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February 2010

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By Theophilus Yartey, ‘BFT Lifestyle’

The rise and rise of Ato Kwamena Dadzie can never be merely put down to the fact that he is a fine radio personality with a penchant for lightening serious national issues. That would be a gross understatement of the potential of one of the finest journalists this country is blessed with.

Interestingly, at age 33, he has been plying his vocation for the past seven years and already made a significant impact. Ato has the uncanny knack for speaking his mind and bringing humorous perspectives to controversial and sensitive issues of national interest both on radio and in his writings. But that is Ato for you! The type of journalist you are bound to develop a love-hate relationship for.

Ato has become an important force in the socio-political landscape in this country. Many times, he literally holds the entire nation spellbound when he reviews the newspapers on the Super Morning Show on Joy at 6.30am. He has his own unique way of captivating the politician, the student, the entrepreneur, the religious leader and anyone else who encounters him either on radio, television, newspapers, on Facebook and on his blog (atokd.com).

And just in case you never had the opportunity of reading any of his articles, he has done what most great minds and visionaries do; putting his thoughts out in a brand new book, which is just about to be released. Since the news of the book broke on Facebook and on his blog, hundreds of people from all over the world have inundated the networks with questions about the title of the book and its contents and how they can get their hands on it.

The satirist that he is, Ato has titled the book, ‘PRETENDING TO BE PRESIDENT’. The question that readily comes to mind is, “What informed the choice of such a title?” In response, he invites his numerous fans to come and interact with him at what he describes as the “outdooring” of the book on Independence Day, Saturday 6th March, at the forecourt of JOY FM at Kokomlemle between 7am and 11am.

“I feel a great sense of pride that a book has finally been birthed that I can look at and call my own. I think of the fact that my children and grandchildren will see this book and be glad to be associated with me. I find great fulfillment in sitting down and writing because talk often tends to be cheap.”

“I am grateful to Ben Ephson for providing me the platform to write in his Daily Dispatch newspaper. I cannot thank Albert Ocran enough for ‘vociferously’ encouraging me to undertake this project, and for getting Legacy & Legacy to be my publishers.” Ato said in an interview with B&FT Lifestyle

PRETENDING TO BE PRESIDENT is a collection of articles Ato Kwamena Dadzie wrote and published in the Dispatch newspaper between 2003 and 2007. The articles are light-hearted and satirical and were written about the socio-political issues of the time under the pen name, J. A. Fukour.

Interesting as they might seem, do not let the humour make you miss out on some key lessons. Indeed, the fact that some of Ato’s predictions at the time have subsequently come true in this country can never be lost on the reader.

For instance, when it was reported that some 77 parcels of cocaine were missing in police custody, a few years ago, Ato predicted then, in one of his articles, that the cocaine would never be found. The rest they say is history.

He also predicted in 2004 when the then Mayor of Accra, Mr. Stanley Adjiri-Blankson embarked on the decongestion exercise in Accra, that it could never be sustained because of political expediency. Today, six years later, that and all subsequent attempts at decongesting the city have failed woefully.

There are many more ‘fulfilled prophecies’ in the book, and that, among other reasons, makes it a must-read. There are several aspects of the book that are downright funny, while other parts give the reader somber food for thought; an example being “The Real State of the Nation Address.”

Ato’s journey to becoming a writer started somehow fortuitously. In his words, “It was one boring afternoon in March 2003. The day hadn’t gone so well and there was very little reason to think that it was going to get any better. Sitting in my ill-furnished, poorly-ventilated office at Metro TV, I decided that if I allowed myself to get this bored again, I could cause grievous bodily harm to myself.”

“I had just taken up the job of News Director at Metro TV and I had to build everything from scratch. It was hectic but there were long periods of inactivity that I hated. These were times when I had to just sit and do nothing but wait for reporters to return to the newsroom with their stories. On this particular day, as I sat there with nothing to do, I started reminding myself about how in journalism school I felt broadcasting was a bit of a lazy job. Writing was in my opinion more engaging, more intellectually stimulating and more artistic.”

“If only I could write for a newspaper,” I said to myself.

“Then it occurred to me that there were newspaper offices just up the street from Metro TV – The Dispatch, The Crusading Guide and Gye Nyame Concord. Like a robot, I just swung off the chair and decided to take a walk to the newspaper offices.

“I am going to tell one of the editors that I am bored and I need to write,” I said to myself.

“Write what?” I imagined one of the editors asking me. Anything!!!” I’d say.
I knew “anything” wasn’t good enough but at that point, it was all I wanted to write about. And so that was what I was going to tell the first editor I spoke with. The question then was, “Which one would it be?”

As I walked, I took out my cell phone and called Ben Ephson.

“Uncle Ben, are you in the office,” I asked in Fante.
“Yes,” he said.

“Good, I am coming over for a short discussion so please wait for me.” I spent less than 10 minutes in Mr. Ephson’s office and when we were done, we had agreed on what I was going to write about, the name of the column, when it would be published and how much I would be paid -– the equivalent of eight Ghana cedis per article. It wasn’t much but I was happy. Who wouldn’t be?

“We had just agreed that I was going to pretend to be the head of state and write a satirical column on just about anything that struck my fancy. It was an opportunity for me to do what I truly loved – writing. I also knew it was about the closest I could ever get to being a president.

“I wrote the ‘Letter from the President’ column for five years. Mr. Ephson tells me it was one of the most popular columns in the Dispatch. It was also quite popular on www.ghanaweb.com – where I had it posted a day or two after the column had appeared in The Dispatch.

“In December 2007, I decided that the time had come for me to stop ‘pretending’, shed the cloak of anonymity and put my face – which is not easy to behold – out there. That was when I wrote the last ‘Letter from the President’.

The good news is that “Pretending To Be President” will not be the last one would experience of Ato as an author. He is planning to come out with his second book, which is almost ready, and promises readers that he will release it by the end of the year. Till then, let’s all join the pretence on Independence Day and drink a toast or shall we say, “All Hail the President.”

 

 

 


No doubt John Atta Mills is a man of good intentions. Most presidents are supposed to be good-intentioned, right? What separates a great leader from the good ones is the energy and passion with which they deliver what their followers want.

That’s why Kwame Nkrumah insisted on “independence now” whilst his detractors were merely clamouring for “independence within the shortest possible time.”

As a keen apostle of Kwame Nkrumah, it’s quite disappointing to hear President Mills suggesting that Ghanaians should let him move at his own pace, which is often slow.

“I will be guided by a principle I have long cherished – to always strive to make a right decision rather than a quick decision,” he told parliament in his second state of the nation address. When some MPs chanted “go slow” to this remark, the president responded: “when they talk about go slow, they should do me the favour by adding two important words – ‘but sure’”.

It was a clear acknowledgement that he has not delivered the change he promised fast enough. But the idea that he’s “sure” of what he’s doing and so Ghanaians should wait until the end of his four-year term to judge him is laughably unacceptable.

It’s simple. You can’t be “slow” and “sure” at the same time. Whoever coined the phrase “slow but sure” must have been a jokester. Even if he was serious, it’s very likely he didn’t mean it to apply to Ghanaians – and definitely not to President Mills.

To lift the country out of the doldrums, we just can’t afford a “go slow” president. The president was deluding himself when he said in his sessional address that Ghana is much better than today than it was when he took over the reins of power. The country is still in utter shambles.

The economic free-fall might have been stemmed a little bit but it means very little to the sons and daughters of ‘bofrote’ sellers. Government must have taken it upon itself to provide free school uniforms to basic school pupils but they mean nothing to children who attend classroom under trees.

Many Ghanaians live in fear of armed robbery, with very little confidence in the police. The justice system is slower than the pace at which the president wants to be allowed to deliver the development he promised. Most of our health institutions only provide beds for people to die on.

Millions of Ghanaian youth would rather clean the white man’s crap in the cold of the European winter than stay home, enjoy the tropical sun and work in the public sector. Doctors are fleeing the country in droves. Teachers are packing out of their classrooms in search of better prospects in banking halls.

Ghana is not in good shape.

Anyone who says this country is in better shape today than it was a year ago is either blind or criminally deceptive – or both. And entrusting such a person with the future of more than 20 million other people only leads to doom and disappointment.

What Ghanaians need is a leader who is honest and courageous enough to acknowledge that the country is in a terrible mess and then take the right decisions – quickly – to make their lives better.

It is alright for the president to appear before parliament to spell out his vision for the coming year. But how good is a vision if very little – and, in most cases, nothing – is done to bring it to fruition.

Many Ghanaians listening to President Mills’ State of the Nation address must have felt a sense of déjà vu. Haven’t we heard previous leaders speak about road constructions, job creation, food security, housing and such banalities as nationalism? And what happened? Nothing much.

President Mills wants to use a three-pronged approach to end unemployment. He wants the district assemblies to be at the forefront of providing housing for the teeming masses. He wants to close down all the classrooms under trees, reduce the dependence on imported food, build a better sewage system and invest oil money in human resource development. These are all spelt out in his second State of the Nation address. It’s a lot for a president to dream about and it’s all good. But they cannot be realised in good time with a president who lacks urgency.

It is only recognition of the dire challenges confronting the country that will spur the president to deliver in good – and not at his own pace, which makes even the tortoise look like Usain Bolt. That is not good enough. And when Ghanaians complain, the president should listen and stop trying to sell us on the idea that he is “slow but sure”. There is no such thing.

If the president is as sure as he wants us to believe, he should get on with it – and fast. Ghanaians do not expect him to deliver everything he’s promised. But, by all means, he should deliver something and take this country out of this shameful quagmire of economic retrogression, stagnant development, disease and hardship.

Kwame Nkrumah was sure. That’s why he wasn’t slow and that’s why Ghanaians took to him like they did more than 50 years ago. If the president is the true apostle of Nkrumah he claims to be, he should stop wasting our ears with platitudes like “this Government has a four-year mandate – and at the end of that term our people will judge us.”

That’s another fallacy. Ghanaians will judge this administration with each passing day. Whether or not this administration is retained in office after 2012 will depend a great deal on the urgency with which it delivers what it has promised. He can be as cautious as he wants to be. But Ghanaians need him to make the right decisions quickly. He will be punished if he takes too long to make the right decisions. He will be punished even more if he makes the wrong decisions too quickly. That’s the curse of leadership. But it shouldn’t blind the president to the reality that Ghanaian need him to move with the sense of urgency that propelled Kwame Nkrumah to embark on ambitious development projects.

President Mills should take Nkrumah’s mantra and make it his own: “development now” – not development within the “shortest possible time”. That, more than a national holiday, is the best tribute he can offer Nkrumah. And that is the only way for Mills to set himself apart from the likes of Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor.

I want to congratulate Dr. Arthur Kennedy for his seminal book on why the NPP lost the elections in 2008. ‘Chasing the Elephant into the Bush’ was launched in Accra yesterday. Of course, I don’t agree with everything he says in the book. But he deserves to be commended not just for the effort but for the courage to spill the beans.

It fascinates me that the book has drawn so much controversy –from NPP supporters and bigwigs who should know better. But it doesn’t surprise me. It’s one of the reasons why the NPP lost the elections in the first place – the elephant likes to behave like an ostrich.

In publishing the book, Arthur Kennedy has been criticized for placing his personal commercial interests above that of the party. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Arthur K’s book helps the NPP more than it hurts it. People who desire to lead this country should know this simple fact and welcome the book as a catalogue of prescriptions for the flailing party.

Lacking an ability to visualize the future, however, it’s understandable that people like K. T. Hammond and some so-called social commentators will criticize Arthur K for betrayal of confidence, disloyalty and other silly infractions of little consequence. If washing the party’s dirty linen in public forces NPP to be honest with itself, so be it.

Those who don’t see the benefit of what Arthur Kennedy has done today are the very people who led the NPP into the jaws of defeat and didn’t even realize the harm they were causing. Those who decide to read the book and use it as a working document to make the NPP a better party will be victors again – someday. Then Arthur K will be hailed as the sensible hero he’s shaping up to be.  

When the NPP lost the elections in 2008, I could have written a book on why they were kicked out of power. I am glad I didn’t. Instead, I wrote a short piece, published here on January 5, 2009, outlining in broad strokes why the NPP lost. I am glad I didn’t use these points to write a book because it would have been trumped by Dr. Arthur Kennedy’s book, ‘Chasing the Elephant into the bush’. The book provides an insider’s account which, I am glad to report, confirms much of my thoughts (below) on why the NPP lost power. I will write briefly about the NPP’s predictable reaction to the book shortly, but, for now, I want to repeat what I first wrote in January 2009. >>>

Nana Akufo-Addo has made it very clear that he and the NPP intend to go to court to challenge some of the second round presidential poll results from the Volta Region. They are convinced that the votes from Volta were so skewed against them because their party agents were hounded from some polling stations and in some cases severely beaten, making it possible for some ballot boxes to be stuffed. The acts of violence did occur and they should be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Those who engaged in these criminal acts ought to be arrested and punished as the law prescribes. I completely agree with Nana Addo’s assertion that no part of this country should be no-go areas for some agents of certain political parties. This is one of the issues we need to address as we seek to build a vibrant democracy in our country. And if going to court provides some solutions, so be it.

I hope, however, that the NPP’s legal challenges are not meant to convince themselves that violence and other electoral irregularities cost them the elections. They were trounced fair and square. If they are interested in capturing power ever again, they need to start being honest with themselves (for a change) and start coming to terms with why they lost in such a shocking manner.

The NPP lost these polls in the first round.

A ruling party which loses 20 legislative seats in an election is a party in decline. So after the parliamentary polls, the NPP should have realised that it had lost favour with the electorate and that it had squandered the goodwill that brought the party and John Kufuor to power eight years ago. Had it not been for the NDC’s credibility issues, the presidential race wouldn’t have gone into a second round.

This election was a referendum on the Kufuor administration. And the people voted to show their disapproval of what he has done in his two terms. If Kufuor’s administration had been half the “listening government” it claimed to be, we would be looking at a completely different script.

The outgoing government’s measure of its successes was based more on what the “international community” said than on what Ghanaians felt. Whenever people pointed to lapses in government policies and programmes, they would tell us to listen to what a Wall Street investment banker or a World Bank economist had said. When people complained about being broke, Kufuor retorted that only “lazy” people complained about not having money in their pockets.

To put it mildly, the man simply lost touch with the people. He wasn’t in the country most of the time. He cared more for dinners in the Elysee Palace and cocktails at Downing Street than in interacting with the market traders at Makola and Kejetia who voted him into power.

Kufuor also failed to deliver on much of his promises. For example, he promised to run a trim, lean and mean government. But he ended up with a fat, gluttonous administration. He had more ministers than his predecessor did and at some points it seemed like all his best friends and buddies were serving in government. Even where there were no vacancies, he created them just for his friends to fill.

Kufuor promised “zero tolerance” for corruption at his inauguration. As he prepares to leave office, graft is as fashionable as ever. I don’t think there is a single government official today who can confidently thump his chest and say that “I didn’t use public office for private gain.” I dare even the president to swear on ‘Antoa Nyama’ that he didn’t “chop small”.

Kufuor and his chums also became arrogantly complacent. After his election as NPP presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo proclaimed: “this election is ours to lose”. They were so cocksure that anyone who dared to point it out to them that they were not as good as they thought became a pariah. At the height of the complacency, Kufuor decided to reward himself and his cronies for whatever good he felt they might have done the nation. Those shameful national honours, given out like cheap, left-over ‘bofrote’ to undeserving men and women, marked Kufuor and members of his administration down as an arrogant bunch who cared more about glorifying themselves than seeing to the welfare of the people. Whiles they were spending billions on ‘bling-bling’ medals to adorn their necklines, millions of people were crying for a commodity as basic as drinking water.

The sins of the Kufuor administration are many. And they are largely to blame for the NPP’s defeat. But other factors which contributed to the NPP’s defeat had little to do with the outgoing president.
Party discipline was compromised when 17 men jostled for the NPP’s presidential nomination. For some, this was a good sign of the expansion of democratic choice not just within the party but in the country as a whole. But for most Ghanaians it was also a sign that the party’s top guns had become corrupt, greedy and desperate. All the 17 candidates who vied for the right to lead the NPP to the general elections knew that being president bestowed an individual with certain endowments that could, for example, help your children to acquire hotels and build shopping malls.

The NPP’s messy (and some might say, bloody) parliamentary primaries were also a sign of the breakdown of party discipline. The acrimonious parliamentary primaries caused a lot of disaffection within and, particularly, at the grassroots. This, inevitably, broke the party’s front at different levels and many decided to take their shoulders off the wheel.

For example, after losing the right to run for re-election on the party’s ticket in Cape Coast, Christine Churcher, decided to take the back seat. It was only when she realised the party was on the verge of losing (and this was after the first round) that she staged that dramatic begging act in front of some fishermen and fishmongers. It turned out to be too little, too late.

In yet another sign that the NPP had lost touch with the people, they waged the sort of campaign you would use to market ‘Omo’ and ‘Key soap’ – largely on radio and TV and with gigantic billboards strewn across the country. The closest they got to the people was to stage beach jams and huge, impersonal rallies.

On the other hand, Atta Mills (sick, as we were made to believe) moved from door-to-door, interacting with the people and making them feel that he shared in their frustrations and disappointments. As Atta Mills said “I care for you” to the people, the NPP scoffed at his strategy. After the shock from the first round, the NPP decided to also get ‘personal’ with the electorate. Once again, it was too little, too late. The people had made up their minds and despite their own uncertainty about the sort of government the NDC would provide, they decided to take a risk and vote for Atta Mills.

And that’s why I believe strongly that people didn’t vote for Atta Mills and the NDC per se – they rather voted against John Kufuor and the NPP. They thought that fantastic promises – like providing free secondary education will win them the votes. They thought that demonising Rawlings and making him a campaign issue will scare Ghanaians away from the NDC. They were wrong. No wonder, therefore, that the elephant is back in the bush.

***Check out the first publication and original comments here: atokd.com/blogContent.aspx

Hotel President
May 24, 2005

The past few weeks have made me realize that it’s not easy to be a father. It’s even more difficult when you are in a responsible position. The Bible says that the iniquities of the fathers will be visited upon their sons. But in Sikaman the opposite is rather happening.

This realization started dawning on me when I heard that Asenso Okyere’s son had engaged in serious examination malpractices at the University of Ghana. The allegation is that Asenso Jnr was an examinations merchant. He bought and re-sold examination papers and he appears to have made quite a fortune out of it. His iniquities are now being visited upon his father. I personally have asked his father to bow out gracefully or risk a forced resignation.

Alas! Now, am confronted with a similar dilemma. My son – I like to call him Chief – has bought a hotel complex and people are asking me all sorts of questions about whether I played any role in that transaction. I didn’t really want to comment publicly on this matter. I’ve deliberately kept mute over this issue but I feel that those who read my letters, at least, deserve to be told something – to keep their minds at ease, if not for anything else.

Honestly speaking, my biggest fear is getting my butt kicked off the Black Star Stool. It is for this reason that I’ve decided never to sleep at the Osu Castle. Jerry Boom knows every nook and cranny of the Castle and I fear that if I dare to even doze behind my desk in the Castle, he’ll overthrow me. So I decided to stay in my own nice house at the Airport Residential Area and commute to and from the office every day. You know all that already, right? Just when I was settling down into my role as the Excellent One of Sikaman, I saw a tall structure springing up right behind my house. It drove me nuts. That structure gave me several sleepless nights. For months, I couldn’t sleep with both eyes shut – just because the structure (which I later learnt was for a hotel) was standing there uncompleted. It freaked me out. What if some bandits use the structure to sneak into my house to kill me? I always wondered. Then I hit on an idea. I could easily buy the hotel and make it my own, essentially a part of my property. I might not be smart but I know how to protect myself. So I bought the hotel – using my son’s name, of course.

All this was done in secret until some journalist did what I expect reporters to do and decided to poke his nose into my private affairs. He uncovered the transaction and reported it with glee. Even after it had been reported in the media that the hotel belonged to my son, I told Chief to zip his lip and not say a word. He obediently did as I ordered.

But I don’t know what made him allow that so-called spokesman of his to grant an interview to a radio station, apparently in a vain attempt to explain why we bought that hotel. That spokesman turned out to be a lousy liar. The worst lie he told was that I belong to a patrilineal system of inheritance. How can a full-blooded Asante like my excellent self claim to belong to a patrilineal society? His lies were not convincing in the least and now every Sikaman citizen – even the worst stooge – knows that there is something fishy about the uncompleted hotel behind my house. Now, I am left in a fix and some people are even daring to suggest that I should resign – do what I’ve asked Asenso Okyere to do.

For your information, I have no intention of resigning over this hotel matter. No one can prove that I’ve done anything wrong. This transaction was orchestrated so cleverly that even the smartest CIA and FBI investigators cannot prove a case of wrongdoing against me. I might not be ruling this country as wisely as I should but I know how to take care of myself and cover my a**. I’ve been on the Black Star Stool long enough and dealt with so many crooked African leaders to know how to do wrong without getting caught. Furthermore, you know that legally speaking, the hotel does not belong to me. It belongs to my son. He’s old enough to handle his own affairs. I am not his spokesman and I cannot speak for him. I cannot also force him to disclose every detail of the transaction to you. He might be the president’s son but he’s also a private businessman. If anyone has evidence that he’s done any wrong, supply it and he’ll be prosecuted.

I know that this issue raises questions about whether or not I really have “zero tolerance for corruption”. Let me tell you this – I don’t care. I repeat: I don’t care ooo ton! My government is corrupt but you voted for us again because you knew that we were less corrupt than Jerry Boom’s bunch. Don’t be naïve and expect me to be holier than Angel Gabriel. I can’t sit down and watch money crossing my sight “waawaaawaaaaaa” and just decide not to grab some. Who amongst you will do that? You must be grateful that I am not stashing all the money away in Swiss bank accounts. At least, through my son, I am re-investing the money in our country’s economy.

My (son’s) decision to buy the hotel will benefit our country in many ways. Clearly, if the hotel complex is completed, it would employ hundreds of Sikaman citizens? Secondly, the purchase of that hotel will ensure national stability. No coup-plotting idiot can enter my home through that property and kill me. Thanks to my (son’s) transaction, I can now sleep with both eyes shut.

This affords me sufficient rest, which means that I always wake up refreshed and ready to make your problems my own. Finally, the purchase of the hotel means that when I leave the Black Star Stool, I will not be idling like my predecessor is doing. I will have a job waiting for me. I will have a hotel to run and I will become one of Africa’s most gainfully employed ex-presidents. What this means is that I will not spend time rabble rousing like Jerry Boom does.

Please look at the positive side of things and stop trying to paint my family black – aren’t we already black enough? – for doing what’s in our parochial interest and the wider interest of the country.


Future hotel manager,
J. A. Fukuor

The unseen hand that pulled several strings to ensure that Tsatsu Tsikata was unjustly jailed is at it again. This time, it’s working against a hapless commentator who decided to foolishly accuse former President Rawlings of setting fire to his own house.

In the absence of solid proof, Nana Darkwa Baafi, seemed to have left his thinking cap outside the studios of Top Radio, when he opened his mouth so wide to say things he can’t prove. That was when the unseen hand started to pull strings.

First, Rawlings’ special aide filed a complaint with the police and a short while later the radio station was surrounded by rifle-wielding officers ready to arrest the ‘twit’ speaking out against his boss, a man in whose presence even the sitting president trembles. Even rapists, murderers and drug dealers do not get arrested with such show of force. But when the unseen hand waves its wand, almost everything is possible.

That’s why shortly after he was arrested, Nana Darkwa, was arraigned before a judge charged with the offence of ‘publishing false news with the intention to cause fear and alarm.’ It must be one of the quickest arraignments in Ghanaian judicial history.

In all my days in this country, few as they may be, I’ve never heard of a case in which a suspect was arrested at midday and taken to court two hours later and shortly thereafter the judge decides to remand him for two weeks.

Darkwa’s allegations didn’t cause as much alarm and fear as the ludicrous decision by the judge to remand him for two weeks in prison custody – no less! Only puppet judges – whose strings are being pulled by the invisible hand – will remand someone charged with an obscure antiquated law for that long.

The guy is not going to tamper with any evidence. There is none. He also isn’t going to interfere with investigations because he’s too hapless to do so. Yet, Justice Wilson decided to throw common sense to the wind and do the bidding of the invisible hand, who just wants to show Darkwa where the power lies.

The idea is to put Darkwa in the midst of hardened criminals and get him so humiliated and, possibly, violated that next time he sees a radio microphone, he’d either run away in the opposite direct or consult all of the nation’s statute books before engaging his vocal chords.

That’s not all.

The unseen hand is also sending a message to everyone who has access to the media that this is a new era and we are not as free as we think we are to say what we want. The hardliners in the NDC – those who opposed the decision to repeal the criminal libel law – have been looking for an opportunity to send out this message. Darkwa foolishly gave them one and they seized it without a split second of hesitation.

The message has been sent out loud and clear: watch what you say for you never know when you’d receive the sort of treatment even murderers, rapists and drug barons do not deserve. Now the dogs who have been barking at the Mills administration have warned. Few daring ones will ignore it. But most will not. That’s what they want – to silence the majority and allow only a privileged few like Jerry Rawlings to bark all they want.

That’s what Darkwa’s case is all about. The invisible hand has done its job. But we’ve not seen the last of it yet. As it was under Kufuor, so shall it be under Mills.

Ato, I just read your piece on the ‘helplessness’ of our fires service and I think it is a good piece. It touches on very important issues which must be tackled by our leadership and also individuals in our own small ways.

I agree with most of what you say, but I disagree on the point that the service is incompetent and that they ‘make heavy weather of even the laziest of infernos. It is true that the service is under-resourced and appears helpless in many instances, but we cannot quickly add that they are incompetent as a matter of fact.

I think it is only fair that we analyse each situation where they have ‘underperformed’ based on its own merits. The Rawlings case is a very peculiar one. We all want to call it a simple domestic fire, but was it? Not to put in a defence for the Fire service, but I have witnessed an instance where our FS have brought an industrial fire in a sawmill under control within an hour.

In the case of Rawlings, the FS would typically have quenched the head flame within half an hour after arrival, given that they arrived at the location in good time (minutes after they had been called). And they would only have needed one tender or two at most.

But the fact of the matter is that they had five tenders on location and still couldn’t save any property. Eye witness reports claim that there were at least five major explosions (and several minor ones) during the fire. This is not the usual thing you will expect in a household fire.

If there is ever an explosion in a domestic fire, you would expect one (or two in unusual circumstances) from the LPG in the kitchen or storage area. Now, we can’t speculate whatever the explosions were at the Rawlingses.

Maybe they had more than enough storage of LPG in their house. Maybe something else exploded. But that is all for speculation.

Ato, you will bear with me that no matter how well- or ill-equipped a fire service is, they can’t battle an explosion. They can only fight the remnant flames after the explosion… and that is what happened on Val’s day morning.

On the other recent fires, I’m sure they have been thoroughly discussed. The FS has always not been able to get access into markets during fires due to poor engineering of market layouts and the presence of stalls within access routes.

The problem with the Foreign Affairs fire was a simple logistic challenge – lack of a high rise fire tender. In the Rawlings case which definitely must have been an easy one to put out, there were unusual unexplained explosions, which may remain a mystery forever

So, yes, lets appropriately equip our FS, but let us also put some confidence in them. They definitely are capable of doing much more than merely quenching coal pot fires. I’m sure they are competent enough to help us all.

NOTE: The writer, a friend of mine, wishes to remain anonymous. That’s why his name is abbreviated.


Over the years, a lot of people have suggested to me to put my writings into a book.

Initially, I wasn’t interested and I adamantly refused to publish. But after listening to some very close friends and some of the people I look up to, I came to the conclusion that it’s the right thing to do.

I therefore assembled a small team, with the help of Albert Ocran, CEO of Legacy and Legacy, to put together my first book. If all goes according to plan, and there’s no reason why all shouldn’t go according to plan, the book will be out on Independence Day, March 6.

‘Pretending to be President’ is a collection of satirical pieces I wrote between 2003 and 2007, under a pseudonym. Few people know about my days as a ghost write. But those who have read some of the articles tell me they make for an interesting and hilarious read. That’s all I can say for now. In the coming days, I’d be telling you more.


I really feel very sorry for Jerry John Rawlings. I never thought a day would come when I’d feel this way about the former dictator. But watching the ruins of the house he has lived in for the past 20 years fills me with a mixture of grief, anger and a wee bit of cynicism.

I grieve with Mr. Rawlings and his family because no human being should suffer what they have been through.

All their belongings, including important documents and historical mementos, are gone. All of Nana Konadu’s scarves and hairpieces are gone along with Kimathi’s birth certificates and Rawlings revolutionary photographs have all been burnt to ashes.

I am also very angry, once again, at the utter helplessness of our national fire service in such situations. The fire service headquarters is just a few minutes’ drive from the home of the Rawlingses. They got to the scene of the fire in good time (or so we hear), yet they were unable to put out the blaze. It seems to me that the fire went out only after it had devoured everything in its path. All the fire officers did was to nurse the blaze.

A proper fire service should be able to put out a domestic fire in a single-storey building with very little effort. Our fire service makes heavy weather of even the laziest infernos.

But is it their fault? Nope.

Sad to say but it’s the likes of Rawlings who have made the fire service the incompetent and inefficient service it is. When our leaders care so little about our collective security and spend our little money on their own luxuries and comfort, this is what we get.

And this is where cynicism kicks in.

There have been a lot of fires in the country in the past year. Our markets catch fire so often that it’s tempting to assume that the Greek god of fire has shrines in places like Makola, Kajetia and Asafo. Whenever there has a market fire, we are fed with silly effusions by our leaders who promise halfheartedly to do all in their power to equip the fire service and do all the common sense things that need to be done to prevent a recurrence. Yet the fires keep coming, exacting heavy losses and nothing gets done.

Recently, when the Foreign Ministry was completely burnt out, we were promised that something was going to done this time around to build a better-equipped fire service. After all the talk, we were told that we have to wait because the country is broke. But to our utter surprise, the government managed to scrape three million dollars for earthquake-ravaged Haiti. We just gave to Haiti to show the world that we are also here. Three million dollars could have started the process of equipping the fire service.

Now, the fire at the home of the Rawlingses, should knock some sense into the heads of our leaders that we can’t wait any longer. The fact is that we are all at risk. Even the most powerful can be afflicted by a fire. If the fire service cannot help a powerful man like Rawlings to salvage his property in a fire outbreak, what can they do for hapless people like me? It seems to me that they can only put out fires in coal pots. And that’s not good enough!

If we don’t take a cue from this fire to build for ourselves an efficient fire service, we will leave no doubt in the minds of the rest of humanity that we have just come together to form nothing better than a collective stupidity. And then who can tell me that Lord Lugard was wrong when he said that the thoughts of the African “are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past.”

Now, we are all sad and grieving with the Rawlingses. But are we going to learn from the disaster that has befallen them? The cynic in me says we won’t. But I will gladly eat humble pie if someone proves me wrong – in, say, five years?

Few members of the ruling National Democratic Congress joined the party to support an ideology. Most of them got under the umbrella because of one man. Since its formation the NDC has been nothing more than a personality cult, with this one man its demigod. He craves adulation, demands all sorts of sacrifices and – like most gods – he’s almost impossible to please.

No wonder the current high priest in the ‘Akatamanso’ Temple has turned his back on the fastidious demigod. The fact is that the demigod is not as powerful as he used to be. There was a time he used to rule with an iron fist. No one dared stand up against him and he did whatever he pleased. He was powerful.

But that was then.

Now, he’s lost all his powers and he’s fast losing his relevance and his influence. No wonder the high priest has turned his back on him. As vengeful as he’s always been, the demigod wants to strike the high priest with a blow that will make him (the high priest) regret the sacrilege he has committed.

However, the demigod is so weakened that all he can use to strike the high priest are his words – venomous words that seldom make sense and only force the high priest to cover himself in a cloak of obstinacy. Thinking himself wiser, the demigod couches his words as sincere counsel meant to edify the temple, its high priest and those who follow him.

But he’s wrong. He is deceiving himself and his needless outbursts hurt the temple he claims to be protecting and helps the high priest.

You see, in the beginning many thought the high priest was going to allow himself to be tossed about by every foul wind the demigod would blow – even from the bottom. But now, people are realizing that maybe – just maybe – the high priest wants to chart his own path and not walk in the shadows of the wayward demigod.

This is winning the high priest some plaudits. And so even though a lot of people are worried and alarmed at the silly effusions of the demigod, they are thinking that it’s a good sign that someone is calling the demigod’s bluff. The demigod can go around ranting all he wants. With each diatribe more people lose faith in him. It’s even worse when he starts calling one of the high priest’s right hand men as a ‘twit’.

Just a few days ago, the demigod was heard complaining that the one true God is not responding to his prayers. It got me thinking about something I learnt in Sunday School years ago.

My Sunday School teacher taught me that when we pray the one true God above gives us one of three answers. The first could be “yes – you get what you want”. He could also give you an emphatic ‘No’. But He may also tell you to wait. But I just realized that my Sunday School teacher might have unwittingly forgotten to tell me about the fourth possible response from God: “Shut up!”

Someone should tell that to the demigod.