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November 2009

Browsing

They say it is informed by research and that if it’s allowed to run its course, it could turn out to be one of the best educational policies the country has ever had. Teachers have apparently been trained to implement it and make sure that it attains the desired results. Yet, it has failure written all over it.

The decision to use languages other than English as the medium of instruction in the first three years of basic education will hurt the nation. With this policy the managers of the Ghanaian educational system are embarking, yet again, on needless experiment that will not help anyone.

They travelled to places like Kenya and Tanzania where they saw that pupils were being instructed in Swahili. They were told that using Swahili as the medium of instruction aided the comprehension of basic concepts. And now officials of the Ghana Education Service feel a similar policy would work here as well.

They forget that in Kenya, Swahili is an official language. Every national document written in English has a Swahili equivalent. Newspapers have Swahili versions. Swahili is a language everyone speaks and so for Kenyans, it is so easy to draw up a uniform code of instruction for teachers to follow. As a result, if, for example, a child moves from one end of the country to another, say because his parents have been transferred, it’s easy for him to pick up from where he left off in the previous town. It’s even easier for them because they do not need to print textbooks in various languages.

Here in Ghana, however, there are more than 40 local languages. It will be very costly – impossible, in other words – to draw up a uniform code of instruction. Even with donor money, the nation cannot afford to print about 40 different versions of each textbook to be used at the lower primary level. Imagine a situation where a child moves from Accra – where Ga is supposed to be the medium of instruction – to, say, Dzodze, where they teach in Ewe. How on earth is he going to learn anything in the new language?

This new policy will also affect teacher transfers. You can’t transfer a Fante-speaking teacher to Prampram if he’s supposed to be using Ga Dangbe to teach at his new posting. In a country with a shortage of teachers as severe as the one we have in Ghana, this should not be the case. The GES should be able to move its teachers around as much as possible without restricting even a single one of them on the basis of an inability to speak a specific local language.

Finally, this policy of instructing pupils at the lower level is being introduced at a time when there is serious concern about the quality of spoken and written English in Ghana. If the GES adamantly proceeds to implement this policy, the problem will get worse – not better. If those who were introduced to the English language much earlier in life cannot speak and write it so well, how does anyone expect those who get a late introduction to do better?

The new policy might sound like a good idea on paper (especially, in a place like Kenya) but it’s a very bad one for Ghana. It won’t work – not until Ghana has adopted a second national language and developed it as such. Twi should be the obvious choice. But any attempt to make Twi a national language will be fiercely resisted even though it’s a language spoken as widely in Ho as in Kumasi.

This new language policy is yet another dangerous experiment the Ghanaian education system can very conveniently do without. If the authorities insist, however, on going ahead with it, they should first be able to produce evidence that the use English as a medium of instruction in the first years of school is harmful.

There are 2 developing news stories about the military and the law that should give Ghanaians grave cause for concern. The first is the story that 2 persons arrested in Bawku (the “Bawku Two”) were stripped naked and marched through the town. The second is the alleged absconding of one of the three persons standing trial for alleged murder.

The Story of the Bawku Two

Of course, the military denied having stripped the Bawku Two naked. Of course, we could tell from the radio interviews that the military spokespersons were lying or had naively believed the denials of the perpetrators. Of course, we have now seen pictures and video, which confirm that the military lied to Ghanaians and that the Bawku Two were clearly subjected to torture.

I have had occasion to comment about the modus operandi of some of Ghana’s security institutions, who, some 17 years into constitutional democracy, are yet to come to full terms with what that entails. I have spoken with security personnel who think that the constitution should rather be amended to recognise the way they operate. And, of course, I have spared no words and effort in telling them how preposterous that position is.

Ghanaians, I believe, recognise the severity of the situation in Bawku and appreciate all the efforts that are being made to bring calm and sanity to Bawku. However, nothing that is happening there provides any justification for the treatment meted out to the Bawku Two. And what was that supposed to do? Bring an end to the fighting there? If the military had any evidence that the Bawku Two have committed any offences, they should simply put them before court and let the courts of the land do their work. Security institutions in Ghana must understand that they have no power to discipline any person for any alleged infractions of the law. The era where persons who are arrested were subjected to brutalisation that was given exotic names like ‘talk-true-slaps’ should be really and truly over.

But as a nation, we are collectively guilty for turning a blind eye to the continued brutalisation of suspects. We see, on our televisions screens and in our newspapers, persons arrested for alleged crimes, bearing all kinds of swellings and injuries, which could not have been self-inflicted. Yet we pretend that we have not seen them. One day, very soon, a court in Ghana is going to summon the guts to free persons accused of committing crimes, on the sole ground that confession statements were obtained by means of torture. Then the full effect of these obvious beatings will come home to us.

When some human rights advocates raise questions, we berate them and call them names on our radio stations. Guess what? You, dear reader, might be the next victim of police or military beatings, if we do not take a collective decision to end this obvious injustice and blatant violation of our constitution. Today it is the Bawku Two. Tomorrow it might be YOU. The only difference between you and the Bawku Two, is that it has not happened to you yet.

Article 15(1) of our constitution provides that “the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable.” “Dignity” refers to the self-esteem, self-respect, worth, nobility and even the pride of a person. What the constitution says is that this should be considered and treated as sacred and sacrosanct and shall not be violated. By the use of the word “shall” it is mandatory for everyone to respect this. And, this applies to “all persons”, that is each and every person, including persons who are arrested. That is why article 15(2) specifically provides as follows:

“No person shall, whether or not he is arrested, restricted or detained, be subjected to –
(a) torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(b) any other condition that detracts or is likely to detract from his dignity and worth as a human being.”

There is no doubt, from the pictures and video that we have seen, that the Bawku Two were subjected to torture. The stripping and parading through the streets was vicious, heartless ruthless and cold-blooded. It humiliated, debased and demeaned the gentlemen. This is what article 15(2) outlaws. There is no doubt that the military authorities in Bawku, blatantly infringed Article 15 with respect to the Bawku Two, and urgent action has to be taken against the perpetrators of these acts.

It was in 1966, after Kwame Nkrumah’s overthrow, when another Ghanaian (Boye Moses) was chained and caged, and driven through the streets of Accra, to alleged cheers from onlookers. To date, I have not read that Mr. Moses was subsequently convicted of having committed any offence. Yet this nation turned a blind eye to (and by conduct, endorsed) this public humiliation. I heard some radio journalists and discussants seeking to justify the treatment of the Bawku Two. That was truly sad. This might not happen to me, personally. But that is no justification for it happening to the Bawku Two. It does not appear from the happenings in Bawku that we have moved one step from the 1966 crude mentality. I sincerely wish to be proved wrong by the military taking action against the perpetrators, so that they are tried in civilian courts or face a court martial. The Bawku Two should also take civil action against the state (vicariously) and the direct perpetrators of this act, to make them pay civil damages for this breach of their human rights.

The Story of the Escaped Murder Suspect

It is against this background that we should consider the strange story that we are being told by the military authorities, that a person accused of and charged with murder, and who is not on bail, was allowed to return to his barracks, was allowed to continue to work as a soldier, was transferred from Tamale to Accra, was given responsibility for checking armed robbery, and has escaped – or, as we are hearing today, has been given a posting outside Ghana. I cannot believe that the entire nation is not having a massive, collective heart attack over this matter.

On Wednesday 25th March 2009, the front page of the Daily Graphic quoted the trial judge in Tamale, Mr. Justice Lawrence Mensah as saying that “the accused persons, who are presumed to be in the custody of the military, whether in Tamale, Accra or elsewhere, should be transferred forthwith to prison custody in Tamale to facilitate their easy access to the court.” The judge, after making this order, adjourned the case “to allow the military ample time to produce the suspects when the case is called the next time.”

The Ghanaian Times report of the same date (tucked at the back page) stated that the accused persons had failed to show up in court when the case was called. The acting Director of Public Prosecutions, who had travelled from Accra for the trial in Tamale, is reported to have expressed surprise and thus prayed the court “to direct the Military Command to transfer the three soldiers from military custody to prisons remand to facilitate the trial.” The court obliged and made the relevant order.

According to the Ghanaian Chronicle report of the same date (in the centre spread), Justice Mensah’s order was specifically directed at the “Commanding Officer (CO) of the 6th Infantry Batallion Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces in Tamale.”

Was this peremptory order ever overturned or varied? Was it complied with? Did the transfer per se of the trial to Accra remove this order? Under what circumstances did other persons decide to grant the accused persons liberties that the court had not given?

These accused persons were not even on bail, which meant that they were supposed to be in custody, whether police or military. How on earth could these accused persons be allowed to live in their homes and be allowed to continue to work and earn a living, so that one of them would simply take a hike and not return?

When a person is arrested, he immediately becomes a ward of the state, and can only walk free if the police (or other arresting authority) grant him bail. When that person is subsequently charged and put before court, he immediately becomes a ward of the state again. That is why upon the first appearance, his lawyers will have to apply for bail. Unless the court grants bail, that person must return into custody. When an accused person is charged with murder, section 96 of the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act provides in mandatory terms that a court shall refuse to grant bail in a case of murder. The only instance where a person charged with murder might obtain bail is where his prosecution has been delayed unreasonably; then his lawyers might be successful in doing an article 14(4) application for bail. But it is clear that unless and until an accused person who has appeared before a court has been granted bail, he must be kept in custody.

There are therefore many questions that are begging for answers. Do we have a situation in Ghana where some accused persons are more ‘special’ than others? Why should some accused person be allowed all the liberties of the free, at a time when they had not been admitted to bail and the court had made a specific order relating to their confinement? Has the court’s order been treated with contempt? One of the Underlying Objects and purposes of the law of contempt is protect orderly administration of law. The due administration of justice requires no usurpation of the functions of the court. Thus the power to commit for contempt extends to disobedience to orders made by the court. Justice Mensah’s orders were clear. If someone has violated those orders, isn’t that person in contempt of court?

We cannot even say that this accused person has ‘jumped bail.’ There was simply no bail, and no bail means that the person should be kept in custody. How then can Ghanaians simply take this matter in our stride as if nothing has happened and then allow the military to feed us with changing stories? If it was the military hierarchy that decided to breach the court’s order, can we trust their claims of investigating the matter? Indeed, do we need another investigation? Is this not a proper case for the Attorney-General to commence contempt proceedings against the persons who violated the court order, so that they come to court and show why they should not be committed for acting in violation of a court order?

Conclusion

We must juxtapose the treatment of these military men to the treatment given by the same military to the Bawku Two. A specific court order directing the confinement custody of military men accused of murder is flouted by the military. But the same military arrests two ordinary men (who have not been charged with any offence), and subject them to torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.

The good people of this country must demand of the powers that be to call the military to order immediately. Our near-silence on these matters does violence to the word “Justice” in our national motto, which connotes fairness, impartiality and even-handedness. We are 17 years into constitutional democracy. Let Justice be manifestly done, and let’s see if the heavens will fall.

“Fiat justitia, ruat coelum,” i.e. "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."
–  Lucius Caesoninus, Roman statesman.

The Ghana Football Association is taking too long in arriving at a decision on what to do with three key members of the senior national team who went AWOL last week. Michael Essien, Sully Muntari and Asamoah Gyan failed to join other team members on a flight to Luanda to play an international friendly with Angola.

Obviously, they felt the trip to Angola was unnecessary – a waste of their time and energies. So instead of showing up for the flight, they sent an emissary to the airport to collect their passports from the team managers. They offered no explanations and no apologies were rendered. They just wanted their passports back.

That sort of behaviour doesn’t help build a strong team capable of winning trophies. It is this sort of behaviour that has deprived the national team of any cup-winning glory for almost 30 years.

There is no doubt that Essien, Muntari and Gyan are key members of the Black Stars. But that does not mean that they can do whatever they like and get away with it. If the Ghana Football Association and the Black Stars’ coach are really serious about winning any trophy they should kick Essien, Muntari and Gyan out of the Black Stars. No one is indispensable.

On this, I agree with former FA chairman, Dr. Nyaho Tamakloe. The FA should take a firm decision on this matter and send a strong message to the players that impunity and indiscipline will not be tolerated.

So far it seems the GFA is in no mood to send any such messages. It’s been a week since this issue came up yet the FA has not so much as issued a statement on it. I am tempted to believe that the FA is dilly-dallying on this matter, waiting for Ghanaians to blow all the hot air they can. Then, suddenly, the trio will be playing again as if nothing has happened.

And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard for me to see the Black Stars ending their trophy drought next year – there are far too many untouchables in the squad and they are far too often allowed to do whatever they like.

Yesterday, I had a lot of fun talking about one of my favourite subjects – the toilet. How we do it. Where we do it and when we do it. It was World Toilet Day, in case you didn’t know and I had every opportunity to let ‘everything’ out. I also did a little ‘squat’ in genuine respect for all those who don’t have toilet facilities and are forced to use public toilets as well those who ‘free range’ or ‘tie-and-throw.’

I joined some friends to discuss our toilet experiences on ‘Drive Time’ on Joy FM. I spoke about how in Essikado I had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the KVIP. I also touched on why ‘Graphic’ is a better substitute for t-roll and how a trip from Kumasi took longer than usual because my colleagues kept asking the bus driver to stop so they could dash into the bush to do their own thing.

Sammy Darko spoke about how he had to travel from Mamprobi to Dansoman every morning to do it.
Israel Laryea was kind enough give some useful tips on how regular users of public toilets could avoid diseases. He says it is better cover the seat of the WC with a lot of t-roll before sitting to ‘download’. Obviously, he has never been in the sort of public toilet I am used to.

DJ Black spoke about how he was once so hard-pressed that he had to dash into a house in Begoro to beg to be allowed to use the toilet. Instead of just showing him the door to the loo, the old woman he met wanted to engage in idle chatter.

“So where are you coming from gentleman,” the old woman asked. He screamed and the old woman got the message.

After he had concluded the ‘small room’ enterprise, DJ Black was more than willing to pour his heart out to the old woman.

So that’s how I celebrated World Toilet Day. I had fun. But I still want to hear more tales from the loo. Do you care to share yours?

I listened to finance minister, Dr. Kwabena Dufuor’s budget presentation – mostly with rapt attention. There were a few occasions when I felt myself dozing off, especially at those stages when he drifted into calling out numbers that meant nothing to me. All those numbers make my head swirl to the point of delirious dizziness. Blame it on poor education.

I am not an economist, even though I find the subject quite fascinating. So when I listen to a budget presentation, I don’t care much about the hardcore economic stuff – not half as much as Dr. Joe Abbey does at the Centre for Policy Analysis.

My interest is usually in the social initiatives. They are easier on my fickle mind. And this year’s budget has quite a lot of those. So here is my take on some of them.

The one thing that stood out for me is the plan to build classrooms for school children who study under all sorts of trees. “It is unacceptable that kids are studying under trees in 21st Century Ghana,” the minister said, and I agree with him.

I’d be very delighted if government provided proper classrooms for at least half of those children for whom classes end with the slightest hint of rainfall. I think it’s possible and whether government meets its revenue targets or not, it should be able to provide these classrooms.

Since I come from Sekondi-Takoradi, which in times past was heavily dependent on rail transport, the initiative to rebuild the railway system also struck my fancy. The Ghana Railway Company has all but collapsed. The last I heard, the company was heavily indebted and had only 600 Ghana Cedis in its accounts. That makes the company slightly richer than I am and its staff have not been paid for months.

I was quite surprised that the finance minister just rattled names of the towns that are going to linked by the rail system without actually spelling out how the company, comatose and currently on life-support and in intensive care, will be restored to good health. This makes me feel that the minister was just talking (not exactly ‘by-heart’) and that when it comes to reviving the rail sector government is far from decided on a definite, comprehensive plan of action.

While on the subject of transport, I wonder why the budget didn’t say much about how government intends to ease the suffering of commuters, especially considering that several ministers of state recently boarded ‘trotros’ to allegedly to get first-hand knowledge on the operations of public buses. At least, we should have heard something about how the Mills administration intends to restructure the Metro Mass Transit Service.

I was also delighted by the announcement that government intends to continue with the rehabilitation of the Kotoka International Airport. Whatever form the ‘rehabilitation’ will take, I hope it completely transforms that airport into a modern, efficient facility to compete with some other major airports in Africa. As it stands now, Kotoka is one of the worst airports in the world. Let’s not delude ourselves. The chaos that greets visitors at the arrival hall is shameful. I hope that at the end of the rehabilitation project, passengers will no longer have to walk on the tarmac.

Still on transport, the road projects that government intends to either initiate or continue with appear to be the same roads the Kufuor administration kept mentioning year after year. It gives me a certain sense of highway déjà vu to keep hearing Anwiankwanta-Yamoransa; Tetteh Quarshie-Madina; Pantang-Manfe Dual-Carriage Road; Bamboi-Tinga (under Kufuor it was Bole-Bamboi); Sefwi Bekwa-Eshiem – Asankragwa; Achimota-Ofankor etc.

I hope that the next time we hear about these projects, the news would be that they have been completed. If I hear another finance minister mentioning these projects as works-in-progress or works-yet-to-start, I might choke to death.

Besides the road projects I think I have heard several other portions of this budget before. Like, how many times have finance ministers told us that we are not paying enough taxes and they are going to take measures to broaden the tax net? I’ve been hearing that since Kwesi Botchway’s time. Then there was Kwame Peprah. Yaw Osafo-Marfo. And Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu.

And now, there’s Kwabena Dufuor who is ominously threatening to impose more taxes. I don’t earn much and I hate paying pay taxes. Who doesn’t? If government will not squander my tax money on the luxuries of politicians, then I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra. Not too much. Just a little more. I hope it goes into providing classrooms, hospitals, water and other essentials that make life worth living.

The plan to set up special pensions and housing schemes for cocoa farmers sounds sensible on the surface. But it’s completely warped. There is a new pension scheme which should be operational from next year. I think it’d be better to get the farmers to sign up under the new scheme, instead of setting up a whole new system for them. I also wonder why a special housing scheme is to be introduced for cocoa farmers.

Every Ghanaian needs affordable housing. Why set up a special scheme just for cocoa farmers. How about the tomato farmers? And the rice farmers, the cattle herders (like the one doing Mahama Ayariga’s dirty legal jobs) and the ‘bofrote’ sellers like my mum? Instead of focusing on cocoa farmers (they are very important, we know) government should spell out a housing policy that will, for example, stop my landlords from charging exorbitant rent advances and make it easy for people to acquire their own homes shortly after taking up their first jobs.

Finally, I am afraid the plan to restore tariffs on rice and other food commodities will increase how much I pay for my ‘omo-tuo’ at Heavy Do Chop Bar. That’s not good. I know government needs more money – not just to pay ex-gratia for politicians but also to plug the large crater in the national kitty – but I think they should not touch my bowl of rice. It seems the plan to restore the tariffs is borne out of a desire to discourage rice importation and force us to consume local rice. But, truth be told, I don’t like local rice. Many Ghanaians don’t. Even if we did, there isn’t enough local rice for us all. So will someone please tell the taxman to keep his hand off my rice and chicken, please? I beg!

By and large, however, the initiatives to boost local production of rice, fish and poultry are commendable. If only the government can see them through, most of us might just start eating long grain perfumed rice from Aveyime.

That’s my simple-minded take on the budget. As to whether the budget deficit will be cleared or whether inflation will fall to under 10 percent, prompting interest rates to tumble to enable me take a bank loan to buy a new car, I’ll leave that to Dr. Abbey and co.

Until the next budget presentation, they are going to be talking above our heads about macro-, macro-, gibberish. They will only succeed in adding confusion to our poverty. That’s our lot. Let’s keep our belts tightened and try to make the best of our hard ‘ecomini’… It’s not going to be turned into an economy any time soon!

It’s hard to believe that Private Seth Goka, one of the three soldiers, standing trial for the murder of Alhaji Issa Mobila just got up and walked out of the military detention facility he was being kept in. He must have been helped. That’s my gut feeling.

Alhaji Issa Mobila, who was the Northern Regional chairman of the CPP, died in military custody in December 2004. The circumstances surrounding his death are shrouded in mystery. All we know is that he was brutally beaten until he died. Details of his arrest and who ordered it are still sketchy. His family, his political party and the Ghanaian public need to know exactly what happened and why it happened. Justice must be served.

It has taken rather too long for the suspects to be even brought to trial. So for the army to just come out and tell us in a nonchalant manner that one of the suspects has absconded is insulting, to say the least.

In court, one of the officers who brought the suspects before the judge tried to cover things up by saying that Private Goka had gone away without leave. It was only after they had been pressed to explain that another officer told the truth that he had actually escaped from custody.

The judge couldn’t hide his anger as he ordered the military to make sure that Private Goka appears in court on November 26th. Don’t hold your breath. I’d be surprised if he has not been offered some sort of safe passage. And justice is still a long way off for Mobilla and his family. In the meantime, whoever let Goka go should be found and punished.

I’ve had one of the most miserable weekends ever. Thanks to the ECG. They took out the power in Labone at 8am on Saturday. It was for a scheduled maintenance operation which was very widely advertised.

Power was supposed to be restored at 6pm.

It did come back on in good time but just a few minutes later, they took it away again. It didn’t come back again until 8pm on Sunday. Just about 20 minutes after I decided to go to the office to charge a few appliances that had run out power, I got a call that power had been restored.

That means my neighbours and I had to go without power for about 36 hours.

The last time I went without power for that long was when my landlady forgot to pay our bills and we got cut. And that was so long ago, I don’t remember how I dealt with it. Even during periods of ‘load-shedding’, we didn’t go without power for that long.

The most annoying thing about the power is calling ECG and getting no explanation whatsoever about what’s going on and when they expect to rectify whatever problem they are working on.

“Don’t worry, it will come today,” they kept telling my landlady. I could feel the exasperation in her voice as she relayed the message to me.

The inefficiency of the ECG is legendary and every Ghanaian knows about it. Even those who do not use electricity know that the ECG cannot be trusted to provide quality service. So writing about the company is a bit pointless. I am only doing so to share some bright spots from a bleak weekend.

As I laid down on a mat on Sunday afternoon whiling the time away, I used my phone to vent my frustrations on the social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook. I said I was “pissed”. Then one guy comes on and explains why the power had been off for so long. “Uncle Atta is charging his phone,” Nii Engmann said. “When he’s done the lights will come back, ok?” Engmann’s joke gave me a good laugh.

Much later in the evening, the chief executive of Kasapa Telecom, Bob Palitz came on with an explanation of what the abbreviation ECG stands for. “Electricity Comes and Goes,” he wrote. That had me in stitches. It also helped me to put my misery into better perspective. So next time, they take my power away, I’d remember the words of Palitz and Engmann and laugh it off. After all, electricity comes and goes – maybe, because the big man is charging his phone.

Nelson Mandela is the greatest African of all time. No one can top that. Even Kwame Nkrumah will have a hard time filling his shoes. Mandela is an angel and on the day he’s called to the yonder, the heavens will stand still to welcome him back home.

No human being spends 27 unjust years in jail and comes out oozing with forgiveness. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” he said. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Of all the African freedom fighters, he suffered the most. Yet he’s the only one amongst the lot who led his nation to independence but refused to clinch to power as if he owned the country. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur,” he said. “You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

He used his short stay in power to promote peace and reconciliation among his citizens – not to hound his opponents, saying, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

It is in recognition of his rare humane character that United Nations General Assembly decided to pass a resolution that July 18 every year should be observed around the world as ‘Nelson Mandela International Day’. In passing the resolution, the assembly hailed Mandela’s “promotion of a culture of peace.”

Nelson Mandela, a Nobel Peace Laureate, deserves every recognition he gets. Hundreds years from now, he’d be remembered as a true African legend – an angel amongst men and mankind would forever thank the heavens for sparing him for almost a century.

The world would never have another Mandela. But, hopefully, the UN General Assembly’s decision to set aside a day to celebrate his life will help breed more sensible, peace-loving leaders – especially in Africa – who will not seek strength in dividing their people along political or ethnic lines; leaders who will not stop thinking about how the world will remember them after they are long gone. “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right,” the great man says.

A little over two months ago, Nii Afotey-Agbo, the MP for Kpone-Katamanso was criticising information minister, Zita Okaikoi, for failing to live up to her responsibilities. He made history. He was the most senior member of the ruling party to publicly criticise the information minister, whose ability to deliver began being seriously questioned after she granted her first radio interview. So far she’s done very little to shame her critics but the president doesn’t seem to be in any mood to fire her.

But as if that was not enough, the president appears to have deliberately decided to go out of his way to prove to Ghanaians that the only top ranking NDC member to publicly condemn Mrs. Okaikoi is no better than she is. The president has handed Afotetey-Agbo a job as a minister of state at the presidency – a position which makes him some sort of ‘utility player’ who should be able to serve in any ministry. In actual fact, however, it means that Mr. Afotey-Agbo will be hanging around the office of the president doing practically nothing.

Mr. Afotey-Agbo appeared before the committee with a poorly-prepared CV and at least two members of the panel urged him to go and get some lessons on how to write a CV.

Afotey-Agbo, gave his fellow MPs a lot to laugh about with his funny answers to the questions he was asked. Asked about his view on land guards, he said 80% of them are armed robbers.

To a question about where he felt he could be most useful in the government, considering that he’s supposed to be a utility player, he simply answered: “I think in this case I can do very well in conflict areas”. The committee members burst out in laughter. The nomination hearing ended immediately.

There were a few remarkable things about Afotey-Agbo, though. First, was his principled stance that he still stands by his suggestion that the information minister is incompetent. Secondly, he seems to be a man of grit and determination. That’s what has obviously made it possible for him to rise to the office of MP, even with his limited educational background. That’s worthy of admiration.

The fact still remains, however, that he doesn’t even know how to put together a CV and he doesn’t seem to have any clue as to what he’s supposed to be doing in government. Compare him with health minister-designate, Benjamin Kumbuor, who gave a stellar account of himself before the appointments committee, and you’ll see that Afotey-Agbo is not quite up to scratch. At some point, I felt he makes Zita Okaikoi sound like Albert Einstein. At least Zita knows her qualifications. Afotey-Agbo doesn’t except to say that he “did some short courses at GIJ”.

Clearly, Afotey-Agbo is another ‘Team B’ player. Only the president knows why he has put him up for a ministerial job. But I can hazard a few guesses.

First, the president wants Afotey-Agbo to shut the hell up. He talks too much. He is nicknamed ‘The Lion’ and obviously he likes to roar a lot. Giving him a ministerial job – which will keep him near the president – should force him to keep his opinions about the incompetence of his fellow government officials to himself. Next time, he’ll think twice before opening his mouth to criticise the likes of Zita Okaikoi.

Secondly, I think, the president wants Afotey Agbo to prove his worth and show us that he’s better than Zita Okaikoi. He might not do any better than she’s done so far. We wait to see. But I think both should not even be on the substitutes’ bench.

I am writing this article as a parent and a Ghanaian. All views represented below shall carry this tone and intent.

The Great Lamptey Mills case is one of several that will never find their way to the front pages of our newspapers or the front burner of our so-called radio analysis programs. They are simply not political and they do not seem to scatter or throw mud at any of the political big shots in Ghana. Unfortunately in this country, the stories that matter do not make it ever to our front burner – we allocate time for playing music on our radio stations, we speak for four hours in the week day mornings and play music thereafter.

Once again the Ghana police has shown its inability to deal with the issues that affect the ordinary people of Ghana. We have a host of laws in this country – the domestic violence act and sections of the criminal code (those amended or otherwise).The Ghana police, I am sure, are (or must be) aware of the various legal instruments they could have used in this matter to prosecute Mr. Lamptey Mills. These include provisions of the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal code of 1969 (Act 29), which criminalize sexual violence, especially, violence against girls in basic school. Under these laws Lamptey Mills could (should) have been charged with several counts – marrying a minor, having sexual relations with a minor and willfully causing bodily harm to minor. The girl’s parents are willing abettors in this crime as well because they agreed to the marriage and also were (if it can be so proven) willing to conceal a crime. They should also have been punished.

Since the parents and Lamptey Mills are going scot-free, it is good to know that the Ghana Education Service (GES) has promised to bare its teeth and deal with school proprietors who did what Lamptey Mills. The GES should do more than bare its teeth. It should bite. The Education Act and the teacher’s code of conduct exist to regulate the conduct of teachers and education managers/administrators in schools. But are these regulations enforced? This is one of the questions that must ache our hearts and minds day and night. The abuse of children by their teachers is one of the issues that must keep all parents awake at night. If we as parents should pay school fees just so teachers and administrators can have their way with our kids and appease them with houses (at supposed lintel level) then we might as well congratulate every pedophile with an award and get the symphony orchestra together so they can compose a ballad in the offender’s name.

Number 8(c) of the teachers code of conduct states that “Any teacher who has carnal knowledge of any female or male pupil/student of any age, with or without his or her consent shall be guilty of professional misconduct”…which attracts a punishment ranging from reduction in rank to dismissal. As precise as the teacher’s code of conduct may seem in preferring appropriate departmental sanctions against offenders its coverage is highly limited to public school teachers. In the case of private schools, withdrawal of operational license of a private school is one of several options available to the GES. Section 25(1) of the Education Act, 2008 (Act 778) mandates the Minister of Education, (upon the advice of the district assembly or the national accreditation board) to withdraw the license of a private school if the operations of the school is detrimental to the moral welfare of pupils attending the school. This is what should happen to Lamptey Mills.

As a matter of urgency the government and people of Ghana should raise their voices and collect the national award conferred on Lamptey Mills as a matter of principle. National awards are for those whom deserve them. Lamptey Mills does not deserve the medal. We should not set up any committee to look into this matter. We want our medal (in mint condition) back!

This argument about what would have happened to the girl if Lamptey Mills had been jailed should not be entertained. After all are we sympathetic to the father who rapes his own daughter with the excuse that we don’t know what would happen to the girl without her father? Are we condoning an obvious illegality because of the reason of wealth? Why don’t we let pedophiles and those who commit incest off the hook?

We are going to spend millions branding Ghana (rightly so and good luck). There is no better brand for us than the people who live in this country of our birth. Let’s take this Lamptey Mills scandal to show to ourselves and everyone else that we care about our own people and that we will stand up and uphold freedom and justice. Let us show our kids a new dawn, promise them a new day, brighter and clearer. We will heed to the call of the national anthem to resist the oppressors rule. Lamptey Mills today is the oppressor. He, together with all those who offend our laws, especially those that are meant to protect our kids, must be made examples of.

 

Written by Abena Obi