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Opinions of Thursday, 22 July 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Is that Ananse in a political mask?

Sometimes you read or listen to the news and you feel like screaming at the sky or biting off someone’s head in righteous exasperation.

In the late 1970s, a young US Peace Corps volunteer emerged from a pito bar in a town in Northern Ghana with some Ghanaian friends and began to walk very stealthily on the tips of his toes, as if he were walking on thin glass, the palm of one hand clasped ever so tightly around his butt. You know why?

He and his friends had quaffed one calabash too many of the foamy millet wine, and the poor guy’s digestive tract being unaccustomed to the great brew of our northern Savanna, was threatening to explode through the posterior.

The problem was that there was not a single toilet facility in sight to put the fellow out of his misery and he managed to survive the ordeal only by continuing gingerly with his own version of the moonwalk, until the group got to the house of a catechist, where there was a toilet.

Now we are in 2010 and here is the news: This week, public health officials informed the nation that up till today, some six million of our people have no access to toilets and when the bowels move in response to nature’s call, they head for the woods.

The number quoted by the public health officials is probably lower than the exact number, because it referred only to those who defecate in the bush. They forgot to add those who empty their guts daily on our beaches.

Since independence we have repeatedly elected leaders who have always lived a privileged existence, totally oblivious to the distressing circumstances of our people.

Those of us who have watched civilian and military governments come and go since independence, have seen our political leaders and their closest cronies feed fat on taxpayers’ sweat. They pay themselves hefty salaries and an infinite list of allowances while doctors, teachers, nurses, lecturers and other public servants only manage to survive on paltry wages.

They are allocated residencies and bungalows built and furnished from our taxes while the national housing deficit has continued on a mountain climb. If they ever think of infrastructure projects, it is prestige projects.

What business do we have building presidential mansions, buying presidential jets and importing very flashy cars for our leaders to ride in, when six million of our people defecate in the bush like wild animals and educational infrastructure are so ran-down?

Some political leaders have stolen our money to enrich themselves or are suspected to have. Whenever we try holding them to account for their stewardship, they usually brandish the partisan political card vigorously in our faces and threaten to start a third world war.

The smart partisan political game is getting out of hand: If a stray cat crossing the street were laid flat out on the asphalt by a speeding truck and it had to be reported in the news, it would without a doubt begin with “NDC (or NPP) man’s cat killed by truck…”.

This cannot go on, Jomo. Our obsession with this game is diverting attention from the appalling living conditions of many of our people and threatening to subvert the rule of law. It is entrenching prevailing ethnic, political and other conflicts, encouraging lawlessness and taking us imperceptibly but surely toward chaos.

All three agents in the administration of justice, investigators, prosecutors and the judges are being assailed by the players of this game brandishing the partisan political card. How then could justice ever be administered?

You cannot rule out the possibility of the government or its agents exploiting the influence of incumbency to manipulate the administration of justice, but to insist that everyone under investigation or on trial is a victim of political persecution, is a bit too much, no?

Attorney-General Betty Mould-iddrisu recently lost a string of cases she prosecuted on behalf of the state, much to the embarrassment of the Mills administration and the delight of the political opposition.

When that happens it is because, in the opinion of the game players, evidence was manufactured and therefore rightly thrown out by the courts. Fantastic, Jomo. That is precisely the point: Is that not evidence that the justice system is working without official coercion or interference?

Without partisanship or favour, true advocates of peace and the rule of law should campaign for the freedom of the courts to go ahead with the trials of those suspected of the murder of the late king of Dagbon and many of his aides.

The government which initially pledged to re-open investigations into the murders, now says it has the evidence to prosecute the suspects.

Fine. Let state prosecutors go ahead and prove the guilt of the suspects. The opposition insists that the murders in the palace occurred in a war situation with casualties on both sides and that killers from the late king’s side should be prosecuted as well.

The government quoting from a previous official probe of the murders wants to know how come the Coordinator of National Security, the Minister of the Interior and the Northern Regional Minister were all indisposed when the distress call went out for security intervention to stop the murders. Me, I say let the court hear all the evidence there is to hear!

The same goes for the former political appointees standing trial on charges of causing the loss of colossal sums of public money.

In the language of Facebook, President Mills and our compatriots in 2,200 communities access the country are now friends.

With two foreign loans totaling US$ 520 million, the government is going to extend power to all the 2,200 communities which have not been connected to the national grid.

I was beginning to get really happy for our long neglected countrymen when I realized from news report that this was not to be an off-grid project. Maybe an explanation is yet to come regarding how power can be extended to 2200 communities’ nationwide from an ailing grid barely able to meet national consumption demand.

Have I not told you repeatedly that we need to brace up for an electrical energy crisis? The fat rat jumped straight out of the Electricity Company of Ghana’s bag of survival tricks with the announcement this week, that for the next one-and-a-half years power supply will be erratic.

Power will be going on and off a trillion and three times in one jiffy. Thousands of dollars worth of domestic and industrial electrical appliances and equipment will be bound prematurely for the crap dump.

There will probably be thousands of erratic supply related fires across the country consuming precious lives and thousands of dollars worth property. We stand in dire need of a miracle, Jomo, a darned good miracle.

George Sydney Abugri is a prolific, multi-award winning, Ghanaian newspaper journalist.

He maintains a blog of his works at email him at