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Opinions of Friday, 24 August 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Mr. Wen Fu, the weather and the glory

By George Sydney Abugri

What is it with the Chinese and sports stadia in Africa, do you know, Jomo? The very first and last time I saw China’s President Hu Jintao, he was busy commissioning a magnificent international sports stadium built free of charge by his government in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam and creating a zillion-kilometer long traffic jam along a major street close to the stadium.

Have I ever told you before, how by a stroke of happenstance on that day, I lodged at the Dar es Salaam Movinpick with the Chinese president, who had an entire wing of the facility all to himself and how I got into a spot of real bother with some security guards on account of Mr. Jintao’s presence at the Movinpick?

The guards had tried to stop me from walking across the foyer to a desktop PC to file a report to the Daily Graphic on the work of medical scientists conducting clinical trials of an anti-malaria vaccine, at the little-known International Medical Research Center at Bagamoyo some 58 kilometers east of Dar es Salaam. President Jintao was hosting the Chinese community in the city to a cocktail in the hotel and an invisible perimeter had been created in the foyer which unknown to me, was out of bounds to mere mortals like me who were lodging in the facility…

No, wait a jiffy, Jomo, there is something strange going on here I need to draw your attention to first: I would stake all the contents of my wallet, Jomo, that anything between seven and nine out of every ten Ghanaians have not paid any attention to some bizarre meteorological manifestations that have played out in Ghana this year and I dare say, it is all due to the undue obsession by many with the election campaign.

Atmospheric temperatures have taken a dramatic dip close to 18 degrees Celsius. Now, Jomo, that is what I call most “untropical”, in a country where at this time of the year, Accra has always been one sweltering hole of a national capital and residents have often been all but barbecued to the sizzle

That apart, Jomo, the rainy season has done a weird vanishing act this year. This year’s is the shortest rainy season I have witnessed all my life. The effects of global climate change are apparently at play and it is probably a soothsayer or the weatherman who can tell what we might expect next.

Unlike the weather, we can predict with a minus-zero margin of error, what will happen in December: The National Democratic Congress will win or lose the elections! The New Patriotic Party will win or lose the elections! Trust the greatest pollster in town, Jomo. My pre-election forecasts always end up dead on target.

To squander colossal amounts of money, time and energy fighting light and bantamweight political opponents left and right, and screaming yourself hoarse for voters’ attention 24/7, only to have the sweet power and the glory snatched away by your opponent, cannot be the most joyous experience and that could be amajor threat to peace, yah?

There are ample chances of running a fair poll for which reason there should be no cause to go to battle. There is so much vigilance on the part of the political parties, the media, democracy development-oriented civil society organizations and foreign observers that this is one poll that will be far from easy to steal.

That apart, most of the safeguards within the capacity of the Electoral Commission and the Police to provide have been secured.

President John Mahama’s pledge this week to ensure national peace and security before, in the course of and after the elections as his predecessor, the late President J.E.A. Mills had promised the nation, can only mean necessary force will employed where there is lawlessness.

Otherwise, the last lap is now on in earnest: New Patriotic Party Presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo this week tried allaying skepticism regarding the feasibility of his proposed “free seniour secondary school education for all” programme, explaining how he proposes to fund the payment of teachers' salaries and the construction, expansion and refurbishment of the needed infrastructure.

His opponents in the NDC questioned the accuracy of the data and appropriateness of the methodology employed in costing his proposed programme but hey, the man put his cards on the table didn’t he? That is the way it should have been right from the beginning: A healthy, partisan trade in the ideas needed for national development and progress and one in which you win some and lose some, as is the case with the pursuit of political party itself.

Unhuh, I was asking what in the name of Ananse sports stadia are doing in China's foreign policy on Africa, wasn’t I? I recalled the encounter with President Jintao’s people in the foyer of the Movinpick in Dar es Salaam when President Mahama announced at Cape Coast last week, that the Chinese had promised to build a sports stadium free of charge for the town.

The announcement was received by many with mixed feelings. Since the idea of an absolutely free lunch is not a widely accepted one, we might ask: What is in it for the Chinese? After the commissioning ceremony in Dar es Salaam, the local Guardian newspaper asked President Jakaya Kikwete to watch his step, reminding him that true friendship should be “predicated on a give-and-take principle” and not subtle exploitation. The paper’s suspicion was that China was seeking to boost its own economy through international trade as evidenced by the penetration of Chinese goods, construction firms and various professionals into Africa. The gift of international sports stadia appears to be China’s chosen way of creating a friendly atmosphere conducive to its active presence in Africa, as it edges out the United States as the world’s most powerful economy. During the cold war, China’s interest in Nkrumah’s Ghana and other African countries was linked to a grand scheme to export China’s own version of communism at the time, to our continent.

We could do with mutually beneficial collaboration with foreign development partners including China but the Chinese invasion of our republic is total, with large numbers engaged in unauthorized commercial and industrial activities.

This week alone, Mr. Wen Fu and 37 other Chinese mining gold without authority were rounded up by security agents in the Ashanti Region. They add to a large army of unauthorized Chinese miners who have been arrested.

I keep listening to the continent’s leaders all the time, trying to figure out the men of vision, the despots, the jokers, the corrupt, the cranks and the wary.

In very recent times, I have heard Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame, Jacob Zumah and Raila Odinga speak independently and on different occasions about the same key reason for Africa’s underdevelopment: Generally very poor infrastructure:

It is great to have a sports stadium but why not roads, hospitals, water supply systems and energy generation projects free of charge, Monsieur Jintao?

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