I read the following article on the blog of Mustapha Hamid, who was Nana Akufo-Addo’s spokesman in the run-up to the December polls. I found it very interesting and quite refreshing that an NPP stalwart – no less a person than Mustapha – questions some of the choices former President Kufuor made. He only stops short of saying that Kufuor cost the NPP the election last year. I think he did. This is not a partisan piece, by any measure and I feel it’s a good sign that our democracy is growing. That’s why I decided to share it with visitors to this site… Enjoy >>>
“When a country ceases to be merely a country and becomes an empire, then the scale of operations changes dramatically…I speak as a subject of the American empire. I speak as a slave who presumes to criticise her king”. These are the words of Arundhati Roy when she delivered a lecture titled “Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy: Buy One Get One Free” on the 26th of May 2003 in Harlem, New York where she launched a tirade against former President Bush.
I want to borrow her words but re-order them to suit my discussion. So I will say, when a man ceases to be an ordinary citizen, and becomes the embodiment of a nation’s hopes, fears and aspirations, then the scale of the operations changes dramatically…I speak as a subject of Ghana and a bona fide member of the New Patriotic Party. I speak as a patriot who presumes to contribute his quota to a raging debate.
And the raging debate is the issue with President Kufuor’s self-allocated office or is it bungalow? My understanding is that this bungalow is the one in which the late Hawa Yakubu lived. When I heard about it I exclaimed Wow! This bungalow has a penchant for being the subject of contention. For sometime it was a subject of contention between Hawa Yakubu and Kwadwo Mpiani when the then Chief of Staff wanted Hawa to quit the bungalow because she had over stayed after she was no longer a Minister.
Today this same bungalow is the subject of contention between former President Kufuor and the new NDC administration. Apparently, the former President had appropriated it to himself even before he left office. He had predetermined that it was the facility he wanted to use as his offices. If this bungalow was human, we would have called it controversial. As I pondered over the arguments and counter arguments, I began to recall all the controversies that former President Kufuor has been steeped in since he became President of Ghana. After recounting the few that I could remember, one word came to mind-judgment.
One of the very important principles that I learnt at the feet of Prof. C.R. Gaba is that “you cannot always do with life what you want to do with it”. Only Allah is capable of boasting that “when he decrees a thing, he only needs to say, be and it is”. As humans we have no such luxury. The Economists call it “opportunity cost”. We have to lose one thing as a result of getting another. This is where the question of judgment occurs. We constantly have to determine for ourselves what we should forgo for what and at what expense.
Once we make that judgment and consequently the choice, we must live with the consequences. Our life is always as a result of choices and judgments that we have made in the past. For example whether our marriage is a happy one or not is as a result of the judgment that we made in the past as to which woman we chose to marry. Whether we are struggling through school or not is as a result of the judgment we made as to which course to pursue. One of my favourite quotations from Shakespeare is the one that states that, “there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads to fortune, omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and misery”.
The examples of marriage and choice of course are examples of everyday judgments that ordinary people make. But when it comes to a President or even a former President, “the scale of the operations changes dramatically”. This is because a President’s higher than ordinary status makes the consequences of his judgments enormous. As I stated earlier, a President embodies the fears, hopes and aspirations of the people he leads. He is the commander in chief of the armed forces. If he makes a wrong judgment and pulls the trigger, the lives of millions of citizens will be “bound in shallows and misery”.
For me therefore, one of the important qualities a person must possess in order to be President is judgment. And when I say judgment, I mean that he or she must judge correctly most of the time if not all of the time. Otherwise he or she destroys the aspirations and hopes of the people that he or she leads. In the course of former President Kufuor’s tenure he was hit by certain controversies which in the future will be central to the verdict that the jurors give on his tenure as President.
Judgment Number 1
President Kufuor judged wrongly in allowing his son to buy that hotel. Yes, as a young enterprising Ghanaian, there was nothing wrong with him putting together a consortium of banks to buy a hotel. But this was no ordinary Ghanaian. He is the President’s son. And nobody is deceived that his relationship with the President did not play any part in him obtaining that facility from the banks. At the time that Chief Kufuor bought the hotel, there were a number of more enterprising NPP activists who were striding the stairways of banks looking for ridiculously lower amounts of money to start street corner businesses who did not get a hearing.
As for the President’s public declaration that his son worked with PriceWaterHouseCoopers, the least said about it the better. Until the President said that I did not know that place of work is accepted as collateral for anything. It attracted for him and the NPP a lot of opprobrium. What impression did it leave in the minds of Ghanaians? “The President and his family are a cheating, looting lot”. It was bad judgment.
Judgment Number 2
President Kufuor judged wrongly in not sacking Anane. Again let me state that Anane did not engage in corrupt practice. Indeed the courts said so. But whether or not we like it Ghanaians had come to the conclusion that somehow or the other Anane had used his office in ways that were unethical. And at a time when Ghana’s ranking on the World Corruption Index was low, President Kufuor needed one tough action to signal his commitment to fighting corruption. The Anane case was his opportunity to do so. He lost it and left a rather wrong impression on the minds of Ghanaians that he condoned or indeed supported corruption. Ghana’s ranking on the World Corruption Index further plummeted. His decision not to sack Anane was bad judgment.
Judgment Number 3
President Kufuor judged wrongly in buying two Presidential Jets in an election year. There is still a pervasive poverty mentality in Ghana. Not just the mentality, but indeed there is pervasive poverty. And in an election year when world oil prices had been unkind to our fragile economy and when a desperate opposition was capitalising on the situation to incite hatred against the government, it was simply bad judgment to order not one, but two Executive Jets.
Judgment Number 4
President Kufuor’s decision to confer an award, the nation’s highest award on himself was bad judgment. It is simply not done. All the time former presidents wait for their successors to come after them to give them awards for their services to the nation. Indeed no one ever marks his own script. But not President Kufuor. He determined that he had done well and proceeded to confer an award on himself. The majority of Ghanaians were appalled. It left only one impression on the minds of Ghanaians: President Kufuor is a self-serving, self-aggrandising president. It was bad judgment.
Judgment Number 5
President Kufuor’s decision to appoint his own advisor to determine his ex-gratia together with others known as article 71 office holders was bad judgment. The public simply saw it as a “scratch my back, I scratch your back” kind of deal. Was it surprising therefore that the product of that process outraged Ghanaians? It is simply not done. I am sure if some other person had chaired that committee other than Chinery Hesse but came out with the same result, the response from the public would have been different. It was bad judgment.
Judgment Number 6
When Kufuor was President of Ghana, he deserved all the protection that Ghana could muster. Indeed the constitution decrees that the President of the nation takes precedent over every other citizen. So the President bought three BMW cars with one armoured plated for his protection. This was not just good judgment, but it was absolutely necessary and crucial. But it was bad judgment to have gone home with the cars. There can only be one President at a time. Today, the President is Atta Mills. It is only common- sensical a car meant for the protection of a President is used for the protection of Atta Mills and Atta Mills only. Logically, the state security apparatus had to go after him to collect them for the President of Ghana. Period!
Judgment Number 7
President Kufuor’s decision not to wait for the new NDC administration to implement his ex-gratia and his decision to appropriate a government bungalow to himself which he has started using as his office is bad judgment. Then we are told that he wrote to the government asking to be allowed to use the facility as his office. But to have gone ahead to start using the office without waiting for the government’s response was bad judgment.
Considering the fact that the Kufuor administration had attracted a lot of opprobrium for itself for selling government bungalows to its functionaries, it was bad enough that the president himself is seen to have appropriated one for himself. At least the former president could have found space in his wife’s Mother and Child Foundation office in the mean time or better still rented some temporary place. Perhaps President Mills could have later decided that the house should reimburse him with the cost of the rented office. It was bad judgment.
The point I have been trying to make by these illustrations is that “there is a way that seems right unto men, but the thereof is bad”. In all these cases that I have illustrated former President Kufuor did nothing wrong, at least in legal terms. But the fact that all these judgments attracted a lot of opprobrium shows how bad those decisions were, judgmentally. It is part of presidential character to have good judgment. Unfortunately former President Kufuor did not have a lot of it.