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October 2009

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In a country where public transport is seen as a curse of the hustling and the impoverished, the decision by some ministers of state and MPs to use public buses (popularly known as ‘trotros’), was as unusual as it is significant – at least for them. They said they wanted a first-hand experience of how the public transport system worked.

Deputy transport minister, Dzifa Attivor, told the BBC that parking her luxury sedan and opting for a ‘trotro’ ride gave her a few insights.

"We think it’s about time that the system was changed so we can have a dedicated bus lane so people can get to work on time," she said.

For Roads and Highways minister, Joe Gidisu, who parked his brand new land cruiser to pick a trotro from Madina, the experience was as good as new.

“After leaving the Ghana National Association of Teachers some 15 years ago I have not used public transport,” he says adding that the ‘trotro’ ride has made him realise that “we have a long way to go.”

We do, indeed. But we are not going to get to where we need to be if the so-called big men engage in one-day stunts like the one we recently witnessed. It’s all good to have a first-hand experience of how the system works. The nice words about how the gimmick will help in policy formulation are all well-noted. But if the ministers and MPs really want to solve the problem, they should resolve to use public transport for their daily commute – like most Ghanaians do.

I know this is too much to ask. One of the best ways to differentiate between the rich and poor is too look out in the morning for those who are using trotros or cabs and those who are riding in their own cars. So for most of our leaders being on public transport is not dignifying enough. It’s insulting.

Our public transport system, especially the trotro system, is not dignifying for all of us. Getting on board is always a struggle during the rush hour. People have to form long winding queues and wait for hours to get a seat. Since it’s impossible to tell when the next bus will arrive tempers are often flayed leading to a rather generous exchange of blows and insults. When one finally manages to get on board, there is very little legroom, a lot of dirt and grime and personal comfort on the bus is never guaranteed. The ride itself is often bumpy, sometimes even dangerous, as reckless drivers try to outrun each other with their ill-maintained, rickety vehicles and in doing so safety is often compromised.

This is the reality faced by hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians every day. It’s good that our leaders want to experience it. But that’s not enough. If the politicians think boarding a ‘trotro’ for a day will demonstrate to Ghanaians that they care, I am afraid they are mistaken. They know what the problem is – most of our politicians have at one time or another used the public transport system. So they should just go ahead and fix it – with wisdom and foresight. There should be no half-hearted, knee-jerk ‘initiatives’.

One of the best things the Kufuor administration almost (repeat: almost) did was the introduction of metro mass transit service, which now exists in all but name. The idea was ill-thought out (as usual) and the implementation was awful. As a result, have mass transit buses which operate just like trotros – unpredictable, uncomfortable, ill-maintained. Making the mass transit service functional and efficient will be a good way to start. If they work hard at it, seeing a minister of state aboard a public bus will not be such a major news event.

It’s been exactly one week since a whole government bureaucracy (the foreign ministry) was razed down by a fire outbreak. Without the necessary equipment to put out the inferno, fire personnel looked on in amazement as the blaze caused havoc. The next day, the president and other top government officials visited the scene of the destruction, expressed shock and spewed a few platitudes. The president has promised to ensure that the fire service is equipped so that they will not join spectators to admire the rage of future infernos. They are words that needed to be spoken. But will they be backed with deeds?

I am not so optimistic. In this country we tend to talk endlessly about our issues when they come up in the news. When the next big story comes, we forget about the promises that were made and just continue with the talking – about the latest news. Last week, it was the fire at the foreign ministry and the ill-equipped fire service. Today, it is crude oil for TOR and government’s failure to secure letters of credit for the commodity.
I don’t think the fire service is going to get the modern equipment it needs within a year or two. It’s not that it can’t be done. Government will just not do it. They will tell us that it takes time – and sure it does – but I am sure that a determined government should be able to supply its fire service with the basic equipment it needs within a matter of two years. But that’s not going to happen.

And it’s a shame. It’s a very big shame that in the 21st Century we have such a poorly-equipped fire service, whose officers cannot climb a five-storey building to put out a fire. We like to delude ourselves by saying that “we’ve come far”. We have not. And if you were looking for a sign that ours is a broken and wretched country, just look at our fire service and police service.

Our police officers lack the basic facilities to conduct thorough investigations to bring criminals to justice. They don’t even have the know-how, much less the hardware, for collecting and analysing fingerprints. Kufuor’s government promised to make them efficient by giving them cars and setting up a communication system. That was more than eight years ago. Few cars were delivered and even so they were mostly used to transport officers’ wives to the markets and their children to school – not for crime fighting. How long should it take to provide your police force with the facilities they need to fight crime? I think a determined government that doesn’t delight in seeking refuge in excuses should be able to do that in a presidential term. Kufuor had two and our police service is no better than it was when he was on ordinary John.

Now, we have another John in charge and he’s making promises like the one before him did. Let’s hope he delivers – not just for the fire service but for all the other agencies that are supposed to be protecting us and providing for our well-being. That’s what governments exist for. The police and fire service are two of the most important agencies for protecting the life and property of citizens. If by the next election, the fire service still doesn’t have ladders and modern tenders and the police is incapable of collecting fingerprints and they still need to rent taxis to follow up on citizens’ complaint, I would say the Mills government has failed to secure the people. I will be disappointed. But I won’t be surprised.

And, somehow, I know what the excuse would be: “we didn’t have enough time”. It’s a flimsy excuse but many will accept it. That is why we are where we are.

I didn’t attend Ekwow Spio-Garbrah’s press conference but I was lucky enough to get the full text of this speech. It makes very interesting reading and I thought I should share. >>>

Let me begin by thanking so many of you from the media for finding time to join us today. I also wish to thank many "Friends of Spio" who have travelled from far and wide on their own volition, to witness this engagement with the media and to offer morale support to my cause. I believe many who are here also wish to encourage a strengthening of the NDC and to spur the NDC government on to achieve quickly the various programmes contained in the 2008 manifesto with which we won the last elections.

I have invited you in the media here today to hear my responses to various accusations that have been levelled against me by some colleagues in the NDC. The abuse I received followed an article I wrote that was serialized in the 18th and 23rd September, 2009, editions of the Daily Graphic under my name, entitled: “Honouring Nkrumah’s Centenary: A Challenge to the NDC.” The timing of that article, as all reasonable Ghanaians can appreciate, was intended to honour the memory of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, our illustrious first President. It was also to identify any key lessons that all of us as Ghanaians, especially the government, can learn from Nkrumah’s achievements.

My effort to contribute to the country’s memorial to Nkrumah was consistent with the decision by H.E. the President of Ghana, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, that a whole year be set aside to celebrate and honour the memory of our first President. In that article, copies of which will be made available to the media here, I sought to identify what I consider to be the defining character of Dr. Nkrumah and his government which I hoped that the current government of the NDC could emulate. That defining characteristic, in my modest opinion, was that of an unusual sense of URGENCY.

Indeed, as the Daily Graphic will confirm, and copies we have here of the original article will attest, the title that I proposed for the article was “Nkrumah’s Legacy of Urgency: A Challenge to the NDC”. It was however, the editorial decision of the Daily Graphic to modify this proposed title and to substitute their own. In the process, it may seem that the central purpose of my article – the issue of urgency – may have been somewhat de-emphasized, making it possible for many readers to misunderstand the true purpose of the article, to impugn my motives for writing that article, or to consciously draw wrong conclusions from it.

When exams in English Comprehension or in literary criticism are set and 100 students are asked to interpret or analyze a given passage in English, there is often a wide range of interpretations, and a good percentage of students sometimes get the answers wrong. I must confess that because my first full time job in 1973, at the age of 19, was as a National Service teacher of English at Adisadel College, I fully empathize with those who sometimes have difficulty in understanding the core message of a written piece of prose.

I wish to state, at the outset of this press conference, that I have not responded to my critics since they rained various abusive words on me in the days and weeks following the Graphic article. This is partly because my article was not addressed specifically to those who chose to attack me. But, it also out of respect for the NDC leadership and for its chairman who issued a statement to halt the invectives. I arrived in Ghana two weeks ago after reading a press statement issued under the signature of the Chairman of the NDC asking those involved in attacking me to stop their attacks and to seek a meeting at which whatever differences there are could be resolved. Without hesitation and in a desire to iron out any differences for the good of the NDC party, I took leave from my employer in London, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), and took the first available plane to Ghana at my own cost.

The following day after my arrival, on Tuesday 13th October, at about 2.00pm, I sped to the Party head office to present myself to officials there and to make myself available for any necessary discussions. In the absence of the National Chairman and the General Secretary, I was received by two National Vice Chairpersons, Madam Hilda Bolco and Nana Osei Bonsu; the national treasurer, Mrs. Margaret Clarke-Kwesie, who is also Ambassador designate to Korea; and some members of the party’s fund-raising committee who had just concluded a meeting. After informing them of the purpose of my visit to the headquarters, they welcomed my initiative and looked forward to whatever measures the party would put in place to address the issues. I left at the Party headquarters a copy of a statement I issued to the media in which I announced that I would not be granting any media interviews for some time, to enable the Party hierarchy to undertake its conflict resolution work. I regret to say here today that after two weeks of staying in Ghana and waiting for an invitation to attend any meeting at which any concerns could be addressed, I have received no such invitation. Indeed, to be very accurate, no one has as yet even invited me to visit Ghana. I have no doubt that there may be good reasons for this situation, but since I came here to speak the truth, I am telling it as it is.

As I prepare to leave Ghana at the end of this week to return to my work in London, it is reasonable that I clear the air of several unfortunate statements that if left uncorrected will sully my hard-earned global reputation and obscure the purpose of my Graphic article, which was intended to strengthen the NDC, improve upon the government’s performance, and not to create any divisions within the party or the government.

Soon after my article was published in the Daily Graphic, a leading member of the NDC attacked my personality in an open letter ostensibly addressed to me through the media. Any fair reader of my article will agree that my article was not addressed to any particular individual or to that specific person. Nevertheless, this NDC member chose to use his response and subsequent radio interviews not to address the issues raised in my article or to disprove anything I wrote as false, but rather to cast aspersions on my character, to call me various names, and also to speculate about the motives I may have had for writing the article. Indeed, according to this senior NDC member, the main motive for my article was to intimidate the President into appointing me as a Cabinet Minister. A second motive presented by the same personality in a subsequent interview in the Graphic was that the article was the beginning of a Presidential campaign I was launching. Both statements are very false.

Subsequent to this attack, various media commentators on the issue suggested that I was motivated by sour grapes, bitterness and disappointment in not having been appointed a Cabinet Minister in the Atta Mills government. I shall show shortly at this press conference that these allegations are unfounded, false and mean-spirited.

I was also accused, without any evidence presented, that I am not a team player, and that as far as this particular personality was concerned, I would never become a Cabinet Minister in President’s Mill’s government. The NDC member called me “vain, arrogant, conceited, egotistical and supercilious” and accused me of being the source of rumours or stories regarding the health of then Presidential Candidate Prof. Mills. Again, these statements are without any basis and in fact very untrue.

Subsequent to these initial attacks on my personality, which were conducted through various print and radio interviews and carried widely across Ghanaian media, translated into various languages, and also transmitted across the globe on the Internet, a staff member in the office of the President also took up the assignment of denigrating me further. According to this officer from the Presidency, I did not competently manage my task as Chairman of the Social Sector Committee in the Transition Team, I walk around with a fake doctorate degree from a cheap University I did not earn, and I did not deserve any position in the government because he and others had quit their jobs to follow Prof Mills around during the campaign. He made other unsavoury remarks that I shall not dignify with an answer, as numerous Ghanaians I do not know have responded adequately to him on his general comportment and the embarrassment he causes the Presidency by some of his unprofessional remarks and conduct. Other so-called social commentators and serial callers added salt to the injury on my character and professional achievements.

I shall attempt to address the main issues raised by these two NDC members and respond to some other ancillary matters. Then I am sure the media here have a lot of questions to ask, and I shall be ready to answer as many as can be answered within an hour.

Seeking a cabinet position?

It may disappoint my detractors and surprise many Ghanaians to learn today that in the 14 or so years that I have collaborated politically with Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, I have NEVER once asked him for ANY Cabinet appointment. If so, it would be interesting to learn where and when I may have made such a request and what portfolio I asked for. In 1996, I was invited by former President Rawlings to come down from the USA where I was Ambassador to assist the NDC in its election efforts.

After Prof. Mills was selected as Vice Presidential running mate to President Rawlings, I was asked to Chair the Publicity Committee of the NDC. In that position, I worked quite closely with both President Rawlings and then Vice Presidential running mate Prof. Mills. The Committee worked very hard and contributed to the electoral victory of 1996. Not during that campaign or after the electoral victory did I approach either President Rawlings or newly sworn-in Vice President Mills for a Cabinet appointment!

In the year 2000, then Vice President Mills appointed me as Director of Communications in his campaign team for that year’s Presidential elections. I did not take advantage of my close proximity and friendship with President Mills to ask him for any appointment should he win that year’s elections. In the year 2004 elections, I was based in London at the CTO, and although I supported then Prof Mills and the NDC in various ways, I did not ask Prof Mills for any appointment whatsoever should he, by the Grace of God, win that election. On the other hand, at a reception at Kuku Hill in July 2003, to coincide with his birthday and also my impending departure to assume the office of Chief Executive Officer of the CTO (being the first African to hold that position in over 100 years of that organization’s history), President Mills himself announced voluntarily to the more than the 100 guests at that function: “When we win the 2004 elections, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah is the first person I shall appoint as a Minister in my government”.

I did not ask Prof Mills to make that statement, and to this day I have never asked him why he made it. I am aware that some of my current detractors were unhappy with that statement. On that occasion, Prof. Mills’ statement made it clear to all that he had a high regard for my integrity, competence and capability and as someone he could work with. He could not have made such a statement so publicly if he considered me as someone who was not a team player, or who was vain, arrogant, etc and with whom he could not work. Nor could then Prof. Mills have said this if he believed that I have been spreading scurrilous rumours about him since 1993, as my senior colleague would make Ghanaians believe.

Towards the 2008 elections, I campaigned with Prof. Mills on several occasions and had numerous opportunities to ask him for a Cabinet appointment if that was my singular objective in life—as someone would have Ghanaians believe. However, again, I never took advantage of my easy access to him during the last electoral campaign to ask for a Cabinet appointment, or to seek through others to lobby for such a post. Since the NDC won the elections of 2008, I have again NEVER asked President Mills for a Cabinet appointment to this very day. The statement, therefore that the main purpose of my article in the Daily Graphic was to seek a Cabinet appointment, and that I am peeved by not getting such an appointment, is a bald lie. The notion also that the article was part of the start of any Presidential campaign is also totally false.

The NDC government under Prof Mills is less than one year old and many of us here all helped it to come into existence. All NDC members, including myself, need to assist this government to succeed. If President Mills succeeds as a President, all Ghanaians—including myself—will share in that success. If the Mills-Mahama government succeeds in improving the school system, the health system or the road infrastructure of Ghana, all Ghanaians—irrespective of political affiliation – will benefit. There is no reason therefore not to wish this government all success. Indeed, my article was intended to help the government to become even more successful than it has been to date, by urging the spirit of urgency.

Team B players

In order that we deal properly with this particular charge, we need to refer to the specific language of my article, as published in the Daily Graphic. I wrote in the relevant section that… “large segments of the public have been asking on radio stations why the government may have chosen to field SOME players from its Team B when many Team A players are available and ready to play.” So first of all, I was quoting a comment I heard made by some people on radio discussion programmes. Second, I did not write that ALL the President’s appointees were Team B players. Most of the current Cabinet Ministers and their deputies are my friends and collaborators, and so I could not have made any such wholesale judgment. Indeed, I did write specifically in my article that…"many appointees are mature, capable and well-meaning…"

Furthermore, the difference between scoring an A in an exam and a B is not that wide a margin. The difference between players in a First Division League and a Second Division League is not that great. In any case, a Minister who is not part of a Cabinet, or any deputy Minister in any administration who has not been selected as a full Minister for the time being is playing in a Team B capacity, anyway. So in all administrations around the world, not just in the Mills-Mahama government in Ghana, there are Team A and Team B players. Therefore, being in Team B is NOT an insult as some commentators have tried to imply.

My concern in this matter was simply to address the central issue of how urgently government can act or not. In any case, someone like myself, who is neither in Team A or Team B and has been told will never be a Cabinet Minister in a Mills government, could as well be in Team C or D. And that does not bother me. Nevertheless, if as a result of the misrepresentation of this allusion by NPP or NDC commentators, some of my colleagues in the government are aggrieved, then I apologise to them for any hurt they may feel.

According to the Constitution of Ghana, the question of team selection for the government is a matter solely for the President prerogative, to decide which of the various players he wishes to field in a particular position at a specific time. However, each Ghanaian, including myself, has a right to express a view as to whether a particular minister selected by the President is a Team A player or not. I see no insult involved in expressing such opinions, just as many football fans are known to comment on any coach’s selection of players, without intending to insult either the coach or the players. After all, don’t our elders say a person cutting a path through the bush may not know how straight or curved that path is, and it takes those standing behind the person to advice on how straight it is?
 

Mills’ health

The biggest untruth of all the various propaganda pieces circulating about me is the oft-repeated falsehood that I am the source of information regarding the health status of then candidate Prof. Atta Mills. We have a copy of a news clipping here from the Daily Graphic to show that on June 1st 2006, the Prof. Mills campaign team, controlled by the very persons who are charging me with the offence they themselves committed, issued a news release to the whole world that Prof. John Evans Atta Mills was ill and had travelled abroad for treatment. Like millions of other Ghanaians who may have read the story in the Daily Graphic and in other media, that is how I myself learnt for the first time that Prof. Mills was ill and had flown to China and South Africa for treatment. Upon hearing this news, I decided to travel to South Africa to visit Prof. Mills, who is a long-time friend I have known for nearly 40 years, who is a senior brother and also a political colleague. How many of the so-called new friends of President Mills bothered to visit him when he was sick? Did my esteemed NDC colleague who is now claiming to be virtually in charge of all appointments in the Mills-Mahama government undertake such a journey?

The Daily Graphic is the largest circulation daily in Ghana. It is difficult to believe that any single Ghanaian, even if they so wish could be more efficient than the Daily Graphic in spreading any kind of news. So I wonder how I could be accused of being the source of information on the President’s ill health, when the President himself in 2006, after his return from South Africa, also chose to engage in an interview with Kwame Sefa Kayi on Peace FM during which he spoke openly about his illness.

If NDC members wish to know who in their Party cares for their leaders when they are not well, they should find out which senior Party or government officials have bothered to visit the Regional Chairman of the Party from Brong Ahafo, who has been on admission for 4 months at Korle Bu hospital, right here in Accra, and who has had one of his legs amputated. Many of those who did not go to South Africa to visit Prof Mills (if that was considered to be too far away) have not visited their colleague at nearby Korle Bu either.

Not Team Player?

This particular charge rings very hollow, as no evidence was adduced by my detractors to substantiate this. Fortunately, I have had a lot of opportunities to study and work with a large number of Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians in various fields, both in Ghana and overseas—in the teaching, advertising and marketing, banking, diplomacy, government and international organizations occupations. At the World Bank Group, for example, I was able to work effectively with the nationals from more than 100 countries. Similarly, there are nationals from more than 70 countries at the African Development Bank. I do not think I could have achieved what I have attained, even at the CTO in London, if I had any difficulty working with people, either as a subordinate, a colleague, a manager or as a leader.

However, the problem is that some people assume that when they work with you, and even though they are not your bosses, you must remain in a supine and subservient position in your dealings with them. So, if you insist on your basic human equality and your God-given and constitutional right to freely express your opinion, then you are described as vain, arrogant, conceited or ambitious. That is a problem in many offices in Ghana, which is hindering the progress of this country, and we must root out this claptrap. The situation in many parts of Ghana is worse if you happen to have a lot of ideas and are genuinely interested in the development of an association, company, organisation or the nation and are not as motivated by money as others, and therefore insist on the right thing being done.

This may be why some people mistake my vision for ambition, and my candour for arrogance. Maybe, if enough Ghanaians who work at the National Fire Service had complained sufficiently (and even publicly) about the inadequate facilities available to them, our whole Foreign Affairs building would not have burned down to ashes. Would it not have been better for a few people at the Fire Service to have been "too known" if that could have saved the nation a major edifice and all the valuable documents and furnishings that have been lost in the fire?

Fake PhD

I have never pretended at anytime that I have acquired a doctorate degree based on any programme of study. The honorary doctorate awarded me by the Middlebury-College in the U.S.A. in June 2001 was published in the Daily Graphic in July 2001. Mind you, I received this honorary degree when NDC was out of power and I was simply an ordinary Ghanaian citizen. So such false allegations that I lobbied for such a title or even bought it are simply ridiculous. There has been no secrecy about this doctorate being an honorary one. My CV and all references to me make it abundantly clear that this degree is Honoris causa … meaning that it was given for honourable deeds.

As to why I use it, again this was not a choice I made but rather a decision of the panel of the CTO Council which interviewed me in May 2003 for my current position in London, and who thought that the honorific title (which by academic norm, I had the right to use anyway), would be good for the CTO. They therefore arranged to print my first business cards that way.

It must be noted that Ghana is a member of the CTO, and at no time has any member government, represented by their ministers and other high officials, queried my use of this honorific title. Everyone who knows me is aware that I prefer to be called simply “Ekwow”, although some people may refer to me as Honourable or H.E. (for His Excellency), due to my previous work as an Ambassador and Minister). As to whether I could have acquired a PhD or not through academic study, it is best to refer that to my classmates at Achimota School, where I graduated at the top of my class at 16 years old from Upper Six. Those interested in this matter can do their research on my performance at the University of Ghana or Ohio University, where I earned my academic degrees, or at Temple University and Syracuse University in the USA where I was offered full scholarships in 1979 to read for academic PhDs, but I declined the offers.

Performance on the transition team

One of the allegations made against me by the staff member of the President’s office is that I did not perform well as Chairman of the Social Sector Committee of the Transition Team, and I abandoned my work and returned to London. Ghanaians may remember that when the Transition Team was announced earlier this year, a number of Committees were established and I was named as Chairman of the Social Sector Committee. Unlike other Committees, such as Legal or Energy, which had to deal with the affairs of just one Ministry each, the Social Sector Committee had to deal with the affairs of some ten Ministries. After establishing the work programme of the Committee and chairing its meetings from January 4-9th, I sought permission from H.E. the President to return to the UK to attend to my primary responsibility as CEO of the CTO. It is worth noting that I was not consulted prior to being placed in charge of the Social Sector Committee, nor was my time availability sought.

Nevertheless, by appointing a Vice Chairman and alternate Vice Chairman of the Social Sector Committee and agreeing with the Committee members that we shall work mostly online, I was able to fully supervise the work programme and output of the Committee and to oversee the completion of the Committee’s work and its handover to the Chairman of the Transition Team, Mr. P. V. Obeng. At no time was I advised by Mr. Obeng, the President or any other person in authority that they were dissatisfied with the work of the Committee. I can understand if some people who lack the necessary international exposure are not aware that in this ICT era there are numerous global committees that do almost all their work online, with very few face-to-face meetings. It is incorrect and ludicrous for anyone to suggest that I failed to perform the task of a Committee Chairman, as delegation and online oversight are very acceptable contemporary aspects of effective management.

Other untruths

In addition to the above specific untruths, a number of other statements have been made by various commentators and paid serial callers which need to be rebutted.

It is untrue, for example, that I nominated myself as Chairman of the Transitional Committee. Anybody with evidence of this should produce this or else stop lying.

It is untrue that the President offered me several ministerial appointments and I rejected all of them, or insisted that I wanted only the Foreign Ministry.

It is untrue that I told the President that I needed three months to unwind my affairs in the UK if I were given an appointment and that is why an offer of a ministerial appointment was withdrawn.

It is most untrue that I have been sending or organizing the sending of various text messages about the President’s health in recent months or even during the 2006 NDC leadership contest.

It is not true that I have been speaking ill or negatively about Prof Mills since 1993, as alleged by one of my detractors. In fact, in 1993, I was a management official of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, I was not involved in Ghanaian politics and Prof. Mills was Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

It is a total fabrication that I have wished for the death of President Mills, when indeed I was one of very few NDC members, Ghanaians or his own family members who went to South Africa to visit him when he was ill.
It is also untrue that the reason why I have not been given a ministerial appointment by President Mills is because of the allegation that I have been spreading false stories about him. Prof. Mills has told me on two occasions, once in the presence of other officials, his reason for not appointing me at this time as a Cabinet minister (even though as indicated earlier I have not asked him for such an appointment).

The reason he has given to me has nothing to do with anything I am alleged to have done against him. Those associates of the President who have stated in public that the President will not appoint a capable man or woman to a job if that person is alleged or believed to have said anything unfavourable about the President, are painting the President to both Ghanaians and the international community as a very vindictive person, and they should be advised to stop that line of commentary.

Ladies and Gentlemen, what pleases me about these various allegations is that I have not been called a thief, a dishonest man, money-drunk, power-drunk, a liar or an unpatriotic citizen.

Strengthening the NDC

My sole objectives in the Graphic article I wrote that was published in the 18th and 23rd September issues of the Daily Graphic were to honour the memory of Nkrumah and to encourage the NDC government to act faster to address the needs of Ghanaians—using Nkrumah’s example of Self-Government Now—so that the Government and the party will continue to be popular with the electorate and win the 2012 elections. Of course, reasonable men and women can quibble about what choice of words anyone who is speaking or writing should choose. Each of us has his/her own thoughts, opin

On the day he was recalled from forced leave, I had a very interesting telephone conversation with the new deputy director of police education, ACP Kofi Boakye. He was quite nice – and unexpectedly so and he wanted us to meet for a chat, so he could explain his side of the MV Benjamin case to me.

I agreed and we did meet, along with Israel Laryea and Papa Kow Acquaye, both of Joy FM. It was quite a frank and open exchange. We asked questions and he answered them all – off record! He didn’t even want me to take notes.

So, essentially, I am not supposed to report on any of the things he told me. And I didn’t even want to write about it. But I made a promise after my first telephone conversation with Kofi Boakye that I will let my readers know about what was ‘cooking’. That meeting with him was what was cooking. Sadly, I can’t let you in on most of the details – even though, I am dying to. I made a bigger promise to Mr. Boakye and I am going to keep it.

All I can say now, though, is that Mr. Boakye tried to make the over-flogged case that he was on an undercover operation when he met the suspected drug barons in his house and that he is not the rogue officer the MV Benjamin case has made him out to be. I still have a lot of lingering doubts about his claims but then he asked that I (and all Ghanaians, for that matter) should be kind enough give him the benefit of those doubts.

I don’t know about you, but I will most grudgingly oblige. After listening to Mr. Boakye, pondering for two weeks over the things he told me and speaking to a few others about the MV Benjamin case, I have come to the conclusion that there is more to this scandal than anyone in the know cares to publicly admit. If they did, a lot of things in this country would be turned upside down. That is one of the reasons why Kofi Boakye was never called into the dock in connection with the case and that is why he has his job back.

Whether for good or ill, only time will tell. But I am not ready to hold my breath. From the little I know, however, I think he is better off outside the police service and the police service is better off without him.

All throughout his presidency, John Kufuor felt he was the best thing that ever happened to Ghana. He also saw himself as one of the best leaders ever to come out of the African continent. That’s why he shamelessly decided to reward himself by spending our millions to buy a medallion to reward himself.

Every Ghanaian who is not blinded by petty party allegiances spoke out against his vanity and Kufuor has since then been looking for an opportunity to prove to Ghanaians that they were wrong in condemning him and that his self-praise was justified. He saw that opportunity in his nomination for the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership. He had reportedly been in the running for the prestigious prize with the likes of Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria) and Ahmed Tejan Kabbah (Sierra Leone).

Fortunately, the prize committee, made up of eminent personalities like former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan and former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, has decided that none of them deserves to be rewarded. They couldn’t have taken a better decision. It is a clear message to Kufuor that he was not the great leader that he thinks he was. Our former leader needed a reality check and I am happy it was delivered by none other than Kofi Annan and the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee. The snub is good for Kufuor and it is good for Ghana.

If Kufuor had won Mo Ibrahim’s prize, we would have had a succession of leaders who would have come along to try and match up to his low standards of leadership and turn around to tell us that they deserve 24 retirement homes, 36 limousines, 12 golden statues and a diamond plated coffin.

Kufuor wasn’t a bad leader. But he just wasn’t good enough to be held up as an example for others to follow. Kufuor had every opportunity to set himself apart and provide excellent, world-class leadership. But he squandered it all and ended up an average leader, with a weak, easy-to-forget legacy – if any at all.

Ask yourself: 20 years from now what will Kufuor be most remembered for? What will I point my kids to as the most enduring mark of Kufuor’s presidency? Kufuor’s supporters will point to such things as national health insurance, school feeding programme, the capitation grant, school feeding programme and other initiatives that still need a lot of tweaking and refinement. Some of them may need to be scrapped completely. These are not enough to win an international prize for excellent leadership.

Compare Kufuor’s record to that of the two previous winners of the Mo Ibrahim Prize. Joachim Chisano took over Mozambique at a time of war and he turned it into a thriving nation at peace with itself. Festus Mogae ruled Botswana, a small, landlocked country with prudence and by the time he left office, the country had become an African economic giant, its people prospering and lacking very little.

Kufuor cannot say he took Ghana out of the doldrums. We are exactly where we were when Kufuor was elected – a divided nation with a healthcare system in utter shambles, a confused educational set-up, a very weak economy (also known as ‘ecomini’), little water to drink, poor energy supply and a non-existent social welfare system, among so many other serious problems. Kufuor knew about all of these problems before he came to power. He solved none. He promised ‘change’ and delivered something close to the same crap Ghanaians experienced under Jerry Rawlings.

That was why his party was kicked out of power just around the time he was supposed to hand over. That his party lost last year’s election is a serious indictment on Kufuor’s leadership and no self-respecting award committee will give him a prize for ‘excellent leadership’. Rewarding Kufuor with the Mo Ibrahim prize would have been an insult to Ghanaians who kicked his party out of power because they saw little good under his presidency.

Mo Ibrahim and his prize committee snubbed Kufuor for the same reasons Ghanaians voted his party out – unbridled corruption, shameless looting of the national coffers and a sickening disregard for the welfare of the people. Instead of building hospitals, Kufuor wanted a luxury presidential villa. Kufuor foolishly chose to spend dozens of millions of dollars to celebrate national independence only to turn around to beg another country for 17 million dollars to fight malaria. No great leader with his head properly screwed on will do this.

Great leaders – like Festus Mogae and Joachim Chisano – know how to prioritise. Kufuor lacked the sense of priority and that one of the major reasons he has been snubbed – he did very little in the interest of the people who elected him. Almost everything was about him, his comfort and luxury and the privileges of his cronies. Any leader of a poor developing country who cooks a retirement package for himself as hefty as what Kufuor did at the end of his term is a reckless looter who deserves to be shamed, not honoured.

In snubbing Kufuor, Mo Ibrahim and his committee are signalling to all Africans that the time has come for us to stop settling for the sort of leadership which only offers tokens. We need transformational leadership; leaders who take a bad situation and turn it completely around. We need leaders who think beyond the next election, those who will take the tough, unpleasant decisions that will take this continent out of the cycle of backwardness, poverty and disease. They are the ones who deserve to be honoured – not the likes of Kufuor and Obasanjo. Mo Ibrahim has set the bar of leadership very high and Africa will be all the better for it. We should give him a prize for that.

Apparently, the Nigerian Pastor, TB Joshua, gave coach Sellas Tetteh a few coaching lessons that helped him lead the Black Satellites to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt. And being the publicity seeking type – the sort who never allows the chance to claim the credit pass by, TB Joshua (so-called Prophet) has posted a clip on the video sharing website, youtube, detailing all his interactions with the Ghanaian coach.

On the tape, TB informs the Ghanaian coach that it has been revealed to him that the final match with Brazil will end goalless. But he doesn’t end there. He also instructs the coach that if it gets to the penalty shootout, the Ghanaian player in the No. 10 jersey (who happens to the team captain) should take the first shot.

“Yes, I see that penalty will determine, and that penalty will determine the winner,” TB Joshua says on the video.

Sellas Tetteh has confirmed that he spoke to TB Joshua even whiles the match was underway and that Mr. Joshua’s influence played a big role in Ghana’s triumph over Brazil.

“He told me we would win the trophy before the tournament and on the day of the game he again predicted it,” Tetteh says. “I believed in him as a friend and a prophet, but I also believed we would win the trophy…to be honest with you and in the name of God, he even predicted the red card booking by the referee to our player (Daniel Addo) and subsequently warned us of the tough times that will befall in the hands of the Brazilians.”

This TB Joshua guy must be very powerful. Isn’t he the same man who is reported to have spiritually orchestrated John Atta Mills’ ascent to the presidency?

Now, as I write this, I am having a serious bout of diarrhoea. I ate some banku and tilapia with hot pepper and it seems to have upset my system. Could someone please call TB Joshua for me?

I need to know whether I should use my water closet or I should rush to a KVIP. Perhaps, I should go to the La Beach and engage in ‘free-range’ tie-and-throw. I also need advise on which toilet roll I should use. I’ve been using ‘Jolly’ and ‘Fontissue’ for quite a while now but I am thinking I should also try ‘Rose’, with all its sandpaper properties.

I hope TB treats this as a very urgent matter because this is as important to me as the World Cup was for Sellas Tetteh. And I don’t give a damn if he records our conversations and posts them later on youtube.

I’ve heard a lot of things said about why I have been off air for about two weeks. I meet people on the street who say they have heard that I’ve been sacked or suspended. Right here on this blog, someone has tried to spread a rumour that there is legal case pending and JOY FM wants to save face by keeping me away from the studio.

None of the above is happening.

I am taking a month-long break just to recharge my ‘batteries’. I am taking it easy in my small corner, having some ‘me’ time. If I had money, I would have gone to chill on a beach in the Bahamas. But I don’t and so I am using the period to finalise work on a certain project, which will soon be made public.

So just to set the records straight, the NDC has not orchestrated my dismissal – JOY FM is not like the National Youth Employment Programme. Neither is it a public toilet for NDC hoodlums to violently take over. Thank God!

And as far as I know, I have also not been served with any legal summons to go face anyone in court. How do people come up with that? Even if there was pending legal battle, I don’t think I will stop working to focus on that. So to friend and foe alike, I say I shall be back on air on November 9. Truth be told, I can’t wait!

Beating Brazil at any level in world football is no mean achievement. And to walk over the stylish and hugely successful South Americans to be crowned world champions is something every nation on earth aspires to.

That’s exactly what the national under-20 football team, the Black Satellites, did at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup which recently ended in Egypt. They are true conquerors of the world. They’ve brought joy and happiness to many Ghanaian hearts and for that, they deserve all the accolades being showered on them.

As we celebrate the triumph of the Satellites, there are some issues engaging my mind.

First, who are our true champions and how do we differentiate them from the glorified losers?
When we send out our warriors and they return with a golden diadem, we shower praises on them and hang medals around their necks – as will be done for the Black Satellites. With these gestures we encourage others to go out there and achieve more, not less. Unfortunately, in this country we tend to shower the praises that should be reserved for the true champions on the glorified losers as well.

Cast your mind back to 2006 when similar celebrations greeted the failure of the senior national team to make it to the quarter finals of the World Cup in Germany. They were offered national honours for failing to equal the records of the likes of Cameroon and Senegal. Was that justified, I don’t think so. You could argue that the sort of recognition accorded the Black Stars in 2006 encouraged the Black Satellites to go out there and actually conquer the world.

But now that the Satellites have actually done what the Stars failed to do and I am wondering what’s going to be a befitting honour for them. Are we going to lay out same red carpet that the glorified losers trod on? That’s for the authorities to decide. But my point is that next time we shouldn’t make losers feel like champions. We can pat them on the back for trying but there is no point in honouring them like was done for the Black Stars in 2006 – making it to the 1/16th stage of the World Cup is nothing to be proud of.

The second issue engaging my mind is the need to groom the current under-20 squad to win the senior World Cup in about a decade. Michael Essien and some members of the current crop of Black Stars players almost conquered the world at the under-20 level in 2001. The generation that has just faded away (the likes of C. K. Akunnor and Samuel Osei Kufuor) narrowly lost out to Brazil in 1993. They made it to the finals and were only beaten by Brazil. If they had been groomed properly, the current Black Stars should be in very strong contention for the World Cup next year. But they are not. It’s all well and good that we hope but no amount of hoping will make the Black Stars l win the World Cup next year. If they do, I will offer myself for community service, sweeping the streets of Makola for two hours for 365 days. Twelve years from now, however, I shouldn’t be placing a bet like this because I am hoping that the young ones who conquered the world under the gaze of the pharaohs will be nurtured to do it again at a higher level.

The third issue has to do with coaching. I don’t like foreign coaches. Few of them have done us any good – that is win us the trophies. Most of the trophies we’ve won at the junior level have been with local coaches – Selas Tetteh being the latest. Why is it then, that at the senior level, the football association tends to have an unhealthy (almost obscene) preference for foreign coaches? I won’t accept the argument that the senior players do not respect the local coaches. I also reject comparison which is often made with a country like England, which has for more than a decade relied on foreign coaches. What did Sven Goran Erikson win for England? Nothing.

I think it’s high time we gave local coaches like Selas Tetteh the chance to take charge of the senior national team. If they can win laurels at the junior level there is no reason why they should fail at the senior level. The problem is that we have not being as patient with them as we’ve been with the foreign coaches. We have also not given them half the incentives we give the foreign coaches. At the very least, they should be given a chance to take their best shots. Take a Selas Tetteh or Sam Arday, give him half the salary we pay the current Black Stars coach, put him in a nice house and give him three or four years – I am sure they will, at least, win the African Cup of Nations.

Government has been groping in the dark for months, frantically looking for something to smear the agreement to sell majority shares in Ghana Telecom to the UK’s Vodafone. So far the fishing expedition doesn’t seem to be yielding much. That the Mills administration finds it necessary to publicly disagree – and vehemently so – with the committee it set up to investigate the deal is ample testimony to the futility of this endeavour to “review” the GT-Vodafone deal.

After sitting for months and drinking tonnes of tea, the only adverse findings the Vodafone Review Committee could come out with are the same over-flogged arguments the NDC (then in opposition) used to oppose the sale of GT to Vodafone. For starters, the committee says Ghana didn’t get “value for money”. It also says that President Kufuor acted wrongly by personally negotiating the deal and to sound a little bit original the committee had the temerity to declare the deal unconstitutional, null and void – much to the annoyance of government, which now says the “committee overstepped its remit in expressing an opinion on the constitutionality or otherwise of the transaction”.

How could the committee have “overstepped its remit”? Did its members get so drunk on abundant tea or they just couldn’t offer much within their remit? The chairman of the committee is a retired Appeals Court judge. He should know a thing or two about staying within your remit and yet he decided to do what no one had asked him to do. I think it’s a little bit of both. So let’s look at the two main issues raised by the committee.

First, they say that Ghana didn’t get value for money. Really? Vodafone (the former Ghana Telecom) is up and running, providing jobs for thousands of Ghanaians. It’s now a company with a swagger – a far cry from the Ghana Telecom which was on the verge of collapse. Recently, Vodafone launched the biggest marketing promotion in the history of this country, scaring the hell out of the marketing managers of company’s like MTN and Tigo. What other value for what money does the country need? Would the committee rather that Ghana Telecom had collapsed with all its workers sent home without pay? If you think Vodafone’s decision to lay off staff is bad, think about what would have happened if Ghana Telecom had not been sold off at the time the Kufuor administration did.

The argument being put forth to illustrate how Ghana didn’t get value for money in the transaction with Vodafone is as flawed as it is illogical. The committee says that Telkom South Africa offered more money for GT and suggests that their bid – not Vodafone’s – could have been worth more the country’s while. This doesn’t wash. Money is not everything, you know. That’s why, for example, you will occasionally come across a woman who turned down a rich man’s hand in marriage, preferring to settle down with man without a dime to his name. You remember ‘I told you so’, right? In that classic Ghanaian movie of the 1960s, Bob Cole’s character insisted that he will not allow his daughter Rosina to marry a rich man. Rosina and her mother didn’t pay heed and I suppose you know the rest of the story. The story in ‘I told you so’ doesn’t only happen in the movies. In real life parents sometimes, for very good reasons, refuse to allow their children to marry rich suitors.

In the same vein, you just don’t sell off a company – its future and that of its staff – to the highest bidder. You also need to look at several other factors such as the expertise, the track record and the prospects of the company making the bid. In their home country, Telkom South Africa is no competition for MTN and they have only two subsidiaries in Africa – Africa Online & Multilinks, a company in Nigeria. Vodafone, on the other hand, is a global giant with footprints in several countries around the world. For my money I’d settle on the bigger player offering less – not on the small player offering more. That’s what John Kufuor rightly did. It was a wise decision.

There are many things Kufuor did which were not so sensible. Selling Ghana Telecom to Vodafone wasn’t one of them. This fact seems lost on those who opposed the Vodafone deal and so in their bid to make Kufuor look bad, the government’s review committee is unjustly accusing the former president of being the sole negotiator who in an “in an inelegant manner” sold Ghana Telecom for cheap. That, for me, is also a lot of crap. No major national asset will be sold off without the explicit approval of the sitting head of state. Kufuor met with Vodafone executives and instructed his guys to push the deal through and so what? That’s not a crime, is it? Presidents meet with prospective investors, strike deals with them and ask their subordinates to follow the deals through. Rawlings did it. Kufuor did it and Mills will not be any different – unless he tells me that he’s not going to take any interest in promoting Ghana as an investment destination.

Maybe – just maybe – Kufuor met secretly with the Vodafone guys to negotiate his kickbacks (I am not saying he took and I won’t be surprised if he took any) but nothing has been proven yet. The committee’s declaration that there are no minutes of those meetings between Kufuor and the Vodafone crew is nothing for us to hang the man on. When President Mills met with Vodafone officials on his recent trip to the UK, were any minutes taken? I am just asking…

And, oh, lest we forget, the Vodafone review committee (inter-ministerial, or whatever they call it) also claims that by being the sole negotiator, Kufuor didn’t follow due process in selling off GT to Vodafone. The absurdity in this fallacy is mind-boggling. I very clearly remember that the deal was subjected to intense public debate (it was the subject of discussion for months on almost every radio station in Ghana) and it was taken to parliament, which duly approved it – only for vice President John Mahama to come and formally launch Vodafone’s operations here in Ghana. What other process could be more ‘due’ than this?

Government says it will formally issue its comments on the Vodafone deal in about two weeks. We will wait for that but I am thinking that committee’s recommendation that another (higher level) committee be set up to further investigate the deal should be disregarded. Any attempt to follow it through will definitely amount to an awful waste of precious tea – not to mention money. In fact, I think that the committee’s report, snippets of which have been released to the media, should be left at the entrance to one of the KVIPs in Chorkor or Nima for our underprivileged brothers and sisters who cannot afford toilet roll.

Vodafone has taken enough of a beating in this country already and their only crime was coming in to buy a faltering company. A country badly in need of investment should not behave this way. Whether the Vodafone deal was ‘inelegant’ or not, we are all in this country and we are seeing its fruits. It can only get better – and it will. And so for God’s sake, government should leave Vodafone alone because the so-called ‘review’ is leading nowhere. It will not get any more value for money than we got and government cannot dare force Vodafone out. And Kufuor will not share his kickbacks – if he took any – with the NDC. So what’s the point?

I learnt something recently in a training seminar. The teacher said “more warm bodies do not necessarily increase productivity and efficiency.” He was right and the inconsistencies of the government’s information management team provides ample evidence: five different people (in different parts of the national capital) doing a job that can very easily be done by one man and with no central control, very little direction and huge egos to be salved don’t exactly make for efficiency in communication management.

Now, even though I’ve studied communication, I must say that my knowledge in this field is very limited. But I think the mistakes of the Mills information team can very easily be addressed with a little bit of common sense. This, however, doesn’t work very well when a man’s hand is tired and he feels compelled to create jobs for his boys. That’s the problem facing the president now. It’s imperative, however, for the president to take control of the situation and deal with it in a creative, pragmatic and sensible manner.

First, there shouldn’t be a presidential spokesman and a director of communications at the presidency. The two positions should be merged. The president should take the bold decision to send either Mahama Ayariga or Koku Anyidoho home. At the very least, one of them should be subordinate to the other and we should know who is boss. I don’t care who presides over communications at the Castle and I don’t think it’s the president’s job to salve the ego of either men. Being a president sometimes means bruising a few egos and if that needs to be done to make the government information management more efficient so be it. The president cannot blow hot and cold over this matter. Something simply has to give. Otherwise, the consequences will be more than he can manage.

Secondly, I think that one of the most radical decisions the president needs to take to streamline government information management is to close down the information ministry and tell that bimbo at the helm of affairs there to take a walk, possibly to go manage her beer bar. When the information ministry has been closed down, all major policy statements should either come from the presidency or the PR departments of the various ministries, duly sanctioned by the sector minister.

We should also gradually move towards a situation where the president regularly speaks to his citizens and field questions from the media on all issues of national importance and public interest. No Ghanaian president can tell me that he is busier than his counterpart in the United States. Yet Barack Obama makes time to announce his nominees for top positions, explaining how he arrived at certain important decisions. He even makes time to occasionally crack jokes and speak about petty stuff like his favourite football team’s performance and his dog.

Ghanaians want to know what their president is thinking but not through a different human being. The president is not the Holy Ghost, who needs a human vessel to speak in tongues. We want to hear from our president as often as possible. The tokenism of presidential ‘media encounters’ – sometimes once in a year – is so not 21st century. The president should engage the citizens more, talk to us regularly – speak for himself, assure us, allay our fears and make his say-so the final word on any issue.

Whether the president chooses to speak to us directly and regularly, whoever is put in charge of communications at the Castle (who should also be the designated presidential spokesman) should organise daily press briefings where he will field questions and answer them on behalf of his boss. When he speaks we will take it as the president speaking through him. This means that this presidential spokesman will not open his mouth to speak on any issue unless he’s received a briefing from the president.

From Kufuor’s time till date, people purporting to be speaking on behalf of the president have often just waffled and rattled anything that came to their minds without having spoken to their bosses. The fact that the president called Joy FM to complain while his spokesman was speaking on the same network (supposedly on behalf of the president) was a shameful demonstration of the fact that the two men hadn’t spoken to each other that morning. The president and his spokesman must constantly speak with each other and when the spokesman doesn’t know his boss’ opinion on any matter, he shouldn’t be ashamed to say “I don’t know…”

Apart from the presidency speaking on all major policy statements, the various ministries have their own PR departments. They should be able to communicate government information without contradicting what the presidency has said and there shouldn’t be any occasion when one will come out to clarify what the other has said. This is not to say that the PR departments of the ministries should constantly look up to the presidency before communicating with the public. They should be able to draw up and work with their own communications strategies. For example, if government decides to build a nuclear reactor the announcement could come from the presidency whiles the Energy Ministry provides further details.

Strengthening the PR outfits for the various ministries would also mean that ministers of state should be mindful if when and how they grant interviews. Some of them grant interviews ‘by heart’ on early morning radio when they had not even brushed their teeth. This must stop. Ministers should carefully choose where they get interviewed, when and how and such decisions should hardly be made without consulting their PR departments. Speaking to a minister of state should qualify as an ‘exclusive’ for any media house – but not in this country, where ministers just pick calls from any radio station and waffle on end, sometimes while lying comfortably (I’ve sometimes supposed) in the bosoms of their concubines or even in the loo. In such instances, the minister should quite gently tell the journalist to sod off whiles he concentrates on the ‘concubinal bosom’ or whatever is engaging his attention. Better yet, he could tell the newsman to call his PR director, who should be able to provide the journalist with the information required.