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Opinions of Friday, 30 July 2004

Columnist: Annor, Joseph

Is It Sinful for the President to Pay Farmers the Appropriate Price for Cocoa?

Can Mass Spraying of Cocoa Crops Increase the Yield?

Ask my three-year clever boy the questions above and he would probably be able to give you the appropriate answers. Yet, the NDC politicians, because of hypocrisy are pretending they do not know the answers to these questions and as a result, are making mockery of themselves.

The two decades of Rawlings' (P)NDC dictatorship and economic mismanagement left the Ghanaian economy in absolute shambles, declined and in a precarious state. Despite that, Mr Kufuor and his NPP Government are trying their best to turn the shambolic Ghanaian economy around. Several NDC activists however continue to insult, not only the policies of the NPP Government, but also the President personally. A case in point is an unfortunate recent referral to the President as "dumb" by Tony Aidoo, who cannot bridle his tongue and just speaks without thinking about it. I understand that Mr Aidoo was a lecturer at the Cape Coast University before Rawlings turned him into a politician. Despite all these experiences, he is still not mature and utters any word that comes into his mouth. Yes, the mature President has responded and he states that he would work on his presentation, although, that should not be strange because I definitely know that in Australia, chief executive officers of multinational corporations and so forth access the services of speech therapies to coach them in their presentation styles, despite that most of them speak only English language and hold degrees from some prestigious universities. In fact, I have attended such a course and the emphasis was mainly on pronunciation. I am ready to send the CDs and materials to President Kufuor if he wants me to do so, as they are really helpful. But what I want to tell Mr Aidoo is that he should understand that the President is a past student of Oxford, one of the best in the world. Further, as the President pointed out, he should talk like a mature person in order to have respect.

Further, I read, much to my chagrin, that Mr Victor Smith of the NDC could boldly state that President Kufuor is encouraging smuggling by paying Ghanaian cocoa farmers good prices for their products, as that has encouraged Ivorians to smuggle their cocoa to Ghana. Mr Mosquito also accused President Kufuor over the same issue (although without the smuggling aspect) in Parliament, but he was forced to retract his statement at Parliament, as he had no data or proof to back his claim. I will like to point to the NDC members that in their desperate attempt to discredit the President for political gains, they need to be extremely careful. It seems very absurd, unpatriotic and immature for a Ghanaian to accuse the President of encouraging smuggling just because he has deemed it necessary to pay our hard working farmers the price that is commensurate with their hard labour. I guess any patriotic Ghanaian would understand how our farmers suffer in the village. Yes, I know what I am talking about because during my school days, especially, in primary and secondary school periods, I assisted my parents on their cocoa farmers, and one of those farms was in a village where the father of Osei Kwame (Despite of Peace FM), was the chief.

Even after completing my "O" Level, awaiting my results, I worked with one of the government organisations, which was commonly known as "cocoa project". In the village, most farmers live in very poor conditions and struggle. However, because of votes, Mr Smith has accused the President of paying the farmers what they deserve. This shows that the NDC will go all way to discredit the President even when he is doing the right thing. But what they fail to understand is that it shows their immaturity, because those who effectively make these statements are insulting our farmers, who had been provided about one third or more of foreign exchange since independence. I believe Mr Smith who made such unfortunate and childish statements without any proof does not have any experience of what cocoa farming is like. He has probably lived his whole life in some cities like Accra and for that matter, does not appreciate the hard work that our farmers are doing and out of ignorance and hypocrisy, accuses the government of rewarding the farmers. It is not strange to me because during the NDC era, they stripped the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board of its role as the primary purchaser of cocoa in Ghana and the Ahwois and others set up their own private companies to easily earn huge profits and became billionaires. Strangely, they were not vetted for acquiring billions of cedis but they sat on vetting committees to probe Ghanaians who had genuinely acquired only ?50,000 just as recently as the 1980s. Invariably, they used some of the wealth they acquired at the expense of the country to buy some minor gifts for our farmers in the village to induce their votes.

My experience has shown me that, a lot of these cocoa farmers were not able to look after their children at secondary schools during the time of the PNDC regime, unless they were lucky to have very big farms. Thanks to God and my parents that despite the odds which were against me, I was probably among the only few in such situation who were able to make it to Legon, and finally, to Australia to complete Masters degree and professional qualification in Accounting. Against this background, I appreciate what our farmers stand for and it is unfortunate that they sometimes struggle for decent meals, let alone being able to send their children to secondary schools and so forth. Yes, it is only those who have never suffered before who can dare make such annoying comments. Even the governments of advanced countries such as United States and Australia (where I have lived for 15 years) go a bit further to substantially provide various forms of subsidy to their farmers. So what is strange with President Kufuor paying farmers what they deserve, that NDC is making unnecessary noise of it, to demonstrate their immaturity and insensitivity to our farmers?

I just want to point out to the NDC members that before they accuse the President of any wrongdoing, they should check their facts well. They are accusing the President that he has said what is abomination, by claiming that his government's policy of mass spraying of the cocoa farms helped to increase cocoa production. They (NDC activists) in their ignorance argue that the President's claim has a flaw, because cocoa cannot be planted and grown to produce yield within a year, therefore, there must be something else accounting for the increase in the cocoa production. Unfortunately, some of them have simplistically appealed to the smuggling argument as the possible cause for the bumper cocoa harvest.

Well, I want to make it known to Mr Smith and other NDC activists that their argument is very simplistic and childish and made in ignorance. Although I did not continue to study Agricultural Science after form three at secondary school, yet I do not think I need a degree in Agricultural Science to appreciate that effective spraying of every crop will potentially increase the crop's yield. The simple reason being the spraying effectively eradicates the fungus and other diseases of the crop and, all things being equal, the crop will produce better yield than if it were not sprayed. In fact, common sense should tell us this and Mr Mosquito should know this better, as he was formerly a Deputy Agricultural Minister. I understand he managed to buy a tractor from the ministry when he was a minister, just before NDC handed over, and whether the transaction was transparent or not, only God knows, although, the transaction clearly presents a problem of conflict of interest.

When I was doing my national service after form six (introduced by Almighty Rawlings) and just before going to Legon for my bachelor's degree, I made several tomatoes farms and my experience showed me that it is not only a matter of using insecticide and fungicide, but also the type or brand that potentially affects how well crops perform, assuming all other factors stay constant. So, if Mr Mosquito is not aware of this simple reasoning and fact, then it leaves much to desire how he was made an agricultural minister. Yes, he needs to learn in humility and that will help him succeed on the farm that he managed to buy the agricultural ministry tractor for. So, all that I am saying is that, Messrs Smith and Nketia should be aware that you do not only have to plant more cocoa trees to increase your yield, as both natural and chemical factors can significantly affect the yield of the same cocoa trees. They should interact with the farmers to learn before they open their mouths, if they lack this basic knowledge.

Thus, to tell me that effective spraying of cocoa farms cannot increase the yield, indicates that the person is either immature, dishonest, hypocritical or simply lacks knowledge. It is strange that a former Agric Minister would fall into such trap; it is no wonder that the country retrogressed in everything during the NDC reign. Really, we need to honour Mr Courage Quashigah and his team at the Ministry of Agriculture, his boss the President and all who in diverse way assisted our farmers to have effective cocoa spraying. NDC thinks that it only has the legitimate right to rule Ghana. Please stop insulting our farmers because it is by their hard labour that the country Ghana has survived up to this date despite the corrupt and stinking 20-year rule of NDC.

Just as I was writing this article, I received an email from a friend and once again, Mr Nketia has made his diabolic lies against the President by claiming that the President wanted to kill him and three other MPs, a claim which he would never be able to substantiate and must be held responsible for. After all, his master has not been able to tell who killed the Ghanaian women, although he claims to have known the culprits long before he handed over the presidency.

Everything of Kufuor is bad. Even when Kufuor constructs a road, you drew the plan. Where were you for those twenty years that the plans were never translated into road constructions? As one Ghanaian Minister said, vehicles do not run on papers (plans), so please allow the President to do his work, as, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride them. I was in Ghana last year and saw with my own naked eyes some construction projects that the President and his government were doing such as the Tetteh Quarshie roundabout, the Accra - Kumasi road, to name a few. Conversely, I also saw with my naked eyes some of the buildings that Rawlings demolished because the owners happened to be political opponents and I was really shocked and felt we still lived in medieval and dark ages.

Yes, in the western world, it is the private sector that creates jobs, yet in our African countries, once you set up your business and you do not belong to a certain political group, you are an enemy of the state. Your assets are confiscated like that of Siaw or all impediments are put in your way to destroy your business such as Appiah Minka's case, for his "Apino" soap which was a household name and helped us during the hard times Ghanaians were using "don't touch me" and so forth. For instance, in destroying Appiah Minka's business, the consequence was very devastating. I believe that any person with some little economics background (except maybe Messrs Victor and Asiedu Nketia) should be able to analyse the devastating impact of killing businesses such as that of Appiah Minka. For instance, in destroying Appiah Minka's business, it is not only him and his family who suffered; all that he employed also lost their jobs and income. When people suddenly lose their jobs, they may even engage in crime or may suffer some form of depression and so forth. All the distribution and retail traders who mainly relied on his products also lost their jobs. The consumers also lost some reliable products and it was inevitable that foreign substitution would be imported with our little foreign exchange to fill the vacuum created. Yes, that is the chain of reaction of Mr Rawlings' hatred for Mr Appiah Minka. Many people are aware that many people suffered similar fates. Captain Kojo Tsikata (retired) has recently admitted before the NRC that the (P)NDC regime abused citizens' rights in paragraphs 41 and 45 of his submissions. While he claims that all other regimes also abuse citizens' rights; everyone knows that, that of the PNDC/NDC stands out conspicuously.

In fact, the destruction of businesses was not confined to only these prominent businesses. I was a student at Ghana Secondary School, Tamale ("Ghanasco") and Honourable John Mahama was a history master there when the soldiers burnt the Tamale market. The market women lost the stocks that they had attained in their working life or had obtained by means of credit and purchased with the loans that they had contracted. One thing I know for sure is that as students of Ghanasco, we were accused of setting the market on fire and were pursued by the soldiers, but this was completely false. I still remember running away to hide in a nearby factory called "Brick and Tile", beyond Nkrumah house. Has Mr John Mahama forgotten this incident or not? Who did he blame as a teacher in Ghanasco, for causing that, and who does he blame today?

Yes, because while he was a history master, his friend used to teach me Government and I also crossed him several times at Legon. I still hear that during the early days of the coup, there were excesses and Mr Rawlings is fond of making references to such claims. That is completely nonsense, for whoever created the atmosphere for the excesses to happen should be held responsible, whether he directed authorised the burning of the market or not. For, he should have known that for overthrowing a constitutionally elected government, there was the possibility of anarchy emerging in the society. Look for instance at the mysterious circumstances in which Odifoa Asare was killed in Kumasi. Yes, of course, the burning of the market was not confined to Tamale only, as the almighty Makola also succumbed to the same fate for no apparent reason. If the Tamale market was burnt by Ghanasco students, then probably, some students of Accra also burnt Makola.

Clearly, this was distasteful and an insensible act, which caused some people to die as a result, because they suffered the profound shocks of their lives, for losing all their wealth. Ghana lost a significant percentage of its GDP during these years as a result of this deplorable and insensible act, and this certainly sent the country seriously backwards. Yet, those who claim foul of anything of Kufuor, defied their conscience and embraced Rawlings as a hero for destroying our scarce resources and trading stocks held by our market women. I know that time will definitely judge Mr Rawlings. He asked Kwei to ask for pardon to cleanse his soul although, he does not know where the tape is as he appears to claim that the dead man might have taken it to the cemetery. Hmmm! Mr Rawlings, we believe you, despite that, you had the whole Ghana under your belt and could have safely kept the tapes anywhere.

Mr Rawlings, you should recognise that you need the soul cleansing and spiritual healing most, as no such magnitude of crimes committed under your regimes has ever happened in Ghana. Yes, we are all witness to your wife ("obatan") causing the hair of someone's son to be shaved off with a piece of bottle for identification purpose. That was very cruel.

Joseph Annor BA (Hons) Legon; Master of Business in Accounting, CPA Australia