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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Columnist: Kwame Appiah and Kwaku Asamoah

Kwabena Agyapong and the VW Phaeton

Fellow Ghanaians, on February 13, 2009 there was a news release on to the effect that 39 cars had been retrieved from NPP officials. The release created quite a stir (360 responses on Most of the officials accused the Ghanaian Times of mischief for reporting that the cars had been seized/retrieved whiles they had infact been voluntarily returned.

Amid the hullabaloo generated by the GT report and the ruckus that followed, ‘something’ caught our attention. The ‘something’ was the fact that a VW Phaeton was seized (returned) from Kwabena Agyapong, one-time presidential spokesman and NPP presidential aspirant. That tiny piece of information had us hopping mad. It typified the excesses of the Kuffour led NPP administration. What the report did not mention or clarify was when and how the VW Phaeton was acquired for Kwabena Agyapong. If the car was acquired after he left government, then why or in what capacity was he given that car? For the records, let us assume the car was acquired while he was still in government. That raises two questions: 1. Which government official sanctioned the acquisition of a VW Phaeton for a presidential spokesman?

2. Why was the car not returned when he resigned his position (was fired) to contest the NPP presidential slot until there was a change in government?

At this stage it is of no consequence to us if the car was returned, seized, or retrieved. The bigger issue is why a VW Phaeton for a presidential spokesman. We are not speaking of speaker of parliament (third highest ranked official in the country), chief justice, majority or minority leaders, vice president or even president. We are talking about a mere spokesman for the president; a presidential spokesman for a poor underdeveloped third world country. A country where cholera, polio, buruli ulcer, kwashiorkor (all preventable diseases) are prevalent.

Why are we hyperventilating to the point of getting an aneurism over a Volkswagen, one may ask? Well, for starters this is no ordinary VW. ‘Car and Driver’ magazine described this car as ‘not your father’s Volkswagen’. This is a car developed and built to challenge Mercedes Benz S-Class and BMW 7 series in the luxury category. The car cost between 70,000 and 120,000 dollars. It comes in two engine configurations: a 335-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 and 444-hp, 6.0-liter W-12. I don’t know which engine size Mr. Agyapong was driving, but it doesn’t matter. It’s like being shot with an AK47 or M-16; both will do some pretty serious damage. Damage, which is what Mr. Kwabena Agyapong and his choice of automobile, was doing to the Ghanaian economy and the poor taxpayers.

Mr. Kwabena Agyapong did not go to Bank of Ghana, open the vaults to take the money to buy the car. The expenditure was approved by finance ministry and ultimately by the president. This is but one example of the profligate spending that was displayed during the Kuffour administration. This is the same administration that ordered two executive jets for the president and his entourage. It is no wonder that President Kuffour had the temerity to approve the obscene ESB for himself and parliament. Two houses, six cars, allowances, etc, etc, etc. Why don’t we sell the whole country and give the money to Kuffour, Mpianim, Kwabena Agyapong, and the rest for their “wonderful service” to mother Ghana.

Mr. Agyapong, can you justify why a poor country like Ghana should buy such an expensive car for a presidential spokesman. Is this why you wanted to become president? How can a country that vies for a position on the poorest who-is-who list with Haiti, Mali, Somalia, Papua New Guinea, etc spend this kind of money on a car for a nonentity like you; a junior level government appointee? A country that cannot provide water for its citizens, a country that borrows to celebrate 50 years of statehood, a country that has sold it’s ‘birthright for a bowl of porridge’, a country that specializes in the celebration of hollow anniversaries. (The hypocrisy of celebrating 50 years of independence with borrowed money should shame us into doing away with all these wasteful celebrations. “Kofi Brokeman” does not even remember his birthday so we can do the same as a country if we are broke.) We drive around in Mercedes, BMW, Jaguars, and now Phaetons while the country is permanently broke.

We sincerely hope Mr. Agyapong enjoyed every second spent in the VW Phaeton, because he was enjoying the sweat, toil, and blood of poor innocent Ghanaians. Heck, at this price he probably should have slept in the car. The VW Phaeton offers better accommodations than any home our poor teachers, nurses, farmers can dream off. Kwabena, congrats for driving around the pot holed streets of Ghana in a car ‘Car and Driver’ called “It's everything a luxury car should be.”

When we have leaders like former President Kuffour who awards himself with expensive medals for doing practically nothing, and the likes of Kwabena Agyapong spending the few funds in our national coffers for their personal comfort, how can we move forward as a country? All that we are interested in is going to other countries to get loans to show that we are comfortable. If future administrations continue the wasteful spending of the two previous administrations (NDC and NPP) then there is no way Ghana as a country can reach middle income status by 2050. We are wondering how Kwabena Agyapong sleeps when as the spokesman to the president he gets to drive a VW Phaeton. What car should the president use: a Maybach, a Roll Royce, a Bentley, or an Aston Martin?

Kwabena Agyapong, is this what you had in mind for Ghana when you wanted to be the president? Such a stomach politician as you are should not be given any chance to come anywhere close to the presidency. Kwabena, what is wrong with a VW Jetta or Passat for a presidential spokesman? Kwabena Agyapong over to you!

By Drs. Kwame Appiah and Kwaku Asamoah Email: