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Opinions of Thursday, 14 March 2013

Columnist: Appiah, Kofi

The war against poverty rages on, but . . .

The war against poverty in Ghana rages on, but the Mahama government and its appointees seem to be the luckiest since independence. I say this with certainty and on authority because, since the nation attained independence, obviously, not a single government has been the luckiest to have gotten an oil-backed economy such as this. Even though, the Kufuor Administration that found the black gold, never lived as a government, to enjoy the fruits of its labour. All the previous governments – the Convention People’s Party, led by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (1957-1966); the National Liberation Council (NLC) headed by Lt.-Gen. Joseph Arthur Ankrah and later by Colonel Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, who, later was promoted to Lt.-General to oversee the democratic elections that brought the Progress Party Government led by Prof. Kofi Abrefa Busia, into government. The PP government lasted from October1969 to January 13, 1972. Then, it was followed by the National Redemption Council led by the military ‘show boy’, Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, who overthrew the civilian regime on the premise that the PP was allegedly propelled into government by Gen. Afrifa because Reginald R. Amponsah, who, supposedly, was Afrifa’s uncle, had been incarcerated by the Nkrumah regime for about a decade. The author, however, unreservedly stands for correction. When the Acheampong military regime realized it was gradually losing face, it quickly infused its membership with yet additional top class men to give meaning to their aspirations and their take-over. From January 13 through to mid-1975, they were very superb. The national agricultural policy that became a catchword, caught on well with every household. The “Operation Feed Yourself” concept introduced in 1972, swept across the country like wildfire. Food and fish bumper harvests that Ghana recorded had never ever been equaled since then. But as if fate would have it; soon after the NRC was re-constituted into the SMC 1 and later SMC2, greed and envy crept into the leadership of the council. It was no wonder that sooner than later, and before one could say, Jack, where are you, there was a palace coup on July 8, 1978. This time, it was led by his bosom friend – Gen. Fred Willie Kwasi Akufo; who, according to unconfirmed reports that reigned supreme, he was pushed into doing the harm by force majeure - on the express instructions of the wife, Emelia because, if Faustina Acheampong, who, somehow, was no match at all to her, probably, in terms of academic qualifications and beauty, could easily become the first lady at the time, why couldn’t her husband, who had professionally passed through the military furnace to become general, equally rise to the occasion to enable her have the same status quo after I.K. had been pushed aside. But one man’s meat is another man’s poison, you know. Both generals would have been alive by now; as it were, if not, but for sheer envy, greed, jealousy and pettiness that Emelia played the part as Jezebel. Fred never had any sleep; he finally gave in to Emelia’s pressures as a result of the incessant sleepless nights to bring untold hardship to the family. By ‘foolishly’ acting as Jezebel, Emelia and Faustie later became premature widows. The SMC2 was, however, short-lived. Soon after, they also, were toppled by Jerry John Rawlings’s AFRC that came to do its house-cleaning from Monday, June 4, to September 23, 1979. Ghana’s finest military brass was reduced in numerical strength and finesse. The 8 generals and the Colonel, who were shot and killed by the AFRC junta between June 9 and 16, 1979 by firing squad at the Teshie Military Range, comparatively, did no senseless, grievous and mischievous economic sabotage to Ghana than what clearly pertains today. This top echelon of the military was not spared their lives at all. Before a special message was communicated by Her Majesty the Queen and received in Accra via the British Commission, the great harm had been done. Soon after the nucleus of that regime was reduced to shreds, the AFRC had a field day to do their worst. Their presence forced many Ghanaians into self-exile thereafter. The AFRC supervised a general election and handed over power to Dr. Hilla Limann’s PNP with Victor Owusu’s PFP as runner-up. Then came the PNP government that lasted some 27 months. As explained above earlier, all the previous regimes performed the functions of government with the traditional natural and mineral resources - cocoa, gold, bauxite, manganese, diamond and timber but not including the newly discovered oil. CORRUPTION
Corruption or no corruption, the war against poverty rages on, but the Mahama Administration has been the worst culprit in terms of magnitude since the attainment of independence. The war against poverty rages on unabated, but the Mahama government touted, “yebe dii keke and ye nkye nni musketeers” has been the most corrupt, the unparalleled, the most unthinkable, unprecedented and gargantuan spendthrift without much ado with any physical proof or landmark to show the citizenry. The war against poverty rages on, but the most youthful president of Ghana since independence does not know how to combat or alleviate the economic plight of the suffering masses and grapple with both the political and economic issues that have entangled this new oil producing country in the sub-region. The war against poverty rages on, but, if not for the timely intervention by the ‘man of the moment’ Martin A.B.K. Amidu, Ghanaians, under the Mahama’s free spending government of ‘judgment debt fame’, would have again, been forced to swallow the bitter pill and pay for yet another gargantuan and unprecedented judgment debt. This time round, the ISOFOTON company of South Africa would have been the beneficiary. And only God knows whether NDC’s villain of the peace, S.O.A. was privy to it or party to the syndicate that mooted the idea. Did the privileged S.O.A hear or read me from afar? The war against poverty rages on and the youthful president who does not want to tread on anybody’s toes rather wants to be applauded with praise-worthy songs for fame at the expense of our fragile economy. As a result, he consciously approves a trip for 2,000 Ghanaians or more (NDC foot-soldiers forming the bulk) to travel to South Africa at the expense of the meager tax payer’s resources. It is alleged an average modest per diem of $2,000 was paid to each of them for the 21-day tournament to spend while there. It is being speculated also that the 500ml bottled water like our local Voltic or the Ice Pack specification sells for $5.00 there so your guess could be as good as mine if the $2,000.00 ceiling was in fact the actual token doled out to its supporters. If the price of water was as expensive as quoted above, then, the expenditure for hotel; boarding and lodging and drinks and the left over money for shopping, should make one’s brain derange.
DECEIT AND PROPAGANDA
Has anybody noticed that the numerous billboards in town with the inscription, “Decisive, Accessible and Action-driven are all a hoax? How do discerning persons find the true meaning of such billboards littering the place? How truism is the wording? If the president were indeed accessible, how come that the police under their yet-to-be confirmed boss, Mohammed Alhassan, who are paid from public purse, unleash terror and mayhem on a poor, harmless and defenceless state owned pressman –a cameramen from the Ghanaians Times. If he were indeed an action-driven politician, he would reasonably pursue all the unfinished viable projects left over by the predecessor government and not leave them to rot as white elephants on the alleged instructions and advice of Tony Aidoo aka Adu Beree. The recently appointed regional ministers who had not even reported at their duty post for work and their sudden reshuffle is testamentary evidence enough that Ghana’s CEO is 100% indecisive. The war against poverty however rages on, but the Mahama government, insensitive and defiant as it is, arrogantly and more so, without justification, whatsoever having any bearing on the world market price, increases fuel prices to further compound the already escalating and out-of-gear economy to dislocate our hopeless situation. The war against poverty rages on, but the Mahama government willfully pushed Ofosu Ampofo to ensure the forty-five (45) additional constituencies were created by the embattled Kwadwo Afari Djan to bring the just-ended result of the elections into disrepute and disarray. The war against poverty will continue to rage on under Mr. Mahama’s government because, virtually none of his team players/members has the capability or wherewithal to combat and/or arrest the NHIS, Capitation Grant, the ante-natal facility for all Ghanaian pregnant women, the School Feeding programme and the Cocoa spraying policy initiated by the Kufuor Administration to alleviate the ever-increasing impoverishment and hopelessness position of the Ghanaian. The war against poverty rages on, because not until doctors, pharmacists, nurses, UTAG/ POTAG and other specified professionals would be migrated onto the SSSS, the government will see no sleep as the president has personally confessed. The war against poverty rages on, the single digit inflation rate continues to remain the same for some two years, but the pocket of the ordinary Ghanaian sums it all.
GENDER WORKSHOP The war against poverty rages on, while the minister of Women, Children and Gender Affairs, Nana Oye Lithur, travels with a supposedly large entourage of 40 (75% of which, we are told, are kith and kin of the president’s tribesmen/ women). It is being rumoured that they went to placate NDC’s policies while in the U.S. instead of attending a gender workshop because the NDC was losing popularity at home. However, all these incidents are just eye opener for all to see the kind of the government in vogue and its taste for tribalism, nepotism, and what have you. The Minister of Information and Communication, Mahama Ayariga, Koku Anyidohu’s antagonist/rival, who was rejected and thrown out from the Castle by the Mills’s government, has now found his rhythm to wine and dine with his blood brother. Was he able to convince us about Nana Oye’s entourage? The war against poverty rages on, yet, Mahama Ayariga, whose quotations for 6- unit classroom blocks cost thrice as much as Kufuor’s era, has been retained and offered a ministerial appointment. Do Ghanaians still remember the invoices for the Atlas world maps for schools? Do you see that blood is thicker than water as the old saying goes? Koku, have you been able to sort yourself out now under this regime or were still struggling to find your bearing? If Accra life was no good for you soon after the demise of your former boss, its better you try to relocate to Koforidua for greener pastures, you never know.
BUDGET DEFICIT
Did I hear that the budget hearing recently announced by the minister of Finance and Economic Planning recorded some Gh¢8.7 bn or $4.3bn deficit. The war against poverty rages on, but since independence, no other government has contracted the maximum loans and received grants much more than any other to the tune of Gh¢33bn. As a result of excessive spending and mismanagement of the economy in 2012; no, repeat no, government has ever been confronted by Ghana’s development partners since Nkrumah’s era except the unpleasant picture that Ghanaians watched on their television screens last Thursday, March 7, 2013. Despite the fact that the war against poverty rages on, this picture painted by the international community was a serious indictment first on the person of the president, his government and the entire Ghanaian population. Instead of the minister, Seth Tekper, holding the bull by the horn, almost throughout his 2-hour speech delivery at the floor of parliament, kept repeating ,“we will ensure” bla bla bla, instead of giving real meaning to the specifics of the budget statement that should have incorporated the substantive prevailing problems. Did I hear that Seth was once with the World Bank/IFC or what? If a technocrat such as he, does not know how to arrange for the correct antidote for Ghana’s medication, then, God should save the Queen. The step taken by the international group, led by Claude’s delegation, was one in the right direction; it is an unprecedented shame and a big disgrace to all and sundry. Our policy makers should bow their heads in total shame. A BIG SHAME AS THAT. The war against poverty rages on, but there is one particular person, virtually, none other than the once upon a time youthful president, who emerged miraculously and who, inarguably, is one of the most fabulously rich chief executives on the African Continent of our time.
PERPETUAL As a result of the perpetual war against poverty, Prez. Mahama would never wink an eye at any loan passing by from the World Bank; more especially, if it crosses our borders without grabbing it. Similar loans from the IFC, it is anticipated, he would jump chest height and grab. Any loan coming from the MCA too, he will sing the halleluya chorus for it. Furthermore, a loan coming from the African Development Bank, with headquarters in Abidjan, would undoubted ly, be a welcome gesture because of its proximity. Then of course, the Arab Bank for Reconstruc -tion, desirous of the propagation of Islam in the sub-region, would do everything to add Ghana to its endless list of beneficiaries. The EU will not shy away Ghana but taking consolation from their representatives in Ghana as to the economic mess, will definitely think twice before embarking on such a delicate decision. As Ghana’s economy was like a sick person on a hospital bed, it is instructive enough that the remaining Chinese loan total of $3bn would not be forthcoming for it to be poorly managed. The war against poverty rages on, because the condition of the Ghanaian was worse off than the day he was created. What other natural and mineral resources do Ghanaians want again from God to be able to
live and earn a living as decent human beings other than the numerous resources He has specially endowed us? We need not blame him for any lapses. Among other things, Ghana has in abundance cocoa, gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, manganese, salt and lately black gold i.e. oil that could last for some 50 years minimum. As for the non-traditional exports such as pineapples, papaye, avocado, bananas, fish, and vege -tables, one needs not place any significance on them. It is pathetic that the Ghanaian does not believe in himself while the leadership too has no focus or sense of direction. And that is the general apathy. Some Ghana -ians lack common sense to direct their own affairs due to greed and self-centredness. Again, our leadership lacks the economic sense and dare anybody to challenge this assertion now or never. Finally, I need not place emphasis on the financial sense; the least talked about that, the better it will end the debate. As for political sense of direction, because of the war against poverty still raging on, greed, avarice and thievery of the national kitty would never cease but to resort to the winner-takes- all syndrome.
TILTED MEDIA LANDSCAPE
Some members of the inky fraternity, who, because of the economic hardship in the country, have decided to become bedfellows with the government for monetary gains to be able to make ends meet. Thus, they have turned blind eye to the serious events about economic mismanagement in the system. If they would throw decency to the winds and follow the crowd and join the team of looters, so be it. If they would not do what was expected of them but join the fray of deceit and lies peddling, to the detriment of many people, then the country should be ready and prepared for doom. Instead of disseminating the correct information and educating the general public on national issues such as the second cycle students that would be pouring out in May-June this year, most of them not having chance to the public tertiary institutions, have decided to remain aloof and tell lies for the good of the government for bread/butter. Other topical issues are the neglect of the NHIS, the skyrocketing prices of food items, the price hikes of the utilities - Ghana Post of all – also increasing rental of letter boxes to 100% - and the unreasonably unjustified increase of fuel price that has rather thrown the economic gear out of control to the reverse position. Do some of us remember the days gone by when some senior PRINPAG journalists remained silent because they had been bribed with $125,000.00 to purchase a car and printing machine? Do we still recollect when some of the members of the fraternity were privileged to travel to the U.S. as part of government delegation only to return to write good tidings about the govern -ment at the detriment of the entire population? If Ghana could produce the likes of the Anthony Gilian, the renowned British journalist, who stood tall from among the crowd to call the bluff of the government of the day, the best it would be for us all. He is now a celebrity in the U.K. This reminds me of the days of the Yabubu Dadinkais of the Spectator and the Elizabeth Ohenes also of the so-called People’s Daily Graphic. For those who may have lost track of Chris Asher and Cameron Dodoo; these journalists were some of the most celebrated personalities of their time as brave warriors when it comes to journalism. Chris’s Palaver paper became a hot-selling journal during the heady days of the NRC regime. It is unfortunate that Ghana lacks such brave and courageous journalists who could stand up to the occasion even at the peril of their lives and indefinite incarceration in custody to be counted instead of seeking monetary gains to enhance their livelihood empowerment against poverty.
THE POLICE PR DEPARTMENT
The least said and commented on the disgraceful act by the ill-bred Chris Brown show at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra last Tuesday on the eve of Ghana’s 56th independence anniversary, the better it would be. It is hoped that the conflicting and disparaging statements of defence by the Mohammed Alhassan police clearly tell it all. Can the discerning persons now see where to draw the line between the professionally trained police and the half-cooked ones? How soon do the Ghana police come out with properly trained police journalists in PR after the likes of the Angwubutoge Awuni now the boss at the MTTU to tell it as it is? After his departure from the headquarters and with the Kwesi Oforis taking over the mantle in the PR saddle, many a people thought there would be changes for the better but not. Politics has crept into the police fabric that hardly did a day pass without misinformation in all its form come from their outfit to whitewash the dirty linen of the government to its delight. And this naughty situation really astonishes the serous minded people to ask questions as to whether they were the only cream of seasoned practitioners the Service and the State could boast of. Have they had any international exposure at all at the expense of the tax payer? Incredible! Why does the Nation Ghana reduce herself into shambles and ridicule to allow such an ill-bred musician to come to disgrace the whole country in our face? Who are the organizers? And who especially insisted that this misguided personality, Chris Brown, who could no doubt misbehave such as he did here in the U.S. be presented to us in Ghana to cause that nuisance? How come that the organizers invited such a misguided personality to come and smoke ‘wee/ marijuana’ in the full glare of our security services and only to keep us in suspense and engage the good people of Ghana in unnecessary debate? How would the police have treated a Ghanaian musician caught in the act like that ‘mad’ Chris on stage? Did Ghanaians notice the conflicting statements from first, the regional PR man, Francis Tettey and his counterpart at the headquarters, Cephas Arthur? Why subject your shallow mindsets to the international police profession? Well, because the war against poverty rages on helplessly and unabated without any immediate remedy, it is only Ghana that would sanction a musical personality and hip artiste such as Chris Brown, who, probably needs more psychiatric diagnosis to unravel the mystery surrounding this bizarre behavior. Why did he come to disgrace us? Because a thousand out of the US$1m purse he came here to realize from the infamous show can silence our corrupt police.
CONCLUSION
To bring down the curtain, it would neither be wrong nor far-fetched to say that the war of poverty in Ghana is a direct self-inflicted suicide. To quote Nana Akufo Addo; “Ghana is not a poor country, but it is bad leadership that has reduced us to become beggars with bowls in hand for alms”. And this article would definitely not suffice and be an exception in isolation if special mention is not made of the swift and/or mad rush by the current leadership of this rich nation to yet plunge us into the political oblivion. Finally, as a result of mismanagement and direct involvement and complicity in the scramble for, or thievery of the national kitty on all fours, i.e. by both hands and legs of members of this government and its appointees (60% from one area), Ghanaians now resemble the resurrected ‘kwashiokor babies of yester-years. As a result of the irresistible tendency of state-managed embezzlement, this unholy situation has given birth to uncontrol -lable poverty that cannot be checked by this infantile, mediocre government unless power was transferred onto a well-cut seasoned politician whose team could pull surprises to put pragmatic measures to pull us all from this economic dungeon. While the ‘self-inflicted’ war of poverty rages on helplessly in Ghana, many an orator would come our way as if they were redeemers but were just mere pretenders and wolves in sheep skin with their ill-gotten booty to finally leave the political field of play. Apparently, the leadership of this nation looks on unconcerned and hopelessly, trying to bid their time with tricks, lies, deceit and all that you can think of. Because the UN as a corporate entity, does not generally tolerate change of governments globally through coup d’etats but rather wants enhancement of democracy for peaceful co-existence, Ghana and otherwise, some others with misguided leaders with misplaced priorities, would have been amongst the dislocated ones by the military misfits. Again, if not but for the UN, the nauseating incidence of arrogance, impunity and daylight robbery by some three musketeers in government plus other appointees, the men in uniform would have shown them red card long since but Ghana cannot afford that. The author does not want to be branded a prophet of doom one day because everybody, be it the military, police, civil/public servant, doctor, nurse, farmer, fisherman, truck pusher or whoever feels the pinch. It is the government’s responsibility that every Ghanaian lives as a decent human being with provision of basic amenities such as - food/water, shelter, good health-care delivery system and free, good quality education for all – not the ‘dum so, dum so’ prescriptions and the yet-to-revive comatose condition of the fantastic NHIS introduced by President Kufuor that does not matter to the NDC to look for oxygen.
ADMONITION
As I always do, this article would not be complete without an advice from the scriptures. While the war against poverty rages on, I would like all Ghanaians and foreigners alike domiciled here to turn with me to the Book of Psalms, Chapter 50:19 -23 and it reads, “ You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will reprove you, And set them in order before your eyes. 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver: 23 Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” The Book of Jeremiah 17:11 also states, “As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool.” The Akan translation – “Dee orepe adee annya no tenenee soo no te se akokohwedee a obutu nkosua a enye ono na otoee soo, obebu ne nna mu fa agya, na n’awieee mu obeye okwasea”. Does JM understand that?
Again, because of the unstoppable war against poverty, most Ghanaians, silly as some of us are, and impoverished as we are in such deplorable conditions, would sell our God-given inalienable rights for pittance and vote senselessly only to remain in abject poverty till the next elections. Factually and undeniably, the war against poverty rages on, but the loot of the national kitty continues unabated under Mahama without sanction.
In spite of the war against poverty, government allegedly spent millions of dollars to acquire Ghana’s version of “weapons of mass destruction” and anti-riot equip -ment’ for the police to purposely curb/intimidate the bluff of the NPP’s strong -holds in Ashanti/Eastern with 10 and 8 armoured vehicles laden with armed-to-the-teeth search-and-destroy-crush squadron under the command of DSP Yakubu for the “All die be die” war drums that were never beaten. The peaceful, positive and sensible decision by the NPP to contest the disputed results in the law courts caused government plans to backfire as it took them unawares and shattered their evil intentions to annihilate some personalities. The bemused NDC, who hitherto, had decided to rain hail and brimstone on the NPP leadership, ruin/wreck selective business concerns and their families, seem dejected. Do you think “there are many ways of killing the cat’ strategy could work for them this time round or what?
Humour – Can any member of the SC absolve him/herself from blame for delays if tempers should rise and escalate to something else?

By: kofiappiah2002@yahoo.com Tel: 0277122909