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Opinions of Sunday, 15 January 2012

Columnist: Fuseini, A. B. A.

RE: Better Ghana: My Assessment and Sour grapes

By A.B.A. Fuseini

Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh’s articles titled Better Ghana: My Assessment and Sour grapes in the Daily Graphic of December 28, 2011 and January 5, 2011 respectively made interesting reading.

In his article, Sour grapes, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh in assuming the posture of a nonaligned but eloquent champion of the media and constitutional rights in our burgeoning democratic order, contends that the unfettered exercise of such rights are not only to hold the government accountable but also to protect the fundamental human rights of individuals and deepen our democracy.

Hear him: “More so as a journalist and media practitioner, the 1992 Constitution specifically enjoins me to hold the government accountable to the people and uphold the provisions of the constitution.”

Well said, but put Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh’s rhetoric to the test and you will soon find out that it is nothing more than cheap and convenient talk.

I will, for now, only use myself to illustrate this point.

Sometime in 2005, when during my participation in the most popular radio talk show, Alhaji and Alhaji on Radio Gold , I held the feet of the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to the fire of accountability, plans were hatched by the regime to silence me outright.

As part of the scheme, gagging orders from the NPP government were smuggled into Graphic Communications Group Limited and I was forbidden from speaking on radio or any other medium apart from the Daily Graphic where Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh, as an editor, exercised an unfettered right to edit whatever I wrote.

In this grand sinister plot, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh was not only Editor of the Daily Graphic and my boss, who refused to condemn these obnoxious gagging orders, but also instrumental in crafting and enforcing this deliberate and unconstitutional act of gagging journalists at the Graphic who were critical of the NPP government, principally myself.

Not satisfied with this blatant disregard for and trampling upon my constitutional rights and freedoms, I initiated a legal action in 2005 against Graphic Communications Group Limited; a (case the NPP made sure) was never heard by the Court and which is still pending to date.

This is the real face of Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh, the eloquent champion of media freedom and fundamental human rights, a bastion of defence of the oppressed against the overbearing might of a rampaging and vindictive government what ethics and values does he teach his students.

It is worth pointing out that while Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh and his political comrades in Graphic who held similar views and backed similar positions had absolute freedom in going to any radio or television station to state their views on any matter, I was denied this right throughout the tenure of the Kufuor administration whenever I wrote to ask for permission to exercise my democratic and constitutional right.

Yet even to date, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh uses company time to teach in a number of institutions without any action taken against him.

In his article Better Ghana: My assessment, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh who only rediscovered his love for the nation and necessity of holding government accountable under the Mills administration, also attempted on the basis of allegations and conjecture to assign dishonourable motives to President Mills.

According to Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh, President Mills might be pretending not to know the full facts of the Woyome matter and in so doing, was guilty of breach of his oath of office. Additionally, if the President was not aware, then faceless and unelected people must be running the country and not he, the one elected by the people. What curious logic! The President must know everything at every place at the time they happen and if he does not know, he is unfit for office. Abaaa!!!

In any case has it not always been the mantra of the NPP that anyone who feels agrieved by actions of individuals or groups or even the state must seek redress in the courts of law or where it is the decision of the courts, go on appeal. So what is this excessive noise about this Woyome matter when the avenue for redress for Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh (fortunately he is a lawyer) and others in the NPP is known and very open to them. Let the full list of beneficiaries of judgement debts and who cause such losses be published for the last 10 years and we might as well lose count of beneficiaries on the side of those shouting themselves hoarse.

Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh it was who exercised oversight responsibility for the stateowned media as Executive Secretary of the National Media Commission (NMC) when then President J. A. Kufuor, in response to the heinous crime of the murder of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II and 40 others at the Gbewaa Palace in Yendi on March 27, 2002, said he did not know about the circumstances leading to the commission of the crime and that he (President Kufuor) could not even get Mohammed Habib Tijani, his DCE for the Yendi on the telephone to apprise him of the happenings at the time. Was Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh then not in Ghana to issue a similar reminder to President Kufuor on this rather more serious matter of the murder of the Overlord of Dagbon? Or the ink in all of Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh’s pens had suddenly run dry?

Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh talks of legacies of Presidents and compares President Mills who has just yet to chalked three full years in government with the others who have served two four-year terms and more. This is not only unfair but also malicious and mischievous.

The School Feeding Programme, National Health Insurance (NHIS), National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) and others he touts as legacies of the Kufuor administration were all virtually initiated in the second term of former President Kufuor. How did Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh arrive at the conclusion that President Mills’s tenure ends in January 7, 2013, or what he Boadu-Ayeboafoh perceives as the President’s limited achievements are the only achievements he will chalk up even as he remains poised for a second term?

Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh likes to tout the democratic credentials of his Danquah-Busia political mentors. When President Kufuor assumed office in January 2001, he immediately sacked all National Democractic Congress (NDC) District Chief Executives (DCEs), NADMO and other category of public officials allegedly linked to the NDC. Many civil and public officials were also ordered to proceed on leave, some for the entire eight years of the Kufuor government with many subjected to kangaroo forensic audits, just to get them convicted.

In the first test case of the democratic credentials of the Kufuor government, it failed woefully when a Fast Track High Court case at the Supreme Court ended in a 5-4 victory for Mr Tsatsu Tsikata. President Kufuor, then in far away Australia, condemned the Supreme Court decision and vowed never to recognize the verdict. True to his words, he returned to pack the Supreme Court with extra judges in order to reverse the verdict.

Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh, compare this with President Mills, who on assumption of office in January, 2009, allowed all NPP MMDCEs and many other functionaries to remain in office even much to the anger of many of his supporters. The NDC has also faced a string of defeats in court but on no occasion has President Mills condemned the judiciary or packed the courts to reverse the verdicts. Which of these two governments, in the eyes of lovers of truth and fairness, should wear the good governance crown?

The Dagombas say that one must first have a head before contemplating chewing corn. There must first be a sound economy before development across the country could be initiated. When the NPP left power in January 2009, the economy was in a mess. The national budget deficit was about 22 per cent of GDP, inflation at over 18 per cent and rising, interest rates escalated beyond 30 per cent and the cedi, which only over a year earlier had been redenominated with the removal of four zeros, was in a free fall.

It has taken astute and prudent economic management to rescue the economy from the abyss and to chalk up one of the most impressive growth rates and stability in the annals of the country’s history. Stability in currency and inflation for over one-and-a-half years, substantially beefing up foreign reserves and foreign direct investment etc are impressive feats that cannot be wished away.

It is from such a background of great confidence in the country’s economy at a time when even all advanced (first-world) economies are in deep crises, that economic giants like China are prepared to give Ghana $ 3 billion in loans for development; an unprecedented development not only in Ghana but also Africa. Perhaps it is such lightning successes that have blinded Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh and his ilk and prevented them from seeing what all those with normal vision can see.

I was also astonished to read from Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh that the bypasses at Nsawam and Nkawkaw are not being used and that it was criminal negligence by the government in not seeing to the completion of the Apedwa section of the Accra-Kumasi Road.

About three weeks, on my way back from Tamale to Accra on the Accra-Kumasi road, I and many other road users were elated to use both the Nsawam and Nkawkaw bypasses whose smoothness and short circuiting of the hitherto chronic traffic jams made travelling today a pleasure. Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh could try this for himself this weekend.

I wish he had taken his pen and written as copiously as he does today about how come the Kufuor-led NPP government cut sods for four road projects, including the Apedwa road he talked about, to ask why they did that without first securing funding to see them through. Thankfully the Mills government has secured the requisite funding to complete all the projects.

I also find as disingenuous, the manner in which Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh sought to ridicule the construction of the facilities for the Volta and Brong Ahafo universities. The great University of Ghana, Legon, today started from a few shacks and bungalows at the Achimota School. This comes nowhere near the impressive and modern buildings that are being put up to house these two universities. He might not be happy that they are today reality.

It is equally distasteful to ridicule or pour scorn at the programme of issuing free school uniforms and exercise books to needy and poor communities. Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh and others in his privileged class might deride the importance of such programmes but for the beneficiaries, who are mostly rural and urban poor, these are farreaching and very welcome interventions that throw a lifeline to the educational careers of hundreds of thousands of pupils in basic schools across the country including those of his hometown Boamang.

Perhaps Mr Boadu-AYeboafoh should borrow a leaf from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in which when Okonkwo tried to ridicule a fellow Umuofian, he was told, “Those whose palm kernels have been cracked for them by benevolent spirits should not forget to be humble.”

Those of us fortunate enough to work in the media must not think and believe that the powerful tool in our hands is our bona fide property to use and misuse for our selfish motives at any time of our choice. It is a privilege that must be exercised with circumspection and maturity (and if I may add with humility). The Dagombas have a saying that if someone deliberately fouls the air in your face and you are overzealous to retaliate, you will end up bringing out the real thing and soiling yourself and thus become the object of jeers and derision. Let’s not soil ourselves in the overzealous criticism or condemnation of others we do not like.