Life as an MP in Ghana is traditionally a short-lived stint, partly because of a tradition of mocking longstanding MPs as "Mugabe", writes journalist Elizabeth Ohene, in our series of letters from African journalists.
If You are a Bachelor, Don’t laugh at your Neighbour’s fat wife
“…instead of a lean government, we have lean kenkey at a higher price, these are the issues which the….government and its activists should be tackling instead of seeking to divert attention with threats, intimidation, assaults, car-snatching, seizure of lorry parks and toilet grabbing”. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, May 2009.
Yesterday, I listened to the Minister of Information, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, on Joy FM’s Top Story with Evans Mensah. He was trying to defend the president’s decision to shoot the number of ministers and deputy ministers to a record 110 since this nation was born. After listening to his submission and the tape from his earlier press conference on the matter, one thing stood out: he did not make any sense. It is not because he is a dumb guy. This is a very smart guy trying to defend a very senseless act.
Last week, the Deputy Executive Director of the National Service Scheme (NSS), Nana Boakye, said the Ford Expedition given to President Mahama by the Burkinabe contractor, Djibril Kanazoe, was among the fleet of vehicles missing at the seat of government.
The brouhaha surrounding the alleged kickback offered members of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (PAC) engaged in the vetting of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s cabinet appointees-designate must be promptly resolved, in order to give the new administration the requisite opportunity to begin taking care of the people’s business in a timely fashion.
Our wise elders have warned us that if a man dies by stumbling over a stone, we do not run to his funeral. For the fear of also stumbling, we walk carefully to such funerals. Perhaps, it is because of this conventional wisdom that some people grumble that President-elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has made a dangerous gamble. They say this may cause him to stumble and eventually tumble into his political tomb.
Not long ago, a certain youthful president of our republic surrounded himself with equally youthful young men and women. He was accused of debasing the Presidency and running the state like a game of candy crush. His critics thought he should have hired experienced hands to handle the affairs of the state. Their beef was not so much about the ages of President Mahama’s appointees. Their main concern was the appointees’ notoriety as vicious attack dogs, which some of them mistook for popularity.
They were young men and women whose tongues were sharper than a coconut seller’s cutlass. Most of them were PhD holders in insults and vilification of perceived political enemies. Former President and Founder of the NDC, Jerry John Rawlings, referred to them as “babies with sharp teeth.” Some people believe they were the reason President Mahama lost the election. The attitudes of some people in the Flagstaff House lowered the dignity of the highest office of our republic. In an article titled, “Is the Chief of Staff a Leper?” which I published on this platform, I stated the reasons.
When Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo got the opportunity to be driven in the only vehicle with the Ghana Coat of Arms as its number plate, one of the main expectations was that he would restore dignity to the Presidency. But when he named the people who would be helping him in the Flagstaff House (which he intends to revert back to its original name, the Jubilee House), hell came crashing onto mother earth.
When 33-year old Samuel Abu Jinapor was named as a Deputy Chief of Staff, some people from the President’s party raised eyebrows. Then yesterday, the President-elect named the full list of his core staff at the Presidency. They included 39-year-old Francis Asenso-Boakye, also a deputy Chief of Staff; 33-year-old Eugene Arhin, the Director of Communications at the Presidency; and 30-year-old Clara Napaga Tia Sulemana, a Presidential Staffer.
With these names above, can we say Nana Akufo-Addo repeated Mahama’s mistake of surrounding himself with young, inexperienced and incompetent babies with sharp teeth? This question is difficult to answer with a yes or no unless the components of the question are treated separately.
Some of them are young. That is a fact. They may fit into the description of babies. They have, however, been mixed with old and middle-aged staffers. The director of State Protocol, Hassan Ahmed, is 62; while the Director of Research, Victor Newman; and the Chief of Staff, Akosu Frema Osei-Opare are both 69 years old. The Director of Operations at the Presidency, Lord Commey, is 48; and the Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo, Asante is 53; the same age as the Personal Assistant to the President, Saratu Atta.
Do the young people in this team have sharp teeth or tongues? No! Unlike a number of the young men who served in Mahama’s government, it is very difficult to point to any of the above youth as uncouth, insulting or a loose canon. They are disciplined young professionals. My elder brother often says, the alcoholic content in power is 80% so they must be careful it doesn’t get into their heads if they want to keep their sanity.
Are the young people in this team experienced and competent enough for their positions? In the Ghanaian context of experience, they are not experienced. In our society, we like to be introduced as “a journalist with 40 years of experience.” Nobody cares if in those 40 years, their neighbours did not know they were journalists. Motivational Speaker and author Caroline McHugh says not all people who tell you about their years of experience at something are actually experienced: “The people that say to you they have fifteen years’ experience when they mean one year fifteen times? They literally repeat themselves year after year…”
The work at the presidency is an administrative duty and not policy matters that requires technocrats. It doesn’t require rocket science to do that. Any young, loyal, dedicated, intelligent and well-mannered man or woman can do it very well, provided there are responsible adults to whip them into line when they go wayward.
It is too early for the NDC to start gloating and comparing Akufo-Addo’s “boys and girls” with those of President Mahama. The question they should ask is whether Akufo-Addo’s boys have sharp teeth like Mahama’s boys. They should ask whether Akufo-Addo’s “babies” will refer to Uhuru Kenyata as the President of Ghana in an anniversary brochure. Will Akufo-Addo’s Director of Communications attack journalists and destroy their gadgets without being punished? Will they pack journalists into a rusty tipper truck to cover a colourful ceremony at the Independence Square? Will Akufo-Addo’s boys and girls be as incompetent, arrogant and repulsive as some of Mahama’s young appointees? We cannot say Akufo-Addo has repeated Mahama’s blunder until we watch how his young appointees’ perform.
On account of how some young people conducted themselves in the past administration, it has become very difficult to appoint the youth into responsible positions in government. Nana Akufo-Addo has taken a huge, bold gamble. These young people must reciprocate this gesture by serving with humility and dignity. They should serve in a way that will bring honour to the President, the Presidency and to themselves. But they should be firm and adhere to what the Holy Bible teaches us in 1Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
They should not corrupt themselves. They should appreciate the enormity of the task ahead of the man they are helping to deliver on their party’s electoral promises. They should not turn themselves into “goro boys” and “goro girls” on the corridors of power. If they fail, they will fail Nana. They will fail their party. They will fail their nation. They will fail the young people who look up to them for hope and inspiration. But they will be the ultimate losers.
People like Nana Akufo-Addo will soon outlive their usefulness. There’s nothing much for them to aspire to. But those in their 30s have a lot ahead of them. They should know that they have been given these positions not because they were the loudest attacks dogs who were unleashed on political opponents. At the end of their tenure, we need to see maturity.
Fiifi Kwetey the MP and Minister of State in 2016 did not sound differently from Fiifi Kwetey the NDC propaganda secretary, but people like Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa matured considerably in their new roles.
I wish the young people who have been given and will be given the opportunity to serve in the government well. Yours is a referendum on the character of the youth. You have been given an opportunity to put Nana Akufo-Addo to shame or to make him proud. Those of us on the touchlines can only offer suggestions and advice. In your hands lies the ultimate choice.
To Nana Akufo-Addo, my advice remains the same:
God gives us our neighbours but we choose our friends. And it is we, not God, who will suffer the consequences of whatever choice we make. You have no say in who becomes a member of the NPP. But you have a say in who serves in your government.
You may make a mistake or two in your appointment but if they mess up, don’t hesitate to fire them. After your tenure of office, let it not be said that your appointees let you down. That will be a lame excuse because on the ballot paper we saw you, and not your appointees. You have the power to appoint and fire. May God grant you the wisdom and grace to excel in your government.
When the much-vilified old Man showed up again for the third time, his fate on the chopping board of the sharp-teethed babies and ill-bred adults was more predictable than the electoral results of Bantama or Ketu South. They said he was too old to contest. He contested.
The first time I heard about Jon Benjamin was in November 2014. I was in the United States participating in the International Visitors Leadership Programme on Investigative Journalism, but I was constantly monitoring developments back home. When I went online one morning, I was greeted with a needless storm of confusion on social media. There was an outrage against a certain British High Commissioner who had been in Ghana for only six months but would not mind his own business.
The Multimedia Group has a comprehensive election coverage project dubbed Election Headquarters. From the Election Day until the results are announced, almost all employees of the company play a role. All of the company’s resources are also put to active use, especially the telephone lines.
Last week, many of the NDC supporters who said their party was more united than the Holy Trinity are suddenly realising cracks and divisions that had been there for a long time. They are blaming the leadership of the party for not addressing them. The “blamestorming” has started, especially on social media.
A certain Jerry John Rawlings, we were told, had outlived his usefulness and had lost his impact. Today, they say you cannot sideline the founder of a party and succeed.
Those who defended everything their party did and said there was no reason to vote them out are suddenly saying they saw their defeat coming. All of a sudden they are realising that their “flawless” party and government had flaws, which they failed to address. They seem to know why they lost, but the NPP do not seem to remember why they won.
The NPP told us to vote for them because there was massive corruption, unemployment, mismanagement and a plethora of problems confronting us. They told us to give them the chance to change or fortunes. Now that they have won, they say they won because of their vigilance and their collation centre. They trumpet this as if Ghanaians had not voted massively for them, their vigilance would have made any difference.
They say many people in the Volta Region did not vote because John Peter Amewu and others stopped rigging and prevented foreigners from coming in to vote. But there is no evidence that any single person was stopped from crossing to vote. The people of the region simply did come out in their numbers to vote.
Apart from Ketu-South, there is no constituency in the Volta Region with a major border town that could be an entry point for any significant number of foreigners from Togo. The fact is that a number of people from the Volta Region were not happy with the performance of the NDC government. They could not afford to vote for the NPP because of certain utterances and attitudes by some members of the NPP that seemed to alienate them. But they also would not vote for the NDC.
In the Krachi West constituency, for instance, the gap between the NDC’s John Mahama and the NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo was blurred. President Mahama won 10,516 votes while Nana Akufo-Addo won 8,773. This is the hometown of the Volta Regional Minister, who also contested the seat. When I was growing up in Kete-Krachi, people were ashamed to associate with the NPP. In the Krachi East Constituency, the NPP snatched a seat from the NDC. These constituencies are not border towns.
In the coming days, we will expect the NDC to be rational. They will get real and realise that there are problems confronting Ghanaians that need to be solved. This is because politicians are often at their best when they are in opposition. But the NPP is likely to forget about what they preached yesterday.
My elder brother often says that the alcoholic content in power is 80%. That’s why we say politicians never learn. They learn but when strong wine enters the head, years of learning and decades of experience and wisdom evaporate.
It may be too early, but let’s remind the NPP why they are longer called an opposition party. Let’s pray and hope that the NPP will remain sober and remember why Ghanaians chose them: a party without money to buy votes, a party without projects to flash around, a party without limitless cash to buy out media space and a party without the control of state agencies. May the alcoholic content of power not cause them to forget why Ghanaians settled for one of the most vilified politicians in our recent history. May they not forget that we no longer have too a short memory to recall what we will be subjected to before December 7, 2020. At least, there is a certain Samira Bawumia who will be kind enough to remind us what to remember when we get hold of the ballot paper.
And we will not forget!
My last Opinion piece was written three months ago. Instead, I have been listening and watching the incumbent President and the 16 turned 6 “wannabees” wooing us Ghanaians, to renew or give them the mandate to govern in our name and on our behalf. This opportunity to assess our leaders comes so rarely, indeed only once every four years, that I decided not to allow my readership, the Discerning Ghanaians, to devote their fullest attention to the political messages that will shape their choice next Wednesday, December 07 2016.
I can’t believe that the long-awaited Election 2016 is less than a week away. And it’s interesting that there has been no shortage of memorable developments this election is generating, such as what one can term the ‘strange case of the missing ballot boxes’.
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) yesterday held a press conference and wildly accused President John Dramani Mahama and his brother, Ibrahim Mahama, of attempting to bribe the Northern Regional Chairman of the NPP, Daniel Bugri Naabu. Mustapha Hamid, who addressed the media, said the intention was to get Bugri Naabu to turn against the NPP’s flag bearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, portray him as a divisive ethnocentric bigot and destroy his chances of winning the 2016 elections.
THE BAWUMIA FACTOR IN THE 2016 ELECTIONS: WHY IT REPRESENTS A MORTAL THREAT TO THE NDC AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO TRANSFORM THE BASIS OF PARTY POLITICS IN GHANA.
Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia is the vice presidential candidate of the NPP in the upcoming December 7 elections. It is not in the nature of presidential contests for a party or campaign to aim a significant portion of its attacks and propaganda at the vice presidential candidate of its main rivals. Of course, being an integral part of a presidential ticket, a VP candidate is fair game in a hotly contested presidential election. The point here, though, is one of proportion. Why has the NPP’s Bawumia become such a thorn in the flesh of the NDC and a focal point of rival attack and attention in this year’s contest for the presidency?
I stand accused. I stand accused of hating the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama. I stand accused of hating the National Democratic Congress (NDC). And others accuse me of hating the government. This is because of the work I do. I’m an investigative journalist. And a writer.
Before writing this piece, we were hesitant. Not so much because we were afraid of being inaccurate, but because we didn’t want to hurt the sensibility of our friend, Kwabena Boadu who could best be described as a man of words.
Last weekend, President John Dramani Mahama stirred the dangerous beehive of ethnicity. And he got himself deadly verbal stings from across the country. Even people who have no right to open their mouths in this matter had their bite. It reminded me of Dr. Paa Bobo’s song, “Abaa saa.”
IN this election Ghana is at a crossroads. The current NDC government is throwing away the economic credibility of the nation, and President Mahama’s handling of the economy has raised serious questions that need answers.
Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all,” Craing Gang.
But that was not our wish when death unexpectedly laid its cold hands on Madam Eva Lokko, an accomplished woman of our land. Her sudden demise came as a huge surprise to many because no one heard about her ailment.
The Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) under President John Evans Atta-Mills, fraudulently paid a financier of the party GHc 51.2 million cedis between 2010 and 2011. A Supreme Court Judge, Justice Jones Dotse said it appeared those who facilitated the payment“entered into an alliance to create, loot and share the resources of this country as if a brigade had been set up for such an enterprise”.
The initial title of this article was, “Any idiot can borrow money and build projects.” I had to change it because those who might not read beyond the headline would, as usual, accuse me of insulting the President. But that is the essence of this article.
How did this just happen? Unusual, unexpected, strange, weird, unprecedented and now bizarre are but few of the words used by mainstream media to describe a bitter election that has produced Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States of America .
It is exactly one month to the crucial Presidential and Parliamentary elections, but everything is in a limbo. Instead of the count-down, we are now counting the number of court suits against the Electoral Commission.
Three months ago, I was told by a scientist of the University of Cape Coast that Ghana’s main water bodies will almost all have been destroyed in the next five years, if things go on the way they are going.
President John Mahama hardly delivers great speeches. It is one sad characteristic of our presidents in recent times. Mr. John Mahama is a good writer, but considering the heavy burden he bears, he cannot have time to write all his speeches himself.