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Opinions of Saturday, 6 November 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Catching our groove at 53

It sounds fictional Jomo, but we appear to have reached that stage where an armed robber could easily break into the Presidency in blinding daylight and rob the presidential guards of their weapons and President Mills himself of his documented professorial credentials, mobile phone and wallet.

I don’t know about his aides, Jomo but the president’s own wallet is very unlikely to yield anything worth any armed thief’s bother and please trust me on that score or don’t trust me if you like. I am referring to a president with an austere lifestyle whose aides will need to demonstrate a similar commitment to moderation or else..!

Robbers did attack the residence of one of Mills’s foreign envoys who was apparently home visiting and helped themselves to cash and valuables this week. One of the bandits, John Fiagbedzi alias Spider, whose profile reads like that of a re-incarnated Lawrence Anini, was shot dead by police but his accomplices escaped to rejoin the multitude of armed bandits who are in hibernation following a recent police anti-robbery offensive.

It is a snap shot of the state of public security and safety in Ghana 53 years after independence. Tomorrow marks the 53rd anniversary of that eternally memorable day when our great republic got the British to lower the Union Jack for the very last time and head back where they came from.

How much have we achieved in terms of national socio-economic development, cohesion, integration and unity since 1957? Let us begin with unity: Up on the Savanna where I grew up, I was old enough at independence to discern that “Kambonga” in my dialect Kusaal, referred to an Akan speaking individual.

He was a native of a place called Komass (Kumasi). Komass covered the vast expanse of the country’s land mass all the way from the southern boundaries of Bamboi and Kintampo to the Lord knew where. They grew cocoa there, so jobless youth of the Savanna flocked to Komass to work on cocoa farms.

Fifty-three years later, I have come to appreciate that there is limited homogeneity in the Kambonga man’s cultural heritage and that Kambonga’s are Fantes, Brongs, Kawhus, Asantes, Akyems and all that, and that they are sometimes at each others throats over matters of land, chieftaincy and political affiliation.

Blankson was a “Kambonga” policeman, who thanks to football was more integrated and popular with Bawku townsfolk of the 1950s than any Kambonga who ever set foot in the town. He played for the second division team “Bawku Highlanders” and was famous for scoring goals through blistering headers from impossible distances and angles.

Thanks to people like Blankson, the Kambonga man in the south got to form his own perceptions of local geography in relation to the Savanna: The Savanna which covers a third of the country’s landmass was called ‘The north” or simply Tamale and the indigenes of the zone, ‘pepefuo” or “nothing-ners”. Hey, there is no point in fretting over matters of accent, Jomo.

From the foregoing thesis, would you say we are today more ethnically conscious and nationally united and integrated or less so? Has the prevailing apparent peace and stability of the nation the capacity to continue to hold under the kind of pressure we have witnessed during elections and political campaigns?

Our media archives hold ample evidence that years of post-independence military coups and official corruption have badly staggered our progress but then public consciousness about the devastating impact of corruption on development and the welfare of our people, has never been higher:

No one is escaping scrutiny: Public office holders, politicians, journalists and political activists: The case of Julius Malema which is raging on in South Africa and a media-related scandal here, affirm that corruption in post-independent Africa is up indeed against a new wave of accountability.

Malema as you are no doubt aware, is the Youth League President of South Africa’s ruling ANC. In the past two years, he has bought luxury houses, refurbished his grandmother's house and lives a highflying life. He cannot explain how he funds his lavish lifestyle nor remember when he last paid his income tax.

He claims his most recent tax returns were eaten up by a dog. It was pointed out to him that he does not own a dog, but he insisted the dog in question was a white mongrel that used to come around to eat food crumbs whenever he and his friends were eating.

He has been linked in media reports to a business company but he claims a news reporter forged his signatures in a bid to link him to the company! He has also dismissed evidence of his interest in other companies as the work of opposition elements “who drink red wine.” The case of the media scandal here is no less intriguing: The allegation is that the previous political administration set up a multi-billion cedi slush fund from a petroleum tax and paid journalists from the fund to use the media in defending and protecting the interests of the administration.

Every government could do with public Information programmes seeking to explain its plans and policies but that is not the same as paying journalists to slant information in its favour, is it? Did the use of public cash to fund government PR not die with the communist press, Jomo?

Nine journalists who have been named in an audit report as beneficiaries of the payments and even of public business contracts, this week denied the allegations with such aggressive vehemence, that folks say the development introduces another dimension to the saga of the alleged media slush fund: The fund may have been diverted if indeed it existed. It is a warning to the nation to look out for possible misinformation and disinformation in the media as governments come and go: Misinformation is bad enough but it may be forgiven. What we may find difficult to forgive is disinformation.

While the former refers to wrong information that is unintentionally disseminated, disinformation is produced by people who intend to mislead the public for political gain.

Disinformation may not constitute libel but it could create public hatred for those it is directed against, be it a political party or its leading members and activists and that cannot be healthy for democracy!

The state of our socio economic infrastructure at 53? So ran-down, Jomo, that our oil discoveries have got us very busy counting chickens that are yet to be hatched.

President Mills has suggested we spend the expected oil fortune on essential national development projects, but experts say the expected revenues from oil will not amount to awesome loads of cash for everyone to have daily food and drinks parties and to build infrastructure in the first five years of production.

Revenues from the first five years of production they suggest, will need to be invested to raise the revenue needed for funding infrastructure development projects. Yet, in spite of everything, at 53, there is still that potent fuel of human progress called HOPE!

http://times.fienipa.com/content/catching-our-groove-53

George Sydney Abugri is a prolific, multi-award winning, Ghanaian newspaper journalist.
Read more of his articles at http://sydneyabugri.com/ or email him at georgeabu@hotmail.com