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Opinions of Monday, 10 October 2005

Columnist: Tierkaa, Christopher

Nandom: the Kakube Festival, National Security and Hunger

What do the Kakube Festival, National Security and Hunger have in common? Nothing, one might say at first glance. Yet there is method to this madness. In a post-September 11 era and thanks largely to the United States? much vaunted war on terror, the issue of National Security is now as pervasive as the ubiquity of KGB Apparatchiks. To be clear, National Security from a policy standpoint includes policy enacted by governments to ensure the survival and safety of a nation-state, from threats domestic and foreign. In this particular instance, the commonality to these three is Nandom, located in Upper-western Ghana, where the daily concerns of the poor but hardworking and buoyant people have always been very simple ? a modest source of income, some farmland, domestic animals and a regular supply of Pito. Add to these a hearty, humorous story and life in Nandom is what any politician under siege from Constituents elsewhere in the country would kill for. Unfortunately, Nandom, in the minds of a small diseased motley of scheming and bigoted politicians, is now targeted for stagnation, in which the self same pestilent congregation of politicians and their advisors have now set for themselves, the unprecedented agenda of permanently upsetting what is already a very difficult life for the people of Nandom.

The Kakube Festival The Kakube Festival of Nandom is essentially a harvest festival. On this occasion, the predominantly agrarian community gathers to give thanks to God (previously the gods) for a bountiful harvest, while invoking blessings for the next season. During the celebration, several sacrifices are performed, and the occasion eventually concludes with food, drink, music and dancing. The best of Nandom?s mores and cultural apparel is put on display, while discussing events of the previous farming season and Nandom?s history over delicious meals, washed down with gallons of Pito. Yet the Kakube Festival should not simply be an occasion of merry-making. With the right leadership, other very important discussions and ceremonies should be performed; however to pre-empt the use of the ?new excuse and catch phrase? (for National Security reasons), I cannot divulge the details at this time.

It is important to note however, that in recent times, forward-thinking indigenes of Nandom have mooted the idea of turning such an important festival into Nandom?s own forum for selfless engagement in the development concerns of the area. Although a brilliant idea, this matter is currently languishing in the dusty corridors of Nandom, held sway by its new power brokers and intelligentsia, many of whom are well-known more for their empty promises than for any substantive contributions to the development of Nandom. The next Kakube celebration is fast approaching and by November, the community might be preparing to celebrate another harvest (or the lack of it), perhaps without any innovation whatsoever, because the same elements who have for a considerably long period of time held the Kakube Festival hostage, and new operatives who continue to subvert the Festival for personal political aggrandizement, are determined that the status quo of abject poverty and bitter divisiveness not be upset at all. The evidence is clear.

Self-seeking politicians, with an agenda seeking to hijack the occasion into political gamesmanship, and keeping Nandom economically backward relative to many other places in Ghana, would again descend on Nandom like vultures upon carrion; like vultures, one knows what to expect ? until Nandom is virtually stripped to the bone of whatever political capital it has left, these ?new? pro-Kakube elites would overnight turn Nandom into a pseudo-NPP mock delegates conference, where favours are traded. At the last Kakube celebration, the ?Who-is-who? of the NPP?s Northern politicians turned out in full force, led by no less a person than the Vice President of Ghana himself Alhaji Aliu Mahama, escorted by Mr. Ambrose Dery the Upper-West Regional Minister. Mr. Dery?s and the Veep?s friendship goes a long way back, long before the rebirth of the UP tradition as the new NPP. At the time, Mr. Aliu Mahama was the State Construction Corporation?s (SCC) Assistant Regional Manager stationed in Bolgatanga, where Mr. Dery had established his base of operations for his fledgling legal practice. Persons intimately familiar with the Veep?s life, allege that Mr. Mahama could easily make it to the top of ?Ghana?s Failure of Failures of Contractors? list, if one were to perform a forensic audit on the contracts executed under his stewardship of the SCC in the Northern Region from 1972 to 1982. It is crucial to further point out that the same allegations speak to a systematic pillaging of the SCC?s assets in the Region, while simultaneously duping a considerable number of private clients as well, from which Mr. Mahama is said to have largely built the base of his wealth today. Faced by multiple litigations from clients to recover their resources, Mr. Mahama sought the services of a lawyer erudite in the ways and means of literally freeing guilty people from the arms of the law. It is under these circumstances that Mr. Dery would come into Mr. Mahama?s life, and what was at first a purely business relationship, morphed into an alliance of mutual survival. Mr. Dery?s rise to the position of Deputy Attorney-General and his subsequent appointment as Regional Minister under the NPP Government are therefore not accidental; his ascension is said to be closely tied to his legal interventions in the Veep?s troubled past. This is how and why the Veep was picked to lead a powerful pro-NPP gathering as Guest of Honour to the Kakube Festival of November 27, 2004; it was not by virtue of his position as Vice President; and it was to pervert a solemn occasion into a platform for perpetrating a cyclical pattern of returning political favours.

On that fateful day, the peace in Nandom was shattered following a myopically contrived concern for National Security on the part of the Police Administration in Wa, with the tacit complicity it is alleged, of current Upper-West Regional Minister Mr. Ambrose Dery, targeted specifically at the person of an ex-Navy Commander. In fact, the Kakkube Festival is a Nandom Royal Family festival and it is the Royal Family which leads the celebration. However, owing to a protracted chieftaincy dispute in the Royal Family since 1984, the appropriate level of cohesive action and family unity, consistent with an important festival, such as the Kakube Festival is, has repeatedly been glaringly absent. The disgraced Nandom Naa, whose claim to a Ph.D. in Economics has been widely and strongly debunked, received significant backing from Mr. Ambrose Dery, during the 2004 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, in return for the beleagured Naa?s promise of delivering Nandom to Mr. Dery at the elections. Mr. Mahama?s invitation to the Kakube Festival was therefore in blissful anticipation of the victory promised. The records however now show that, as prima facie evidence of the emptiness of the Naa Puore Puobe Imoru?s promise, Dr. Benjamin Kuubuor won that election by more than 67%, owing largely to circumstances beyond Dr. Kuubuor?s own control. Sadly, Mr. Dery a lawyer, who ought to have known better, had somewhat already agreed to an arrangement in which he would return the so-called support by gracing the Kakube Festival with his most powerful political patron in Government ? the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.

National Security ? Abuse and Misuse Mr. Ambrose Dery, will have another opportunity, as is widely believed, to remotely orchestrate what has become the mantra of the current breed of inept and unimaginative politicians, who wishing to annul any occasion which in their view is diametrically at odds with their political agenda, cite ?National Security? concerns as basis for annulment or whatever other form of subversion that suits their purposes. On the brighter side of things, perhaps if history repeats itself, and if NPP top-guns grace this year?s Kakube Festival again, (including Vice President Aliu Mahama and especially Mr. Ambrose Dery), there should be no ?National Security? concerns, for it is common practice that when top government functionaries grace an occasion anywhere in the world, security is usually tight. This allows commonfolk like myself to pursue our various engagements without fear of intimidation. Sadly again, the records show that this was not the case the last time the same gathering of NPP top guns showed up in Nandom, ostensibly to celebrate the Kakube Festival. On that occasion, Nandom was forced to endure the unwanted presence of scores of Police and Military men, who blatantly disrupted an already trying lifestyle, while abrogating what was planned as a peaceful celebration of the harvest and a highlight to Government officials, of the major concerns of Nandom, key among which is the protracted chieftaincy dispute in the Nandom Royal Family in which Government is complicit. This is where the ex-Navy Commander serves as an itch which will not go away. In desperation, Naa Imoru sought assistance from Mr. Dery who, commandeering state resources, in particular the Upper-West Regional Police, contrived a scheme to trick the ex-Navy Commander into leaving Nandom on the day of the Kakube Festival. The question was how, and this is where the excuse of National Security was parlayed with shameless abandon. A contingent of fully armed Police and Military personnel visited the ex-Navy Commander, with a request that he was being sought in Wa by the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) for reasons bordering on the Security of Nandom. As an ex-military man who served on some of Ghana?s highest National Security councils, in addition to extensive sterling, military qualifications and diplomatic credentials, coupled with a solid grounding in International Law (none of which the unlettered Nandom Naa can justifiably come close to even claiming), the issue of National Security is a matter of serious concern to the ex-Navy Commander; but most importantly as a patriotic and law-abiding citizen, he immediately answered the call to Wa, only to find that he was the subject of the National Security concern.

Reports reaching this writer indicate that the scheme amounted to an unlawful public arrest and detention of someone who is arguably one of Ghana?s finest surviving Generals, without even due regard to the privileges due him as an honourably retired Chief of Naval Staff. According to eye-witness accounts, the quantity of weaponry dispatched with the joint contingent of Police and Army personnel, was enough to stage a small ?Fellow Countrymen? in a banana republic. For an alliance which cost Mr. Dery his good health (he is said to have collapsed three times upon losing the elections) and a Parliamentary Seat, this was a favour way too high to return to a fraudulent Naa such as Naa Puore Puobe Imoru is, and one wonders why a man of Mr. Dery?s calibre and intelligence would stoop so low. The answer lies in the perception of what was to be gained politically and this was fully addressed under the pretext of a National Security threat. It doesn?t get lower and cheaper than this. Mr. Dery?s now realizes that as cheap and low as these actions come, they come at a very high cost to him personally. The way forward is a difficult and treacherous one.

The Hungry Die; Opportunities Missed The current farming season in Nandom which will end at about the same time as the Kakube is being celebrated is already on record to be among some of the worst the Nandom Traditional Area has known in recent times, with people literally dying out of hunger. In some instances, as many as five people have died on a single day in a single village. The fitting theme of this year?s celebration should as a matter of fact focus on the death and decay wreaked on Nandom; no political gamesmanship and favour-trading should dominate. But that is just my wishful thinking, for these Vultures have no conscience, or do they? For a predominantly agrarian community, wholly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, averting another catastrophe of this magnitude should be the over-riding concern at the upcoming Kakube Festival and rightly so. This is why the Festival needs urgent transformation into a much more serious engagement bereft of any political horse-trading. Unfortunately, a person such as the beleaguered Nandom Naa Puore Puobe Imoru, a man bankrupt in every imaginable sense, still presides as Nandom Naa, at the behest of his political cronies and cohorts. The argument here is that leadership matters. Leadership is key to the general direction which a community takes; leadership is key to inspiring positive, collective engagement in any developmental process. But leaders of the ilk of Naa Puore Puobe Imoru, make the promises of politicians such as Mr. Dery extremely difficult to achieve; it is excess baggage which I believe the somewhat competent but hugely misadvised Mr. Dery can do without; and it is about time the Regional Minister stood up to be counted as a real man; call to order without the full complement of concrete action is as empty as the garden path he was led down by the crooked Nandom Naa. The hungry and dying people of Nandom, indeed the very poor of Nandom are demanding concrete action, and it should start with more sobre and serious introspection at this year?s kakube Festival.

Unless there is significant change (and there is ample room for change), one might argue that some of our politicians by their conduct, become the example of what the conduct of individual citizens and future politicians must not be. That is why the example of Mr. Ambrose Dery in my opinion, is unworthy of emulation by citizens and aspiring politicians alike. For instance, widespread allegations on the issue of the pervading hunger in the Upper-West Region, sadly note the lack of action on the issue in the early stages of the famine, when intervention could have saved lives. The survival of the people in the Region, dying of unnatural causes, exacerbated by human ineptitude and lack of planning, should command the singular, collaborative and supreme attention of the Region?s currently most prominent two politicians. Yet what do we have? Constant bickering and disagreement about whether the reports of hunger and death are actually true or not. To his credit, Dr. Kuubuor first raised the alarm on the matter after visiting his Constituency, when other public officials contended that the reports of hunger were untrue; one would argue that Mr. Dery has greater and easier access to the Region than Dr. Kuubuor and that the issue of citizens dying is a much more serious National Security issue than a planned peaceful demonstration guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution of Ghana. When citizens die pre-maturely, it potentially limits the capacity of any nation to tackle its development in a variety of ways. According to a United Nations report, pervasive death, (such as with HIV/AIDS, war or starvation), limits the capacity of nations to contribute to development at the local, national and international level. With the pre-mature death of otherwise struggling but enterprising citizens in the Upper-West Region coupled with the extremely low harvest turnover, the per capita income of the region will fall drastically. One would equally argue that once the fact of hunger was established and some temporary food aid was arranged, these two politicians would rally the affected areas for the effective distribution of the aid, and to brainstorm on strategies to avert such a calamity in the future. Instead, the two are busy contesting as to who should take credit for the arrival of the aid. Mr. Ambrose Dery was quick to have Radio Freed, an independently established FM Radio station (whose major source of funding I hear comes from abroad), announce that the food aid came at his behest. It is important to equally point out that in events leading to the 2004 elections, Mr. Ambrose Dery is on record to have previously falsely laid claim to single-handedly establishing the said FM station, when in fact, he had no hand in it until after the FM station was fully established.

But to the important subject of death and decay, in the midst of political pettiness, tomfoolery, and a bankruptcy of ideas, Mr. Dery, Naa Imoru and the so-called self-appointed think-tanks who have made it their business to act as Mr. Dery?s alter ego, continuing to address the Nandom situation like ostriches begs the question as to what is more important, their personal survival or that of the people? Clearly, the issue of National Security when misused for purely self-centered political purposes becomes a farce. What is really at stake in Nandom is the descretation of Nandom?s mores by a group of conceited politicians, and the disregard for a real National Security threat in the form of the ?Kakube of Hunger, Death and Decay?, yet to be celebrated come November 2005.

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