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Opinions of Thursday, 7 August 2008

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

51 Years Of Circling The Wagon: Vodafone, To Sell Or Not?

I don’t know about the details of the Vodafone deal so I am not going to comment on the intricacies of the much maligned deal. What I want to talk about is the systemic issues that it raises.

First, most people spouting about this deal do not have the details. This NPP government, given its penchant, does not think you and I are intelligent enough to understand the intricacies of such a far reaching deal. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all the information in front of us? That way, we can see who is getting what and why? When it suits them, they make vague promises to build websites and herd us, cats and all, over there to see the beauty of their handiwork. Yet, when it is very critical, as in Vodafone, we are denied the facts and end up insulting each other without the real facts. One cannot understand why Kufour and his men continue to deny us unfettered access to information. Where is the Freedom of Information Act? Will this not be a good time to invoke it? We must make informed decision based on facts and figures. As it stands, we are groping in the dark. How long will Ghanaians put up with this nonsense that we are not matured enough to deal with real facts? Even die hard NPP folks must feel insulted that they can’t see the facts but have to defend their party. At least it should be easier defending your party if you have the facts. No? And for Christ sake, stop vilifying Nii Moi Thompson for speaking up. Leave the man alone!!

My friends, we have a serious problem but these rabid NPP supporters don’t want us to discuss the issues, let alone find lasting and sustainable solutions. It is sad to witness a 51 year old country celebrate its birthday with a bash never before seen in the annals of our country, yet, have nothing to show for it. What galls me the most is when these people in one instance, morph into hardcore traditionalists, lecturing us to believe in our culture and trust everything Ghanaian. However, a close look shows their hypocrisy and pro-western shenanigans. They can’t help but to reinforce the fact that, we are so incompetent to run anything Ghanaian, as a result, we must sell all we own and outsource every credible job to Indians, Chinese, British, Malaysians, Americans and anyone we can find. Are we benefiting from outsourced work from these folks? I cry for mother Ghana and the charlatans that have cuffed her neck with their stinking callus addled hands. If we don’t get the risk taking opportunity to learn and even fail, how will we ever do things for ourselves? For how long will we give away our economic jewels? It is one thing selling and another selling at a pittance because more than likely, officials have money deposited in their foreign accounts. Did Ghacem not do the same? Why should we expect any different?

I am not here promoting state capitalism. I am not socialist and do not care for that ideology for various reasons. Simple but glaring truth is that we sell these organizations, Vodafone included, because we can’t run them. Our fecklessness therefore becomes a golden reason for these colonial masters, lurking in the shadow of organizations like the World Bank and IMF, to order us to sell. Indeed, even when we do make a go at it, as in Sancem/Ghacem, some political crooks still find a way to sell them. When Rawlings sold our shares in what is now called Ghacem, it was a profitable organization and still is. It is so profitable that these Norwegians can bribe our folks to keep the scam going. I don’t understand why we sell profitable public organizations and instead, keep the bleeding ones! Our leaders agree to sell because they are not able to stand up to these World Bank nut cases who identify our weaknesses and use them against us. In the process, our wicked leaders line their pockets and we are taken to the cleaners. This must be their idea of believing in your country. Rob your people blind and tell them to believe in their country and culture. Culture must be the last frontier or refuge of the scoundrel.

You can break your neck about whether it is right or wrong to sell Vodafone. That is not where I am spending my energy. My energy goes to the implied statement that, we are incapable of running our own businesses. By attempting to sell Vodafone, Kufour and his henchmen have admitted, one more time, that we are a bunch of hopeless losers. We are selling Vodafone because we need cash desperately and cannot run it efficiently. Unless Kufour and his men want to tell us that no matter how well we run our own organizations, they will still sell them. After 51 years, we can’t run anything. Is this really the image that we want to project to the world? The tomfoolery that we continue to exhibit in this unending comedy of galactic proportion is unbelievable. We sell Vodafone but keep Ghana Airways and Electricity Corporation? Why not line up all our bleeding organizations and sell everyone of them? Ghana Telecom has been the cash cow of this NPP government. First, the Malaysian, then Norwegian with fat salaries and now the Brits are here to finish us off like they do best. Remember when they use to kick our butt? I mean deporting our rebellious chiefs and telling us when to sleep and what to eat? Didn’t we, at independence, assume that colonialism is over? Colonialism can acquire a black face after all!

If and when our colonial masters return and start running GT to health, how are they going to do it? Will they bring a shipload of employees from Britain to run it or use local labor? If indeed, they plan on using local labor, which they must, why couldn’t we? Is it because our people are incompetent or the system they work in just sucks? Are we saying that the Ghanaian worker cannot perform under Ghanaian leadership or supervision? And if the latter is the case, where does it leave us? If the latter is not true, are we saying that we only work well when responding to the cattle prods of the West? Is that why majority of Ghanaians remain successful when they work in the Diaspora but fail in their own country? Is this about systems? Folks, these challenges pierce deep into the psyche of our very souls. It demeans us and makes us look as if we are living in a pimper’s paradise. Remember when Bob Marley said living in a pimper’s paradise makes one laugh when there ain’t no joke? Do you remember the scorn that was poured on Professor Watson for calling us less intelligent? Are we living color of what he said? Oh God, please let us not fulfill Dr. Watson’s prophecy!

It is one thing to sell cash cows like GT to our colonial masters and another to really address the core challenges that bring us to these boiling points over and over again. Our Education system must be a telling failure. What kind of graduates are we producing? Why can’t they run our organizations effectively? Was it not Nkrumah’s dream to FUBU the situation? FUBU, for those of you who don’t know, is “FOR US BY US”. And yes, it is a brand name owned by blacks in the USA. How is industry working with our universities to produce the kind of graduate needed to run our organizations? If the educational system is fine, I don’t believe it is, what kind of training do these Ghanaian Graduates and MBA’s get on the job away from school? Is it politics, tribalism and cronyism that kills our organizations or sheer incompetence? Our human resource situation must be in a blinding mess then! If after 51 years we can’t produce home grown managers to run our organizations effectively then we seriously have a problem on our hands. Isn’t it a flaming irony that we can’t find locals to run our organizations but will ban dual citizens from contesting for leadership positions? We are happy to outsource leadership in these organizations to Norwegian and Malaysians but we continue to disqualify diasporans, born and bred Ghanaians, with similar skills and experience, from running for high office in their land of birth. And they want us to believe in our culture and country? Tweaah Kai!!!

Is it possible that Kufour and his henchmen could have kept Ghana Telecom by hiring a private competent management group to run it? Oh this is one of those Sunday morning moments when there is no meat in the house so that poor rooster must die prematurely to save the family from humiliation huh? Haba! Is the economy really collapsing? Could the management group be paid a fee base on a percentage of the profits? By doing the latter, we keep all the profits in the sputtering Ghanaian economy instead of having it siphoned off to the rich west. We can use profits from GT to lay more fiber optics and do other development projects, can’t way? If you are worried about executive involvement, why not structure it such that parliament will have oversight? Will this arrangement work in Ghana? Will our rubber stamp parliament be up to snuff if called to act? If not, can we think of other creative ways to keep this organization, run it well and have the profits work for us? Does Ghana Telecom have any strategic or security value for country Ghana? It seems as if our leaders just don’t understand the implication of their actions or they simply don’t care because they stand to gain millions of dollars from these wicked deals. Why all these flurry of serious deals in a jiffy? First it was luxury planes and now Ghana Telecom? Are we to expect more from Kufour and his men before they skip town? Is it time to chop for the last? Oga dey chop am vuga vuga! Edey chop Nyaga Nyaga!!

Here is the truth I have been dying to say. We flat out have no trust in our leaders. If we could trust Kufour and his men to do the right thing, the decibel level will ebb. Most people are raising a fuss about the muss mainly because people believe Kufour and his folks are selling these organizations for personal and partisan gain. Most also believe that Kufour and his phalanx, in most cases, take liberties with due diligence. They make is easier to nurse such vicious charges because of the rampant corruption and lack of information on the details. If they can contract for loans from a shady hair salon, what can’t they do? Most people cannot trust that this is being done in our best interest. And the lack of information and forthrightness from the Kufour regime is saturating the rumor mill with juicy tales. Additionally, the Ghanaian worker cannot be trusted to give off his best when supervised by his fellow Ghanaian. The Ghanaian leaders of these state organizations have lost control and even a zoo is better organized and much more orderly. Nepotism, cronyism and tribalism has not helped as well. Ghana Telecom must be a hard nut to crack because the Malaysians and the Norwegians could not crack it either. So sell or don’t?

Perhaps we took Nkrumah’s promise of a better life too far. Whatever it was or is, we are giving a very bad account of ourselves and traditionalist like Kufour are leading the charge with double talk. Will we ever be self reliant and if so, how soon? Kufour is taking us into the dark ages and it is official that the golden age of business is really the golden age of bull. If selling GT makes sense, maybe we should line up all the faltering public organizations and sell them to the highest bidder. And when we are done with the fire sale, we can outsource our government to foreigners too. Perhaps our final act will be to resubmit to the queen. Why did we bother with independence to start with? The word shame does not begin to address the claptrap we find ourselves in. Here we have a president self conferring medals and beating his chest that his government has delivered on its promise yet our HPIC economy is on life support. Now we know the economy is collapsing. We also know that these people knew all along about the lard they’ve been nursing but did not care. This government has lost credibility with its own ardent supporters and Ghanaians in general. Now we have to sell our cash cow and kill our bloated bureaucracy to survive. What if we did that earlier on? Would it have worked? It seems as if not even a fire hose of valid arguments or reasons can prevent the NPP from selling. I thought the ant was dubbed wise because it always saved for the rainy day? I guess we could learn a lot from the ant. I weep for mother Ghana!! We need a new set of leaders and a reformed and informed followership now! Think Independents for the upcoming elections!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Also known as the double edge sword)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell. Harry Truman