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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Columnist: Amankwa, Kwame

Amanfuo ? The 150 evils confronting Ghana

Amanfuo, good day. I am back to continue from where I left off last time. I thank the thousands of readers who have sent me messages of support on the good work that I am doing. Amanfuo, I have fond and distasteful memories of the past and present. I must say that I am no moralist, crusader or some latter day saint trying to expose and correct the evils afflicting our society. This should be the job of the pastors, bishops, political leaders etc. but there appears to be some negligence or day - dreaming going on here. This ongoing piece is not meant to degrade or present our dear nation in any bad light. Far from it. I love Ghana to bits and will do anything to save the motherland from its current predicament. However, I have wanted to do my bit for the motherland for some years now, but onipa nua has done everything humanely and inhumanely possible to stop me from pursuing this noble cause. Although I am very comfortable in life thanks to obroni?s papaye (goodness), I still feel sad, day in, day out. Why? Because I see and hear all these horrible stories about the motherland and about Africa.

Like I said before, obiara kro nye (there is no saintly town on earth). The evils that I have mentioned so far are everywhere - in the USA, Canada, Germany etc. What they have next to saintliness are the well respected, strict and fair judicial and policing system. About three months ago a traffic police constable stopped a commissioner of police who was driving over the speed limit and charged him with the offence. A minister of government was also stopped under similar circumstances. Amanfuo, can you imagine this scenario happening in Ghana? The officer and his entire family and village will be starved for the next 30 years.

George Bush or Tony Blair will not send commandos or secret service agents to go and intimidate or kill their political opponents, journalists or newspaper editors even though they insult and poo poo on their names everyday. They make the good things they do or plan - development projects, jobs creation and other positives - speak for them. Sometimes I thank the Almighty for not making me pay taxes to the government of sikaman but to Obroni, for some of the things that is done with people?s taxes in sikaman can be vexing to the soul. And there is no medium for you to voice your grievances. The phrase ? no taxation without representation? does not mean anything here.

Now Amanfuo let?s carry on.

64. Our movies.

This industry has expanded rapidly over the last few years thanks to our newfound enterprising spirit. Most often, I try to cheer myself up with home made movies. I like titles like ?Taxi driver?. May God bless the producer. For many of the titles, I can only say boo boo. When the film does not depict a story line about somebody going to the juju man to ask for someone?s destruction, you can surely bet your dollar that it will be about scenes of death, barrenness, sorrow, poverty, beatings, insults, vulgar language, sex and things that instantly depresses the soul. Is that the best the motherland can offer to folks at home and abroad? Do we have any idea what damage these films are doing to our image, culture etc. Amanfuo, eya mun try, for we can do better. There is a secret which our entrepreneurs are yet to discover. There are millions of Ghanaians abroad - in Japan, Iceland, the Antarctica, in Darfur, UK, USA etc - with an average family of about 3.5. These second and third generations form a very large unexploited market segment. These are constantly yearning for something to identify themselves with, things nice that they can tell their friends, neighbours etc about. Most of this knowledge is derived from the media. Listen, in the 1970s we had sensible and representative dramas like Osofo Dadzie, and inspiration songs from musicians like Ampadu, CK Mann, Ampofo Agyei, Kakaiku, etc. Even the pioneer of disco highlife, George Darko did not start in a vulgar way. Listen to Ako ti brofo etc. They fed us with intelligent, culturally relevant, soul searching, patriotic and highly flavoured tones. Amanfuo, we seem to have lost the plot somewhere along the way and need to urgently sankofa.

65. Poverty and poor health facilities:

The progress of every nation is largely dependent on the health of its citizens. That is Why countries like UK and USA invest something like 15% of GDP on health. This is a place where food is abundant, social security systems exist to tackle poverty etc and where the level of literacy is high. What this means is that countries like Ghana, where we see the grandmother of all poverty, the wofa of all illiteracy and the nanankansowa of all ignorance (because illiteracy and this one goes hand in hand) and ill health, ought to even invest more and more in these facilities. Not that we do not have the means, but for some reason, we always seem to prefer to invest in the destructive elements of society, above our very immediate needs. But I don?t blame anyone other than our akrakyifo. We go to school, it seems to learn how to commit ?white collar? crimes, exploit the unfortunate, enslave them, send them to the farms, seas, the dangerous goldmines etc to bring the resources to our door steps for us to sell and pocket the money.

Anyway last week it was the turn of my friend, Mr Blair, to try and do something about our poverty status. Amanfuo, the motherland cannot feed itself, even though it has vast arable land. Sikaman cannot provide jobs for it?s own, even though it has all the resources Odumankuma has given to his own ? timber, gold, diamond, snails, fruits, etc - which most nations like our neighbours north of the border will die for. Sikaman cannot treat it?s sick unless it whispers and pleads with obroni to help. Sikaman has been endowed with people with brains to train as doctors, nurses etc and has even been ?exporting? some to abrokyire, yet it cannot get healthcare workers to man it?s own hospitals. I was very impressed last week when I visited Accra, the 37 Military hospital to be precise. During Nkrumah?s time, this magnificent place had the best facilities and expertly treated most things clinical. Years of under-investment, adwene bone, skin pain and the old enemy tribalism, led to a loss of status and this premier facility became a white elephant. Now some life has been breathed into it and it is caring for both civilians and soldiers. Thanks to the person who with the foresight made this happen. They say we are losing nurses and doctors, but during the past 18 years that I have been in abrokyire, I have not met one nurse or doctor who says they used to work at the 37 military hospital. Now my solution to the brain drain is to train all doctors and nurses in our military facilities and traditions since they are likely to stay, give them uniforms and the perks which comes with the job and send them to our healthcare institutions. Or we can go the Philippines way - train millions of nurses, or revise the local training programmes and diversify the branches and levels to accommodate all those who would not normally qualify for mainstream nursing or medicine. We could then have enough healthcare workers in our hospitals and the community, and also become a net exporter of manpower.

More beneficially, the government could hide it?s pride and take the initiative in linking up with all Ghanaian health workers abroad, appeal to their patriotic senses, offer then free return tickets for periods of up to 3 months to undertake work in selected hospitals or appeal to them to pay some monies towards the reconstruction of our hospitals. I have seen some advertisements asking Ghanaians to contribute to the Korle Bu hospital fund. I will love to pay many dollars into the pot, but me nua the history of such initiatives does not look good, so I have been reluctant to help, which is a shame. Trust and transparency is at the heart of this decision. How can I contribute when I hear stories of hospital managers allegedly diverting materials meant for hospital development for their own use? We have fundamental problems to sort out before we start to knock on people?s doors for assistance.

Amanfuo, someone pointed out to me last time that, whilst it is good to point out the evils in our society, it was doubtful whether anything could be achieved in our lifetime. My reply is that this can be done if there is the will power.

Sometimes I wonder what sikaman will be like in the next 15 years, 20 years, 30 years time. By that time Rawlings, Kuffour, Mills, Mahama etc will not be there. What sort of land, system of government, educational system, infrastructural base, hospital facilities etc will we bequeath to the generations to come. If you are thinking that your family be alright in obronikrom, stop and think. Many far right parties are asking for people like you and me to be sent back to where we came from regardless of our status. Our children and their offspring may one day be forced to head back towards the motherland and what sort of environment will meet them? We have the choice of doing something about them now or going down under with them.

66. Neglecting the atease fo (the living):

Amanfuo, I mentioned funerals the other day. But this additional bit touched my heart last week when I was preaching to a congregation. You know I also double as a pastor in my spare time (Menua, if you get a good crowd here in abrokyire to listen to your good preachings, you can make millions in a short time, except that I did not want any money for my services). I said that Ghanaians cherish their loved ones. Otherwise why will we send home about $1bn every year? Money which obroni wouldn?t dream of lending to us and I hope it is being put to good use. Although we look after our living ones, we love our dear ones who have passed onto the other side more. When our loved ones are alive, we do not spend to make them comfortable. Yet when they pass away, we spend huge sums of money, which could sometimes be used to develop whole communities on funerals. The funeral services are becoming ever more sophisticated in terms of their organisation, costs etc. On such days major roads are blocked, government departments are vacated (lost productivity), government resources are dissipated on a massive scale in the name of honouring the dead. We need to really look at this practice, before we all get submerged under the weight of funerals. I am sure we can find a way of honouring the dead without depriving the living of something to chew.

67. Bad roads:

Amanfuo, I cannot begin to recount with pain and horror the number of good, beautiful, important people who have lost their lives through Ghana?s shoddy and often dangerous road networks. Amanfuo, some of the big potholes which developed after the overthrow of the great one and for which Highways managers were stripped naked and caned in public during the revolution are still around. We know what suffering, pain such holes can unleash, yet we sit and watch waiting for the next accident. A couple of weeks ago we heard about the unfortunate involvement of the NDC running mate in a yet unexplained road accident. I do not want to comment on the incident right now as everyone?s tankwa remains high, but it goes to show in part, the deplorable state of some of our roads. Shortly after the accident, there was finger pointing everywhere. Some people said that some NPP connection person, telephoned Mr Mumuni at 3am in the morning to come and collect some sweets and NPP T-shirts brought in from Dubai for a surprise rally the following week. The plan was for Mr Mumuni to cross carpets and surprise the NDC fold, like they always do at this time of elections. (Amanfuo why the NPP of all parties will call this top NDC man in the early hours of the morning and him obliging to come out without telling his family or flag bearer beats my imagination). Some even suggested the NPP people have charms acquired from India and did this hot one on Mr Mumuni. I beg to disagree on these two propositions. I know the people who pointed to unfair play, knew the way the game had always been played in the past and so spent no time recognising all the tell signs ? send people with batakaris in the night, call the victims secretly through their door key holes without their families knowing, with messages from the big one, put them in the van, send them to the forest, shot them and burn their bodies. Thank goodness Mr. Mumuni escaped from whatever was after his life with his life. Others have not been so lucky in the past.

Anyway there has been a complete breakdown in the enforcement of our road regulations. Sometimes the people sent to monitor and arrest the offending motorists (you know who!) are seen fending for themselves at the expense of public safety. If we can tackle this menace with the zeal with which we are dealing with the AIDS epidemic, we will reap good results. I have seen the present government continuing with most the NDC road programmes and other new ones. This is very heart warming. If the roads maintenance costs are becoming unbearable for the government, it should toll all the major roads and ring-fence the monies for road development and safety initiatives.

68: Favouritism, cronyism, wifism, uncleism, selfism, nephewism, cousinism, madamfoism IS KILLING OUR SOCIETY. They know this friend does not have the credentials required of a contractor, yet they will form clandestine companies as fronts to secure expensive contracts, and then shoddily execute them to the detriment of society. I know a friend who was a painter here. Years ago he joined a political party and obtained a membership card. Amanfuo he connected himself well and was given a multi-million pound contract to construct a railway line to my village Kimkim! Dear Lord have mercy. Giving contracts to friends and family is nothing new. Actually it is done in America, UK and everywhere. Amanfuo, recently in the UK an MP was accused of employing his own wife as a secretary, his daughter as a research assistant and claiming big money for them. The question is not one of whom the contract is given to, but whether they can do the job as costed and planned. Please give the contracts to competent people.

69: Revolution again, what revolution? ? We have heard it 20,000 times. It means wanting to kill and sometimes killing someone because that person is not from our tribe, family, ideological background, traditions, taste etc. Sometimes the underlying causes are sheer envy, jealousy, warped thinking capacities, overstated self-belief, accessibility to the tools of death and destruction, connections with the underworld etc. Even the famous Gaddaffi has now mended his ways and talking nice about democracy albeit in an unrefined way. Russia has turned 360 degrees towards full democracy. What a hell are we in Ghana still talking about revolutions and disobedience. If revolutions were alcohol, all Ghanaians would be drunk by now. We have seen the great, great grandparents of the thing, we have seen the nana kansiwa of the thing and we have tasted its inner constituents. Many great and small people have even lost their lives because of this thing. I nearly lost my future because of this thing. My great, great uncle died penniless still supporting our Ghanaian revolution. In the end I had to use my ?capitalist? money to bury him. Lets talk constructive politics and stop this dabadaba.

70: Corruption:

The origins of corruption, oppression, fraud, theft and looting of public assets was there during colonialism and continued through independence to today. Amanfo, at the time of independence I saw not less than ?800m in Ghana?s account. That was very big money. By the time Nkrumah was overthrown, Ghana was in the red ? an indebted nation. Then our problems started multiplying. Most of Nkrumah?s followers nicked heavily, Kotoka, Afrifa and co. took some, some in the Busia regime all helped themselves, Acheampong?s batch also swallowed a lot, then June 4th put some breaks on it. It gathered pace again during Limann?s time when it became possible for some PNP party big shots to go and negotiate loans in the UK, shared the money before coming back to Ghana. One Christmas Nigeria gave us 20 articulator trucks full of goddies and lo and behold these vanished on reaching the Aflao border. When Limann was overthrown we started another revolution to clean up the mess like we always do. And what a mess did we leave behind ? thousands of PNDC faithfuls and later NDC achidi fo filled their pockets centre, left and right. Now the people who left and know the tricks of the trade are accusing the current government of corruption on an elephant scale, even suggesting their greed for the thing exceeds anything that has ever happened. Amanfuo as much I agree blindly that corruption exists, I do not think that the present government are any worse than the one we had for twenty odd years. Everyone is guilty. No one single politician in the past or present has been able to publicly declare his or her assets or liabilities.

71: State Institutions:

Most of our state institutions are still operating just as they did during independence ? bureaucracy, dilapidated buildings, the friend and family culture, laziness, waste, misuse of government property, arrogance etc. Not one single institution has been reformed to operate as a successful unit or enterprise - Customs service, police, Fire service, Insurance, Airways, Roads, Pensions, Electoral commission ?except the Armed Forces (Gen Seth Obeng and co. God bless you for working hard over the last few years to ensure the security of sika mma. After the handover, I could not sleep thinking about what will happen in view of the number of men and women who were in possession of legal and illegal fire arms. Sir, continue to professionalise the forces in a way that will make it a partner with civil society in our quest for progress). Where these were reformed, they were done in the name of tribe, friends, mates, dealers etc.

72. Too many old politicians with colo ideas. I find it scandalous that politicians of old should promise so many undeliverable news. We have heard such misplaced assurances since the revolutionary hurricanes of the 1960?s, 70?s and 80?s. Please leave the scene for the younger generation to generate ideas fit for the 21st century.

73. Frustrations of the abrokyireni:

Amanfuo, have you ever tried to donate something to oman Ghana or tried to resettle in the land? They will frustrate you centre, left and right, making a mockery of the president?s call for those from the Diaspora to come home and help. Many have been sent packing back dry. This situation is unhealthy for our nation.

74. Kaikaimotobiphobia (the fear of unseen forces).

Amanfuo, last week I had an argument with obroni in my office. It was such a heated argument that I thought this person would plan something evil against me, like they do in sikaman, against me. You see when I was in sikaman years ago as a post master, one always entertained the fear that if you strictly implemented the rules of the organisation, your juniors or colleagues with dirty hands will do something to you ? sprinkle some powder on your chair or send some illness to you in the middle of night or spike your drink with something nasty. So discipline was not enforced and the organisation moved in a directionless and purposeless fashion. My juniors could come and go as they pleased. It was chaos. Anyway, with the obroni story, the following day I hang my big cross around my neck (the father has always been my protector) and went into the office. I started to look around for any suspicious substances ? powder, agodi, shells, talisman and things like that. Just then this obroni appeared from behind and said ?high K, I HOPE NO HARD FEELINGS?? I was shocked because I was expecting us not to talk again for some years as Rawlings and Kuffour are alleged to be doing. Amanfuo, obroni had forgotten about the argument, with the thinking that we get on with the business of making profits, which appeared to be more important than the arguments or suspicions. His mind was free and this will eventually release his energy for productive activities. Unfounded beliefs, evil thoughts can retard the progress of any society or nation.

Amanfuo, lets stop this NPP ? NDC, PCP, PTT divisive party talk. The advocacy for civil disobedience, direct action, plain law breaking and the display of antagonistic tendencies will do no one any good. What is important is someone who understands the Ghanaian situation, not in an exploitative but well-intentioned sense. One who is not a ruthless diluter of hopes, aspirations and progress or a manager of disappearing certainties. I hope to continue next time. Take care of yourselves because life is hard both home and abroad. Never cease talking about Ghana?s problems and always say a prayer or two for our beloved nation. The most peaceful country in Africa. God bless Ghana and it?s people.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

My next article:

Amanfuo - What is the second capital city of Jamaica? Answer ? Ghana.