You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2017 02 16Article 510789

Opinions of Thursday, 16 February 2017

Columnist: James Kofi Annan

Missing vehicles: The car theft is not greed, it is poverty

James Kofi AnnanJames Kofi Annan

By James Kofi Annan

Last year, on the eve of the day of the NDC campaign launch in Cape Coast, I felt scandalized by the fleet of over-speeding horn-touting hazard lighted V8 vehicles that raced on the Accra Cape Coast road; it was reckless, and opulence, on display.

I have a lot of respect for the Winneba fishmongers. They are illiterate, but they know how to keep records. I remember my mother used to apply what, in educational circles, we call Bar charts. Whenever she was counting large numbers, she would tally the figures in nines, on the wall, and she will cross the tenth. So all she did in the end was, to count the number of tally scores, and she knew how many she had counted.

We sent this same method of counting to the classroom, and we called it Bar Chart, or Histogram, and so on, and we congratulated ourselves for being wiser, just because we put everything they know already, into a code called literacy, in a language called English, and we used it to steal, then we thought we were wiser. We are not wiser, we are poorer.

These our fish mongers are illiterate, they do not have any computer, they do not have any software, they have no databases, and they do not have any stock keepers, neither do they have accountants, yet they keep track of all those who owe them, and all those they owe, and they know, off head, how many they have in stock.

What are we doing as educated people? We deliberately refuse to learn how to keep records of vehicles in our possession, so that we can steal them. There is absolutely no way 200 cars would have gone missing from any fish monger’s fleet of cars, no way. They could not have kept the records on paper, but trust me, they would have kept mental images of every single person who drove their cars.

We got educated for poverty. We got educated to manipulate the system. We are all dying, dying of stealing from ourselves. I don’t know when the world will come to an end. The world must come to an end sooner; otherwise the poor will rise, to slaughter all the public servants that got rich through greed, and all of us will look on as their throats are slit.

How could a government official, a human being worth his name, auction to himself a two years old government vehicle that was purchased for GHC400,000, how could you have looked into the eyes of God, and purchase such a vehicle for GHC5,000? What is wrong with you?

I bought my first car in 2004. It was a home used Nissan Primera, and it was a 1994 make. I bought that car, which was then ten years old, for an equivalent of $5,000. At the beginning of this year 2017, I gave it as a gift to my most trusted driver. He is proud to convert it for a taxi business. I swear I could have gotten more than $3,000 if I were to sell that 23 year old primera car today, even to scrap dealers. So how could a
2015 V8 be sold for GHC5,000?

This week Nana Akomea is reported to have said he bought his nine year old Skoda Octavia car, for $800, when he was leaving office in 2009. At the moment, the cheapest price for Skoda Octavia for that type and age is in the region of $15,000. So how could he have purchased that 2001 model machine in the equivalence of $800? You see what I have been telling you?

Anyway, the Chief of Staff has set up a committee to retrieve the 200 stolen cars. So because of greed, we have to set up tea-sucking committee, to spend our monies in search of the vehicle which are hidden in plain sight. The next moment, the new government will buy more new cars, because the old regime had failed to return theirs, and then the cycle will continue in 2020?

Sometimes I don’t know why we do these to ourselves. You have been employed, paid to do a certain type of work for a set period of time. Your time is up, and you are supposed to return all assets in your possession. Instead, you decided to keep them, and then we set up another committee, using our money, to retrieve the cars from you? And this too has turned into NPP and NDC issue?

I have said it, that, it is about time party activists recognized that you may belong to a political party, but you are never part of those who are siphoning from the state, and therefore when they are being asked to account for the resources they were entrusted with, you should not throw a blind support for them. You should know that some party people are so greedy that they keep all the benefits of being in power to themselves, and they remember you only when they need to embark on demonstrations or they need you to defend them; don’t defend them, defend yourself.

You should not blindly defend those troubled officials who have refused to return their cars. After sacrificing to bring the party to power, they had more, you had nothing. For instance, Pee Sammy, a teacher and an NDC activist, was, at one point in time, everything for the NDC party in Winneba. He left the teaching profession because of NDC. He was so unrepentantly loyal, that his name became synonymous with the party NDC. When the party was in opposition, he virtually sacrificed everything of himself, including abandoning his work in UK, to come to Ghana to help bring the party back to power. The man has seen blood several times over, in defense of NDC.

Eventually the party came to power, and he became poorer. I saw many hardly fit individuals being made deputy ministers. I saw toddlers becoming rich over night. But Pee Sammy, an educated dedicated party man with children, someone who should easily have been made a DCE, was left to rot, while many very young less qualified individuals got excessive riches. Pee Sammy had nothing; no car, no house, no job, nothing.

Mr Saforo used to be the NDC’s Eastern Regional Chairman. He was a business man. One of his main businesses was the making of blocks. His property is right opposite Nestle Ghana’s office at Dzorwulu junction, not too far away from the Dzorwulu traffic lights.

I first met Mr Saforo in 2004. He became my friend, as he tried so much to convince me to join the NDC. He was so hopeful that the party was going to win the 2004 elections. I saw this man investing so much of his time and personal resources in the party.

Despite the fact that the NDC did not win power in the year 2004, he was still very hopeful, and he worked even harder to get the NDC back in power. He kept convincing me, even though I kept letting him know that I was too far away from partisan politics.

Eventually the party won power. Mr Saforo was not given any appointment. He was not given contracts. I saw Mr Saforo nearly every week as he remained poorer and poorer, I saw him chased after government officials for jobs that never came, and I heard him lament day after day, as his business took a nose dive.

Finally his business collapsed. If you will like to verify, just drive pass Dzorwulu Junction, opposite Nestle Ghana office, you will see an abandoned block factory; that is the remnant of Mr Saforo’s business, a testimony of how Kweku Ananse shared the mangoes with his son, Ntikumah.

Kweku Ananse told his son, Ntikumah; you should keep planting, keep weeding, and keep watering until the mangoes are ripped. When you are done, I will take over, and I will keep harvesting, and I will keep all the ripped mango fruits in my house, and I will keep them until the next farming season, and then Ntikumah you will start the planting and the weeding again, while I wait for the next harvest. Do you get it?

So Mr Saforo worked hard for the NDC party to come to power, and they stayed in power for eight years, but he got nothing; some got GHC51million for nothing, very young people became rich in power, some who did not lift a shovel, those who stood on the fence rather became richer and richer.

And of all the V8s that raced to Cape Coast, of all the mansions that sprung up in Ghana and Dubai, Pee Sammy, and Mr Saforo, got none. And after those who got everything were done with filling themselves with riches, they went on to another, they took the cars too, and you are now being called upon to defend them. That is not greed, that is poverty.