By PHILLIP NYAKPO
Is it possible that the word "flag-bearer" is used more often in Ghana than in any other country on this planet? Very possible, I think, because Ghana’s steady diet of bland politics will be incomplete without it.
But it is also possible that word might soon become less attractive, thanks to the NPP’s Kwame Pianim. Declaring an unequivocal support for Professor Frimpong Boateng as presidential candidate of the NPP, he said “We are not looking for a flag-bearer, any idiot can hold the flag.” And then he added: “we need a leader”.
One of the definitions of "flag-bearer" is a person "who carries a flag, especially at a ceremony"
So, what is Kwame Pianim saying? That there is a bunch of idiots out there who call themselves politicians and have the guts to want to become president? To put it in perspective, Mr Pianim himself once coveted the presidency and was swiftly disqualified. Now, he is putting his weight behind one man for that prize, against the interests of people like Nana Akufo-Addo, Apostle Konduah, Isaac Osei and Alan Kyerematen. These people and their supporters will sure have to stand up for their own cause, before they are made to look utterly useless.
It has to be understood that Mr Pianim was speaking on a strictly partisan platform. But he has a point that reaches farther than his preferred candidate and party. The state of the nation and the crushing poverty of many of its people will strongly suggest that there hasn’t been a lot of good leaders for the country, if any. After all, environment at any given place is a demonstration of the prevailing quality of leadership.
When I lived and worked in Takoradi for many years as a journalist, I dreaded the thought of visiting Accra. Chocked, dirty, smelly, chaotic. You’ll hardly see a city so haphazard, and unplanned, just like some teenager’s pregnancy.
Back then, a government ministry was set up for the “modernisation of the capital”. Can’t tell whatever happened to that modernisation initiative. That was under one government. Another government has come, and Accra, the symbol of the nation’s status has not changed for the better.
I had the misfortune of visiting Accra recently, and after complaining so much, an older and wiser friend of mine comforted me. He patted my shoulder and said “Listen, the real name for Accra is I CRY.”
And my beloved Takoradi, the new so-called oil city? Well, the area around Market Circle stank, it stank really bad. The only place that stank more was Korle-Gonor. There, I saw for the first time, raw human faeces being dumped into the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. I was with my wife, who is not a Ghanaian, and in whose country such a practice will not even be contemplated.
It was as if we are a people so dirty and reckless that we throw our own stinking waste into the open sea. This, when we have a state organisation called the Environmental Protection Agency. “Mbelle sem”, is the special Takoradi Fanti phrase we use to describe things as ludicrous and offensive as this.
Yes, I was so ashamed, and I want to hope that my shame is shared by all these flag-bearers. And if there are leaders out there, let them also share my burden of shame, and let such shame move them to find a better way of disposing human waste.
The larger, but subtle point in Kwame Pianim’s outburst is that the quality of leadership in Ghana and across the entire continent of Africa is appalling.
Back in Takoradi recently, I met three traditional chiefs at a hotel, where they were attending one of those meaningless conferences. All three recognised me because I used to be fairly well known in that community.
They smiled at me, but I wasn’t enthused. I rather questioned them vigorously. "Why do you Nananom sit around and allow the city to smell so much? There are plastic bags everywhere, and the gutters are full to the brim, why?" I asked.
"Oh, hmm, you see," said one of them, "that is why we are attending this oil conference. When the oil money comes, Sekondi-Takoradi will be transformed."
After hearing this, I knew it was time to walk away, without looking disrespectful. But in my mind, I thought "who on earth needs oil money to keep their environment clean?"
So much for the expected oil revenue, but if revenue from gold, cocoa and timber does not help a group of people to keep their beautiful country clean, why would oil money, with its own numerous problems? Maybe, this is just what you get, when you have “idiots” for leaders.
Phillip Nyakpo is a very good friend of mine. I started my radio journalism career working with him at Skyy Power FM in Takoradi. He taught me a lot. He is currently based in Australia (he couldn’t take the crap anymore) and he just recently created his own space in the Ghanaian blogosphere. I recommend that you check out his site at www.nyakpo.com. He is very creative, clear and concise in his writing and thinking. I’m sure you would thoroughly enjoy his writings.