Frank Owusu, the Chief Protocol Officer at the mouthfully-named Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NEPAD and Regional Integration (let’s call it MINFARI) here), was in an ebullient mood when I met him last week. He certainly has plenty causes to be jubilant. As the right hand man to the Honorable Minister himself, Mr. Owusu moves and journeys with the mighty and the powerful in their numerous junkets around the world. They tell us that they are drumming up our nation for foreign investors. Critics, on the other hand, opine that there is more to the numerous trips than meets the eye.
Mr. Owusu’s office if posh by any standards; as it rightly should be since it’s among his duties to meet and entertain the most powerful of visitors to our dear land. His secretary, an extraordinarily good-looking Wa woman smiles a welcome smile at me with those luscious lips that look like they were designed to give man endless pleasures. I smile back at her. She has an ability to make every visitor feels special. As usual, she wears enough trinkets to make to a medium sized jewelry shop look bare. And her expensive perfume must have cost a fortune. She ushers me into her boss’ office and beams a knockout smile in his direction; he bares all his ivory in appreciation!
“Ha, welcome, my brother, welcome. Nice to see you again!” Mr. Owusu welcomes me effusively. He drags his corpulent body (he certainly hasn’t been feeding solely on lettuce!) from behind his chair and envelope me in a bear hug. I was a bit embarrassed by this unnecessary public display of affection by a top civil servant who, normally, is taciturn at the best of times.
“Thank you. Thank you very much, sir! Much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to see me at such short notice” A few hours earlier I’d called to make an appointment and had been pleasantly surprised when the secretary informed me that Mr. Owusu will see me right away.
‘Don’t mention it.” Mr. Owusu’s rich baritone boomed across the vast room. From his desk, he produces a bottle of an expensive looking brandy. He drags himself to a side table and comes back with two fairly-clean brandy snifters. He splash generous portions into the glasses and handed one to me. I took it and sniff; the adorable scent of the VSOP drink wafted ecstatically into my nostrils. I nodded my head in admiration and Mr. Owusu beams with satisfaction. He raises his glass and toasted like a priest giving benediction: “To cooperation and success of globalization.”
Mr. Owusu sips his expensive cognac and beams a contended smile in my direction. ‘Femi, this is simply the best drink in the world. Wonderful smell, fantastic taste, what more could a man hoped or prayed for?”
I took a sip of the amber drink and nodded my head in agreement. “Lovely drink, sir.” I almost choke when Mr. Owusu mysteriously ejaculated: “Thirty billion dollars.”
I regarded the high official with renewed interest, awe and wonderment. He’s consumed less than half his potion, so he couldn’t be drunk. Or has he been imbibing before I came in?
‘Thirty billion dollars!” Mr. Owusu repeated. His face was wreathed in a mystifying self-satisfied smile. He keeps nodding his head in affirmation to some mystical signals. I was intrigued: Could he have won the lotto? Those mysterious smiles are definitely those of a sweepstakes winner. But then thirty billion dollars? I do not know of any lottery that pays that much. But then one never knows, does one?
Mr. Owusu drains his drink and pours another generous belt. He raises his glass in another toast: “To generosity and compassion. Who says that idealism is dead! My God continue to bless our generous benefactors, amen!”
I hurriedly down my drink and shamelessly hold the glass to Mr. Owusu who dispenses another generous portion. He raises his glass in another toast: “President Bush, may you live forever. Prime Minister Brown, may God continue to protect your bedroom. President Sarkozy, may God grant you eternal life. Prime Minister Koyizo, may all your enemies vanish from the face of the earth…”
“Sir, sir, what’s the meaning of all these?” I beseech Mr. Owusu.
He smiles benevolently in my direction: “Femi, they have generously granted us thirty billion dollars!”
“Who? Thirty billion dollars! To whom and for what?” I cried like an excited baby.
“Femi,” Mr. Owusu cried with passion, “haven’t you heard the good tidings?”
I looked at Mr. Owusu in askance: “What good tidings, sir?”
He sips his drink and bestowed a benevolent smile on me. “Femi, the leaders of the G8 has generously agreed to give Africa Thirty billion dollars in aid. What marvelous news, Femi. The Gods of our ancestors are certainly not sleeping
“Is the money meant for us?” I asked
He regarded me as one would regard a demented relation. “What do you mean?” He barked ominously.
“I thought the G8 leaders promised thirty billion dollars to fight AIDS and tuberculosis in
“See, isn’t ‘
“Sorry, sir, but I don’t see how that translates into generous donation to
Mr. Owusu regards me coolly. “When a group of foreign leaders meet and agree to donate money to help us fight dangerous diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, don’t you think that we should at least be thankful?”
“Pardon my cynicism, sir, but I’d only be thrilled when these leaders actually transfer such money or resources directly to us. But when they allocate these imaginary monies and resources to their pharmaceutical companies and research institutions, they are only helping themselves. They are aiding themselves and strengthening their technological advantages over us. And I do not see that as occasion for us to dance with joy or drink ourselves silly with merriment.” I sip my drink.
Mr. Owusu regarded me as a judge would regard a man he’s about to sentence to hanging. He eyed the glass in my hand with a look that suggested that he’s regretting sharing his expensive brandy with me.
“Femi! I just came back from these meetings. Five African heads of states along with their delegations fully participated in the discussions, would you not at least credit us with some intelligence to fight
“The problem, as I see it, sir, is that we have been taken for granted for far too long. The G7 (now G8) have been meeting for years, and every time they make the same promises to help
“Ha! That’s grossly unfair to our development partners.” Mr. Owusu barked with passion. “Didn’t they fulfill their promise to cancel our debt?” Mr. Owusu wanted to know.
I shook my head ruefully: “Don’t you think that that’s part of the problem, sir?”
“What do you mean?” Mr. Owusu wanted to know.
“Is there no end to our buffoonery?” I cried. “These people invaded our land; they enslaved us; they colonized us. They used and abused our labour without recompense. They carted our resources away without payment. And yet we ended up been indebted to them! How do we Africans ended up been such poor bargainers? And we have to stripped ourselves of all dignities and rolled ourselves in dirt, proclaim ourselves HIPC (Heavily Indebted and Poor Country) before they forgive what they say that we owe them. How on earth do we end up owing those who are supposed to be buying our mineral resources?
“Aagh!” Mr. Owusu aaghed.
“That’s not all, sir. Here we are drinking a toast because they have promised to give thirty billion dollars to fight AIDS and tuberculosis. Have we really asked how much of the money will actually come to
“African leaders should stop insulting their people by parading at these meeting like mindless simpletons. G8 leaders tell only bare-faced lies and our leaders should stop helping them to lead us by the nose.”