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Opinions of Monday, 1 November 2010

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

A cup of Mills

Is it strange that a class three pupil (who might just be about eight years old) cannot answer a question like “who’s the president of the country?”

I don’t think so.

He doesn’t have a care in the world so why on earth must he care about who the president is?

Isn’t it odd that the ignorance of this child will force leaders of the ruling party into crisis meetings to deliberate on the best ways to let the children of this country know who their president is?

Yes, of course, it is.

For all intents and purposes, class three pupils are allowed NOT to know who the president of their country is. I don’t think that every 8-year-old in Britain knows David Cameron as Prime Minister. Not every 8-year-old in America knows that Barack Obama is president of the United States.

Apparently, Ghanaian children, the lucky ones among whom study in poorly ventilated classrooms, with insufficient lighting with little or no learning aids are supposed to be masters of current affairs. Their ignorance of who the president is gives cause for concern and alarm among government officials. It’s very amusing the lengths government seems ready to go just to erase the permissible ignorance (and innocence) of children who don’t know who their president is.

First, we heard a district chief executive instructing school heads to make sure that pictures of the president are hanging on the walls of every classroom. Then came a minister, shouting his voice hoarse and deceiving us that when you go to America, the president of that country has his pictures hanging in every public place.

I stayed briefly in Washington DC, visited Capitol Hill and several government departments regularly as part of a study programme in 2008 and I didn’t see George Bush’s picture hanging in every public place.

Please, someone should tell Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the deputy minister for local government, that he is not the only one who has travelled to America before. Barack Obama’s pictures are not hanging in every public place in America. If he wants to hang the president’s picture everywhere, he should go right ahead and waste the taxpayer’s money. It wouldn’t be the first time good money would be squandered on a silly venture. But he should spare us the lies.

The campaign to popularize the visage of the president has already started. The education ministry has confirmed the free distribution of tea cups embossed with the pictures of the president to school children around the country. That’s what I call a cup of Mills. Very soon, they might move to hanging pictures in classrooms and staff common rooms.

I don’t know where else they may go with the president’s picture after that. But I think it would be very good to have the president’s pictures hanging on electric poles, laundry lines and on the walls of chop bars and KVIPs. Imagine standing in a queue waiting to go do your thing and having the president staring at you. That will help keep ‘things’ in until you have to all clear to go and download.

Next time you go to a fetish priest or prayer camp, don’t be surprised if you see a presidential motif on the walls. I will be terribly disappointed if the government doesn’t start distributing chamber pots with the president’s picture embossed on it for use by infants. Catch them young, right?

How about getting some pretty chicks and getting their beautiful, well-rounded behinds embossed with the president’s picture? They will surely go places and the message will be sent out in a very shapely manner that our president is begging to be known.

A country where you have the president’s picture hanging everywhere is not a healthy country at peace with itself. Look at North Korea. It’s a terrible thing when the chief executive of the country needs to be so badly known (even among the non-voting population) that government officials decide to emboss his picture on tea cups for free distribution among school children. There is something terribly wrong somewhere.

This obsession with getting the president’s pictures out there in order to get every toddler to know who is leader of this country is a symptom of a very serious disease known as unfocused, short-sighted leadership. Why else would a DCE visit a school, overlook the serious lack of educational facilities and rather choose the absence of the president’s picture on the wall as his primary concern? Why else will a minister lie to the whole nation that the American president has his picture hanging everywhere and so we should do the same just to let the president be known.

The fact is a president should not be known by his pictures alone. By his deeds we should know him. It’s true that a picture speaks more than a thousand words. But a good deed speaks more than a thousand pictures. The president should fix the ills of this country. He should get the children better classrooms to study in, desks to sit on and motivated teachers to impart knowledge. He will not only be known. But he will be remembered by the current generation and those yet to come. Being known is fleeting. Pictures can be replaced. Some of the schools don’t even have walls for hanging the pictures. But let the president and his men focus on building modern classrooms, give us water to drink and heal the land they will never be forgotten. His pictures will not just be on our walls and teacups. They will be in a better place, where they can never be removed or defaced – our hearts and our minds. In that case, who needs a cup of Mills?

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