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November 2010

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My very good friend, Anny Osabutey is visiting the United States. He has been there for a little over a week and one of the things that have struck him most is the legacy of former president, Jimmy Carter. He visited the Carter Centre and decided to share his impression. >>>

A President’s legacy to the people

By Josh Anny Osabutey

Jimmy Carter, one of the most revered world leaders became the 39th American president in 1977. A Democrat from the state of Georgia, Atlanta, he served only one term but went on to leave behind a legacy Americans, and especially those from Georgia, will be very proud of for a long, long time to come.

Like many other US Presidents, Jimmy Carter’s time at the White House is well documented at the appropriately named Carter Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. The centre houses many interesting personal items including photographs, books, and old passports. The centre also has a library stocked with books available to researchers, journalists, students and anyone interested in accessing the wide variety of materials available. For those interested in mental health, there is also much documented information about his wife, Rosalynn Carter’s work in bringing the issues of mental health to public prominence.

I had the privilege of driving to the centre on Sunday afternoon after lunch at Five Points, a culturally conscious suburb in a city that boasts interesting tattoo shops, a variety of restaurants and bookshops and a karaoke bar where I sang, badly, some Ghanaian highlife tunes.

The Carter centre sits on a large parcel of land a few miles away from the famous Emory University. In front of it is a water fountain and hoisted flags from a selection of countries, signifying a reflecting of the international stance of the Centre.

A documentary about Jimmy Carter’s life was coming to an end when I entered the main conference hall. I caught the tail end of the documentary and then started my tour. Everything at the centre is simple and self-explanatory, so visitors don’t need guides and can enjoy the tour at their own pace.

I started at the beginning, with pictures of his birth on the farm in Plains, where his family famously cultivated peanuts. Grouped with these pictures were his birth certificate, his first school chair, photographs of his family and many other personal items. Everything was grouped in a way that made it easy for anyone to comprehend the details.

Another section has the items he used at the White House; chairs, table, cups for his early morning breakfast, pens, telephone facility and news briefs. All of these were arranged very nicely and gave an insight into the private moments of the world leader. To add to the authenticity, a radio in the background broadcasted some of his memorable speeches during his presidency. I closed my eyes and could visualize him in the room with me, talking.

Homage is made to all the country’s presidents, past and present. There are photographs and details about the centres dedicated to those presidents. The centre dedicated to Bill Clinton is in Little Rock, Arkansas, there is a centre dedicated to the both President Bushes – senior and Junior – in Taxes, and no doubt, very soon there will be a centre dedicated to Barack Obama.

The Carter Centre hosts published works of both Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. Some of the books included the memoir: KEEPING FAITH: Memoirs of a President, a 5,000 pager, which captures important meetings during his time as president.

“He used that wealth of information in writing this book, which recounts his experiences as president of the United States. Coming to office with high hopes and large ambitions, Carter found himself thwarted as he attempted to make his mark as president.”

The book captures arguably his darkest period as president following the 1979 invasion of the US embassy in Tehran, which resulted in the hostage taking of diplomats who suffered 444 days in captivity. It was one of the lowest points of his presidency. Walking down the streets of Georgia, I spoke with many people about Jimmy Carter in relation to the Tehran hostage situation. All were quick to say it was that very event that cost him the presidency. During my tour of the Carter Centre, Jimmy Carter, in one of the many video footages which for part of the material available to visitors, acknowledges what the people on the street had said.

Though the centre receives funding from other sources, Jimmy Carter relies on proceedings from the book for his personal upkeep. He receives no pension from the American government, only the meager handshake he was given when he left office after serving one term. This situation is no different from any other President who has served the American people. This contrasts sharply with the political environment of my country, Ghana.

In Ghana, the two living ex-Ghanaian presidents (Rawlings and Kufour), both retired from office-after eight years-with ridiculously gluttonous packages. Granted, Rawlings served eleven years as a military leader before contesting and winning democratic. That notwithstanding, neither he nor Kufour have ever considered or suggested that centres be built in their names so their periods in office could be documented and shared with the public.

Leaving a legacy has never been important to them. Leaving documentation and paraphernalia that would be important to researcher, journalists, scholars, students and the public about the work of a president is not important to them. What they are concerned with is how many cars, houses, and fat bonuses they can further squeeze out the Ghanaians who they spectacularly pushed deeper into the poverty cycle during their tenures as presidents.

On a daily basis, we read news items about the two ex-presidents bitterly complaining about not been properly taken care of by the state. Aides of former President Rawlings never missed the opportunity to lambast the current administration about leaving Mr. Rawlings homeless, after his house was burnt down. Not wanting to be left out, the Mr. Kufuor’s camp continually complain that he hasn’t been paid his monthly emoluments. They claim the man is going hungry. The claims of these two would be laughable if they were not so pathetic, especially, coming from people who help the highest office of the land.

Two ex presidents, one going hungry and other homeless. What a farce, considering that neither of them paid taxes during their periods in office. Just the travel allowances they accumulated in just one of the years in office was more than what the average civil servant retires on after more than three decades of committed service to the country.

It is obvious that whilst their colleagues such as the Carters, Clintons and Bushes are remembered by research centres named after them, ours- and I pray Prof. Mills depart from that subculture, will be remembered by how much time they spent fighting over housing, cars and allowances.

Hardly a week passes by without Ghanaians hearing about ‘Nkrumahism’ or the fact that the ‘Nkrumahist’ parties are fragmented. I was in a car when I heard Samia Nkrumah, announcing that she would contest for the chair of the chair her father founded, the CPP.

Hearing her speak sparked a couple of questions in my mind: what at all is Nkrumahism and who is an Nkrumahist?

That was yesterday. I am still grappling with the questions, so I decided to throw them out and ask for some education. What on earth is Nkrumahism? I know it has something to do with Kwame Nkrumah but I don’t know exactly what.

I am a proud son of the Western Region. But news that chiefs from the region, including my own Nana Kobina Nketiah of Essikado, packed themselves into vans and came to Accra with a petition, demanding 10% of revenue from the oil wealth filled me with deep shame and regret.

I don’t know what exactly came over the chiefs to make them travel from far off places like Sefwi Bekwai on a mission that they should have known would bring them nothing but national opprobrium.

Their demand for 10 percent of the oil revenue is borne out of frustration and desperation but it should be rejected outright. The oil is not for the Western Region alone. It’s for Ghana and government should not allow itself to be pushed into doing the unthinkable. The money from petroleum should be used to develop the entire country and the Western Region shouldn’t get any major special concessions like the chiefs are demanding, simply on the basis of the fact that it is the region where the oil is being explored.

Apparently, it was vice President John Mahama who gave the chiefs the idea that a special chunk of the oil wealth would be set aside for their region. He made a promise in the run-up to the elections in 2008 that a government of the NDC would make it a policy to set aside 10 percent of the oil wealth for the Western Region. It was a grave mistake. It is a promise whose fulfillment would not be in the interest of the nation. It would help the vice president and the NDC a great deal if they found a clever way to tell the Western Regional chiefs that making that promise doesn’t look as clever now as it did then because the vice president was merely speaking junk words on a political platform to win votes.

The fact is that government cannot decide to allot a specified portion of revenue from any natural resource to the particular part of the country from where it is extracted. Otherwise, the people of the Brong Ahafo Region would tell us to give them 10 percent of whatever we get from their forests; the people of the Volta Region will want 15 percent of the earnings from Keta School boys; the Upper East Region will want 20 percent from the sorghum and millet revenue. They also give us Guinea fowls, right?

And with these demands, the Western Region would even come back to demand more from the revenue from gold, bauxite, timber and cocoa. And then the Ashanti Region would also rise and demand 30 percent or more from their gold, cocoa and timber. The Eastern Region would also want some for their cocoa, timber and gold. And what about the Central Region? How about giving them 10 percent of the revenue from fish?

As for the Greater Accra Region, they may want all their lands back, demand that we pay more in property rates and they might insist that we never name any national monument after anyone they don’t recognize as “pure” Ga.

All these demands will throw the country into dire confusion. I am sure that is not what Nana Nketia and Awulae Atibrukusu desire. I understand their frustrations because it doesn’t make sense to me that, for example, roads to some of the major cocoa-growing areas in the Western Region are in such bad shape that even elephants are reluctant to travel on them. The chiefs fear that if they do not engage in some sort of ‘self-help’, they will see the oil being extracted but it would bring very little development to their region. That’s understandable. But the sort of ‘self-help’ mechanism the chiefs have adopted would only throw our nation into confusion and lead us to ruin because it could spark unjustifiable demands from the other regions.

This country belongs to us all. Whatever blessing (or curse) any resource brings should be shared among all the regions. Communities as far off from the oil fields like Nakpanduri and Bawku should benefit as much from the oil as those close to oilfields. It is not for the chiefs to decide, much less demand, how the oil wealth should be apportioned. If they want ten percent for the Western Region, would they agree that the nine other regions also get 10 percent each? That won’t work and that’s why the demands of the Western chiefs should be trashed with no apologies.

The only good side to the petition is that the chief have made their voices heard and they should not be ignored completely. What the chiefs did was borne out of frustration and desperation. I share in both and believe that the time has come not just the Western Region, but the entire country, to benefit from the resources nature has endowed us with.

A country with gold, timber, bauxite, cocoa, manganese, a fertile land and a hardworking people has no excuse to be poor. The oil should give us an opportunity to rethink how we have managed and used our resources, correct the wrongs of the past and use our resources to better our lot – not to fight over those resources.

That request from the Western chiefs, if it is ever granted, will lead us to sectarian doom. I am happy the parliamentary select committee that was tasked to look at it has recommended that it should be rejected. Parliament, as a whole, should do the same. But in doing that, our MPs should, for once, put their thinking caps on and enact legislation to promote the equitable and judicious use of all our natural resources – not just oil!

Dear Joy FM,

Re: “University for Development Studies (UDS): is this a University?

University indeed and University with Goats and Sheep walking on campus” My attention has been drawn to the above irresponsible comments made by the so called con artist, Ato Kwamina Dadzie and as a past student of the university; I deem it as a responsibility and obligatory to write this rejoinder.

The above statements were made on Monday, 15th November, 2010 edition of the “News Paper Review” show of your station in the morning around 6:30 to 6:45 am. These comments emanated as a result of a news paper publication to the effect that, the former President Rawlings and his Wife were not interested in leading the NDC but were only interested in bettering the living conditions of the people.

When the host of the programme mentioned the University for Development Studies (UDS) as one of the achievements of the former President Rawlings in his attempt to better the living conditions of the people of the north, Ato Kwamina Dadzie in his usual annoyingly arrogant manner of rebutting the comment of the host made these disgusting comments.

While we cannot prevent him from attacking or expressing his opinions publicly, I wish to state categorically that, he cannot hide under these “artificial canopies” to make such disparaging comments about our great Alma Mater, University for Development Studies (UDS).

First of all, my question is, are the students, workers and for that matter the human beings who work on the university`s campuses that are the goats or sheep? This dehumanizing statement need not to be tolerated by all right thinking Ghanaians, especially, the associates of the University.

Ato Kwamina Dadzie, your view that UDS is not a university purposely because goats and sheep walk on its campuses is a shame and this cannot stand the test of time because by your own judgment if University of Ghana (UG) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) allow goats and sheep to walk on their campuses, it therefore mean that they are also not a university. Your view that a university is a place where sheep and goats do not walk shows how naïve, ignorant and shallow minded you are.

Ato Kwamina Dadzie, may I ask again, is it your Diploma you gained that makes you better than University for Development Studies (UDS) and its associates (students, lecturers and alumni) or because of the Joy FM you work that makes you better than the entire family of UDS or what?

To me your pronouncements are ethnocentric in nature with its sole intention of denigrating the entire good people of Northern Ghana, since you have no idea about the culture of the people, and the sociological settings of the Northern Ghana.

Please, try to be tolerant and a course in Rural Sociology will be good for you.

For your information UDS products have competed favourably with various students from other Universities and have performed creditably well, therefore, your attempt to bring the hard won reputation of the University into disrepute will not wash. I see this defeatist idea, agenda and propaganda of yours as been based on the Diploma certificate you hold which have manifested in the myopic views you share on important national issues.

The above statement of yours is not only unfortunate and disrespectful but also irresponsible and we as past students will not tolerate any such comments from you, your associates, your cronies and ilk. Ato Kwamina Dadzie, please what type of intellectual dishonesty is this? Try and emancipate yourself from this academic racism. We entreat Joy FM and you to retract the above statement with immediate effect and again render an unqualified apology to the entire “Baobab” family of this great University.

While we accept that our university is not fully developed in terms of infrastructure as compared to the likes of University of Ghana (UG), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), among others, the university has proven that with little infrastructure other institutions can still do great things. We as past students are very happy about the achievements of the University in the past 18 years of its existence.

Ato Kwamina Dadzie, your blatant disregard for authorities and your disrespectful attitude towards those in positions make me sick. This attitude of yours making you the only intelligent person in Joy FM is not only comical, but preposterous as it is laughable and also a grave concern to me. This again, has made you a laughing stock among academics and the earlier you put a stop to it the better.

By this pronouncement, your integrity if any, that of your family and that of Joy FM have been called to question and it would do you good by embarking on publicity redemption. Ato Kwamina Dadzie, you are an albatross around the neck of Joy FM and shame unto you. Long live UDS, Long live Northern Ghana and

Long live Ghana. UDS: Knowledge for Service.

By: OKYERE, Yaw Charles, Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Technology University for Development Studies (2003-2007) Master of Philosophy degree in Agricultural Economics University of Ghana (2008-2010)
Email: okyerecharles@gmail.com Tel. +233(0)242379534

It’s one of my favourite days of the year again. November 19 is World Toilet Day; an occasion to take more than a moment to spare a thought for the millions of people around the world who are deprived on a daily basis of the opportunity to attend to the call of nature in dignity.

This morning I heard my friend, Rafiq Salaam, reporting about how people form long queues to use the public place of convenience. It’s not a novel spectacle. But the fact that it persists is what World Toilet Day is all about – an occasion to draw attention to people’s need for a place to ‘crap’ in dignity.

In Rafiq’s report I heard one girl complaining about how long some people stay in the public toilet for, making it near impossible to enjoy a timely crap.

“I don’t know whether they are sh**ting bones”, she said. “They don’t want to come out to give other people chances to go in.”

But will you blame those who stay in there for so long? When you walk over a long distance to queue for about 40 minutes to pay to use a public toilet, you make sure that when you get in there you get as much out as possible so that the period between the current poop and the next one is lengthened as much as possible.

It’s all very depressing but on days like this, I thank goodness that I have come a long way from when I used to walk long distances from my father’s house in Essikado to go take a crap in a KVIP. I am also grateful I do not squat in the bushes like I used to when I first came to Accra about 15 years ago. Above all else, I pray for the day when every Ghanaian will have a toilet she can call her own.

On this special occasion of World Toilet Day, here is something, forwarded by a friend, just for laughs. >>>

We’ve all been there but don’t like to admit it. We’ve all kicked back in our cubicles and suddenly felt something brew down below. As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the WORK POOP is inevitable. For those who hate pooping at work, following is the Survival Guide for taking a dump at work. Memorize these definitions and pooping at work will become a pure pleasure.

ESCAPEE
Definition: a fart that slips out while taking a leak at the urinal or forcing a poop in a stall. This is usually accompanied by a sudden wave of panic embarrassment. This is similar to the hot flash you receive when passing an unseen police car and speeding. If you release an escapee, do not acknowledge it. Pretend it did not happen. If you are standing next to the farter in the urinal, pretend you did not hear it. No one likes an escapee, it is uncomfortable for all involved. Making a joke or laughing makes both parties feel uneasy.

JAILBREAK (Used in conjunction with ESCAPEE)
Definition: When forcing poop, several farts slip out at a machine gun pace. This is usually a side effect of diarrhea or a hangover. If this should happen, do not panic. Remain in the stall until everyone has left the bathroom so to spare everyone the awkwardness of what just occurred.

COURTESY FLUSH
Definition: The act of flushing the toilet the instant the nose cone of the poop log hits the water and the poop is whisked away to an undisclosed location. This reduces the amount of air time the poop has to stink up the bathroom. This can help you avoid being caught doing the WALK OF SHAME.

WALK OF SHAME
Definition: Walking from the stall, to the sink, to the door after you have just stunk up the bathroom. This can be a very uncomfortable moment if someone walks in and busts you. As with all farts, it is best to pretend that the smell does not exist. Can be avoided with the use of the COURTESY FLUSH.

OUT OF THE CLOSET POOPER
Definition: A colleague who poops at work and damn proud of it. You will often see an Out Of The Closet Pooper enter the bathroom with a newspaper or magazine under their arm. Always look around the office for the Out Of The Closet Pooper before entering the bathroom.

THE POOPING FRIENDS NETWORK (PFN)
Definition: A group of coworkers who band together to ensure emergency pooping goes off without incident. This group can help you to monitor the whereabouts of Out Of The Closet Poopers, and identify SAFE HAVENS.

SAFE HAVENS
Definition: A seldom used bathroom somewhere in the building where you can least expect visitors. Try floors that are predominantly of the opposite sex. This will reduce the odds of a pooper of your sex entering the bathroom.

TURD BURGLAR
Definition: A pooper who does not realize that you are in the stall and tries to force the door open. This is one of the most shocking and vulnerable moments that can occur when taking a dump at work. If this occurs, remain in the stall until the Turd Burglar leaves. This way you will avoid all uncomfortable eye contact.

CAMO-COUGH
Definition: A phony cough that alerts all new entrants into the bathroom that you are in a stall. This can be used to cover-up a WATERMELON, or to alert potential Turd Burglars. Very effective when used in conjunction with an ASTAIRE.

ASTAIRE
Definition: A subtle toe-tap that is used to alert potential Turd Burglars that you are occupying a stall. This will remove all doubt that the stall is occupied. If you hear an Astaire, leave the bathroom immediately so the pooper can poop in peace.

WATERMELON
Definition: A turd that creates a loud splash when hitting the toilet water. This is also an embarrassing incident. If you feel a Watermelon coming on, create a diversion. See CAMO-COUGH.

HAVANA OMELET
Definition: A load of diarrhea that creates a series of loud splashes in the toilet water. Often accompanied by an Escapee. Try using a Camo-Cough with an Astaire.

UNCLE TED
Definition: A bathroom user who seems to linger around forever. Could spend extended lengths of time in front of the mirror or sitting on the pot. An Uncle Ted makes it difficult to relax while on the crapper, as you should always wait to drop your load when the bathroom is empty. This benefits you as well as the other bathroom attendees.

FLY BY
Definition: The act of scouting out a bathroom before pooping. Walk in and check for other poopers. If there are others in the bathroom, leave and come back again. Be careful not to become a FREQUENT FLYER. People may become suspicious if they catch you constantly going into the bathroom.

Happy Toilet Day – Today, do it in style, even if you are squatting in a KVIP, the bush or the beach! Enjoy.

Last Monday, I made a few remarks about the University for Development Studies which have irked both current and past students alike. The Alumni of the University wrote to Joy FM, demanding an apology from me. That they will not get. So, first of all, let me make it clear that this is not an apology. It’s just a clarification.

If I had spent a little more time to explain my comments, I am sure they would be commending instead of condemning me. So that’s what I am doing now.

Bernard Saibu, who was hosting the ‘Super Morning Show’ had mentioned that Jerry John Rawlings could point to the establishment of University for Development Studies as one of his achievements.

“You call that a university,” I asked.

“Oh, it is,” Bernard responded. “They are churning out graduates.”

“UDS Indeed – University for Development Studies!” I said

Somewhere in the conversation, I made a reference to goats walking on the campuses and mingling sometimes with the students in the classrooms. Bernard responded by saying that since they study agric at the university, it’s alright for goats to be seen roaming the campus and that in fact, there are cattle roaming the streets of Accra.

“You win, my brother,” I said and moved on.

Then comes a major outpouring of grief – mostly from past students of the university. I have received a number of expletive laden messages from current students as well. I don’t get their point.

In that conversation with Bernard, my intention was to point out that the University for Development is so poorly funded and lacking basic infrastructure that Rawlings cannot beat his chest and point to it as a university he built. This is a point I’d stand by any day because whether the alumni and current students of the UDS like it or not, their university is the poorest among the poor universities in this country.

They may be proud of it. I am not. It’s also very clear that the man who built the UDS, Jerry Rawlings, is not as proud of it as he should be. If it was that much of a university in his eyes, he wouldn’t have educated all his children in proper well-equipped, well-staffed universities abroad.

I am quite disappointed, truly, that the past and current students of the UDS should misconstrue my comments and give them the most absurd of interpretations like they are ethnocentric, for example. What the heck? Who said the UDS, being in the north, belongs to northerners alone. Some of my taxes go into its meagre funds.

If the students and alumni of UDS want to behave like ostriches and bury their heads in the sand, they should go ahead. It’s their hypocritical choice but they cannot ask me to do the same.

If they are satisfied that after 18 years of existence, the UDS has no well-stocked libraries, laboratories and lecture halls comparable to even the poor ones on the campuses of the University of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, they can go around rejoicing but I won’t join them.

I insist that the UDS deserves much better than what it has been provided over the past 18 years. I also believe strongly that the UDS is not something even Rawlings can point to as something he proudly built and that’s why he wouldn’t send any of his relatives there.

I have nothing against those who study and work at the UDS. But I insist that it’s a university only in name. I do have a lot against those whose actions and inactions have made the UDS as poorly resourced as it has been since its establishment. Elsewhere, for the lack of the basic infrastructure, it would be shut down. I owe no apologies for saying this. As one of the UDS alumni pointed out to me (as if I didn’t know already) I don’t know much. That’s a fact. I may be the most ignorant fool on this planet. But I don’t need a PhD before I am able to tell a university worthy of the name.

What has been a very good year for Ghanaian football is ending in fiasco. This has nothing to do with the flair of our players on the pitch but it’s borne out of inexplicable boardroom maneuvering of people who should know better. Government is yet to coherently explain its attempts to replace Kwesi Nyantakyi with Abedi Pele as Ghana’s candidate for the executive council elections of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF). But the Ghana Football Association insists that its chairman, Kwesi Nyantakyi is the right person for the job – and rightfully so.

Nyantakyi has done more for Ghana football than any of the football administrators before him. Through prudent management, common sense and visionary leadership, Nyantakyi led Ghana to two consecutive World Cup tournaments.

The Black Stars didn’t win the cup – and they haven’t won any cup in many years – but Ghana football has never enjoyed so much global acclaim as it has over the last six years or so with Nyantakyi at the helm of the FA. He has shown that he is a man who delivers. The least government can do to honour his achievements is to support his candidature and campaign for him to win.

But what do we see?

Instead of cheering Nyantakyi and prodding him for victory, government and its numerous PHD (pull him down) holders are bungling everything up – not just for him, but even for their preferred candidate, the legendary Abedi Pele.

No one will dispute Abedi Pele’s phenomenal skill on the football pitch. He has served Ghana very well. I like to say that in my world, there are no sacred cows. But bring in the likes of Abedi Pele and I want to go down on my knees in reverence. We all love to call Abedi Pele “The Maestro” and we want him to remain as such.

However, I don’t know what sort of politics he’s gotten himself into that would make government want to push him into a position he is not qualified for. To begin with, Abedi Pele is not a member of the Ghana Football Association. CAF is a federation of African Football Associations.

What that means is that if you are not on the local association, you cannot be on the continental body. It’s as simple as that. I can’t fathom why government doesn’t seem aware of this simple, basic principle. What they seek to do is like trying to get the Vatican to elect a fetish priest from Nogokpo as a cardinal. It just doesn’t work like that.

I have seen documents which suggest that as far back as last July, the FA informed government of its plans to nominate Kwesi Nyantakyi to contest in the CAF executive committee elections. In one of the documents, sports minister, Akua Sena Dansua, writes to offer government’s consent, which the FA really doesn’t need. They only decided to alert the government as a courtesy.

Then suddenly in November, someone in the office of the president decides to write to Abedi Pele, asking him to submit his CV for onward transmission to CAF as Ghana’s candidate for the executive committee elections for the continent’s football governing body.

It’s strange. But it seems Abedi Pele has done something extraordinary for the government and the administration is anxious to reward him. Perhaps, it’s because he gave us Dede and Jordan – two very skillful lads whose stardom might take Ghana football to heights their father never even dreamt of off. It could also be that Abedi Pele has suddenly become an NDC footsoldier, agitating seriously for some continental job. Whatever the case may be, government should find a better way to give Abedi Pele whatever they want to give him and leave Kwesi Nyantakyi alone to pursue a job he so richly deserves.

This confusion that sports minister, Akua Sena Dansua and whoever is prodding her from the office of the president, has caused doesn’t auger well for government. It is yet another embarrassment that government can conveniently do without. It’s also not good for Ghana football and, quite frankly, I think, it’s a serious stain on Abedi Pele’s legend. He doesn’t need this sort of crap – neither does Kwesi Nyantakyi.

After all Nyantakyi has done for Ghana and our football, government should be building monuments for him, not putting impediments in his way. If for any reason, government decides to shut its eyes to his achievements, government should not use the ‘bugabuga’ tactics the NDC is so well-noted for, to deprive him of what he has worked so hard for. Putting square pegs in round holes might go unnoticed and punished on the local front, government shouldn’t dare take it to the international stage.

“Fear and panic” should be one of the most popular phrases in Ghana this year. All over the country, there is hardly any literate Ghanaian who hasn’t heard or spoken it. It has become so popular the police (instigated by government) has been quick to use an antiquated law whose formulation contains the phrase, to persecute (not prosecute) anyone the government – or anyone close to it – doesn’t like.

It started with Nana Darkwa who claimed that former president Rawlings set his own house on fire. The court action they brought against him failed recently, pointing to futility and the stupidity of the whole orchestrated endeavour to show Nana Darkwa where power lies. The case fell flat because the prosecution failed to produce evidence to prove that Nana Darkwa said what they claimed he had said to cause “fear and panic”.

A few months after Nana Darkwa was charged, and even when his case was still being heard, I was arrested and charged with the same offence of “causing fear and panic”. This was after I refused to name the source of a Joy FM news story that members of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association had been threatened with death for opposing a housing deal with the Korean firm, STX.

Realising the folly in charging me, the police administration threw the ball into the government’s court and asked the attorney general to decide whether or not I should also be persecuted. Till date, the AG hasn’t made up her mind and my docket is gathering dust somewhere in her office.

Just when we thought we’ve heard enough of the “fear and panic” nonsense, the police – once again acting like puppets of the ruling party – decides to charge a hapless woman with the silly offence. The woman, Amina, claimed to have been on a bus, which was attacked in the dead of the night by armed bandits, who forced the male passengers into a despicable orgy of mass rape. Police condemned Amina long before they had even bothered to conduct any sensible investigations to ascertain the veracity of her claims.

The case is in court and we are not allowed to say much about it by way of commentary. Not even the president is allowed to speak about it. But addressing a pointless rally to climax the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Upper East Region, President Mills devoted a good part of his speech to declare that people who are intent on causing fear and panic “will not succeed”.

“There seems to be some people who want to create fear and panic to engender a feeling of fear and insecurity amongst our people,” President Mills said in a rather shaky voice that made him sound like he was on the verge of tears. “I want to send a message to those people, they will not succeed.”

Then he added: “People want to create panic and fear and do not want the progress of this nation even though they are preaching from the rooftops that they are interested in the development of our people.”

As I listened to president speak in Bolgatanga, I just asked myself: who on earth is he speaking to or about? Was he referring to the likes of Amina and Nana Darkwa? Or the likes of Ato Kwamena Dadzie who give people like Nana Darkwa and Amina the democratically-sanctioned opportunity to have their voices heard? Either way, the president was dead wrong.

Quite admittedly, there is a lot of fear in the country. I don’t know about panic but there is palpable fear in the country. That fear is not being caused by people who speak on radio or write in newspapers and the internet. We live in fear because armed robbers have set themselves loose on us. People are having their cars seized, the homes attacked and their offices ransacked. We can’t even go for walks in our neighbourhood and the president has done very little, if anything at all, to fulfill a promise he made in his inaugural address.

In that address, President Mills promised to make sure that Ghanaians don’t live in fear of armed robbers. From all indications, he has failed. Hardly a day passes by without us reading about armed robbers attacking homes and businesses. Recently, armed robbers laid siege to a whole community and it took relentless reportage by the media to get the police to act. Even when people were accusing police of not doing quite enough to secure lives and property, senior police officers were feeding us with cooked up statistics that crime was reducing.

Then comes the president, trying to make up for his failings by suggesting that people like Amina who claim to have observed heinous crimes being committed are causing fear and panic. It just doesn’t make sense. Our president is barking up the wrong tree.

The people who are causing fear and panic are the teeming bandits who have taken up weapons to force law-abiding citizens to give up their property. The best way to deal with them is not to deliver platitudes and issue empty directives. If the president is as concerned about the pervasive fear in the country, as he should, all we ask of him is action.

First, government should get off the back of the police and allow them to do their jobs without saddling them with silly distractions like Nana Darkwa, Amina and myself. Those who have been charged with causing fear and panic since the beginning of the year haven’t caused a fraction of the fear wrought by the armed gangs who recently descended on the Ayensu River Estates. The robbers are the people police should be going after – not the likes of Amina.

Secondly, we have had enough of the long speeches. You don’t fend off armed robbers by issuing public warnings about how the security agencies have been directed “to deal appropriately and decisively with those who decide that peace is not what they want.” We’ve heard all of that before. I am pretty sure one of the corpses in the Korle Bu morgue can recite these lines if given the opportunity to breathe once again for just 15 seconds.

The security agencies cannot deal decisively with any of the real people who are striking fear in our hearts if they don’t have equipment to do what we expect of them. Government doesn’t have money to build communication infrastructure for the police – or so we are told. Yet, we are able to spend seven million dollars on the country’s contingent to the recent World Cup.

Right now, there is a dangerous criminal on the loose in the north and police cannot conduct sensible investigations to pinpoint his location and bring him to justice. That in itself causes a lot fear and panic. The president should deal with it and stop wasting our ears.

Finally, government should stop hounding people like Amina who are concerned enough to raise the alarm. That also causes a lot of fear and alarm. Why should anyone be prosecuted for reporting that he witnessed a crime? If the woman says she saw a crime being committed, does it make sense in any part of the world to order her to prove what she saw or face prosecution? The ones causing fear and panic in this country are not the people who use their tongues. They are criminals who have taken full advantage of the deficiencies in our security agencies to terrorise us with arms. By failing to act and even going to the extent to deny the severity of the situation, feeding us with false statistics to cover up their failings, our elected leaders are also contributing to the “fear and panic” situation.

If the president wants to deal decisively with the situation, he should start off by admitting that he hasn’t done as well as he promised in January 2009. He should stop pretending to be talking tough and start acting. He should stop listening to his mindless propagandists who fill him with the silly notion that some opposition elements are behind every bad thing that happens in this country – from Nana Konadu’s posters to the floods up north and the need to discharge some water from the Akosombo Dam. That speech in Bolga cannot wish away the insecurity we feel; neither can an ill-equipped and poorly-motivated police force.

President Mills says “insults will not help us to produce potable water.” As he fumbled – as usual – over his words at the commissioning of the new Accra-Tema rail shuttle, the president advised Ghanaians to stop what he described as “the politics of insults”.

As someone who has been accused a lot of being insulting and disrespectful, I’ve been pondering over the president’s words and asking myself: what is an insult? And I’ve come to the conclusion that, perhaps, the president chose to speak about insults because he had nothing to say, really!

Will the unending rancor in the NDC get us potable water? No, it won’t. Will the president calling for an end to the so-called politics of insults reverse this country’s retrogression? Your guess is as good as mine.

Coming so closely on the heels of the controversy over Kobby Acheampong’s ‘cocoa ase’ remarks, I suppose the President was only trying to take a pre-emptive step to prevent an avalanche of invectives, some of which will doubtless fall on him. It was a smart move. But it would only delay the avalanche – not stop it. The insults will start flying all over the place all over again and no one – no president, no fetish priest or monk can stop it.

You know why?

First, insults defy definition. One man’s ceiling is another man’s roof. What you consider to be an insult might not necessarily be an insult to me. For example, if I describe the president as incompetent is that an insult? I don’t think so. I also don’t see why anyone in government should take offence at Nana Akuffo-Addo’s description of President Mills as “Prof. Do-Little.” How does that amount to an insult? If I say a man acted “unwisely” have I insulted him? To me, I haven’t but you may see it differently.

Secondly, in any competitive political arena, it should be expected that harsh, painful words will be thrown around. It’s part of the game. When the NDC’s general secretary, Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah, stood on a political platform in 2007 and described the 17 men vying for the NPP’s presidential slot as “thieves going into a contest to elect the chief thief” was he insulting them? When NDC activists scream “Naa Nana, Naa short” in reference to the perceived diminutive height of the NPP presidential candidate, are they insulting him? I am not so sure. But in either case, I think the words were harsh – almost uncalled for – but in the arena of party politics, such comments are inevitable.

Everyone in a political contest will play up his strengths and good qualities whiles going to great lengths to diminish his opponent in any way possible. Before the 2008 elections, then candidate Mills spoke a lot about corruption and thievery in government, was he insulting his opponents? When Rawlings blames John Kufuor and his administration for the murder of Yakubu Andani, is he insulting his colleague former president by referring to him as a murderer? Not exactly. But it pointed out certain weaknesses in the ruling class at the time and this, doubtless, won the NDC some votes.

Instead of trying to do the impossible by stopping the inevitable tide of uncomplimentary remarks that accompany competitive politics, I think the president should rather have used the opportunity to urge tolerance – “the act of putting up with somebody or something irritating or otherwise unpleasant.”

Anyone who decides to take active part in the political game should have a tough skin and a heart and mind made of steel. Hurtful things will be said about you. If you so desire, you can respond in kind. Alternatively, you can take legal action to seek redress. You can also choose to switch on your halo, act like an angel and not allow yourself to be affected. What you can’t do, however, is to visit violence on the person who has spoken harshly against you. Even the Bible says “a prudent man ignores an insult”. That’s tolerance.

Politics is hardly a pretty game. Harsh uncomplimentary words hurt but I believe strongly that they help a lot. And I disagree with the president that so-called insults will not bring development. If Kufuor and his ilk had not been ‘insulted’ as thieves and a band of wasteful nation wreckers our president today wouldn’t be called Mills.

In my Cultural Studies classes in the early 1990s, I learnt that our ancestors taunted people to get them to change their ways and contribute meaningfully to society. If this was done in the very conservative societies our ancestors lived in, how much more in the liberal democratic sphere we have now?

The moment we stop taunting each other, as the president wants us to do, democracy will suffocate and die, our leaders (both in government and opposition) will become timid zombies and praise-singing zealots engaged in an orgy of political masturbation, patting each other on the back at the least opportunity. That would breed sycophancy whose only fruits are incompetence and complacency. The fact is that in a democracy a certain healthy amount of harsh exchanges is good just as doctors deliberately introduce disease-causing agents into the body to boost immunity.

If you asked me, I’d say keep the taunts flying and especially at the politicians – right from the president up above to the assembly man and unit committee chairman down below. If you decide to get into politics and/or public office, you will be lampooned, ridiculed and caricatured. They do it even Barack Obama. Why can’t we do it to John Atta Mills? If the kitchen is too hot for anyone who can’t stands public ridicule and lampooning, let’s just tell that person to get out. If you choose to stay and you don’t want people to say hurtful words about you and your family and friends just stay on the narrow path and do what is right. And you would be among the first to reject any suggestion that insults will not move us forward. Insults hurt but they also help a great deal.

 

“The only graceful way to accept an insult is to ignore it. If you can’t ignore an insult, top it; if you can’t top it, laugh it off; and if you can’t laugh it off, it’s probably deserved.” – J. Russel Lynes