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Opinions of Sunday, 13 August 2006

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

King Kufour, Have Mercy On The Children Of Dabala Junction

My charity work trail took me to Dabala Junction, in the Volta Region this year. Kpodjagie, a village at Dabala Junction was one of the beneficiaries of the “Malaria Be Gone” program run by Ghana Visions Foundation. What I saw there terribly broke my heart. Not because I have not seen such abject poverty before, but relative to what Kufour and his henchmen are doing in Ghana. When Rev. Sappor, the Director of Source of Light Missions, pointed the school out to me, my heart skipped a beat. The school was a small mud hut roofed with thatch. Note that the Rev. Sappor solicited the help of the South Tongu district to no avail. They cannot even afford to send qualified teachers to teach the kids of Kpodjagie. Well, I did well to hide my shock then but I am not about to do that now. I am seething with anger at the neglect of our kids in Ghana! Yes, I am!

Ghana’s constitution guarantees free and compulsory education for all. If this mandate is real, why do we still have kids in some of our rural areas without schools? What is our government doing to fully and unequivocally uphold this mandate? While this NPP government may not have created this problem, it has neglected its responsibility to our kids. Is education really a priority of this government? Given the windfall from HPIC funds, and MCA, one would think that we can begin to arrest the education conundrum. What really is our game plan to get the kids in school? You go to the urban areas and the kids are selling dog chains on the streets. You go to the rural areas and the kids don’t have schools to attend. Even where there are make shift schools, some teachers are not qualified, supplies are sorely lacking, parents cannot afford school fees, and the schools are positioned in such a way that it is too far away from some, if not most, of the villages.

Now, contrast this deplorable situation to the profligacy that we witness from this insouciant NPP government. We all know of the $30 million presidential mansion. Now we have a $20 million celebration bonanza, headed by Wreko-Brobbey, the failed CEO of VRA. God save us! What happened to the financial carnage that Wreko-Brobbey created at VRA? He is now free to mess around with our money again? What can $50 million dollars do for education or health care in Ghana? You see how it adds up quickly? What can all the per diem for the mundane travels do for the kinds of Kpodjagie and elsewhere in Ghana?

This government has resources to devote to useless causes like chieftaincy (a ministry has been created) but cannot find money to fund schools for our innocent kids? Is this the same government that had plans to give our MPs 100 acres of ploughed and seeded farms? How would they have funded this? Is this the same government that is expanding our army? For what? Are we getting ready to fight Togo, Ivory Coast or Bourkina Faso? Oh, we need another 64BN to protect Kufour, huh? Where is our sense of priority? Do we have any? Can we use the funding for the army to build schools for the kids? Is this the same government that cannot pay our doctors while innocent patients die? Merely for the fear of inflation? Now we know that the civil servants are threatening to strike for better pay and service. This is the same government that is funding the moribund GIA with the pension of workers? This is the same government that is subsidizing VALCO? So this is the same government that is supervising a 4.3 billion cedi loss at the ministry of education and elsewhere but gingerly prosecutes others for financial loses to the country? Should I go on? Yes? No?

You see, my friends, there is something wrong with our priorities and the president is fully responsible. This president is leading us in a cul de sac. He has lost whatever little direction he had and I am beginning to join the bandwagon that chants vigorously that Kufour is just a place holder. As I write, and long after he has visited Washington DC and returned home, you will learn with anger, the fact that, this president stayed in the Willard Hotel again on his junket. As Israel pummels Lebanon into oblivion, some of you have asked, with grief and helplessness, about the sense of proportionality. So, can we ask our president where his sense of grief and proportionality is toward Ghana? Why must a president of a HPIC country stay in the most expensive hotel, when the children in his country cannot find decent places to school? I know for sure that some of these NPP minions and paid agents will make all kinds excuses and justification. After all, they see Kufour as another King who must be worshipped and adorned with praise. Here is what I say to them, between Holiday Inn and the Willard Hotel, there are fine choices that can serve you well Mr. President.

Folks, do you remember Fritz Poku? The rather acerbic ambassador who came out brandishing all kind of insults and contempt for those who had the gall, if not balls, to question customer service at the embassy in Washington DC? Well, I want you to ask him again who booked the Willard Hotel for the president. Then ask him this, how many people are being invited to the Willard because they are NPP folks? Did Fritz not tell you that the embassy is not an NPP outpost? Also, ask him about the relationship between the incoming ambassador and President Kufuor. Half of what Fritz Poku told you in that rebuttal was an attempt at failed diplomacy. Here is a diplomat who could not even find it wise to contact the complainants but instead publicly chided them and dismiss their claims. How do you say something is not true if you’ve not spoken to the parties involved? It is really hard to trust these folks when from one side of their mouths, they defend the status quo, and then from another, they claim to be making changes and progress.

Recently, some friends of mine and I have been debating about corruption a lot. Some of the insights seeping out of our exchanges firmed up the fact that, we have in Ghana now, legal and illegal corruption. Never mind the moral aspect of it. Barbara Kellerman of Harvard University defines corrupt leadership as a situation where, “the leader and at least some of his followers, lie, cheat, or steal. To a degree that exceeds the norm, they put their self interest ahead of the public interest.” Is the latter not what Kufour and his generals are doing in Ghana? Some assume that legal corruption is ok since it cannot be prosecuted. I mean if the president is sleeping at the Willard Hotel with his NPP friends and having fun, who can challenge that choice of luxury when he begs hard to get us handout from our masters in Washington? It is certainly legal but is it moral? Is it the best use of our resources when police officers cannot even administer CPR at accident sites? Where is this so called leader’s sense of morality and context? Does this president know no shame at all? Does he really feel the pain of the 70% of our people who toil mercifully in the rural areas? Where is the moral wing of the NPP party? Where is the righteous indignation? Is enough not enough?

Folks, we must find a way to put a screeching halt to the kind of recklessness and flagrant misuse of our meager resources by this president. President Kufour will travel for the most mundane reason. In doing so, he is engaging in legal corruption and tarnishing the office of the presidency. Some of the events he has attended while president will not even pique the attention of a village chief. Besides the financial whirlwind that he is reaping, what really are the taxpayers getting in return? Some of us make this point in the context of our Ghanaian situation which is dire. Every penny can help in Ghana. Even if you put the cost aside for a moment, the example and what it stands for is not good for leadership. How on earth do we make sure that we never put such a callous and indifferent person in office again? Can we not certify a list of moderately priced hotels for our presidents? Will Kufour use his own money to play at the Willard? If no, why ours? Where really is the stewardship of the president? Should it always boil down to how much money one can fleece from Ghanaians legally? Where does the greed, indifference and arrogance stop? People like president Kufour give democracy a bad name. They really stir up the worst in people. This kind of moral and legal wickedness is a sign of bad leadership. A leader must model responsible and accountable behavior.

So my friends, let us keep 2008 in mind. Kufour will certainly not be running but the NPP will still be contending. Those that watched or joined this frenzied gorge must be held responsible. When the time comes, they all will try to do another Ala Adjetey on us. We must not fall for the bait. We must hold these people responsible for what they are doing to our country. We must find a way to redefine leadership and raise the bar higher. It is my candid opinion that, we need a selfless leader going forward. We need a caring and hands on leader who will be a good steward and cut his coat according to our national cloth. Leadership should not be dwarfed into coasting, begging and spending recklessly, the scant resource of a poor people, who are trying to forge a way forward tirelessly. This profligacy must stop. The legal corruption must also stop. The moral wickedness must stop. Democracy is not a caveat to spend unwisely the resources of the people because you’ve been elected. If Kufour is spending this way, can he really tell his subordinates to be responsible? Every travel that Kufour undertakes is another school not built for poor areas like Dabala Junction. Can somebody from the NPP tell him to knock it off? Knock it off sir! Now all must turn their verbal Katusha rockets towards their MPs and the president.

In the meantime, Ghana Visions is asking for partners to help build a modest school for the kids at Kpodjagie. Ghana Visions Foundations has committed an initial amount of $500 for block making towards putting up a three classroom school for the kids. If you want to help, go to and sign up. You can make your pledge while there. We must, at all cost, educate the kids of Ghana. All of them!! The burden is on us and we must not relent. It is no more ok to leave one kid behind. Yes, not one kid! All of these kids are God’s children first and Ghanaians by all means. Viva Ghana!!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.