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Opinions of Friday, 17 August 2007

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Politricks Of Cement: Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

When the Cement scandal unfurled, I could not believe my eyes! Our own holy worrier turned dictator and his conniving wife has finally been directly linked to a bribery scandal. Yes, this is mere allegation but for once Rawlings and a close associate has been directly fingered. P.V. has also admitted receiving money for service. Not too long ago, our current president, John A. Kufour, blew his stack off by alleging that GHACEM, a flaming monopoly, was fleecing Ghanaians. JAK the traveler, saw the bloodstains created by the reckless and incessant economic mordancy and could not stomach it any longer. Indeed, it was Kufour who for the first time, informed me and the rest of the world that GHACEM is a monopoly in Ghana. Back then, I wrote and asked the president to revoke their monopoly status. I reasoned that Ghana needs more competition now so as to force prices down. I have not found one good or valid reason to convince me that it makes mortal or even celestial sense to have these crooked Norwegians holding sway over our precarious lives. I further implored our steamed president to put his wavering faith in the free market as a way of dealing with the contemptuous abuse that we continue to suffer at the hands of these callous Norwegians. So far, the president has refused to heed my clarion call and I continue to buy cement at cut throat prices while this fat Norwegians eat fresh cheese and drink bloody beer. Are the NPP folks still talking free market?

My fellow Ghanaians, if you think this scandal is a partisan one, you are dead wrong. If you buy into the partisan accusatory shenanigans that the NDC and NPP play, you could be in for a crippling, if not gripping disappointment. A careful study of the modus operandi of these rotten Norwegian business man shows a non-tottering bravery that would make Yaa Asantewaa blush in her sacred grave. They’ve come to the simple conclusion that we have no morals or discipline. We are easily corruptible and for this laxity or flaw in character, we deserve the economic rape and wanton sodomizing that we endure. While we suffer the rape and economic sodomy, those that orchestrated it live above the pain with their ill-gotten loot. As if the loot is not enough, we ceaselessly suffer their drivel, rant and rave. For where else will any idiot trade 4 million dollars for a $109 million windfall even as the people moan and groan for relief? Yet the men that addled this unconscionable hardship and colon hurting economic constipation, are the same that manifest as our heroes and panjandrum. They’ve worked their way into the tightest enclaves of policy makers and powerful men and continue to trade our economic freedom for their greed and frills. That these men walk free and thumb their nose at us is testament to the decadence of our political and of course law enforcement regime. This goes for all sides of the political spectrum with any reservation whatsoever.

As I write, it has come to light that while the partisan hucksters blithely profess good governance and remarkable achievements of this NPP government, it too took or was involved in collecting over $22,000 from GHACEM. Whether this was campaign contribution or cola money for Ghana@50, I don’t give a damn. So long as we continue taking, we must expect to pay a price. There are no free lunches and the minute our knucklehead politicians understand this, the better off we shall be. When the scandal broke, I thought the zero tolerance government of Kufour will bare its enamel teeth and jump to action. Instead, the NPP has passed on this juicy scandal to the media. The media is having a field day and some may even become millionaires out of this conundrum. Perhaps this is what good governance is about!

The question that seem to be off the lips of most is the plight of the average Ghanaian. Where do we stand in this confusion? Are you frankly not tired of this blame game? Are you not tired of these partisan bickering? Look, even if Rawlings in caught red handed, nothing will happen to that scofflaw. Rawlings is above the law in Ghana. It may be de facto but it is just as good as de jure. Of course the NPP has lost all its moral or legal authority because it is also caught up in this web of corruption and bluntly afraid of Rawlings. I dare the NPP to prove me wrong! The NPP does not have the guts or moral chutzpah to prosecute any of the top guns in the NDC. So my friend, don’t lose sleep over this dog and pony show. This reflect the true state of our dysfunctional elites who parade as leaders. We are failing our people big time and the growling stomachs may eventually feed into the civil revolution that is desperately needed in Ghana. These politicians are the same, so, don’t expect any change anytime soon. All you have to do is look at the leading candidates in both parties and you can tell easily that business as usual is here to stay. The change you and I expect is not in the works!

Despite the fact that not much will come out of this spectacle, there are a few things we can do immediately to benefit Ghanaians. The first is to revoke the monopoly status of GHACEM. Sue these rogues if they kick and scream! This is the only way we can reverse the choking effect of this cement regime. Secondly, we should investigate and possibly prosecute the Norwegians for their economic crimes against the poor people of Ghana. They must in the least, pay back all the profits they made from artificially ballooning cement prices in Ghana. Fining companies for economic misdeeds is the hallmark of any civilized democracy. Democracy is a system that is premised on trust and a social contract. Therefore, if and when these are breached, we must act on behalf of our folks. We must delouse the Norwegians from the cement business if they fail to make amends for their economic crimes against the good people of Ghana. If we don’t prove to the world that we will not countenance such nonsense, our message becomes that of inviting all kinds of economic crooks to take us for a jarring ride. In the end, it is the elite that continue to kill the people of Ghana by not acting.

Thirdly, we should set up a blue ribbon non-partisan committee, certainly not with Mpiani or Wereko Brobbey, to review all monopoly situations in Ghana. We need to know the justification for why any monopoly should exist in Ghana. This economic review should also look at the effect of that monopoly on prices and quality of products. Furthermore, what is the history of that monopoly? In other words, how did it become a monopoly. In looking at monopolies, we should not limit ourselves to only foreign monopolies. Instead we should look at all these dead weight government monopolies and see how best we can infuse competition to benefit our people. Note that I am not advocating a throw the water away with the baby approach here. No, I am not asking for an economic hairpin turn. What I am asking for is a thorough and methodical approach to creating a competitive economic climate that will benefit the consumers of Ghana. Guess what, my position happens to match the rhetoric that the NPP has been spouting. May be it is time to act! Reality is surely a flaming bitch I am told!

Fourthly, we must seriously consider streamlining how we do government business in Ghana. If some of these allegations turn out to be true, we cannot be taken seriously. I mean how can a foreign company pay $17 million of government money to the wife of a high ranking politician? What kind of government or business system are we running? We have to move expeditiously to bring our accounting systems up to date. We’ve made it too easy for every tic to suck us dry. Why should a foreigner be led to believe that they can do official business by paying money to the wife of a minister or high ranking officer? Tell me where in Europe or the US you can engage in such willful prattle with a visit to the hoosegow? To make matter worse, we can’t even find or trace the check! So what if we don’t find this fat check yet the Norwegians insist that they gratuitously paid it? Then what? Government funds must be paid directly into government coffers not the itchy hands of wives or relatives. Such payment outside the pipeline can only create temptations and corruption. We should pass a law that makes it a crime for the payer or payee to handle government checks outside the or a defined system. In fact, this is the kind of legislative tightening that I expect from our discredited parliament. Yet what do we get? Amoateng Bill and all kinds of bull crap.

The last challenge, for which I have no answer, is how do you stop the NPP from also taking money from GHACEM as we go forward? For what purpose did the NPP collect $22,000 plus dollars? Was this money given to an individual or the party? The EC must enforce our election laws or risk losing our democracy to these cheats. No government or party should be allowed to raise or accept money from foreign companies. What baffles me is that even when the information become public record, our institutions do nothing. Not until they are triggered into action by agitated individuals. Even so, confused organizations like CHIRAJ will muffle and muzzle things up! So, I end by saying this, where does the average Ghanaians stand in this mess? What will it take to get these so called leaders to work in our interest? Our best bet is to stop this partisan bickering and unite as Ghanaians, seeking above all, the interest of mother Ghana for all. For once, let’s talk about the interest of all Ghanaians. Enough of these clueless personalities!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Also known as the Double Edge Sword) “I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell. By Harry Truman



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