You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2017 03 08Article 516343

Opinions of Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

Was Pratt on hard drugs when he criticized Ofori-Attah’s christianized budget?

By: Kwarteng, Francis

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Attah presented the 2017 national budget statement to the nation recently.

But this much-anticipated presentation was not without its controversy.

Part of the controversy stemmed from the fact he punctuated the presentation with marked references to Jesus Christ.

This did not however please political critics and journalists like Kwesi Pratt, who took to the media to register his objection in no uncertain terms.

But, did Mr. Ofori-Attah reserve the right to make Jesus Christ part of his presentation given that parliament is a secular body, given that the national constitution is a secular—and not a religious—text, given that Ghana is a secular state, and given that Ghanaians who are the beneficiaries of the budget statement belong to various religious faiths?

Certainly many non-Christians will not have taken lightly to this flagrant contravention of constitutional requirement on the part of a major public figure, to maintain the separation between church—religion for that matter—and state.

Ghana is not a Christian theocracy. Neither does Ghana belong to any particular religion or faith—in other words.

And, Ghana and its national constitution celebrate religious pluralism without giving official primacy to any particular religion in matters of public policy, if at all. This we must all endeavor to respect.

Tolerance is therefore a major national commodity we cannot afford to have slaughtered on the altar of religious supremacy.

Yet we also believe Mr. Ofori-Attah reserves the right to celebrate his religion and faith, however he wants and likes it, but he must at least be aware of, or sensitive to, the religions and faiths of others who may not necessarily share his.

This constitutes a hallmark of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity—though.

This is not to bastardize any religion. It means rather that expressions of faith and religion are strictly matters of deep private reflection, in our opinion, a view we strongly believe should be held inviolately so.

In the matter of the separation of church and state, there however exists an intrinsic concomitance of an underlying official divorce between public policy and religious faiths, a policy position whose wider implications for inter-faith amity are probably lost on Mr. Ofori-Attah.

We cannot, however, ignore one of the remarkable experiences from the past few years, where Moslem students (and their families) bitterly complained of being forced to attend Christian services without regard for theirs, in largely learning institutions of the Christian faith.

In other words they were primarily concerned that their rights as citizens, under a secular constitution, were being denied or eroded in favor of preserving the Christian monopoly of public institutions of learning. This did not bode well for inter-faith socializing in our unitary nation-state.

Again, that represented a dangerous precedence of sorts. This is why we must exercise restrain when dealing with serious matters of faith and public policy, for we do not want to elevate one religion above others and in the process make some of our citizens feel marginalized, somewhat, because that elevated religion sits on their faiths.

We should not forget that, after all, nation-building is a complex exercise of tactical and strategic evolution whose soul derives its political and psychological existence from an optimal expression of the popular will in which tolerance for diversity—ethnic, racial and religious pluralism—exists in creative harmony.

Of course there is creative strength and unity in diversity, whether it is of religion, of ethnicity, of race, of politics, or of gender.

Whatever!

They say of the broom, that the individual strengths of its twigs cannot match the totalized strength of the broom itself. This is truer than the lost content of the political mind in respect of the average Ghanaian.

The above notwithstanding, one is at pains to either acknowledge or question the legitimacy and sincerity of Pratt’s critique.

Let’s also accept the fact that his sympathy for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is not one that we can question.

For instance, what did he make of late President Mills’ making the official seat of government a religious brothel for the likes of Nigerian conman and big-pimping political theologian, T.B. Joshua?

Having said that, we have variously seen Pratt’s dodgy political character expressed by way of his selective criticism of the leadership of the NDC, and of his compromised intellectual stance and unhindered bias when it comes to the New Patriotic Party (NPP), reservations that are not close secrets.

Check out the following:

The open hypocrisy of religious folks!

The open display of ungodly materialism exhibited by religious folks!

Religious folks’ cold dislike for the poor!

The fact that the more religious Ghana becomes, and the more churches and mosques we build across the country, the dirtier and more corrupt the nation seems to become!

Mass corruption and wickedness in the church.

The modern church’s dislike for liberation theology—as opposed to prosperity theology!

The grinding vainness and vanity of religious folks!

Max Romeo calls the church, “the house of the lord” a “den of thieves.”

The fact that the average Ghanaian politician, who is also a nation-wrecker, is either a Moslem or Christian!

It appears, then, that it is likely the latter-day Christian and Moslem politicians who are destroying the country with their self-centered and unpatriotic politics.

These and many more may have incurred Pratt’s critical wrath or opprobrium, setting up the background for his grandstanding objection to Mr. Ofori-Attah’s punctuated references to Jesus Christ.

This ignores the fact that Mr. Ofori-Attah reportedly invited Pastor Mensa Otabil, his pastor and onetime board member of Databank, co-founded by Mr. Ofori-Attah, and other elite Ghanaians, mostly critics of the erstwhile Mahama-led government, to discuss aspects of the budget even before it became a public document.

The average Ghanaian, the poor mostly, was neither invited nor made privy to the content of the budget text.

Forget about Mr. Ofori-Attah!

What would Pratt have said if Mr. Ofori-Attah had punctuated his presentation with references to Karl Marx, rather than to Adam Smith and Edmund Burke, say?

J.B. Danquah rather than Kwame Nkrumah?

Okomfo Anokye rather than Jesus or Prophet Mohammad?

Prophet Mohammad, or Jesus, rather than Buddha?

Marcus Garvey rather than Haile Selassie?

Bob Marley rather than Chris Brown or Justin Bieber?

Oh we remember now:

Marcus Garvey, Haile Selassie, J.B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Bob Marley, Chris Brown, and Justin Bieber were human beings, unlike the omniscient Pratt.

And Kwesi Pratt, like Kweku Baako, is God!

At least the God of Ghanaian journalism!

Pratt should take his inner god to the mirror and see this inner god’s reflection, image:

Dog!

That is.

This “dog” represents those nation-wreckers who cannot seem to separate religious sensibilities from the political realism of public policy. Just too many political “dogs” in Ghanaian politics.

Shame on our public figures with their stinking all-knowing attitude.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“God helps those who help themselves” (Algernon Sidney, English political poet).

Ultimately, we need both a progressive fiscal policy and a progressive monetary policy to grow our economy and to force it out of its current state of drunken stupor. We cannot continue to nurse this wasteful economy—with its concomitant wasteful expenditure—and expect to see improvement in macroeconomic fundamentals.

Fiscal discipline, lean government, patriotism, and good government policies such as Production Sharing Agreement are some of the creative responses to wasteful expenditure.

Yet, we cannot also overlook how religiosity has numbed our brains and turned us into impractical and uncritical slaves of self-destruction. Religiosity has turned us into enemies of the state, of the popular will, and of collective responsibility. We are our own enemies.

It is high time we moved past the trite narrative of self-victimization and embraced the narrative mirror of self-critical reflection. We cannot blame Middle-Eastern Arab households for mistreating Ghanaian women while trokosi persists. Our politicians, queens, chiefs, and kings cannot team up with global capitalists and Chinese nationals to pollute and rape the country dry, while calling on socialist or communist Jesus to help us out of a predicament we created ourselves.

Are we not the authors of our own internal colonialism? Yes, we need to re-examine the Kafkaesque and bureaucratic stuffiness of our constipated minds, to see where exactly we have gone, and still are going, wrong almost about everything concerning our dear country and its arrested development.

And yes, we will rather spend huge sums of money building a national cathedral than raising the equivalent of America’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in Nkrumah’s Ghana, as though Ivory Coast’s Basilica of Our Lady of Peace has succeeded in improving the standards of living and quality of life for the large masses of Ivorians since its erection, a sad precedent we are not learning from.

How can we destroy the country when we rape the public purse with reckless abandon, when we do not patronize locally manufactured goods and services, when we support galamsey-driven pollution, and when we commit other various crimes against the state and our own collective interests all in the names of Prophet Mohammad, Jesus, Okomfo Anokye, and Buddha, and still muster courage to call upon these names to come to our aid in times of need as a people, for what?

We cannot afford to make these names devils, saints, saviors, demons, and angels at the same, at our convenience?

What kind of human beings are we?

Let’s learn to help ourselves first before others can help us should we find ourselves at our wit’s end. We should not expect others to free us when we make ourselves our own enemies. These are basic natural laws.

CONCLUDING REMARKS: SOME CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES

The point is not about mentioning Okomfo Anokye, Prophet Mohammad, Jesus, or Buddha while delivering a budget statement that should unnerve critics of the new government.

Rather, it should be a question of whether summoning those names will do the magic. We do, however, think the teeming generality of Ghanaians couldn’t care less so long as the government in power delivers on its manifold promises.

Ghana is indeed confronted with too many challenges, like other countries though. This fact is not in question.

Too many challenges, yet far too few resources available to sort out these challenges.

Mr. Ofori-Atta’s allusions to certain biblical exemplum “five loaves and two fish” captures this phenomenon.

Of course using the parable of “five loaves and two fish” to feed five thousand hungry people took on a new political coloration, as the cipher, or coded implications of the parable, became a contentious symbol of gross misunderstanding on the part of Pratt.

Sort of David thrashing Goliath, or sort of Lilliputian Akufo-Addo’s electoral thrashing of Brobdingnagian Mahama. The parable may have been invoked to teach the NDC that the NPP will do miracles with very little, perhaps also an indirect indictment of the NDC supposedly doing so little with a lot of available resources and lost opportunities—a bleak reminder of gross mismanagement of the economy under the NDC.

However Mr. Ofori-Attah must know that this is the time for economic salvation, not economic numerology. This is the time also for Rev. Owusu Bempah’s angels, who reportedly came down from heaven and voted for Akufo-Addo en masse, to demonstrate the immense possibilities that may exist in Mr. Ofori-Attah’s empire of spiritual metaphors and parables for economic recovery.

Could Mr. Ofori-Attah’s spiritual metaphors therefore salvage Ghana’s Sodom-and-Gomorrah economy?

His rhetorical deployment of spiritual metaphors—in a sense—illustrates the sinking depths of frustration, about an economy whose strategic and tactical resolution only transcendental intervention, a higher power, supposedly can bring out of its knotty chokehold.

The Ghanaian economy seems to have tanked to such an extent that, the intervention of mortal wisdom and intelligence is incapable of bringing it out of its festering doldrums, which Mr. Ofori-Attah’s biblical exempla appear to point to.

And yet, talking heads like Kwesi Pratt are not making it any easier on the teeming generality of Ghanaians. In fact they are making matters even worse. No wonder opportunist Pratt describes some features of the 2017 budget as “Kweku Ananse,” and no wonder he likens the Finance Minister to “Kweku Ananse,” with Minority MPs also labeling the budget “Matriki Wo Budget.”

However what are Jesus’, Okomfo Anokye’s, Buddha’s and Prophet Mohammad’s take on these questions?

If any of these names can turn the tanked economy around, why not bring that name on board? Bring it on!

Or, Pratt deserves to be the Finance Minister rather than Mr. Ofori-Attah, a born-again Christian?

Yet both Pratt and Mr. Ofori-Attah could both be right. This does not however exclude the fact that judgment, in our opinion, should not begin in the church! Judgment should begin in the church.

We shall return…