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Opinions of Monday, 18 March 2013

Columnist: Antobam, Kobina

Kufuor Is Ghana’s Worst President

By: Kobina Antobam

The test of unifying one race of people of many tribal origins was very clear to Kwame Nkrumah. Though Europeans had partitioned the continent without regard to natural divisions and tribal affiliations and left us with the country Ghana, Nkrumah, with the urgency it deserved, knew from the outset that success of the newly independent country depended on tribal integration, assimilation, and unity. He began to make diverse political and administrative appointments a priority and instituted policies to maintain equitable social order for a smooth steady development of a maligned, ignored, abused, and subjugated people. Nkrumah had precedents to guide him. Not to discount other tribal differences prevailing in the country at that time, a very excellent historical example for Nkrumah was the earlier constant incursions and pestering interferences and raids by the Ashanti which engendered the formation of the confederation of Fante chiefs in 1871. Nkrumah made the right choices because he knew that long-term peace and unity would exist in the country only when tribal discord is eliminated from the interactions of all the ethnicities in the country.

So, Nkrumah sowed a seed. The visionary Nkrumah sowed the seed of tribal unity when he took up the leadership of infant Ghana, and treasured and nurtured his tree of unity with true love, care, and protection even under the constant threat of assassination. After he was gone, some unimpressive Ghanaians came along and allowed the tree to fend for itself. The tree tottered along for years until Jeremiah John Rawlings appeared. Mr. Rawlings, not knowing what he was doing initially, not only turned his back on the tree but he didn’t care whether the tree lived or died. Still surviving on the fast depleting cache of Nkrumah’s nourishment, the starved, emaciated but resilient unity tree gasped breathlessly along in spite of Rawlings’s neglect for good nineteen years. Then John Agyekum Kufuor came and led the country with a 50-year repressed tribal agenda. Prepping for his determined selfish priorities, he vengefully uprooted and discarded the tree immediately on becoming president. Kufuor killed Nkrumah’s tribal unity tree out of vengeance!

When this young soldier Jeremiah Rawlings imposed himself as the head of state, he thought he knew how to solve all of Ghana’s problems. He fumed over the country’s mismanagement when he was an active soldier and he was angry, yes, the guy was extremely angry. He forcibly took over the leadership of the country and presided over unjustifiable summary executions and molestation of his countrymen when he mistakenly thought that, in order to rid the country of its ills, certain individuals had to be out of the way permanently. For nineteen years, he ran the country with an iron fist. He was crude, bossy, vindictive, threatening, and unapologetically abusive. He directly or indirectly unleashed his soldiers on his own people and made the military the vicious conduit through which he forced everyone in the country into submission.

But, during periods of personal vulnerabilities and uncertainty, Rawlings sought protection and refuge in his tribe, the Ewe. While he selectively treated Ghanaian middle class and elite with scorn and contempt, he undeniably surrounded himself mostly with people of his tribe in order to get much needed solace, assurance, and protection from reprisals. Unbeknownst to Rawlings, this was exactly the beginning of the destruction of the tree of unity Nkrumah planted. As soon as Rawlings turned to his tribe for security and support, he opened up a Pandora’s Box of tribal antagonism and rejection from a likely source. As was expected, his inveterate nemeses were no other than the tribe that succeeded him. Rawlings should have known better. But what do Ghanaians expect from a young man who learned how to manage a tribally heterogeneous people as he went along and with one fatal mistake after another. By the time Rawlings left office, he had inadvertently made it easy for the incoming group to pursue similar yet a more robust divergent tribal agenda with impunity and without concern for the lasting discordant, divisive, and retributive effect on the whole country. Rawlings’s ineptitude concerning his disregard for tribal balance and harmony provided the incoming group the false equivalent justification or excuse to implement a nationally harmful tribal agenda.

Unlike politically clueless young Rawlings, Kufuor knew what he wanted and consciously caused a lasting tribal schism in the country that will take many years of serious efforts to repair. The root cause of tribal divisions that have sharpened in the last five years can be traced easily to Kufuor’s intentional policies that looked to promoting the interests of only Twi-speaking Ghanaians. He has made it easy for many of his tribe or near-tribes to make careless incendiary threats and provocations, such as, the hasty utterances of Kennedy Agyapong, Akufo-Addo, and a few who have recently recklessly threatened the country with Asante secession. One implication is that the Asante would still be attached to and sandwiched within the belly of Ghana and still be a separate sovereign country of its own. The other baseless argument is that Asante alone has enough self-supporting resources that will make it totally free of economic dependence on the remaining areas of Ghana. It also implies that secession will remove the support the Asante region wrongly believes it inordinately provides to the rest of Ghana and that would, as a result, render the rest of Ghana an economically crippled and destitute nation. These are just a few examples of incendiary atmosphere that currently exist in the country that Kufuor made possible.

In the beginning, Kufuor’s tribal agenda had one major stumbling block, which was none other than Kwame Nkrumah. For Kufuor and his tribe, decades-long war with Nkrumah was not over. There is little indication that it’s even over now. They had scores to settle with that dead man. He came to office with a real formidable opposition party in the country, that is, Rawlings’s National Democratic Congress. But there was a third party too, a haunting opposition, that he and his tribe had wanted to deal with for nearly fifty years. That party was not a political organization, not even the current Convention People’s Party. It was in the corpse of Kwame Nkrumah. Kufuor and his gang had unfinished business with the dead and buried Kwame Nkrumah. So Kufuor went on the attack the very first day his cabal enterprise was open for business at the Christiansborg Castle.

Again, his multi-pronged assault to redress his group’s perceived wrongs did not focus only on the existing opposition but to rewrite history so that Kwame Nkrumah did not matter anymore. That was agenda number one. He relentlessly insisted that it was Danquah’s frontal efforts, and not Nkrumah’s that brought us freedom. To cement that idea in the minds of Ghanaians, he facilitated the establishment of the tribal leaning Danquah “Ideological” Institute to counter an independent Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He erected Danquah’s statues in Accra in order to overshadow all existing structures in honor of Nkrumah. But, to assuage critics of his Danquah frontal assault on the largely unsuspecting Ghanaians, he informed the country that their freedom was made possible, not by Nkrumah alone, but by Danquah and four other people, the so-called Big Six, some of whom worked for the CIA and some who turned out to be saboteurs. The persistent reeducation has even convinced President Mahama to recently sing Kufuor’s tune of the Big Six.

In the meantime, Kufuor was busy appointing and creating government positions, over 90% of which were for his relations, friends, and Twi-speaking Ghanaians. Ambassadorships, ministerial positions, diplomatic staffing, top civil service jobs, directorships, all went to Kufuor’s tribe or near-tribes. Even private Twi-speaking businessmen and women were unabashed ubiquitous beneficiaries of Kufuor’s largesse.

On the social front, Kufuor promoted the Asantehene as the king of Ghana to the hushed disbelief of stunned chiefs in the country. Not counting the millions of dollars that went quietly to support him, the Asantehene was presented to the world not as a king of his tribal group but as the supreme Ghanaian king. For eight years, all chiefs in Ghana, including the very powerful and paramount outside the Asante realm and those who swore direct allegiance to the Asantehene, became second-class or less important. They couldn’t publicly complain but from region to region, there were undeniable murmurs in chieftaincy circles about the lopsided tilt of the publicly promoted rankings championed by Kufuor’s government.

Bloated with delusions of their national relevance throughout Kufuor’s term, the New Patriotic Party was certain of its continued rule of Ghana after eight years of Kufuor, and Akufo-Addo was the seamless transition who was going to continue Kufuor’s social agenda without interruption. But with Akufo-Addo’s defeat in 2008 came the abrupt end and sudden silence about the national singular monarchical promotion of the Asantehene. Atta-Mills’ election brought a sigh of relief among all chiefs in Ghana and an atmosphere of equanimity and relative temperance throughout Ghana’s chiefdom.

In addition to the social reeducation and restructuring of the country by Kufuor’s regime, other subtle uni-tribal dominance sneakily found their way into the Ghanaian social fabric. The increased promotion of Twi as Ghana’s dominant language and its lingua franca which has now made even other Akan people to ignore their own sweet-sounding dialects and modify their speaking tones to mimic the Twi dialect; the distasteful unattractive design of the presidential palace in the form of an Asante stool; the establishment of a government department for chiefs; the naming of important structures after people of his ilk; and other social reengineering attempts to solidify his dream of Twi supremacy, are less than enough to sum up Kufuor’s social agenda.

At the pinnacle of Kufuor’s almost successful national tribal transformation were the sneaky corrupt financial dealings undertaken without shame to benefit himself and his people. The crown at the top of Kufuor’s criminal rap sheet was his presiding over an astronomical share of the country’s newly discovered oil revenues worth over a billion dollars in a few years to himself and only two Twi-speaking Ghanaians who go by the name of EO Group.

It is very important to note now that it is disappointing that those two living ex-Presidents, Rawlings and Kufuor, are not doing anything in their retirements to bridge the current tribal divide which they helped create, which now makes the Asante, Akyem, and other Twi-speaking Ghanaians detest vehemently anything Ewe and vice versa. The current atmosphere does not only bode well for the two feuding tribes but for the rest of the country as well. But it is even more painful to listen to the pretences of Kufuor whenever he opens his mouth and wants us to regard him as the grandfatherly citizen who cares for everybody in the country. There is a huge disparity between what Kufuor often says or does now and his performance as president.

So, as recently as last August when Kufuor was quoted as saying that “politics shows our differences in views while those elected are only to serve; we are all one people,” the immediate amazement of Ghanaians at Kufuor’s dishonesty becomes apparent and justifiable. He goes on to say that “those who do not share the same view with you are not your enemies.” And that Ghanaians should “shun tribalism, religious differences and political differences.” At that time, he wanted Ghanaians to “vote for those who would do their work well for the benefit of all.”

In his unrelenting subterfuge towards Ghanaians, Kufuor comes across as grossly deceptive, crafty, snobbish, and rude but never a gentle giant. Since there is clear evidence that he came to office to advance his personal and tribally narrow interests at the expense of the rest of the nation while his current speeches and public comments are counter to his performance and are obvious lies, Kufuor seems to have damaged Ghana beyond repair. His divisive impact on the country is more damaging than any and those of all heads of state before him combined. He knew better and he purposely turned his back on fairness and equity. It needs repeated emphasis that Kufuor’s legacy of unrestrained in-your-face cronyism and his tribally biased leadership contributed largely to the two presidential election defeats of Akufo-Addo.

Good day.