Site is under maintenance mode. Please wait few min!
Archive

April 2009

Browsing

A few changes have been made to the site, which I hope will make it a little more useful and increase its reach. I won’t exactly consider them as enhancements but they take interactivity on the site a notch higher.

First, I realised that people had the tendency of posting unrelated comments under articles. Such digressions are often unwelcome so I have set a message board where you can get stuff off your chest – anything unrelated to the articles on the site. Consider it a wall on which you can give me a piece of your mind on any subject. Here you can post suggestions, pieces of advice, tip offs, story ideas – of course – the usual invectives.
Secondly, there are tabs under each article that make it easy for my nonsense to be shared with the rest of the world. For example, there is a tab which allows anyone to link articles to their facebook pages. If you are not on facebook, you may want use the email link to share articles. Sharing is caring, remember?
I have had quite a good number of readers asking for RSS feeds and I am very delighted they are now up and running. With RSS (‘Really Simple Syndication) you will receive alerts on updates to the site. This is very good because on those days when you are too busy to log on, you will get a reminder that there is a new article you may be interested in. On the days when I feel too lazy (or my ‘mojo’ deserts me) and I am unable to put anything up, you wouldn’t need to waste your time coming here to check out what’s new.
Finally, there is a poll. I am very excited about this because it would gauge the weight of public opinion on various issues. It’s not very scientific but it helps to some extent.
I hope you find these changes useful. As you have so graciously done in the past, please continue to offer suggestions to make this site an even better cyber-playground of Ghana’s Most Irreverent and a unique medium for unbridled free expression.

The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei-Tutu has been a good chief. I like him. He’s one of the few chiefs who give the chieftaincy institution a reason to exist. As he celebrates the tenth anniversary of his coronation, I think he deserves all of the plaudits he’s being accorded. However, I think his push for a greater role for chiefs will not yield much. The chieftaincy institution is doomed and there will come a time when chiefs will be rendered completely irrelevant. It might not happen in my lifetime but it will surely happen.

I wrote this piece last year to make my case and with the debate sparked by the Asantehene’s remarks over the weekend, I feel the need to publish it for the first time on this site…>>>
 
We have come a long way from the days when we were ruled by chiefs, haven’t we? Those were the days when the chief could decide when you washed your clothes, how long you could stay out at night, when you can go to the market, when you can go hunting or even when you could sleep with your spouse. Those were the days when chiefs prosecuted goat thieves and punished adulterers.
 
On a whim, the chief could declare anyone a persona non grata and banish them from the village. He could banish you if you ‘stole’ someone’s wife or if he felt like stealing your wife. If you were a woman and you dared to spurn the chief’s advances, he could order you and your family expelled from the hamlet or even killed. Those were the days when chiefs reigned supreme – powerful and accountable to no one but themselves.
 
Life then, was tough. And I’m glad I didn’t live in those days. I can’t imagine myself living in a world where I didn’t have a say in how taxes were collected and spent. I can’t imagine myself in a world where only a few people from a particular family could be chosen as rulers. People like me (born to poor women who sell ‘bofrote’) had no chance whatsoever of leading (or ruling) anyone.
 
We have been deceived that in those days chiefs were very instrumental in initiating and executing development projects. I wonder what those projects were. Did they build roads or hospitals? Did they provide safe drinking water or did they build schools and universities. If our current condition is anything to go by, I think I need a lot more proof that chiefs led their people in executing development projects.
Whiles I wait for that proof, I’m taking the position that our chiefs have been of very little use to us, they are of no use to us now and I’m looking forward to the day when what we refer to as the ‘chieftaincy institution’ will be totally dismantled and buried for good.
 
I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way. The former first deputy speaker of parliament, Freddy Blay was reported to have said that chieftaincy is an “anachronistic” institution which must be dumped in the abyss of the national museum. I have no reason to disagree with him. And I believe that if we all put aside our tendency to behave like ostriches, we would very easily understand and appreciate his position.
 
What have chiefs done for us lately? Nothing! They did nothing then and they are doing nothing now. To an extent, I think chiefs can be worse than politicians. In a democracy, when a politician becomes arrogant and places his personal interests above that of the people, a time would come when the people would have a chance to decide whether to retain him in office or kick him out. Not so in chieftaincy. Once you get a ‘sankwas’ for a chief, you are stuck with him until he dies. What makes it even more annoying is that you might have had no hand whatsoever in choosing him to be your chief. The only thing that qualifies him as chief is that he was born into a so-called royal family and is therefore bestowed with a “divine right” to rule.
 
In our country these days, the “divine right” doesn’t just belong to those who were born into the royal family. If you are rich enough to buy your way into the royal family, you could become a chief. For this reason, among several others, we have so many chieftaincy disputes in every nook and cranny of this country. I don’t think there is a single stool or skin in this country which is not in dispute. Even in the national capital, there are people who strongly believe that the current Ga Mantse is not qualified to be on the stool.
 
People are killing and maiming each other in Dagbon and Bawku because of disputes which go as far back as five decades. A similar situation pertains in Anloga and several other places.
 
All these give me ‘hope’ that the demise of the chieftaincy institution is a certainty. No one will have to raise a sword to kill the chieftaincy institution. It will die by itself.
 
Look at Dagbon, for example. They’ve not had a chief there for more than eight years following the gruesome murder of the Ya Na. I don’t think they will ever have a chief there again. That problem cannot be resolved. I don’t think even King Solomon would have had a solution to that so the Asantehene and the other chiefs should just give up the mediation efforts. Without a chief, have the people of Dagbon lost anything? I don’t think so. There is still some tension in the area but besides that the people are going about their lives as they did when the Ya Na was alive and well. So are they missing their chief? No! They are doing just fine – except for the leaders of the two gates who both have an over-inflated sense of grievance and are unwilling to make any concessions at all. Let them keep at it. But let’s stop pampering them. If they go to war again, the leaders of both factions should be arrested, prosecuted and punished. End of the matter. No Ya Na? So what? Life goes on, doesn’t it?
 
That is how I think the chieftaincy institution will gradually, but surely, die off. As in evolutionary theory, chieftaincy has become a useless appendage for most of us and it will simply wither off. Nothing we do will save it. In an attempt to make themselves relevant, it has become fashionable for chiefs to set up educational funds. That’s good. But it won’t save chieftaincy. How many chiefs do we have in this country? Thousands! How many command respect and influence? You can count them on the fingers of one hand.
 
Those who argue for the retention of the chieftaincy institution say that our chiefs are the custodians of our culture. What culture? The backward culture that says you cannot question the chief or the one that says that dead people should be given a ‘befitting burial’ at the expense of the living? The culture that says women are subservient to men and cannot become chiefs? Most of practices that collectively make up our culture are too backward and we need to get rid of them. Therefore, why do we need custodians to keep them?
 
Another reason why I think the chieftaincy institution is going to dies off is that in the 21st Century, we need leaders not rulers. Chiefs are rulers. We don’t choose them. They impose themselves on us and they are almost impossible to get rid of. They are accountable to only themselves and their whims become law. That’s how our ancestors chose to live in centuries past. In the current age, we need leaders who provide vision and direction; people we choose to lead us and we can get rid of them if they fail to live up to expectations.
 
Some people say we should use our own unique African democracy to elect our chiefs. I won’t be deceived because I don’t think there is anything democratic about how chiefs are installed. Otherwise, Anlo will not be in the throes of an intractable chieftaincy dispute. The people would have decided whether or not Francis Agboada should be Togbe Sri.
 
I am by no means suggesting that chiefs should be democratically elected. Maybe, they can try to reinvent themselves. But nothing they do will make them more relevant than they are now. On this, I am sure I can play Nostradamus and say that the chieftaincy institution is doomed. Thank God! 
It’s just gone past midday. In the Barron Room of the Las Vegas Hilton, hundreds have gathered for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) television luncheon. It’s a gathering the major television executives from across America and I am honoured and overawed to be seated in their midst. Sitting right next to me is my friend and colleague, Efia Pokuaa of Adom FM. We are seated at a table with four others – all of them Americans. One man is jabbering endlessly about the financial crisis and how it has impacted his work and his bottom-line. But I am not interested in any of that. I am hungry.
Earlier in the morning, Israel Laryea (another colleague from Joy FM), Efia and I ate in a hurry at the crowded McDonald’s joint in the Excalibur before proceeding to the Las Vegas Hilton. We are attending a series of seminars organised by the Radio and Television News Directors Association as part of the annual exhibitions and conferences of NAB. By lunch time, I was famished. And so was Efia. Israel was still locked up in a session on video journalism. As Efia and I sat down for the luncheon, we were hoping that Israel will show up before the doors are closed.
When we got the signal to start eating, Israel was nowhere in sight. But, I stopped think about him (each one for himself, right?) and I reached for my plate with gusto. Efia did no less. Before us was a certain salad, whose name I’ve forgotten. Sorry! What I know, however, is that I will never buy that sort of meal with my hard-earned cash but since I was so hungry I chewed the leaves like a goat. Just when we were done with the salads, the programme started.
The MC, Tracee Ellis Ross, one of the lead actors in the TV sitcom ‘Girlfriends’, strutted onto the beautifully-designed stage, wearing an exquisite red sleeveless dress. One of the first things she said was to emphasise that a strap on her upper right arm was not from her bra.
“It is the microphone,” she said to laughter from the crowd.
By now, Efia and I had finished chewing our salad leaves. Efia reached for the cinnamon cake before her and I followed her lead.
Suddenly, I could feel that those sitting with us at the table were staring at us rather strangely. Even the talkative guy had shut his mouth. I saw one lady trying very hard to read the badge I was wearing. All this while, speeches were being delivered and my stomach was gradually being filled. I couldn’t be happier.
The show was going very well.
So it came to me as a big surprise when the MC announced that a break was coming up.
I turned to Efia and asked, “For what?”
“So that you can enjoy your lunch,” the MC said from the stage.
At this stage, I was halfway through my cake and Efia had almost finished hers.
“What lunch again,” I turned and asked her.
“I think there is more coming,” she said, pointing to a long line of waiters approaching from one of the main entrances, smartly dressed in black with trays on their shoulders.
It was then that it struck me!
“Oh my God,” I said. “We have eaten the dessert before the main dish.”
We both quickly scanned the room and realised that we were the only ones who had devoured our cakes. Then we started giggling like kids. Our ‘friends’ at the table looked at us bemused but said nothing.
“Let’s tell them we are from far away, that’s why,” I told Efia. And we laughed even more as the waiters came to the table with our plates of rice and chicken.
I also can’t remember the name of the main dish. All I know is that it was rice and chicken with some leaves which looked like ‘kontomire’. Efia and I decided to eat as quickly as possible and go back to what was left of our cake slices. The food was not exactly delicious for our ‘ekurase’ tongues so we ate what we could, pushed aside the plates and reached for what was left on our cake slices – equality had been restored and we could now even see some of the others at the table eating their cakes. And we laughed again, picked our bags to leave – the next seminar was just about five minutes away! As we walked out of the door, I resolved never to attend another luncheon on a near-empty stomach.

I knew it wasn’t supposed to be a vacation but I didn’t expect it to be this hectic. First the journey was long – way too long. I’ve done the six-hour flight to Amsterdam several times and so it wasn’t much of a surprise. But the 12 hour flight to Los Angeles was the most arduous journey I’ve ever undertaken. It seemed like it was never going to end. But when it did, I had to jump on another flight – to my final destination: Las Vegas!

My managers at Joy FM had been kind enough to sign me up for the Radio and TV News Directors Association (RTNDA) seminars in the Sin City. The RTNDA seminars form part of the annual conference of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
I came here with Israel Laryea (also of JOY FM) and Efia Pokua from another member of the Multimedia Broadcasting Group, Adom FM.
We all suffered the stress of long journey to Vegas but we’ve had very little rest since we arrived here. It’s been very hectic and for me, it seems like the jetlag still has a hold on me. Having to walk from the Excalibur Hotel for about 30 minutes every day to catch the monorail to the Las Vegas Convention Centre (where the conference is taking place) has put a lot of physical strain on me. I tried to stay up to write after Monday’s sessions but, like they say, the soul was more than willing but the body was weak. That’s why I’ve not been able to put much up here since last Friday. Today (Tuesday), however, I feel quite feisty to be able to sit up and put down a few words about my experiences in this city.
My overall impression so far is that don’t like Las Vegas very much. This is my second trip to the US and I’ve visited several cities. Las Vegas is the one I like the least. I don’t think I’d like to come to this place again. It’s a very strange place and it seems too much of an ‘artificial’ city to me – everything I’ve seen so far (especially in the area they call the ‘Strip’) appears to have been deliberately built for gambling. I have no problem with people gambling and I am sure by the time I set off for the return journey to Accra, I would have tried my luck on some of the slot machines. Who knows, I just might hit the jackpot!  
But it really saddens me – almost to the point of depression – that most of the people I have seen in the casinos are old men and women (mostly fat) who should be at home attending to their grandchildren. A friend of mine up north in Canada told me that they are “unemployed and unemployable”. I think this is not the right way for people to spend their twilight years. Yesterday, whiles walking through the MGM Grand Casino after our RTNDA sessions, I saw an old woman walking around in her ‘pieto’ (the sort of panty our ladies refer to these days as ‘parachute’) and blouse. It was such a shockingly sight which, however, is testimony to one of the great things about America: you can do anything you want, but make sure you don’t break the law! So I laughed and moved on.
In my hotel room I’ve been very frustrated by the terrible internet connection I have. I never imagined that an internet connection will be so bad in America of all places – and to think that I’ve paid 35 dollars for such an unstable service really makes me sick. Sadly, I have no one to complain to. I am reluctant to go to the hotel managers to complain because I bought the service over the internet from travelocity.com. This was after I had decided that what the hotel had on offer (30 dollars per night) was outrageously expensive. I pay about 70 dollars per month for my home connection in Accra and it didn’t make sense to pay half of that per night. So I settled on 35 dollars for the seven days that I am going to be here and so far I have only been left with nothing but frustration as my link is up one minute and down the next.
My frustrations with the internet and the smoke-filled casinos notwithstanding, I have been impressed – and very much so – that a group of human beings built this city and all of its flamboyance to make it the largest gambling paradise on earth. The fact that it is right in the middle of the desert and surrounded by mountain peaks is yet another sure sign that there are human beings who think thoroughly and work hard to see their plans through. In the case of Las Vegas, they decided to make it famous for one thing: gambling – and they succeeded in every imaginable way.
When I get out of this place on Friday, I will very quickly like to forget about the smoke-filled casinos and the old women I’ve seen trying so hard to hit the jackpot. But amongst the things I’d never forget about this city is its monorail system. It is a driverless train system that transports thousands of people every day along the ‘Strip’ every day, zigzagging through the city’s skyscrapers and giving passengers magnificent aerial views of the city.
I wish the ‘Asoprochona’ train service was like the Vegas monorail. But then, when John Kufuor was commissioning the service, he seemed quite content that he had built for Accra a rail service that would, in his words, “take us back in the day”. So who am I to complain? The first time I sat on the monorail, I felt very sad that instead of building a modern efficient system, our former president chose rather to “take us back in the day” with a crappy contraption which just doesn’t work. It makes me wonder: when shall we start to look as far into the future as say 50 or hundred years? When shall we have an efficient and dependable rail service? At this rate, I doubt if it will happen in my life time. But, I can’t stop hoping, can I?
Finally, being here in Las Vegas has gotten me reminiscing about my years of ‘innocence’. Those were the days when I used to sit on the bare floor in the rooms of neighbours to watch Azumah Nelson and Mike Tyson beat anyone who dared to stand with them in the boxing ring to pulp in places like Caesar’s Palace and the MGM Grand. Being here doesn’t exactly qualify as an achievement per se but for a ‘hustler’ from Essikado, I feel I’ve really come a long way – and it’s not just because I flew 20 hours to get here!
 
>>> COMING UP: when I ate the dessert before the main dish at the NAB TV Luncheon! 

The irony was hard to miss and so when it struck me I couldn’t help but laugh ‘within’. The occasion was the re-launch of Ghana Telecom and Onetouch under the new brand name of the company’s new owners – Vodafone. Both vice president John Mahama and communication minister, Haruna Iddrisu, seemed quite delighted to be part of the event – which would never have taken place if they had their way in parliament last year.

Not quite long ago, both Mahama and Iddrisu were stridently criticising the Kufuor administration’s decision to sell off 70-percent of government’s stake in Ghana Telecom to the British Company. They said they deal was not good enough and they wanted it scrapped. In parliament they voted against it.
Out of parliament (I couldn’t have been there), I spoke out for the deal. I felt it was what Ghana Telecom needed to save it from outright bankruptcy and to make it a keen competitor in a fast growing industry. I felt then (and I still do) that the sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone was one the best things Kufuor did.
Now, after the re-launch of the company as Vodafone Ghana, I am in complete agreement with the corporate communications director of the Ghana Telecom, Major Don Chebe, that the company is now “born again”.
Listening to their new feisty radio advertisement and observing how they went about re-launching the company, I can feel a certain spring in the step of the company which until a few months ago was all but crippled. Now, it’s a confident, well-financed company ready to compete and bold enough to claim to be the “network that works”.
I am not a subscriber to any of Ghana Telecom’s services. I may never be. But, as a consumer, I am certain that a competitive Vodafone is good for me. It will push my service provider to sit up and give me the services I deserve.
All those who supported the divestiture of GT must feel vindicated and I think President Kufuor deserves a pat on his back (not a BMW) for taking the bold decision to offload government shares in the company. To those who opposed it – like the vice president and the communication minister – how about a couple of humble pies?

On his first day in office, President Mills was heard rumbling and fumbling – unable to say his vows coherently. He was also seen stumbling, unsure of his steps. The 99 days that followed those first 24 hours of the Mills presidency, have been marked variously by uncertainty, inactivity and, in some cases, serious missteps which have seen the president literally stumbling and falling flat on his face!

Watching and following President Mills’ every move over the past one hundred days, I have come to one conclusion: the man came to power unprepared and unready. I have heard it been said that victory in December came to candidate Mills as a rude shock – not a pleasant surprise. He didn’t expect to win. In his mind that last electoral contest was supposed to be his last and he seemed more ready to dismantle the Mills political platform than he was to form a new government.
So it took President Mills the best part of three months to form a government. That’s completely unacceptable and unpardonable. It is common sense that anyone running for the most important job in the land should have some inkling of the people he intends to work closely with – even before he gets the job. I wonder why this seems to have escaped candidate Mills and the best way to explain it is just to say that he completely ruled victory out.
The delay in forming a government, coupled with the chaotic and un-coordinated transitional process, effectively ensured that this country has literally been on ‘pause’ for the past one hundred days.
The decision to dissolve the boards of all state-owned enterprises – some say it was an illegal move – has made matters worse because it put an indefinite freeze on anything from the issuance of academic certificates in the polytechnics to the payment of contractors. Even after taking office, most new ministers are still learning the directions to their offices, some of them can’t believe their luck – like the man who appointed them – and yet others are so inexperienced that we are told to be patient and allow them to learn on the job. At least, one of the new minister is such an airhead many Ghanaians cannot fathom what the president was drinking (or smoking) when he decided to make her a minister.
In the midst of all of the uncertainty, the president managed to present a budget and deliver an excellent sessional address, spelling out some very laudable targets. In fact, one of President Mills’ best offering over the past one hundred days was his sessional address in which he promised to endeavour to “make a difference”.
Basically, he wants to cut back on government spending and channel a lot of the savings into social programmes and infrastructural projects that will help improve the lives of the many poor in the country. In this regard, he constantly reminds his ministers to be “modest”, he has marginally reduced the number of ministers and, unlike his predecessor, he refuses to attend every international conference there is. I am inclined to believe that his austerity measures will certainly rake in some savings. But when you see government officials riding in brand new Toyota V8 Four-Wheel drives and some NDC faithful waving at you from their new posh cars, you will be left to wonder if the savings will be used to better the lives of ordinary people or enhance the luxury of those around the president.
As the president and his team take their own sweet time to settle in, the economy has been in steady decline – the cedi is losing value at such an alarming rate (even people who do not care much about economic indicators have had cause to worry), interest rates are all over the place – galloping like a horse on hashish – and, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any serious plan to stave off the impact of the global recession on the fragile Ghanaian economy.
It is only in Ghana that a losing presidential candidate thought of and proposed an economic “stimulus package”, leaving the elected president and his men scratching their heads. I don’t fully buy into Dr. Kwesi Nduom’s stimulus proposal but, at least, he’s got a plan. The Mills administration, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have any. They have a financial policy statement, of course. But it doesn’t really spell out any specific, proactive measures tailored to deal with the global recession. In these tough times when the strongest economies in the world are buckling under this severe recession, it doesn’t bode well that our government seems to be merely groping in the dark, seemingly content with its own false self-assurance that the crisis may not reach to this part of the world. Failure to put a plan in place might hurt this economy more than the crisis itself…
But then, I am reminded that the country is on “pause” and when someone presses the “play” button, government might stop pretending that all is honky-dory.   
Very few exciting things happen when the whole nation is on “pause” – the people get very little or no inspiration from a president holed up in his castle, the government is not proposing any radical policies to excite us about the future and almost the entire government machinery is on vacation. Thankfully, the Mills administration ensured (sometimes inadvertently) that we were never left yawning out of boredom for too long. Most of the excitement over the last 100 days has been generated by cars and perks for politicians.
The first one hundred days of the Mills administration will be very well remembered for the chaotic manner in which state-sponsored thugs went about seizing so-called executive assets (mostly luxury cars) from officials of the previous administration. Cars were mistakenly seized in such a brutish manner (notably from the opposition party’s former presidential candidate), returned and due apologies rendered only for some nincompoops to go snatching more cars again – and for the cycle to start all over again. The brutish manner of the car seizures reminded Ghanaians of a by-gone era and many were left asking: “who the heck is in charge? Is it the meek and mild Mills or the brawny Rawlings?”
All the talk about ex-gratia packages for retiring politicians also added to the excitement. There were days when many were left wondering whether there weren’t any important issues to engage the attention of the nation besides cars and houses.
After all the uncertainty and near-inactivity, it is quite remarkable that President Mills finds it appropriate to pat himself on the back for doing what he considers to be a pretty decent job within his first one hundred days. He gives himself a score of 80 percent for, among others, appointing a council of state, having most of his ministers at post (never mind that many of them are going to be learning on the job), removing fuel taxes and reducing the size of government (which I still insist is obese).
Sadly, President Mills uses the failures of his predecessor as his benchmark for success. Even where he has failed to deliver, he forcefully claims to have succeeded. For example, he promised to take steps to clean up the filth in most of our cities within the first one hundred days. No such thing has been done (besides a talk-shop on waste management) and the country is as filthy as ever. He also promised to reduce armed robberies and ensure security for all within one hundred days. But stories of dreadful armed robberies abound in the media every day and Ghanaians do not feel any safer now than they did before the NDC came to power.
The fact remains, however, that Ghanaians voted Mills to serve a four-year mandate. We expect him to deliver so much within the shortest possible time – but certainly not within one hundred days. This hundred-day honeymoon was given added significance because the president promised to deliver certain things within the period. He has succeeded in some areas but in others he has failed. The good news, though, is that Ghanaians will not judge him on his first one hundred days in office. The full report card will be ready at the end of four years and when that time comes, the president will not be the one grading himself.
When President Mills said he was going to “hit the ground running”, most Ghanaians expected him to spend very little time warming up. In hundred days, he doesn’t seem to even have gotten on his marks. Now that the honeymoon is over and we expect the president to quickly break into a sprint and start running as fast as he can. It’s going to be a long, arduous race. There will be mountains and valleys and there will be moments when he will run out of breath. But most Ghanaians are keen and ready to follow his lead and very few, if any, expect him to tumble.   
 
There is something strikingly missing in the government’s response to all the agitation against the nomination of certain people as District Chief Executives. It’s alright to hear the local government minister tell the agitators to back off because the president has exercised his constitutional prerogative. It’s also very heart-warming to hear the Castle press secretary say emphatically that the president will not buckle and that he’s not going to withdraw any of the nominees – it shows his balls are gradually hardening and that’s exactly what every president needs: a steely paid.  
But it’s rather disheartening that so far no one in government has said anything about the need to pass legislation get the DCEs elected in the not too distant future. That’s where we should be heading.
For years, the appointment of DCEs has been used as a tool of political patronage. Very few people are appointed as DCEs because they presented a workable plan for developing their communities, improving sanitation and providing all the services we should expect from our district assemblies.
In most cases, our presidents offer the positions of DCEs to people as gifts or as payback for some service rendered. That’s why we have NDC hoodlums in a place like Akwatia destroying public property because the ‘gift’ went to a man they consider to be undeserving of it. The offer of DCE jobs as gifts and rewards to political cronies also explains why the district assemblies are so ineffective and inefficient. The only way to change this is to allow the people to choose their DCEs.
Before Kufuor came to power, the NPP promised to give us the right to choose our DCEs. The moment they gained power, they changed their minds. This was after they realised that those positions can be offered as gifts to political cronies and people who are deemed to deserve some reward for contributing to the party’s cause. They later insulted our intelligence by giving us the excuse that the country is not ready for a system under which DCEs are elected.
Hogwash!
If we elect our president and our lawmakers, why are we not ready to elect our district administrators?
The NDC – under Jerry Rawlings started using the DCE positions to reward party faithful – so it is not exactly surprising that the party, back in power, doesn’t seem so keen on changing the status quo. That’s why no one in government is talking about the need for the country to start moving to a place where the selection of DCEs will no longer be one the issues that trigger presidential headaches. Only God knows how many tablets of ‘EFPAC’ President Mills has had to swallow with all the agitations against his DCE nominations. He can save all those who will come after him all of these bouts of migraine if he takes the bold decision to ensure that we vote for our DCEs in the not-too-distant future.
It may not be the most politically expedient thing to do. But it’s what this country needs to make sure that decentralisation concept works for the people. Electing the DCEs means they will go to the people regularly to seek or renew their mandate to serve. When that happens (as is the case at the national level) DCEs who underperform will be kicked out and new ones brought in to deliver the goods.
Frankly, most of us are tired of the excuses they keep offering for the heaps of garbage in our cities and towns, the choked gutters, the dirty markets, the flagrant violation of housing regulations (people don’t have loos in their homes) and the rundown schools. The only way to change this is to make sure that the right to decide who should be a DCE is no longer a presidential prerogative. I don’t think this will diminish the president in any way, will it?  

Dear friends, I have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support for me in these my moments of need. It sounds incredible but it’s very true that carpet sellers, radio DJs, office cleaners, shoe repairers and a few ‘latrine boys’ – among several others – have decided to come together to contribute towards buying me a plush, armoured-plated luxury salon car which I so richly deserve.

When Tata Mills seized the three BMWs I had bought for myself I was really saddened. I felt broken and humiliated. To add insult to injury this man who swings his head like there is no tomorrow decided to offer me some cheap Chryslers as replacement. I have never felt so insulted. So I rejected his offers.
I had also kept some three Ford Expedition Four wheel drive vehicles and I thought Tata Mills wouldn’t dare come for them too. But the sucker did. This, in addition to his blatant refusal to allow me to use the office complex I so carefully and diligently chose for myself as well as the denial of my right to enjoy that ‘Jollof’ ex-gratia Mary cooked for me leaves me with no other choice than to feel persecuted like no ex-president has ever been.
Can’t a man retire in peace and tranquillity with the bounty he wants? Well, I blame it all on that short man, Nana Kufo. If he had opened his mouth wider and spoken to the understanding of most Ghanaians, instead of slanging like he was born in Nottingham, he wouldn’t have lost to a man like Tata Mills whom we all agree is nothing but a poodle. And to think that a poodle is hounding me and seizing everything I was looking forward to enjoy really pisses me off!
However, it is very heart warming to know that as I am persecuted, I have true and loyal friends who will stand by me, defend all my inexcusable actions and even offer to buy me a luxury car.
Much as I very well and truly appreciate the gesture, I can’t help but say that one BMW is just not enough. If you want to help, please go the full mile with me. Tata Mills seized not one but three armoured BMWs from me. If you want to shame him and let him know that he can’t do me ‘foko’, the least you can do is to get me an equal number of luxury vehicles with even superior specifications. For me, in fact, the magic number is six – check out Auntie Mary’s recommendations. I only took three armoured-plated BMWs home because I was trying to sacrifice a little for the nation, considering the world financial crisis. Plus, I also had those Ford Expeditions. But now, they are all gone and I expect my friends to meet my desires – not to tell me to reduce my expectations. So, my friends, I am very happy with your kind offer to get me one BMW but I am afraid it’s not enough. Make it three.
I am reliably informed that even the single vehicle you are offering to get for me can only be delivered in 13 weeks. That’s too long, my friends. Tata Mills has seized all my vehicles and I needed this car like yesterday. Now that you are asking me to wait for well over three months before you send me this ‘gift’, how in heaven’s name do you expect me to be moving around? Using ‘trotro’ or the mass transport buses I bought? That’s beneath me.
I think the BMW manufacturers have a premium order and delivery service, under which vehicles can be delivered in just about two weeks. You may just have to pay a little more than what you are currently struggling to raise. Try harder and make sure that the first car is flown down here before the end of April.
If you need any help, let me know. I can lend you some money to buy the car for me and you can pay back later at your own leisurely pace. After all, what are friends for? You scratch my back, I wash yours.
And by the way, whiles you consider buying me a car, please don’t forget to spare a thought for my office accommodation as well. Tata Mills is such a slow guy – even Papa Boom is not happy with him – and so I shudder to think that he will not make up his mind on this office issue anytime soon. I might have to fall on my friends to raise some money for me to rent some office space – preferably at Ridge. Just think about this. For the moment, though, hurry and get me the first car.
 
Your friend in need,
J. A. Fukuor
 
PS: I know it’s been a long time since I wrote a letter like this. I have come to a certain arrangement with my friend Ato Kwamena Dadzie and you will most certainly be reading a lot more from me on this site.
 

 

After keeping mute for almost one month, former Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer ‘Befakor’ Sekyi-Hughes issued a statement last week defending his disgraceful ‘loot’ of the house he stayed in as the third most important man in the land. His statement, though welcome, was quite disappointing in the sense that it didn’t reveal anything new.

I was expecting that he would come out with all guns blazing, threatening legal action against his accusers – including the leaders of both sides of parliament – and denying all the allegations that he shamelessly ransacked the house. If he had done that, his accusers would have bowed their heads in shame and eaten humble pie. Case closed!
As things stand now, those who have been calling him names from “thief” to “master looter” are walking about with their shoulders high, even more convinced that his decision to take away everything in the house – including soap dishes and flower pots – was a disgraceful affront to the office he occupied.
In his statement, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes points out that he didn’t take away anything that he wasn’t entitled to, confirming what minority leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has already told us – that ‘Befakor’ claims that the Parliamentary Service Board (PSB) had given him the licence to loot.
“My proposal regarding the disposal and sale of soft furnishing to occupants of official residences at the end of their term of office was approved,” he writes.
The majority leader, Alban Bagbin (a member of the PSB under Sakyi-Hughes) has repeatedly denied knowledge of any such approval. But even if we assume that for one reason or another Mr. Bagbin is afflicted by a sudden bout amnesia, how exactly can Mr. Sekyi-Hughes use whatever green light he claims to have been given to brighten up this dark deed of greed.
For a man of his age, one would have expected that when he was vacating the bungalow – and assuming permission had been granted for some things to be taken away – he would have asked for a representative of the Parliamentary Service Board to be present to determine what had been “approved” for “disposal and sale”. This representative would have been kind enough to point out to him – in case he didn’t know – that generator sets do not exactly qualify to be classified as “soft furnishings”.
In his statement, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes also tries to use legalese to create confusion in our minds by suggesting that his predecessors might have enjoyed a “loot” like his.
“Such furnishing (soft and hard),” he writes, “has been retained by leadership on leaving office”, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes wrote.
Here, he deliberately uses the word “leadership” because it doesn’t apply only to speakers. The deputy speakers, the whips and the leaders on both sides of the house are also part of the “leadership” of parliament. These people are primarily MPs and whatever package they enjoy – as obscene as it may be – is quite different from what Mr. Sekyi Hughes would want us to believe was enjoyed by his predecessors.
Mr. Sekyi-Hughes’ predecessor, Peter Ala Adjetey stayed in his own house throughout his tenure as speaker. There is no way Ala Adjetey would have looted state property in the same shameful manner Sekyi-Hughes did. However, it must be said that Mr. Adjetey’s house was furnished by the state and he kept the furnishings when he was booted out. I am told there was a similar arrangement with Justice Daniel Annan (speaker from 1992 to 2000).
Contrast this with the senior MPs – the whips, the majority and minority leaders as well as the two deputy speakers whose retirement package forms part of the obscene ex-gratia most right-thinking Ghanaians are complaining about. They are allowed to buy their officials bungalows (and all therein) at ‘donkomised’ prices.
Perhaps this is what Mr. Sekyi-Hughes is referring to when he points out that leadership “retained” some furnishings. This is rather disingenuous because being allowed to buy and keep a house and everything in it is quite different from vacating the house and stripping it bare.
Furthermore, most of us can quite stomach the idea that a public official whose accommodation doesn’t become a burden on the state should be allowed to “retain” the furnishing the state has provided him – as was the case with Ala Adjetey. But very few of us (perhaps, mostly of the Sekyi-Hughes ilk) will accept that a departing public official should vacate his residence and take away everything and not “leave even a pin behind,” as Majority leader Alban Bagbin puts it.
Having failed to deliver a clear, emphatic and unequivocal denial of the allegation that he had engaged in a disgraceful “loot”, Mr. Sekyi-Hughes finally suggests he is waiting for word from the relevant authority so that he can take the next steps.
“If it is the view that any particular item must be paid for,” he writes “the Parliamentary Service Board may so determine it, consistent with the manner of disposal to earlier beneficiaries.”
Such shamelessness! Why can’t he just cart back all the stuff he took away (let’s say in anger) just to shame those who have been calling him names? Then, after sifting through the items, the PSB can decide what he is entitled to. For sure, they would allow him to keep his wall hangings as well as the towels and bed sheets. But the expensive crockery, the so-called designer curtains and Arabian rugs are state property and he must not be allowed to keep them. If Kufuor’s cars have been taken back, Sekyi-Hughes’ rugs and forks must be retrieved.
The Parliamentary Service Board is due to meet next Tuesday to discuss the the former speaker’s disgraceful loot. Hopefully they will come out with a strong statement that Mr. Sekyi-Hughes acted wrongly and that he deceives when he says that he had been given permission to loot. If for any reason, he cannot return the items, he must be made to pay for them in such a manner that he feels punished for desecrating the high office he once occupied with such unrestrained avarice. 

 

A few months into the Mills presidency, one of the most powerful men within the ruling NDC has been whining about how the ruling party has “lost grounds to the opposition in the media”.
In a seven-page memo to none other than the president, Paul Victor Obeng (who was largely thought of as the unofficial ‘Prime Minister’ under the Rawlings regime) states: “The opposition seems to have taken the media war to us and dictating the agenda. The government has lost grounds to the opposition in the media and that the past government is succeeding in making our government seem unready, confused and incoherent.”
Mr. Obeng then proceeds to make some recommendations about how the government’s so-called losses can be reversed. He suggests, for example, that “the strategies designed by the media group of the NDC should be made to roll out to deal partly with the situation.” For now, it’s hard to tell what these strategies are. But Mr. Obeng offers some insights.
“We need more dedicated FM and credible and authoritative newspaper outlets within the soonest possible time,” he writes. “We may have to explore the possibility of sponsoring radio and TV programmes.”
P. V. Obeng is a powerful man. President Mills trusts him a great deal otherwise he wouldn’t have made him the chairman of the NDC’s transition team. Mr. Obeng’s words carry a lot of weight and he is among a small clique in this country who has the President’s ears 24/7.
Reading the part of his memo titled “Regaining the media ground from the enemy” should fill every Ghanaian with a great deal of trepidation. What Mr. Obeng seeks is for the government to create a situation where NDC operatives control a significant portion of the media in the hopes that this will help push the government’s agenda whiles making the government look and feel good.
The media is a vast battlefield where politicians (among several other groups and organisations) fight intensely to win the hearts and minds of the populace. Elections are won and lost on this battlefield because those who like to weigh their options before casting their ballots tend to depend on information in the media to help them make up their minds.
In Ghana, it is estimated that about 25 percent of the voting population falls within this finicky group, members of which are known as the “floating voters”. They are here today, there tomorrow and where they “float” to is often a product of what they have seen, heard or read in the media – television, radio and newspapers. 
P. V. Obeng reckons that if the NDC controls the media, it will be easier for the party to avoid bad press – the sort of reportage that compels the floating voters to move to the other side. He is worried that newspapers like ‘The Statesman’ and ‘The Daily Guide’ – decidedly anti-NDC media – are setting the agenda and making the Mills administration seem quite wobbly.
“Negative press against us has been a function of the ownership of media establishments by people opposed to us and our views,” he says.
Mr. Obeng thinks that the best way to counter this is to roll out the ruling party’s media strategy, which one can only hope doesn’t involve anything more sinister than merely placing a number of media outlets in the hands of NDC sympathisers.
But he’s mistaken. What he’s suggesting (even if they include sinister plots like sh*t-bombing or imprisoning journalists on trumped-up charges) have been tried before. None of them kept any party in power forever.
First of all, it is important for P. V. Obeng – and all those who think like him – to realise that it is not the previous government which is making the Mills administration “seem unready, confused and incoherent.” It is the government’s own making. The government has made some petty mistakes it cannot wholly blame on the opposition. The un-coordinated car seizures brought back very bad memories and it was to be expected that the opposition will want to make maximum capital out of those incident. If you seize someone’s car, return it with a confession that it was a mistake and offer an apology only to turn around to mistakenly seize another car again, what do you expect your opponents to do? Clap for you?
President Mills’ actions (and inactions) have to some extent portrayed him as having been unprepared to take over the reins of government. For example, the president seems to have only started thinking about the shape and form of his governing team only after he was sworn into office and after all the dilly-dallying it turns out that a good number of his team members are going to be learning on the job. This hardly cast him in the mould of someone who is ready to govern.
Why is it that after four months in office, district chief executives are still not at post? Is this a government which is ready? If the government was so coherent why is it that when the president spoke so angrily the other time, we were all sent scrambling for what he meant? And he didn’t speak Yiddish, did he? Yet on different networks, his spokesman and communications director were interpreting his remarks differently – leaving us all scratching our heads all the more.  
It is very true that the government seems “unready, confused and incoherent”. That’s pretty much the picture so far. If P. V. Obeng is looking for people to blame for this negative image, he should stop blaming “the enemy” and start looking within.
Secondly, the ruling party shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever controlling the most far-reaching media outlets in the country – the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (they have “nationwide coverage”) and ‘The Daily Graphic’. On GBC radio and TV and in the ‘Daily Graphic’, the government of the day hardly ever does any wrong. Their editors are among the most subservient in the country – they will write and publish anything government asks them to. It has been so for ages and no one should expect this to change under the NDC.
As has been the case in the past, the president and his ministers will dominate the pages of the ‘Daily Graphic’ – and to some extent, ‘The Ghanaian Times’ – and they will have all the powers to dictate to the bosses at GBC which pictures to show and which sound bites to play.
If this isn’t enough and the government still wants to set up radio stations for its supporters to run, they are at liberty to do so – as long as the opening of new pro-NDC stations do not result in the (forced) closure of the old ones, especially those perceived to be in opposition hands.
Thirdly, P. V. Obeng and those who think like him should realise that Ghanaians are increasingly becoming very savvy with their media consumption. Even teenagers who have not attained the voting age can tell the difference between sycophantic propaganda and credible reportage and analysis.
If this was not the case, there was no chance in hell that the NDC would have won the last elections. The pro-NPP newspapers (and radio stations) gave the impression that President Mills was all but dead. But the voters preferred the ‘living-dead’ man to the seemingly healthy Nana Addo.
When the NPP went on a media blitz, splurging millions of cedis from questionable sources on billboards, full-page colour advertisements in the newspapers and lengthy radio commercials, the NDC was struggling to organise a fund-raising dinner (tickets for which remained unsold) and it seemed Nana Addo was well on his way to a resounding victory. Yet the verdict of the people went against him and his NPP.
The NDC won the election not because they controlled the media. They won because Kufuor and his gang were screwing up big time. Despite their deceitful propaganda, Ghanaians saw through the facade and voted against the NPP.
Therefore, my final point is a simple one. Instead of seeking to control media outlets, as has been suggested by P. V. Obeng, President Mills should just simply focus on delivering on his promise to “make a difference” in the life of every Ghanaian. He should get the hundreds of thousands of school children studying under trees into proper classrooms, build hospitals, make healthcare accessible to all and provide the basics we all desire – water, electricity and security.
The Mills administration should make sure that government works for the vast majority people – not just a select, privileged few. This is the best strategy for winning the hearts and the minds of the people. A government which intends to fail is the one which will seek to control the media so that it can cover up it failings with vile propaganda.
The NDC can set up 30 radio stations in every region and instruct each station to play ‘Akatamanso’ tunes from dusk to dawn with regular messages from everyone who matters in the party. They can even sponsor ‘The Loo Snatchers’ reality programme and they can also resort to ‘buying’ journalists like the NPP did to “sing” their praises. But all of these will not keep the NDC in power forever if the promises are not fulfilled and government fails to work for the people. And if they dare try any rough tactics (typical NDC ‘buga-buga’ moves) on the media… well, let’s just say that Ghanaians will start numbering their days in power much sooner than they ever imagined.