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Opinions of Sunday, 7 June 2009

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

America Comes To Ghana: Letter to Obama

Dear Mr. Obama,

I am one of the few Ghanaians (if not the only one) who didn’t want you to become American president. In the primaries, I supported Hilary Clinton with every breath in me and when you won the Democratic ticket I decided to back McCain.

Don’t get me wrong, man. You are a very impressive guy. I think God invested too much talent in you. I admire you... if only you were white, I’d lay down for you to walk on me. But you are not white and that’s the one thing I don’t like about you. Just the idea of a black man becoming the president of the most powerful nation on earth filled me with dread and consternation. Whiles I didn’t support you because you were black, an overwhelming majority of my compatriots gave you their backing simply because of the fact that you are black.

Like they say, there’s nothing like an idea whose time has come. Nothing could stop this impressive, articulate young half-black man from becoming the most powerful man on earth. When you won the election, a good number of African started thinking that almost all our problems are going to end because there is a negro in the White House. But I’ve often tried to make the point that there is very little you can do to take our continent (and the entire black race) from the miserable conditions we find ourselves in if we continue doing the same silly things we’ve been doing for the best part of the past 50 years.

I hope that with your impending visit to Ghana you will find a way to forcefully send this message across. Seriously, I don’t know why you chose Ghana to be your first destination in sub-Saharan Africa. And I don’t want to know. All I need you to do when you get here is to spend a few minutes to knock some beautiful sense into some heads – especially those of our politicians.

First, I need you to tell our politicians that none of them – absolutely none – should dare take credit for your decision to visit Ghana. That decision was entirely yours and you supposedly decided to come here on the basis of what we the people of Ghana have achieved in the democratic sphere. Our politicians have the tendency to use such visits to validate all the silly things they do.

Last year for example, when Bush came to town to show Kufuor how to chase mosquitoes, our president turned around to say that your predecessor had shown enormous confidence in all he (Kufuor) had been doing. But he wouldn’t have come here if we the people had been hacking ourselves with machetes, would he? We are the longsuffering ones who have decided that even though we are yet to reap the democratic dividends, we would not hack each other with machetes to settle our political differences. Time and again, we’ve been tempted, the politicians have often almost taken us to the abyss, but we always resolved to take the path of peace. Last December, for example, things really got so tensed because the losing party was unwilling to concede defeat. Scared but anxious for peace to prevail, most of us went into our rooms and slept. When we woke up, everything was alright. So, please, don’t forget to say a few nice words to the people and tell them to keep on trudging the peaceful, democratic path – in your own inimitable way, of course.

Mr. Obama, I don’t know how you manage to keep your black mind sparkling white but I’d like you to bring us some scouring powder, which we will use to scrub the skulls of our politicians. Most of our politicians have their minds filled with so much dirty crap and I believe a thorough skull-scrub (preferably with ‘Ajax’ or ‘Comet’) will help them see things a bit more clearly, realising that public service is just that – public service and not an expedition of plunder.

I also think some of our leaders have grains for brains. Some of them have lost the medulla in their oblongata – and that, for me, could also explain some of the incredibly stupid things they do. Most Ghanaians will be able to easily point out to you those politicians whose skulls need a thorough scouring – someone like the former speaker of parliament, for example. But for those we are not so sure about (they show flashes of brilliance today and act like idiots tomorrow), I will be delightfully grateful if you could agree to sponsor a CT (or MRI) scan of the brains, preferably under the supervision of those beautiful doctors in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ – I love that show!

Mr. Obama, I have no doubt in my mind that when you come to town, you’d offer us some money and explicitly state how it should be used. I am grateful for that. Thanks to strict monitoring, it’s tough – almost impossible – for our politicians to steal money from the American government. But, they steal our money with such alacrity – sometime in broad daylight, by passing laws that ensure that they live in luxury and comfort whiles the rest of us go without the basics of life – water, schools, good health care and electricity.

I do not understand why our leaders should come to America – as Kufuor did last year – to beg for 17 million dollars to chase mosquitoes while we spent about 70 million dollars (of our own money in the previous year) throwing a party to celebrate our 50th year of independence.

Whatever amount of money you give to this country, Mr. Obama, I just want you to be aware that that multiples of that will be expended either on useless ventures or on the luxury of a privileged political clique. To illustrate my point, take Mills’ predecessor for example. He it was who decided to “cook” for himself a pension package that would make you want to run for president in Ghana someday – and I tell you, there is no way you will lose an election here. John Kufuor’s pension package is juicier than the one your predecessor got and I am definitely sure that in about eight years, when your tenure ends, you will earn nothing near what he contrived for himself. Why should a retiring president in a poor country earn more than that of the most powerful nation on earth?

Our politicians also have this thing they call “ex-gratia”. I am sure even a man as learned and intelligent as you has never heard of the phrase. Well, it refers to these gift packs of cash and other goodies (houses, furnishings and cars) our politicians package for themselves when their tenure comes to end. Essentially, they use the “ex-gratia” to say “thank you” to themselves for doing such a marvellous job plundering the country’s wealth to enrich themselves whiles much of the nation wallows in abject, heart-wrenching poverty.

Does this make sense to you? I don’t expect it to. So, please, when you come down, I will like you to find a stern (even if undiplomatic) way to tell Mills in no uncertain terms that he should end the ‘ex-gratia’ nonsense and quickly review the retirement package for former public office holders. You should make it clear to all the politicians on this continent that you are not Africa’s messiah and that there is absolutely nothing you (or America) can do to reverse its backwardness if we continue to waste our resources on the comfort and luxuries of a privileged few. Please, this is very important to me and I need you to make it and make it forcefully. It will also be very much appreciated if you made it known to the legions of your supporters in Africa that they should not relent in pushing their leaders to do the right things and demanding accountability from them.

Mr. President, could you also please take a few moments to show our leaders how not to take themselves too seriously? I have seen you in pictures prancing around the White House with your dog, dancing with your wife in public, kissing her and even cracking some pretty jokes. I really liked the one you said about your relationship with Hilary Clinton. The other time, you stopped over at a wayside pizzeria to buy a pizza for yourself. Our leaders carry themselves about as if they carry all the burdens of the world on their shoulders – busy for nothing. But you, Mr. Obama, are the most powerful man on earth. Everyone wants a bit of your attention and intervention. Yet, you take time to have fun and let people know that you are human. Please, show our president how to take it easy. It will help him a great deal. He’s not a well-man and if you showed him a few tricks, I am sure it would help reduce his stress levels and improve his health a great deal.

Finally, Mr. Obama, let me leave you with a little word of caution. Our president has this pesky habit of transposing the pronunciation of words. For example, he says “extragavanza” of extravaganza. Recently, he said “ecomini” instead of economy and “Ofumtuor” for Otumfuor (which is a traditional title). If you hear him say “Omaba” instead of Obama, don’t take offence. Just laugh it off. Take it all in good fun – and I am sure you would have a lot of that in Ghana.

See you soon,
atokwamena!
www.atokd.com