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Opinions of Monday, 25 January 2010

Columnist: Aminu, Adongo Richard

A Brand Ghana Office?

I simply cannot help but join Mr. Ben Ephson and the numerous others who want the Brand Ghana office to be given a second look. Come to think of it, what exactly are they branding? Is it the open secret that Ghana is one of the best thriving democracies in the third world? Is it the widely accepted fact that Ghana has since independence contributed to world peace through her contribution to UN peace keeping missions? Or is it to play PR gimmicks to camouflage the real obnoxious low image which Ghanaians have about themselves as a result of the excruciating poverty which has been with them despite the promises to deal with the canker from every government? Better still, is an unofficial propaganda office of government?

I am actually not calling for the abrogation of the office because I know that jobs must be created for the “boys.” But even while this is done, the Ghanaian tax payer should be given good reasons for the new salaries that he helps to pay. The last time a government of Ghana tried to brand Ghana through a national orientation ministry, that very ministry looked on helplessly in insomnia while the then sitting President and his cohorts of bootlickers thought Ghanaians the core Machiavellian ethic of behaving like the cunning wolf when looking for power, and after that, behave like the ferocious lion who pounces on his prey (enemy) without mercy. What orientation was this ministry giving Ghanaians? The then Ministry of National Orientation sponsored the telecast of some advertisements on certain Television stations encouraging Ghanaians to be punctual at functions. Yet the Ministry could not chastise nor castigate the Ministers and other government dignitaries who most of the time appeared not late, but very, very late for functions.

It has been suggested in certain quarters that what the Brand Ghana office is currently doing is nothing less than offering press statements every now and then. Let us hope that in due course they find a footing and justify their existence. This is very much so because while in opposition, this government had made harbingering calls to Ghanaians to wake up and fight the injustices of the about 40 Ghanaians who were mysteriously murdered under the watchful eyes of the Gambian authorities in their land. The issue became a campaign issue and the then opposition, now in government promised to take expeditious actions should it be given reigns of power.

What do we witness today? This same government has clandestinely settled with the Gambian authorities behind closed doors. Their shameful settlements with the Gambian authorities now say that they were less than ten Ghanaians who were murdered and not the earlier purported 40. What is more? The only survivor was neither contacted nor included in the investigations, nor was he part of the several meetings among government officials concerning the matter. Intergovernmental meetings between the government of Ghana and Gambia were also without him. If the baseless and weak argument that his educational background is too weak to include him in such high level and high powered discussions, what about the ace human right activist, Nana Oye Lithur who was so passionate and vociferous about the whole affair? Word has it that she too was snubbed and sidelined on every move the government made concerning the issue. What is worse? The compensation package and recommendations that were made and accepted by both parties are said to be a smack in the face.

How can Ghana be branded to the families of the Ghanaian “faithfully departed” in Gambian, let alone to the souls of those who have met such ill fate while sojourning to make life better back home for their dependents? Indeed the families of those who died would have every right to lose trust and faith in Ghana.

An American President once said to his country men that “ask not what America can do for you, but what you can do for America”. Transposing this to our beloved Ghana, let me ask the state first, what it has done for us? It continuously pays us unrealistic wages, denies us essential utilities while exporting some or thinking of exporting it (electricity and water): the country’s resources are continuously being plundered by and greedily being distributed among a very few. Yes Ghana’s students studying in foreign lands are continuously neglected and made to fend for themselves alongside their education.

It would be recalled that when the genocide broke out in Rwanda, America was one of the first if not the very first to evacuate its citizens and interests in that country. It was the same thing when the blood thirsty and Dracula of Charles Taylor took Liberia ransom, not to mention America’s intervention in favor of its citizens in Angola, Zimbabwe, Burundi and many other trouble spots in the world. We often hear America making so much noise if even ONE of their citizens is held hostage in a foreign land. Is it the same with Ghana?

Even in our own Ghana, when those British teenagers were caught in connection with their attempt to import cocaine into the country, what didn’t happen? The Brits made sure that their citizens were not unnecessarily shown on the pages of our newspapers. When they were being made to appear before court, Ghana’s security protected their identities from public view. Was it the same with Taggor and the rest? The culprits were sent back home, whether they were punished or not, it is anyone’s guess.

In my own candid opinion, until every Ghanaian can feel and demonstrate his Ghanaian status by virtue of the cordial symbiosis between state and citizen, Ghana may never be branded outside tribalized, vindictive and factionalized politics. Until the state can look out for every one of its citizens much like the very good shepherd would do its flock, there can be no occasion where any branding or rebranding would instill any sense of patriotism in our body politic so much so that we see it worthy or fit to die for our dear motherland one day.

And a word of advice to the Brand Ghana office should it see the light of day. Please make sure that every home in Ghana miniature flags of Ghana. Let us know that these flags are not only meant to be showcased during soccer festive periods, but they should be brandished and shown anytime there is an imminent threat to our unity and peace. Let us know that immediately after the 1985 bombing of Oklahoma by the American terrorist, most Americans were seen with their flags affirming their unity and loyalty to America. Let us know that it was the same when news of the September eleventh attacks broke.

Lest I forget, Ghana over the weekend was said to have donated three million dollars to the government and people of Haiti to help them cope with earthquake. This gesture went along with a quantity of made in Ghana goods. Let me say that the move really made me elated. For me, it was a very good step towards the Brand Ghana agenda. At least the signal was sent to Ghanaians and everybody that we are not “Beggar Ghana” always to be seen with a cup in hand. It showed that we have moved from always being at the receiving end to learning to give. As the saying that there is more blessing in giving than receiving, it is my hope that the good lord would bless us more than he usually does.

Adongo Richard Aminu.