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Opinions of Friday, 29 July 2011

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

What the Five Military Jets Mean to Me

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

I have, thus far, been unable to join the parliamentary debate – at least the public aspect of it, as widely captured by the media – regarding the acquisition of five military jets for the, admittedly, necessary upgrading of the Air Force division of the Ghana Armed Forces because whenever I think of military jet, I also see this outrageous picture of Mr. Rawlings using one of them, very likely the most expensive one of them, as a play toy in the training of one of his daughters who fancies herself as a pilot like her dad. This is no frivolous story that I just woke up and decided to concoct, somehow, in a viciously calculated bid to demonizing an already self-demonized and epically humiliated Mr. Rawlings. I have actually been having nightmares about it for more than a decade now.

I also remember Mr. Rawlings being widely and sharply criticized for such at once capricious and scatterbrained misappropriation of a financially dear national security property, and Sogakope Jeremiah huffing and puffing marijuana, his most preferred brand of Cuban cigars, and retorting and sneeringly riposting that as a professional military pilot if one of his daughters wanted to learn how to fly, what did these critics expect him to do but simply hop into one of those planes belonging to the Ghana Air Force, of which institution he was the paragon, and teaching his daughter how to fly like a kite?

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has written in any of our countless newspapers since the onset of such abject lunacy and unpardonable national humiliation to inform Ghanaians how much it cost us in aviation fuel and wear-and-tear for Mr. Rawlings to virtually turn one of our national security mechanical birds into a hobby horse. Now, let one of those brazen Rawlings lickspittles turn overnight national development experts storm these web pages and regale us with scandalous codswallop about how former President Kufuor and his New Patriotic Party administration robbed and raped Ghana blind.

Anyway, in principle, I have absolutely nothing against a completely overhauled, retooled and thoroughly depoliticized Ghana Armed Forces owning a fleet of 200 planes of various shapes, functions and make; common sense simply calls for our national security apparatus to be upgraded to the level of being the most efficient in the West African sub-region. And to be certain, there was, indeed, such time that the Ghana Armed Forces was known to be the third most powerful, or best, equipped on the African continent. We were then, even as now, preceded by the armies of only two nations, namely, the United Arab Republic of Egypt and the pre-Mandela South African Republic. Consequently, I find it to be rather an unpardonable embarrassment to learn about the members of our National Assembly heatedly bickering about whether, indeed, our beloved country reserves the right to ownership of the five of the most modern – or state-of-the-art – military flying machines.

Really, we do not need to gauge such critical logistical need by the level and quality of the standing armies of our neighbors. The civil war in the Ivory Coast sobered me with fitful spells of anxiety verging on the history of epic displacements of the relatively staid, temperamentally placid and psychologically complacent. And sometimes and oftentimes it was purely the dearth of leadership foresight that engendered such tragedy and national vulnerability. In sum, we need to measure ourselves, as the unquestionable leaders of postcolonial Africa, against our most poetic imagination! My only qualm coming across this momentous discourse on national security regards why it took so long and for the functional capacity of the Ghana Armed Forces to be drastically reduced to a mere 78-percent, whatever that means in terms of logistics and manpower, before deciding to “massively” and in one fell swoop (of a whopping $375 million) reverse such bleak situation.

For me, this painfully and wistfully means that Ghana has clearly lacked foresighted leadership for at least three decades. And I am deliberately not blaming anybody but, of course, one ought to clearly appreciate precisely who and what I mean.

I also almost wholly side with those who have sharply questioned the priorities of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), a faux-revolutionary political machine that has singularly dominated the Ghanaian political landscape for most of the two decades that the country has functioned as a constitutional democracy. Indeed, the same dismal outlook of the Ghana Armed Forces eerily reflects the state and quality of the nation’s educational system, health, agriculture, transport and communication. And to be certain, I was mortified to no mean degree to find the Mills government exchanging a projected $10 billion of Ghana’s oil revenue for a couple of hulking and effectively decommissioned South Korean naval vessels. Talk about a sense of racial and national pride!

Needless to say, this is how the entire STX scam began. The Koreans, like quite a slew of other nationalities, had strategically figured out that stentorian pan-Africanist talk and all, Ghana had one of the most “visually impaired” crop of leadership around the globe. You would have thought that our $10 billion-talk with the South Koreans would center around the industrial development of a KIA automobile plant organically structured around the genius of our indigenous Suame Magazine auto-mechanics! Anyway, let us hope that the same passion – and I mean just the passion, not the substantive pabulum thereof – with which our parliamentarians debated the ramshackle state of the Ghana Armed Forces is brought to bear on other equally pressing national issues (See “Minority Not Opposed to Purchase of Military Aircraft – NPP MP” 7/23/11).

President Kufuor once perspicuously observed that the trade mark of opposition politicians in Ghana is as follows: “They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing!” I tend to be of the meticulously measured conviction, largely based on three of his State-of-the-Nation’s Address presentations that, indeed, President John Evans Atta-Mills has yet to fully appreciate what it means for any nation to be said to have foresightedly ordered its priorities. Is the choice between the politically popular equipment of district assembly representatives with motorbikes, or the crucial and far-reaching supply of textbooks and medication to our future policymakers and local the community of diligent taxpayers? Or the expedient, albeit patently myopic, bribing of national assemblymen and women with district headquarters building pork-barrel fund, when nearly half of the country’s elementary school pupils are known to study under trees and other make-shift structures?

Really, it is future of Ghana that is at stake here and, with the latter, the very reputation and legacy of our generation!

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of 22 books, including “Sounds of Sirens” (, 2004). E-mail: ###