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Opinions of Sunday, 15 November 2009

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

Kufuor’s Legacy of Development, Second to None

Fellow Ghanaians, permit me to use this opportunity to share some thoughts with you with regard to the remarkable achievements of His Excellency, the ‘Gentle Giant’, John Agyekum Kufuor under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration between 2001 and 2009. In sharing this thought, I would urge my noble readers to consider among other things, the tenure of office vis-a-vis the population of Ghana, the available resources and the actual work done. In this way, you would agree with me as to why President Kufuor remains the most successful President of Ghana. In my subsequent articles, I will be examining the socio-economic and political impact of the policies and programmes executed in the key sectors of the Ghanaian ‘ecomini’ notably; education, health, transport, sports, energy, among others. Efforts will also be made to make a comparison between Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and J. A. Kufuor in terms of their achievements as leaders of Mother Ghana.

According to Martin Luther King Jr, the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. To this, Gordon Brown, British prime minister adds; leadership is tested not by what happens in the best of time but by what happens when things are difficult. To say that President Kufuor has earned his place in the annals of African politics would be a very gross understatement. Readers cannot forget so soon the gloomy state of the economy when the Kufuor-led NPP administration assumed the reigns of governance in 2001. The enthusiasm and excitement that greeted the new administration were similar to that of 6th March, 1957, all because to most Ghanaians, the era marked the end of culture of silence, tyranny, economic hardship, corruption, human rights abuses, lawlessness and police brutalities that characterised the 19 year dictatorial rule of Rawlings’ P/NDC administration. In fact, tribalism had been covertly and overtly been institutionalised in all public and private institutions. Ghanaians were therefore anxiously looking forward to seeing their "Moses” to free them from bondage. Esther Smith’s ‘Ewurade Kasa’ lyrics were on the lips of everybody. The rate of inflation was high, interest rate was high, the unemployment rate was high, social infrastructure was nothing to write home about, there was high incidence of social vices, there was general insecurity in the country, the cash and carry system was killing the poor, the educational system was in a mess, there were series of demonstrations (Kume Preko, Sie me Preko) and strike actions including those of bread sellers, officers of the prison service and the almighty ‘mmobrowa struggle’ which I was a leading member and a victim of the abuses, there was high incidence of corruption especially among public officials and last but not the least, the serial killings of women put fear among the women folk.

According to B.R. Hayden, the first proof of a man’s incapacity to achieve is his endeavouring to fix the stigma of failure on others. However, as a man born to succeed, His Excellency, J. A. Kufuor did not see the state of our economy as a problem, but rather as a challenge to modify his approach for better things to come through the party’s campaign message of positive change. It is in the light of these that on assumption office, he moved quickly to bring to the fore credible programmes and policies with competent team to execute them.

The excellent work done by the Kufuor-led NPP administration is there for all those whose five senses, in addition to their common sense, are working to perfection, to see, hear, feel, taste, smell and judge objectively. Without much I do, I will just highlight some of the remarkable feats chalked by President Kufuor, which include among others, the construction and rehabilitation of five sports stadia, the Presidential Palace (Golden Jubilee House), the Accra-Tema commuter railway line, the Keta Sea Defence, the Bui Dam & Bui City Project, the Boankra Inland Port (under construction), major feeder and trunk roads (Accra-Kumasi-Aflao-Kasoa-Cape Coast, Aburi), several by-passes in Accra and Kumasi including the Asafo interchange, the restoration of Peduase Lodge, the drilling of several boreholes culminating in the solution to the perennial water problems in Cape Coast and Tamale, the expansion of the Aboadze Thermal Plant, the Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence, state-of-the art wood village at Sokoban, Kumasi for Anloga carpenters, the accident centre at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), over 56 model secondary schools including science resource buses, the presidential special initiatives on cassava, oil palm etc, the affordable housing project, the cocoa processing plant in Kumasi, the West African Gas Pipe Line as well as the expansion of the road network from 39,000 km of accessible roads to 65,000 km.

In fact, under the distinguished leadership of His Excellency, President J. A. Kufuor, good governance was at its peak. He tolerated all shades of opinion and continues to do so in the face of extreme provocation even as of now. He was constantly at the receiving end of insults and abuses from ‘Dr.’ Asemfoforo, an NDC paid serial caller and J. J. Rawlings, who at one time referred to the then sitting President as ‘Ataa Ayi’ - a notorious armed robber. Ghanaians witnessed the National Reconciliation, the reburial of three former heads of state namely; Okatakyie Afrifa, Gen. I.K. Acheampong and Gen. F.W.K Akufo and five senior military officers, who were executed in 1979 by J. J. Rawlings, the repeal of the criminal libel and seditious laws which had provided 10 years’ maximum imprisonment for reporting intended to injure the reputation of the state, the People’s Assembly concept which made it possible for Ghanaians to interact with the President and his Ministers on yearly basis, all-inclusive governance with the likes of Mallam Issah (PNC), Dr. Paa Nduom, Prof. Badu Akosah, Prof. Hagan - all CPP leading members, working under the NPP administration, the facilitation of the appointments of Dr. Ibn Chambas as the Secretary General of ECOWAS and Ekwow Spio-Garbrah as Chief Executive Officer of CTO, the creation of 60 additional districts and raising some of them to municipal & metropolitan status to facilitate local governance, the increase in the District Assembly Common Fund from 5% to 7.5%, plethora of FM Radio stations, regular media encounters with the President, broadcasting of news in the major local dialects on the Ghana Television (GTV), which hitherto had been in English and Akan, the passage of the Representation of the People Amendment act (ROPAA) into law to enfranchise Ghanaians in the diaspora, the expansion of mobile phone network across the length and breadth of the country, the creation of Public Sector Reform Ministry to develop a new and positive mindset for public sector workers, the creation of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs to empower women and improve their lot, the creation of the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs to tap the rich expertise of our noble traditional leaders, the Disability Act, the improvement in the conditions of service of health personnel and lecturers, general discipline in the Ghana Armed Forces, the deconfiscation of assets of noble and hard working citizens seized by J.J. Rawlings, the removal of June 4 and the 31st December public holidays from the statute books, the transfer of members of the 64th Infantry Regiment to other units, the enforcement of Rule of Law culminating in the 3-day official visit of a sitting US President and the then Deputy PM of the UK, John Prescott.

My dear readers, it was not by accident that this noble son of Mother Ghana, His Excellency, President J. A. Kufuor featured regularly at all G-8 Summits. His excellent diplomatic relations with world leaders enabled Ghana not only to attract attention and investment worldwide, but also he was unanimously elected to chair both the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Under his leadership, Ghana had the opportunity to assume the rotational presidency of the UN Security Council. President Kufuor also won several international awards including the Chatham House Prize Award in 2008 as a result of peace and economic growth which characterised his two terms in office. No wonder he was given a rousing welcome by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Again, President Kufuor took a leading role in mediating in regional conflicts including those in Liberia, La Cote D’Ivoire, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Ghanaians should not lose sight of the fact that, Kufuor is not the only ex-President of the Republic of Ghana. There were others who unfortunately died in exile, some died miserably in Ghana and a particular dictator was mandated to ensure the eradication of mosquitoes in Africa. However, as a true democrat, he was even criticised by his own party members and sympathisers for not hanging onto power before the Tain by-elections when the NPP’s Presidential Candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo was leading in the 2008 Presidential elections. He is on record as the only President who left office in the peaceful manner in which he entered it. This is indeed a lasting legacy because all his predecessors were either overthrown by the military or metamorphosed themselves into civilian presidents. Furthermore, a lot of people benefitted from the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) where the aged and other vulnerable people were paid monthly allowances of between 8 and 15 Ghana cedis. The micro finance loans were meant to help small and medium-scale businesses, the Export Development Fund (EDIF), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which makes it possible for local producers to access the US market, as well as, the Ghana Poverty Reduction Programmes I & II were all aimed at improving the lot of Ghanaians.

The NPP under Kufuor managed the economy with dynamism, competence, commitment, integrity, ingenuity and innovation. It was in the light of these that the party was able to undertake pro-poor policies and programmes like the free basic education through the capitation grant, the school feeding programme where pupils from some selected public basic schools were given one hot meal a day, the National Health Insurance Scheme to replace the cash and carry system and make health care affordable, the release of 250 brand new buses to GPRTU, the metro mass transit, the Ghana International Airlines (all meant to improve the transportation system), the free maternal care to reduce child mortality, the Northern Development Fund with a US$25m seed fund to reduce the North-South poverty gap, free bus ride for school kids, construction of 14 fishing harbours in our fishing communities, the activities of the Zoom Lion Company Limited to rid our cities of filth, the creation of the Youth Fund with a $50m seed money and the National Youth Employment Programme, which rolled out seven programmes including community police, teaching assistance, health care, agric extension, etc to reduce the country’s high unemployment.

Between 2001 and 2008, the introduction of mass cocoa spraying exercise coupled with the persistent increase in the producer price of cocoa, subsidised fertilizer, prompt payment of bonuses and the importation of 1,331 brand new tractors went a long way in increasing the annual cocoa yield from 350 metric tonnes in 2000 to 750 metric tonnes in 2006 with an income of US$1bn to the economy. This feat alone moved Ghana from the 4th position to the 2nd position in terms of the world’s leading producers of the product. It must however, be noted that the new tractors exclude the 2000 tractors that Mahama Ayariga, Alban Bagbin, and the other greedy NDC members stole recently. The above-mentioned pragmatic policies and programmes, in addition to the plethora of financial institutions, quadrupled the size of the economy from US$3.9m to US$16.3m between the said period, thus ending the year with GDP growth rate of 7.3%. Whilst inflation was reduced from 40% in 2000 to 9.8% in 2006 (single digit) and later 18% in 2008, interest rate fell from 50% to 25% during the period under consideration. The daily minimum wage was increased from Gp 42 (4,200 cedis) in 2000 to 2.25 Ghana cedis (22,500 cedis) in 2008.

I hope fair-minded Ghanaians would admit the fact that, the relief with which the redenomination of the currency brought to us, especially the businessmen cannot be over-emphasised. All these went a long way in bringing down the unemployment rate in the country. No wonder, nutters like Koku Anyidoho and Fiifi Kwetey always babble they were ‘successful’ bankers before they entered politics. The sensible manner in which President Kufuor handled the energy crisis, the May 9 stadium disaster, the resettlement of Liberian refugees, as well as the Ya Naa’s death needs commendation. Fellow compatriots, it is again on record, that the national senior football team, the Black Stars qualified for its first ever World Cup under the NPP administration. The international recognition given to Ghana and the money accrued from the Black Stars’ participation in the tourney had a positive impact on the economy. The successful hosting of the African Cup of Nations (CAN 2008) which was described as the best since its inception, the bronze medal won by the Black Stars, the Ghana @ 50 and its ‘legacy’ projects like recreational parks, renovation of public buildings and historical monuments across all the 10 regions and their district capitals, as well as the successful hosting of the AU Summit is a feather in our cup.

I cannot continue highlighting these successes without mentioning the remarkable feat chalked by our noble party in the education sector. We all knew the state of our educational system when Jeremiah Rawlings-led NDC was at the helm of affairs. A New Education Reform was put in place in 2007 with special emphasis on Maths, Science, Vocational and ICT with the teacher as the pivot around which the reform would revolve. The computerisation of the SHS admissions to reduce corruption and hassle of parents, the Baah-Wiredu Laptop project meant to give one laptop to every school child, the upgrading of all the 38 Teacher Training Colleges into tertiary status, including my alma mater-Wesley College, the distance education programme to address the accommodation problem in the tertiary institutions, the Untrained Teacher Programme, the Access Course to Teacher Training Colleges for SHS graduates who could not do well in Maths and English, all meant not only to upgrade the knowledge of the teacher, but also to beef up the teacher population and subsequently helping to address the falling educational standards in the country.

Nor is this all, for, the proliferation of private universities from 4 to 16, the expansion of existing infrastructure in the public universities and other public tertiary institutions through the GETFund, the restructuring of the SSNIT Loan Scheme for students and more importantly, the Single Spine Salary Structure for public sector workers including our noble teachers and the new 3-tier pension scheme made the NPP a force to reckon with. The per capita income increased from US$300 to US$700 from 2000 t0 2008.

My brothers and sisters, you would all agree with me that, the building of VALCO at Tema was one of the significant achievements of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. This is due to the significant number of employees that was employed by the company. But what happened afterwards, if I may ask? The company which was basically owned by the Americans had to be purchased by the Kufuor-led NPP administration at a cosmic sum of US$20m. Is this not a credit to the NPP under Kufuor?

The NPP under His Excellency, J. A. Kufuor, did its best to fight against corruption. For instance, a minister of state under his administration was charged for wilfully causing financial loss to the state and together with other members of the previous government, was sentenced to a prison term. Ghana was the first country in Africa to submit herself to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). It would also interest readers to note that for the first time in 50 years, Ghana under the leadership of Kufuor earned a respectable B+ rating on the international financial scene in 2006 and this indeed, facilitated the country’s successful bid to access over US$ 750m from the Eurobond market. The passage of the Public Procurement Act, Financial Administration Act, Internal Audit Agency Act, which made the agency exceed its revenue target every year, the Office of Accountability Act, the Whistle Blowers Act, the importation of new police uniforms and over 1000 police vehicles to combat crime, the Right to Information bill, the establishment of Fast Track Courts, the excellent handling of the MV Benjamin cocaine scandal where Kwabena ‘Tagor’ Amaning was jailed, the strengthening of state institutions like the SFO, CHRAJ, among others, were all geared towards the eradication of this social evil in the Ghanaian society. Last but not the least, Ghana under Kufuor’s reign became the largest recipient of Millennium Challenge Account funds of US$547m to combat poverty in Ghana, by focusing on agricultural and rural development projects. The bilateral and multilateral debt cancellations as a result of Ghana joining the Heavily Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the World Bank’s lucrative job for His Excellency, J. A. Kufuor even before the 2008 general elections, and more importantly the oil find, would make President Kufuor peerless in the annals of Ghana’s history.

In conclusion, I would urge all right-minded Ghanaians to join me in saying a big thank you to His Excellency, John Agyekum Kufuor, for his sterling performance between January 2001 and January 2009. The man, who began his administration with HIPC and left Ghanaians with oil in commercial quantities, deserves better. Success, according to Arnold Glascow, is simple: do what is right, the right way, and at the right time. This, I strongly believe, was achieved by the New Patriotic Party under J. A. Kufuor and could only be disputed by all those who are blinded by political hatred. The fact that he awarded himself with an ‘expensive’ medal, his failure to appoint another competent person to man the Roads and Transport Ministry after the exit of Hon. Anane, the ex-gratia saga, the hotel Kufuor saga, the sale of Ghana Telecom which had parliamentary approval, his inability to sanction Alhaji Moctar Bamba, if indeed there was an evidence of any dubious act, clearly show that, he is just a mortal fallible soul. As a human, President Kufuor has his own weaknesses but these should not override the notable role he played in moving Ghana forward. ‘Mpanin se, barima b3y33 bi na woama am3y3 ne nyinaa’. The hardship being handed to Ghanaians by Mills-led illiterate or team B or mediocre administration confirms Georges Duhamel’s statement that, we do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory.

God bless Ghana! God bless NPP! God bless Kufuor!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang (a.k.a. Paulucious)

Hull, UK MEd in (Education)

kpaulucious@yahoo.com 07944309859 “Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success”