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August 2011


Dearest Prof,

I have seen and heard all that is going on. I am sorry they are treating you so shabbily. But if you know these people, they are an extremely “buga-buga”, seldom thinking before acting. If they say you should go, please, don’t fight them. Leave them to their own senseless devices and take your talent elsewhere – to some place where you would be appreciated and accorded the respect you deserve.

Whatever they do and wherever you go, I want you to remember that even though I scoffed and laughed at your failed bid to lead the NPP into electoral battle, you’d always be one of my favourite Ghanaians of all time. You are one of the smartest, most able and competent Ghanaians God ever created or ever will. Your abilities as one of the preeminent heart surgeons in the world could have earned you millions elsewhere. But being the patriot you are, you chose to shut your eyes to the allure of wealth in a rich country, deciding instead to put your expertise and talent at the disposal of your people.

With common sense, unalloyed dedication, perseverance and sheer bravado you built the Cardiothoracic Centre at Korle Bu. That centre, by any standard is a world class facility, which stands like a gem atop the hefty puddle of dung, which is the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. You conceived the idea of a world class centre where people suffering heart diseases could get healing, right here in Ghana and worked your nails off to make sure the vision became reality. You did what all of our health ministers since Nkrumah put together never even dreamt of you.

You are a true Ghanaian hero and we all know it. Even those hounding you out of the directorship of the cardio centre know you are a better man, a better Ghanaian than they are or ever will. They are just blinded by politics, envy and sheer stupidity. They are so dim they think by putting off your shinning light, they would appear bright.

They think they can throw dust in our eyes. But we see through their lies. They say you are too old, past retirement age and so you must go and just teach. We know they are just being crass. If there is anyone who should step aside it is the one spewing the nonsense that you should step aside because you are past the retirement age.

Whether you decide to move on or fight this travesty is your choice, Prof.

You’ve been a great teacher and not just to future surgeons but to the entire nation. You’ve taught us that with single-minded determination one man can make a lot of difference – no matter the obstacles that are placed in his path. I don’t know whether you want to continue teaching but I know for sure that, unless a miracle happens, you will never become president. You have done more than enough for your country. Now, is the time, Prof, for you to get a little bit selfish – do something for you for once. Take a vacation. Go and bask in the sunny heat of Barbados. Then go back to Germany and do your thing. They will lay the red carpet for you and put Yieleh Chireh and Atta Mills to great shame.

Knowing you – albeit from a distance – I get the sense that you will stay around and fix Ghanaian hearts. That what brings you satisfaction and no one can begrudge you for that. But whatever you choose to do, Prof., I need you to remember that most Ghanaians love you. We know you are a true patriot and what they are doing to you is plain wrong.

One day, someday soon, they will pay for it. If Ghana got ten more of your kind – or someone like you sitting in that seat Atta Mills occupies today, surrounded by incompetent, vindictive and dim hangers-on – our nation would be a nation worth dying for. Looking at the shabby treatment they are meting out to you, I wonder if we would ever get another Ghanaian patriot who would ever dream of making any of the selfless sacrifices you’ve made for this nation.

God bless you, Prof.

“The universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.”

That was how Barack Obama welcomed the entry of rebels into Libya marking what many see as the end of the brutish regime of Muamar Gaddafi. Obviously, Obama is happy that the tyrant is gone.

I share in his joy.

Gaddafi simply had to go. No single individual has the power to rule any nation – unchallenged – for four decades. But with his severe restrictions on liberties and politics, Gadafi managed to keep Libya under his claws for so long, crushing anyone who dared to demand freedom. But there is an end to every bad thing.

Gaddafi was bad. He was evil. His evil was on full display when the Arab Spring reached Libya and mass protests started gathering momentum, with thousands taking to the streets to demand reforms. He sent his tanks in to crush the protesters, whom he liked to refer to as “rats”. He gave women and children guns to fight for him. He and his sons sentenced hundreds to death in a senseless war.

When the rebels rolled into Tripoli, the junior Gadafis didn’t even bother to put up a fight. They just fled. Gaddafi senior, it seems, just took to disappeared – fizzled into thin air, leaving the entire world wondering “where the hell is Gaddafi?”

The president has suddenly become a fugitive. The rat hunter has now become the rat who needs to be tracked down and hunted. Maybe, he fled into another country. Maybe, he is hunkered in some hole somewhere. Remember Sadam? Perhaps, he’s is just preparing for his last stand.

Whatever the case may be, this is surely the end of Gaddafi. I am happy to see him go. I am happy for the people of Libya. They can, at the very least, now plan to start enjoying the little freedoms I enjoy here in Ghana – democracy, the freedom to speak my mind, the right to get online and talk to anyone I want, the right to participate in a democratic debate and the right to criticize my leader without the fear of being thrown in jail without trial.

These things we take for granted have been denied the people of Libya for the better part of four decades. Now they can swim in freedom and dignity. Those who think Gaddafi shouldn’t have been gotten rid of in this manner should look for him and make him their leader on some land somewhere. It won’t take them long to appreciate the value of freedom.

Dear Lord, I know you say your ways are not our ways but sometimes I can’t help but feel that you deliberately make it impossible for us to understand your ways. After all these years, don’t you think it’s about time you demystified some of the things you do?

For example, I find it very difficult to understand why in the modern era some people can wake up one morning, still drooling, to proclaim that you have “called” them. They hardly have anything to show for this “call” – no itemized bills and no text messages, no certificates, no receipts. There is absolutely nothing to decipher who they have been speaking to in the dead of the night. We don’t know whether they had been hallucinating, in which case they might need psychiatric evaluation or whether they have hatched a plot to throw dust into our eyes, in which case they ought to be arrested for fraud.

All they say is that they have been “called” and once they start claiming they have been “called” by you, we the mere mortals who were not privy to whatever he saw or heard, lose every right to question their deeds and misdeeds.

So when a man claiming to have been called by you has an extramarital affair, he warns us that we should not discuss it or question him because we are enjoined not to touch your “anointed” – 1 Chronicle 16:22? To make matters worse, this guy walks into a radio station where his infidelity is being discussed and smashes every glass structure on sight and he has the nerve to threaten to bring tragedy into the life of anyone who dares to talk about the subject?

Oh Lord, my God, forget about the song but I am really in awesome wonder. This so-called Bishop Obinim makes me sick and I wonder why you allow him to walk around proclaiming that you have called him to do all the stupid, unholy things he has been doing. To tell you the truth, I have been wondering about him for a long time and his latest transgressions are just the tissue on the dung he has been spewing out in your name.

But Obinim is not alone.

Suddenly in this country, there are all these riff-raffs parading around as men you have called engaging in egregious, unholy transgressions that even I – neck deep in sin – will never contemplate. How does a man of God get to take pinch bar to a radio station in anger to cause such mayhem as Obinim did and turn around to lie about it? How does a man of God get to boast about how he has cursed a helpless, innocent infant to make her mentally-ill and paralyzed? I don’t get it.

I know your ways are not my ways but I have a very strong feeling that Obinim’s ways are not your ways either.

So, dearest Lord, my prayer to you today is very simple. I would like to know for sure who your men in this country truly are.

Could you please take up some advertising space in the Daily Graphic to publish a list of the Men of God in Good Standing? With this, we would all know who to listen to and who to pelt with eggs. I think you should publish similar lists in other countries and help humanity to know who the false prophets are. You said that in the end times we should beware of false prophets but how do we do this when we can’t tell who is original and who is an imitation? We need that list of the Men of God in Good Standing sooner rather than later.

Alternatively, you could also do well to give the people you call certificates to show to us that they have truly been called by you. Even in the days of yore, people required some proof of those who claimed you had sent them. Moses had to perform some miracles. Even Jesus was challenged every once in a while. But miracles don’t cut it anymore, because the ones we get these days are too soft. Now there are all these greedy bastard performing weird miracles and it is hard for most of us to tell whether or not they come from you. Could you go back to the days when miracles were really miracles? Like manner from above, feeding 5000 people with just five loaves of bread, turning water into wine and parting the deep blue sea in two? Your men should be up the ante by performing these miracles for us to be able to know those you truly called. Alternatively, please find a way to issue inimitable certificates to the people you call so that we know how to separate the few grains of wheat from the plentiful chaff.

Secondly, my Lord, I am tired of hearing people telling me things you have told them to come and tell me. You are not shy of me, are you? You created me. You created the heavens and the earth. You are all powerful, almighty, omnipotent and omnipresent. You should feel free to talk to – directly, any time. I know I may tremble in your presence and, maybe, even suffer a heart a heart attack. But you have my email address, you know my telephone number. Send me an email or an SMS. Just talk to me directly – not through an intermediary. From today on, with the greatest of respects, I am not going to listen to anyone who comes to me in your name to tell me cock and bull stories. If you have anything to tell me, you know where to find me. Just don’t send a fraudster like Obinim.

Thank you, most high gracious Father.

Information Minister, John Tia, has responded to suggestions that the information ministry should be scrapped. Obviously, he cares about his job. It’s only human. But as you can see from the following Ghana News Agency report, besides doing what anyone whose job is threatened would do, Mr. Tia just doesn’t have any cogent, well-thought-out justification for the existence of his ministry. He’s just saying what we know already – based on which the likes of myself, John Ndebugre and Prof. Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi are calling for the ministry to fold up. So I have decided to respond to his responses. Mine are in blue…

Bolgatanga, Aug. 12, GNA- Mr John Tia Akolgo, Minister of Information, on Thursday, described critics calling for the scrapping of the Information Ministry, as ill-informed about the role of the Ministry.

The Information Minister said this at a Press Conference held in Bolgatanga.

The Minister said he was surprised to hear critics, including Mr John Ndebugre who said he would prefer that the Ministry was dissolved. He pointed out that, the Ministry has existed since the first republic and past governments have utilized the Ministry to propagate their programmes and policies and wondered why these same critics could not call for the scrapping of the Ministry during those periods.

Blah… Blah… Blah… We have heard all of this before haven’t we? I am infact surprised that Mr. Tia says the fact that the information ministry has been in existence since independence means that it cannot be shut down if we realize it has outlived its usefulness. And, please, I for one couldn’t have called for the information ministry to be scrapped in 1958 because at the time my mother was still a virgin. I suppose both Prof. Gyimah-Boadi and John Ndebugre couldn’t have called for the information ministry to be scrapped at the time because they were either too young to care or they were waiting to see whether anyone would convince them that there was a justification for the ministry’s existence.

Either way, we have all lived through a constitutional era for almost 20 years and we know that with the liberalization of the airwaves, the proliferation of various media organizations and access to the internet, we don’t need an information ministry.
The fact that we have allowed this bad, useless appendage of government to exist for 50 long years, doesn’t mean that we should allow it to exist in perpetuity – even when we come to the realization that we don’t need it.

Who in their right senses says that the old order should never give way to a new order? That’s what John Tia appears to be saying. If that’s the case, why is Atta Mills in power claiming to be building a better Ghana? The crappy Ghana has been with us for more than 50 years – and most Ghanaians would say it is really not that bad, especially in comparison with Somalia and Niger.

If we are to go by Mr. Tia’s spurious argument that if a thing cannot be scrapped because it has been in existence for 50 years, then we could also ask why we need two deputies in a ministry which has always had just one deputy? Also if change is so bad, why is the government John Tia serves in wasting our money and time amending the constitution, which is not even as old as the information ministry? Very few have complained about the National Youth Employment Programme, which has been existence for less than a decade, yet the government is carrying out all sort of reforms to the NYEP. Why? Because change makes our lives better. Change is the only constant in life. Someone should tell that to John Tia.

The Minister said, just as other regulatory bodies, including the various Ministries in the country, the information Ministry was established to regulate state media activities, including activities of the Information Services Department, the Ghana Broad Casting Cooperation, the Ghana News Agency, Graphic Communications Group and the Ghanaian Times.

“The Information Ministry is mandated to explain government policies and programmes to the people, especially those at the grassroots, and to take reactions from the people on government programmes back to government for any improvement if necessary.”

Obviously, the minister doesn’t know what his ministry is supposed to do. The information ministry is not a regulatory agency. It is just a monstrous contraption that gets in the way and ensures that state media organizations do not exert their independence. The information ministry doesn’t regulate the operations of any media organization in Ghana today. It doesn’t issue frequencies and it doesn’t control content. It even lost its power to appoint the heads of state media organizations in 1992. That power now belongs to the Media Commission.

All the information ministry does these days is to needlessly meddle and try to force the hands of the editors at the state broadcaster and the state-owned newspapers, making sure that the president’s face is constantly on the front pages of the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times and whatever story involving the president (even when he is commissioning a public toilet) is the top headline story on GBC radio and television.

The only form of regulation I see the ministry doing – if you can call it that – is when they issue press accreditation for major national events. If the information ministry had anything to regulate, it would have sacked the editor of the Daily Graphic long ago because let’s face it, this administration doesn’t like him.

And, please, I really don’t get the point of the mandate of the ministry being “to explain government’s policies and programmes to the people”. Government ministers are on radio stations everyday explaining and debating policy. Only two or three of them are from the information ministry. The rest don’t need to get clearance from the information ministry before speaking to journalists. And they do a fairly decent job defending even the most outrageous and indefensible of government decisions. These days almost every minister, DCE or government appointee does his or her best to explain the administration’s policy on various media platforms. So even without the information ministry there is a lot of explanation going on. If we shut down the information ministry, we wouldn’t really miss it at all.

[Mr. Tia] indicated that, as part of these functions, the ISD for instance is tasked as one of its core duties, to do what he termed “Public Reactions Collation Report”, which are then sent to the government for attention.

Don’t make me laugh. We need further explanation of the use of this report. I am sure it is one of those documents Mr. Tia wouldn’t mind using when he runs out of toilet roll in the office.

[Mr. Tia] noted that the citizenry have the right to know whether government executes its plans and policies based on its promises and that invariably, government is obliged to explain these policies and programmes, which could be done better through the Information Ministry.

In a democracy, the emphasis should be on debate and analysis of government policies and programmes. Mere explanations are not enough. Times have changed. In case, Mr. Tia doesn’t realize it, Ghana is now a democracy – a 21st Century democracy, not a mid-20th century autocracy where “explanations” were forcefully shoved down people’s throat.

[Mr. Tia] added that for purposes of evaluation and re-evaluation, the Ministry would continue to pursue vigorous information dissemination through the Meet the Press Series.

Meet the press is as useless as the ministry which organizes it. Over the years, people have come to realize that it’s just an opportunity for government ministers to spew out crap they themselves don’t even believe so most of us don’t pay attention any more. Even journalists are not as interested as we were in years gone by. As I have argued previously, every ministry should have its own well-staffed, well-equipped PR outfit to disseminate information. The defence minister will always be in a better position to defend defence policy better than any information minister ever will. I also don’t get the point of a minister moving a whole entourage from one end of town to another to speak at ‘meet the press’ when he could just organize a media scrum in front of his office to say whatever he necessarily needs to tell the nation.

The Information Minister indicted that critics of the government are bent on using dubious methods to silence the Information Ministry from discharging its mandate and said such moves could not deter the Ministry from performing its legitimate functions.

Nonsense. If I had the power to silence the information ministry and all its staff, I would have done so long ago. It would have taken less time than sitting down to write this response to the minister’s lame justifications of why his ministry should continue to exist. Nobody wants to silence anyone. In a democracy, once again, we debate issues. It is in nobody’s interest for anyone to be silenced. The silly conspiracy theories should be discarded. The ease and the speed with which the minister and his lieutenants craft conspiracy theories to brush aside every argument they disagree with is as baffling as it is alarming. Whatever they say, the ministry’s mandate in 21st Century Ghana is very questionable if not dubious.

He said the ISD, through the Ministry has set up an information desk at the various district, Municipal and Metropolitan assemblies to undertake public education on health and other developmental issues that have helped transformed the lives of Ghanaians.

Bull crap! With filth all over the country causing cholera outbreaks in different towns and cities, I want the minister to give us proof that these so-called information desks have transformed lives. I just want see one life that has been transformed by the information desk. I bet there is none!

He quashed suggestions from critics that government could depend on the private media, including radio and print, to disseminate its policies and plans, saying that, such thoughts were misplaced and baseless.

“He quashed”? Ah, this is a GNA report. No wonder. They need to make the minister feel he has won the debate. The minister can’t quash anything. Government already depends on the mass media – private or otherwise – to disseminate information. If government still depended on the ISD to spread information, John Tia would be acting as a transport and logistics officer, fuelling hundreds of vans to spread his message around the country. If the minister feels the vans of the ISD do a better job disseminating government information, he should stop his people from sending out press releases. What is misplaced, is the minister’s head and from where I see it hanging, it looks baseless too.

Mr Akolgo said many Ghanaians, especially the rural folks, could not read and write and wondered what they would be buying news papers for.

My mother reads little. But she listens to radio – a lot. She gets all the information she needs from listening to the local language stations. Millions of rural folks do the same. And you will be amazed at their level of awareness. All over the country, there are radio stations, which are doing a fantastic job creating platforms for people from all walks of life and political persuasions to discuss pertinent national issues. The ISD vans are not as useful for information dissemination as they used to be. I think they will serve us better now if we gave them all to the police to be used as patrol vehicles.

[Mr. Tia] said the internet could not be relied upon to perform the functions of the ministry since most people do not have access or afford to utilize the internet.

No one has said anything about the internet just yet. But since that the minister mentions it, perhaps, we should point him in the direction of Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. The internet is a powerful tool for mass mobilization. One day it will become affordable and many can access it – that is if we are to believe government would effectively implement its own ICT policy. I have a feeling the minister has not read that policy. Yet, he wants me to believe that he can “explain” it to me?

There is something very wrong with deputy information minister, Baba Jamal. It could be that he suffers from a very bloated sense of his own intelligence or he thinks most Ghanaians are idiots. It’s a very serious disease and the earlier he’s cured the better for himself, his government and the nation.

He started exhibiting symptoms of the disease when he argued that the Embraer 190 aircraft government was ordering as a “military” jet could be used to clampdown on armed robbers.

Then he claimed that President Mills’ presence in Atiwa helped to bring the flooding in the area under control – because the president is a man of prayer.

Jamal: “A wondrous thing happened and I must say it. On Monday, the president decided to move and go there. He just didn’t go there to look around. When he raised his eyes up and brought them down, he said ‘Oh God, have mercy on us’. Then the stagnant water that had been there for a week was suddenly dry the next day and taxis were driving on the road again.”

Interviewer: “So the water dried up because the president was there”?

Jamal: The presence of the Lord was there; he came in and said ‘God have mercy on us’ and the waters receded within less than 24 hours.

When I heard his comments about the president and the floods, I started wondering what sort of powder Mr. Jamal had been using or whether he was suffering the side effects of inhaling fumes from some proscribed herbs.

But now, after hearing, for the first time, his address to staff of the Information Services Department, I have no doubt that whatever powder he’s been using is having a telling effect on him. It’s not a good powder. It’s neither talcum powder nor Korle Bu ‘dusting’ powder. And the herbs he’s been smoking are definitely not as harmless as the medicinal leaves of the ‘Acheampong’ plant.

Seeming very agitated and screaming into the microphone, Jamal practically told the ISD staff to go out of their way and lie to the rest of the world in order to portray the government in positive light.

“Yours is to make government look good, whatever the circumstance,” he said. “If government buys a sheep and gives it out as a gift, you are free to say it is a cow. If the colour is black, you can say it is white, colourful sheep or cow… We are going into elections next year. So the Municipal and district chief executives, any ISD staff who is going against his ethics or mandate, let us see him quickly before he sees us out.”

That speech was delivered two months ago. But I, like most Ghanaians, heard the tape for the first time on Tuesday. Now that the tape has surfaced, and coming on the heels of the recording in which he is accused of attempting to bribe journalists, questions are justifiably being asked about why he would so threaten staff of the ISD. His response is what makes me feel strongly that Baba Jamal thinks that we are all a bunch of fools in this country who do not know the difference between day and night.

Jamal claims that all he said on the tape was a joke.

In the audio recording of his speech to the ISD staff, you hear some people laughing – especially when he said “if government buys a sheep, you are free to say it is a cow.” It’s hard to tell those who were laughing. But I want to believe it was mostly the district chief executives present at the meeting who were laughing. I also believe that if the laughter was from the ISD staff, they might only have been laughing at the wrong sides of the mouths.

No professional laughs at the suggestion that he should go out and tell blatant lies – unless his job description clearly includes a mandate to lie every minute of every day. As far as I know ISD staff are not supposed to lie. Theirs is to inform people about government policy. This doesn’t include going out of their way to make a bad government look good as Baba Jamal suggested. So it’s hard for me to see the professionals at the ISD, laughing at threats from their boss who screams at them and tells them that they would be sacked if they do not tell lies to portray the government in good light.

If none of them is complaining, it is not because they saw Jamal’s speech as some sort of a ministerial a comedic gig. They took his threats very seriously and they are afraid that if they speak their minds, they would be sacked – as the minister threatened. If you are directed to tell the world that a sheep is a cow, it follows that when you feel appalled you should tell the world that you were regaled and that you’ve never felt better.

Atta Mills should be feeling very ashamed of Baba Jamal. But he’s not. Baba Jamal is doing exactly what he was appointed to do – roughing people up, needlessly ruffle feathers and engage in senseless propaganda. Even so one would have expected that he would go about it with a modicum of finesse. Now, he’s doing it like a thug – forcing ridiculous lies down our throats. With such behaviour, he is turning out to be worse than Asamoah Boateng. I suppose we all know how Asamoah Boateng helped the NPP to lose the last election. The NDC’s prospects of staying in power are not that bright but with the likes of Baba Jamal around, those prospects are dimming fast with every passing day.

I won’t say he should be sacked because he won’t. At the very least, he must be taken off whatever powder he’s been using and all his herbs taken away and burnt before he self-destructs.

About two years ago, I tried to argue for the information ministry to be scrapped. Like most of the things I say, it fell on deaf ears and no one seemed to take notice. After hearing deputy information minister threaten staff of the Information Services Department if they fail to portray government in positive light, a good number of enlightened Ghanaians are starting to wonder whether we need the Information Ministry. I am glad the debate is no longer just on the dark fringes of my mind and this blog, with the likes of John Ndebugri and Prof. Gyimah Boadi questioning the ministry’s existence. I hope it eventually leads to the folding up of one of the most useless and needless government agencies in Ghana today. Here is an encore presentation of what I wrote in October 2009. >>>

I learnt something recently in a training seminar. The teacher said “more warm bodies do not necessarily increase productivity and efficiency.” He was right and the inconsistencies of the government’s information management team provides ample evidence: five different people (in different parts of the national capital) doing a job that can very easily be done by one man and with no central control, very little direction and huge egos to be salved don’t exactly make for efficiency in communication management.

Now, even though I’ve studied communication, I must say that my knowledge in this field is very limited. But I think the mistakes of the Mills information team can very easily be addressed with a little bit of common sense. This, however, doesn’t work very well when a man’s hand is tired and he feels compelled to create jobs for his boys. That’s the problem facing the president now. It’s imperative, however, for the president to take control of the situation and deal with it in a creative, pragmatic and sensible manner.

First, there shouldn’t be a presidential spokesman and a director of communications at the presidency. The two positions should be merged. The president should take the bold decision to send either Mahama Ayariga or Koku Anyidoho home. At the very least, one of them should be subordinate to the other and we should know who is boss. I don’t care who presides over communications at the Castle and I don’t think it’s the president’s job to salve the ego of either men. Being a president sometimes means bruising a few egos and if that needs to be done to make the government information management more efficient so be it. The president cannot blow hot and cold over this matter. Something simply has to give. Otherwise, the consequences will be more than he can manage.

Secondly, I think that one of the most radical decisions the president needs to take to streamline government information management is to close down the information ministry and tell that bimbo at the helm of affairs there to take a walk, possibly to go manage her beer bar. When the information ministry has been closed down, all major policy statements should either come from the presidency or the PR departments of the various ministries, duly sanctioned by the sector minister.

We should also gradually move towards a situation where the president regularly speaks to his citizens and field questions from the media on all issues of national importance and public interest. No Ghanaian president can tell me that he is busier than his counterpart in the United States. Yet Barack Obama makes time to announce his nominees for top positions, explaining how he arrived at certain important decisions. He even makes time to occasionally crack jokes and speak about petty stuff like his favourite football team’s performance and his dog.

Ghanaians want to know what their president is thinking but not through a different human being. The president is not the Holy Ghost, who needs a human vessel to speak in tongues. We want to hear from our president as often as possible. The tokenism of presidential ‘media encounters’ – sometimes once in a year – is so not 21st century. The president should engage the citizens more, talk to us regularly – speak for himself, assure us, allay our fears and make his say-so the final word on any issue.

Whether the president chooses to speak to us directly and regularly, whoever is put in charge of communications at the Castle (who should also be the designated presidential spokesman) should organise daily press briefings where he will field questions and answer them on behalf of his boss. When he speaks we will take it as the president speaking through him. This means that this presidential spokesman will not open his mouth to speak on any issue unless he’s received a briefing from the president.

From Kufuor’s time till date, people purporting to be speaking on behalf of the president have often just waffled and rattled anything that came to their minds without having spoken to their bosses. The fact that the president called Joy FM to complain while his spokesman was speaking on the same network (supposedly on behalf of the president) was a shameful demonstration of the fact that the two men hadn’t spoken to each other that morning. The president and his spokesman must constantly speak with each other and when the spokesman doesn’t know his boss’ opinion on any matter, he shouldn’t be ashamed to say “I don’t know…”

Apart from the presidency speaking on all major policy statements, the various ministries have their own PR departments. They should be able to communicate government information without contradicting what the presidency has said and there shouldn’t be any occasion when one will come out to clarify what the other has said. This is not to say that the PR departments of the ministries should constantly look up to the presidency before communicating with the public. They should be able to draw up and work with their own communications strategies. For example, if government decides to build a nuclear reactor the announcement could come from the presidency whiles the Energy Ministry provides further details.

Strengthening the PR outfits for the various ministries would also mean that ministers of state should be mindful if when and how they grant interviews. Some of them grant interviews ‘by heart’ on early morning radio when they had not even brushed their teeth. This must stop. Ministers should carefully choose where they get interviewed, when and how and such decisions should hardly be made without consulting their PR departments. Speaking to a minister of state should qualify as an ‘exclusive’ for any media house – but not in this country, where ministers just pick calls from any radio station and waffle on end, sometimes while lying comfortably (I’ve sometimes supposed) in the bosoms of their concubines or even in the loo. In such instances, the minister should quite gently tell the journalist to sod off whiles he concentrates on the ‘concubinal bosom’ or whatever is engaging his attention. Better yet, he could tell the newsman to call his PR director, who should be able to provide the journalist with the information required.

So there is an audio tape. A man is heard on the tape offering a good package for journalists who will literally help keep government’s propaganda machine well-oiled and productive, producing all the junk you can get from a propaganda machine to help the NDC win the 2012 elections.

It is alleged that the voice on the tape is that of deputy information minister, Baba Jamal – the one who claims that an Embraer 190 aircraft can be used to chase and apprehend armed robbers. He has been speaking a lot of nonsense of late so a lot of people are tempted to believe that he badly needs an army of poorly-paid journalists to help launder his, well, nonsense.

We can’t exactly tell whether the voice on the tape is that of Baba Jamal. He denies ever making any offers to journalists to join him in spewing out government crap and has threatened legal action against radio stations which have played the tape. The radio stations, on the other hand, insist that the voice on the tape is the minister’s.

The only problem is that none of the radio stations has done any serious voice analysis to conclusively determine that Baba Jamal is the one on the tape. In fact, no one in the whole country has done any such analysis and so people just get the tape, listen intently (sometimes, you can even see them twitching their ears like rabbits do), scratch their balls and declare one of two verdict:

“I think it’s Baba Jamal.”

“Oh, how? That can’t be him.”

And that’s how the conversation has been for more than a week. People are using their minds and their intuition to make what should be a very simple, scientific determination. This is the sort of voice analysis a teenager in Japan can do with ease with a few mouse clicks.

But here we are, a country of almost 25 million people, scratching our heads and our balls, twitching our ears and picking our noses just wondering whose voice might be on that tape – arguing needlessly and nonsensically. It all tells you how far behind our country is!

It is in times like these that you expect our leaders to put on their thinking caps, reflect on our wretched situation and come up with a solution to the problem we face. This is an opportunity for government to, at the very least, find a way of acquiring voice analysis equipment for the BNI. There will be many occasions in the future where we would need to determine whose voice we are hearing. Imagine a terrorist releases a tape threatening to blow up Cedi House. How will we know who the bastard is? We don’t have the equipment.

It’s a problem our leaders must solve immediately. Yet, they are all busy – talking by heart on radio. When it suits one faction, they call for voice analysis; when it doesn’t suit them they insist there is no need for voice analysis. But then even if there was a consensus on the need for voice analysis, the question is “where can it be done and by whom?” With the sort of conversations we are hearing, it is obvious that nothing good will come out of all of the hot air that is being blown about this matter besides the amusement of seeing and hearing people who should know better insulting each other and making fools of themselves. Sometimes I laugh but mostly, I shake my head in despair.

At the start of the week, government made such a big deal of a simple ceremony to present four patient monitors to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. They made sure that every media organisation that matters in this country was present to cover the event to send out the message to Ghanaians.

The message went far. Some might have been impressed. I wasn’t.

In fact, the whole thing really filled me with a great deal of annoyance.The four patient monitors cost about $45,000. That’s less than the price of the Ford SUV I have seen Koku Anyidoho, the president’s spokesman, drive in. I have seen several other government officials luxuriating in V8 Toyota Land Cruisers that cost almost $70,000 each.

Government can buy dozens (sometimes hundreds) of these gas-guzzling SUVs at a go and supply them to all sorts of people – from chief executives of state-run corporations to presidential aides to district chief executives. Yet when it comes to equipping our hospitals, all government can do is buy four patient monitors – just four – for the most important health facility in the country.

If government can buy 230 SUVs at once for DCEs to drive in, I get so annoyed to the point where I feel actual physical pain in my heart, when I hear that when it comes to patient monitors government can only afford four for Korle Bu. The money spent on one Land Cruiser can buy at least 10 of these monitors. So why can’t government buy these basic but cheap equipments in their thousands, one for practically every other hospital bed in the country?

The answer is simple: our leaders are mostly a bunch of selfish idiots.

It’s not just our current crop of leaders. Most of our leaders since independence have been nothing but a bunch of selfish, wicked nitwits who will choose to buy luxury cars over basic hospital equipment. To add insult to injury, they give themselves golden handshakes in the form of ex-gratia when they are leaving office – whiles our hospitals lie in near-ruins; places of comfort turned into death traps.

Our leaders just don’t care about the people who elected them to the positions that give them the perks they enjoy with so much gusto. All they care about is their luxury and comfort. The rest of us can go to hell. They don’t care about our hospitals because they know that when they fall sick, they can dip their hands into the national coffers and get aboard the next available flight to get treatment in Johannesburg or London or New York.

Those of us who can’t afford treatment abroad should die like flies on the floors of ill-equipped hospitals as underpaid, frustrated doctors look on so helplessly.

As I write this the Police Hospital is calling for an intensive care unit, a mother in Dodowa is grieving over the death of her premature triplets because the incubators at Ridge Hospital are all broken down, officials at the Effia Nkwanta Hospital do not understand why they have never had a proper accident unit since the hospital was built decades ago. That’s not all. There isn’t a single public hospital in this country with a functioning MRI or ultra scan machines, I am hearing a doctor at Komfo Anokye questioning why a project that started 37 years ago is nowhere near completion. The usual answer that our leaders spew out is that “we don’t have money.” Nonsense! We don’t have money to buy incubators and ambulances but we can afford luxury SUVs, executive jets and ex-gratia?

Whatever did we do to deserve these wicked, heartless nincompoops as leaders? I shake my head in sadness because I don’t know. All I know is that with these people we have money to spend on all the things we don’t need but we don’t have money to spend on the things we really need. This fills me with deep sadness and intense anger and the two emotions make my heart bleed every day and I pray I never fall sick or get injured in an accident. But I guess the most important prayer must be for the nitwits who lead us to be granted the wisdom and fellow-feeling to help them come to the realisation that we need sound Ghanaian minds and bodies to build this nation; it doesn’t make sense for them to buy Land Cruisers and jets only to turn around to tell us we can’t afford the things that will help us live and enjoy good health.

Frankly, I am tired of hearing President Mills preaching about what he likes to refer to as “the politics of insults”. I have been at great pains to wrap my head around the concept. What baffles me most, which probably shouldn’t even surprise me, is the fact that many people have latched on to this phrase and are talking about it, making all sorts of noises without understanding what it means.

I follow Ghanaian politics keenly and I am afraid I don’t see or hear anything that gives me the impression that our politics is laden with insults to the point where people should be wasting our ears with needless pontificating.

Politics is a high pressure endeavour where the exchange of harsh-words is permitted. Politicians are entirely within their rights to use puns, satire, wit, ridicule and sarcasm to argue their cases and win votes. These could be harsh and uncomplimentary sometimes, but it is perfectly alright. Politics is not about culture. It’s not about morality. Politics is not for the faint-hearted; people with frail egos and thin-skins.

Simply put, you don’t expect your political opponents to say the same nice words your sex-mate says about you. That’s why I am at a complete loss when I hear the president calling for an end to the “politics of insults” without telling us exactly what the phrase means.

If I called the president and his team incompetent, how is that an insult? In the last weeks of John Kufuor’s presidency, a lot of people descended heavily on me for describing him as “a lame duck”. If I begin to wonder aloud about what powder Baba Jamal has been using, does that constitute an insult? I don’t think so in any of these cases. I am simply using perfectly legitimate literary devises and phrases to make my point. Any politician who does the same is not, in my opinion, engaging in any “politics of insult”. If you are incompetent, you are incompetent. If a leader takes foolish decisions and behaves as if his head is not properly screwed on, we should say it as it is and not mince words.

For so many years in this country every misdeed, misjudgement or miscalculation is described with one adjective: “unfortunate”. It’s almost as if the whole country has rather unfortunately run out of adjectives. If the president mispronounces a word, it is unfortunate. If he steals our money, it’s unfortunate. When a headteacher farts in class, it’s unfortunate. When precious lives are lost in an accident, it’s unfortunate. When Ato gets divorced, it’s unfortunate. When the power goes off too often, it’s unfortunate. Damn! What is it with us and ‘unfortunate’? No wonder we are such an unfortunate nation.

Our failure to describe the actions and inactions of our leaders with the appropriate adjectives makes them all feel like it’s alright to misbehave and underperform. After all, what will the people say? Unfortunate! Who cares?

It’s time we diversified and increased our national vocabulary, moving away from the unfortunate (ahem!) situation where all we can say to anything we don’t like is, pardon me, “unfortunate”. If the word could complain I am sure it would be crying about how unfortunate it feels to be on almost every unfortunate Ghanaian lip, describing every goddamn situation! If you are behaving foolishly, you are behaving foolishly. I won’t describe your behaviour as “unfortunate”. That’s just too wrong.

If in moving away from “unfortunate”, the president feels sarcasm, wit, great puns and legitimate ridicule amount to a “politics of insult”, I’d say too bad for him. Perhaps, he shouldn’t have gotten into politics in the first place and it is not too late for him to get out. He could become a monk.

Of course, we must acknowledge that since our politics is bereft of ideology, some politicians mount platforms and resort to outrageous name-calling to make up for the fact that they have nothing of great substance to say. Every politician, including Atta Mills, has done it before. He called Kufuor’s government “corrupt” on so many occasions. No one can say this amounts to an insult but Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah was even more harsh in his choice of words. He said the 17 men who vied for the mandate to lead the NPP into the elections in 2008 were “thieves”. Now, without any evidence to support the allegation, that amounts to mudslinging – which also has its political value. That is why Asiedu-Nketiah is still walking around, unpunished. Aide to the vice president, John Jinapor called Ursula Owusu a whore. Deputy interior minister, Kobby Acheampong called NPP’s general secretary, Sir John, “a villager from under a cocoa tree” – my literal translation of the remarks he made in Twi. The president’s spokesman, Koku Anyidoho also has a very sharp tongue. He said I have cobwebs in my head and also described opposition MPs as “irresponsible”. The MPs found his comments insulting but I didn’t. Various NDC members have described Nana Akuffo-Addo as an incurable drug addict.
From the NPP side, we have heard many people describing President Mills as a sickly man who could fall dead anytime soon. I heard a man on an NPP platform in Kasoa say Asiedu-Nketiah is so wretched and unkempt that if he ever gets sent to negotiate for any loan deals abroad, he would be thrown out by the hosts. Then recently, we heard an NPP man suggest, rather outrageously, that President Mills and his adviser, Ato Awhoi, are gay.

From where I sit, frankly, NDC supporters and officials in this government are the worst offenders when it comes to political name-calling and mudslinging. I won’t condemn them because I consider most of it to be fair game in the political arena. If the president thinks otherwise and he wants it to end, he should start talking to his people. Since the NDC is in power, the president should do well to tell his people to show some leadership and lead the way in halting the name-calling. But the president would do no such thing because he knows that he benefits from the name-calling every once in a while.

Sometimes, I feel when the president has nothing to say, he just decides to indulge in needless, weepy preaching. If I were his mother, I’d tell him to stop it. He is our president, not our high priest! Through his needless preaching about a so-called “politics of insults”, he has created a problem where there is none.

If it is in his nature to preach (maybe, he’s a disappointed priest) I’d suggest he preaches about tolerance. In politics, people will call each other names. That’s alright. The good politician knows when to ignore such name-calling, when to respond to hurtful words, probably in kind, and when to laugh them off. What we don’t want to see is one politician taking a gun to another’s head because something was said about him that he found to be too harsh.

After all has been said and done, however, I believe, when, the name-calling gets so outrageous and borders on deliberate damage to one’s reputation, the courts are there for us to use. They are open all year round and anyone who doesn’t like what he hears being said about him can go to court. I like the fact that Ato Ahwoi is suing the guy who suggested that he was gay. Way to go! If Mr. Ahwoi argues his case well and wins, I am certain that people would be more mindful about the things they say about and against each other. I don’t understand why Akuffo-Addo hasn’t sued any of those who call him a junkie.

When we all start seeking redress in the courts for things people have said about us, the lines would be clearly drawn on what is permissible and what is not. It’s not about morality. It’s not about culture. It’s about what is legal and what is not. When we get the clear demarcation, our political discourse would be elevated. In the absence of ideology, we would move from the petty to the witty. Through deep wit, funny puns, clever ridicule and audacious sarcasm, we can all put our leaders in check and force them, with words, to perform. Atta Mills would stop wasting our ears with his preaching and, thankfully, the word “unfortunate” would take a well-deserved rest.