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April 2011

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Let’s face it, Accra is no city. It is poorly planned, filthy, stinks, full of clogged gutters with horrendous road network. So one has to wonder why someone will have the gall to dot the town (sorry village) with billboards that say ‘Accra Millennium City, keep it clean.’

I have heard the Mayor rave about this Millennium City project any chance he gets, always going on about how it will transform the village into a world class city. And that means a proper drainage and waste management system, an efficient road and rail network and improved housing and healthcare for residents.

In fact that is exactly what Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije promised residents when he was appointed. Accra was up for an extreme makeover – capital cities edition and he was the man to do it. That is only reason why we egged him on when he had his men chase hapless hawkers off the streets.

But two years on, the only proof of his hard work is a billboard proclaiming Accra a ‘Millennium City.’ You see he didn’t only fail with the hawkers, but with everything else. Yet, Dr. Vanderpuije seems to think he is doing a good job hence the billboard ad.

Trouble is, declaring Accra a ‘Millennium City,’ will not transform it into a city. It takes planning, hard work and an efficient local assembly, and Dr. Vanderpuije should know this. In North Carolina where he came from, if( and it’s a big IF) there was an outbreak of a disease like cholera which is caused by filth and a lack of good drinking water, the Mayor will not fix up a fountain to gush out water in the midst of the filth. People in this town queue to buy water to cook and clean. And every competent Mayor will get rid of the vegetable farms on the edges of every gutter in the Accra.

I realise we love useless taglines in this country, which is why we actually believe that Ghana is the ‘gateway to Africa,’ or that there is some ‘better Ghana agenda’. But, darn, to call this giant mess a ‘City’ is delusional. And Dr. Vanderpuije and his team had better come up with a clear strategy on how to rid Accra of filth. I hear dustbins at every point works better than a billboard ad. We’d appreciate a clear plan too, every proper city has one – that way they don’t put landfill sites in residential areas.


Nana Ama is a very good friend of mine. She just hates the see the fountain at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle gushing with water among all the other crap in the village, which is our national capital. 

Dear Nana,

So now, it’s official. You really want to be president of this wretched republic of ours. Sorry, but that ain’t gonna happen. You can go ahead and win the NDC presidential primaries against a disappointing Atta Mills. But, you will lose the national election. I will bet my bottom pesewa on that.

Mills might have been disappointing but you and your husband will not be our saving grace. The two of you demonstrated to us over a period of almost 20 years, that you have nothing to offer this country. All you want is to become president and use our state to glorify the Rawlings name and use our money to take care of your grandchildren in posh schools abroad, while children study here under trees. Over a period of two decades, you and your husband lied to us, brutalized us – shaving heads with broken bottles and all – and run our nation down.

After all that, it baffles me that you think that Ghanaians are foolish enough to hand the affairs of the nation back to you and your husband. Do you think we wash our faces upwards? Or do you think we bath with cesspool water?

Ghanaians have had enough of you and that husband of yours and all of your evil machinations and orchestrations.

You see, if there had been any sign that the evil woman who justified the use of broken bottles to shave people’s heads had turned into an angel, there would have been a remote possibility that Ghanaians would consider your bid for the presidency as an attempt to right the wrongs of the past. But that evil woman then is the same evil woman today and she’s even more cunning and full of venom. To make it worse, she’s grown increasingly vindictive because her husband is not being allowed to have his way.

That stunt you pulled at the Trade Fair Centre, where you refused to stand up to recognize the entry of the sitting president was an affront to the office you now seek to occupy. If someone had done that to you or your husband, he would have been thrown into some dark bunker. But what you did is not half as important as the infantile lie you told to justify your action. What did you say, again? You were sending a text message so you didn’t see the president enter. OK, if you didn’t see the president enter, may I ask if you didn’t see everyone else stand up? All that flurry of activity would have made even a blind elephant stop and take notice but not our vindictive, treacherous Nana Konadu. She was busy (and so blinded) by a text message she was sending to the devil and was oblivious to everything else around her.

Just admit it, Nana. You detest President Mills and you will never miss an opportunity to let him know that if you had your way you will never treat him “with kid gloves”. You’ve made that point over and over again. Now, you are about to put your plan into action. This path you’ve taken will render an ineffectual president even more useless – make him a lame duck. Even if you don’t win the NDC presidential primaries in July, your decision to contest Mills will further deflate his confidence and shed more light on the fact that he’s not a man in control. He’s never been. Your bid might also help your husband regain control of the NDC. It’s his property, after all. You and your husband can take your party. That’s alright. But that’s as far as this bid can take you. It won’t earn you the presidency of the republic.

If you don’t know already, let me take a moment to spell it all out to you why you won’t be president.

First of all, Ghanaians – most of those floating voters who neither seek refuge under your husband’s multi-coloured umbrella nor ride on the rampaging elephant – know that you are up to no good. You only want to be president so that you can finish off what your husband started – lead this country into ruinous divisions, suppress us and establish a Rawlings dynasty.

Secondly, we also know that you are evil. Any woman, with a son, who justifies the shaving of another woman’s son with broken bottles is evil. Even those plasters of heavy duty make-up and that tall headgear, built like the Empire State building, can’t hide the evil that you are. I’d rather have an ineffectual man than an evil woman in charge of this country. I’d like to see a woman in charge of the affairs of this country but you definitely are not that woman. I’d rather go for Auntie Akweley, the ‘wele’ dealer who sells by that big gutter in Makola.

Thirdly, by deciding to contest the sitting president from your own party, you are essentially attempting to stage a palace coup, which is to be expected – she who sleeps with a coup maker, no doubt, picks up a few lessons in treachery and betrayal. This palace coup of yours will further divide and weaken your (husband’s) party. Atta Mills’ indecisive leadership hasn’t won the NDC any plaudits over the last two years. So the NDC’s chances of winning the elections next year have been on the decline for quite a while. Now with your bid to upstage him, an ailing party is being torn apart. No party in such a sorry state wins an election anywhere in the world.

Add that to the fact that you are not the winning candidate you think you are. You may be popular in the NDC but the wider Ghanaian population won’t vote for you mainly because you and your husband took us for a ride to nowhere for 19 good years. Your gari-frying and palm oil extraction ways didn’t influence our society in any meaningful way. We gave you 19 solid years to impress and all we got was… wait a minute… nothing – except for a lot of hot air from your bullying husband. The two of you forced some of our brightest and best brains into exile, threw our educational system into utter shambles and collapsed our health service. Then you brutalized those who dared to complain, jailing them and shaving off their heads with broken bottles. Then you have the gall to turn around to ask us to let you ruin this country even more? Over my ugly dead body. 19 years of the rule of the Rawlingses helped Rawlings and his kin more than it helped this nation. We’ve had enough of the Rawlings brutality and wickedness and so you better leave us alone to fix what you and your husband destroyed.

The truth is that Atta Mills is doing a very lousy job as president. But if Atta Mills is failing, the last person I expect to step in to salvage the situation is you. So from now on, whenever I go down on my knees to pray I will ask the man above to keep you as far away from the presidency as possible. If there is any campaign out there to make sure you never become president, I will throw my feeble weight behind it. I will do whatever I need to do to save my country from all the evils you and your husband stand for – identification haircuts, wanton abuse, vindictiveness, opportunism, lack of vision, corruption and inept leadership. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings should never become president of Ghana. Never!

Many of us are deeply troubled by what is happening in the Ivory Coast. The fundamental issues are being overlooked. The consequences and ramifications of this denouement are also being overlooked.

Alasanne Ouattara went to the USA in the 1960s on an African-American Institute (AAI) scholarship as a citizen of the Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso.[1] He was employed by the IMF in the late 1960s as a citizen of the Upper Volta/Burkina Faso.

From the 1960s onwards as the economy of the Ivory Coast boomed there was considerable immigration from neighbouring countries, particularly Upper Volta and Mali. A significant proportion of the migrants went into the cocoa sector as labourers; they contributed to the fast growth of that sector which resulted in the Ivory Coast overtaking Ghana in 1978 as the leading producer and exporter of cocoa in the world. The migrants played a similar role in the growth of the coffee sector, as the Ivory Coast became a major producer and exporter by the mid-‘70s. Beyond agriculture the migrants worked in other sectors of the economy.

Ghana had a similar experience of high immigration and contribution to economic activity especially by Nigerians when the economy grew fast in the late 1940s and ‘50s.

But Ghana’s experience differed from the Ivory Coast’s experience in one important respect: Busia’s Aliens Compliance Order of 1969. Ghana expelled Nigerians and other Africans under this order. At the time of the expulsion some estimates put the proportion of migrants at 20% of Ghana’s population. The Ivory Coast hasn’t had such an order and has therefore not had expulsion of migrants. By 2000 some estimates put the proportion of migrants at 40% of the Ivory Coast’s population.

President Felix Houphouet-Boigny made Alasanne Ouattara Prime Minister in 1990, and he served until Houphouet-Boigny’s death in 1993. Ouattara wasn’t the first non-Ivorian to become a minister in Houphouet-Boigny’s cabinet, as French nationals had also been so honoured.

In the run up to the 1995 election Ouattara started asserting that his father, who was widely known to have been from Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), was Ivorian. Largely in reaction to Ouattara’s claims the National Assembly approved an electoral code that barred candidacy if either parent was not Ivorian. Thus, Ouattara was disqualified, and he subsequently declined the nomination of his party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR). Then the RDR as well as the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the party of long-standing opposition leader Laurent Gbagbo, boycotted the elections. The incumbent president, Henri Konan Bedie, the candidate of the ruling Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI), was reelected.

Under General Robert Guei a new constitution was approved by referendum in July 2000 in which the parentage requirement was broadened to both parents having to be Ivorian. Consequently, Ouattara was disqualified from the October 2000 presidential election. Guei claimed he had won, and the FPI’s Laurent Gbagbo also claimed he had won; there was a popular revolt, Guei fled and Gbagbo was installed as president.

The major fallout of the 2000 election was that the significant migrant population – who are still called ‘estrangers’ (strangers) by other Ivorians – felt that they and the man they regard as their leader, Ouattara, had been disenfranchised. Considering the significant contributions that they had been making to the Ivorian economy they had a legitimate claim to citizenship (relaxation or abolition of ‘Ivoirite’ conditions) and enfranchisement. The lack of citizenship or at best second-class citizenship and disenfranchisement became leading motivating factors in the rebellion which resulted in the civil war in 2002 that led to the break up of the country.

The civil war was finally settled in the peace deal of March 2007, with conditions that included the disarmament of the New Forces rebels, their reintegration and enfranchisement along with the enfranchisement of the migrant community. This whole exercise was to be supervised by the UN. It has not been carried out effectively and has consequently been a major factor in the problems being faced by the nation currently. The UN was also empowered by the peace deal to certify election results.

In the absence of disarmament the AU and UN Security Council approved extension of President Laurent Gbagbo term, which should have ended in October 2005, to October 2006; then in November 2006 it was extended for another year, to November 2007. But after the peace deal of 2007, knowing that the disarmament and reintegration conditions in particular were not being met, and fearing that enfranchisement might lead to electoral imbalance in favour of Ouattara, Gbagbo postponed the election to November 2008, and then postponed it a few more times. Finally, under pressure from the UN, France and the US in particular, Gbagbo agreed to hold the election in November 2010 and allow Ouattara to run even though he still did not satisfy the citizenship requirement. Also, Gbagbo agreed to a new Electoral Commission headed by a Ouattara supporter, ostensibly to balance the Constitutional Council whose membership he had appointed as president.

In France and in the Ivory Coast and virtually every other former French colony, the Constitutional Council certifies and declares election results after the Electoral Commission collates the results. These roles were not changed for the November 2010 presidential election in the Ivory Coast. This fact notwithstanding, the UN, with support from France, the US and other western countries, encouraged the Electoral Commission to declare the election results – in contravention of the constitution and electoral laws of the Ivory Coast, but in the belief that it constituted the certification of election results that the UN was to do!

The Constitutional Council, in the exercise of its constitutional and electoral duty of certifying the results, reviewed the complaints of Gbagbo’s party that in some provinces of the north the voter turnout had been as high as 150% of registered voters. Having satisfied itself that these complaints were valid, the Constitutional Council invalidated the results of those provinces. Thus, two winners were proclaimed and sworn in as president: Ouattara, unconstitutionally by the Electoral Commission, and Gbagbo, constitutionally by the Constitutional Council.

In the interest of peace the best course of action should have been the rerun of the election in the provinces invalidated by the Constitutional Council. The UN, France and the US in particular have rather been interested in installing Ouattara as president. Why?

First, we mustn’t lose track of the fact that the leading supporters of Ouattara, who are Sarkozy and Obama, are both sons of immigrants who have become presidents of their nations so they have affinity for Ouattara from this shared background. Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian immigrant man who married a French Jew. And, as is well known, Obama is the son of a Kenyan student who married an American woman. But both Sarkozy and Obama satisfied the citizenship requirements of their nations for running for president. Although Ouattara did not satisfy the citizenship requirements of the the Ivory Coast, Sarkozy and Obama pressurized and got Gbagbo to allow Ouattara to run on the argument that that was the only way of ensuring peace.

Second, the UN and the western countries are supporting Ouattara because he is friendly to them. Whereas Gbagbo is a nationalist who has been trying to gain control of the Ivorian economy from the French in his years as president, Ouattara did not show any such tendencies as Prime Minister and has not shown any since then. Thus, in Ouattara the French, Americans and other western powers can continue controlling the Ivorian economy – in other words, neocolonialism will be writ large.

Now to ECOWAS and the AU. These two bodies have blundered. They have bought into the western propaganda that since the Electoral Commission declared Ouattara the winner it means that he won the election – when, at the very least, the Francophone countries do know that it is the Constitutional Council that certifies and declares election results. Moreover, the leaders of African countries that have also had disputed election results seem to have forgotten that the UN and western powers did not intervene to install a winner – so, uncritically, they are not asking themselves why it’s being done in the Ivory Coast.

The granting of full citizenship and enfranchisement of the migrant population in the Ivory Coast is the fundamental issue. Installing Ouattara as president would not resolve this issue, especially since the election result is in dispute. It will only sow the seeds of deep discontent which will fuel civil strife. To avert this outcome, the granting of full citizenship and enfranchisement should be done properly and then the election should be rerun.

The instability in the Ivory Coast is already having refugee, humanitarian, security and economic effects in neighbouring countries, particularly Ghana and Liberia. If civil strife worsens these effects will be greater and will destabilize the entire ECOWAS region.

Thus, ECOWAS and the AU should change their stance and ensure that the granting of full citizenship and enfranchisement is done properly and the election is rerun as soon as possible.

President J. E. Atta Mills was right in opposing military intervention, although this position has been fudged for obvious diplomatic and political reasons. We in Ghana will bear the brunt of instability in the Ivory Coast so our president has been right in advising that peaceful means of resolution should be exhausted. Yes, dzi wo fie asem isn’t a bad policy. 

The disarmament of the rebels, which was to be supervised by the UN, has been incomplete, leaving the rebels militarily strong. This is the main reason why the rebels have been able to march across the country, take control of San Pedro and other cities and are now trying to take control of Abidjan. A cease fire must be imposed immediately, otherwise there will be more violence and the Ivory Coast will descend into more chaos, civil strife and then civil war.

African leaders should take the lead in arranging for an immediate cease fire. If they don’t, a bad precedent will have been set: If there is an electoral dispute one party should secure foreign support and militarily take over. Is that the way we want Africa to go? NO! Elections must surely be held and then results must be declared in line with the constitution and electoral laws of nations. The results must then be accepted by all parties.


 

This was first published in the Ghanaian Chronicle of Tuesday, April 5, 2011 – before Gbagbo was smoked out of his hole. It is published here with Mr. Adjaye’s kind permission because it sheds some more perspective on the Ivorian situation. I do not necessarily agree with much of what Mr. Adjaye says. But I agree with him that Ouatarra faces an uphill task governing a strife-torn country like La Cote d’Ivoire.

First published: April 14, 2010
When President Mills promised to bring those who killed Ya Na Yakubu Andani to justice, he picked up a very hot potato and bit more than he could chew.

The recent arrest of suspects and their arraignment before court is an indication that he is swallowing something he has not taken sufficient time to chew on. He’s going to choke and there could be dire consequences – for the president, his party and the country.

Finding the culprits behind the murder of the Ya Na and punishing them will send out a message to all Ghanaians, especially those in Dagbon, that impunity will (and should) not be tolerated in this country. It’s the president’s job to send that message. He can try, but with Dagbon he seems to have taken the wrong path in his bid to get the message across.

The Dagbon conflict is complex. It’s incomprehensible, perverse and intractable. I don’t see it getting resolved – ever!

The Dagbon conflict would have confounded the wisest man who ever lived. It would baffle the United Nations’ chief peace negotiator and get the Israeli and Palestinians patting themselves on the back for, at least, agreeing to sit down every once in a while in an attempt to make peace.

The justice President Mills and his government are seeking with the prosecution of the nine Abudu men who were arraigned before a magistrate court in Accra last Monday will only damage the fragile peace Dagbon has enjoyed over the past couple of years or so.

It’s often said that without justice, there cannot be peace. But this does not hold true all the time.
In Dagbon, justice for one faction means injustice for another.

In Dagbon, ‘justice’ – the sort the president wants to achieve – will not prompt a peaceful settlement. Of course, it will gladden the hearts of the Andani factions but it will fill the Abudu with volatile bitterness. On the other hand, if ‘justice’ is not achieved (that is, if no one is punished for the Ya Na’s murder), the Abudus will sit pretty while the Andanis brood over what they rightly perceive to be an injustice.

It was a volatile situation at the court premises when the Abudus who are being prosecuted for their alleged roles in the Yakubu Andani’s murder were first arraigned before a judge. There were Abudu youth who were ready to fight and, possibly, die for their kinsmen. They couldn’t do much because security forces at the court precincts had superior fire power. Back in the dry, near-desert plains of Dagbon there is what many describe as an “uneasy calm”. But beneath the calm is anger and bitterness that will explode with the tiniest spark.

That spark could be any hint that the Abudus are merely being prosecuted to appease the Andanis and to give the president a trophy to point to as proof that he has (tried to) fulfilled his campaign promise to deal with those who killed the Ya Na. The Abudus, clearly, have made up their minds that there is a certain unfairness in the whole process and they are not going to stop agitating until government takes some steps to change the perception that the Andanis are being favoured. So far this is what everything points to.

The arrests carried out on Saturday were, at best, random and didn’t seem to have been informed by any serious intelligence work. Otherwise, 40 people wouldn’t have been arrested for only nine of them to be hauled before court. And in court, prosecutors came with no evidence whatsoever. They argued for the suspects to be held in prison whilst “investigations” continue.

If the state was so sure of its case, it would simply have presented its evidence for justice to be delivered swiftly. But, alas, that’s not the case. With one of Ghana’s foremost litigants, Atta Akyea, on the side of the Abudus, you can be sure that this is going to be a long drawn out legal process which will set a lot of people’s blood boiling.

The reported attempt to arrest the regent of Dagbon, the Boli Lana, without an arrest warrant will not help matters. If this whole process is not handled well and with utmost fairness, it will make the situation in Dagbon worse than it already is.

The cure President Mills and the NDC are offering will end up being worse than the disease. The quest for justice would have endangered peace. And what would have been achieved? More chaos, probably.

The best way for the government to handle the Dagbon issue is to do nothing. Both the Abudus and Andanis are not ready to make the compromises that will ensure lasting peace. In such circumstances, even King Solomon would have thrown his hands up in despair and frustration. The eminent chiefs Kufuor appointed to help resolve the dispute have all but lost hope. This conflict will not end anytime soon. President Mills and the government should just give up and let sleeping dogs lie.

The people of Dagbon have lived in peace without justice for the past two years or so. It’s not an ideal situation. But serving justice to endanger peace is worse.

He could have gone out in a Versace suit, all dapper and with the assurance of a delicious croissant every morning, lazily lounging in a villa in any country of his choice. Instead, Laurent Gbagbo chose the path of indignity and humiliation – a former president trapped in a hole like a rat, sweating like he had run a marathon, wiping sweat from his armpit. That sight was both annoying and sad.

Watching Gbagbo wipe his armpit on international TV made me feel very sorry for him even though I know he doesn’t deserve my pity. Not that it would take him anywhere but I am angry that through his obstinate folly, Laurent Gbagbo managed to get me to feel sorry for him.

I don’t feel sorry for idiots like that – leaders who bring their country to ruin just so they could stay in power for longer, do not deserve pity. Even though Gbagbo has proved to me that he’s one of the worst African fools of the new millennium, I feel sorry for him and all the opportunities he missed to walk away a dignified man, if not a hero.

I believe that a man should be able to stand by his convictions and defend them. But it gets to a point where the tide turns and comes at you like a Tsunami. That’s when you walk away. That’s the lesson and I hope others get from Gbagbo’s fall. Most of the world saw that this was not going to end well – not for Gbagbo, not for La Cote d’Ivoire. Only Gbagbo and the sycophants around him didn’t see that the end was going to be this bad. Now look at him, with the forlorn expression on his battered face and wiping sweat from his armpit. Humiliated and shamed.

It could have been worse.

Gbagbo should be feeling lucky that he’s alive but he’s going to regret the rest of his days because now, having missed the opportunity to live in luxury in exile, there is the very real prospect that he could be jailed. I want to say “it serves him right”, but honestly, I really feel sorry for Laurent Gbagbo. Most annoyingly, I just can’t seem to get that image of his armpit out of my mind.

Apparently, a few people are happy to see the mayor of Accra directing traffic. “He’s a hands on person,” some have said and “it’s good to see him lending a hand to ease the traffic. It shows he cares.” To all this, I say ‘crap’! I am not impressed in the least. Annoying doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel and what I think about Alfred Vanderpuije’s latest gimmick.

It is not the mayor’s job to be directing traffic. It’s a job for police officers and city guards. When a mayor decides to take on traffic duties, he either has nothing to do or he just seeking attention. In the case of Alfred Vanderpuije, sadly, I think it’s both.

Vanderpuije has completely lost the plot.

Since he became mayor Vanderpuije hasn’t achieved any success he can be proud off. The so-called ‘decongestion exercise’ has failed. The slums he vowed to shut down are still wide open. Accra is still stinky and filthy. His attempt to abolish the shift system in basic schools has only created more problems for teachers, who now have to grapple, in some cases, with 80 pupils in a class. Traffic is awful. People are building haphazardly, the city gets flooded with the least amount of rainfall, social services are poor and the city cannot even manage its waste. It’s a terrible situation we live in. It’s like there is no leader in the city and Accra is an apology to any capital city.

Instead of sitting in his office, with his thinking cap on, to come up with clear, well thought-out policies to deal with Accra’s mega-problems, Vanderpuije is out there seeking cheap approval. He makes it seem like being on the street will help ease the horrendous traffic in the city and with it all the city’s problems. What is most surprising is that some people do not see through his ruse.

If the mayor is doing such a good job by doing things that his subordinates should be doing, he could as well go around sweeping the city’s public toilets, picking up refuse from the markets and sorting out the garbage at the main dumpsite at Oblogo. He could as well move from office to office, house to house, flushing toilets and scrubbing bathrooms.

But then what haven’t we seen before. We saw Rawlings desilting gutters and weeding in years past. Those gutters he so gladly jumped into with a shovel are as chocked and stinky today as there were 20 years. It tells you that populist stunts yield nothing. Thinking does, strategizing and focused implementation of clear, sensible policies achieve a lot. Unfortunately, Vanderpuije is not doing any of these.

If someone doesn’t call him to order soon, just two or three years down the road, we would all look back and realize that this bearded man who was plucked from a school in North Carolina to become the mayor of Accra, only succeeded in making Accra one of the worst cities in the world to live in. Accra needs a heads-on mayor, not a hands-on incompetent who suffers from attention deficiency disorder.

There are all sorts of strange groupings in Ghana. Sometimes, I wonder why such groups exist. Take a group like the Retired Staff Association of the Volta River Authority, for example. Who needs a group like that?

Well, I thought I had heard the worst of the weird associations in Ghana until last Monday when I read a press release from the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana. Now, there is very little public information on how and when this association was founded and by whom.

What is clear is that the association exists to represent the interests of unemployed graduates – young men and women with higher education but no jobs. I hear it has a membership of 3,000.

Normally, it shouldn’t be a group one is proud to belong to but the leaders of the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana seem convinced that they have taken on a noble cause to fight for the ‘rights’ of the unemployed graduates. One of their key objectives it to get government to create jobs for members of the association.

I want to wish the group all the best in all its endeavours. But whiles at it, I have a few questions: what does it take to become the president of the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana? Five years of active membership? What happens when a new president gets a job a few months after his election? Does he step down or will he see his tenure through even though he is technically unemployed?

And about the membership of the association, my friend Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, has a few questions of his own: “If you find a job, do you automatically lose membership? Since they are all unemployed, do you have to pay dues?”

And I still wonder, where do they hold their meetings and if you are unemployed, shouldn’t you rather be using your time scouring the job market instead of engaging in fruitless dalliances with fellow unemployed? Maybe, this association is a networking opportunity – a platform for the jobless to dish out advice on the best way to stay unemployed. I will never know. What I know, though, is that misery (including unemployment) likes company.


How is it that one of the richest countries on the African continent cannot organize an election without a glitch? The last time in 2007, the polls were a shameful fiasco. On the day of the elections, electoral materials were still being brought in from outside the country.

This time around, a little common sense prevailed. When the materials hadn’t come in on the day of the polls, those whose incompetence ensured their late delivery, decided to postpone the vote – but not before some voters had queued in the scorching sun, waiting to cast their ballot, only to be told that the process had been botched.

The first postponement was greeted with an indifferent sigh. “That’s Nigeria for you,” some said.

Then there was the second postponement, which was met with justifiable exasperation, some even suggesting that the postponements were part of a scheme to rig the elections.

For those of us who can only be observers, we can’t help but ask: “What on earth is wrong with Nigeria?”

How can anyone with the right intellect, the right competence and a good measure of national pride, fail to organize an election with a budget of 500 million dollars for a voting population of 23 million?

For Christ’s sake, Nigeria is not a poor country. Any country where one man can steal billions of dollars must be one of the wealthiest nations on earth. If the people of Eritrea are unable to organize first class elections, we can pardon them – they are poor and they have just recently come out of a brutal, senseless war. But Nigeria? Nigeria has no excuse for this kind of mess. It’s just not on and those in charge must not only bow their heads in shame; they must be flogged!

But that shouldn’t be the end. Someone needs to do something drastic to help Nigeria lead this continent like it should. There is something very wrong with Nigeria. And what is wrong with Nigeria is that which is wrong with much of the African continent: mediocrity, disorganization, grand corruption, incompetence, bad leadership and sheer buffoonery.

There is a certain stupidity that pervades much of the African continent. Its epicenter seems to be in Nigeria – almost everything in Nigeria is chaotic, a massive mess. And when the giant of the continent takes a perch at the top of the ladder of mediocrity, the little ones follow. Nigeria is a mess. A rich giant like Nigeria cannot continue to behave in such an ignoble manner. Things must change.

I am not a Nigerian. But I am an African, looking for a reason to be proud that I am a son of the continent. It took years for South Africa to give me one with their magnificent organization of the World Cup last year. When I see the sort of disorganization and incompetence being displayed by the authorities in Nigeria, I squirm.

Worst of all, I often hear some Ghanaians – especially those returning from a trip to Nigeria – say proudly that Ghana is better because it’s not as chaotic and messy as Nigeria. I’ve even heard some Nigerians say similar things. And that’s where the problem lies. If Ghanaian are happy because their country is less messy than Nigeria then both countries are in trouble – not to mention the entire continent. Nigeria with its enormous wealth and great population should take the lead on the continent – doing great things for other countries to follow.

If South Africa can stage a World Cup for everyone around the globe to enjoy, I don’t see why Nigeria cannot organize an election to make its people and the rest of Africa proud.

Since the High Court acquitted and discharged the 15 men who were hurriedly arraigned before it for allegedly murdering Ya Na Yakubu Andani, Ghanaians have not been spared any of the sort of nonsense which is so typical of the ruling NDC.

Rampaging youth have destroyed property in Tamale and former Rawlings has been speaking a lot of crap going as far as to say that the violence in Tamale was justified. So-called legal advisers like David Annan have been blaming former president Kufuor for the acquittal (a point Rawlings will not stop making) and then there are all those NDC supporters who have been waving their fingers at President Mills, accusing him of failing to fulfill his promise to jail the killers of the Ya Na.

Some have even threatened that the President should not step a foot in the Northern Region. How crazy is that? Where, in times of peace, does a president get threatened and told not to step in a part of the country he rules? And all of this because justice spoke so eloquently that you cannot arrest 15 people, accuse them of murder, put them in the dock without evidence, without a case and expect that they will be convicted?

The sheer scale of the incompetence is baffling and frightening. But what do you expect from an administration which has someone like David Annan as legal adviser?

And they turn around to blame Kufuor for making them lose the case because the courts are packed with Kufuor’s judges. What sort of nonsense is that?

In all of this, the person who has been the most annoying has been Jerry Rawlings. He led this country for nearly 20 years as a despot and had a constitution tailor-made for him, to ease his passage out of power. Yet he doesn’t seem to have read the supreme law of the land. He makes it seem like we are living in a country where every new president is expected to come in with his own bunch of judges so they will create their own brand of justice and enforce it. The stupidity of his argument is nauseating and it’s frightening that no one in NDC – not even the president – is willing to tell him to stop talking crap and start thinking for once.

Rawlings ought to start thinking – not about his parochial interests – but that which is in the best interest of the nation. All his foolish talk, creating the impression that the judge in the Ya Na case just woke up one morning and decided to rule against the government is just feeding the sense of grievance of the Andani family, making them more angry and ready to do dangerous things, which would inevitably lead to the loss of more lives.

I, for one, have had enough of Rawlings’ nonsensical claim he has some sort of evidence that would lead to the successful prosecution of those who killed the Ya Na, not to mention his inordinately superior stance that he is some sort of angel who would bring justice and peace to Dagbon. He started making those claims when the Kufuor administration was in power, annoyingly insisting that he won’t provide the evidence because he wasn’t sure what the administration would do with it. Now that he has his own ‘crew’ in power, he is still reluctant to provide the evidence. It all makes one wonder when he would be trusting enough to provide the evidence. When his wife becomes president? Over my dead body!

If you ask me, I’d say Rawlings hasn’t got any evidence to give. He is just, as young people like to say, running his mouth to gain some attention and appear to be the only one who cares about the intractable conflict in Dagbon. Someone should tell Mr. Rawlings that he doesn’t care about Dagbon more than any of us do. We all care. We all would love to see the murderers of the Ya Na brought to justice. But justice is not what Rawlings defines it to be.

Justice is what a judge says it is. If you don’t like what the judge says, you don’t go around making ugly noises and encouraging violence. You go to a higher court and appeal. That’s the law. If Rawlings doesn’t like it, he should go and hang.

In this particular case, most Ghanaians – except those poisoned by Rawlings’ nonsense and Atta Mills’ naivety – will agree that the 15 suspects received justice. The judge couldn’t have jailed them simply on the say-so of Atta Mills, Jerry Rawlings or David Annan.

Ok… so I am usually a very very patriotic Ghanaian. I am usually the one championing our flag – from football to politics; from social issues to economics, but today, I find it important as a patriot to tell it like it is, or as my American friends say, “call out my people”!

We are in 2011, President Mills, I hope you or someone that has enough clout is reading… sorry, I repeat, we are in 2011:

Today:

1. Almost every part of Accra has no water flowing through the taps. Reason – the two major water suppliers cannot pump water because of the very frequent electricity outages. I asked a friend, what is different now than decades ago – we’ve always had power outages. The answer – the power outages are more frequent and the two organizations don’t talk! Statistics – for every minute of blackout, results in 6hrs of water shortage. Check the date…

2. And then you complain about a cholera outbreak? How won’t there be an outbreak if there is no water in most parts of the country? People are drinking dirty water duh!

3. In a University where we are training tomorrow’s leaders, someone steals phones and they are greatly molested??? Really??? Whatever happened to the law? Why take the law into your own hands, and they were so confident of their acts that they didn’t even care when they knew it was being filmed
– huh? where is your education?

4. Motor cyclists disobey the law in broad day light and policemen just watch them pass by and witness all these accidents?! Then at night, the policeman comes asking me for money? Really? Dude, I wouldn’t mind giving you some of my hard-earned cash if you did your job!

5. And what’s with all the traffic? Can’t someone just get it right – why does construction have to happen during rush hour? Why can’t they work at night? Why do we have all these man holes at construction sites? People, real people are dying! Jeez!!!

6. I could talk about Korlebu Teaching Hospital today… but I think I’ll leave that for now… It’s 2011!!! Oh yea, and Ghana is supposed to be middle income!  So am I giving my country a bad name, Yes! Do I love my country, More than anything! Why I am writing…

Media, please clear your headlines (except for the part talking about Cote D’Ivoire) and let’s call our politicians out! It’s time for some real action, Mr. President- are you really *dzi-ing wo fie asem* and whatever happened to your declared year of action??? I know these things are not solved easily, but it doesn’t take much genius to solve some of these problems…

This is not an NDC-NPP issue – it’s an I love Ghana issue! I really don’t care if the former First Lady is going to stand for NDC’s presidential ticket or CPP is annoyed at the media or NPP is rallying for all die be die! I need some governance, people… governance, not politics. Focus and get back to the basics – Electricity, Water, health and education (scroll up). That’s it – forget the rest, at least for now!

 

From a disgruntled, very patriotic citizen. (And yes, I know that for every one of these points, there are some very wonderful things happening in the country as I type, so before you criticize me for saying these, let’s not accept mediocrity any further. We’re doing great, yes, but that does not justify the negative issues).

NOTE: Christabel and I are not related. I don’t even know her. But she sure is one smart girl I wouldn’t mind calling a sister or, at the very least, a friend. Her angry but very  justifiable rant was forwarded to me by email. I loved it instantly. And what I love, I share that’s why I decided to put it up here.