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Opinions of Friday, 13 March 2009

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

Kufuor to Mills: 'Take your Chrysler'

There is a reason why the German manufacturers of BMW market the luxury vehicle as the “ultimate driving machine”. Their message is simple: if you are not driving a BMW, you could as well be trudging along or riding on a chariot with square tyres. Like most of us, former President Kufuor knows that there is no car like a BMW – not to mention a custom-made, armoured BMW, ‘pimped’ up to set the president of an impoverished African country apart from his followers.

This might explain why he was clinging to a fleet of three luxury BMW sedans he supposedly bought for the state. How and why the cars got into his personal garage, he – and only he – can tell. But I assume that when he ordered for the cars in his last few months in office he had every intention of making them his own at the end of his tenure.

Little did he know that his party was going to be kicked out of power. If it had even crossed his mind that his party will not stay in power forever, he would have taken appropriate steps to ensure that his garage was turned into a mini-BMW showroom. Well, he just wasn’t perceptive enough. And he was complacent. With such complacency, he failed to employ the necessary constitutional provisions to make sure that the BMWs were securely ‘entrenched’ in his garage – probably needing a national referendum to be taken out.

The letter instructing him to return the BMWs to the Castle must not have come as a surprise to him. But he must have been very annoyed with the suggestions that the BMWs were going to be replaced with three Chrysler salon cars. So even though he has graciously decided to return the BMWs, he has flatly rejected the Chrysler replacements.

It’s not hard to tell why. Mr. Kufuor feels slighted. Taking away the BMWs and replacing them with Chryslers is like taking away Mama Tess and replacing her with Gizelle Yagzi. (And where on earth is that woman?). You just can’t compare the two.

I don’t like the Chrysler models I see in town. They look like some of the wooden coffins they make on the Teshie-Nungua Road. I haven’t been inside a Chrysler before and I don’t look forward to sitting in one – ever! But I’d gladly allow myself to be ‘packed’ like a piece of luggage into the trunk of a BMW 7 Series. The BMW is a thing of beauty. It’s as sexy as it is sleek. Even though I haven’t driven one before, I am told driving a BMW is like hitching a ride on the back of an angel through the celestial realms. I look forward to the day when I’d spin a BMW.

It’s so easy for any man to obsess over a BMW and I completely understand why the former president was so reluctant to leave the cars where he knew they should be and why he feels so insulted with the offer of three lousy Chryslers.

But I am worried about how Mr. Kufuor is going to be transporting himself about. I assume his first option might be to buy his own BMW fleet. I am sure the per diem he took for all of his foreign trip in his last year of office can get him a couple of BMWs. For the first time in eight years, he’s going to experience the pleasure (and the pain) of using his own money to buy something he desires. I think Mr. Kufuor is rich enough to be able to ‘pimp’ the car(s) to make them even better than the ones Mills has so callously taken from him.

Considering that we are reluctant to give him the ex-gratia he feels he deserves, I think the former president might also consider the possibility of using taxis and ‘trotros’ for his ‘rounds’. This might help him preserve some of the riches he made whiles in power. Remember, he took a handsome monthly salary as well as a lot of per diem allowances for all his numerous travels and got so many freebies (not to mention all the kickbacks Haruna Esseku spoke about). And come to think of it: he never paid any taxes during his eight-year presidential tenure.

Mr. Kufuor might be one of the wealthiest Ghanaians alive but considering that we are all reluctant to pay him the outrageous ex-gratia he prepared himself, it might not be wise for him to go about splurging on BMWs. Using ‘trotros’ and taxis will help him save some money and, possibly, erase the perception that eight years in the presidency turned him into a cash cow.

Finally, if Mr. Kufuor is in the mood for some adventure, he’d be delighted to know that we (the members of the Noko Fio Party) are prepared to give him a ‘fleet’ of donkeys – pimped up to presidential levels with excellent fuel economy and extremely low maintenance costs. All he needs to do is to make sure that they are sufficiently fed on a special grass known as donkey ‘V-power’.

As Mr. Kufuor considers his options, however, I hope he realises, that his petulant decision to reject the Chrysler vehicles is quite unbecoming of an elder statesman. It will only lead to a further widening of the political gulf in the country. It also doesn’t help to repair his image as a selfish, greedy man who places his comfort and luxury above the interests of the nation. But then, I understand: when you have your eyes firmly set on a BMW – “the ultimate driving machine” – you tend to lose sight of the bigger picture.

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