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Opinions of Thursday, 20 January 2005

Columnist: Akosah, Kwabena Sarpong

Open Letter to President Kufuor

Dear Sir,

Let me first of all congratulate you on your re-election. I?m delighted you?ve been re-hired to preside over our country for another four years. Congrats once more!

Allow me, Sir, to also congratulate our country men and women not least - the voters and your opponents ? whose high levels of civility and comportment made our elections one of the world?s fairest, peaceful and orderly in recent times.

Today, our people and our country Ghana are the envy of the world. We now occupy a very respectable place in the comity of free nations. What?s important though is for each one of us, especially you, Mr President, and the governing NPP, to ensure that the positive image we?ve stamped on ourselves sticks.

Mr President, in one of the nation?s daily newspapers, before the elections, l threw aside professional caution and neutrality and endorsed your bid for a second term. You won my endorsement not because l felt that you had transformed our country into an El Dorado. No!

I vouched for you for the purposes of comparative assessment. Election after election is proving that NDC and NPP are our foremost political parties. With two elections, 1992 and 1996, already standing in the name of NDC, l reasoned that NPP should also be given a double (tenure), to allow for a fair, balance scrutiny of the strengths and idiosyncrasies of the two parties, to see the one that could better serve the cause of Ghana, at least, in this formative years of the fourth republic.

This, Sir, was the main reason why l bet on your second term.

I owed this horse race mentality to my father, Mr S.O. Akosah of Gyamase-Asante, who passed away last February and whose funeral you graciously attended (thanks for coming!). My dad was through and through CPP. Yet one of his disappointments in politics was that the two leading characters of Ghana?s post-independent politics, Nkrumah and Busia, didn?t have the same period of time in government so that he (my dad) could do an even evaluation of their stewardship

For this very reason, my father never forgave Acheampong for his 1972 coup which cut short Busia?s PP government, despite the coup-maker?s Nkrumahist/CPP pretensions.

I hope, Mr President, you won?t permit an ?Acheampong? to bereft me of the opportunity to assess NDC and NPP. In fact, I?m encouraged by the able manner you secured your first term. I?m confident your second term won?t suffer any interruption.

In my pre-election piece, l concentrated largely on your strengths and successes. But as you prepare to exercise your renewed mandate from January 7th, 2005, l think it?s in your own interest and above all else in the interest of our people, to openly discuss some of the concerns of the public as well as challenges that face you, with the view that, something could be done about them, for the good of all of us.

Sir, before I outline the problems, I?d like to know why you skipped the last televised presidential face off. What really happened? I was amazed at your absence because l found it very, very ?unKufuor?. The question that raced through my mind as l brood the issue was this: has Kufuor also started suffering from incumbent arrogance and complacency? Whatever the reason, your failure to appear at the TV slog did injure your humble and modest personae, traits that endeared you to the majority of our people.

Let me now turn attention to the main issues.

Mr President, I?ve watched with sadness and anger the warm acceptance of Nana Akwasi Agyemeng into NPP. I?m very angry because I?m told that you?re even entertaining thoughts of sending him back to KMA. Given what has taken place, I?d take my informant very seriously till it?s proved otherwise.

How did you feel, Sir, when you shared your campaign platform with Akwasi Agyemang, a man who spent almost a generation at KMA tormenting and terrorizing your NPP party heartland, Ashanti. I?m deeply troubled that government after government, in the last 30 years (with the smart exception of AFRC), allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by this man. And rather than demonizing him for his transgressions each government, very sadly, end up lionizing him.

I?m informed his reason for switching camp (from NDC to NPP) is that he?s your brother. When did he become your brother, Mr President? When? It?s a wilily wicked and very selfish reason.

I hope a future non-NPP government might summon up courage and publicly repudiate and frown on the crass opportunism of Akwasi Agyemang (and his types) when he tries to be part of it.

For me, Akwasi Agyemang?s defection from one succeeding government to the other betrays him; it clearly shows that he?s in politics, not for public service, but for his personal gain.

Mr President, you, and NPP, have done Ghana a disservice. If history reveals anything, it?s shown that tolerating and condoning the transgressions and tyranny of people like Akwasi Agyemang sometimes gives excuse to military adventurers to disturb us.

Sir, there?re also widespread worries within NPP about sycophants within the party who regularly visit you at both - home and office - not only to fawn to advance their own political and business interests ? but also backbite other people.

I know for instance that these flatterers and fawners have succeeded to create a wedge between you, Mr President, and Ashanti NPP chairman, S.S. Anto, and his aides, Victor Owusu Jnr, one-time secretary of the Ashanti party and Yaw Anhwereng, one of your foot-soldiers at your home constituency, Atwima-Nwabiagya.

I believe any serious national reconciliatory business should begin within the ruling party. I?m thus waiting on the sidelines to see you if you could patch up with your so-called enemies like MP Osei Kyei Mensa-Bonsu, the Essamuah brothers (Colin and Kakra), Anto, Victor Owusu Jnr, Anhwereng, etc.

Mr President, one of your charges against Mr Rawlings which you?ve failed woefully is long presidential motorcade. Do you need almost a mile-long motorcade? Yes, that?s normally the length of your convoy when you?re on regional tours; I?ve seen it in Kumasi on a number of occasions. Such long cortege of cars suggests nothing, but a yearning to flaunt your very powerful status.

And I?m afraid your zero-tolerance for corruption is trapped in slogans and sound-bites. What we saw in the first term, especially the high-profile incarceration of Kwame Peprah and others, was seen more as victor?s justice. You need to respond to this charge with a credible, energized anti-corruption drive in the second term.

By my own calculus, you made over 50 foreign trips in the first term. And I don?t expect the global junkets (you?ve already visited Gabon) to cease during the second term because as Ghana?s chief executive, you?ve both internal and international obligations. But because of the sensation the trips created, I think before you begin another round of junketing you?ve to prove that the trips in particular the investment-seeking ones were useful.

Sir, you didn?t do yourself and Ghana any good when you publicly acknowledged (your now famous confession at a Castle press confab) that your government was a fatter one. If you honestly felt at the time that the government was bigger ? you should have hewed it down. Though the list of your ministers in absolute terms was smaller than NDC, it was still a far, far cry from the much, much leaner list you promised on the stump before the 2000 elections.

One of the challenges facing your presidency is Dagbon, that internecine feud which has become a millstone around the neck of each one of us. The tragedy of Dagbon is that some politicians think it?s a convenient vote-getter; this has dangerously given the conflict a much more political coloration.

Mr President, you displayed leadership and a genuine commitment to a peaceful Dagbon when you refused to campaign in Yendi in the run-up to the last elections. But this political sacrifice you made would only pay off if you invite into the

resolution wagon every one ? chiefs, civil society, politicians (government and opposition), etc.

By far your biggest challenge is the economy. But I?m a realist and have never misled my mind that you, Mr President, or any other politician, could turn Ghana into an economic tiger, under our present socio-economic circumstances. I don?t think that could even happen in the generation of my three lovely kids, the eldest who?s yet to be seven (years). All that I look for now is a leader who could lay out a very optimistic vision for our future.

I know you?re a very humble and pragmatic person and don?t deem your re-election as a vindication of your first term?s actions and inactions, but as an opportunity to address your weaknesses and vulnerabilities for the good of Ghana.

I appreciate the enormity of the task confronting you. And ask for you God?s (Allah) guidance and good health as you get set for your second and final tenure.


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