Saturday, December 17, 2011

Foreign Minister’s unpardonable gaffe

The illiterate and shallow minded Negro, who can see no further than his nose is now the greatest stumbling block, in the way of the race. He tells us that we must be satisfied with our condition, and that we must not think of building up a nation of our own. He will say that we must not seek to organize ourselves racially, but we must depend on the good feelings of the other fellow for the solution to the problem that now confronts us. This is a dangerous policy, and it is my duty to warn against it. The Negro must take it upon himself to better his own condition.” – Marcus Garvey

According to a news report, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, has said his outfit cannot coerce foreign missions in Ghana to treat Ghanaians who engage their services with the necessary respect they deserve as citizens of the country.

The report was titled: “Embassies Cannot Be Forced To Respect Ghanaians – Minister.”

Here is a quote:” The Finder newspaper reported on Tuesday some inhumane conditions Ghanaians go through in their bid to acquire visa from these foreign missions. They are sometimes made to stand for long hours in fair or wet weather waiting to be attended to by officials of these embassies.

“We have handled these issues in the past, but it has always been consistent with diplomatic practices,” Alhaji Mumuni told Citi News. “We cannot order or compel, all we can do is to engage in negotiations with them. And they have been fruitful. ”

Others have questioned whether the Ghanaian Parliament was not adequately empowered to pass laws that could deal with such issues, however, the foreign affairs minister explained that diplomatic matters were handled delicately.

Alhaji Mumuni explained that some of these foreign missions enjoy some immunity underscored by certain treaty obligations making it very difficult to impose some minimum condition on them, adding that the only way to get things to change is through continuous dialogue.

He said that the surest way of dealing with the problem was “to approach these issues, as the complaints came and negotiate with the foreign embassies to achieve positive results. ”

We must realize that our greatest enemies are not those on the outside, but those in our midst. When we recognize the enemies on the outside, and do not allow them to pass. Then we have those on the inside working with us to destroy us, without our knowing.” Marcus Garvey

I have used this column to lament the government of President John Atta Mills moribund foreign policy thrusts.

It is sad to see Ghana, the country that was previously regarded as the continent’s moral compass, and one that championed African causes reduced to mere spectator as the New Imperialists ran riot on our blessed continent.

But with people like Alhaji Mumumi at the help of affairs at our ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration (whatever that’s supposed to mean), one can begin to understand why Ghana’s voice was muted in the epochal events that happened in La Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

And with the likes of Alhaji Mumuni heading the ministry that was supposed to integrate the West Africa sub-region, little wonder that there is absolutely no movement on integration despite all the noises our leaders continue to make.

No, Mr. Minister, you got it badly wrong. We do not need negotiation to tell foreigners to treat our people with respect. And it is simply wrong for you to say that “And they have been fruitful.”

No, your negotiation (whatever you meant by that) has not been fruitful as a visit to any Western Embassy in Accra will easily attest.

No, Mr. Minister, Ghanaians do not ask for the moon when they ask that they be treated with some modicum of respect by countries that decide to set up embassies here.

And it is wrong, plain wrong for people like Alhaji Mumuni to continue to think that some people are in our country to do us some favour by their presence.

It is wrong for Ministers in the Ghana government to continue to believe that they need to negotiate in order for foreign embassies to stop treating our people with impunity and abject disrespect.

I have been to several Ghanaian embassies and missions abroad, and I have seen firsthand how a poor, HIPCed, third world country like Ghana always manages to make her embassies as attractive and as comfortable as possible.

Even in the missions that are not that palatial, decent reception arrangements are always in place, as a matter of course.

This is how it should be.

It is just simple courtesy that human beings should be treated with some degree of dignity and respect. This is what westerners appear never to understand.

We know that Europe has, due to its penchant for insane wars to maintain her ill-gotten wealth, bankrupted itself, but even then Western Embassies cannot plead poverty when to come to providing basic necessities like sitting places and conveniences.

It does not cost much to erect decent reception and provide decent furniture for clients, which is what Ghanaians that go to these embassies are.

If I go to any establishment to transact business and was made to fork out over one hundred dollars, the least I expect is to be provided a seat and treated with some courtesy. I don’t know why this is too difficult for Minister Mumuni to grasp.

The Embassies charge arms and legs for the services they provide, and we ought neither to beg nor negotiate with them in order for them to provide some very basic comforts for our people.

“If white people were dependent on others, they would not be as successful as they are today. If Japan were dependent on other countries, she would not be as successful as she is today. As long as the Negro is dependent on other groups, he will remain the lowest down.” Marcus Garvey

It is saddening and equally maddening that we have people with slavish mentality like Alhaji Mumuni as ministers in this age and time.

As someone that has spent close to three decades campaigning for African self-assertion and self-confidence, I feel totally appalled and scandalised to read the pathetic message from the foreign minister.

With the type of mindless mindset Minister Mumuni displayed, I now know why we are treated shoddily and with utter contempt when we have occasions to visit Western embassies.

Our own minister, kept at our expense, see nothing wrong in western embassies making us to line up like common cattle at auction, after they have collected huge sums of (non-refundable) fees from us!

Thanks to Wikileaks, we know that our elite love their parleys at these embassies where they are piled with expensive cocktails that never fail to loosen their tongue, in order for them to betray our secrets to foreign agents; now we have a minister who see nothing wrong in foreign embassies refusing to extend to us the most elementary of courtesies.

Those among us that have travel outside our shore know that these embassies do not do the same thing in Europe. The British will not put up embassy in Paris or the Italians in Warsaw without taken into consideration that people have to sit down and use toilets.

But when it comes to Africa, anything and everything go. After all, this is Africa! And our leaders think that the only thing we can do is to continue to beg to be treated as human beings.

Alas, the minister responsible for regional integration in Ghana appears not to know what is happening in his own backyard.

Miffed by shoddy treatments meted out to its citizens, the Nigerian government recently gave foreign embassies the marching order and asked that they speed up their visa processes, and ensure that Nigerians are issued or refused their visas in 3-days.

And here we have a minister in the Ghanaian cabinet stupidly telling us we are powerless to do anything when Westerners in our midst continue to treat us like colonial subjects, and that our only recourse is to negotiate.


If you have no confidence in yourself, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence you have won before you’ve started.” - Marcus Garvey.

Slavery and colonialism did much to damage our people’s psyches and reduced us to the lowest of the lows, but do we need to continue to accept insult upon indignities?

Methinks that it is high time we jettison our slave and colonial mentalities. It is time we make other people realise that we are affronted whenever our dignities are insulted.

What I know is that were Ghana to set up embassy in The Hague and fail to provide comfortable reception, the Dutch visitors there will find it unacceptable and raise a ruckus.

To begin with, I believe that we will have enough respect for the Dutch people to even dream of slighting them so.

That is all, Mr. Minister, simple respect; elementary courtesy.

And Mr. Minister, next time you go on your cocktail circuits, be reminded that power is transient.

Today due to the position you hold in government, the Western embassies treat you with false respect and high protocol; in few years when you no longer hold your current post, and have occasion to go to these embassies, you will be rudely confronted with the types of indignities your compatriots are made to go through.

Today you think that such crass disrespect can be treated only with negotiation, but by then you will rue the fact that you failed to do something when you had the power.

It is then it will dawn on you that, no, Ghanaians did not ask for the moon when they asked to be treated with simple courtesies and respect.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nigeria: Siasia as a metaphor

The recent hullabaloo surrounding the position of Nigeria's (now ex) national football coach, Samson Siasia, vividly showcases a stunning metaphor of a nation that cannot seem to get anything right.

For those who do not know the story, here is the lowdown: Samson Siasia was hired by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) as the national coach following vociferous calls by many Nigerians who clamored for an indigenous coach following a sad parade of foreign coaches -- paid hyper-salaries -- who failed to get them anywhere.

And for those not in the know, Nigerians consider football their only redeeming feature.

Football is about the only thing that binds the citizens of the vast nation of one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty-eight million (depending on who is doing the counting) souls. Having been so badly let down by a succession of very callous, shameless, unprincipled, amoral, ruthless, and corrupt leaders, Nigerians find solace only in the glories their national football team used to bring them.

And also for those not in the know, Nigeria, like most African nations, is a fiction invented by the European colonialists to satisfy their imperial ambition.

Sadly, however, post-independence leaders have failed to build a nation from the vast conglomerate of ancient national, tribal, and ethnic groups forced by colonial imperatives to live together in the same geographical space.

To be fair, there were glimmers of hope in the immediate post-colonial period when the enthusiasm of seeing the demise of foreign rules galvanized the people to aspire to prove to the world that, in the words, of Kwame Nkrumah, "the Black man is capable of managing his own affairs."

Sadly, this golden period was short-lived. Tribal jingoism colluded with political opportunism and grand larceny to set the country ablaze in a 30-month-long civil war from 1967-1970 when the Igbo people (of Eastern Nigeria) sought to secede.

Successful prosecution of the war to keep the country united also brought about a semblance of unity. This was helped by easy petro dollars that flew into government coffers and soon gave the people and their leaders the illusion of wealth and grandeur. A Nigerian president boasted in the 1970s that money was not the country's problem but how to spend it.

Like all good things that were obtained easily, the vast wealth was soon wasted mainly on consumption and white-elephant projects that contributed nothing to the nation's economic development.

The petro money was soon frittered away so much so that by the 1980s, Nigeria needed to be rescued by the Bretton Wood institutions. A punishing austerity measure wiped out the country's nascent middle class and saw the devaluation of the currency, the naira, to the point of virtual inutility.

Things fell apart for Nigeria and the people were no longer at ease.

In recent years, tribalism, political hooliganism, and virulent religious intolerance have polarized the country so badly that citizens' lives are being wasted with Old Testament abandon. Nigerians no longer feel safe except in their home regions. Not even members of the National Youth Service Corps set up to foster a sense of unity among Nigerians are immune from the senseless tribal-cum-religious slaughters.

A militant Islamic sect, so-called Boko Haram, is wreaking havoc in much of Northern Nigeria, and the federal government appears powerless to stop them. Both the UN office and police headquarters in the nation's capital, Abuja, bore the brunt of massive suicide car bombings.


Thinking outside the box

As a writer who is also a keen observer of happenstances in Africa, it is quite distressing to see how those that are in charge continue to throw up their hands in despair and continually lament the sorry state of our affairs.

Rather than sit, think and put in place policies and structures to solve problems, we see our officials turn themselves into hapless crybabies. Like mindless little children they deafen our eardrums with their cacophonous lamentations of helplessness. They keep on cataloguing for us what bedevil us without suggesting ways we can solve them. They keep behaving like we pay them to tell us what we already know rather than come up with solutions.

What are we to make of the news item on of September 23, 2011 with the title “MTTU is broken down; we have no equipment to fight road crashes – Awuni,” which I quote here: “Passengers and road users across the country must put their fate in God anytime they board any of the commercial vehicles because the country’s statutory institution tasked with the duty to police major and minor roads across the country say they have no equipment to guarantee their safety.

The head of the Police Motor Traffic Transport Unit ACP Angwubutoge Awuni at a stakeholder’s meeting in Accra on Thursday said his unit is virtually ‘dead’ because there is no equipment to work with.

The meeting was held to find lasting solution to the road carnage in the country.

From January to July 2011, a total of 1,081 people have perished in fatal road crashes across the country.

Hundreds have sustained several degrees of injuries.

The meeting was called Thursday in order for stakeholders to proffer solutions to the carnage on the country’s roads.

ACP Awuni said his outfit is completely helpless in fighting road accidents because it does not have the necessary equipments to fight the carnage on our roads.

“The national MTTU can boast of only one towing vehicle that is even broken down. So we are having problems. The resources that will assist us are not there.

“…We don’t have a single serviceable speed gun; a common speed gun that will tell us the vehicle that is running is at a greater speed than it is supposed to be going.

“…The MTTU is broken down totally as we speak now. We don’t have things that will assist us to project the things we are talking about now,” he lamented.

He was even worried that several reports which chronicled the challenges his outfit is facing has not been worked on and feared the country will only organize talkshops whilst failing to address the key challenges facing the unit.

ACP Awuni also lamented the non-existent command chain in the transport unit which makes it difficult for the necessary instructions and queries to be issued.

Transport Minister Collins Dauda in an interview with Joy News described as worrying the spate of road accidents in the country. Whilst acknowledging the frankness in the assertions of ACP Awuni, he said his outfit will do what it can to equip the MTTU.

He said his outfit is considering stringent road safety measures at lorry parks even before the vehicles will set off from their various stations. He said the vehicles will be checked at the stations before the set off. He also hinted of stiffer punishment to drivers who use mobile phones whilst driving.”


First to Transport Minister Collins Dauda: Sir, it is time Ministers like your good self stop telling us what your outfit is considering doing. It is time for less talk, more action. We citizens are tired of all the announced intentions that are loudly proclaim but never see the light of the day.

This is the second time this column will have a beef with the Ghana Police Force.

In a piece last year (‘The IGP and his convoy’), the column lambasted the IGP for travelling in a siren-blaring convoy while tax-paying citizens are suffocating in oppressive heat.

Let’s quote from that article: “We live in a society where things are becoming increasingly comical. The other day I was pleasantly amused, surprised and angered when I saw the head of the police, the Inspector General, in his GP1 vehicle, sirening his way through a dense traffic in Kasoa.

First, I was amused that Oga Police did not see the irony in his peculiar situation. The IGP is the head of the police force, right. The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU) is part of the police of which Mr. IGP is the boss, right? MTTU is charged with ensuring hassle-free vehicular movements on our roads, right? How could a whole IGP missed the irony in his trying to cut corners by beating snarled-up traffic with his siren-blaring convoy?

I was angered because as I have lamented severally in this column, we are suffering in great sufferation (let’s borrow Rasta-speak here) in this country of ours mostly because people who get paid to get things done do not perform. They are not only failing to do their jobs, but rather look for ways to make it possible for them to beat and cheat the very system they are supposed to manage.
And most galling of all is that there are no checks in place to ensure that these system-bursting bigmanism does not exist. Equally infuriating is the fact that there is absolutely nothing we citizens can do about this obscene abuse of power. No matter how irate I felt about the spectacle of the IGP patently cheating the system, there is not a darn thing I could do about it. I knew it and he obviously knows that no bloody civilian will dare open his mouth.

Who born dog, indeed?

Several questions become pertinent here: Does the IGP have authorization to use siren or is our number one law enforcement agent breaking the law? If a common IGP can travel in siren-blowing convoy, what is there to stop the other service chiefs from doing the same? The heads of the navy, army, air-force, CEPS, Prisons and Forestry could also start using sirens. And what about our parliamentarians; are they not also worthy enough? And the Directors at our MDAs; are they also not worthy enough? And let’s not forget our District Chiefs Executives; they also have their apushkeleke (Ghanaian slang for ladies of easy virtues) and other part-time girl-friends to impress, don’t they?

I was surprised because there should be responsible authorities to point out to the IGP the absurdity of his blaring siren to clear way for himself in traffic. If he surrounds himself with sycophants who are not prepared to tell him some home truth, those who appoint him should do so. They should point out to him that he is being paid to ensure that citizens do not spend inordinate hours roasting in traffic hold-ups whilst is men are busy doing their thing. I didn’t say collecting bribes, did I?

No, I am not joining those calling for the IGP’s head; but I’d say that until he makes travelling on our road less nightmarish, he has no business disturbing our peace with his sirens.”

Let’s return to the present article. According to the myjoyonline report, ACP Awuni said his outfit is completely helpless in fighting road accidents because it does not have the necessary equipments to fight the carnage on our roads.

“The national MTTU can boast of only one towing vehicle that is even broken down. So we are having problems. The resources that will assist us are not there. We don’t have a single serviceable speed gun; a common speed gun that will tell us the vehicle that is running is at a greater speed than it is supposed to be going… The MTTU is broken down totally as we speak now. We don’t have things that will assist us to project the things we are talking about now.” ACP Awuni lamented.

Shame, shame!

So, ACP Awuni has absolutely no qualm at all to tell us that the whole Ghana Police Force (GPF) cannot boast a single decent auto-mechanic to fix its broken down tow-vehicle? And he has no shame whatever that all the brains at GPF cannot come up with any idea to get equipments for the service.

We are in deeper trouble than I thought possible.

We really ought to ask what type of country we live in where the whole police force cannot boast a common speed gun?

ACP Awuni probably forget to do what has become a national pastime; go around with begging bowl and ask the Chinese, the Americans, Europeans or even the Arabs to donate.
We seem to be a nation that has lost any sense of shame and one that believes that foreigners owe us a free lunch.

We are a nation that has apparently lost any capacity for critical thinking. Above that we seem like a nation that loves begging like dogs love bones!

Seriously, why do people like ACP Awuni continue to refuse to learn? With the Internet, there is little need for us to even think of re-inventing any wheel. And our officials, when it suits them, tell us that we now live in a Global Village. The question is: why don’t they learn from the village in which they are supposed to live.

Many National Police Forces have solved the problem of errant drivers and rather than keep on wailing like helpless children, ACP Awuni and his team should take some time to study how the other forces did it.

Actually, it is no rocket science at all.

Lagos in Nigeria used to be considered the World’s most lawless city as far as traffic was concerned. But today, errant driving has all but been eliminated in Nigeria’s commercial capital.

No, it was not by divine intervention and actually not by any super-human effort. A determined effort by the Governor of Lagos state backed by the imposition of stiff penalties has ensured that Lagos drivers obey traffic rules, do not stop to pick passengers outside of bus stops and, perhaps more importantly, stopped drivers and owners from parking their cars wherever fancies them.

The fear of paying hefty penalties also persuades car owners and drivers that it is unwise to allow their vehicles to break down and obstruct traffic. All these measures ensure that the once agonizing Lagos traffic has been unsnarled and citizens can breathe sigh of relief.

Lagos is not so far away from Accra and our leaders continue to pay their lip service to ECOWAS unity, so it behooves ACP Awuni to take a trip his counterparts in Lagos and see\learn how the Lagosians did it.

It is quite insulting when officials like ACP Awuni come out to insult our intelligence with the type of gratuitous statement credited to him. They should rather utililise the time they use in making speeches to brainstorm and come out with solutions. It is time to stop cataloguing the woes without coming up with any ideas or suggestions on how to solve them.

If he has no desire to go to Lagos, all the ACP has to do is to sit down awhile and crack the brains and come out with solutions.

Here I could help with some suggestions. Ok, The GPF is not a limited liability company but rather than lament and bemoan, ACP Awuni should ask his sector minister for money - grant or loan, to buy ten towing vehicles.

The police already have power to tow anything that obstructs traffic. So, all the MTTU needs to do is get into serious business of towing abandoned vehicles. I am sure with the ten vehicles and the hefty fines, they will collect, the GPF will make enough money to pay government back its money with interests in no time.

No one who has had to pay heavy fines for towed vehicle would like to repeat the experience and the words of mouth will ensure that car-owners check their vehicles properly before putting them on the road.

Should the GPF be unwilling to do this, being not entrepreneurial and all that, ACP Awuni and his people should get the sector ministry to pass appropriate legislation to involve the private sector. There is little doubt that many Ghanaians will gladly invest in the very lucrative vehicle-towing business.

Wise saying:

" Never use both feet to test the depth of the sea." - African proverb