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Opinions of Monday, 1 January 2018

Columnist: A. C. Ohene

2017: The year that was

On the 6th of January, this year, Weekend Today hit the newsstands with the first edition of my column Ghana Today. That maiden episode of this column was captioned Akufo-Addo, Lead us out of The Mess! Twelve months on, whether we are clearly out of the mess bequeathed us by the Atta-Mills/Mahama regimes; whether we are on course to getting out of the quagmire; or whether the more things change the more they remain the same, Dear Reader, you are the best judge.

Just after the new dawn episode, this dear nation of ours was confronted with what was bound to be the biggest government size yet. Ghana Today sampled about a dozen countries and their cabinet sizes, comparing the number of ministers with the size of each country’s economy.

Ghana Today was unequivocal in its counsel that the president pays heed to the saying Small is Beautiful in the creation of ministerial portfolios, unless there would be a special gain in forming a big cabinet. The population hit 110: unprecedented!

Jobs, corruption

Then, this column wished the spectre of the countries rocked by the Arab Spring never befell our dear nation, Ghana. Under the caption, Where are the Jobs?, Ghana Today proceeded to suggest the agricultural sector and agro-based industries could create the critically needed jobs.

It is worthy of note that the regime is still in the elemental stages of the district enterprises it promised; the railway rehabilitation and expansion is yet to take off; while we are told Planting for Food and Jobs has taken off on a whirlwind note, employing as many as 10,000 in this very first year. Good to hear.

The dreaded but ubiquitous corruption allegation had reared its beautiful head before the end of the first quarter. Some of the men and women nominated by the president to ministerial and other positions were accused of corruption.

While the likes of Boakye Agyarko were exonerated and subsequently cleared for confirmation, the accusations per-se were bothersome. You remember, the accusation was that he had given each of the 10 Minority members of the Parliamentary Vetting Committee GHC3,000.00 as a palm-greaser…

Goodbye, Avram

Under the headline, Lessons from a Football Tourney, I crusaded that Avram Grant should be the very last foreign coach to be placed in charge of the Ghana Black Stars, and, any national sports team for that matter. My contention was that, since the time of Kwame Nkrumah, all the coaches that had done us proud as a nation were nationals; not expats who hardly understood our psyche or cared about our sensibilities. At the time, the Israeli Avram Grant was on his way out; and from all indications, we are not going to revert to expats anytime soon, whether the likes of Akwasi Appiah are performing or flunking. Kudos, Government: a national team must be truly national; and, the Blackman is capable of managing his own affairs – or at least mismanaging his own affairs!

Cars controversy

The African politician and cars is one subject that I wrote on with a heavy heart. I was reluctant in picking a portion of a Time magazine article that made some fun of the African politician in 2009, siting an instance from one of the continent’s lights:

Kenya. “For years, one of the defining images of the African political élite has been the silhouette of a figure sitting behind tinted glass or drawn curtains in the backseat of a luxury car. The car’s model may vary, and the colour too, but nine times out of 10 the make is Mercedes-Benz. In Swahili, which is spoken throughout eastern Africa, members of the ruling class are even known by the nickname wabenzi, or ‘people of the Benz’,” I remember quoting.

But I also added that, in Ghana and much of Africa today, the expensive Merc has actually given way to the more expensive Toyota Landcruiser. That was when the alleged confiscation of Kofi Adams’ cars, wrangling over other automobiles and the rush of new government members for brand-new autos were in vogue. At that same time, the president had firmly stated he was not going to import new cars for his convoy.

A worried Ghanaian domiciled in the United Kingdom, called Kofi Atta, filed an opinion piece on the net, noting that every eight years; Ghanaians are treated to a reprisal of vehicle seizures by the new government on former political appointees of the immediate past government.

“This happened when President Agyekum Kufuor took over from President Jerry Rawlings as well as when the late Atta-Mills took over from President Kufuor and it is now happening after President Akufo-Addo took over from President Mahama.”

He also recalled what happened in 2009 “when the then former foreign minister under the Kufuor government, now President Akufo-Addo’s private vehicle was seized in Rambo-style operation.” The same thing is repeated after every eight additional years of constitutional democratic experience. So you ask: Are we reforming?

Party polytricks

Then came the State of the Nation Address. Even before the regime party read the statement out, the Minority had rushed out with what it styled the True State of the Nation Address. This column’s condemnation was of both the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party for taking turns in opposition to rubbish everything government does; taking turns in government to praise themselves for everything they do and demonise the opposition. The circus continued in 2017 too!

Founder’s Day or Founders’ Day became one of the most contentious issues in this country. If you advocated that the apostrophe should be between the letters r and s, it meant Kwame Nkrumah alone founded Ghana; if you voted for putting the apostrophe after the s, you belonged to the school of thought that contended that Joseph Boakye Danquah, Edward Akufo-Addo, William Ofori-Atta, Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei and Kwame Nkrumah jointly founded modern-day Ghana.

This column sided with the current government’s proposition: the name must be Founders’ Day. However, that issue remains to be firmly resolved, as we enter 2018 and race towards another 21st September. Founders’ Day or Founder’s Day? Time will tell.

Those nominated by the president to the Council of State were lucky insofar as they incurred hardly any costs; those who vied in the regions spent fortunes on assembly members who were privileged to be called into electoral colleges to elect them. Ghana Today felt strongly that the onerous responsibility of the Council of State should not be sacrificed on the altar of opportunism and scheming; so, the relevant article was headed: Heed Council of State’s Counsel!

“If you have a retired Chief Justice; an ex-Chief of Military Defence Staff; a former Police Inspector-General; President of the National House of Chiefs; one rep elected from each region of Ghana; and eleven other members appointed by the President to give counsel, you can be confident of the quality of guidance. Thus, this column prays all institutions of Ghana that are constitutionally supposed to benefit from the wise counsels of the Council of State to – indeed – listen and pay heed to the invaluable advice. Let it not be said that our leaders behaved like Absalom, even though they had the benefit of counsel of a team comparable to Ahithophel. 2 Samuel, 15:31,” I pleaded. The invaluable counsel of the Council is yet to be felt by many, but, the respect that must be accorded that august house remains sacrosanct. We thank God.

Third Force

By the 10th edition of Ghana Today, the need for the real emergence of a third force in Ghana’s politics had been strongly felt. “Arguably, the dominance being enjoyed by the umbrella and the elephant (parties) in Ghana’s politics runs contrary to the spirit of the 1992 Constitution,” I contended.

The Constitution prescribes and seeks to protect Multiparty Democracy. What is that? Multi-party system is the arrangement in which multiple or many political parties across the political spectrum run for national election, and all have the capacity to gain control of government offices, separately or in coalition.

Now, the operative words are: ..all have the capacity to gain control of government offices, separately or in a coalition. In all humility, I put it to the Nkrumahist and other smaller parties that – in their current states – they lack the capacity to gain control of government offices, separately or in a coalition.

They are thus failing to play the roles crucial to make this system a multi-party one. We live in a duopoly; not in a multiparty democracy, period! That article was under the tittle That Third Force Party, and, it was meant to nudge the parties that profess Nkrumahism from their slumber into action so to, hopefully, break this duopoly the value of which is often the same. Did the PPP, CPP, PNC, GCPP etc arise to the clarion call in 2017? They listened to me not.

DISASTER! So screamed my headline, as senior high and university students – as many as 20 of them – got killed by falling trees at the Kintampo Waterfalls in the Bono-Ahafo Region. My worry was that every year around that time – March-April when the early rains set in; the capsizing of boats on lakes and the sea, rainstorms, and other disasters throw this nation into temporary mourning. Similar catastrophes await us the next year. It is our fervent prayer no such calamity erupts 2018, AMEN! But, you ask yourself: What practical steps have we taken to help ourselves so the heavens can help us in 2018?

Foot soldiers

Do you want us to recall the regime party youth that begun to seize public property, flush out of office regional security officers, threaten judges and break jail for arrested suspects? Sour taste in the mouths of those who crusaded to perforate the umbrella for the elephant to return from the bush to the Flagstaff House. Unfortunate, but, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In April, one celebration that in many ways looked like what is being celebrated this week was observed in Ghana: Easter. As Easter is always used here for frivolous expenditure, reckless entertainment; Ghana Today entreated all Ghanaians to ponder one question: how Does Christ want Easter Celebrated? Perhaps, with only a little tweaking, that headline would do for our headline now: How Does Christ Want His Birthday Celebrated? To be continued.