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Opinions of Monday, 3 June 2002

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.

Is it fair for president Kufuor to lash out at his critics?

There are some who have criticized President Kufuor of Ghana, that he is ?dull? or not charismatic, looks too forgiving, and does not react quickly to criticism. In other words, if one can liken politics to boxing, one has to react quickly to a punch, or sooner or later one gets worn out and vanquished with the low blows. Honestly, I think some of these may have been justified. However, this was before the elections of 2000, when a friend had just returned to the US after a 3 and half year stay. Of course we were all very troubled about Kufuor losing to the Rawlings? continuity train of his former dictatorship. It did not happen and so the man was vindicated.

It turned out Kufuor won the match. Perhaps, the man who has been called a gentle giant has some long powerful knockout blows that are devastating, and can take the opponent in the last round.

In a message dated Thu, 30 May 2002? 1:33:44 PM Eastern Daylight Time, sent from our friend? "Kwaku Azar", source:, we read:

?PRESIDENT Kufuor has lashed out at his critics, saying the same people who are complaining that the economy is harsh are those who were mute under the previous government. According to him these people adopted the culture of silence under the former regime, but now they have broken their silence and are talking as though it is the NPP Government that has created the economic problems in the country.

"They played dumb, but now are cackling like chicken" The President intoned?.

I can understand the President somehow. Who can say that he is wrong on this point.

We have to remember that the President is human also. A few years ago I had the chance to exchange some heated debate with a Professor who was trying to put my face down. I was in the process of moving my office, and found out that by the time I returned to the net without being able to respond to his blows quickly, I had been indicted, tried and almost found guilty by my Internet jury. That is not fair, I shouted. Of course those who know me know that behind my gentle fa?ade lies some powerful punches. I thus ignored my many ?let it be? and ?give it to God? advisors, and lashed back powerfully to defend my good name. Talking of a new generation, can you believe the topic was on some stupid issue such as ?tribalism? ? which I found was more important on peoples? minds than I ever anticipated.? Whether it was right or not is or another day, but at least I know I slept good by punching back.

A lovely African Philosophy:? One of the most lovely things about Akan and Ghanaian culture that we may be losing to the younger generation is the expression of our thoughts, philosophies and wisdom, in the form of proverbs.? A friend of mine who likes to use Ghanaian proverbs has one that I like. It goes like: ?Wo ankasa wo tiri ho a, yeyi wo ayi bone?, translated as? ?if you don?t make any comments about your haircut when it?s in progress, you end up getting a poor hair cut?.? Literally this happened to me a few years ago when I visited a barber who had done a good job for a friend. Since then, the poor haircut I got justified my long habit of cutting my hair myself.?

Freedom of Speech:? Freedom of speech has a way of waking up men who may be asleep. Many have come out from underneath the proverbial beds they were hiding under for about twenty years. On this score I think the President is right to lash back, even though the title of the article does not do him much justice for a gentle giant. The good thing is that President Kufuor has not sent his ?caporigimes? (old mafia term) or commandos to pour human faeces in the offices or houses of his critics. That is progress indeed!! May I recommend that the World Bank, IMF and our international critics take a note for Kufuor?s scorecard.

Is Democracy Free? There are some who have taken Democracy for granted. Many thought that once we had ?Freedom and Justice? written boldly on our Coat of Arms at Independence in 1957, we were home free. Not so quick! Little do our uncles and fathers who were older during Nkrumah?s time, some of whom condemn the man, forget what Nkrumah said, that ?we prefer self-government with danger to servitude in tranquility?. They voted for him! This implied that there was danger with the Freedom that we had won. It was our duty to be vigilant and to stand strong. Did our elders do that?

?? - Our older generation watched without saying a word when policemen openly stopped those ?mammy wagons? (as the British called them), and took bribes from drivers on the road.??

??? - Our elders watched without massive analytical comments when the sycophants around Nkrumah decided to make him ?President for Life?, and Kwame succumbed to his personal weakness and accepted it (whether it was initiated by him does not change the point here). A few chose to try assassination, but that was the wrong method!? As another Ghanaian proverb goes, ?you don?t catch a dog with ?anihane-hane? (overt aggressiveness)?.? Similarly after Nkrumah turned his back on the same principles he championed for our freedom, started the Preventive Detention Act, many noble MPs voted for it and our society did not have any massive Civil Society unrest or uproar to send a strong message to Kwame Nkrumah, the man they called ?showboy?.? Instead of our people stopping him using organizational strategies he had used to win Independence, our people became docile and impotent, whiles the few power hungry men and thieves around him fed fat on Nkrumah?s weaknesses.

The Final Price for Moral cowardice: I call what happened after political independence, moral cowardice. In my mind, the final price for this moral cowardice and docility, a culture that I often write that it needs to be changed, is what happened to Ghana. It kept us economically behind other nations who were at par or behind us at the time of Independence. Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, and India are doing far better than Ghana today, and I will take no excuses for that except for our dreaded culture of moral cowardice, the fear of venturing, speaking out strongly to condemn evil and to stand for the right.???

?? There is a name I have given Ghana?s economic degradation, management incompetence, technological depravity, and moral decadence. It?s a CURSE!? A man who was a dictator of Ghana for almost two decades has himself called one of these weaknesses the ?culture of silence?.? J.J. Rawlings was right. We were all cowards, and perhaps fools to succumb so far, as he found us.

Moral Courage. I have written on this before and repeat it here. Moral courage is like Faith the many religions preach is a necessary factor in human success.? We all, as humans, have an inherent courage in ourselves, in life, and the creator, whether we know it or not. After all we can fall asleep, not knowing the outcome whether we will wake up again. And we do, at least those who are reading this. We get into our cars every day, or board airplanes or ships, and have the faith that everything is going to be alright.?

So why can?t we stand up for the right thing?

-          Why do we have to pretend that our voices don?t count?

-          Why do we let men get away for stealing public funds, and we watch, condone or participate, and then go to Church on Sundays expecting some forgiveness or political reconciliation??

-          Why are we able to pocket and steal moneys entrusted to us by our relatives or friends overseas, and expect that it?s Okay?


??? It is this lack of courage to stand up for the right or condemn evil, that stands in the way of our progress as a people. It is lack of moral courage that cripples us from having a business partnership with another, to expand our business, or to form a corporation and put contracts together - all because we are afraid it will not work. Of course FEAR also prevents us from taking risks with ideas, venturing out, and making any new discoveries. Once again it reminds me of a quote from one of Nkrumah?s books: ?The Secret of Life is Action without Fear?.? It was no doubt that the man was able to lead our people some half century ago against the mighty British Empire.?

??? A friend of mine who taught University in Sierra Leone told me that the people there don?t like to be pressured to do anything, and they have a saying ?don?t Burger me?. This is a term coined after the people who travel to Hamburg, Germany, work in factories and get used to doing things on time. Most of our people don?t want to be ?Burgered? when it comes to providing services they are paid for, and yet they want to live well or get Free car loans. Funny indeed. Hope the World Bank remembers that.? Where is our courage? I told a friend in a joke the other day that were the Wright brothers Ghanaians or Africans, mankind would still be traveling on foot and not climbing aboard airplanes as we do today. You get my point.

Welcome the critics:? Having said all that, I think it is good that Ghanaians have their moral courage back. We should welcome all those who hid under the beds for too long with an open arm to join the table of democracy. Let us hope that the moral courage they have gained will be used in other ways also, to stand up for the right thing, to condemn evil, to expose corruption. I have to add that this courage will help us to take risks and make new discoveries, point our mistakes, testify against the corrupt executives. It will also help us to venture out with our brothers and friends to form a business partnership or corporation, to respect agreements and? contracts, and have our self respect back as true Africans. Of course as a society, we must be brave also to allow the offenders to go to jail or face the Law. We should remind our older generation also that there is a new way of communication, called the Internet and Electronic mails, alias Email. Let them get on board also- it will not hurt them.

???? So on the issue of a President being a gentle giant, and giving it to God, my personal opinion is that it is Okay for President Kufuor to make the statements he made to remind the people of Ghana of our past, lest the short mob memory of our people indict him and his government for being weak.? This does not mean that we the people should be sycophants, as I have said above.? It is also okay for our people to come from underneath the beds they were hiding under, to criticize and give opinions, and better still constructive suggestions. Perhaps better still will it be for them to insist on having self-empowerment, by exercising their right to vote their own city councils and mayors for their towns and districts, and holding them accountable for the development of their areas.

?? In conclusion, let us not forget that for criticizing the President, a few years back, many at home would have found themselves with either one of the following:

  1. Latrine bombs (human faeces) in their living rooms or offices, as Publishers Kofi Coomson and the late Tommy Thomson found out (Editors /publishers of Chronicle and Free Press respectively); or
  2. With all front teeth lost, as KwesiPratt Jr. learnt in his 8 trips to jail under the Rawlings administration of PNDC, by the time I met him in Dallas in 1991.

For President Kufuor, all I can say is let is be ?bokoo? (softly), reconciliation, and ?give it to God? if he is criticized. If that does not work, I think it?s Okay to lash back by issuing a statement here and there, of how his administration is making progress, demanding that his Ministers publish their report cards monthly or quarterly, or by condemning or issuing an executive order to stop or veto the MPs from stealing from empty coffins, err, err, I mean, empty coffers.? When everything fails, he can join, and ask his Ministers to join, the SIL (?Say-It-Loud?) crowd on GhanaWeb and the Internet.

All the best to our newly won President Kufuor.

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