Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A call for a part-time legislature

Readers will bear me out when I say that this column has done its best in chronicling some of the shortcomings we all see around us in this country of ours.
Where possible, we have also proffered ideas and suggestions on how we think that we could move things forward.

As we have often said: it is the sad duty of writers to chronicle the ills of their society.

It is onerous task that, at times, overwhelm both body and soul. This is most especially so in societies such like ours where, it appears, we take one small step forward, and twenty giant steps backward.

Writers are also humans; they face the same problem like everyone else. Yet, they must keep fighting what, at times, looks and feels like hopeless, losing battle!
When it appears that we can no longer be dazed by the hanky-panky of our governors – they are governing us all right, then comes along something that dwarfs all the silly and stupid pains they have inflicted on us.

God knows that we do our best to make life comfortable, very comfortable for our governors.

We are a poor country that relies on ‘donor’ support for a big chunk of our budget, but that has not stopped us from maintaining an imperial presidency.

Even though many (I don’t know if it is most) of our people are impoverished beyond description, we continue to make our officials live lives that will make colonial masters envious.

For example, we give free accommodation to all our MPs and all our ministers. They also get other freebies. It should be said that MPs in most of the countries that ‘give’ us money live in their own house, buy and fuel their own vehicles.

Sadly, despite all the best that we do for them, our leaders continue to treat us with contempt. Actually, contempt is not strong enough word, but let’s settle for that.

We are poor and HIPCed (Highly Indebted and Poor Country) but we still do our utmost best to cater for the well-beings of our rulers.

Whilst the British Prime Minister travels on commercial flight, we do our best to buy a jet (or is it two?) for our president.

We borrowed money from the Indians to build a presidential palace befitting our status as the (what to say here?) Gateway to Africa (don’t laugh).

Ok, the whole edifice is an eyesore and is already falling apart, but we did our best.

Our president should have taken up residence there but for the silly oversight of our officials who didn’t noticed in time that it was not up to par, presidential par, that is.

Our security-unconscious officials approved the building of a presidential palace next to the French Embassy, so that the Frogs can listen to the most intimate of conversation of our Chief Executive, ah! They get paid for their stupidity.

We took it all in great stride; complaining loudly is not in our nature.

Almost all our top officials now tools around town in expensive four-wheel jeeps that consume petrol like there is no tomorrow. But why should they care; they are not paying for the petrol – we are!

And to ensure that they are not inconvenienced by the hardships that is our daily grind, our top officials zoom past us in siren-blaring convoy, leaving us, the hoi-poloi, to roast in the African sun.

Even our top policeman, the Inspector General of Police who receive salary to, among others things, ensure the free flow of traffic on our roads, now go around with a siren blaring dispatch rider. Don’t ask me whether or not the man is simply beyond irony.

That is the situation in our land. All animals are not equal and the big fish thinks that it its birthright to oppress the small fish.

We, the people, took it all in stride. We continue to wallow in our largely self-induced poverty. We continue to praise our gods for their infinite blessings, even as we wallow in conditions that would be deemed unacceptable for pigs in some countries. We continue to love our women and bring forth our children in conditions that would shame savages. We continue to shout our hallelujahs as we sleep in darkness and continue to drink from dirty streams.

One of the very first acts of the late President John Atta Mills on assumption of office was to raise the car loan allowance of our MPs to US$50,000.

The good professor did this with the hope that the MPs, so well remunerated, will work hard to help solve some of the country’s developmental problems.

For a country of some twenty four million people, we had two hundred MPs. This was later increased to two hundred and thirty. Now with the addition of some forty-seven new constituencies, we will soon have close to 280 MPs.

Not bad at all for a country that struggles in every facet of life!

Of course, the new MPs have to be put on salaries and allowances. Each of them will also collect the US50,000 car loan.

That ought not be a problem if we see our MPs doing their best to help the country.
But alas, the truth is that our parliament is one big joke.

Rescue me if I’m wrong, but apart from debating loans from China, Korea and Brazil, what else occupy the time and attention of our honourables?

According to our constitution, the parliament has oversights over government expenditure; ought we not ask why our MPs fall asleep when our money was being doled out in dubious judgment debt?

If parliament is statutorily charged with looking after our government finances, where did the Executive arm of government find the money to play Father Christmas and pay huge sums in judgment debt ‘settlement’?

Did parliament approve of the money, if not, what is parliament doing about it? Why are heads not rolling – I meant literally?

It is not only the charge of dereliction of duty that our parliament is guilty of:
On Tuesday, July13th, 2012, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho, adjourned sitting because most members of the House failed to show up.

There were only 40 MPs in the 230-member House.

An exasperated Mr. Adjaho, who could not hide his disappointment, expressed his dissatisfaction with conduct of the parliamentarians.

He was quoted as saying that “people who fight tooth and nail to win elections and come to Parliament must recognize that they owe their constituents ‘to attend upon this House to transact business of this House.’”

According to parliamentary sources, papers regarding some loans being contracted by the government were supposed to be laid before the House but the Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor failed to turn up.

The Minority, contending that the deputy minister, Mr Seth Terkper, had just returned from a trip and had probably not even read the documents he was about to lay before the House, objected to his presenting the papers.

The Public Health Bill which is at the Third Reading stage and was expected to be passed was also put on hold, as both the Chairman of the Health Committee, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, and his deputy, Mr Wisdon Gidisu, were not even on the floor of the House to move the motion for the passage of the bill into law.

According to Order 48 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, at least one-third of MPs are required to form a quorum before decisions can be taken at the parliament.

There is no indication that our honourable MPs will not, at the end of the month, collect their salaries and allowance for work not done.

It is a crime neither you nor I can get away with, but very sadly there is absolutely anything any of us can do about it.

It is simply unconscionable that those that are supposed to make laws that govern our country should behave so immorally.

So what do I suggest we do?

I will repeat my call here that it is time we adopt a part-time legislative system.
We do not need full-time legislators; it is simply too expensive.

I suggest that we divide our twenty-four million population into 240 constituent parts, that means that each representative represent 100,000 people. Let these 240 men and women be drawn from all the professions and let them sit for one to two months to consider all the legislations for one calendar year. They get paid allowances for their sitting, after which they revert to their professions.

Yes, of course, this is not an original idea. The Chinese are using the system.
“The National People's Congress is held in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, capital of the People's Republic of China; with 2,987 members, it is the largest parliament in the world.[1] The NPC gathers each year along with the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) whose members represent various defined groups of society. NPC and CPPCC together are often called the Lianghui (Two Meetings), making important national level political decisions.” – Wikipedia.

Aside from the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, China is at the forefront in making breakthrough in science and technology. The country has just sent its first female astronaut into space. It has successfully started its own space-station project.

It makes absolutely no sense at all that whilst China, with its mammoth economy, make do with part time legislature, we with our beggarly economy continue to maintain a full-time legislature.

Here are some statistics:

China’s economy boast of a GDP of US6.98trillion; Ghana’s economy, even after much recalibration, is still a paltry US$35billion.

According to the ECONOMIST magazine, the Chinese economy will shoot past the US to become the world’s number one by the year 2020: http://www.economist.com/node/21528987

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lifting a hand to help ourselves.

In my epic essay, ‘The Blackman’s dilemma,’ I wrote:

“If the truth be told, ours have become a lethargic race.

I have done my fair share of traveling around the world, and I daresay that I have never met any other group of people with absolutely no interest in improving their physical environment and material well-being like we Africans.

Many of our neighbourhoods are unfit for cattle pens in some societies.

For us, it is just normal when bare-footed, half-starved children with Kwashiorkor bellies parade our dirty streets.

We continue to build our shacks in mosquitoes-infested, rats overwhelmed swamps and it is in those hovels that we prepare and eat our foods; marry and love our women and born and raise our children.

It continues to baffle me why we Africans continue to look on with childlike helplessness while the rest of the world is speeding ahead, breaking new grounds in science and technology.

Why are we in Africa not interested in joining the scientific age?

About five decades ago, men landed on the moon. Today but for ethical considerations a human being could be cloned. It has already happened, if Mr. David Rorvik, the author of ‘In His Image,’ is to be believed. And yet we Africans continue to wallow in self-induced poverty. Our lives continue to be ruled by ignorance and superstition.

Although it might be argued that in themselves, science and technology are not the answers to what ails mankind, but we simply cannot run away from the fact that science and technology, at the very least, guarantee better qualities of life.

It saddens me to see our people still eking out of life primitive lifestyles other races have left behind eons ago. Potable water, regular electricity and decent shelter are still beyond the reach of most of our people. Our farmers continue to use implements invented by our ancestors thousands of years ago. And whilst our leaders continue to speechify; our telecommunication systems cannot compete with what obtained in some countries a century ago.

Our preachermen continue to tell the profane lies that our problems are caused by devils and demons, and that that they could only be solved by more prayers and supplications to phantoms and goblins of the sky.

This is an ungodly lie and many of the charlatans that call themselves pastors knew it. They have traveled to and lived in societies where men decently feed, clothe and house themselves without entreaties or adjurations to heavenly fathers. These cassocked thieves daily use products of science and technology, yet continue their ignoble lies that we need the gods to solve our problems.

Many of us have lived in societies where one has easy access to high quality health service and where an ambulance would come within five minutes of being summoned. And yet, we have so-called men of god profaning us with ungodly lies that Jesus is the answer.

Man had long proved that we need not pray to heavenly fathers or gyrate and dance ourselves silly to get cure for diseases that are easily curable. We know now, even if we do not know much else that malaria is caused by mosquito, and have absolutely nothing to do with witch-craft. We know that cholera is caused by unhygienic conditions and has nothing to do with demons or sorcery.

In many societies only those for whom thinking is an encumbrance still believe in the supernatural and the goblins of the sky. Why do we continue to ask for supernatural intervention to stave of flood?

What manner of people are we Africans really? We drown in flood during raining season (as witnessed in Mozambique, Ghana, Burkina Faso etc) and millions of us are killed by drought (a la Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Kenya).

Since my return from a sojourn in Europe I have seen things that made me wonder if we Africans are indeed capable of self-redemption. Instead of taking simple measures to help ourselves, we would rather troop to churches and mosques to plead with the gods to come and help us. We continue to look for miracles rather than exert small efforts to help ourselves.

I simply cannot believe that in this age people are still building houses without such basics like toilets and bathrooms? I am daily confronted by the sight of entire family trooping to bushes to answer the call of nature. There are deadly snakes suck like Cobras, but that is insufficient to deter our people.

Do we really need anybody to tell us that a toilet is an essential facility in a residence?

When I was growing up in my village some fifty something years ago, there were public toilet facilities. There were also Health Inspectors who went around town to ensure that the toilets were well maintained.

Five decades later, our folks still have to brave snakes, scorpions and other deadly creatures in order to relieve themselves.

No, we can no longer run away from the sad fact that we have become lethargic!

With an amazing, if childlike helplessness, we sit and wait for the government, NGOs, foreign ‘donors’ to come and solve basic problems for us. This is one of our peculiar habits that continue to baffle me.

No, it is not lack MONEY, although that is always our battle cry. We simply cannot get it into our heads to generate simple ideas to solve basic problems.

I once called a group of youth in my area together in order to get their ideas on why they cannot fix themselves common (sic) communal toilets. Their excuses range from the flimsy to the utterly ridiculous. Most said the government should do it. Many gave the ‘No Money Syndrome,’ excuse.

I then sat them down to work out how much it would cost to build a simple place of convenience.

We all discovered that it was an utterly ridiculous amount. All that is needed is a digger, a spade (both of which can be hired), some planks of wood and nails.

Money is not fighting in my pocket, but just to make them realize the ridiculousness of their excuses, I offered to pay half of the cost if only they could raise the other half and supply the labour. They left vowing to come back. Of course, I haven’t heard anything from them since.

And if that doesn’t sounds odd enough, what about this: Some of my neighbours with in-house toilets prefer to go into the bush because, according to them, it is cheaper than buying water to flush the toilets.

And my neighbours simply lacked the imagination to collect the water from the bathroom to use in flushing their toilets the way I do! They also fail to follow my example to harvest rain water!”

I penned that piece around 1998, fourteen years later, not much has changed. In fact, we have even become more lethargic. We have promoted begging to fine art. It appears we do nothing in Ghana today apart from begging.

We beg the Chinese, the Europeans, we beg the Americans, we beg the Arabs and we are now begging the Brazilians. We beseech everybody to come to our aid instead of doing things for ourselves. And we don’t know why others hold us in such utter contempt.

I don’t have a television in my house but I do visit friends and occasionally watch the news with them.

It looks like I’m the only way who is continually appalled by the endemic begging mentality our people have developed. Our elected officials do nothing except to beg and plea with foreigners for help. Our news contains only information about how x, y, z from Europe, Brazil, America or Arabia has donated this or that to help us.

What happened to self pride and shame!

I once saw the headmaster of a high school somewhere in the north pleading for government assistance because cows have invaded his school.


We had a farm when I was in primary school and it was well fenced. How could a whole secondary school throw up its hand up and watch cows destroy its property? What would it cost this school to expend some energy in cutting the woods and the ropes to build a fence? Why should government in Accra be bothered with these types of patently silly requests as though it hasn’t got enough on its plate?

There was another story about the chief of a town in the Eastern region begging government to come and dig a well for them. He lamented how his people are forced to drink from a dirty stream. Gleefully, the journalists captured him on tape without asking him what type of chief cannot mobilize his own people to dig a common well.

I have to ask myself what exactly is wrong with us that we seem to have forgotten all about community service.

I remember as a young man how people in my home town gather to help neighbours build houses. The owner will provide the food and the whole town chipped in to build.

When the British colonized us they made us build all the infrastructures they thought we needed. They taxed us and use our labour to build the road, the dispensaries and the schools in our community. They bequeathed to us a public work Department to make sure that we had the wherewithal to take care of essential services.

I am not praising colonialism, but the PWD was a darn good initiative.

What happened to all those sense of community? What happened to make us become so helpless? What happened that make us think nothing of belittling ourselves begging all and sundry?

And what are my suggestions?

To begin with, methinks that it is time our leaders become bold enough to tell us some home truth.
Were I a president or a minister on a visit to a village or town and the chief beg for a well or a toilet. My answer would be that a chief that cannot organise his own people to build a common toilet or well does not deserve the stool. The headmaster of secondary who lacked the imagination to get his students to build a common fence deserve to be sacked.

It cost about GHC400 to dig a well deep enough to get fresh water. If people are too lazy to dig, let them contribute and hire people to do it for them. When they have funeral, they always contribute. They also always manage to get enough money to buy their daily dosage of liquor, but when it comes to providing themselves with basic essentials of life, they clamour for help from government or foreign NGOs.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wanted: Financial Engineer

All I can I say is that we have been overwhelmed into insensitivity by sheer excess. I have studied very carefully those figures and I have had to take a couple of aspirins after every paragraph, after every figure to ask and pinch myself; are we really living in the real world? Or whether this is some kind of fantasy world which is projected onto the pages of newspapers.

These are not figures plucked out in thin air. We have listened very carefully, the sources of these figures have been cited, the reaction of House of Representatives have been noted; but we have not heard any of these figures disputed by the relevant instruments of government.

One can no longer use the words like disdain and contempt, we have moved beyond that. We are being treated, not even like first or second class or third class citizens, when we are brushed in this way, we are being dehumanized.

It goes beyond just insults from arrogance of people who believe that they can get away with murder. Just as we thought we had recovered from the pension scam, along came a humongous, material assault on the resources of the ordinary people. All that I will ask is a specific plea that the populace should be ready for another determined march on corruptio
n.” – Wole Soyinka

Do you mean to tell me that I should vibrate with gratitude that close to sixty years after we start to govern ourselves, we have not manage to build the hospitals that are good enough to cater for the health of our leaders? I think that it is such affront like people trooping to airports, to welcome president that have gone on medical checkups, that make our leaders pat themselves on the back and award themselves unwarranted pass marks. For your information, I spent the last three days at the Korel-Bu hospital, attending to a sick relation. What my eyes saw there makes me believe that we are being governed by uncaring leaders who continue to sodomise us, and treat us with the utmost contempt. The conditions of things I saw at what goes for the premier hospital in our land, makes me believe that we being governed by people who simply do not have our interest at heart.” – Femi Akomolafe, ‘Welcoming the president.’

My brother, I need help and very fast. Do you think that you can help me?

Help you with what?

Seriously, my brother, I need help big time and I need it like yesterday?

I do my best to help within my capacity. But you first need to tell me the nature of your problem. I don’t like to make empty promises.

It’s not a problem, per se. In the process of helping me, you might even be able to help yourself. At least, you will be able to change your ward-robe.

You! What is wrong with my ward-robe?

Do you think that I have not noticed? Upon all the big grammar you write in the papers all the time, you have been wearing the same cloths for the past five years. When was the last time you change your sandals? Or do you think that I did not notice?

I thought you had enough problems of your own to bother yourself with worries over my clothes and sandals.

And maybe you can change that ancient jalopy with which you pollute the environment.
You! Who is complaining? My jalopy takes me around town, and that is good enough for me. Why the need to diss it?

That is what you will say. You go around town in smoke-belching ancient contraption you call car whilst people with less than one percent of your intellect, tool around town in the latest designer 4x4 jeeps, with all the modern gadgets known to electronics. They have money in their purses than you see in one year. They spend more money on their girl-friends phones than you spend feeding yourself for one year. One of the dresses their apushkeleke wears is enough to replenish your tattered ward-robe…

Please, please, enough of all these pulldowns. What are you getting at?

I am just telling you that you and I are doing something wrong, fundamentally wrong. Why do we remain poor? Why, tell me? Why are we not having good times like the rest of our compatriots? There is plenty money in Ghana, why are we missing out?
Our elders say that fingers are not equal. Some are better than me; and I’m better than a lot of people.

That is what you will say. You and your wretched proverbs which will not get you anywhere. You also have the philosophy of those condemned to poverty. I am leaving you behind. If you don’t like better things, I would like to enjoy small-small before I go join the ancestors.

What exactly are you talking about?

You still don’t get it, do you? I say that it is time we join the band-wagon of prosperous Ghanaians. I won’t like to be condemned to a life of perpetual penury. I don’t want to go and meet my maker in tattered clothes. My brother, I want to make some money before I die. I want to make some big money? I want to drive one of those their monster jeep before I die.

What did you drink this morning?

What do you mean; did someone tell you that I drank something?

The way you are talking, what brought about all these talk about money, big money?
Stand there like a fool, where have you been all this while?

What do you mean where have I been? We see each other every blessed day. And you’re asking me where I have been.

Don’t you listen to the news; watch the television?

Nah. I gave up long time ago. The news nowadays only distresses me.

Ah, no wonder. That’s how you come to miss the biggest news of the century.

News of the century, what is that?

Sit down there and ask me what the news of the century is. Anyway, I need your help.
Stop beating round the bush and tell me what is bugging you.

I need only two people…

For what, are you into Sakawa or what?

You, your impatience will kill you. Why don’t you let me land before you bury me?
Ok, land but hasten it.

I need a Financial Engineer…

A what?

That is why I said you are too impatient. Listen to me, first.

Sorry, ok, go ahead.

I need a Financial Engineer; I also need a damn good lawyer. With those two, I’m made for life. I can laugh all the way to my bank and smile my way out of my present poverty.

And you said that you didn’t drink something!

No, my brother, I didn’t drink anything. I am as sober as they come. You write all those big grammar in the newspapers, you must have some contacts to pull to get me those two guys.

A Financial Engineer?

Yes, plus a damn good lawyer. Actually, I’d like to see if you can get me a former Attorney General, who has the presence to intimate all and sundry. He must be someone like those characters from Grisham books – those fast-talking mouthpieces who knows the law like no man’s business.

You are not making sense. And you want a Financial Engineer, a most nebulous term if you ask me. And now you want a former Attorney General. You want to kill them for money or what?

You! Who is talking murder here? I am not into murder or any crappy Sakawa stupid scam. What I do will always be decent, legal and above-board.

So you say.

Sarcasm will get you everywhere. You truly have missed the news. Can you try and get the two people for me?

I do not know what to make of your request, are you sure that you are sober?
My friend, please quit jiving. The new game in town now is to collect judgment debt from the government, or haven’t you heard of the term?

I have heard of it all-right but I thought it is supposed to be under investigation by the parliament…

You thought wrong, my friend. And who gives a damn about investigation in this country of ours?

And you say that it is legal and above-board, but it is anything but.

Says who?

It is a scam which the state is seriously investigating?

Seriously investigating, are you for real? Don’t make me laugh with such naiveté.

What is naïve in that? I read that the parliament is seriously investigating the matter.

Blessed are the trusting for they shall remain gullible. Where was your serious parliament when what you called scam was been perpetrated against the nation?

Anyway that’s neither my business nor my concern. Try and get me a Financial Engineer to help me wake up some claim against the government, sort the paperworks out so that I can go and collect my money. We can work out reasonable percentages; you know that I’m not a greedy bloke.

Just like that?

What do you mean just like that?

You think that the government is stupid to just give money away like that?

Now you make me laugh.

And why are you laughing?

You asked me if I was for real; it is my turn now to ask you if you are for real or where you have been. What has the government been doing all these time except pay judgment debt, just like that, to use your expression?

You said Judgment Debt, but you haven’t got any judgment, have you?

Ah, now you are getting the picture. That is where the lawyer comes in. And, yes, we need one with enough credentials to send shivers down the spine of our under-paid and over-worked state attorneys.

How, how does it work?

You are asking the wrong person. Why do you think I ask you for a Financial Engineer? If I knew the intricacies o financial engineering, do you think that I’ll come to you? The Financial Engineer’s job is to gather all the necessary intelligence about which government payment has lapsed, ferret out the relevant information and documents, do the necessary paper works, see the people that necessary to see and present a claim to the government. If some silly civil servant dilly or dally, our formidable lawyer enters the fray and spew enough Latin buzzwords to dazzle everyone. He will threaten to invoke Order of Mandamus, Habeus Corpus, Nolle Prosequi, Certiorari and all those intimidating Latin jargons that never fail to awe and shock. The cowed state attorneys are only too happy to settle out of court. Luckily for us, the Chinese government has just released US$3 billion to our government. If we move fast, we could get a small bit of the action. We shouldn’t become too greedy. Even a tiny percentage of that three billion dollars will stand us in good stead and lift us far above the poverty line? I can get me a dreamy four-wheel, buy me a house or two at choice areas and have the apushkelekes swarming over me. What do you say; are you game?

Don’t you think that you are looking at long stretch of years at Nsawam prison?
Get out of there. How many people have been jailed so far, tell me? Who is going to jail you if government pays you government money? You are truly a killjoy? Let me get out of here before you contaminated me with negative vibes. Keep on wallowing in your self-induced poverty whilst smart people are having good time.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Minister Hannah Tetteh’s huge gaffe!

I still reach for reggae songs when events seem to overwhelm me. This week has rather been particularly grueling. A sickness in the family bothered the mind greatly.

As though that were not grave enough, I had to spend time listening to the ongoing Public Account Committee of the Parliament, revealing how our officials decide to play Father Christmas with our money, by doling out big, big money to their cronies, for very dubious reasons.

Then came news that the Ministry of Trade and Industry has formed a Task-Force to chase non-Ghanaians petty traders out of the retail market in Ghana.

On Tuesday, the 3rd the sector minister made good her threat and sent task Force out.

Nigerian blogosphere was saturated with erroneous reports of deportation, eviction and brutalization of Nigerians in Ghana.

So, unable to make sense of all the noises, I settle down and listen to Lucky Dube:
"If I'm dreaming don't wake me up if it's a lie don't tell me the truth
'Cause what the truth will do, it's gonna hurt my heart
Being in the darkness for so long now
Mr. President, did I hear you well Last night on TV
You said:
The group areas act is going Apartheid is going

Ina me eye me sight the future so bright
I mean I my eyes
I see the future so bright

When the blackie manna coming together
With the whitey manna
Whitey manna coming together with the blackman
Gazing at my crystal ball I see the future so bright
The fighting's gonna stop now
We'll forgive and forget I know Mr. President
You can't please everyone
But everybody liked it
When you said

Group areas act is going
Apartheid is going

Was I dreaming or what? Sometimes, one wishes that everything is just a dream and that one will wake up to a blissful reality.

I have spent the last three decades or so arguing that Africa should unite or perish. There is simply no alternative.

And just the week before, I was a member of the Pan Afrikan Council delegation that met with the Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, to discuss continental unity.

The head reels: would African nations, in this globalised age, revert to primordial, silly jingoistic madness when the rest of the world are integrating and marching forward?

Unable to take it any longer, and unwilling to employ harsh polemic, I decided on a satire. The result was “Cry, the beloved country,’ which is located on my blog: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/2012/07/cry-bloved-continent.html.

No one can accuse the Mills government of being a good communicator. I have said it several times that poor communications is the greatest handicap of the professor’s government.

Neither the government nor the ruling party has done a good job at selling the impressive development programmes the government is carrying out across the country. The result is that the government appears like one that is adrift, unachieving and totally clueless.

It is indeed in the communication department that President Mills lent great credence to the charge that he fielded Team B for ministerial positions.

The president Communication Director has to be gagged recently because he has a penchant for spewing utter garbage most of the time. The question remains unanswered as to why the president chooses someone that believes that puerile combativeness and juvenile garrulousness are substitute for effective communication, to speak for him.

Also, the Deputy Information Minister appears too infantile, in both comportment and in speeches, to speak effectively for a government or a party. He is mostly in the news for the negative reasons. He appears to speak before remembering that thoughts ought to precede speechifying. His latest imbecilic faux pas was the utter garbage that NPP people are dying because they wished President Mills ill!

With the government communication’s team apparently asleep, Ghana’s international credibility took a big bashing this week when news circulated that the Mills government has thrown the country back to the dark days of the Infamous Alien Compliance days of 1969, when Africans were thrown out of the country.

The Minister of Trade and Industry was on the airwaves saying that non-Ghanaians, without exception (in her word), are to comply with legal requirements that they should fork out US$300,000 and employ ten Ghanaians if they want to engage in retail trading.

Even after a delegation of ECOWAS met with her, she came out with a statement that the law must be upheld and that there was no going back.

She was adamant even after she was cautioned that she was not only threading on a dangerous path, but that she will be breaching ECOWAS treaties and protocols.

I reached for the relevant ECOWAS papers and discovered that Ghana will, indeed, be breaching the spirit, if not the letter of portions of the ECOWAS protocols.

This is what I discovered: According to PROTOCOL A/P.1/5/79 RELATING TO FREE MOVEMENT OF PERSONS, RESIDENCE AND ESTABLISHMENT THE HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES RECALLING that sub-paragraph (d) of paragraph 2 of Article 2 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States calls on Member States to ensure by stages the abolition of the obstacles to free movement of persons, services and capital ; RECALLING also that paragraph 1 of Article 27 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States confers the status of Community citizenship on the citizens of Member States, and also enjoins Member States to abolish all obstacles to freedom of movement and residence within the Community ; RECALLING further that paragraph 2 of Article 27 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States further calls on Member States to exempt Community citizens from holding visitor’s visa and residence permits and allow them to work and undertake commercial and industrial activities within their territories : CONVINCED of the need to spell out in this protocol the various stages to be undergone to accomplish complete freedom of movement as envisaged by sub-paragraph (d) of paragraph 2 of Article 27 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States.

I am not a legal luminary and my understanding of legal terms is rather hazy, but the Protocol to which Ghana has appended its signature appears to make it clear that the country cannot discriminate against ECOWAS citizens.

The question beggared is: does the Ministry of Trade and Industry have a legal department and did the minister avail herself of their services?

I was told that she herself is a lawyer, even if only a corporate one.

Historians will look back at the Mills administration as one that appears not to be cohesive, and one in which top members appear not to know or appreciate what the other officials are doing.

I was at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in May this year on the occasion to mark the 102nd Anniversary of the birth of the Osagyefo.

Speaking at the occasion, The Vice-President, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, who came with former South African President Mbeki, called on Africans to remove artificial barriers, unite and mobilise resources in order to develop the continent.

In his beautiful speech, which drew applauses, Mr. Mahama charged Africans to stop depending on the West for aid and rather take their destinies into their own hands to grow their economies. He told us further that China had become a giant economy because of the high population and the strong leadership and drive to succeed.

He said Africa, with its one billion population, could go the way of China if Africans “can do away with the artificial barriers that divide us” and mobilise resources to develop the continent.

He expressed regret that Africans were not leveraging on their strength but rather depended on the West for support, which was against the vision of the founding fathers of the continent.

The Vice-President told us that nobody could “create space” for Africa to develop, hence the need for Africans to work together to develop the continent.

He further stressed the need for the Africans to let Dr Nkrumah’s memory to spur them on as one people with a common destiny.

And speaking at a symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence on the 5th of July 2012, the Vice President reiterated his call for continental unity. He said although Africa was now free from colonialism, a lot more remained to be done. "Until we join forces and bring our people together towards common goals, we would not reach our full potential in progress," he said.

He further asserted that Ghana’s Founding Father, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, ultimately aimed at the unification of Africa "but this appears to be in limbo now."

The VP told us that Ghana had an indelible heritage by the role it had played in the struggle for liberation, and added that this placed on the country, the role and responsibility of always portraying what it basically stood for, which was African unity and liberty.

Lofty speeches, but how do we reconcile this with the stance of the Minister of Trade and Industry of the same government?

Are we to believe that our officials are interested only in hearing the music of their voices? Or are we to believe that they are just bloody hypocrites who play to any gallery?

What are we to make of the discordant speeches of two senior members of the same government? It is difficult to imagine such ponderous decision been taken by a single minister on her own. Or are to believe that Madam Tetteh took that decision without cabinet approval or do we take it that the VP was present when the decision was taken to sack non-Ghanaians from retail selling?

Any idiot should know that our so-called countries in Africa are in dire straits because of the hostile global environment in which we play.

It is sad that after thirty seven years we are still debating who in ECOWAS is allowed to sell what.

Whilst our minister shouts herself hoarse about retailers, our people in East Africa, who started later than us, have evolved into an Economic Union.

Most of the countries in Africa are too small to succeed, even the big ones must contend with more powerful blocs. Not even Nigeria or South Africa can expect to come out best if placed against the might of the European Union.

After much confusion and gnashing of teeth, the MTI came out with a statement on Friday, July 06, 2012 to the effect that, after all, it has been wrong and that ECOWAS citizens are, indeed exempted.

In a belated press release, the ministry has this to say: “Specifically ECOWAS citizens are not being asked to have invested US$300,000.00 neither are they being asked to employ ten Ghanaians in their businesses. They are however expected to meet the same conditions that Ghanaian citizens who start businesses are expected to comply with. This means that they are required to register businesses with the Registrar General’s Department, they are required to register with the Ghana Revenue Authority and pay taxes in the same way as Ghanaians are expected to do, and because they are not our nationals they are expected to properly apply for residential status in Ghana.” - http://business.myjoyonline.com/pages/news/201207/89655.php

We would have all been spared all the embarrassment and anguish if only the minister has done her home work well.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Welcoming the president

My brother, where were you? I was all over the place looking for you.

Me, why, what happened?

I had wanted you to join us to go to the airport.

Airport, why? I didn’t know that you expected someone from abroad.

You! Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t hear that our president was coming from his most successful overseas trip, and that it’d be good to lavish him with a big welcome party? To let him know that we love and appreciate him. I looked all over the place for you, but I had to leave you behind, otherwise the trotro would have left me behind, and I’d have missed the biggest show of the year. My brother, you don’t know what you missed!

What did I miss?

What! You missed much, I tell you. Accra was transformed beyond measure; the Kotoka airport was totally altered beyond description. The crowd, my God!

Transformed by whom, altered to what?

You! I meant it was not the Accra you used to know. The sea of people dwarfed anything the capital has seen in recent years. Honestly, I cannot remember a more gargantuan crowd since the last time President Obama came calling. No political party rally can pull so many crowd, I tell you. It was unbelievable!

And the occasion was to welcome the president back from a state visit.

Why do you sound so skeptical? No, it was not a state visit. Who said that it was state visit? The president went for a medical check-up in the United States of America. And when his doctors gave him a clean bill of health, we decide to give thanks and praises to the almighty father in heaven for his abundant blessings.

Abundant blessings?

Yes, for all the showers of blessings our dear country continue to receive and the Almighty largess in seeing that our much beloved president came back all hale and hearty. You should have seen the thunderous applause as the president emerged from his plane. Oh, my God. I can die now and go blissfully to my grave.

Must have been some show.

Don’t talk, my brother, you don’t know what you missed. You should have come and see our Ghanaian women doing their thing. The way they can gyrate those things they pack behind, you will know that they meant business.

What business?

Na me you dey ask! I think that it is time we patent our women luscious backsides and commercialise it into some tourist attraction! Anyway, where were you; where did you go that made you missed the biggest show in town this year? And you should have seen Mr. President; he didn’t disappoint at all.

Oh, what did he do?

Wow! Now you asked me. When he saw the massive crowd, the president was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t resist jogging?

Now kid me, the president was in a jogging suit?

You! Who talked about jogging suit?

But you said that the president jogged.

He jogged and he could have given Husain Bolt a run for his money, but he was not in a jogging suit.

What do you mean; he jogged in his business suit?

What is wrong with you; I told you that the president was overwhelmed.


Hmmm what?

All well and jolly, but do you really believe that I would have gone with you?

You meant you would have refused to go and welcome the president?

Don’t make me laugh. Can you honestly imagine me going to Accra, to the airport, to welcome a president? Are you for real?

What do you mean, am I for real? Of course, I am for real.

Don’t make me laugh.

And why should you be laughing, what is laughable here? What is wrong with welcoming our dear president back?

I didn’t say that anything is wrong with people welcoming their president, but the whole thing you narrated reminds me of some shibboleths put together by some communist apparachitiks. It reminds me of the Soviet era. Are we still in the era when people are rented to go and welcome leaders? I thought that people should have better employment for their time than engage in useless jamboree.

What do you mean by that; do you say welcoming a returning president is a useless jamboree?

Would you say it was a productive enterprise, then?

I really don’t know what is wrong with you. You look and sound like a killjoy.

Everyone was happy and if only to watch those massive, gyrating buttocks of our women, it was worth all the money.

I am beginning to understand why our leaders take us so much for granted. We have not had light for four days in Kasoa, and you expect me to join you and go to the airport to welcome a president, incredible!

That is just a silly excuse. You would have given another lame excuse even if you have had light. Look, it is people like you who are always confusing people.

Which people did I confuse?

You academic people are always whining about this or that, instead of appreciating the little blessings of life…

Ah! I pray, kindly tell me what these blessings are that I should be grateful for?

Do you mean that I should be thankful for blessings like sleeping in darkness for the past four days, and should be grateful for not been able to earn a living in the past four days? Ah, you ask for too much. Do you mean to tell me that I should vibrate with gratitude that close to sixty years after we start to govern ourselves, we have not manage to build the hospitals that are good enough to cater for the health of our leaders? I think that it is such affront like people trooping to airports, to welcome president that have gone on medical checkups, that make our leaders pat themselves on the back and award themselves unwarranted pass marks. For your information, I spent the last three days at the Korel-Bu hospital, attending to a sick relation. What my eyes saw there makes me believe that we are being governed by uncaring leaders who continue to sodomise us, and treat us with the utmost contempt. The conditions of things I saw at what goes for the premier hospital in our land, makes me believe that we being governed by people who simply do not have our interest at heart. Whilst you and your band of senseless partisans are dancing yourselves silly to welcome Mr. President home, Ghanaian women are giving birth on bare floor at Korle-Bu. Whilst Mr. President was doing his jogging gigs, seriously sick Ghanaians lie groaning on bare concrete floors at Korle-Bu, because there is not enough bed for them. And you want me to go and gyrate with gratitude because Mr. President returns from a medical trip abroad, ah!.

But what is wrong with being grateful to the almighty for small mercies.

Nothing , per se. But methinks that if we want to see some development in this country, it is time we begin to elevate our thoughts, and raise the bar of our expectations from those that put themselves up to govern us. Methinks that because our expectations are so abysmally low, those that put themselves up for positions of leadership have also lowered their performance bar.

What do you mean by all those jargons?

I mean that it is time we in Ghana, in Africa, stop being thrilled by presidents coming back from medical trips abroad. It is time we stop rolling out welcoming mats for leaders who go abroad for personal reasons, of health or whatever. To begin with, our presidents should have no business to seek medical checkup abroad. It is an insult to our sovereignty and an affront to our integrity. Tiny Cuba has managed to build world-class medical facilities in the tiny Island, and is earning good money from them. Ditto Israel. Why should our leaders, in all of the fifty plus years of our independence, never consider the building of a world-class hospital in mother Ghana? I will tell you the reason. Our leaders know that we are complete fools who are too mesmerized by life’s inanities to think critically. They know that we are easily swayed by emotional and utterly mundane things. Our leaders know that many of us go through life without reading anything more intellectually-challenging than our Lotto papers and so-called holy books. They know all these things; that explain why they treat us with impunity. If our leaders are compelled, by whatever means, to patronize the same health facilities they build for the rest of us, they will surely upgrade them to befitting status. The same goes for the joke we call educational system which is neither systemic nor educational. If the children of our leaders are forced to attend the schools their parents build for the hoi poloi, they will make sure that the standards are upgraded and our landscape will not be defaced by the mushroom, one-room universities scattered all over the country.

PS: I dedicate this piece to the memory of my late brother\friend, Alhaji Moro Ayittey, who, very sadly, joined the ancestors on the 17th of June, 2012.

Alhaji Moro was among the most kind-hearted human beings I knew. His orphanage at Ofaakor, near Kasoa, stands as a great testimony to his very generous heart.

May the ancestors forgive him his sins and welcome him.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cry, the beloved continent.

I told you so, didn’t I?

What are you talking about, now? What did you tell me and why are you so agitated like an excited cobra?

I told you that you and your bunch of so-called dreaming Pan-Africanists are deluded jokers, delusional day-dreamer, stupid utopians…

Ok, ok, I get the drift. But what have we done wrong this time to warrant all these big grammar and insults. And what exactly is wrong is wrong with dreaming; didn’t they say that the future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams?

Where have you been hiding; didn’t you hear the Minister of Trade has given ECOWAS citizens the marching order.

Ah, The power of rumour and mis-information. She didn’t ask anyone to leave; she gave no marching order.

What did she do, then?

If I heard it correctly, she said that those foreigners engaged in petty trading should regularize their business permits or quit trading.

Same difference.

It is not the same as giving marching order.

Ah, you! Our elders say that when the host starts showing you the last bit of the yam, it is clear message that it is time for you to move on. When your host country starts to ask you for the impossible, it is a polite way to tell you to vamoose, get lost.

You and your proverbs! The minister just asked foreigners to comply the law of the land.

By asking them to pay Three hundred thousand US dollars?

That is what the law says.

Don’t make me laugh. Do you think any of those traders have seen three thousand dollars in their entire lives? Do you think that the entire stock of what they peddle can come up to three hundred dollars?

The law must be respected.

Am not saying that the law must not be respected, what I’m saying is that rather than hide behind that ridiculous, even extortionate demand, the government should have the gut to simply ban the foreigners from trading.

They will be breaching the ECOWAS treaty obligations.

Won’t they be breaching it if the foreigners leave en-masse?

That would be their business; their free choice. No one ask them to leave.

Do you honestly think that those guys will be in Ghana if they have three hundred thousand US dollars fighting in their pockets?

How am I to know?

Do you know what I really find funny about the whole thing?

You tell me.

Just few days ago, we roll out the big drums to celebrate what we call African Liberation Day. And our officials spent good money to go around and make beautiful speeches about the virtues of African unity and how Ghana is, once again, blazing the trail, in the march for continental unity. What exactly is wrong with us? Why are we such a bunch of mindless jokers?

What do you mean?

Why do officials say something and do exactly the opposite. Why do they mouth Pan-Africanism when their hearts are not in it? And tell me, do they really have their brains screw on in the right places?

What do you mean by that?

When they talk of foreigners, do these officials in Accra really know what they talk about? Is the Ewe trader in Togo who brings goods to sell at his Uncle’s house in Aflao or Keta a foreigner? Or is the Akan fellow in La Cote d’Ivoire who brings his goods to his family house at Enchi in the Western Region to sell a foreigner? Or is the guy in Burkina Faso who helps his uncle in Paga trade goods across the border a foreigner? I tell you that the families in both Aflao, Enchi and Paga do not consider their families across the insane borders the Europeans imposed on Africa as foreigners. They are their kiths and kins.

I don’t see what all these have got to do with asking foreigners to comply with our laws?

And I say that the laws should be clearer on whom we call foreigners.

The laws are pretty clear on who a Ghanaian is.

But it is not clear on whom I should regard as foreigner in my home. If I live in Ghana and have families in both Ghana and Togo, am I to think of the children of my sister, who lives across the border, my cousins, as foreigner in my house?

Everyone has to obey the law.

You sound like a broken record. Do you know what worries me?

I know a lot of things worry you; you are a born worrier. But go ahead and tell me.
I really don’t know whether our officials have the interests of Ghanaians at heart.
What do you mean by that?

Have you travel around West Africa?

I have been to about nine or ten countries in the sub-region, but to where are you taking this?

I just wondered if our officials are not being too provincial, too parochial for their own good. What we find all over West Africa are ordinary people engaging themselves in petty trading all over the place. Do our officials think that Ghanaians are not engaging in petty trading in other West African countries?

But they obey the laws of their host countries.

Says who? Do you, for example, know that Ghanaians dominate the fishing industry in Liberia?

I don’t know why you keep riding this horse; there is simply no law against them engaging in fishing in Liberia. The government of Ghana, in trying to regularize his trade policies, asked foreigners to post a certain amount as the law says.

And did our official consider what they will do if the other countries decide to retaliate?

I am not privy to the inner workings of government; but I’m sure they must have considered that possibility.

Do you know what I find funny in this whole saga?

What is that?

At the same time the minister was blowing hot and cold over petty traders, the media is saturated with reports of the Chinese running amok in the galamsey gold mining industry. They are everywhere, all over the country, illegally mining gold. And they are doing it openly and with the biggest machines you can imagine. Yet, our minister’s attention is rather tuned to issues of ECOWAS petty traders.

You forget that China is a big power and our government receives a lot of support from the Chinese government.

The Nigerians will also tell you that their government rendered support to Ghana.
What support? Please, please, you cannot compare apple with orange: Nigeria is no China.

The gas we use come from Nigeria, for example. We will be hard-pressed if the Nigerians turn off the West African Gas Pipeline. They also gave our police some cars. Do you know what I find silliest about the whole thing?

Please, we pay for the gas; it is not a charity. I don’t know about the police car issue. But go ahead and tell me what you find silly.

What I find silly is the fact that even in the most racist of European countries, foreigners, including Africans, are allowed to have their own markets where they engaged in petty trading of produce from their home countries. In rabidly racist Holland, Africans have markets in the Bijlmer area of Amsterdam.

And the point is?

The point is that what our government has embarked on is quite pointless and counter-productive. It is quite natural for human beings to gravitate towards where they find their kind; people they can relate to. That explains why foreigners always concentrate in the same area. As soon as you have foreigners sojourning amongst you, it goes without saying that they will be engage in petty trading of the stuffs they are sued to at home. For example, Ghanaians eat Kenkey and Banku which is not well known in Nigeria. What happened is that many Ghanaians simply set up shops at the Agege area of Lagos to sell their home food to their compatriots. The lingua franca there is unadulterated Akan. Any visitor to Nigeria will tell you that it is Ghanaians that dominate the puff-puff, what you Ghanaians call Bofrot, business in Lagos. Another example, many Nigerians consider bitter leaf a delicacy, whereas Ghanaians think of it as just another leaf. So if Nigerians in Ghana start selling bitter leaves to their compatriots, does the minister really expect them to fork out three hundred thousand dollars?

You are forgetting that the minister is just upholding the laws of Ghana.

And you are forgetting that it is not only Ghana that is capable of making laws?

Ghanaians will respect the laws of their host countries.

That is all well and jolly. I am just afraid that in these hard economic times, how the government will cope if other countries decide to retaliate and try to make lives of Ghanaians in their countries hard, it has been known to happen. Do you know what worries me?

I thought you broached on that already?

No, I’m just worried about the reactions of the Anagos.

You meant the Nigerians; they don’t like to be called Anagos since only the Yoruba part of them are actually Anagos?

Yes, thanks for your information. But those guys could be pretty emotional and irrational, you know.


Last week the lower chamber of their parliament, the one they call the House of Representathieves, call for a break of diplomatic relations with Ghana.

Ah, now, you kid me!

No, I kid you not.

A break in diplomatic relation over the matter of petty trading; they cannot be serious?

Looks like they are dead serious; that is what I meant when I said they could be both emotional and irrational. According to them, they have invested too much energies and resources in pan-African pipe dreams, and it has gotten them nowhere. They lamented their heavy investments in the liberation struggles across Africa, plus their interventions in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. And they complained that their citizens continue to be treated with impunity; looks like they are baying for blood, any blood. They are fast changing tact. Their president announced that the interests of Nigeria and the welfare of Nigerians are now at the centerpiece of both his internal and external policies. I think they emphatically proved that with South Africa few weeks ago.

Oh, what did they do?

I forgot how it all started, but the gist is that some excited South African immigration officials deported en-masse a plane load of Nigerians. Nigeria retaliated by expelling hundreds of South Africans and threatened to send all South African firms packing. It took mighty diplomatic efforts before the Anagos, sorry Nigerians, backed down. If they can do that to South Africa, you can imagine what they can do to country like Ghana.

I’m sure our officials must have configured that into their equation. Anyhow, it is not the same thing; no one is deporting any Nigerians or any foreigners. They just have to obey the law; that is all. As ECOWAS citizens, they are free to stay in Ghana.

Free to stay and do what? If they are free to stay and cannot work, do we expect them to eat shit?

It is their business to fend for themselves within the ambits of the laws of Ghana.
Do you know another thing that worries, or shall I say amuses me?

Tell me.

The gods, in their infinite mercies, blessed our continent with huge mineral resources. What do we do with it? Naught; absolutely nothing. We do nothing with our plentiful minerals except to accept tokens from the Arabs, Asians or Europeans, who then bring their machineries to extract these precious minerals, cart them away to manufacture goods which we become accustomed to loving. So, what do we do? Like the mindless children that we are, rather than borrow money to build the factories to process these minerals into finished products, we would rather be using the pittance we receive from the so-called investors to import the finished products. What do we then do, and this is where our collective insanity become glaring and unfathomable: we start to bicker over who is allowed to sell these imported items on our streets. Countries are not developed by petty traders; they are developed by building the industrial and manufacturing bases to use local materials to propel our economic development agenda. That is why it baffles the mind greatly that our ministers will have the mind and time to be chasing petty traders, rather than focusing on the big pictures of building processing plants for our raw materials and minerals. It is like our officials prefer to tackle the boil whilst leaving the leprosy intact. And that, to me, is our biggest tragedy in Africa!

Wise saying:

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