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Opinions of Friday, 18 July 2008

Columnist: Amenyo, Kwashie

Kufuor’s Hypocrisy & Megalomania

The dictionary defines an award as - “to grant as merited or due, assign or bestowed”. A national award then, will be a symbol bestowed on an individual or group for meritorious, selfless and committed service to the nation.

In line with the above, can I then say that a National award, no matter what category it is said to belong to, must be bestowed to only individuals and (or) groups that in the assessment of many (the citizens), have discharged themselves dutifully, diligently and selflessly in the interest of the state? The conferees’ demeanor must be beyond reproach, and, with as much as possible, an above average track record. Maybe, just maybe, I would be allowed to extend this definition to include - broad acceptance; that the majority of citizens should have a favourable opinion of the awards at all times, in order to maintain national appeal and reverence. These awards, in summary, must unite, rather than polarize the citizens of a nation.

In the history of West African states, including Ghana, never has there been a time that a national awards ceremony has created mixed feelings or drawn negative comments from people of different political persuasions than the one recently awarded by Kufuor to himself and 243 others. In fact, one Prof Kwaku Asare, aka Kwaku Azar, a known NPP operative, had this to say of President Kufuor and the awards – “He is behaving more like a chief than a Chief Executive”. He went on to call the President a JAKass whose behaviour depicts that of a clan head than a Head of State. Another known NPP die-hard, Henry Kwasi Prempeh aka HKP, used unprintable words to describe J A Kufuor, stemming from what he sees as a debasing of a once prestigious national award. In a recent comment, he referred to it as “Kufuor’s stupendous cost to the national treasury” and “Kufuor's narcissistic and over-the-top "national awards" ceremony”. Yet another contributor compared President Kufuor to Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic, pointing to greed and self-aggrandisement as his weaknesses. If a Ghanaian journalist had his way, Kufuor could be called 50cents, like the very ‘buff’ American rap artiste – in honour of the 18-carat, $65,000 worth of gold medal he took home that day, reminiscent of what the America rap artiste wears around his neck. Really, who in their right mind will spend $1.5million of a poor nations wealth this way ? Just imagine what 1.5million dollars could do for our ailing health and falling education sectors.

One could not help but grin and laugh at the same time, after reading an article entitled “Kufuor honours self”. That Kufuor is no different from the late Gnassigbe Eyedema, the former strongman of Togo is an understatement. No wonder they were sworn blood brothers, ‘till death did them part’. If Kufuor's megalomania could not allow him to appreciate the glaring conflict of interest in self-nomination and the message it will send to the masses, what else has he been awarding himself that we do not know about? Is it the Hotel Kufuor, a 15% Kickback scheme, or 2 Swiss bank accounts? Did Ebusuapanyin Kofi Diawuo, with his multiple accolades, seek the approval of the legislature, or even their backing before spending the national purse with such impunity? Or just like his first week in office where he spent the people’s money to renovate his house, he finds it appropriate to cloth his nudity with medals that are worth their weight in gold?

Seriously though, when Haruna Esseku, the former NPP Chairman talked about Kufuor making the castle a seat for kickbacks about 2 years ago, he knew what he was talking about. Surprise, surprise, surprise..... ! Haruna Esseku, had been going around collecting kickbacks for Kufuor. How else would he have known? You can ask the likes of Kwamena Bartels and Richard Anane, who are on record to have mentioned some of these pickups in the presence of some members of "my team". Is this the reason why Kufuor could not fire those two, although Ghanaians had become all too familiar with the malfeasance that had characterised their tenure in their respective ministerial positions?

Our national awards have been debased and pimped out, the creation of a new category just makes a bad situation worse, taking its unattractiveness to newer heights.

As an example, let us take a prestigious university that dishes out 244 honorary degrees in one-shot to people, many of whom could not tell you what they have done to help in either academia, humanitarian service and (or) business enterprise, with the highest award going to the Vice-Chancellor. Would that institution’s honorary degrees – which were conferred like confetti on undeserving cronies not lose its appeal. More like the law of diminishing returns, the more national awards undeserving Ghanaians receive, the less the value, prestige and respect that award will command. It will be an uphill task restoring Ghana’s National Awards to its previous stature, now that Kufuor has allowed it to rain on a lot of undeserving lackeys like it were a “Kufuor Village Awards”. Could this excuse of a President not be cited for abuse of office and financial loss ?

My recommendations are that, we come up with an arrangement (even if legal), that will bar sitting Presidents from nominating or influencing the selection of conferees as well as instituting any new awards. The conferring of awards and the institution of any new ones, if at all necessary, must be handled by a body specifically selected for that purpose, with no supervision or subservience to any government agency. This group must have a direct interface with parliament and must be subject to the opinions of the populace.

What in the world did Ghanaians do to deserve such crooks and megalomaniacs?

Now that I have spoken my mind, the NPP choirboys are free compose a dirge in my honour. At least I will be the first of 240-something persons to be awarded the defaced national honour posthumously – that is if Kufuor will be honest to himself for once.

Kwashie Amenyo (A disgruntled Former NPP Supporter) Takoradi