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Opinions of Thursday, 19 April 2007

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Kufour's Financial Loss To Ghana

Kufour’s Financial Loss To Ghana: Should He Be Held Responsible?

In our steady march to celebrate our fiftieth birthday, we airlifted generators to provide electricity, we bought luxury cars to fleetingly transport our guests, both imaginary and real, we de-silted our clogged gutters, banned load-shedding (electricity), rounded up all the mentally and physically challenged folks, pushed out the vendors and hawkers from otherwise clogged commercial areas, planted and watered trees even as grandma harmattan bristled her cola stained teeth, asked our taxis to retool with uniformed drivers to boot, and ordered all who were in violation of the metropolitan painting ordinance to comply immediately. Little did I know that we had a paint-your-house ordinance in Ghana! Wonders will never end!! It is interesting to observe that we really know what needs to be done but refuse to do it. Now, how does it make you feel to know that most of these things were done with loans? Even as I continue to write this piece, a 25 million dollar loan is being sought for parliament to improve performance. Who will pay for all these loans that the NPP is racking up? We seem to have resigned to the fact that loans are it! We can’t finance a calabash of coco from within Ghana. Are we a cursed lot? Why can’t we, for example, use the national service scheme to help parliamentarians do research? I worry a lot about saddling generations unborn with foreign loans/debt for every mental fart that we think of. To make matters worse, we have nothing to show for these loans! None!

The Ghana@50 orgy makes it very clear that we are very competent in putting up false pretenses. This phenomenon is prevalent in our private lives as well. The latter is the soft under belly of our culture that must be seriously debated and addressed. For some reason, our inept leaders are very competent when it comes to spending money recklessly. Secondly, it shows that we do not take our tax paying folks seriously. It shows clearly our condescension for the tolerating Ghanaian. Why would we do anything at break neck speed to create false impressions for foreigners, when our reality tells a different story? We competently did for Ghana@50, some of the things we ought to be doing for Ghana on a daily basis. Even as this fluff was unfurling, the bottom of the bucket was getting ready to drop. And boy did it drop menacingly. Immediately after the successful polarized celebration, the country was plunge into the darkness of hell. Please don’t tell me that Kufour and his obstinate coterie were not warned about the crippling state of Nkrumah’s Akosombo. This time around, the NPP cannot blame the NDC or boom boom Rawlings. No sir!

It is unmistakably conspicuous that the NPP dropped the ball big time. This is not to say that our energy woes started with the NPP. No! However, it came to a head under Kufour’s watch and he must be held fully and comprehensively accountable. Even clueless infants take better care of their Tamagotchis than the NPP did our energy needs. Unfortunately for the NPP, the cost of this giant mistake is debilitating and somebody must be held responsible for this crime against humanity. We’ve seen news reports about loss of lives, destruction of material property and businesses, untold misery and anything in-between. But even as this hardship bring moist and saturated tears to the face of suffering Ghanaians, the president does not seem to have a care as he continues with juvenile glee, his globetrotting shenanigans. Can anyone convince Ghanaians that his travel to the inauguration of an octogenarian president, Wade of Senegal, who has ruled his country for umpteen years is more important than attending to the grave and urgent energy needs of our suffering folks? This is after he visited with the callous queen to pledge his loyalty! I want to confess here that democracy is a lot harder than I thought it was! Much much harder!! I pray that God gives us all the patience and fortitude to wade through the swift and swirling waters of democracy. Amen!

For once, the regnant and raging ineffectiveness of Kufour and his gaggle of loudmouths is on display for all to see. This president, obviously oblivious to the enormity of the spiraling energy crisis, changed four ministers of energy in six years. These ministers were changed like Kleenex for no good reason. Reshuffling for Kufour is just another failed attempt at leadership and a relished opportunity for vindictiveness. Never mind the fact that those who were being shuffled in and out, obviously, did not have a clue. Let us also not lose sight of the fact that they were appointed not because of any remarkable competence or experience in the field of energy but just as a way of keeping party faithfuls, family members and friends happy. The word competence does not seem to stand out in the president’s vocabulary. So, while our energy sector was visibly on dialysis, the president kept fiddling with the caregivers for no useful reasons. If this is not an indictment of Kufour management of our economy, I don’t know what it. Yet, will parliament muster the courage to take him to task? Why can’t our parliament use its oversight powers to take the president to task?

We need a full blown parliamentary hearing or inquiry into what went wrong here. The president and all the ministers of energy that worked for him must be hauled before the energy oversight committee. This we must do not because we lack enough spectacles to titillate our already agitated senses but to help us see what went wrong and how we can avoid it going forward. We need some lessons learned at all cost. This is a great opportunity to breathe some fresh air into our languid democracy. This president must be brought down to earth! I have never been fond of the British but I can tell you that we need prime minister’s question time, in our case president question time, as part of our flailing democracy. We have to put this president before a committee and grill him as to what he knew and when he knew it. Just think about the lies that the president told in his state of the union. I mean bald faced lies aimed at palliating the hurt and pain that Ghanaians continue to endure. Yet he is roaming free and acting as if nothing happened! Why can’t we have some responsibility from our elected leaders? I am fed up with the glaring incompetence of the executive that attracts no consequences whatsoever. We must not accept this pre-school level performance as the norm! We must demand more and better! Why can’t we have a system in place that forces these so-called leaders to review all sectors of our economy on an annual basis just to make sure we don’t run into a similar ditch? Why? Not just reviews but a publication of the state of these sectors before any budgetary allocation.

The president of Ghana, since day one, has failed to appreciate the basic fact that, no economy on the face of this planet will take off, let alone sustain its maiden flight, if it cannot provide energy, among other essentials, consistently, for industrial, governmental and personal consumption. Is this not commonsense? What makes this situation overly and morally repugnant is that the government has monopoly on energy generation and supply. Perhaps, the reality that the president enjoys permanent energy supply in Ghana, makes him insensitive to the crippling, if not gripping imposition that this energy debacle in creating for poor Ghanaians all over the country. It is for this reason that I strongly detest the practice of allowing policy makers to live outside the policy that they foist on the good people of Ghana. We see this in healthcare too!! Most of these so called freeloading leaders seek healthcare outside the country at the expense of the ordinary folks even as they continue to nourish a failing, class-based and miserable healthcare system. The moaning and groaning of poor Ghanaians is palpable and it is time that this government is condemned in no uncertain terms for wrecking such havoc on a HPIC country like ours. This NPP government has and continues to take the tolerance of Ghanaians for a ride. It is time that Ghanaians shed this expectation that they will suffer under any burden imposed on them. Even as the NPP continues to prosecute others for financial loss, the financial loss that they impose on government, private citizens, and investors that we’ve paid an arm and leg to attract, is unbelievable. Who is going to go to jail for the mayhem and suffering that this energy bedlam is spewing on the poor people of Ghana? People are dying, some are losing their livelihood and investments because of the incompetence of this NPP government. Who will pay their bills?

My fellow Ghanaians, did president Kufour not boast that the NPP has delivered on its promise? Was it not this same president who kept inviting Ghanaians to come home and help? Just imagine that you took his advice and put your life savings in Ghana. Now what? Sit and watch your investment dissipate into thin air? Does the president realize the seriousness of the situation that we are dealing with? Does he realize its impact economically on small and big businesses alike? Was it not this same president that flew all over the place telling the world that Ghana was open for business? Even then, some of us saw through the high sounding rhetoric and did not buy his charade. We advised this NPP government to focus on fixing Ghana from within, instead of assuming ignorantly that telling obese lies and emitting gassy effusion continuously about Ghana’s real situation will make believers out of the skeptical many. Where are these organizations that continue to rank Ghana number one for everything but our incompetence in Africa? If this situation is not a classic case of mismanagement, I don’t know what is. If this case does not emphasize the need to address the fundamentals of a flying economy, I don’t know what else would. Have we not been warning the NPP about building sand castles and dabbling in red-hot rhetoric? Where are our critics? Why don’t they come out to play with fresh eggs on their face?

My friends, keep in mind that we are only dealing with electricity here. We have not addressed Petrol, Kerosene, Gas Oil, water, Investment Capital, addressing of property, land reform, roads, law enforcement, healthcare and other critical areas that require significant improvement before we can compete for any hard earned investment dollars out there. Until we address some of the issues listed here, we must not believe any hype from some of these lazy and corrupt politicians. I am always amazed that this president, suffering deeply from acute myopia, is not able to grasp, and unfortunately so, that, without a solid home base, no amount of canvassing or begging will prod any sensible person to pour their hard earned capital into a seriously leaking bucket. Like pregnancy, you cannot hide our paralysis for so long! Eventually, people will see that the president is peddling a defective product and that will further damage our hopes and aspirations. Why can’t this government quietly go about fixing what is wrong with Ghana without the highfalutin gimmicks? After all, most foreign investors know more about Ghana than the president of Ghana. Even the ignorant ones will be up to speed with a little research. It is obvious from this perilous situation that the president does not have a clue about Ghana’s situation. If he did, we won’t be in this energy mess. Look what you’ve done Mr. President! This is why we keep telling you to stop flying all over the place and fix Ghana first.

My NPP friends tell me that there is an energy plan in place. If there is one, the good people of the NPP should impress upon the president to consider revising it. This is the time to bring out all the facts and figures. This is the time to get all the experts we can get at the table. I would rather spend 20 million dollars on getting this energy plan right than funding the orgy called NPP@50. Were we not taught as kids that you do what is necessary before you mess with what is fitting? All options must be seriously considered. We must not allow partisanship to do us in one more time. Everyone that can and ought to help must be contacted and invited to help craft a comprehensive and sustainable plan. It is very critical that we get it right this time around. No ad hoc patchwork or pre-school crap this time around. If not, out mistakes will cost us a fortune. The investment here will be phenomenal and we better not get it wrong. Now is not the time to get into a panic mode and make band-aid choices. The harm is already done. So while our people bravely endure the torture, we must reward them with a well thought out comprehensive plan that takes all pertinent local factors into consideration. First though, the president must explain his gaffes to the people, apologize profusely and then tell them what is being done to correct his mumblings. This president must show humility and call/beg for help from all Ghanaians who want to help.

Getting the right plan is only the first step. Once we iron out a plan, financing will be our next challenge. I hope and pray that the NPP will not see this as another opportunity to enrich party coffers. Again, I worry a lot about the foreign debt that we continue to pile on! A lot of people have suffered for far too long. This matter is delicately important and selfish considerations must not see the light of day as far as this matter is concerned. Let us for once, do something that will have long-term positive implications for all Ghanaians. We must emulate Nkrumah’s legacy in this regard. The NPP has a golden opportunity, not age, to redeem itself on this energy issue. In politically savvy societies, this debacle alone is good enough to kick the NPP out of office for a long while. If the NPP is able to steer this situation on the right path, Ghanaians may forgive them just like the Rutgers’ ladies basketball team forgave Don Imus for his grave transgressions.

I hope that this situation will weigh heavily on the minds of all NPP delegates as they gear up to select a presidential candidate. They owe this country a huge debt by nominating a candidate with the potential to deliver if elected by the good people of Ghana. We need a selfless leader who can relate to the people and is in tune with the realities on the ground. We need a suffering messiah not a conquering one! We don’t need a king or coasting president who will travel all over the place while the house is on fire. In a way having Kufour at this point may be a blessing. It should warn us about the kind of qualities that we must eschew in selecting the next leader. I live for the day when we choose our leaders based on experience, skill, ability and competence. I know we are light years away from the latter but I also know that the mighty redwood or odum tree was once a seed. Let us gradually worm our way into electing our leaders based on the issues and competence. We need a leader with a vision and a commitment to actualize that vision. It works out for everyone if in the long run if and when we do the latter. Let us win one for Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman
(Also known as the double edge sword!)
The writer is inextricably in love with Ghana and encourages you to do the same!

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