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Opinions of Sunday, 10 October 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Ghana: A flagstaff manifesto

By George Sydney Abugri

I confess to wondering where I stand in the partisan political equation of our mighty republic. I am not standing to the left, Jomo and I am not standing to the right. I sometimes sense that I am standing in the center, but sooner or later, changing social circumstances draw me to the near left or the near right.

Hey, did ideology not run out of geopolitical fashion and die a long, long time ago? That is fat lie, old chap; ask the Yankees. No leave them alone. Ask President JEA Mills and his lovely friends in the political opposition.

Like a haunted house, the controversial, multi-million dollar architectural curiosity known as the Presidential Palace, has remained unoccupied by President Mills and his staff since it was built.

The Kufuor administration pulled down the old Flagstaff House and built the mansion in its place, renaming it the Golden Jubilee House.

Right out of the blue this week, the Mills administration renamed the facility Flagstaff House, sparking off a heated debate between the pro- Danquah/Busia opposition and the government which is headed by a man known to be an Nkrumahist’s at heart.

It is a mundane affair really, but if we had to contrive some seriousness around it, why, this would be my verdict: The name Flagstaff House appears so frequently in documents of Ghana’s political history, articles, manuscripts and the numerous books about Nkrumah that a physical monument by the name ought to be left standing.

A Mills aide did argue that the renaming of Flagstaff House had been part of systematic attempts by the anti-Nkrumah elements to obliterate Nkrumah’s name and political philosophy from our written political history. See? Ideology is apparently far from dead yet, Jomo.

Of all the military and civilian heads of our mighty republic since independence, one intrigued me the most: The late General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong who together with several other military officers was shot at the stakes in the heat of the June 4 uprising.

The late Acheampong was sometimes the butt of unfair jibes and sour jokes. There was this one about how the microphones picked up those unwitting words allegedly whispered in Akan to a colleague after the man had given a speech at a traditional durbar and resumed his seat on the dais:

“Boy, it is when I have had a really good glass of something that my capacity for grand oratory cuts a sharp edge.”

There were those who took note of his alleged philandering ways and others who thought his administration saw corruption in Ghana peak unprecedented heights with cheating traders ripping off already starving public servants so heartlessly that the nation coined the now long forgotten term “kalabule” to describe the phenomenon.

Yet Achemapong showed a surprising concern for the welfare of the people. Following the launch of his famous Operation Feed yourself Programme we saw doctors, top public servants, lawyers, housewives, teachers and other professionals growing food crops and vegetables all over the place-in backyard gardens and on farms

If I recall correctly, crop and livestock production, registered annual growth rates of between five and seven percent during his regime. He started irrigation projects for rice and vegetable cultivation at Tono in the Upper Region, Dawhenya, Okyereko and Nkrontrodu near Elmina, and started a scheme for the purchase of farmers’ rice following significant increases in the production of the crop under the OFY programme.

He set up a Regional Development Corporation in each of the country’s regions and gave each region several hundred million cedis for the next three years to promote agriculture, industry and commercial businesses.

Dr K.A. Busia, who was overthrown by Acheampong, had devalued the cedi before his exit. To deal with the resultant economic hardship on us, Achemapong revalued the cedi by more than 40 per cent.

We public servants continued to grumble nonetheless, so he gave us a Cost of Living Allowance [COLA} apart from our wages, to help us deal with basic kenkey and fish issues, see? It may not have been perfect but that is what I call pro-people development planning, Jomo.

Rawlings’s casual, down-to-earth, I-am-in-the-trench-with-you-buddies disposition and his apparent commitment to improving the lives of the rural population has been commended by some and passed off as a grand populist act by others. The important thing is to be seen placing the welfare to the people at the top of the national agenda.

In executing his political agenda, Nkrumah associated with the Veranda Boys {the mass of the ordinary people} and his socialist credentials were too obvious to be in doubt. How pro-people were Dr. Limann and Mr. Kufour. How pro-people is Mills’s?

A pro-people government will not ony feed the people who voted it into power but will also protect them. Large sections of the population are unemployed, poor hungry, discouraged and live in constant fear for their lives: The daily mass slaughter of people on our highways and the hair-raising brushes with death on city roads are frightening. Then there is the huge army of killer robbers on the brazen loose.

We the people must find a way of really taking control of lives. There must be a revolution and for heaven’s sake, a revolution need not be violent or bloody. It can be very peaceful and positive.

The only way we can take the power that belongs to us, is to mount a mass movement and an agitation for an equitable redistribution of the nation’s resources and opportunities for all without discrimination.

The cost of studying for an MBA is so prohibitive that a budding young genius from a socially disadvantaged or impoverished social background who has an eye on the corporate world, stands as much chance of obtaining an MBA as the morose cobbler down the road who dropped out of primary school two decades ago, stands of becoming Ghana’s next president.

Take an audit of successful and law firms in town and you will notice that but for a few exceptions involving exceptionally brilliant individuals from socially disadvantage backgrounds who managed to break the norm, most are run by lawyers whose ancestors had themselves been lawyers or wealthy and powerful individuals.

When you are done with the law firms go on to the largest indigenously-owned business companies.

Take a hard look at the individuals who today are either at the headship of political parties or are seeking political power and you will find that many are descendants of people who played active roles in the politics of our mighty republic.

In other words, it is the same generational line of people which has maintained a firm grip on the nation’s businesses sector, intellectual resources and capital and political power and have developed a system which keeps out potential intruders from other social backgrounds. Yet they have consistently only taken care of themselves while paying lip service to our welfare.

A generation of military rulers on our continent which thought that the answer lay in violently uprooting corrupt leaders and people perceived to have undeservedly fed fat on the toil of the mass of the people soon found to their dismay, that they did not themselves have answers to problems plaguing us.

That is why I am advocating a democratic, peaceful and legally acceptable means of redistributing resources and opportunities for the benefit of every Ghanaian. Any idea how this might be effectively and successfully done, Jomo?

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