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January 2009

Browsing
President John Mills doesn’t seem to be in a mood to create any job for the boys. This is exemplified in his decision to scrap four ministries created by his predecessor. With such a bold move, the president is well on his way to keeping his campaign promise of running a lean and mean government. That’s a good start and I am very much impressed.
But I am a wee bit disappointed that the president decided to maintain a ministry like the one for Chieftaincy and Culture. They do nothing there. They are not ‘promoting’ any culture and they are not helping in any way to make chieftaincy relevant to our existence.
I once heard S. K. Boafo rambling incoherently in bid to define his role as Minister for Chieftaincy and Culture. He had no clue. I am sure the president himself will be hard pressed to justify the existence of that ministry. But political expediency and sheer populism makes it almost impossible to scrap this ministry. If the president dares scrap it, he would come under an avalanche of criticism from chiefs and cultural crusaders. So I understand why he wants to keep the Ministry Chieftaincy and Culture. I look forward to hearing what the nominee for chieftaincy and culture, Alexander Asuom Ahinsa, will say at his nomination hearing about what he perceives his role to be.
I also wonder why we still need a Ministry for Women and Children Affairs. I am all in favour of women empowerment and gender equality. But I don’t think the best way to achieve this is to create a special ministry just for women and children. The best way to go about this is to do exactly what the president has promised he would do – make sure that women are appointed to fill at least 40 percent of vacancies in the public service and civil service. This means we should see more women as ministers and chief directors. There would also be women at the helm of various departments and agencies. If we have a leader committed to ensuring that women have equal opportunities as men to prove their worth in public service, we don’t need a whole ministry for women. At best, I think we should have a women’s department under the ministry of Employment and Social Welfare.
President Mills also needs to be commended for having the wisdom to merge Kufuor’s Ministry of Aviation and Ministry of Ports, Harbours and Railways under one ministry – Transport. But I am still wondering why there is a separate ministry for Roads and Highways. I hear the Roads and Highways Ministry generates sack loads of kickbacks and so they need a whole ministry to manage them. Whatever the case may be, I think Roads and Highways can conveniently be placed under the Transport Ministry as well. My teachers at Essikado Bethany Methodist taught me that ships, trains, aeroplanes and cars are all modes of transport. I suppose the president went to a better school and since he has also climbed higher on the educational ladder, I will grant him the benefit of the doubt and assume that Roads and Highways cannot be part of the Transport Ministry.
I am also quite disappointed that instead of breaking with the past, the president appointed two ‘ministers of state at the presidency’. They are going to be high-ranking government officials with ill-defined roles who will be hanging around the presidency, having fun and getting ministerial wages and perks. One of them is a member of the People’s National Convention and this, I presume, is one of the tokens to the “inclusive” government the president promised to run. But we do not need presidential hangers-on and I pray the ministers at the presidency lose their jobs in the not-too distant future.
On the subject of an “inclusive” government, it is commendable that the president has nominated someone from outside his party to handle the key ministry of finance. Kwabena Dufuor may not exactly be considered an outsider because he served as the governor of the Bank of Ghana while Mills was vice president of the republic. But he belongs to a different party and bringing him back at this time to run the economy is a good start in the quest to form an “inclusive” government.
However, if the president is serious about running an “inclusive” government, he should do well to go beyond tokens like the one he’s given the PNC – ‘minister at the presidency’. How about offering some deputy ministerial positions to members of the NPP? This will be one of the best indications that we have a government that is truly “inclusive”. I know it’s too much to ask but it may be one of the best ways of reconciling the country – which, I believe, is one of the objectives the president has set himself.
All in all, I think the president has made a good ‘first selection’. I like the fact that he has a good number of women in the ‘squad’. Betty Mould-Iddrisu’s nomination as Attorney General, for example, gladdens my heart in so many different ways – as does Hanna Tetteh’s appointment as Trade Minister.
It’s also very good that the president did his best to bring in some new faces. He also appears to have made it a point to include some very youthful guys (and gals) in his team. Now, there is going to be a ‘youth’ in charge of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. And that is good. I have no doubt that Haruna Iddrisu will make the young people of this country proud with his performance at the Ministry of Communications.
It is very curious, however, that President Mills kept out a man like Ekwow Spio-Garbrah. I am told he dangled the Foreign Affairs portfolio in front of him but withdrew it at the last moment. Hopefully, there is no bad blood between them and I am looking forward to seeing Spio-Garbrah serve in the Mills administration someday. He’s a good man.
It’s also very surprising that Alex Segbefia is not in Mills’ team. He was Mills’ campaign co-ordinator and right after the election, he was named secretary to the NDC transition team. There were suggestions that he was being considered for the position of chief of staff. He didn’t get that job and it baffles me that he doesn’t have a ministerial portfolio. I am surprised (and a bit disappointed) but the president knows best. The fact that President Mills has not appointed Segbefia (one of his closest and most trusted aides) as a minister of state could also be an indication of his determination to refrain from creating jobs for his boys. That’s a good sign. Let’s hope he doesn’t change his mind.

Just about a year ago, Kwadwo Mpiani, President John Kufuor’s chief of staff was literally telling parliament (and everyone else) to stop pestering him with questions over the expenses of the Ghana@50 Secretariat, the bureaucracy established to oversee the needlessly ostentatious celebration of Ghana’s 50th independence anniversary. Today, Mr. Mpiani is calling into radio stations, pleading for an opportunity to speak.

About 12 months ago, Mr. Mpiani and his brother-in-law, Charles Wereko-Brobbey, who headed the Ghana@50 Secretariat, were untouchables. Now we are being told they have a lot to account for. And if what we are hearing is anything to go by, it seems, they also deceived us, wasted our money and pushed our country a little deeper into debt.
Truth be told, I never saw the sense in the Ghana@50 celebrations. I felt (and I still do) that considering our retrogression over the past five decades, instead of throwing a ‘party’, we should rather have observed a national day of weeping and wailing when we would all gather at the Independence Square on March 6, wearing sackcloth with ashes on our scalps to lament our backwardness. It may sound like a silly suggestion but I will insist any day that looking at our current conditions, there is no better way to celebrate this charade we call ‘independence’.
I also felt at the time that we had nothing to celebrate. Our educational system is worse than it was at independence, most of us do not have water to drink and our hospitals are graveyards where even new born babies, forced to sleep on bare floors, are not spared the hustles that gnaw at the bodies and souls of their mothers. Modernity has largely passed us by and most of us lead a pre-industrial revolution existence. There was (and there still is) nothing to celebrate!
So, when I first heard that our government had voted a hefty 20 million dollars for the celebration, I said on radio that it was too much money to waste on a ‘party’ at a time when the nation was confronted with too many challenges – including malaria control. I suggested that since there were roughly about 20 million Ghanaians, we should be given a dollar each – at least on that occasion those who live on less than a dollar day can afford a decent meal. That would have been a fitting commemoration of the ‘lost’ 50 years of nationhood.
But our government favoured the extravagant and we were made to believe that the 20 million dollars was to be used to on projects that will benefit both current and future generations. These projects, according to Wereko-Brobbey, included public toilets (those travelling on the highways will not ‘free-range’ anymore), so-called ‘jubilee parks’ (where we can all gather every now and then to just chill) and roundabouts (in memory of national heroes heroes).
Two years after the Ghana@50 festivities (Championing African Madness), only one public toilet has been built. If you are travelling on the highway and you feel like ‘dropping a load’, you will be compelled to squat somewhere in the bushes to do your thing and, whiles at it, you should pray that some hungry snake doesn’t pounce on your ‘nuts’.
The little good news, though, is that parks and the roundabouts were built alright. But, sadly, I can’t point any of them out to my children 10 years from now as the monuments we erected to commemorate 50 years of nationhood. I will be too ashamed to do that.
And now, to add insult to injury and further deepen our sense of shame, we are being told that the bill for the needless Ghana@50 celebrations could be as high as 78 million dollars. That is a lot of money. We wasted all of that and went begging George Bush for 17 million dollars to fight malaria.
Now, check this out: 78 million dollars can turn Korle Bu into one of the best hospitals in Africa – so that if President Mills falls sick he wouldn’t need to travel to Johannesburg for treatment. That amount of money can be used to build modern libraries in all of our public universities. It could have been used to build a factory to employ thousands of people. The money we wasted on Ghana@50 could have been used to provide scholarships to educate bright, young people who are out of school because their parents are too poor and getting a loaf of bread to eat is a daily struggle. That money could have been used to set up irrigation projects in the north or improve water supply to about one million Ghanaians. It could have been used to build classroom blocks for the thousands of children whose ‘classrooms’ are nothing but the shades provided by a big ‘onyina’ tree.
The fact that Kwadwo Mpiani and Wereko-Brobbey (and the entire Kufuor administration) concealed this hefty bill is an affront to every Ghanaian. I can only imagine what would have happened if the NPP had been retained in power. Kwadjo Mpiani would have been telling anyone who cared to ask about the Ghana@50 expenses to go to hell. But now we know. At least, we know how foolishly wasteful we have been. And the worst part of it is that, according to the Auditor General’s interim report, there are no proper records on some huge expenditures and a lot of the money cannot be accounted for – most of it likely in individual pockets.
I am left with no choice than to think that the whole point of the Ghana@50 Celebrations was to create an avenue for a greedy cabal to loot the country dry. But wait… not so fast. Kwadwo Mpiani has now found the humility to talk and explain issues. He has no choice because he is obliged to respond to queries raised by the Auditor General by February 26. Seeing him so mellow is a miracle in itself. There could be more ‘wonders’ in store. Hopefully, Mr. Mpiani has some plausible excuse for why an impoverished country like ours, which never misses an opportunity to beg for aid, allowed 78 million dollars to go down the drain in such a reckless manner. I am not so optimistic and so I will urge that we all bow our heads in shame and start looking for sack cloths. Sixth March is just around the corner. Let’s make it a national day of weeping and wailing. No more parties. 

In a country where about 90 percent of the people do not have decent places to perform the final rites of digestion, the management of public toilets is big business. Never has this fact been made clearer to me than the recent disputes in several parts of the country over who has the right to manage public toilets.

NDC supporters in Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi are reported to have forcefully taken over control of some of these vital installations for the performance of the final rites of digestion. They insist that the management of these facilities should necessarily change hands because their party is now in power.
Apparently, when Ghanaians voted to change the party in charge of the presidency they indirectly decided to change the management of the public toilets as well. Thus, since we have an NDC president, the toilets should come under NDC management.
This, no doubt, is yet another indication that in Ghanaian politics the winner takes all indeed. The board members of state-owned enterprises are being told that their services are no longer needed, government appointees to district assemblies have been ordered never to step in the assembly halls again and mayors are living in uncertain times after they were asked to stay on for a bit longer – ‘mark time’ and wait for the ‘forward march’ instructions that will finally see them out of office. With the change of government thousands are being forced to look for new jobs and hundreds are losing big government deals – including contracts to run public toilets.
It is a fact President Mills is either having a tough time or taking his own sweet time to make up his mind on who to appoint to fill the vacancies created by his occupation of the presidency. The president must be scratching his head over all the big decisions he has to make. To save him from scratching other parts of his anatomy in indecision, the president’s men and women at the grassroots are lending a helping hand by forcefully taking over the management of public toilets. You can also say that this spares our leader the trouble of filling his presidential mind with banal, ‘rear-end’ issues.
Some of those using brute force to take over the toilets claim that they were in charge of the ‘installations’ until the Kufuor administration and the NPP came to power in 2001. That was when they lost their membership of the Chartered Institute of Toilet Management (CITM). With the return of the NDC to power, they feel the time has come for them to be re-inducted into the prestigious CITM – even if by force.
Not all of them are regaining their toilet management rights by force, though. A certain woman in Nima has successfully argued in court that she is the rightful person to be managing the community loo because her contract was wrongfully terminated. After winning the legal battle for the loo, she now claims that “there is contempt on the toilet” and in due course, she will go and take charge of it.
Most of us tend to look down on public toilet managers. But before you dismiss the forceful takeover of these vital facilities as a ‘rear-end’ triviality, consider how much money a toilet manager controls. Just assume that an average of one thousand people use your neighbourhood KVIP at a cost of 50Gp per ‘drop’. That comes to about 50GHC per day and 1500 GHC per month. And since some people deliver more than one ‘drop’ in a day (especially on peak days like Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays), the monthly proceeds usually exceed my estimation.
The woman who managed to get “contempt on the toilet” in Nima insists that about nine years ago, before the NPP government seized the facilities and handed them over to their supporters, her profit margin was so huge that she used to pay monthly ‘royalties’ of about 1500 GHC to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
In some of the densely-populated areas of Accra, where most people don’t have domestic lavatories, public toilet managers are among the wealthiest in the community. Levying people to ‘drop’ their ‘loads’ have made them so rich that they own houses and fleets of cars. They are respected members of society. Some even fear them – you dare not offend the toilet manager.
This is the simple context for the scramble (and the fights) for the management of the public toilets. What’s happening with the toilet seizures is a very unhealthy symptom of ‘winner-takes-all’ malaise which afflicts politics in Ghana. President Mills has promised us a government of inclusion and he has vowed to be a “father to all Ghanaians”. Unfortunately, those who think he should be more fatherly towards them are engaging in acts that will only make some people feel very bitter and excluded – by seizing public toilets!  
It is not unusual that when a new president comes into power, those who make and implement policies are changed. That’s why we are going to have a new set of ministers and district chief executives. But it doesn’t make sense for the management of my community loo to change hands simply because there has been a change in government.
Our politics should shed this ‘winner-takes-all’ character. The winner can take most but he (or she) should make it a point to leave a little for the loser. And, in this case, the least the loser can get is to be allowed manage the public toilets. This is not too much to ask, is it? Our country can only heal from the acrimonious campaign season when the president is seen to be reaching out to the opposition and one way of doing this is to make sure that management of public toilets is not the preserve of members of the ruling party.
The government should therefore intervene and halt the scramble for the loos. At the very least, government should use the appropriate bidding processes to ensure that the most capable hands are put in charge of the management of our public toilets, regardless of party affiliation. As things stand now, I am afraid that one of these days, my urgent rush to neighbourhood KVIP will be interrupted by an overzealous loo keeper who would demand that I whip out my party membership card before I am allowed to ‘drop’ my ‘load’. I will deliver a punch and what would follow will not pretty. The sooner we took politics out of public loo management, the better! That’s not to say we can’t discuss politics in the KVIP…  

This extraordinary article by the editor of the Sri Lankan ‘Sunday Leader’ was published three days after he was shot dead in Colombo. This is an edited version of an article published in the ‘Sunday Leader’ editorial column on 11 January. Its author, who co-founded the paper in 1994, was killed three days earlier by unidentified gunmen as he drove to work. He is believed to have written the editorial just days before his death.

[I am publishing this here (culled from the ‘Guardian’ of the UK, in tribute to a brave journalist and hoping that in due time we will have a few like him in Ghana, not bound by blind partisan allegiance and not motivated by fill-my-stomach sycophancy.]

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces – and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the last few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print institutions have been burned, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories, and now especially the last.
 
I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be the Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.
 
Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood.
 
Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries.
 
Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.
 
But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.
 
The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.
 
The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.
 
The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let’s face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For instance, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urge government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors; and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.
 
Many people suspect that the Sunday Leader has a political agenda: it does not. If we appear more critical of the government than of the opposition, it is only because we believe that – excuse cricketing argot – there is no point in bowling to the fielding side. Remember that for the few years of our existence in which the United National party was in office, we proved to be the biggest thorn in its flesh, exposing excess and corruption wherever it occurred.
 
Indeed, the stream of embarrassing expositions we published may well have served to precipitate the downfall of that government.
Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tamil Tigers. The LTTE is among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is for ever called into question by this savagery – much of it unknown to the public because of censorship.
 
What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self-respect. Do not imagine you can placate them by showering "development" and "reconstruction" on them in the postwar era. The wounds of war will scar them for ever, and you will have an even more bitter and hateful diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my compatriots – and all the government – cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.
 
It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended.
 
In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.
 
The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and I have been friends for more than a quarter-century. Indeed, I suspect that I am one of the few people remaining to routinely address him by his first name and use the familiar Sinhala address – oya – when talking to him.
 
Although I do not attend the meetings he periodically holds for newspaper editors, hardly a month passes when we do not meet, privately or with a few close friends present, late at night at President’s House. There we swap yarns, discuss politics and joke about the good old days. A few remarks to him would therefore be in order here.
 
Mahinda, when you finally fought your way to the Sri Lanka Freedom party presidential nomination in 2005, nowhere were you welcomed more warmly than in this column. Indeed, we broke with a decade of tradition by referring to you throughout by your first name. So well known were your commitments to human rights and liberal values that we ushered you in like a breath of fresh air.
 
Then, through an act of folly, you got involved in the Helping Hambantota scandal. It was after a lot of soul-searching that we broke the story, urging you to return the money. By the time you did, several weeks later, a great blow had been struck to your reputation. It is one you are still trying to live down.
 
You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well, my sons and daughter do not have a father.
 
In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry.
 
But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life but yours too depends on it.
 
As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice.
 
As for the readers of the Sunday Leader, what can I say but thank you for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I – and my family – have paid the price that I had long known I would one day have to pay. I am, and have always been, ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death.
 
What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remained to be written was when.
That the Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be – and will be – killed before the Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your president to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish.
 
People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niemöller. In his youth he was an antisemite and an admirer of Hitler. As nazism took hold of Germany, however, he saw nazism for what it was. It was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view.
 
Niemöller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, he wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:
 
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
 
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
 
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
 
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
If you remember nothing else, let it be this: the Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled.
 
Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried. 

After the unprecedented public outcry over the ludicrous and unjustifiable retirement package for President John Kufuor, Members of Parliament are coming forth with all sorts of excuses as to why they approved Chinery-Hesse’s recommendations. Some of them are claiming that they were “hoodwinked” into approving the package. But Ghanaians are not buying this.

The fact remains that they did a very shoddy job and they should be ashamed of themselves. The 230 MPs who were supposed to have scrutinised and blocked the retirement package recommended by Mary Chinery-Hesse are nothing but a bunch of irresponsible, negligent nation wreckers.
From what we have heard so far, the lazy MPs didn’t even bother to read the report, which I must admit is quite bulky, before approval. They just skimmed through the pages containing their own retirement package and satisfied that it was more than they deserved, they allowed it to pass – with the offensive retirement package for Kufuor. Some of them actually said “aye” without knowing what they were even saying “aye” to.
What happened in parliament on January 6, 2009 is about the clearest example for most Ghanaians that our politicians are a selfish and greedy lot who only care about themselves.
As they sat in that closed-door session to approve Mary Chinery-Hesse’s obnoxious recommendations there was only one thing on their minds: “what’s in it for us?” Once they knew what they were getting, they didn’t even bother to find out what they were signing on for the out-going president. A good number of them got to know about Kufuor’s retirement package in the news.
The men and women who are supposed to be representing and defending our interests have failed us – to put it mildly. They have sold us out and we have every right to call them whatever we choose. We have every right to demand that they apologise to us and we can also demand that they should all be punished. The question is how?
As I pondered over an appropriate punishment for our wayward MPs, I remembered that PAV Ansah – one of my four mentors – prescribed a certain punishment for members of the erstwhile Constituent Assembly which drafted the 1992 constitution. Prof. Ansah wrote:
“The fellows ought to be taken to the Saltpond beach to have their balls rubbed in hot sand; an appropriate equivalent punishment may be found for the ladies. It will all take just a little bit of imagination to look at the appropriate parts of the female anatomy for corresponding action.
“Then after this initial exercise, they should all be gathered in one place for very uncouth and wild children to hoot at them around noon when the sun is at its zenith – crying ‘shame, shame, shame’ and then being sprayed with obscenities, preferably in Ga, which is replete with vulgarities and vituperation and scatological expletives offensive enough to shock and scandalise even foul-mouthed Lucifer himself.
“Then and then only after these preliminary “comedies” will they undergo the flogging to be administered on their bare behinds before the gaze of all those who care to watch the show.”
The first part of Prof. Ansah’s prescription – the bit about rubbing some items in hot sand – might hurt so bad, I won’t recommend it for my worst enemy. But I will support all that follows.
In addition to Prof. Ansah’s prescription, I am also taking the liberty to recommend a few punitive measures for our MPs. I hope these pass without any consideration.
First, I think we should stop calling the MPs ‘honourable’ – for at least one year. Instead we should refer to them with titles such as ‘Shameful’ and ‘Sankwas’ (which, in my hometown is a term of reverse endearment for silly and ineffectual leaders with abundant inadequacies). So the representative for Prampram, for example, who participated in that closed-door session without knowing what was being approved, should for the next one year be referred to as the Shameful E. T. Mensah, Sankwas MP.
Secondly, I also think we should slash the MPs’ salaries in half – for the next one year. Where most of us work, if you do anything half as negligently as the MPs did on January 6, you could be summarily dismissed. There are no such penalties for our MPs and so they think we voted for them to go sit in the chamber, sleep and snore, approve bills without diligent scrutiny and then get up to walk smiling to the bank to cash hefty pay checks they know they don’t deserve. If we slash their salaries and permanently take away some of the perks they undeservedly enjoy, they will – hopefully – learn a few lessons and start earning the right to be called ‘honourables’ again.
For being so insensitive and sloppy, the MPs – including the new ones – should also be compelled to offer some sort of community service for about six months. Each of them should spend two hours every week sweeping streets, clearing choked gutters, tending to KVIPs and helping evacuate pan latrines.
If after all of this our MPs take another decision in as reckless a fashion as they did on January 6, we could as well fire all of them and send children from the New Horizon School to represent us in parliament. I have no doubt they will do a much better job.

Dear President Mills,

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to show the nation that you really have balls – a solid pair – your predecessor has provided you with one. As I write this, my blood is boiling like ‘abenkwan’ on fire and if I were anywhere near your age, I would have suffered a heart attack and fallen dead. Like most Ghanaians, I am outraged – by none other than your predecessor, John Kufuor.
Who the heck does he think he is? Or what does he take us for? Fools?
For eight years, this guy ruled this country like an elected monarch. He told us to “tighten our belts” because of our dire economic conditions. Yet he went around splurging – using our monies to renovate his private property, travelling like a lazy tourist, making his friends and cronies richer, not caring a hoot about the millions of Ghanaians who live in abject poverty every day.
No one can say Kufuor was an awful president. He wasn’t as bad as Jerry John. So he was a good– at least by the standards Rawlings set for him. Those standards were shamefully low and any ‘kenkey’ seller who knows how to wrap leaves around dough would have had no trouble living up to them. John Kufuor performed better than Jerry Rawlings and he thinks we owe him such a high debt of gratitude he expects us to lie down for him to walk over us at every turn.
Getting to the end of his term, Kufuor decided that he had performed so well that he deserved to reward himself with a national medal – and a very expensive one as that. That was the shameless height of presumptuous arrogance and it angered me. At the time, I felt he had behaved like a vulture – a pest who doesn’t care about the impact his actions will have on others. I thought he couldn’t do any worse. But I was wrong.
Mr. President, I nearly suffered a cardiac arrest when a friend of mine showed me a document outlining the retirement package for the man who handed over to you just about a couple of weeks ago. The document was prepared by his special advisor, Mary Chinery-Hesse – who as things stand now – appears to have taken on extra special duties as his ‘Retirement Godmother’. I suspect the two of them sat down and contrived to make sure that your predecessor leaves office much richer than he dreamt he would ever be.
Under the package ‘cooked’ up for Kufuor by Chinerey-Hesse, he is supposed to be going home with six brand new vehicles – three salon cars, two cross- country vehicles and one all purpose vehicle (and what the heck is that, by the way?). Why does one human being need six cars? Is he going to cut off his limbs and put them in different cars to be able to move around?
Your predecessor and his advisor also decided that he should be entitled to two mansions – one in Accra and the other in a location outside of the national capital (anywhere he chooses).
We, the longsuffering Ghanaians taxpayers, are also expected to sponsor an annual vacation abroad for him and his family for as long as he lives. We will pay for his medical bills, fuel his cars, make sure that his dentures are fixed, buy him condoms – and, trust me, he still can get it up – provide him with gardeners, cooks, secretaries, cleaners and drivers. The only wise thing Mary Chinery-Hesse did was not to make us pay for his concubines.
Most annoyingly, Mary Chinery-Hesse insists that John Kufuor should be given a lump sum of about 460,000 dollars – just to make his bank account look good and then on top of this we are required to pay him a monthly salary of about 4000 dollars until he breathes his last. To cap it all, he wants us to give him one million dollars to be used to set up a foundation of his choice.
Mr. President, for God’s sake, take time to go through the document and find out for yourself the juicy retirement package Kufuor and his chief advisor decided he deserves. I look at this document and I am ashamed that Kufuor was ever my president. Let no one deceive you that he had no hand in Chinery-Hesse’s recommendations and how they were purportedly approved by parliament. I have no doubt he did.
So now, the question on my mind is: how on earth does John Kufuor expect a country he declared as highly indebted and poor to give him a retirement package even the Americans will not dare dream to give to their retiring leaders – one of whom is incidentally leaving office just a few days after Kufuor.
As George Bush leaves office, he’s only entitled to a pension package of almost 200,000 per annum along with a few minor perks here and there. If George Bush ever gets to see your greedy predecessor’s retirement package, he would go green with envy and wish that he had been the president of Ghana – not America.
The fact that Kufuor is a greedy, selfish son-of-gun (I am disrespectful, I know) is beyond doubt. But I never imagined that he could take his gluttonous self-indulgence to such lows. As if it wasn’t treacherous enough that he and his advisor decided that he deserved such an excessive and obscenely extravagant retirement package, the two of them decided to take the package to parliament on January 6 – a day before the rubber stamp one he worked with in his second term was due be dissolved. Foolishly, the MPs sat in secret meeting without some key members and approved the package – no questions asked. It’s a big shame that the people’s representatives disappointed us so but it didn’t come exactly as a surprise to me. It’s a case of “scratch my back, I scratch your” because as the MPs were approving Kufuor’s largesse he was stamping theirs.
Mr. President, I am writing this letter to you because I feel many Ghanaians expect you to take action to halt this shameful rape of the country. There is a massive public outcry against this retirement package cooked up for Kufuor by Mary Chinery-Hesse because it’s obscene, absurd, excessive and completely unjustifiable.
Sometimes, I get the impression that you politicians lose the essence of why we put you where you are. You are a university professor so I expect you to know this more than Kufuor (a failed brick factory owner, who claims to be a lawyer) ever did. But just in case you’ve forgotten, a politician’s job is not to enrich himself and create wealth for his inner circle – like Kufuor did. A politician’s job is to see to the well-being of the people – provide them with water, hospitals, schools, roads, leisure facilities etc. Every decision a politician takes should be aimed to enhancing the well-being of his people. Kufuor cared more about himself and his cronies than the people who voted him into power. That’s why he went for a loan to build a mansion when he could have used that same money to renovate Korle Bu – which is not the hospital it should be. If you suffer the next bout of whatever disease that afflicts you, I am sure you won’t go to Korle Bu. You would go to one of the best-equipped health facilities in Johanesburg. Kufuor had eight years to make Korle Bu a hospital again. He didn’t.
Kufuor used millions of our money to renovate his house because he said the Castle wasn’t good enough for him. He used our money to travel the world like a nomadic president. His sons and daughters have been in business for decades but they only found wealth after he became president. Kufuor thinks he was too good for us. He was good – but if you look at his record, Kufuor was only as good as he was because most of those who came before him were so bad!
Mr. President, Kufuor deserves a retirement package. He will get one. But it shouldn’t be the one we are seeing now. I know you must be looking at yourself and wondering what you will get four (or eight) years from now. That’s why I say that this is an opportunity for you to show that you really have balls and that you care as much as you claim to be.
Please, Mr. President, scrap this insultingly outrageous retirement package for Kufuor. Sit him down and tell him that we cannot afford to spend all that money on him alone. There are 22 million of us in this country and we are all contributing the little we can towards the development of this country. He did his bit but, really, has he sacrificed so much for this country that we should be compelled to pay him off to go and live like a rock star?
Some of our compatriots have suffered and sacrificed much more for this country than Kufuor did – or ever will. Yet they do not get even a millionth of the package he wants. He used our money to renovate his house. That should be enough. We will give him a brand new Mercedes Benz and a brand new Land Cruiser. That should be enough. We won’t build him any house at a location of his choice outside of Accra. We will give him a monthly pension of five thousand dollars until he dies. That’s more than he needs – especially if you consider that his son has a hotel right behind his house where he can go for breakfast, lunch and supper. We won’t pay him a lump sum of 500,000 dollars. If he chooses to go on holiday in Honolulu, he should find money to pay for that. We will take care of all of his medical expenses – even his flavoured condoms. That’s all he needs and that’s all he deserves.
We should rather spend the rest of the money on what we expect our tax monies to be used for – water, hospitals, ambulances, roads, schools, electricity etc. The money involved can’t provide everything but even if it provides water for 10 Ghanaians every day our money would have served its purpose.
Mr. President, tell Kufuor that enough is enough! Ghanaians are tired of the flagrant thievery and his extravagant indulgence. That’s why they voted for change. If you don’t scrap this outrageous retirement package, many of us will be left with no choice than to think that you deliberately decided to allow Kufuor to keep it so that when you are leaving you would take as much as you want. The choice is yours, Mr. President. But if you don’t act now and you allow this thievery to continue, I will fast and pray to God to make sure that no former president lives long enough to cash his first pension… and that may just include you. 
Angrily yours,
atoKwamena!
 

He is a political novice. But I didn’t expect Mahamudu Bawumia to be so naive to even hope that he would be allowed to keep his job as the deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana. The soft-spoken gentleman took a leave of absence to vie for the second most important job in the land – the vice presidency. He failed to get it. As he licked his first political wounds, Bawumia might have been left completely confused and in his confusion, he just couldn’t cover his naivety.

I still can’t believe that days after the new president was sworn in, Bawumia woke up one morning, washed his face, brushed his teeth, took a bath, ate his breakfast, wore his suit, picked up his suitcase, went to sit in his car and drove through Accra’s traffic to the headquarters of the Bank of Ghana to sit in his old office. And he expected to be welcomed with open arms? What was he thinking?
As he run for the vice presidency, did he ever think that if he lost the bid he’d still be allowed back into his plush offices on High Street? If Bawumia ever thought this was going to happen, then I can’t help but wonder what sort of vice president he would have been. Out of touch and aloof?
We are told Bawumia is a very smart chap. He’s very competent and he’s like the Abedi Pele of the banking industry in Ghana. He has bright ideas and he’s able to get things done. His CV makes people like me feel like we never even sat in a classroom. Ghana needs people like him in public service. His decision to run with Akufo-Addo was influenced by a desire to work in a higher public office. It was a very noble thing he did. But he should have known from the moment he decided to become Nana Addo’s running mate that if things didn’t go the way he wanted, his position at the central bank would be untenable.
Politics is not like football, where your opponent today can very easily become your favourite playmate tomorrow. After standing on several political platforms to lambaste the NDC as a bunch of no-good politicians who will only stop the nation from “moving forward”, Bawumia’s naivety in thinking that an NDC government will look just upon his CV and allow him to stay on in one of the most sensitive offices in the country speaks volumes about who he is – a man with no political experience, who has lived a sheltered life (I wonder if he’s had Hausa ‘kooko’ in the past 20 years) and has lost complete touch with reality.
In an ideal world, I would say Bawumia should have been allowed to stay in his job – simply on the basis of the fact that there are few as qualified as he is for that position. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. We want to move beyond the petty politics and tap into all the finest brains in this country. But after the bitter campaign of the last few months, asking Atta Mills and his administration to allow Bawumia to stay on would have been a bit too much.
Under the circumstance, it is easier for President Mills to ask Paul Acquah to stay on as governor for a little longer because Dr. Acquah never mounted a political platform to condemn the NDC and its policy alternatives. Any expectation that Mills would have allowed Bawumia to keep his job as deputy governor of the central bank would have been as awkward as asking George Bush to appoint Osama bin Laden as his special envoy to the Middle East. Even Angel Gabriel didn’t want to work with Lucifer. That’s why singing archangel was cast down.
It has been suggested that Bawumia deliberately decided to return to work in order to get back his entitlements – or end of service benefits. This might be true. But, from what I’ve heard some of the people close to him say, it seems he really wanted that deputy governor’s job. You see, Bawumia is supremely qualified. If he places his CV in the newspapers to advertise himself as available for employment, he would get several international organisations seeking his services. But Bawumia would rather work here than move to the plushest workspace in Washington DC – away from his equally smart, forward-looking friends who are doing quite well here.   
But he should have factored that into his decision to be Nana Addo’s running mate. He should have known this and quit honourably, without any fuss right after his bid failed. It would have saved him the embarrassment of being threatened to “jump or be pushed”. If the management of public toilets is changing hands with the new administration, how on earth could Bawumia have expected to retain his job at the Central Bank?
Obviously, from what has happened, he didn’t consider his future options. He – like Nana Addo and almost everyone else in the NPP – thought the elections was theirs to lose. And they lost – not just the election but his coveted job as well.
Having been forced to jump out, Bawumia has to start looking for a new job. It seems he doesn’t want to stay on in politics. He can’t do it. The guy has got the temperament of a doll, he suffers stage fright and he just can’t thrive on the rough and tumble of politics.
It’s very significant that as Nana Akufo-Addo tried to positions himself to lead the NPP into the 2012 polls, Bawumia was trying to get his job back at the Bank of Ghana. Politics is not in his blood and right now, it’s the last thing on his mind. Now he needs to find a job, doing what he loves – crunching numbers, moving and shaking them. He will most likely never venture into politics again. But he should be advised to cut all the deals he can, do the little he can to support the NPP – like pay his dues regularly – and who knows? If the party ever gets back into power, he might make a triumphant return to the Bank of Ghana – as Governor!

The SOGO Committee apologises for the delay in releasing the list of winners for this year’s coveted Awards for Senselessness of Ghanaian Origin.

This should have happened on 1st January but you know what happened – the race for the Flagstaff House had gone into a photo finish, tempers had flared and Ghanaians were in no mood to be told about how ‘sogomatic’ some their compatriots had been in the year gone by.
So the awards committee decided to hold on to the declaration (who says it’s only Afari-Gyan who can declare?) of winners until now. So, my friends, with a heavy heart, it’s my duty to present to you the Winners of SOGO 2008.
Loose talker of the year – Awarded to the person who has successfully failed to co-ordinate his tongue and brains, in such a manner that anything he/she says is outright dubious, needlessly controversial and/or totally senseless. The nominees are: John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of the Republic, Sheik I.C. Quaye, former Greater Accra Regional Minister, Steve Asmoah Boateng, former Information Minister, Jerry John Rawlings and Ato Kwamena Dadzie.

…And the winner is – Steve Asamoah Boateng, former Information Minister who said Ghanaians should stop complaining about hunger and start eating mango ‘bunu’ (unripe mangoes) and roasted corn.

Brofo yedur speaker of the year – Awarded to the person who delivered an unnecessarily large number of verbal scud missiles – or one very devastating ‘bomb’. This is also known as the Krobo Edusei Memorial Award. The nominees are: Sheik I.C. Quaye, Prof. (now President) John Atta Mills, Prof. Okoampe Ahuofe and Mrs. Yvonne Nduom
… And the winner is President John Atta Mills – For creating his own word: “Extragavanza!”  Mrs. Nduom gets special mention for “tangibilate the intangibles”
Konongo Kaya of the year – This is a very special award to recognize the obstinacy of one individual who has decided to take up a job he knows he has neither the qualification nor the competence to accomplish and yet, he refuses to give it up. The nominees are: Ghana 2008 Secretariat (let’s face it, the tournament was poorly organized and it earned Ghana a bad reputation), Inspector General of Police, Patrick Acheampong and Stanley Adjiri Blankson, Mayor of Accra
… And the winner is IGP, Patrick Acheampong. He claims the violent criminals in places like Bawku, Gushiegu, Tamale and Yendi are too smart for him and that he and his officers just can’t “go there” to arrest them. Looking forward to the day he’d be shown the exit.  
Lazy bones of the year – As the name implies, this is to recognize the country’s most underperforming individual or group of individuals. This is for those who have made the heaviest weather of what we pay them to do, thereby messing up a lot of things for us all. The nominees are: The Ghana Police and the National Commission for Civic Education.
…. And the winner is… well, we have a tie. The Police have still not found the 77 parcels of cocaine, there are a lot of criminals (drug peddlers, armed robbers, murderers, rapists etc) on the loose because of Police laziness and inaction. For the NCCE, the large number of rejected ballots is ample indication of their utter laziness. It must be said, however, that they work very hard when they need to explain why they are so lazy. Where is their boss, Larry Bimi, by the way?
Jack and Jill Story of the year – There are certain stories that made our jaws drop to the ground in utter disbelief. In other words, these are the stories that are best told to little kids in village kindergartens. So the Jack and Jill story of the year award is to recognize the tall tales that should not even be told to the toddlers at Merton Montessori. The nominees are:  The ‘hitlist’ of those who have been marked for death under a Mills administration, the NDC’s ‘ways and means’ conspiracy theory and the NPP’s explanation for the high number of rejected ballots.

… And the winner is the NPP’s claim that officials of the Electoral Commission deliberately spoilt some of the votes by applying a special ink to the ballot papers. According to Kofi Konadu Apraku, the electoral officers first applied this ink, which comes in the form of a special pomade to their hair and as they were counting they would pass their hands through their follicles only to use the soiled fingers to spoil the ballots. Such hogwash from a PhD holder!  

‘Patapaa’ of the year – this is to reward the person who doesn’t know that when you are beaten senseless, you can save yourself from further torrential hostilities by throwing in the towel. The nominees are Nana Akufo-Addo,  Kennedy Agyapong, Steve Asamoah Boateng and I. C. Quaye (for counting and counting and recounting until he won).
… And the winner is: Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, failed presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party for taking too long to concede and taking us so close to the brink. He should have known right after the end of the second round that he had lost but he decided to hang on to straws. If JAK had not wisely intervened, the story might have been different… This year however, I.C. Quaye, showed us that sometimes it pays to be ‘patapaa’.
Skin pain campaign of the year – This is in recognition of the most successful ‘ahooyaa’ campaign of the year…
…Here there is only one overwhelmingly outstanding nominee – the quest by most Ghanaians to prevent President Kufuor from rewarding himself with an expensive ‘bling bling’. Ghanaians from Bimbilla to Busia ranted and raved about how unwise and awkward it was for the president to reward himself. He thought we were all jealous and he went ahead to give himself the 50 Cent look.  
Fad of the year – Ghanaians tend to be a very ‘copiatus’ bunch. One person does something and everybody else starts doing the same. The ‘fad of the year’ is to recognise our senseless ‘copiatus’ tendencies.
Being an election year, we saw all sorts of groups asking the presidential candidates to meet with their members to spell out their policies and programmes. This was the fad of the year. Fishmonger, teachers, doctors, cable thieves, taxi drivers, entrepreneurs, househelps, journalists and several other identifiable groups organized some of these presidential ‘encounters’ – most of which the candidates rightfully refused to attend.
Song of the year – This is the track that did not only get us grooving to its beats but also forced us to brood over some pertinent issues and take action. The nominees are: The song whose title should be change to ‘Nana, Nana Oye loser’ by Daddy Lumba and ‘Afe yi yeresesamu’.
… And the winner is: ‘Afe yi yeresesamu’. It wasn’t as good as Daddy Lumba’s composition, we don’t even know who sang it and its theme was clearly stolen from the CPP. But it carries the day because, it ended Prof Mills losing streak. It served its purpose.
Frequent flyer of the year – this award was specially created for just one man. With or without your nomination, John Agyekum Kufuor wins this award hands down – for the fourth consecutive year! No challenger.
Special ‘Chicken George’ Award – This is for the one individual who huffed and puffed but failed to act on his/her threat.
This year, the award goes to Kennedy Agyapong. He threatened to boycott the NPP campaign if Nana Addo selected Mahamoudu Bawumia as running mate. Nana did select Bawumia and a few days later, Kennedy Agyapong was on a platform singing the praises of the running mate to a teeming crowd.

In Jerry Rawlings’ mind there has been a ‘coup’ – his third coup in 30 years. This one, however, seems different and a bit weird! In the first two coups, there was no need for him to go around the country to campaign to win the hearts and minds – and the mandate – of the people. He forcefully came to power through the back door, with a gun in his hand. Immediately he took charge, he went about changing the status quo, sometimes with brute force and with no regard for common sense and the rule of law.

In those days, if you stood before Chairman Rawlings and blinked more than he considered necessary, you could be charged with treason. If he didn’t like your shoes, your nose or how you laughed, he changed your sleeping place. Only his loyal supporters were allowed to take charge of sensitive public offices. Those were the days of the ‘revolution’ and it was alright to dismiss and appoint people on radio.
The story is told of a man who heard of his appointment to a very important office as he stood in a queue, waiting his turn – with bated urgency – to use the public toilet. Imagine what happened when he heard the surprise announcement.
Rawlings likes to refer his latest ‘coup’ as a “redemption” and a “liberation”. This coup is the election of his protégé, John Atta Mills, as the President of the Republic.
Unfortunately, times have changed and things are not what they used to be. To begin with, even though he helped to make this ‘coup’ a success, he is not the one taking all the glory and making all the decisions. Therefore, things are not being done his way – brash, brusque, and in some cases, brutish.
So unhappy is Rawlings that he decided to lash out at the new president’s “poverty of inaction” – earning the accolade of the first high profile citizen to publicly criticise President Mills, who has been in office for just about one week. Rawlings is peeved that the new president hasn’t dismissed district chief executives and other senior public officers appointed by his predecessor. President Mills has asked these officers to stay in office until he finds his bearings. It’s a very smart decision he took. By asking the DCEs to stay on, President Mills is sending out very clear signals that he is in a mood to work with his opponents. Is there a better way to achieve national reconciliation? Most of these DCEs will eventually be sacked but President Mills’ decision to allow them to stay on – albeit for a short while – means that the transition at the district level will not be as haphazard and awkward as it has been at the national level. It also buys him a lot of time to look for the brightest and best to run the districts.
None of these has crossed Rawlings’ mind and he thinks allowing the DCEs to stay on is a recipe for chaos. Speaking to some NDC bigwigs, some of them dozing, Rawlings questioned President Mills’  “transitional choices”.
“To pluck out Kufuor and leave everything else intact is courting potential disaster,” he says. “Are we in power or not? Have we taken over or not?”
As usual, Rawlings’ comments have attracted a mixed response from the Ghanaian public. There are those who think, and rightly so, that he has a right to express his opinions and he can choose to do it anyhow and anywhere he wants. But there are those who have gotten themselves so worked up, accusing him of brazenly attempting to influence President Mills. They simply want Rawlings to back off! That won’t happen anytime soon.
Over the next four years, expect Rawlings to do everything he can to try to influence President Mills’ actions and decisions. He did it to Kufuor and he will do it even more with Mills. The “are we in power” speech is just the beginning.
So what is Mills to do?
If I were Mills, I’d stay as far away from Rawlings as possible. Seriously, I don’t think Rawlings has anything to offer Mills. His time is past. And since Mills himself acknowledges we have “changed to move forward”, I hope he recognises that Ghanaians want a complete break with the past. This means that he should diplomatically ignore Rawlings and all his effusions and focus on delivering what he has promised. Kufuor ruled this country for eight years without any input from Rawlings and Mills can do so as well.
But President Mills first needs to take steps to get Rawlings off his back. Achieving that could be a problem but it’s not impossible. I will suggest that President Mills should help his ‘mentor’ get a new job – preferably, one that keeps him out of the country for long periods. How about getting him a job as a UN envoy to the dens of the Somali pirates? Under Kufuor, he got job to help chase mosquitoes out of Africa. Since there are still more mosquitoes in Africa than human being on planet earth, it goes without saying that he didn’t do so well in that job. But Mills should find a way of convincing the UN that Rawlings would be able to convince the Pirates of Somalia to take to fishing.
President Mills could also have a hearty chat with his mentor and tell him without equivocation to stop breathing down his neck. Rawlings might not take kindly to this but he has to be told that such public criticisms do his protégé no good. It only feeds into the perception that our president could be our ex-president’s ‘boy-boy’.
In face of his mentor’s public criticism, however, President Mills has an opportunity to show his citizens that he cannot be pushed around – as many Ghanaians fear. If he doesn’t go rushing into the house-cleaning exercise Rawlings is demanding, he wouldn’t have much trouble convincing Ghanaians that he is his own man, with a solid pair between his legs – capable of taking his own decisions without Rawlings’ prodding.

I reject the claim that the western media deliberately portrays Africa in a negative light. My argument has always been that the image you put out is the image they will carry. Countries that want to be portrayed as a forward, looking democratic nations, allow their citizens to freely choose their leaders. On the other hand, if citizens in a nation turn on each other and start chopping off arms, you shouldn’t expect to be portrayed as a land of cherubs.

The following is an editorial of the Winnipeg Free Press, a newspaper in Canada.  They have some pretty nice words to say about Ghana. Having dealt a little bit with the Canadian media, I can say such a positive editorial is a rarity. Good news stories like this (about Africa) are hard to come by in the North American media. And so in moments like these, I can’t help but feel proud to be a Ghanaian. Moments like these are few and far between. So come on, let’s toast to that….
 
Good news from Africa
 
WITH all the bad and often bloody news com­ing out of Africa today — Zimbabwe, Kenya, Guinea, Nigeria, the Congo — it is a relief to finally hear something positive, even optimistic to counter the depression. A new government installed in the West African nation of Ghana this month after a hard-fought election in December may provide that tonic.
 
For the second time in its 50-year history of independence, Ghana is being held up as an example for other sub-Saharan governments to emulate. With goodwill and great determination, this second chance may be more successful than the first — all the signs are positive.
 
In 1957, Ghana became West Africa’s first independent nation under the elected government of Kwame Nkrumah, the first president. It was seen as a beacon for the rest of Africa, an example of how the emerging nations could break the shackles of colonialism and become free and prosperous democracies.
But that was not the example that Nkrumah set for Africa. Instead he became a dictator — The Redeemer, he called himself, ordering legions of uniformed school children to march through the streets of Accra singing "Nkrumah never die / He forever live."
 
That was an example most African leaders found easy to follow and the continent has never recovered from the excesses that The Redeemer taught it. Ghana itself, however, is recovering. After a bloody interregnum following two successive coups, the last led by an air force lieutenant, Jerry Rawlings, who did an astonishing about-face and returned the nation to its long-lost democracy in 1992. The inauguration of John Atta Mills this month confirms that the democracy is taking root, that it may be, as the new president said, "The dawn of a new era" for Ghana.
 
The election was not without incident but international observers declared it free and fair and most of the country’s own politicians — including the losers — accepted the reality of it.
 
This was all the more remarkable considering the closeness of the vote — Mr. Atta Mills received 50.2 per cent of the vote in a runoff contest between him and Nana Akufo-Addo, the leader of the party that had previously formed the government. That is a victory margin of four-tenths of one per cent, a slim win by the standards of any democracy.
 
This is clearly a triumph for Ghana, which has been building its political legitimacy and international credibility since Mr. Rawlings — who is still active in Ghanaian politics — abandoned dictatorship.
 
It can also be a good thing for black Africa where, outside of Botswana and South Africa, democratic principles are held onto only precariously. There has been a recent coup in Guinea, a doubtful vote in Nigeria, fixed votes in Kenya and Zimbabwe and outright civil war in the Congo. If Ghana stays the course, it can only give hope to all Africans that there will, one day, be a new dawn for them as well.