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Opinions of Monday, 16 March 2009

Columnist: Ayittey

Prof Ayittey and 'The moon shines Brightly'

George Ayittey of American University of Washington was an indefatigable opponent of Rawlings - his person, his government and his ways of doing things. Quite simply, he regarded Rawlings’ governments - unelected (1981-1991) or elected (1992-2000) as illegitimate. He literally convinced the West that was the case, and that Western interests were best safeguarded under a right of centre Government under the then opposition parties. I am going to reveal something here no one has heard anywhere before. But before that, “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ”

Below “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ” was posted by Prof Ayittey on Okyeame three years prior to the NPP victory of December 2000. Remarkably, the themes of “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but--” is playing out as I write - cars, houses, the whole lot and their implications. My response when Prof Ayittey posted the piece then was: WOW! I was not the only person who thought George was prophetic. Another, who like me, did not agree much with the manner of George’s cutlass-laden rhetoric at the time but was equally stunned by George’s brutal frankness was Prof Gyamerah, also known as Micky.
Over the years, and that is 12 years now, Micky would bring out George’s “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ” (and I am indebted to him for the record of Prof Ayittey’s masterpiece appended below) to inform the uncritical NPP mob that a leopard does not change its spots and that the NPP was as much susceptible to corruption and other indiscretions as the NDC and its progenitors. I would sit back in utmost amusement whenever Micky reminded us of George’s “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ”, until well into the NPP 8-year reign when I realized it was not amusing anymore.

But why did it take well into the NPP reign for me to arrive at the conclusion that it was not amusing anymore? Simply, I kept faith that at least if he NPP had shouted on rooftops for so long about accountability, corruption and rule of law, perhaps they believed in doing something about them. And that only difficulties in government stood in the way of their utopia.
Or equally simply, that I was too believing. Because in the first six months of 2001, events that smelt of official impropriety lent credence to the adage that rot on a market day is determined in early hours of trading. Inusah! Tick. Sahara oil lifting! Tick. Castle renovation! Tick. Refurbishment of Kuffour’s house! Tick. And then a long time friend of mine, a staunch NPP supporter, rushed to me almost heart broken. He had arranged for foreign receivers of a foreign ailing airline to advise on restructuring of Ghana airways in 2001. They would foot their endeavors, although if eventually engaged they would charge. At that early stage, they were greeted with demands of bribe. 8 months into Government after almost 30 years out of power, this great believer of the Osono tradition decided to quit. I indirectly suggested he was naive not to expect that experience. Now, I think it was me who was naive. This brings me to Prof Ayittey and the band of NPP foot soldiers in the diaspora.

One of the most uncompromising stands of Prof Ayittey in delegitimizing Rawlings’ NDC was based on the concept of “odious debt”. In this concept, unsuspecting citizens of often poor countries should not be burdened with debts obtained by their illegitimate Governments. In effect, loans contracted under PNDC and NDC should not be paid because those governments were illegitimate.

Prof Ayittey applied this concept in his piece “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ” below: “Now comes a loan contracted by Kufuor on behalf of the NPP without the approval or knowledge of the executive. What should the NPP do? REPUDIATE IT. Same rule for all -- country, party or organization. It is known as the "rule of law." No exceptions for Mobutu or Kufuor. Contract a loan on behalf of a country or party WITHOUT THE AUTHORIZATION of its people or executive and you pay for it. It's that simple ”

Well! shall we say this concept applies perfectly to a private individual fraudulently contracting a loan on behalf of an organization. But applied to Ghana, would individual Government members of the then NDC or PNDC be held personally accountable for the loans? In effect, therefore, Prof Ayittey was calling for repudiation of Ghana’s debts in precisely the same way former military leader General Acheampong called for YENTUA in the 70’s. The difference was that it took a while for the West to grasp the significance of the concept of "odious debt" which Prof Ayittey was establishing, and quite frankly had established, in the popular consciousness of Ghanaians and indeed of other Africans in similar situations. It took a while because the West naively concentrated on the part of the concept that popularized the illegitimacy of the NDC, and not much on the part relating to repudiation of debts.

By the time the West realized that Prof Ayittey’s debt repudiation crusade was more subversive of capitalism than anything Karl Marx, Lenin or Mao Tse Tung could have come up with, and realized the implications for similar debts incurred by other African countries under past dictatorships, the need to salvage the integrity of the financial relations between third world countries and the Bretton Woods institutions had become a matter of utmost urgency.

In Ghana’s case, the West insisted that Prof Ayittey would not come near any economic portfolio in the new NPP Government. That was why Kufour gave the post to Osafo Marfo in 2001. Not because of the scathing attack in Prof Ayittey's “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ”

The second thing the West did was to put in place an orderly way by which they would forgive third world debts. Any country that declared itself to be heavily indebted would be forgiven her debts provided she submitted to restraints/constraints in certain economic activities. It is testimony of the West’s desire to be relieved of the stigma of “odious debts” that the conditionalities for debt cancellation were amazingly much loser and less rigidly policed and enforced than those attendant on ordinary BW loans. So much so that no sooner had the country emerged from HIPC, did we attempt to enter into an orgy of mass borrowings from, among others, barber saloons.

Prof Ayittey may well be called the 6 billion dollar man. That is, if that was the amount of Ghana debt he caused the West to write off. But he could have chalked another distinction - he could have saved the NPP from the enbarrasing defeat at the recent elections had he been part of the NPP Government and followed the brutal frankness of his “THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY but --- ”

Just as Prof Ayittey concluded his piece by writing that “pro-democracy forces should use this scandal to REVAMP the opposition camp”, Ghana needs a few good men from the opposition to make a decent job about our trying democracy.
Nii Armah Kweifio-Okai
The author is a native of Ghana, resident in Melbourne, Australia and a member of the NkrumaistForum
From: George Ayittey To:, Subject: THE MOON SHINES BRIGHTLY .......
Sierra Leoneans have a proverb which goes like this: "The moon shines brightly but it is still dark in some places." A village elder might use this proverb in a situation like this. After scrounging under their mattresses, pots and pans for enough of their life savings to send a child to school, he returns to the village a disaster. He can't do anything right, making a mess of everything he touches. Whereupon an elder may look steely at him, shake his head and say, "The moon shines brightly but it is still dark in some places."
This proverb may be applicable to the following story taken from The African Observer (June 19 - 25, 1997).
"The 1996 flagbearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) is facing a serious accusation: lying to the party's leadership about a donation of 10 cars estimated at 200 million cedis. This scandal of political deceit is fast engulfing Kufuor as his integrity,honesty and judgment are all now being questioned.
The facts are very sketchy. But the pieces the African Observer has gathered so far point to another story of political power, money and lies.
Last November, in the heat of the election campaign, a group calling itself "Friends of Kufuor" donated 10 Niva cars to the NPP. Two of the cars were received by the party Secretary-General, Agyenim Boateng,in full view of the press.
Unknown to the NPP leadership, the donation was part of a scheme by Kufuor and his presidential campaign team. Kufuor's campaign team actually acquired the cars in the name of the NPP without informing the party's Chairman, Secretary-General, and Treasury. Then using "Friends of Kufuor" as a cover, they presented the cars to the party as a donation------apparently to win more clout within the party.
Kufuor's presidential campaign team was so confident of victory that it paid a minimal deposit for the cars, promising the supplier that it wouldfind some means to clear the balance when Kufuor came to power. The terms of the deal were kept confidential.
Against advice from NPP executive, Kufuor ran his presidential campaign independent of the party, so the NPP leadership was virtually kept in the dark regarding his campaign's finances and operations.
When Kufuor and his campaign team lost the elections and weren't able to come up with the balance for the cars, they went back to the NPP leadership, pleading that the party pay for the "donation." Then all hell broke loose.
"Initially, we thought Kufuour and his men were joking," said a source. "How could the party pay for his political folly?"
According to our sources, angry NPP executives say under no circumstances will the party pay any money for the cars. They have reminded Kufuor that using the Party's name in such dubious and illegal circumstances amounts to political treachery. The NPP executives have asked Kufuor and his men to pick up their cars from the Party's headquarters and branches and deal with their own financial mess.
Sources say some high-ranking party officials feel Kufuor has betrayed the trust and confidence the NPP had in him and they have begun having doubts about his character, especially his self-discipline and moral accountability.
Kufuor wouldn't discuss the case when the African Observer approached him."(p.2).
Three comments.
First, when the African Observer first published this story, the reaction of some NPP supporters was vitroilic. They accused the African Observer of handing ammunition over to the evil NDC regime by publishing the story. I urged the editor, Steve Mallory, to stand firm.
At issue is professional integrity. You see, when we criticise the scandalous NDC regime of various unethical practices we should not tolerate the same ethical lapses in the opposition camp. It takes a strong and vigilant opposition to make democracy work. This kind of shenanigan -- taking a loan in the name of a party and not informing the executive -- amonts to trenchant dishonesty that should not be tolerated by anyone who is serious about curbing corruption in party politics.
If Kufuor were president, would he take a foreign loan, without informing the Ghanaian people or seek their approval, use it for some purpose,hoping to find the means to pay it back quietly without the people ever knowing?
Furthermore, a lot of us were bitterly disappointed in the performance of the opposition leaders at the December polls. The alacrity with which they surrendered and accepted defeat left many of us wondering whether they had sold out. Three days after the results were announced, The Daily Graphic showed a picture of Kufuor kissing the hand of the First Lady --in complete submission to the NDC victory -- at a time some of his own party's parliamentary candidates were challenging the results!
Now comes word that Kufuor is putting up a building and riding about in a brand new Mercedes Benz. Is there a connection? Hmmmm. Building even a hut and buying even new bicycle -- 6 months after a failed presidential election -- constitutes in my view an exercise of poor judgment. Even if the money were genuinely his, it is bound to spark all kinds of speculations.
Second, NPP should not repay Kufuor's car loan. You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I have been arguing that foreign loans contracted without the approval of the African people should not be paid back.
Now comes a loan contracted by Kufuor on behalf of the NPP without the approval or knowledge of the executive. What should the NPP do? REPUDIATE IT. Same rule for all -- country, party or organization. It is known as the "rule of law." No exceptions for Mobutu or Kufuor. Contract a loan on behalf of a country or party WITHOUT THE AUTHORIZATION of its people or executive and you pay for it. It's that simple.
Third, pro-democracy forces should use this scandal to REVAMP the opposition camp. The Nkrumaist camp is in total and hopeless disarray.
The NPP, which hithertofore, was the only credible opposition party, is now being rocked by scandals. Dr. Jones Ofori-Atta, a prominent NPP member, has been charged with assault and theft. Kufuor, the NPP flagbearer, is now involved in act of ethical turpitude. If this scandal is not resolved and swept under the rug, it will factionalize and weaken the NPP...................
The moon shines brightly ..................
George Ayittey, Washington, DC