Saturday, November 10, 2007

Politicians and other Scoundrels

“A dead politician is the noblest work of God.” –

“The greatest question which, in all ages, has disturbed mankind, and brought on them in greatest part of those mischiefs which have ruined cities, depopulated countries, and disordered the peace of the world, has been, not whether there be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it.” - John Locke.

Would you let an unqualified cobbler repair your shoe?

Would you allow an untrained tailor to sow your cloth?

Would you join a vehicle driven by an untrained and inexperienced driver?

Would you allow an unqualified doctor attend to your health?

Would you take your case to unlicensed lawyer?

Would you let just anyone build your house or repair your gas leakage?

Would you, would you, would you? The questions we can pose here are endless, but if you are like the regular bloke, your answer to all would be a deafening NO!

Since human began to organize themselves into societies, they have strove to moderate their conduct by making laws and ordinances to govern the affairs between their members. They have also strove to protect members from unscrupulous shacks by requiring those who want to peddle any profession to acquire some knowledge, gain some diplomas or certificates, get some apprenticeship and obtain a license before they begin to peddle their trade. That explains why even recruits at the lowest rung of the security services and other organisations are required, by law, to have some minimal level of qualifications. That’s how it is; and it’s exactly how it ought to be.

But, wait a sec! There’s is a profession where neither skill, experience nor a diploma is required, demanded or expected. No, not farming! It is POLITICS.

Are you serious, Femi? Yes, I am serious. Absolutely!

This explains why a complete buffoon (in the truest sense of the world) could wake up one morning and staggers to his pito bar and put some of the potent stuff in his stomach. Inebriated to a good measure, our fellow staggers to one of FM stations and announces his intention to run for the presidency. This is a guy who has never seen the inside of a SSS! Ok, he has money from his numerous shady land deals, but is that all one need in order to lead? Or more correctly, should money, and plenty of it be the only qualification for high offices in our land?

“One of the principal qualifications for a political job is that the applicant knows nothing about what he is expected to do.” – Terry M. Townsend

What most people do not realize is that politics is the most important profession in the land. Get this straight, I do not mean to demean the medical, the ICT, the architectural or the rest of the noble professions.

But just think of this: politicians make the laws on how we live and lead our lives. Period. They determine how you live and breathe; where you can work and live. They determine what sanction you get for stealing a finger of banana or for sleeping with your friend’s wife or raping your neighbour’s daughter, etc, etc. And if that’s not serious enough, they also determine what percentage of our income you and I pay as taxes. And to round it up neatly, politicians are the only people who can determine their own salaries! Let me know if you can beat that. And what fantastic salaries they always vote for themselves! And don’t forget that when it comes to voting massive emoluments for themselves, party rivalries miraculously vanish as our politicians loot (literally and figuratively) the treasury.

We are HIPC (remember that word?), yet our politicians continue to treat our treasury like a war booty that must be despoiled. The Constitution prescribed for us an Executive Presidency. What our politicians have managed to create was a Presidency almost imperial in its opulence. Or would someone tell me what on earth our President needs all those gleaming four-wheel jeeps in his entourage for!

Before you hang me, just be mindful of the simple fact that in the Netherlands (one of the countries that ‘donates’ money to Ghana), the leader of the country, that’s the Prime minister, lives in his own house and drives his own car. Each and every single member of the Dutch Parliament lives in his\her house. And any Dutch MP who has an urgent need for a car or a house doesn’t bother the state with a request for assistance – she goes to her bank and arranges things for herself.

See, what I mean. The vast difference here is that in the Netherlands, people go into politics to render a service. They mostly want to serve their country and to give something back to the land of their birth. In contrast, our politicians believe that their positions entitle them to the best in the world and at the state’s expense, of course!

“The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern” - Lord Acton.

Look at the situation in our dear motherland. Not only do we house our MPs, we also grant them car loans from our paltry resources. And our Ministers are truly a class unto themselves. They not only get free autos courtesy of the state, but we are also fueling the autos they use mostly to chauffeur their girlfriends around. I say it is time a serious political science Ph.D does her dissertation on what our democracy in costing us.

But the main gripe here is why do we allow the politicians to get away with it? If any other professional group has performed as abysmally as our politicians, we all would be screaming blue murder and baying for blood. The politicians’ blood, I mean. Yes, our politicians have treated us shabbily and with the utmost disdain, I tell the truth. But here they are again baring their ivories and doing what they do best, politicking, which, essentially, is lying through their teeth.

“No man (woman) undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet every one thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades,--that of government. “- Socrates

Ok, let me bore you guys silly with some litanies of woes. Our dear motherland, Ghana was conceived by the British intrigues to achieve their imperial ambitions. When you sit down to think about it, you will come to see that our beloved Ghana does not make logical, cultural, geographic, historic… sense. The only logic binding was the imperial logic of forcible acquisition. The British simply want it that way and that was that. They ruled the waves the, didn’t they! And you do not argue with maxim machine guns, do you?

They colonized (or civilized, choose what you may) us for about a century and handed our land back to us. Oh, I am jumping too fast here. The true story is that many of our elite, especially those who had the benefit of the white man’s education decided that they have had enough of been ruled by people who were not of their own kind. They talked big grammar and threatened hell and brimstone. The colonizer (or civilizer) threw some of them in jail and shot some of the hoi polloi who protested too much. The blood of the patriots ran on our sacred soil. Things got a bit out of control here and there. The Germans waged and lost a second war (how silly could you be?). Although the Allies won (with great unacknowledged contribution from Africa), but in reality only the Americans won. The war effectively bankrupted Ghana’s self-styled mother country. Britain lost her Global leadership to the Yankees. The Empire started crumbling. It was the time for the Wind of Change when the colonials started gaining back what the perfidious albion from that Isle of iniquities had illegally taken from them.

Okay, enough history. Let’s pick the thread of our story on our politicians. Oh, the British handed power over to our folks in 1957, making us the second country in Africa to gain our liberation. For those interested in that sort of things, Sudan beat us by a year; January 1, 1956 to be precise. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and the name means: ‘land of the blacks’ (and why not show off a bit while we are still at it?).

So folks, we have being ruling ourselves for more than half a century and how have we fare? According to our politicians, we have never had it so good. Life is so good here that those complaining urgently require psychological (no, make that psychiatric) treatment. They, politicians, and their media (it is no secret that politicians own the majority of the media here, or is it? So much for objective journalism!) are dazzling us with arrays of bewildering statistics that purportedly shows how well we are doing as a nation and as a people. Inflation, they tell us, is down and is well under control. Jobs have been created and are available except for lazybones who have been imbibing too much of the Ghana’s contribution to world’s beverage. I am talking about akpeteshi. And food, oh, they are so plentiful and affordable (tautological, since inflation has been wiped out, food should be cheap).

But wait a mo, is this the reality we ordinary folks see? Are our folks so mentally deranged that they prefer to sell Made-in-Indonesia mosquito coils in scorching sun than to do the government-created jobs? I do not know the answer to that one. I also do not understand the arcane subject they call economics. And you can just forget financial statistics; that’s way, way beyond me. What is not beyond me is this. No, I better show you a small figure and you can make up your own mind whether or not the monster of inflation has been miraculously wiped out from our dear land.

ITEM PRICE (2000) PRICE (2007)

Candle 250 1,200

Gari (per Olonka) 2,500 12,000

Maize (per bag) 50,000 250,000

Kerosene (per gallon) 5,000 28,900

Ga Kenkey 500 2,000

See, here I mention only the items that are of interest to the common woman and money-challenged folks like me. Who, but the seriously rich, is interested in the prices of milk, sugar, margarine and exotic stuffs like those?

When you look at the figures, you do not need a Ph. D to know that something is seriously amiss when. If an Olanka of Gari cost 2500cedis in the year 2000 and cost 12,000cedis in 2007 and the politicians are telling you and me that they have banished inflation from Ghana, something certainly doesn’t give. This is not hearsay, my friends. I bought gari in 2,000 and I am still buying Gari today; so I know what I’m talking about. The politicians are certainly telling lies when they claimed to have tamed inflation. Inflation is well and alive, at least at the markets where I buy my Gari. Perhaps the politicians have created special market for themselves. There would be no surprises there, either.

See, I do not like to be lied to. Which brings us to the question of what I am going to do about it? And this brings us, in a roundabout way, to the main reason for this article. I am as mad a hatter when I see the sad parade of those clamoring to rule us spewing the same verbiage (you can substitute garbage if you want) that they have being spewing over the years. And their paid pals of the press are doing what they do best – collecting their envelopes and writing their pure fictions and befuddling us with their stupid lies.

Ok, we Ghanaians are not world champions when it comes to reading. And it is true that many (I won’t use most) of us simply go through life without reading anything more serious than our lotto papers. But tell me, how does a nation developed politically and socially and economically without a quality press to keep those in power on their toes? Most Ghanaian journalists seem totally unaware that it is the job and the duty and the obligation of the writer to be the conscience of her society. Otherwise, Ghanaian papers would not be so always full of crappy, re-hashed stories about our politicians and their antics.

“Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And we as citizens also have obligations which does not begin and end with our casting our votes on election days. Our most important obligation is to leave our nation in better shape than we met it. That’s the sacred duty of every citizen of this land. And why is that so important? No, no, it is not for purely altruistic reasons. Actually, it is for very selfish reasons. Oh, Oh! Ah, Ah!

Let me explain. You love your children, don’t you? Is it not your wish to leave them in better situation than you live? I’m assuming that you’re a caring parent. You want your child to be better than you. You want her to have better education than you; a better living standard, let us say. You went through life in great hardship, waging constant battle in order to scrap a miserable existence out of life. You live in a roaches-infested, mosquito-overwhelmed room unfit for pets in some countries, from which the land-lord (sorry, slumlord) is constantly treating to eject you. You never ride a decent car in your life; you always travel in the scrap of heaps we called trotro. You never in your life drank from a tap water and electricity is something you glance from afar. That certainly is not the life you want your child to live in, is it now? So what the hell, I ask again, are you doing about it?

That is, of course, the biggest problem. Everyone recognizes the problem. But hardly anyone is doing something to fix it. That precisely is why the politicians are taking us for sweet rides, year in year out. They knew that we do not care enough to even be apathetic. They know and we know that most of us go through life without the thought of leaving it in better shape than we met it. Now you know why they always take us for granted. No, I’m not telling you anything new. You just haven’t taken the time and the trouble to sit down and try to figure things out. See what I mean?

Ghana will be better when all of us start to take our civic responsibilities seriously. We should start by compelling those aspiring to rule (and Lord over us) to start by providing us with detailed plans of what they intend to do for the nation when elected. Hell no, I am not talking about some canned party manifesto of obscure origin and of zero knowledge value.

No, in this age of internet and broadband (you see that I also know the lingo), those aspiring to rule us should be able to assemble competent specialists in various field who can help them create detailed position papers which you and I can access on their websites. If they can donate nine figures to their parties, they should be able to organize something for the specialists, so that we voters can better understand where they are coming from and where they are going. No, I do not mean the sad charade they called presidential debates.

Specifically, anyone aspiring to the presidency of this country should have detailed position papers on:

1. Education – This I believe to be the most important issue facing us. I see no reason why Ghana cannot provide free and good quality education for all her children. In this globalised world, knowledge (acquired through education) is all that makes all the difference. It is what separate the men from the boys; the first world from the third world. You can have all the resources in the world, but without the knowledge to transform them, you will remain a sad loser. Just ask our cousins in Nigeria. To be honest, even if we spend eighty percent of our budget educating our children, it’d be good investment.

2. Health. Health they say is wealth. I guess that kinda said it all.

3. Agriculture. You need men and women with food in their stomachs in order to run a healthy nation and economy. There is absolutely no reason for us, after fifty year of self-government to still be importing British mad-cow diseased beef and rice from Thailand

4. Regional integration and African unity – Get off the high horse. In this age and time, Ghana cannot go it alone. We need ECOWAS and we need the AU. The Big boys in Europe are expanding their EU at a pace that will make you dizzy. The Asians are also doing it. Pan-Africanism is no longer a romantic dream of the Nkrumahs; the very survival of Africa depends on it, lest the imperialists continue their rapacious rape of our land and resources! Our nation should join others in the West African sub region to develop a common electricity, postal, communication and defence infrastructures.

5. Security – Honestly I do not know why I put this at numero 5. Security is all-encompassing and all-important and should have been up there at the top.

So fellow citizens, this is my wish list. You may add yours if you so desire. What we should do is to make sure that every man and woman who aspires to the presidency of our republic has detailed position papers on all the points. The bargain here is that we give our votes to the one whose position papers seem the most reasonable. Of course, politicians, being who they are, can lie through it. But that’s where a simple logic comes in.

There would (no, make that will) be an election at the end of a four year term, won’t there be? The situation we have today is that any jackass can come to our ghetto and promise to build a bridge from Tema to Navrongo; put a TV, Fridge in every home plus a car to complete things and we shall give him our votes and get zilch in return. The SOB will swindle us big time and think nothing of coming back next time to canvass our votes. It has happened before, hadn’t it? Actually it had happen several times.

So, you see if we have a candidate detailed plan, we can always take him on the concrete things he promised to accomplish. So, how is this going to settle our under-developmental challenges? Actually, I really do not know and I don’t believe that I said that it would. However, what we can do is this: we can rush to our internet café, fire up our browser, get to his website and print his detailed plans out. So now we have something to confront the politician with next time he comes to ask for our votes.

It is only by sifting the chaff from the grain that we can eliminate the unserious from ever running for the highest office in our dear land. Kwame Nkrumah remains the only totally prepared man that ever seeks to rule this country. And we see the difference it makes; even after almost forty years of the man’s departure, his legacies (Akosombo, Tema, etc, etc) lives on. May the ancestors continue to grant him eternal peace!

“I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.” - Socrates

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