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September 2009

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First of all let me say I love the man Ekow Spio-Garbrah. I fell in love with him several years ago. In fact, I took the decision to go to journalism school after reading his profile in the Daily Graphic. I still have a cutting of that piece with me.

If Spio-Garbrah were a woman, you could say that I’ve nursed a crush on him for well over a decade. It just won’t go away. I love his intellect. I am in love with the way he speaks, the things he says and how he says them. I love the fact that he is such an assertive man (the sort many Ghanaians will describe as “arrogant”) and, above all else, I deeply admire everything he has achieved for himself.

In the race for the NDC presidential slot, I rooted for him. But he lost to the man who is now President. Having won the presidency, I thought that it was impossible for President Mills to leave Spio-Garbrah out of his governing team. But to my surprise, the President refused to make Spio-Garbrah an integral part of his team. Thus one of the most intelligent, forward-looking men in the NDC is not serving in the Mills administration. Instead, the president prefers to play ‘chaskele’ with the destiny of the nation by turning government into a nursery for the inexperienced and the downright incompetent. I’ve made this point before that Ghanaians do not have time to waste on the president and his incompetent ministers. And it was this same point Spio-Garbrah made in a recent article published in the Daily Graphic.

In that article, Spio-Garbrah questioned the President’s judgment in putting together what he believes to be a second-string governing team, saying that a good number of the people serving in the Mills administration “have been appointed not on the basis of merit but by virtue of proximity to power, feigned loyalty, financial considerations and other factors.”

In questioning the current crop of government appointees, Spio-Garbrah seems to be making a veiled (or desperate?) plea to be invited into the government.

He also makes the point (and forcefully so) that Ghanaians are in a hurry to see their country develop and that we need the basics of life now – not tomorrow, not the day after. He speaks for many Ghanaians when he suggests that we just can’t wait for the President to fumble all he wants whiles begging us to give him time to get his act together.

“Many Ghanaians believe that the Mills-Mahama administration could have put its best foot forward faster,” he writes. “There is a general measurable view around the country that the NDC government can indeed achieve more results faster if it simply ensured that the right NDC people are in the right positions; nothing very complex.”

I disagree with the points he makes about NDC faithful being hungry for jobs and his repetition of claims by Jerry Rawlings that the NPP built a certain machinery that needs to be destroyed to enable the Mills administration govern the way it should. But that’s for another time.

The point is that Spio-Garbrah’s article was spot-on and someone in the NDC needed to say those things to President Mills – and publicly. Only a brave and patriotic man will stick his neck out the way Spio-Garbrah did, knowing very well that many in his party will not take kindly to his remarks.

That is where Ato Ahwoi comes in. He thinks that Spio-Garbrah is “trying to intimidate the president” to offer him a cabinet appointment. Mr. Ahwoi suggests that Spio-Garbrah once called President Mills a “sick man” and that is why he has not been invited to serve in the administration. Ahwoi asks: “Why are you so desperate to serve in the government headed by someone who will never win an election?” And then he encourages Spio-Garbrah to continue “pissing in” (on the government) – in reference to a statement by former US President Lynden B. Johnson about how he tolerated J. Edgar Hoover as the director of the FBI: “I’d rather have him [Edgar] inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.” [In his original article Spio-Garbrah, mistakenly attributes this quote to John F. Kennedy.]

I think Mr. Ahwho doesn’t get it. And I am saying so not just because Spio-Garbrah is a man I deeply admire. If President Mills really has the national interest at heart, he should rather listen to the likes of Spio-Garbrah and not Ahwoi, who rather comes across to me as a man trying so hard to curry the favour of the President so he can say: “Mr. President, when Spio criticised you, I was the one who jumped to your defence.”

There are a lot of idiots in Ghana. Spio-Garbrah is definitely not one of them. I am sure that he carefully considered the repercussions of his opinions before putting them on paper. He must have known that party faithful, especially the dye-in-the-wool sycophantic variety, will not take kindly to his decision to publicly question the judgment of the president. You don’t ostracise people like that. They mean well. And that’s why Obama has Hilary Clinton gave Hilary Clinton the important position of Secretary of State after all the bitter acrimony that characterised the Democratic primaries. Hilary Clinton might never have called Obama a sick man because Obama didn’t show any signs of sickness but she surely made a lot of disparaging remarks about him.

If, as Ato Ahwoi suggests, Mills is keeping Spio out of his government because Spio called him a sick man, then we have a very vindictive snob for president. And to the extent that the president would keep experienced people like Spio-Garbrah out whiles he engages in nation-building trial-and-error with incompetents? That smacks of bad leadership and lack of foresight. I hope that is not the case. Otherwise, we should put our hands on our heads in despair, start screaming “buei, buei” and forget about “a better Ghana”.

Instead of completely ignoring Spio-Garbrah’s piece, the President should read it thoroughly and act on it with what Barack Obama describes as the “urgency of the now”. Spio-Garbrah will do just fine without a government job. I am sure that if that was what he wanted, he wouldn’t have written that scathing criticism about how the Mills administration is faltering. So by all means, the President can choose not give him a job. In fact, I like him outside “pissing in”. If the NPP had someone who publicly questioned Kufuor’s missteps, Professor Mills would be addressing MBA students in a Canadian university – not fellow heads of state at the UN General Assembly; Zita would still be serving cold beer at her drinking spot, there would have been no ‘munkyinga’ and NDC supporters wouldn’t have had the nerve to go around seizing toilets. Got the drift? That’s something for Ahwoi and his sycophantic ilk to mull over.

What does the NDC and its national chairman take Ghanaians for? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself after reading the party’s statement in response to allegations that some of its most senior members took bribes from UK construction firm, Mabey and Johnson. That statement signed by party chairman, Dr. Kwabena Agyei, is very insulting – to say the least – and it only goes to show that the party is really hard-pressed to give the named officials a whitewash.

And from Dr. Adjei’s statement, it seems that any silly excuse will do.

“For the record, the NDC wishes to categorically state that it has never received funds from Mabey and Johnson Company,” the statement said. “Records available to the party do not reveal receipts of any such funds from the said company or its agents.”

When did politicians start offering receipts for bribes they’ve taken?
“Here’s your receipt, Mr. Mabey. Thanks for your custom. Say ‘hi’ to Mr. Johnson… and hey, come back with more, eh?”

Alternatively…

“Hullo, I Mabey and standing right next to me is my partner, Johnson. We are calling about the bribes we gave three of your members two weeks ago. Our auditors are in and they are asking for the receipts. Can you prepare some for us, please?”

Who does that? No one takes receipts for bribes.

We understand the NDC badly needs a whitewash – for itself and for its named members. But this is not how to go about it. The party’s assertion that Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings was never a member of the NDC finance committee and that Baba Kamara was a deputy treasurer and not the treasurer are well noted. But they are of little relevance here. In any case, no one has said that monies were paid directly to the NDC.

The fact is that leading members of the NDC are alleged to have taken bribes to influence the award of contracts to the British company. Some of these monies undoubtedly went into the coffers of the NDC. And we don’t expect receipts to be issued for such payments into NDC coffers. The NDC (and no political party for that matter) writes receipts for ‘donations’ – euphemism for ‘bribes’ – they receive from all sorts of organisations and individuals. Otherwise, will Rawlings be kind enough to show us the duplicates of the receipts he gave to those who paid for his children’s school fees abroad?

The government’s response was unsurprisingly typical.

“President Mills has become aware of a judgment in London, convicting a British company, Mabey and Johnson of and its directors after they pleaded guilty to making corrupt payments to certain Ghanaian public officials,” chief of staff, John Newman said in a statement.

“President Mills has instructed the attorney general to request for detailed information from the authorities in the United Kingdom about the matters that have resulted in the conviction. This is to inform a course of action on the matter to include investigations in Ghana.”

If you know Ghanaian politics, you won’t keep your fingers crossed. There will be no “course of action”. That is to say that no one will be punished and the government will go to great lengths to throw dust into our eyes, telling us some cock and bull stories about the lack of evidence or some other meaningless mumbo jumbo to whitewash the named officials. We are going to be fed with a lot of crap about what happened and what did not happen and at the end of the day, it will be like Mabey and Johnson never happened.

The corrupt deeds for which Mabey and Johnson is being punished took place whiles our current President was vice President under the Rawlings administration. The stinking dossier presented by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office indicates that people very high up in the government took huge sums of money from the British Company to promote the firm’s commercial interests here. Some of the monies were paid to people who had been tasked with the responsibility of raising money for the ruling party at the time – which is the ruling party now. Some of the monies undoubtedly went into the NDC’s war chest that helped Rawlings to win his second term as a civilian president with Atta Mills as his vice.

Whether he cares to admit it or not, President Mills benefitted from the bribes that were taken by the likes of George Sipa-Yankey and Kwame Peprah. They didn’t stash all the cash in their private accounts. Some of it went to the NDC. Mills knows about it and so does Rawlings.

If President Mills tries to take any action against the named officials, he would come across as a turncoat – betraying the party’s cause. Under the circumstance therefore, his best option is to pretend that he’s going to do something, whiles Ghanaians wait and wait and wait – until we either forget or get some other scandal to blow Mabey and Johnson into the dustbin of history.

Every Ghanaian with pubic hair knows that contracts are not always awarded to those who can best execute the job. They are often given to those who are willing to return the favour by offering kickbacks. Conventional wisdom has it that the kickback is usually ten percent of the contract amount. NDC took these kickbacks under Rawlings – despite all his rants about “probity and accountability”. NPP under Kufuor did no different. In fact, Kufuor allegedly took the monies himself – and kept them in sacks in his office, much to the annoyance of his party chairman who complained bitterly and publicly about it.

So the party in power always uses its power to award contract to raise funds for its electioneering. That is why the ruling party is always rich and the opposition party is almost always broke. Just cast your mind back to the elections last year. If the ballots had been awarded on the basis of the wealth of the contesting parties, the ruling party at the time (NPP) would have won the polls by a landslide. They had money – too much of it – to splurge on gigantic and glossy billboards yet people lined up to give them more. At one of their fund-raising events, people holding sacks of cash were turned away because they didn’t come on time and the venue was full. People came to give because they knew that they more they gave, the more contracts they would receive.

The NDC, on the other hand, struggled to raise funds. Whiles the NPP sold out its fundraising tickets, hoards of the NDC’s were left unsold. They were eventually forced to call off the event.

That was in 2008.

At the next election in 2012, you can bet your last pesewa that there will be a role reversal. The NDC will have more cash and the NPP will struggle to raise money. Businessmen will run to donate to the NDC and the NPP will be hard-pressed to organise a decent fund-raiser.

When that happens, remember Mabey and Johnson.

They are not the only ones who have bribed and corrupted public officials like George Sipa Yankey, Boniface Siddique, Ato Quarshie, Obed Asamoah and Kwame Peprah. There are several other companies who pay cash for contracts. President Mills knows that this happens. But his hands are tired. He can’t do anything without displeasing his party faithful or jeopardising his own political career. And that’s why he will do nothing.

I am putting together my thoughts on this scandal and I thought I could share the details of the London court ruling with you. We have always suspected that these things happen, right? But, now, thanks to Mabey and Johnson, we have some proof – from as far back as 1996. For now, just ‘enjoy’ this. >>>

107. M&J has conducted business with government departments in Ghana over a number of decades. From the mid 1980’s until approximately 1996, M&J’s interests in Ghana were represented by Kwame Ofori. During the early 1990’s Kwame Ofori acted as M&J’s agent in Ghana. He controlled a Ghanaian bridge building company, and apparently had influence within the ruling circles of the then ruling party in the Ghanaian government – the National Democratic Congress (“NDC”).

108. To promote its business transactions with government departments of Ghana, M&J paid commissions to its agent or agents in relation to the business it won in Ghana. It is accepted by M&J that through the creation of the GDF (the notional fund created by M&J known as the “Ghana Development Fund”), its executives facilitated corruption on behalf of M&J and that its executives were in (or sought to create) a corrupt relationship with a variety of decision making Ghanaian public officials with responsibilities affecting M&J’s affairs. These funds were purportedly for the development of M&J business in Ghana but, in truth and reality, were capable of and were understood to be capable of, being used for corrupt purposes.

109. When appointing and permitting its agents in Ghana to act on its behalf or for it, M&J knew that there was a risk that unknown proportions of the agents’ commission totalling £750,000 might be used for corrupt purposes.

110. The budget representing the GDF was managed by Director D, an executive who later became a director of M&J. Whilst Director D had responsibility for different territories during his career, in particular he had responsibility for Ghana. Consequently during the material period, the affairs of M&J in Ghana were heavily influenced by his direction and control.

111. On 3 April 1996 Mr. Ofori and a relative attended a meeting at Twyford with the Office Manager. It appears that Director B and other Directors made their excuses for not attending. The Office Manager’ note of the meeting records that Mr Ofori did not have control over the "total 15% commission". Mr Ofori complained that he had problems as he did not believe Director D had distributed 5% to the "relevant personnel" or “local personalities”. The note records Mr Ofori saying that had he been involved in the payment of the total amount of the 15% commission the present difficulties would not have existed and said that this aspect had been dealt with ably by him in the past.

112. On 14 March 1996 Mr. Ofori had sent a fax on “Danielli Mabey Ltd” headed notepaper (a Ghanaian company which was wholly unrelated to M&J and which is understood to have been owned by Kwame Ofori). The fax was marked for the attention of Mrs Margaret Ofori in Accra and appears to have been then passed to M&J. The fax detailed how it was that “the situation in Ghana has been deteriorating gradually ever since Director D came in to Ghana.” There can be little doubt that the contents of the fax had become known at Twyford before Mr. Ofori visited M&J’s Head Office. This is because Director D had himself sent a “confidential memo” dated 25 March 1996 direct to Director B rebutting Mr. Ofori’s assertions, and detailing how it was that he had had a meeting recently with the only person who “can guarantee M&J’s position in this market”: Kwame Peprah. Mr. Peprah was at that time the acting Minister of Finance and the Chairman of the NDC Finance Committee.

113. In fact Director D had been introduced to Mr. Peprah through Baba Kamara (aka I. B. Ibraimah), who was the NDC Treasurer, and ‘political overseer’ for the Ministry for Roads and Highways.

114. The role of Baba Kamara and his value as an agent to M&J is made clear in a document authored by a M&J executive, probably prior to July 1996, and sent to Director A; Director B; Director C and Director E. The document is entitled “Ghana” “Review of existing Agent and introduction of alternative Agent”. Concerning the value of the proposed new agent, “Kamara Ltd is a small Ghanaian contractor owned by Baba Kamara. He is the NCE (sic) Treasurer and also the political overseer for the Ministry of Roads and Highways. He is a member of the all powerful NDC Finance Committee which includes Kwame Peprah (Minister of Finance and Minister of Mines and Energy), Obed Asamoah (Justice Minister and Foreign Minister) and Mrs Rawlings amongst others….[he] has considerable influence over Ato Quarshie, the Minister for Roads, the Deputy Minister and other top ranking civil servants and has been working with us since June 1994. This has been demonstrated over the allocation of the extra Stg 1.3 mil for the Tano bridge and the Stg 4.5 mil allocation for the Priority Bridge Programme.”5

115. Additionally, Mr. Kamara’s wife was secretary to the then President of Ghana – the former Flight Lieutenant ‘Jerry’ Rawlings, who had originally achieved power by means of a military coup in 1981. Unsurprisingly, a person in the position of influence of Mr. Kamara was an attractive prospect to M&J as agent for their business in Ghana, and the SFO contend, that M&J knew and intended that commission paid to Mr. Kamara would be deployed as and when required to corruptly promote M&J’s commercial interests. The SFO believe that because he had demonstrated his effectiveness to attract business corruptly, he was appointed by M&J. This is not accepted by M&J.

116. Allied to the decision to use Mr. Kamara as their agent from some time early in 1996, M&J had plainly also decided to “sideline” Mr. Ofori, and to impose more direct control over the payments made to “local personalities” by Director D supervising and control from 1994 and the creation of the notional GDF.

117. As will become apparent, whereas in Jamaica corrupt payments were directed towards a specific individual, payments allocated against the GDF were more general and numerous government ministers and officials were potentially in line for a bribe. Each such payment required the authorisation of two M&J directors.

118. Payments allocated against the GDF did not relate specifically to stages of contracts in progress. The SFO says that they were obviously made with the intention of securing and maintaining those contracts when it was deemed prudent to do so. It is accepted by M&J that in creating and making payments from this fund corrupt payments would be made to public officials in order to affect the decision making process in favour of M&J. Thus payments were made for a variety of purported purposes to a variety of ministers and officials. Some of those purposes were self-evidently unrelated to M&J’s legitimate business such that the payments can best – and, indeed, only – be described as bribes. Not only were the bribes overt, so too was the means of collection on the part of the Ghanaian ministers and officials, most of whom had UK bank accounts. Some, indeed, visited the UK in order to collect their payments in sterling.

119. During the 1990’s M&J entered into three principal contracts with the Ghanaian Ministry of Roads and Highways (“MRH”) for the provision of bridges: Priority Bridge Programme Number 1, worth £14.5 million, was agreed in 1994; Priority Bridge Programme Number 2, worth around £8 million, was agreed in 1996; and the Feeder Roads Project, worth £3.5 million, was agreed in 1998.

120. Throughout the relevant period, and until the general election in 2000, the NDC formed the Government of Ghana and many of the GDF payments were directed to its members. Thus the then Minister at the MRH, Dr. Ato Quarshie, received a cheque when he visited London in July 1995 in the sum of £55,000 for “contract consultancy”. The cheque was drawn on M&J’s Clydesdale Bank account at the Victoria branch in Buckingham Palace Road, and signed by Director A, and another M&J director at that time. Director A also faxed the bank instructions to enable Dr. Quarshie to cash the cheque.

121. The payment to Dr. Quarshie and the following payments are but examples of a wider-ranging series of bribes to various ministers and officials, which will be set out in a schedule. Even relatively junior officials were the willing recipients of bribes. In 1996 Saddique Bonniface was the ECGD desk officer in the Ministry of Finance (he was recently until the change of government a highly placed politician within the Ghanaian administration). He had a bank account at the National Westminster Bank in Rickmansworth. On 29 February 1996 Saddique Boniface received a transfer of £10,000 from M&J to an account at Barclays Bank Plc in Watford. On 29 October 1996 the same account received a transfer of £13,970 from M&J. On or about 29 October 1996 Amadu Seidu, the Deputy Minister at the MRH, received £5000 in his Woolwich account held in St. Peter Port, Guernsey and Dr. George Yankey the Director of Legal and International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, received £10,000 in his Midland Bank account in Hill Street, London W1; and Edward Lord Attivor, the ex minister at the MRH, also received £10,000 in his London bank account. This was the same branch of the Clydesdale Bank which was used by M&J. Authorisation from M&J directors for each of these transfers was requested by Director D. Amadu Seidu received a further £5,000 on 7 March 1997, the same date on which Saddique Bonniface received a further £2,500. The latter two transfers were authorised by Director B.

122. Mr. Bonniface’s son was a student at Exeter University, where, on or about 26 March 1998, he received a cheque from M&J in the sum of £500. Although this is a relatively small sum it is indicative of the nature of the corruption M&J was then practising: it is a payment which could have no conceivable legitimate commercial purpose.

123. M&J’s payments to Dr. Yankey were not confined to the payment on or about 24 October 1996, since his Hill Street account received £5,000 on 26 August 1998 from M&J. Dr. Yankey was subsequently convicted in Ghana of conspiring to wilfully cause losses to the state and served a prison sentence, along with Kwame Peprah. Their convictions cannot be directly related to payments from M&J, but reflect the culture of government corruption at the time, a culture with which M&J was only too willing to engage.

124. From December 1994 to 18 August 1999, M&J used the GDF and associated accounts to pay bribes directly to named Ghanaian public officials totalling £470,792.60.

125. None of the payments set out above, obviously, could be said to have anything remotely resembling a legitimate commercial purpose. Thus M&J was able to engage in wholly corrupt business practices without any effective level of external scrutiny being applied. Plainly, those who governed and directed the affairs of M&J were responsible for arranging and authorising payments which, no matter they were eagerly sought and accepted, were considered vital in securing M&J’s business in a developing nation – at the expense of those least able to avoid the expenditure that is inevitably involved in the making of corrupt payments: the people of Ghana.

SOURCE: British SFO

All the confusion surrounding the school feeding programme, compels me to reproduce an article I wrote about a year ago – a few months before I set up this blogsite. I really don’t get the point of the school feeding programme. I think it’s an utter waste of money.

I fail to see how providing meals will increase school enrolment – which is one of the main reasons offered for why we need a school feeding programme. In fact, a few weeks ago the education minister was heard expressing disappointment at school enrolment this year, despite the existence of the school feeding programme.

And, now the rumpus over who has the right to provide the meals coupled with the politically-motivated and senseless decision to dismiss Michael Nsowah as co-ordinator of the programme puts me in no doubt that the programme was deliberately set up to line the pockets of the cronies of whoever happens to be in power. It has very little to do with increasing school enrolment. Read my thoughts on the school feeding programme, first published in the Daily Dispatch in June 2008 (or so!), at this link: atokd.com/blogContent.aspx

My point is quite simple – government should provides the schools and the teaching learning aids. It’s the responsibility of parents to feed their children. But most importantly, apart from being an utter waste of money, the programme is just not sustainable.

Uncle Osagyefo, you may be aware that I am not one of your great fans. I think your tyranny and your obsession with building one African nation, cost this country a great deal. On this day, which would have been your hundredth birthday, I want to join the millions around the world who see you as some sort of demigod to wish you a happy birthday.

This is the first time I am wishing a dead man a happy birthday. It’s quite strange but it gives me yet another opportunity to reflect on what has become of the nation you led to independence. I don’t know whether they allow you, wherever you are, to take a peek into the nation every once in a while. I have no doubt in my mind that if you had an opportunity to see what has become of this country, you would weep until your well of tears – if you still have one – dried up.

I have this feeling that those who die and come to meet you on the other side do not give you the complete picture and they try to ‘sugar coat’ their words to make it appear that all is well here. Nothing could be farther from the truth. That’s why I am writing this missive so that you get to know about the true state of the Ghana you founded.

Let’s start with the good news.

Ghana is now democratic country. In terms of democracy, our country is one of the best in Africa. We have done away – thankfully – with the unmitigated one-party crap you tried to shove down our throats. Multi-party democracy has earned Ghana a lot of international recognition and most of us do not miss an opportunity to tell others about how we occasionally show Africa how to elect its leaders. Last year’s polls were particularly hectic and the tension was palpable. But we braved it and today we have a president who idolises you. And that’s why we are observing today as a national holiday. I am convinced that democratic rule is our best asset as a nation now. It’s the perfect foundation for nation building and that’s why it really saddens me that you, of all people, seemed to think otherwise.

Take away the democratic structures we are trying to build, Osagyefo, and there is little – if any – good news to report.

Most of our politicians today are selfish blockheads who come to power with little vision and an insatiable appetite for plunder. They like to reap where they have not sown. Most of them come to power to enrich themselves through patronage and corruption. But you? You had vision. You had an idea where you wanted to take the nation to. Most of our politicians today don’t.

You dreamt that the nation you led to independence would not depend on outsiders for its survival, but that’s the exact situation we find ourselves in now. Our leaders go around the world cup-in-hand begging for grants, loans, debt-cancellation, used hospital equipment (including chamber pots and mosquito nets) and investments. In fact, one former president who listed travelling as one of his hobbies used begging for investments as an excuse to get on a plane at the least opportunity.

So Osagyefo, the nation you led to independence cannot do anything on its own. The colonialists you chased out do not just give us money to prop up our ever-faltering economy. They also give us money to feed our school children, take care of our pregnant women, sink boreholes, catch drug traffickers, build roads and bridges, and even take care of our garbage. All of this makes me wonder: was independence worth it? Was this what Kwame Nkrumah had in mind?

I don’t think so.

Osagyefo, I also want to inform you that most of the factories you set up have collapsed. Those which survive have been privatised, run by foreigners. I have no problems with foreigners running our companies, I must say. As long as they keep the companies on their feet and employ hardworking Ghanaians, I am happy. But what will you say about, say, the Tema Shipyard, which is now in the hands of the Malaysians? At independence, Ghana was wealthier than Malaysia. Today, Malaysia is what they call an “Asian economic tiger”. And, your Ghana is nothing more than an African economic rat – a pest, which depends on the benevolence of others to survive!

To cut a long story short, Osagyefo, Ghana is a broken nation. It’s not as broken as Liberia, Sierra Leone or DR Congo. But we can’t take pride in the fact that other countries are worse off than we are. However you look at it, ours is a broken nation. Majority of us live in squalor whiles a privileged few live in opulence. We can’t even produce potable water for our people to drink and the other time, a Nigerian minister is reported to have said something to the effect that the amount of water we produce here is so small that it’s not enough to even flush their toilets. His comments really drove the painful point home.

Osagyefo, our educational system is also in utter shambles – the subject of constant experimentation for well over 20 years. We can’t even decide on how best to educate our children. You knew what was best for us – that no Ghanaian child should grow up illiterate and you worked hard to achieve that. I have heard many prominent people say that without you, they would have been unemployable. Our current crop of leaders either do not care or they simply do not know what to do. Instead of building an educational system that will prepare our children for future competition with the Malaysians, South Koreans and the Finns they are squabbling today over who should provide meals for the kids.

The least said about our health system, the better. In this country people die like flies from diseases that have been conquered or subdued in other parts of the world. Our hospitals are so poorly equipped and staffed by over-worked and underpaid doctors, who go on strike more than once every year to demand better pay. Can you believe that pregnant women sleep on benches and the bare floor in a hospital like Korle Bu? Our hospitals are in such bad shape that our leaders prefer to seek treatment abroad at the slightest hint of disease. They know the local hospitals cannot take care of them yet they prefer to buy luxury cars and build mansions. It’s pathetic.

As we celebrate what would have been your 100th birthday, Osagyefo, I want to tell you that much as I am not one of your big fans, I salute your visionary leadership. I appreciate your forward-thinking and the fact that you didn’t use your position as president to enrich yourself. Yet, you didn’t care about ex-gratia and you died in penury.

On this day, as the nation remembers you, I think Ghana needs another Kwame Nkrumah – but without the dictatorial streak and the inordinate obsession to rule a united Africa. We need a new Nkrumah who will not impose one-party rule and jail his political opponents. Our new Nkrumah will be an upgrade on the one we celebrate today. Our next Nkrumah should be a revolutionary leader who will fight with a dogged determination to liberate our country from the shackles of gut-wrenching poverty – just us you led the country out of humiliating colonialism. Our upgraded Nkrumah will build institutions just as you built factories and roads. I hope our next Nkrumah is already in our midst and he’s preparing himself to improve on your record. Otherwise, all you did, all you stood for and all your sacrifices – what we celebrate today – would all have been in vain.

atokwamena Writes


“Revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought.” – Kwame Nkrumah

When President Mills promised to “be father to all” was he joking or he was just speaking ‘by heart’? Could it just be that he spoke without knowing what it meant to “be father to all”?

The moment the NPP lost the elections in 2008, many would have expected the creation of a new set of political orphans. NPP faithful, who had thrived on political patronage for eight years, knew the end was nigh. For these people, as well as those Ghanaians who care more about nation-building than party affiliation, President Mills’ pledge to be a “father to all” must have come as some piece of good news – a welcome relief.

That was the way to go. The nation needed a father-figure to salve the egos that had been so bitterly bruised by the hard-knock electioneering of the last year. That father-figure, the man President Mills promised he would be, was expected be fair and impartial to all. It wouldn’t matter who was riding on a dazed elephant or who was being sheltered under an umbrella whose colours had been recently brightened. At long last, Ghanaians were going to have a leader who doesn’t interpret politics as a game of winner-takes-all. Or so we thought…

Events since January 7 have shown that the president has reneged on his promise and he has either condoned or deliberately turned a blind eye to the unpardonable and nation-wrecking conduct of his party faithful who suddenly think that everything in the country belongs to them. Since Kufuor left office, NDC supporters have been demanding that they should be put in charge of everything and anything that needs to be taken care of. They’ve seized toilets. They’ve occupied offices and chased officials of the National Health Insurance Scheme and the National Youth Employment Programme out of their offices. Those who dared to stand up to them have been threatened with either injury or death.

Boards have been dissolved and filled with NDC cronies. Brilliant and capable people who were given jobs under the Kufuor administration are living in fear and uncertainty, unsure when they would be instructed to pack out of office.

All these are happening under the watch of the man who promised to be father to all. The President is neither blind nor deaf. He listens to the radio like an unemployed housewife does. The president cannot pretend to be unaware of what is happening in the country. Every opportunity he’s missed to call his party faithful to order has emboldened them to show the rest of us that the president was only throwing dust into our eyes when he promised to be a “father to all” and that we are still very much in the winner-takes-all era.

After seizing the toilets and chasing out officers of NADMO, NYEP and NHIS, the ruling party is now using cunning machinations to seize and re-award catering contracts under the school-feeding programme to its supporters. All around the country, district assemblies are asking the caterers to reapply with the spurious claim that the programme is being restructured. But how do they explain the fact that even before the old caterers could reapply, new ones have already been recruited?

In the books of the ruling party, restructuring the programme has little to do with saving the programme from collapse and making it sustainable. It only means that the catering contracts should be handed to the spouses and concubines of party faithful.

All this while, the man who promised to be “father to all” is looking on unconcerned. What sort of father will sit down unconcerned as one set of his kids bully and take away what belongs to the other set? It is the irresponsible father who doesn’t care a hoot about the future of his household. If President Mills doesn’t call his NDC faithful to order this is the mould he would be casting himself in – much against the very words he spoke on the day of his inauguration. The NYEP, NHIS and NADMO are not for NDC faithful alone to manage and benefit from. It is not only NDC caterers who can prepare meals for pupils under the school feeding programme. (By the way, I believe the programme should be scrapped. Check this: atokd.com/blogContent.aspx)

It is true that Kufuor and his cronies senselessly placed political considerations above the national interest in recruiting people to manage these programmes. He was wrong. Mills should not repeat that mistake. That it happened eight years ago, doesn’t mean it’s alright for it to be repeated. When he promised to be a father to all, we expected President Mills to rise above the petty politics and do everything in his power to ensure that his presidency does not result in the creation of a new set of victimised political orphans. That’s called exclusion and you can’t find it anywhere in the manual on how nations are built.

It’s really nothing to throw a party over. But I thought it’s an interesting piece of information to share with visitors that this blog is now officially the number blogsite in Ghana and on Ghana.

That’s according to the official ranking on www.afrigator.com, which tracks the performance of all blogsites in Africa. That wouldn’t have happened without your continued patronage of this site. So I want to say thanks to all those who take time to pass by every now and then.

I’ve enjoyed the conversations we’ve had, I’ve gained nuggets of wisdom and uncommon insight from some of you and, for me, the ranking on afrigator is just the icing on the cake. We can only get better.

Please check out: afrigator.com/home/index for the listing. Search for Ghana if you are outside the country.

As an Arsenal fan, I was upset by the team’s loss to Manchester City over the weekend. Arsene Wenger’s squad played lousily and lost to a better team. I am taking the defeat in my stride, hoping that our team will do better in future matches and maybe, just maybe, go on to win a trophy this year.

I am, however, taken aback by suggestions that Emmanuel Adebayor – a former Arsenal player, now with Manchester City – could be punished for either of two incidents that happened in the match on Saturday, or both. First was his stamp on Robin van Persie’s face, which injured the Dutchman, and the second was how he celebrated the goal against his former club.

He has just been charged with violent conduct for the stamp on van Persie and improper conduct for his goal celebration. He has up till tomorrow (Wednesday) evening to respond to charges and if he’s found guilty, he could face a three-match ban. If that happens he will not play in the Derby against Manchester United on Sunday.

I think Adebayor didn’t set out to deliberately injure his former team mate by stamping his face with the studs of his boot. Only a cruel human being would do that. I think Adebayor is not that cruel. That incident was a regrettable accident and it should be seen as such. I feel sorry for van Persie though and I hope he heals soon. Adebayor has apologised for it and that’s enough.

On the second issue of how he celebrated his goal against Arsenal, I fail to see the reason why he should be punished. I found it quite unique that he expressed his joy by racing across the length of the stadium to the opposite side of the post into which he had kicked the ball. They say he did so to taunt the Arsenal fans before whom he knelt and spread out his hands, as if to say “take that, I scored against you – and you thought I wasn’t good enough?”

Those suggesting punishment for the Togolese say that sort of celebration incited the Arsenal fans who started throwing missiles, one of which hit a steward. They should rather be looking out for the guys who threw the missiles at Adebayor – one of which hit the poor steward.

Adebayor broke no rule. He was just celebrating his goal. And he chose a very unique way to let his joy be known. He shouldn’t be punished for that. If Arsenal fans felt hurt by the fact that he scored against his former club, they shouldn’t have taken it out on the poor steward. They are the ones who deserve punishment. Not Adebayor!

He did no wrong. He should play in the match against Manchester United and I pray he scores. I hope he celebrates like he did last Saturday at the City of Manchester Stadiums. That will more than make up for the upset he and his team mates caused me.

Hullo Mr. President,

When the leader of a country tells his followers that he knows that he has bimbos and airheads in his administration, what does he expect the citizens to do? Laugh it off? Applaud his honesty? Or vote him out of power?

Mr. President, you are reported to have conceded in a village near Cape that you are very much aware that there are some incompetents in yours administration. Most Ghanaians have known this from the very beginning – when you appointed so many ministers (and deputies) and claimed that you had formed a “lean” government. When some of your appointee appeared before the appointments committee of parliament and made it clear that they didn’t even know how to write CVs, we realised that you had offered important positions to some nincompoops – in true ‘job for the boys’ fashion.

So what you are saying now is no news to those of us who have not been blinded by political fanaticism and sycophancy. In any case, what do you want us to do? Applaud you for appointing airheads and suddenly coming to the realisation that you’ve faulted? Do you want us to organise a national day of thanksgiving to thank God for the small mercies that have brought our president to the knowledge that he needs to fire some of his ministers?

I don’t get it.

A few days before you got this epiphany about the incompetence of some your ministers, Mr. President, you were asking Ghanaians to give you more time to deliver on the promises you made. What you fail to realise is that we don’t have time. You don’t have time.

I remember the day of your inauguration like yesterday. The chaos at the Independence Square and your stumbling, rumbling and fumbling is all so fresh in my memory. Yet, it’s been nine months already. You think you have time? You don’t. You said you will “hit the ground running” and now it’s hard to tell whether you’ve even hit the ground at all.

Mr. President there is a lot of work to be done. The ‘ecomini’ should become an economy again. People need roofs over their heads, water to drink, hospitals to heal their wounds and schools to attend. We need roads to cart food from the farm-gates to the market centres, electricity to keep our factories open and an efficient transport system to move us from one end of town to another. Our catalogue of needs (not wants) is endless.

We don’t have time to waste on you and the incompetent ministers in your team. We don’t have time for trial and error. And we certainly can’t afford to train your ministers on the job.

It’s good that you have identified the underperforming team members. Speaking about them in public (without offering any specifics) is not good enough. Now is not the time for you to stick to your guns and proclaim that you will reshuffle “at the appropriate time”.

There is no appropriate time than now. If you had the guts to hire those incompetents, you should have the balls to fire them. We won’t accept your excuses. We don’t care if you met this country turned upside down. You said you will change it for a "Better Ghana". Just do it. Get rid of the incompetent ministers if you really want to take this country forward and deliver the change you promised to Ghanaians. Otherwise, please, feel free to keep your incompetents at post. 2012 is just around the corner.