In few weeks President John Kufuor will hand the presidential sash over, exit the Presidency and become an ordinary mortal like you and I. Ok, there are some benefits accruing to ex-presidents and we should not expect him to start queuing for Kenkey or joining Trotro like the rest of the hoi poloi. But long gone will be the lawless outriders, the Gestapo security officials with their fascist countenances, scheming party jobbers, petty bureaucrats, insidious foreign potentates and the hangers-on, hypocritical praise singers, court jesters and the lot who accompany him on every occasion.
The genius of diplomacy, Henry Kissinger, once opined that power is an Aphrodisiac. Kissinger certainly must know what he was talking about. But what remains baffling is that the powerful people behave as though they are immune to the biological laws that govern ordinary mortals. Power is a transient thing; but we won’t know that by our leaders’ behaviours. It was Mr. Shakespeare who said that the world is a stage in which we mortals are mere actors. It is a profound truth which seems to escape those at the helm of our nation’s affairs.
On some good days I spend my time just watching my fellow beings as they pursue the follies they call life. I am not morbid and I particularly hate going to mortuaries. But the few occasions I went to mortuary sobered me sufficiently me to admit the truism in the Yoruba saying that ‘Ile aiye ilea san.’ It means that the earth is just an abstraction. As one wit once put it: “what if we are figments of our imagination?”
I have also taken time to watch our politicians as they continue to bestride the stage like omnipotent colossi. Yesterday’s nonentities who suddenly find themselves at positions of authority start to behave like feudal potentates. Just like week, I was almost run over by some NPP stalwarts at a traffic light in Kasoa. The light has clearly given the go-ahead for pedestrians to cross when suddenly this 4-wheel adorned with the accoutrements of the ruling party rushed on like a cat from hell scattering yours truly and others. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have the time to take the number of the vehicle. The police officer I related my ordeal to say there is not much anyone could do without the registration number of the offending vehicle: I agreed with him.
The most confounding thing about our leaders is their sheer lack of vision. President Kufuor is at the dusk of his presidency. He has spent eight good years and he is leaving our electricity in the same shape he met it. The same goes for water and food and shelter. Whatever his vociferous supporters and admirers say, I judged him a visionless leader totally bereft of any idea about how to move the nation forward. Not even his most ardent supporter will him call an inspirer. He’s definitely not a motivational leader. I cannot recall any brilliant thought in any of the speeches he’s given. Forty years after he joined the ancestors, we today remember the incomparable Nkrumah for the Akosombo Dam, the Tema Harbour\city, the Tema highway among other things too numerous to recount here. Whatever his shortcomings, we even remember President Rawlings for his institutional reforms (CHIRAJ, respectable Electoral Commission etc). What are we going to remember President John Kufuor for say, next year?
There are those who will credit him with building roads and things. All well and jolly, but why do we still cannot generate and distribute enough electricity to power the few disarticulate industries in our land? Why do we still cannot produce enough pipe-borne water for our people? No, sir, we are not asking for the moon. We are not asking for any pie in the sky. Those who argued that one president cannot solve our problems are simply incapable of thinking – straight or crooked. This is the year 2008 and we should be ashamed to find in our midst those who still think that producing electricity and water for our people is way way beyond our capabilities!
Think of it this way: until we can get the basics right, we simply cannot make a headway. So long as our energies are still being consumed by search for life’s basic like food, water and power, so long shall we continue to grope in the darkness for that elusive cure to our developmental challenges. It’s quite simple: No mortal can be creative on an empty stomach. And there is clearly a limit to what one can imagine when the senses are occupied with thoughts of getting water or electricity.
Do I see a Messiah among those clamoring for the Presidency? No, I do not. I see the same bunch of politicians making the same nonsensical promises they have neither the wish nor the desire to keep. I have read the manifestoes of the two biggest parties – NPP and NDC. They are long on the pie-in-the-sky promises but very short on how the promises can be kept. Luckily for them, there is no provision in our laws which make it possible for us to sue them for broken promises.
The NPP 2008 manifesto is substantially the same one the party offered in 2000 and 2004. Space will not permit me to do a forensic analysis here, but any honest analyst cannot but be appalled by the audacity with which the party is trying to hoodwink us again. This beggared the question: what fools do our politicians really take us for? The NDC is not better: its manifesto offers nothing substantially different from the NPP and it’s simply rehash of what it’s been offering since the dawn of time.
Both parties manifestoes are simply hogwash of neo-liberal promises. There are no ideological differences between the two parties which is why the fight between them is degenerating to personality clashes. If there are any substantial differences between the NPP and the NDC, why should the issue of a Presidential candidate’s health become the domineering campaign issue? Or why should the issue of what drug a candidate consumed be consuming so much publicity?
The two parties that are of different ideological orientation from the neo-liberal NPP and NDC, the PNC and CPP are doing the nation a great disservice by their continuing schism. And they are doing the greatest disservice to the memory of the greatest African of all time, Kwame Nkrumah!
At a time like this when the nation cries out for new vision and new direction, it is crime for the leadership of the rump party of the Osagyefo to continue to bicker! They have betrayed that their personal egos are of more importance to them than the salvation of the great nation that was the dream of Nkrumah to build. Alas, the lessons of past elections were not enough to move the leaders of the PNC and the CPP to bury the hatchet and unite to fight the Neo-liberalists. It’s sad and it’s a very big shame.
It would have matter little if our elite do not travel outside our shores and have not seen what human beings have inspired themselves to be and to build. President Kufuor is our most travelled president and he must be in the top league of the world’s most travelled leaders. What is confounding is that he goes to these foreign places; he sees the sheer physical achievements of other people. He enjoys uninterrupted electricity, water and he travelled in well-built and well-maintained highways. He passes through clean streets and sees human beings decently clothed and fed. He mayhaps have visited a park or two in the countries he has visited.
My questions is what goes on in his mind when he comes back to the country where he’s the President and sees his compatriots struggling to buy used clothes (obroni wa wu) in dirty streets? What does our President feels when he sees his citizens struggling in hot sun to sell dog chains on our streets? What does our President thinks when he sees his own people dancing for joy in adverts for Thai Rice, Italian tomato puree or English beef? What does President Kufuor feels when he sees Ghanaian children with Kwashiokor bellies running around naked on the street of his nation’s capital?
I decline to accept that developing our economy is beyond our capabilities. We have the blueprints of how the other people did it. And contrary to what our leaders are telling us, it does not require tons of money, but lots of imaginative leadership. President Roosevelt New Deal is a good example of a leader inspiring his people to take their destiny firmly in their hands. The Canadians also did it; so did the Europeans. These countries achieved their miracles relatively debt-free.
After the Great Depression of 1929/30, many of these countries launched very ambitious programmes to build their infrastructures, feed and educate their people. Schools, hospitals, dams, parks and other things were built and these served the purpose of galvanizing the economies, employing people and creating a middle class that served as the engine and the motivator to move the economy forward.
Contrary to the lies the Neo-liberals are today telling us, such government interventions did not ruin the economy. Au contrari, the massive interventions of the governments stimulated the economies into higher heights. Today, our leaders, having bought into the lies of the Bretton Wood institutions, have washed their hands off of managing our economy. They have withdrawn all the subsidies that would have enabled us to properly educate our children or keep our farmers in business and our workers in productive employment.
It is so galling that many of those who today charge themselves with ruling us have spent some time in the lands that we called advanced. They have enjoyed the facilities provide for their citizens. They have strolled in parks, enjoy a swim in the pools and have patronized well-stocked public libraries. Why does it never occur to them to try and provide the same in their own country for their own people to enjoy? This is the most baffling of all the questions. Why, why and why?
What makes it possible for our rulers not to be able to think outside of their personal comfort? Why don’t we have parks in our cities? Why are public libraries swimming so glaringly lacking in our towns?
I live in Kasoa which, although no statistics are available, must be among the fastest growing metropolis in the country. In this year and age, many inhabitants of this vast ghetto still brave snakes and vermin in order to answer the calls of nature in the bush. The same is true in all the unplanned ghettoes that we call cities and towns in our land save for Tema which remains the only city in Ghana with decent public toilet.
PS: As a holy book warned: without knowledge, a people perish. If you know a city in Ghana that boasts a decent public library, kindly let me know.