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Opinions of Wednesday, 31 July 2002

Columnist: Ayittey, George Dr.

Dr. GEORGE AYITTEY Replies Critics - Silence Over ghana

Folks,
A number of people have remarked that I have been extraordinarily silent over recent developments in Ghana. This silence has provoked some wild speculation: That, as a slavish sycophant of the Kufuor administration, I am unwilling to criticize President Kufuor regarding the recent scandals and blunders -- IFC, for example. That, as an "intellectual prostitute," I am withholding my fire in anticipation of some plum, juicy government post. That I have been quiet because I was refused the position of Ghana's Ambassador to the United States. The latter allegation was actually posted on "Say It Loud" on the GhanaWeb, which somebody drew to my attention. Some of these allegations also reach me by way of e-mail, of which of which I have pasted below.

First of all, I have repeatedly stated that I do not want any post in the Kufuor -- or any -- government. I did not participate in this "second liberation" struggle -- to rid Ghana of the Rawlings' scourge -- for my own personal gain or advancement. Furthermore, I am not interested in politics or any government post. Nor do I serve the Kufuor government in any capacity.

I am aware of some of the missteps of the Kufuor government and there are plenty of people -- even within the NPP party -- who lambaste the government for them and continue to do so. Lest anyone forgets, these critics are not hounded into exile or thrown in jail. But I will be first to unsheath my CUTLASS the moment the Kufuor administration starts harassing its critics. I fight for and defend PRINCIPLES and IDEALS, not personalities or regimes. Nonetheless, it is true I have been "quiet" but for reasons other than those alleged above.

The first set of reasons are personal and private. I got married on July 7th, went to the Bahamas for the honeymoon. After working to toss out that rogue Rawlings regime out of office, it is time for me to settle down and raise a family. I too need to leave behind "Little Ayitteys" to carry on with the crusaded. This is my first marriage and planning for the wedding and everything consumed a lot of time and energy. Second, I have been trying to finish the manuscript for my next book, Africa's Leadership Crisis. The publisher is breathing down my neck since I was supposed to hand it in 3 months ago. Don't ask what happened.

The third reason is Pan-African. Having "freed" Ghana, it is time to turn our attention to liberate other African countries, laboring under tyranny. Remember that, of the 54 African countries, only 15 of them are democratic. This is an even more charitable count because if you apply a rigorous definition of "democracy," less than 7 would meet that test. Mugabe, Moi, Museveni -- the 3 Ms -- are next on my "Hit List."

The fourth reason is more attitudinal. My silence should not be misinterpreted to mean that I agree with every policy of the Kufuor government. Of course, I disagree with a number of them: Placing Ghana on the HIPC program (rather hasty without undertaking a full public accounting of World Bank loans); the appointment of P.V. Obeng to the Investment Board; the $20,000 car loans to MPs; the handling of "Reconciliation"; the handling of the IFC loan offer, etc. etc. And I get particularly rankled when I see President Kufuor in the company of such despicable despots as Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Eyadema of Togo, Moi of Kenya, as well as others at various African summits. But there is diplomatic protocol to deal with. President Kufuor cannot exclude such tyrants at African summits. And, domestically, President Kufuor is caught between a rock and a hard place -- a fact which various academics and commentators on Ghana's political scene often ignore.

President Kufuor may be the president but he does NOT have the power to move Ghana in the right direction we all want. Let us get this straight. It is NOT that President Kufuor lacks vision or the mandate. He clearly had the mandate of the Ghanaian people for "change." But whether he has the POWER to effect that mandate is a totally different matter. His party has only a three-seat majority in parliament, which is woefully inadequate to carry out the deep, structural and fundamental changes or reforms that are needed in Ghanaian politics and governance. The fundamental changes needed are twofold: Institutional Reform and a Change in Elite Mentality.

We all know that for the past 20 years, the country's key institutions (the military, the judicial system, the banking system, the educational system, the health care system, the banking system, the electoral commission, and even the Constitution) were all perverted or debauched to serve the whims and caprice of one man, Rawlings. Look at Ghana's Constitution, for example. It stinks to high heaven. Tell me this: How can a country have a strange and dysfunctional Constitution that allows party politics at the national level but forbids it at the district level? And which country has an Electoral Commissioner, literally appointed for life and whose appointment cannot be terminated except by an amendment in the Constitution? How can you have a "freely negotiated Constitution" when Sections 33, 34 and 36 were clandestinely inserted at the eleventh hour WITHOUT debate to give perpetual immunity for any acts or omissions committed by a regime? And the Constitution was cobbled together by a Rawlings-appointed Commission. The Chairman of that Commission, Dr. S.K.B. Asante, even admitted that the Commission was under pressure to come up with a Constitution to Rawlings' liking. No political party was represented at that Commission because political parties were banned when the Constitution was being drafted. Imagine what our learned professors would have said if the de Klerk government of South Africa had banned the ANC from the drafting of their country's Constitution.

Obviously, Ghana's Constitution needs to be "cleaned up" and the country's key institutions need to be "de-wormed." The worms, roaches and moles planted in these institutions all need to be cleansed out. Otherwise, they will continue to chew the innards of these institutions, banishing the rule of law, meritocracy, professionalism and accountability. Furthermore, these "Rawlings' worms and roaches" will frustrate, block and even sabotage every policy initiative or program put forward by the Kufuor government. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that the Fast Track court was "unconstitutional," leading Tsatsu Tsikata to claim "victory" should serve as a reminder. Did it occur to you that the Supreme Court is packed with Rawlings henchmen?

But President Kufuor does NOT have the power to clean up the Constitution and the country's institutions. For that, he needs a SUPRA parliamentary majority with more than two-thirds parliamentary votes, which the NPP administration simply does not have. The only way to have had that was through a real OPPOSITION ALLIANCE. I campaigned actively for this in 1992, 1996 and even in 2000, which was why I lambasted the opposition for their incessant bickering and fighting. The Nkrumaist camp couldn't even unite among themselves, let alone with the NPP party. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. Without institutional reform, the Kufuor administration would not be able to achieve much because it would be working with the institutions set in place by Rawlings.

I am not preaching vindictive "witch hunt" and judges should be able to retain their posts on the basis of professional merit -- not on the basis of where the political wind happens to be blowing. And let us get this straight: Reconciliation does not mean people who abused their office and showed complete lack of professional integrity and ethics should keep their jobs. But then again, "reconciliation" was a price Ghana had to pay in order to have a smooth and peaceful change in government because I doubt very much if the NDC regime, terrified at reprisals and being held to account for their terrible and hideous misdeeds, would have relinquished power peacefully if someone like firebrand Kwesi Pratt. Jr. had won the election. In that case, Ghana would have become another Ivory Coast.

The second thing that needs to change is elite mentality. Any educated fool who wants to be wealthy in Africa goes into politics or government and the first thing they do when they get there is to award themselves hefty salaries and increases. Next, the government must provide them with LOANS for cars, houses and even health care. Then the government must provide them with OFFICIAL CARS -- one for their wives for shopping. Then the government must pay the salaries of their garden boys, maid servants, their drivers and even provide them with coffins for their own funerals. All these do not add one iota to the country's GNP. The government does not create wealth; only redistributes. What the government gives these vampire elites, it must take from the PRODUCTIVE folks.

The Kufuor government makes the right noises: Private sector development, because that is where wealth is created. Unfortunately, some of the people yelling the "private sector" slogan are deeply ensconced in government!

I believe Ghana could do well with a trimmed-down, leaner and more efficient government sector. Back in 1990, former Finance Minister, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, claimed that 30 percent of the civil service was redundant. I estimate the percentage to be much higher today. So there is a lot of deadwood in the government sector that needs to be cleaned out.

Those elites who want to be wealthy should go into the private sector and actually produce something -- even charcoal -- or create a product. That is the only way to put the country on the right track to development -- not jostling for government posts or positions.

So, I have not joined the debates on recent developments in Ghana because they are merely sideshows. They miss the real story: The deep, structural institutional reforms and a change in elite mentality that are needed to move the country forward.

George Ayittey (Washington, DC)

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