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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Columnist: Asher, Bernard

The Arrogant Beggar

Re- “It is Bush who desperately Needs Us” by Sam Ablakwa

A chinwag with a chum a few days ago about the shameful Kenyan situation quickly degenerated into him delivering a rather homiletic monologue at me about how Ghana was at present a paragon of democratic governance in Africa and how the whole international community’s attention had been arrested by the motherland’s bold strides towards entrenching the rule of law. He was fully persuaded that the ever-peaceful and ever conciliatory Ghanaian citizen could never replicate the misdeeds of the blood thirsty Kikuyu and the Luor tribes in Kenya. Hard as I tried to draw parallels between the Kenyan situation and the situation in Bawku and the ethnic conflict between the Konkombas and Nanoombas in the Northern region of Ghana, it was to no avail. Indeed, this was not the maiden occasion I was hearing such guff from a Ghanaian and so could only manage a chuckle at his obvious credulity. For it has become progressively more patent to me, that most Ghanaians-through a complex mix of ignorance and an over inflated self-worth cultivated mainly by the few successes achieved in football and being the first African nation to attain independence- subscribe to the belief that Ghana is a byword the world over and the envy of most nations across the world including the United States of America and the UK. The preceding notion was also evident in Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa’s article “It is Bush who desperately Needs Us” (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=139527). The writer takes a cynical, even nihilistic, view of George Bush’s recent visit to Ghana and draws the conclusion that, on the whole, the president of the USA needs Ghana more than Ghana needs him; an altogether ridiculous and fallacious belief!

For starters, albeit a firm believer in the USA’s right to defend itself from terror, I am not in the least supportive of the Iraq invasion as it had little strategic relevance to the crusade on terror. Regarding the writer’s assertion that Bush went to war in Iraq with a view to protecting Dick Cheney’s business interests this writer hardly wants to rejoin for lack of hard evidence. The above notwithstanding, I deem it prudent to attempt to apprise the Ghanaian in general and Sam Ablakwa in particular about the place Ghana holds on the international stage and its strategic import to both the USA and its incumbent president: George Walker Bush.

For starters, Ghana’s oil find albeit commercial in proportions, by no means places Ghana among the world’s leading suppliers of the much sought after Black Gold. Reserves of leading oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, Canada, the UAE and Iraq inter alia, all with vested interests in maintaining their relations with the US, dwarf the comparatively meagre Ghanaian find. In other words the USA would survive and indeed thrive without the discovery and supply of oil from Ghana.

Secondly, it is indubitable that Bush is unpopular in America, that is, if the opinion polls are anything to go by. But to think that he would undertake a tour to the so-called “dark continent” with a view to boosting his poll figures beggars belief. For starters how many Americans know about these various countries visited by Bush anyway? And to assume that the typical over-fed and overweight American citizen will be moved by a few infinitesimal handouts to a few emaciated (at least in the average American mind) African nations is to seriously overestimate the benevolence and altruism of the average ‘Yankee’. To the average Yank, handouts to African countries is a perennial feat and hardly even makes the back pages of the “Alaskan Times” (if indeed such a newspaper exists).

Thirdly, albeit it is the case that the American economy is reeling under the so-called credit crunch, that country is by no means lonesome in these difficult financial waters. Indeed, almost all of the G8 countries have been caught up in this dire economic fare and to suggest or even allude (as Sam O. Ablakwa appears to be suggesting) that these difficulties can be singularly attributed to Bush is tantamount to taking a rather myopic view of the causalities of the present global credit crisis. Fact is, issues that precipitated the credit crunch and its subsequent squeeze on the US sub-prime market were purely financial and patently apolitical. Consequentially, for Mr. Sam O. Ablakwa to ascribe this purely financial phenomenon to Mr. Bush is either an oversight on his part or a blatant display of abject ignorance about the vicissitudes of the world’s present financial situation. (I believe the quondam to be the case).

And now to address the substantive question. Does Bush, and therefore by implication, America or the developed world need Ghana more than Ghana needs the USA and the West? I believe this idea to be a fallacy. The stark truth, to the discomfiture of many a proud Ghanaian, is that Ghana, the first black African nation to gain independence from colonial rule, has today no military, economic, social, linguistic or strategic importance to the west. Period! Long gone are the days when frost of the cold war was still palpable and nation states such as Ghana could, as it were, go between the two superpowers playing them to their own advantage. The earlier we realised this stark fact the better it would be for us as a people. Had we been apprised of this, I am sure a country drowning in debt and subsisting via the benevolence of the western powers such as Ghana, would not have dreamt of putting up a presidential palace (financed by a loan from India) worth a whopping $30million supposedly “befitting Ghana’s status”. This is in no way trying to criticise the august government of Ghana but rather the very deficient Ghanaian psyche which compels the beggarly Ghanaian citizen to aspire to invest his or her meagre life savings in a BMW or a Mercedes or even a flamboyant funeral rather than a bicycle, with a view to maintaining his or her perceived, albeit non-existent, self esteem. The question is; what is this much-touted status that Ghana is reputed to have? Is it that nearly half of Ghana’s populace subsists under a dollar a day or that the leading Ghanaian university (The University of Ghana) is less endowed and resourced than the average British College not to mention a university or that most European institutions of Higher Education accept Ghanaian university graduates with a high degree of trepidation? It is worthy of mention that on the eve of the arrival of Mr. Bush, (an individual who according to Sam O. Ablakwa, supposedly needs Ghana more than we need him) the hebetudinous and impotent Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) undertook yet another of its campaigns to rid the city of Accra of one of its august citizens, the longsuffering and long time autochthon of many a Ghanaian household; the Billy Goat, and prevent him from loitering the streets freely as it had done hitherto. It is as yet unclear what the repercussions will be and how this rather crude act meted out to the Billy will affect the various eateries across the length and breadth of the city.

Here in the so-called United Kingdom, until the appearance of the Ghana Black Stars at the last World Cup, a sizeable number of the people I met and interacted with had not heard about Ghana before and often confused it with French Guyana. To this day I am still confronted with the rather ignorant question: Where is Ghana? And it is not uncommon for the average British ignoramus to erroneously believe that some Ghanaians still live in trees within the motherland. Pathetic but true! In fact the writer has encountered a few of these dumbos and I can recollect a particular instance where one such individual eagerly expressed his wish to travel to Ghana to, as he crudely put it, “see the people living in the trees”. But for the fact that he seemed genuinely retarded and sincerely convinced of the arboreal nature of some African peoples, I probably would have re-arranged his face and thoughts, metaphorically speaking!

Sadly the average British or American citizen has little knowledge of the origins of the cocoa that goes into his chocolate, the gold that plates his jewellery, or the coffee that keeps him awake throughout the leaden days of the infamously aquatic British weather or the notorious New York snow storm. And as a matter of fact, if Ghana decided to stop exporting these primary products to the G8 today, a host of other countries including, Australia, the Ivory Coast, Brazil inter alia will be ever so eager to supply the shortfall. In conclusion, until such a time that Ghana and, indeed, most African countries are able to sustain their economies and their peoples with indigenously generated wealth, Africans especially Ghanaians should, perforce, learn to cut our proverbial coats according to our sizes and not kill the goose that lays the golden egg (in this case being the Western donors, chief among which is the USA) with foolhardy diatribes such as that published by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, lest our still aid-dependant economies revert to the foolhardy and dark ages of Ghanaian historiography when bravado-filled, blood-thirsty, ignoramuses of the ilk of Jeri-‘The Vampire’-Rawlings fatuously asserted : “we no go sit down make them cheat us everyday” only to return to the West cup in hand begging for handouts.

Bernard Asher is a lecturer of Business Management and Economics @ Guildford College of Further and Higher Education, Guildford, Surrey, England,UK. . Email: basher @guildford.ac.uk