’s Peter Quao Adattor travelled to the Upper East Region of Ghana. He came back to Accra with a story that got almost everybody in the TV3 newsroom standing on their feet to express dismay.

The day we watched Mr. Adattor’s story as aired on Midday Live was on a Sunday afternoon. Rice farmers, especially in the valleys of Fumbisi and Gbedembilisi in the Builsa South District, had bountifully produced bags of rice. However, these farmers did not have [ready] market for their produce.

One farmer who spoke in the ‘Rice Glut’ story said that in order not to look on for their hundreds of bags to go waste, they were selling on promotional basis. When the market women buy two bags of the rice, they are given an extra bag each free of charge. Can you imagine!? As if that was not enough, even before the farmers could get these traders to do the buying, in the first place, they [farmers] would have to lure them by giving them one full guinea fowl also for free. Certainly, this is financially a dangerous time to be a rice farmer.

Then, the National Buffer Stock Company moved in to assess the situation on the back of the reported glut of rice. As predictable as the daily chaos at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, the Chief Executive Officer of the Buffer Stock Company, Hanan Abdul-Wahab, promised these farmers of a ready market. That promise was actually to come into fruition in two weeks’ time from the day of the visit by the hypocrite fact-finding politicians.

As to whether this promise has been fulfilled or not is not really my source of worry. The farmers themselves did not believe that promise. What gets my head spinning is the apparent mindless game we— as a nation— proudly play. I have neither attended the University of Ghana Business School nor the London School of Economics. Nonetheless, there are some problems that do not require one to hold a certificate in a particular field before proffering a concrete solution to avert its occurrence in the first place.

From the days of Diego de Azambuja to the subsequent colonization of Africa by the greedy bustards, the plight of the continent’s farmers has been the same. There are deplorable roads linking farms to the cities and the preference of citizens going for foreign products over same produced locally have remained unchanged.

You ask yourself why we are so comfortable with this monumental failure and the answer is found right in the bosom of the greedy politicians. They would quickly choose their comfort over the plight of the masses. If not, why did they not find sense in proposing that the millions of dollars that they had wanted to use to construct that needless new chamber/parliament be used to, at least, give feeder roads to places where we get our foods from?

Why did they not, again, propose that such an amount be used to rigorously start a campaign to cut Ghana’s umbilical cord of overdependence? Would that not have weaned majority of our citizens off foreign goods? A lifestyle that only reflects what pertained in the colonial days.

The underlying argument here is that access to our farms and our preference for foreign goods hugely contribute to the losses we see our farmers suffer. And, to curb this trend goes beyond merely urging citizens to patronize locally produced rice [or any of such].

Speaking in Ho, the Volta Regional capital, to mark this year’s National Farmers’ Day, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo repeated a mistake he keeps committing. He urged Ghanaians to buy locally-grown rice.

Mr. President, because of you I am likely to write a book that would probably be dubbed ‘How To Govern A Developing Nation’. The truth is, we do not govern a developing nation by merely urging citizens to do the right thing. You impose! Impose hefty tariffs on imported rice/foods and other goods that our own people produce here. Why do we, for instance, allow an overflow of importation of poultry products while poultry farmers in Dormaa in the Bono Region alone could— to a large extent— feed the country?

And, should you think of the ripple effect of these measures to break the shackles of our underdevelopment, the formula to counter such [effect] is to let the nation endure whatever hardships that would come with it. If it so happens that even half of the state’s population would have to die of hunger, so be it. Those who would survive would live a better life thereafter and learn sense that overdependence on another state— especially on agriculture and health— is dangerous.

This is exactly what Richard Wright wrote to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in a letter as captured in the latter’s book, Dark Days In Ghana, that, “I say to you publicly and frankly: The burden of suffering that must be borne, impose it upon one generation! … Be merciful by being stern!”

Hello, Mr. President. I guess I have given you a clue on how to effectively run your government. There is no need telling Ghanaians that you and your wife cook local rice. How many bags of local rice do you buy in a year as a family? Borrowing the book title of the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, ‘With All Due Respect’, the next time you speak on this local rice, you must sound as a benevolent dictator in telling your citizens to purchase such.

If I were you, when citizens prove adamant buying, I would bill every public servant and SSNIT contributors a bag of the rice say, every three months, by deducting them from the source of their income. Even if everybody gets a cup of the rice, that will be fine. The soldiers at the various barracks are tasked to ensure that households get their deliveries and if they [citizens] will not eat it, they are at liberty to donate to the orphanages.

Until the day I hear of crazy measures as these to ensure we bridge the gap between the cities and villages and get Ghanaians to eat what they grow and grow what they eat, the so-called campaign on the purchase of local rice sounds but nonsense to my ears. It will only yield marginal results!

What have Emelia Arthur and Okyeame Kwame not done as ambassadors of the Made-In-Ghana campaign proper? You think about it and you ask yourself the question posed by the name of a show on As?mpa FM, ?k?sii S?n? To wit, ‘How did it end?’

The writer, Solomon Mensah, is a broadcast journalist with Media General (TV3/3FM). Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation.
Email: nehusthan@yahoo.com
Twitter: @aniwaba

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