Thursday, 22 January 2009

WILL THE MANY PERKS OF OFFICE & GENEROUS RETIREMENT BENEFITS OF GHANA’S RULING ELITES DESTROY GHANAIAN DEMOCRACY – AND LEAD TO A POPULAR REVOLUTION?

The astonishing details of the retirement packages put together to ensure that a number of recently-retired high-ranking public officials, including members of the last parliament and our former president, Mr. Kufuor, continue to live “dignified” lives, seems to have taken many ordinary Ghanaians by surprise.

Not a few of such Ghanaians have been irked by the idea that in addition to funding a regular pension (equivalent to the monthly salary and allowances he enjoyed as president), they are also expected to foot the bill for the construction of two posh houses for the former president.

On top of all that Ghana’s hard-pressed taxpayers are also expected to pay for the domestic staff to man those two posh houses for Mr. Kufuor; pay for six chauffeur-driven luxury cars every four years, and also provide him with US$1 million as seed money to set up a foundation – to ease the withdrawal pangs of his removal from the limelight and to enable him keep up with the Joneses amongst the world’s ex-heads of state (who have foundations doing good around the globe, such as former US President Jimmy Carter).

Naturally, being the archetypal believer in inherited privilege (which is the greatest enemy of a meritocracy, incidentally), and a master of the arcane arts and science of nepotism, he expects to be allowed to leave all that state-funded largesse to his next of kin, when he passes away – so that they too can continue to live in the style to which they have all become accustomed. Incredible!

For those of us with long memories, it makes the disappointment we felt in 2001, when we learnt of the astronomical cost of renovating Australia House (on which millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money was lavished), pale into insignificance. Readers will recall that it had been earmarked as the retirement home of the hero of 4th June 1979, Flt. Lt. Rawlings – so that he too, presumably, could continue to live a “dignified” life as a former president of Ghana.

In the event, as we all know, the new Kufuor administration that took over power from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime led by Flt. Lt. Rawlings in 2001, did not oblige – and the former president had to move into the government property in Ridge, which had housed his family whiles he was serving as Ghana’s president (and lived alone in the equivalent of a bachelor’s pad at the seat of government, the Osu Castle).

That relatively modest government property at Ridge is where he and his family have lived; thus far, ever since he left office in 2001 – and clearly, neither has it affected his “dignified” status as a former president of Ghana, nor cramped his style, in the slightest. There is also a similar adjacent house allocated to him that serves as his office – and clearly both simple colonial-era buildings have been adequate for him.

Not having a million-dollar state-funded charitable foundation has not killed Flt. Lt. Rawlings yet, from the pangs of leaving the limelight in 2001 – so Mr. Kufuor and all our future former presidents will either have to look for their own million-dollar seed money to set up foundations, or follow Ft. Lt. Rawlings’ example and do without one. Period.

Whiles in power, Mr. Kufuor and those in his inner circle famously were wont to accuse those who criticized the spendthrift nature of some members of his regime, as being envious individuals – and true to form, they and their elitist supporters will doubtless accuse those now expressing their outrage at his retirement package, as envious and lazy individuals, in private.

I heard about details of those astonishing retirement packages that the previous parliament had approved on a car radio tuned to Radio Gold FM’s popular “Alhaji and Alhaji” Saturday morning current affairs programme broadcast on 17th January, 2009.

The vehicle I was in, was temporarily parked on the hard-shoulder of the Ring Road Central, directly opposite the railway guard’s little hut just before the railway crossing – a most insalubrious part of our nation’s capital that most of those who zip past in their air-conditioned cars hardly ever take notice of.

We were parked right beside a most appalling example of the filth that our nation was slowly being engulfed by (and precious little was done about) throughout Mr. Kufuor’s tenure – a large open drain that runs parallel to part of the Neoplan Station: where a dear blood-relation’s ever-faithful driver, Walter, had gone to collect a parcel she had sent from Kumasi.

That ghastly receptacle of filth and the unsanitary conditions prevailing in the area generally, illustrate perfectly, the abject failure of our post-Nkrumah leaders to improve the quality of life of ordinary people, over the years. Only God and the zillion blue-bottle flies that it attracts know what horrendous germs that most unhygienic of open drains harbours.

I sat stunned watching the scene unfolding before my eyes across the drain with much sadness: as bucketful after bucketful of dirty water was emptied into the plastic bag-filled drain, by one “chop-bar” attendant after the other – and imagined how very quickly those who ate in the establishments they worked for would quickly succumb to a cholera outbreak if ever there was one.

It is a world away from the air-conditioned and sanitized surroundings of our ruling elite, whose state-funded “bubble-of-comfort” makes them occupy themselves with the most incredible inanities, sometimes – whiles the struggling masses who elect them into office suffer indignities on a daily basis: as a direct result of the incompetence of many of their political leaders.

Yet, it is those selfsame suffering masses whose taxes mostly pay for the creature comforts of profligate officialdom in Ghana – as the bulk of our wealthy urban elite are very good at hiding their wealth and dodging taxes due on their assets.

There are many Ghanaians who say that in their view the overly-generous retirement benefits provided for former public office-holders of a heavily-indebted and cash-strapped developing nation, in which most families can barely afford even one decent meal a day, is an outrage.

For such people that obscenity amounts to a conspiracy by some members of our political class to commit a crime against humanity by sanctioning the paying out of such huge sums to those retiring public officials – and definitely ought not to be accepted by the new regime of President Mills: if the ethos that underpins it is the principle that Ghana’s leaders ought to set a good example in society by not making too many demands on the public purse in terms of their perks: and lead modest lives as well as do all they can to save our nation money at all times whiles in office.

It is amazing that members of the previous parliament chose to meet behind closed doors and authorized generous benefits for themselves, including all the three departing parliamentary speakers, as well as the former president and members of his departing regime, too.

The question most ordinary people would like answered, is: rather than constantly scheming to feather their own collective-nest, why do our leaders not simply concentrate on working hard to make our nation truly prosperous – and ensure that all Ghanaian workers too can retire on their meagre salaries (just as many of their nation’s leaders do on their stupendous salaries)?

Why can’t our leaders be creative-minds who can make our nation sufficiently prosperous so as to ensure that during their tenure, for example, all Ghanaian workers who cannot afford to own their own homes can have access to good quality housing at affordable rental rates, no matter which part of our nation they work and live in – and free themselves from Shylock landlords who, to add insult to injury, don’t even declare their rental incomes?

Instead of saddling future generations of Ghanaians with debt by borrowing zillions and frittering away our future oil and natural gas wealth mollycoddling our ruling elite, could we not rather choose to leverage the goodwill Nkrumah generated for us with China and go ahead to establish a special relationship with them for our mutual benefit?

Could we not propose to them, for example, that in exchange for Ghanaian sovereign bonds, our two nations could have joint-ventures between Ghana’s state-owned as well as privately-owned companies and the best-resourced and most ethically-run Chinese state-owned companies to execute various projects in our country?

At a time of a severe global recession, could we not have an economic stimulus plan in which funds (say some US$20 billions!) from China are exchanged for Ghana’s sovereign bonds, to pay for projects such as the building of oil refineries; liquefied gas plants; cocoa processing plants; the growing and milling of rice on a large-scale; funding rural cooperatives to farm say African catfish for local consumption and to export same to South East Asia (and thus help parts of rural Ghana to prosper too)?

Could we also not take advantage of the favourable conditions along our coastline to add renewable energy plants to our nation’s energy-mix, by building tidal-energy plants and wind-power farms?

Is it not possible to take advantage of the hydro-power plant invented by Colonel Kofi Abaka Jackson (who has given that invention to Ghana as a gift), and which harnesses the flow of rivers to produce electricity?

Would such hydro-power plants not make it possible to dispense with building expensive hydro-dams that unfortunately will be unable to produce power when water levels in our dams drop too low – which they invariably will at a time of global climate change: as prolonged dry periods become the norm?

Could we also not fund key infrastructural projects such as building more gas-fired power plants that together with our renewable energy plants will make us a major exporter of power in West Africa – as well as build water desalination plants; bridges; modernize and increase our healthcare facilities nationwide; expand our rail network countrywide; ditto our motorway network?

If we widened the footprint of our fibre-optic network – and made broadband internet access widespread and affordable, as a deliberate policy to create an ICT industry for the younger generation, could we not end up creating yet another growth-pole for our economy: as thousands of those young people set up online businesses?

Has China not made it abundantly clear that it is still willing to provide loans to African nations – despite the credit crunch currently stymieing growth globally as the world tips inexorably into a severe recession?

Could such a partnership between our two nations to fund a multitude of projects here to the tune of some US$20 billions (backed by the sovereign bonds of an African nation with abundant oil and natural gas reserves) not easily be factored into the economic stimulus plans of both Ghana and China – and would it not create jobs and improve the quality of life of all Ghanaians?

If our leaders were creative thinkers would it not be the case, for example, that rather than desperately seeking money that isn’t available in the national treasury today to increase salaries nationwide, our leaders would seek to achieve the same end, by simply abolishing personal income tax in Ghana – and make even less money available for the various respectable-looking white-collar criminals in the system: who siphon huge sums from government coffers?

Would companies in this country not be able to pay their workers well if they were privileged to be located in a nation whose leaders were wise enough to allow companies to pay the world’s lowest corporate tax rates – because the government had been wise enough to set corporate tax at just 9 per cent?

It is sad and instructive that rather than use their energies to think creatively, members of the previous rubber-stamp parliament more or less secretly sat behind closed doors and bent the rules – to allow that outrageous retirement package for so many retiring public office holders including a former president who, if truth be told, was a tribal-supremacist par excellence: who promoted tribalism and divided our nation as no other Ghanaian leader has done before, since we gained our independence.

That some of its parliamentarians now seek to justify that outrage, speaks volumes about the nature of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime that Ghanaians just voted out of office. That party must never be allowed to return to power again, if the elitist mindset and divisive tribal-supremacist worldview of those who dominate it, doesn’t change whiles they are in the political wilderness.

Clearly, it is essential that Ghanaian voters always ponder what motivates their politicians. The question discerning voters (the so-called ”floating voters”), as opposed to the “My-party-my-tribe-right-or-wrong” myrmidon-types, who wear blinkers permanently and are too blind to see what goes on in our country and too thick to think for themselves, need to ask themselves at election time is: precisely what ends do those who pursue power in Ghana seek it for?

Is it to enable them acquire material wealth for themselves, their family clans and their cronies, at the expense of the well-being of our nation and its people – or do they seek power because they have a passionate desire to help create a society in which all Ghanaians, no matter their social status, lead lives of dignity?

Well, if our politicians were wise, rather than seek power to further their personal wealth-creation agendas, they would seek power to promote the common good and improve the quality of life of all the people of Ghana – both the well-off and those who struggle daily to make ends meet: so that ours becomes an equitable society, not one in which huge disparities in wealth exists to threaten the stability of our country.

Let all the members of Ghana’s ruling elite make the creation in our country, of Africa’s equivalent of the egalitarian societies of Scandinavia, the goal for which they seek political power – and devote the years of their tenure in office to the attainment of that end.

No one in this country would begrudge public officers their cushy sinecures and overly-generous retirement packages, if it was clear to all Ghanaians (at the end of the tenure of office of such public officials) that they had worked assiduously to improve the quality of life of all Ghanaians whiles they were in office.

However, were the present “Baboon-dey-work-monkey-dey-chop” ethos to continue underpinning the politics of our country (and ordinary people’s quality of life continues plummeting in inverse proportion to the dizzying heights to which the net worth of our ruling elite reach whiles in – and out – of office), Ghana’s political class must not be surprised if ordinary people, thoroughly fed up with incompetent and greedy leadership, spontaneously rose up against them one day – and the unfortunate events of 4th June, 1979 were repeated again. A word to the wise…

May God bless and protect our homeland Ghana, always. Long live freedom! Long live Ghana!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

TO THE CEO OF VODAFONE GHANA TELECOM: STOP THE GT BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS RIP-OFF NOW!

Sir, since I have come to the end of my tether, I will leave out the niceties – and go straight to the point. When your company, Vodafone, took over Ghana Telecom (GT), we were told (by the masters of the universe then in charge of Ghana) that it would lead to an improvement in the company’s performance and benefit its customers.

Unfortunately, speaking as one of your ”Broadband4U” customers living at McCarthy Hill (who were served by the now-defunct Alvarion wireless system), I can confirm from personal experience that far from bringing me any benefits, the change in the ownership structure of GT, has been nothing short of disastrous.

Why should any customer of yours say such a negative thing, you might wonder? Well, sometime towards the end of last year, I was telephoned by one of your technicians, a Mr. Agbeko Mensah (who led the two-man team that originally installed my now-defunct Alvarion broadband wireless set-up when I signed up for the “Broadband4U” service), to inform me that someone would be bringing me a new phone the following day.

In the event a lady and a gentleman called with a “Telular” brand smartfone. Apart from a vague statement that at some point in the future someone from GT would bring me a new antennae to replace the old Alvarion one (as part of an upgrade of the system), nothing whatsoever was said about the fact that the Alvarion wireless broadband system was actually about to be shut down, by that gentleman and the lady who brought me the smartfone.

It is amazing to now discover (the implications of GT’s continuing deafening silence on the subject having finally sunk in), that incredibly, at the time of the shutdown of the Alvarion system, Vodafone had actually not made any real alternative arrangements to ensure that those affected by the closure would continue having the same quality of broadband internet access. I am still reeling from the disastrous financial consequences of the sudden shutdown of that system.

After endless telephone calls that got me absolutely nowhere (as I struggled in vain to get some sense out of the many inscrutable “bright-sparks” who work for your customer call-centres on your 100, 101 and 110 telephone help-lines), I finally went to your Dansoman “Care-for-you centre” – where, to cut a long story short, I was given a USB device and port cable: and informed that Vodafone GT was giving all its Alvarion customers free GHC60 worth of browsing time for the inconvenience caused us.

Needless to say, I was none the wiser as to exactly when the replacement for the old Alvarion system would be coming on stream, even after that visit. Alas, although the manager there was a brilliant diplomat (and was as good at his job as any of his counterparts in your UK operation), sadly, it appears that in systemic terms nothing much seems to have changed in that area of GT’s company culture too!

Sir, at a time when the world faces a recession, my survival in this worldwide economic crisis is predicated upon benefiting from outsourcing opportunities created as a result of small regional newspapers in the Anglo-Saxon world changing their business models so as to stay in business during a severe economic downturn.

An example of this trend is the Californian newspaper “Pasadena Now” - which in order to continue staying in business has had to discontinue its print edition and become an online news outlet exclusively.

It sacked its entire staff of journalists (paid on average about US$800 per week) and outsourced their work to an Indian outsourcing firm in Bangalore - which charges them around seven dollars fifty cents per thousand words to write for the paper’s online edition: guided by the US-based editorial team. As advertising revenue dries up in the period of a severe recession, many such newspapers will have to adopt the same exclusive online business model or perish.

Having a reliable broadband ISP will be a key factor for the success of English-speaking writers’ worldwide, setting up online cooperatives with their fellow writers, with a view to leveraging this burgeoning new outsourcing industry, to service such exclusive internet news outlets in the Anglo Saxon world. Surely, that represents a potential new market opportunity for GT too, does it not, Sir?

That is why I am so outraged that your company (which in the view of many ordinary Ghanaians took over a prime national asset built with the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary Ghanaian workers for a song) has fobbed me off with a virtually useless dial-up system to access the internet – branded “Vodafone Connect” – without anyone from GT giving me any advance warning of this disaster whatsoever.

That lousy product does anything but actually connect one to the internet in a manner comparable to the GT Alvarion wireless “Broadband4U” internet access service I used to have – and on the few occasions when one succeeds in getting online for a few minutes, one is suddenly disconnected: and the whole confounded rigmarole has to be repeated all over again.

This effectively has meant that one has literally spent entire days when one has ended up only being able to write just a few paragraphs. What financially-challenged Ghanaian writer with any ambition can possibly set up an online outsourcing service and succeed – if he or she is hampered by ICT rubbish such as “Vodafone Connect” serving as the backbone of their online activities, I ask?

The question an ICT ignoramus like me, whose survival more or less depends on having a reliable broadband ISP, would like answered, is: are we to conclude (if the bush telegraph is to be believed, i.e.) that Vodafone more or less deliberately designed the disastrous “Vodafone Connect” so that its customers would have to try to access the internet many times over each time they attempted to go online – and perhaps be charged by stealth on every occasion that that happens?

As we speak, I have been disconnected – since 7th January, 2009: when I received an SMS from GT (whiles enduring yet another bout of frantic attempts to continue working online in the face of constantly going offline every few minutes). It coolly informed me that I did not have sufficient credit to access the internet.

How can that be: when all I have done since getting the confounded thing has been to spend virtually all my browsing time trying to be reconnected to the web each time I am suddenly disconnected whiles trying to work online?

The claim that I have run out of credit is simply scandalous – as I do know for a fact that I had credit of precisely GHc69 in my suspended “Broadband4U” account at the time it was shut down (broadband4U account number: 207888 – with telephone number 021 276238: that was later inexplicably changed to 021 976238 when that smartfone was brought to me, for some extraordinary reason).

Why, is one to assume that “Vodafone Connect” is dangerous to one’s financial well-being – and far more expensive than your “Broadband4U”service, which by all standards (and speaking as someone who has had personal experience of both products) is definitely a superior product that also costs a relatively modest GHc60 for a whole month’s worth of browsing time?

If you care to check your records you will find that I always made sure that I had sufficient credit (for an extra month’s browsing) in that particular pre-paid account. I am incensed at the cavalier way your company has handled the issue of replacing its wireless Alvarion broadband internet service – and the insensitive manner customers such as myself have been treated thus far.

How can someone who signed up for a “Broadband4U” service suddenly end up being fobbed off with a lousy dial-up service – that apparently costs about a zillion times more than the better broadband product it replaced (which is probably why my complimentary GHc60 credit has suddenly been gobbled up by only a few hours worth of browsing time)?

Sir, may I point it out to you that what is even more unacceptable about all this is that to add insult to injury, to date, no one from GT, has so far spelt out to me just what exactly are the rates for this travesty (which is supposed to pass for a major Western multinational’s customer-friendly broadband internet service in a developing country), although the rates for the “Broadband4U” are clearly spelt out in your sales literature?

Do you think that any of your customers in the UK and the EU (in parts of both of which telecoms companies even offer free broadband internet access to attract customers to their fixed-line telephone services) would tolerate such a situation if they had to pay as much as US$60 per month to get broadband internet access – which is what I was effectively paying GT for my Alvarion broadband internet access?

Would many of your EU and UK competitors, such as BT and Virgin, not move heaven and earth to have access to a market in which they could charge broadband customers as much as US$60 per month – as a stand-alone product?

Furthermore, if it was the case that I happened to be a Vodafone wireless broadband internet customer living in the Outer Hebrides, for example, would you have dared to treat me so shabbily in the process of migrating from a wireless broadband service to presumably some new and better replacement broadband product?

So why should one not believe the cynics – who say that your company is simply engaging in what amounts to a monstrous rip-off in a poor developing nation? Sir, are you not aware of the fact that the general sentiment amongst most discerning and honest folk in this country is that your company succeeded in buying a very valuable national asset of our country for a song?

Well, the fact of the matter is that many such Ghanaians also agree with the cynics amongst us: who express their ire at your presence here by pointing out the fact that the crooks amongst our previous rulers (who sold you your stake in GT) even got parliament to pass a law indemnifying all those who cooked up what they describe as a “shabby deal” from any future criminal prosecution – arising out of all issues to do with what in their view was an opaque and most egregious privatization transaction.

In the light of all of the above, one would have thought that having secured such a bargain (and legal indemnities to boot), Vodafone would be satisfied. Yet, alas, to top all that, it would appear that your company also has the barefaced cheek to also try and rip off silly old fools like the Kofi Thompsons of this world: a writer who needs an efficient broadband internet service provider to survive this global recession – and who, as it happens, was also amongst those who opposed that one-sided deal, for patriotic reasons.

Well, surprising though it might be to Vodafone, in this particular instance it has unfortunately picked on the wrong fool in Ghana to try and rip off – for, even though I am an insignificant individual, I have no intention of letting your company get away with this outrage.

I demand that Vodafone lets the entirety of its now-defunct Alvarion wireless “Broadband4U” internet customers know precisely when it will replace that product with a more modern and reliable broadband internet service – that hopefully will be even better than the old Alvarion wireless system was.

Finally, I also demand that to assuage my feelings and compensate me sufficiently for the tremendous harm done me in disrupting my online activities, Vodafone lets me browse free of charge for the rest of the year (or until you sort out this confounded wireless broadband mess that has effectively left your company’s old Alvarion wireless broadband customers high and dry).

After all, GT did allow some of the previous regime’s “guard-dogs” in the media (those shameless New Patriotic Party (NPP) media praise-singers whose consciences were bought by our secret services) to have free broadband internet access during the tenure of the previous NPP regime, did it not?

In the meantime, whiles your company organizes that compensation for me, I insist that GT immediately transfers the GHc69 in my suspended “Broadband4U” account number 207888 to pay for this lousy Vodafone Connect service – so that I can continue the torturous business of trying to get and stay online.

One certainly hopes that Vodafone will not be as arrogant as to elect to ignore this missive, just as your impervious company has ignored innumerable complaints of mine made to your various telephone help-lines – ever since the Alvarion system was shut down.

I am absolutely sure that the feelings of outrage expressed by me here, are sentiments shared by virtually every single Vodafone GT “Broadband4U” customer who used to be served by the old Alvarion wireless system: and now no longer have reliable access to the internet – because your company has deemed it fit to lumber them with “Vodafone Connect”: a virtually useless dial-up service.

Sir, whatever you do, please make sure that your employees resolve this matter promptly. A word to the wise…

May God bless and protect our homeland Ghana, always. Long live freedom1 Long live Ghana!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Re: “Outgoing minister suggests aeroplane for parliament”

Massa let them simply use aircraft from the presidential fleet - as they are all the property of the Ghanaian nation-state.

Let us also maintain the independence of the legislature and the judiciary by allocating money from the consolidated fund for both institutions. Ditto the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

It simply doesn't make sense to allow members of parliament to serve in the executive, if we take the oversight responsibilities of parliament in the concept of separation of powers seriously.

If we want to fight corruption effectively, let us pay our ministers and parliamentarians well and provide them with all the facilities they need to do their work efficiently - or else they will be beholden to wealthy crooks both within and from outside our nation: particularly the international drug cartels from South America that are now targeting West Africa.

Brilliant idea to elect district chief executives and all district assembly members - as that will make district assemblies more responsive to the needs of grassroots people: and lead to a constant improvement in their quality of life, whichever political party is in power at that level, at any given point in time.
It will also diffuse power in our country and give all the political parties a feeling that they too have a stake in the running of our nation - because some of their own party members will be elected as DCE's and district assembly members. Surely, that is something that can only help improve the stability of our country - and deepen our democratic roots yet further?

Above all, it will create a large pool of brilliant young politicians with years of executive experience under their collective-belt. That can only be good for our nation's long-term democratic future as we strive to build a meritocracy here. It is also a good idea to place a limit on the number of Supreme Court judges - to avoid cynical regimes packing the court for political expediency.

On the subject of changing the length of the tenure of our presidents, although that subject was mentioned by someone else, since it was said in parliament I shall comment on the pure nonsense on bamboo stilts idea that we increase them from four to five years.
That effectively will mean that a sweet-tongued administration that is an expert in the kind of smoke-and-mirrors economics that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime was so good at, lasting for a solid ten years – which in effect would amount to ten wasted years.
Can you imagine, dear reader, what would have happened to our nation in the end, if the NPP had had another two years to carry on with their disastrous smoke-and-mirrors economic policies before the end of President Kufuor's tenure?

They would probably have ended up selling the whole of our country’s landmass and all the assets within it, to foreign carpetbaggers - and topped that by selling the Ghanaian people too into slavery (earning themselves huge kickbacks in the process).

Can you imagine what another two years of having to put up with endless Kokofu-football politricks that made some tribal-supremacist Chiefs think that they were the masters of the universe (who were more important than all the other tribal Chiefs in Ghana), would have done to the sense of equanimity of Ghanaian patriots and ultra-nationalists? It simply doesn’t bear thinking, Massa!

As for limiting the term of office of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) and his leading officials, why do so – when that will make them probably fear for their individual futures? As the Americans say:”If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
Surely, limiting their tenure is bound to make some of them insecure and amenable to the blandishments of the corrupt progeny of our pre-colonial feudal ruling elites, seeking to stay in power regardless of the existence of an overwhelming national mood for regime-change at election time? Going forward into the future, just where will that land Ghanaian democracy – now hailed worldwide as an example to the rest of Africa?

What will happen, for example, if they came under the sway of the Atta Akyeas of this world (the beneficiaries of inherited privilege from our feudal slave-owning past), whose philosophy of life is underpinned by the paternalistic (to be charitable!) ethos that says: ”Mediye mema okomu endi obiaraa obenime” - a Twi phrase (meaning: "As for me, I never allow those close to me, to ever go ‘hungry’!”) a euphemism that is pregnant with meaning in a corrupt society full of moral cowards and barefaced liars such as the Maxwell Kofi Jumahs of this world?

Let us stick to the present arrangements as far as the EC goes – for, they have served us incredibly well thus far, over the years. What we should rather do as far as elections go, is to rather change the present arrangement which makes the candidate who obtains 50 per cent plus one of the votes in the presidential election the winner.

Is it not far better to replace it with the more sensible one of the winner of the presidential election in a majority of the ten regions of our nation, becoming Ghana’s president – in a nation of many tribes that needs to stay united in order to stay stable and prosper?

Such an arrangement will serve as a major disincentive for any Ghanaian leader to try and divide our nation along tribal lines in order to gain electoral advantage for his party – which is why there was such nationwide resentment at the blatant favouritism of his tribal Chiefs shown by the former president Mr. Kufour and the few tribal-supremacist politicians who were in his inner circle and who unfortunately succeeded in dominating the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime throughout its tenure.

If truth be told, it is as a result of the endless Kokofu-football politricks of those few tribal-supremacist politicians who dominated the previous regime that our nation is so divided today, as never before, in all its post-independence history.
Consequently, let us take positive steps to ensure that no regime with such a retrograde agenda is ever elected into office again – and end up destroying our nation by dividing a united nation of diverse ethnicity along tribal lines.
Surely, electing to make the winner of the presidential election in a majority of the ten regions of our country will stop tribal-supremacist politicians who trick their way to power (by successfully hiding their tribal-supremacist agenda), from trying to tear our country apart in future like Mr. Kufuor did, will it not, dear reader?

May God bless and protect our homeland Ghana, always. Long live freedom! Long live Ghana!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Re: “The ‘silent’ aspects of our 1992 constitution”

Opanin, I could not help smiling when I read your article. Have you not noticed the political sophistication of the ordinary Ghanaian yet? Although they are a peaceful people, Ghanaians have simply vowed never to tolerate tyranny and tyrants any longer.

Why do you think the NPP was voted out of office? It was because the independent-minded and patriotic Ghanaians (the so-called floating-voter types!), as opposed to the “My-party-my-tribe-right-or-wrong” myrmidon-types, who wear blinkers permanently and are too thick to think for themselves and too blind to see what is wrong with our society, had become fed up with the impunity of a ruling party that was constantly trumpeting its belief in the rule of law but in practice showed clearly that it did not believe in the concept.

Massa, there is no way any individual in the Ghana of today, can act in ways that are contrary to our constitution - and get away with it for any length of time, without being turfed out of power by ordinary people in an election. So please stop worrying yourself that former president Rawlings will usurp power under a Mills presidency – for, his party will not last beyond one term in office were that to happen.

May I also humbly point it out to you that you must never forget that the position of president of Ghana is a pretty powerful one, under our constitution - and that consequently there is no question of Professor Mills playing second fiddle to anyone in this country during his tenure? Just you mark my words – you will soon see him rapidly eclipsing all the members of his party (including even the charismatic former president you worry your head so unnecessarily about!) because of the enormous power he wields.

In any case, those of us in the media who turned against the NPP regime when we realised that it had been hijacked by a few powerful and greedy tribal-supremacist rogues, will be as critical of the new NDC regime as we were of the NPP too, if they give us cause to do so. Our consciences are not for sale at any price – no matter how financially challenged we might temporarily be at any given point in time!

Just as some of us refused to sell our consciences and join the NPP media gravy-train, so will we continue to maintain our independence too throughout the Mills presidency – and criticise the NDC whenever there is the need to do so in the national interest: and to ensure that it stays on the straight and narrow path always.

Perhaps it might interest you to note that some of us, have, for example, already asked some of the leading members of the NDC to ask Professor Mills to publicly declare the net worth of both himself and his dear wife. Ditto the vice president-elect and his spouse too. We also expect the NDC to quickly pass a new law that will require all ministers and DCE to do same too - so that their regime will set new standards of morality in our public life.

Sadly, President Kufuor and his party failed to seize a historic opportunity to set new standards of morality in our public life, when providence gave them the chance. It is instructive that President Kufuor failed to keep a solemn promise he made to Ghanaians that he would publicly publish his assets – at around the time of his swearing-in ceremony in January 2001.

Coming events, it is said, cast their shadows. If the NDC fails to take this straight and narrow path towards ensuring that we get an honest new administration (after that largely dissimulating and mostly-corrupt NPP administration), Ghanaians, can, as sure as day follows night, expect to see their nation ending up being robbed on an unimaginable scale yet again – by another bunch of forked-tongued and amoral politicians. Let us hope that it will not come to that.

Massa, Ghanaian democracy as we know it, will simply not survive were that to happen. Hopefully, the in-coming NDC regime will send out the right signal to our nation, about its determination to deal effectively with corruption in high places, by moving quickly to get the new parliament to pass a law that requires all ministers and district chief executives (DCE), as well as their spouses, to publicly publish their net worth – before and after their tenure of office.

What Ghana needs after the disastrous and elitist NPP regime’s misrule, is a new regime that has the same sort of high standards of accountability in public life amongst those who devote their lives to public service, as the men and women, who serve in the corruption-free governments of our sister African nation, Botswana.

If we want our nation to effectively utilize its oil and natural gas revenues to enable us create a meritocracy and also turn our nation into an African equivalent of the egalitarian societies of Scandinavia, those of us who are independent-minded patriots must simply try and persuade our new leaders to demonstrate their intention to run a corruption-free government, by publicly publishing their net worth.

We call on Professor Mills to set an example in this regard immediately upon assuming office. Ditto all the men and women he appoints to serve in his administration. We hope the NDC does not disappoint us in this matter – and that they will aspire to go down in history as a group of honest and patriotic politicians: who set an example for all the future administrations that followed their regime to follow. A word to the wise…

May God bless and protect our homeland Ghana, always. Long live freedom! Long live Ghana!

Re: "Reducing poverty through tourism"

Massa, I read your brilliant article, with considerable interest. Over the years, many concerned people in Ghana (including even simple and uneducated folk like me), have written countless articles about the potential of community-based eco-tourism – which have all fallen on deaf ears in officialdom, unfortunately.

Let us hope that President-elect Mills’ new National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime will take note of yours.

There are many innovative and hard-working tour companies in Ghana doing great work to help boost that vital industry. One such leading eco-tour company, is M&J Travel and Tours Limited, which through its Akwantupa Travel Foundation, has worked closely over the years, with conservation organisations using community-based eco-tourism as a tool for conservation.

Amongst the conservation organisations that M&J Travel and Tours has been working with to promote eco-tourism in Ghana are: A Rocha Ghana; the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS); the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC); the Dutch development organisation SNV and the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana.

So dedicated is this highly-innovative and leading green Ghanaian company to the development of the tourism industry that it has been sponsoring some of those conservation organisations to attend tourism fairs in Europe, since 2004.

Due to the fact that you appear to be so enthusiastic about the industry in your article, I will recount a cautionary tale that also happens to be a rather interesting personal experience of mine, which might be of interest to you: and could perhaps help guide you going forward into the future.

Sadly, at a certain point in time in the past, whiles a simple and harmless soul like me was busy collaborating with that dynamic Ghanaian eco-tour company, M&J Travel and Tours and its UK associate, Hands Up Holidays, to bring the noted UK journalist Ian Burrel of The Independent on Sunday to Ghana during the 2008 CAF football tournament, some of my own fellow journalists took it upon themselves to go on the usual “pull-him-down-syndrome” frenzy of negativity that some Ghanaians so love to engage in.

Incredibly, although I was a complete stranger to them, they slandered me by trying to make out to people in the UK that I was some kind of a conman – who ought to be ignored by all involved in that noble enterprise.

Yet, I, whose love for country cannot be questioned, was only doing it for altruistic reasons (to do with my sense of patriotism) without expecting any financial reward - and in the end that brilliant UK writer came and eventually wrote a lovely travelogue about our beautiful nation, which appeared on page 68 of the 10th February, 2008 edition of The Independent on Sunday.!

In my humble view, if the new Mills administration were to appoint the dynamic John Mason, the Nature Conservation and Research Centre's executive director, as the new deputy minister for tourism, it will make a huge difference to the growth of the industry - which really ought to be made a tax-free sector of our economy to enable all the businesses that work in that vital industry eventually thrive.

Perhaps if you look up the October 2007 edition of the online newsletter of Sustainable Travel International (STI) you will find an example of one of my articles about community-based eco-tourism’s potential to alleviate rural poverty and create real wealth for people living at the grassroots level in it, which might be of interest to your good self!

I also have countless emails of correspondence between myself and a close relation of the cultured and well-spoken lady who served as the last tourism minister in the NPP regime, which provided them with creative solutions that could help green the industry to benefit the players in the industry in particular and corporate Ghana generally, if they adopted them.

However, as is usual with such things to do with our largely unimaginative political class, the minister wasn’t able to find time from her rather busy schedule to email even a thank- you note to the insignificant and silly old fool, Kofi Thompson, who clearly had nothing better to do than want to see some progress in the tourism sector that wasn’t going to benefit some of Ghana’s clever politicians personally!

Some of my most discouraging experiences with the various eco-tourism projects I have been personally involved in occurred in the Byzantine world of tourism in the Hohoe District Assembly – where the dissimulating district officials I came across must definitely occupy the leading position amongst the world’s public officials who speak with forked-tongues. I have seldom come across such deviousness in all my life!

Some of the leading public officials concerned with tourism in that district gave one the distinct impression that they acted solely with self-interest at the fore of their minds – and had no time for principled and altruistic fools who laboured under the illusion that public service was about pursuing the public good: instead of actively feathering one’s own nest whiles in office.

My prayer is that going forward into the future, the players in the tourism industry in the Hohoe district, will no longer be saddled with such self-seekers (whose every move had conflict of interest clearly plastered all over it) again – as the new Mills administration takes over the running of our beautiful and fascinating country.

May God bless and protect our homeland Ghana, always. Long live freedom! Long live Ghana!

OPEN LETTER TO THE US MISSION TO THE UN

Many thanks for your email. One hopes that the US will follow the example of Sweden and The Netherlands – and cut off aid to Rwanda to pressurize the regime there to stop assisting the DR Congo’s Tutsi rebels.

As a matter of fact, there are many Africans who believe that if the developed nations providing aid to African governments were to stop providing such financial assistance, it would help bring better leadership to Africa. Much of that aid simply finds its way into the offshore bank accounts of Africa’s ruling elites.

I will give you an example of how much more effective it would be if nations like yours were to provide aid presently given to governments in Africa, to NGO ‘s and other humanitarian organizations, working at the grassroots level in Africa.

Do look up the American NGO, Fearless Planet. It is helping to change the lives of everyday folk in rural Ghana in a very profound way. If even a fraction of the billions of dollars in US aid given to Ghana’s largely unimaginative political class over the years, were to have gone to the Fearless Planets of the world working at the grassroots level here, the quality of life of millions of Ghanaians would have improved dramatically by now.

The question most concerned and independent-thinkers in Africa constantly ask themselves is: why do these nations continue with the present madness – especially as your own Western nations are facing real economic difficulties presently: and will be in that predicament for some foreseeable time to come?

One of the greatest gifts that the new Obama administration could give Africa, would be to lead the other developed nations of the West to ban offshore tax havens worldwide – as part of the ongoing reforms the nations of the West are carrying out of their financial services sectors. Such a new policy would immediately block a major hiding place for stolen wealth from the continent of Africa.

May I also say that there are many Africans who are disappointed that the US AFRICOM has not deemed it fit to provide assistance for the DR Congo’s military. If the US wants to have any continued influence in Africa in the long-term, it must help the democratically elected government of the DR Congo to strengthen its hold over the whole of its territory.

As things currently stand, do not be surprised if China decides eventually that it is in its long-term strategic interest to help the government of the DR Congo – and starts developing a relationship between its military and that of the DR Congo. The US will rapidly lose its influence in much of Africa if China were to help stabilize the DR Congo – and goes on to help it develop its full economic potential.

Thanks once again for your email. Peace and blessings to the members of your mission – and the great American people whose interests you serve.

Best wishes,

Kofi.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

"A Happy New Year’s Morning!"

He woke up with a feeling of great happiness
On the morning of the first day of 2009
He lay content in bed with a broad smile on his face
For he had had the most wonderful of dreams
He sat on a chair with his back to her
She atop the edge of a table behind him
With her arms draped round his neck
He holding her hands as they talked
All of a sudden he lowered his head
And kissed her right arm gently
The he turned his head upwards towards hers
And she leaned forward
So her lips could meet his
Then he awoke to the most wonderful perfumed scent
He had ever smelt in his life
But as he lay awake in bed remembering her
The picture he had of her in his mind’s eye
Was of her in yet another setting
This time half-reclined in a deck-chair
With her exquisite legs stretched out
Her flowing auburn hair trailing behind her neck in the wind
As she read a book on a white-sanded beach
A treasured gift to remember
Of a brief and marvelous subconscious encounter
With a mysterious long-legged svelte beauty
A most wonderful dreamland experience
On a very happy new year’s morning!

(A free-verse poem by Kofi Thompson.)

GHANAIAN DEMOCRACY WILL NOT SURVIVE IF THE NEW NDC REGIME TURNS OUT TO BE AS CORRUPT AS THE OUT-GOING NPP REGIME!

Recently, I was startled by the vehemence shown by some members of our military, during a conversation amongst clients waiting to have their vehicles washed, at a busy car-wash.

The conversation focused mainly on the astonishing revelations in the various tape-recordings played during the “Election Forensics” programme, which the brilliant and courageous Raymond Archer (who clearly is the most outstanding journalist in Ghana today), broadcast on Radio Gold FM. Of particular interest were the "Jezebel" and "Atta Akyea" tape-recordings.

I was surprised by the anger of the soldiers because I had always thought that dissatisfaction with the ineptitude and greed of our political class was more widespread amongst the junior officer class.

Alas, rumours about the alleged sale of military lands countrywide and alarm at the huge disparities in wealth in the country generally, seems to have crystallized for many of the rank and file in our military, the reality of the state of our nation today.

In their view, we have become a society in which a few politically well-connected individuals and family clans, who number no more than a few thousand, now seem to own a disproportionately larger share of our country’s total wealth – far bigger than the combined total wealth of the rest of Ghana’s twenty-two million population.

From the general drift of their conversation, it was obvious that many ordinary soldiers have a sense of foreboding that one day an event similar to the June 4th 1979 military uprising might occur that will end once and for all, the naked greed that seems to drive some Ghanaian politicians.

They were particularly critical of the tiny cabal of powerful tribal-supremacist crooks amongst those who now rule our country and whose tenure is mercifully coming to an end soon – whose foolishness and shortsightedness (as they tried to defy the will of ordinary Ghanaians) might have precipitated a civil war in our country, in their view.

They feared that one day the dispossessed in “Civvy Street” would strike out against our politicians out of frustration if corruption in Ghana isn’t dealt with effectively – and they are determined not to follow any illegal orders to quell such an uprising by force. In their view their patriotic duty would be to fight and defeat those politicians who seek to deny ordinary people their constitutional rights (amongst them the right to vote their leaders out of office) and who resort to using force to enable them continue staying in power.

I was particularly struck by their sense of outrage that the hawkish elements in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime (who sought to defy the will of the people through subterfuge and downright criminality), seemed to think that Ghanaian soldiers were their serfs who would serve as their last line of defence – and could be relied on to brutalize and kill their fellow citizens to help keep a bunch of arrogant crooks in power.

They felt insulted that a few politicians in a nation that is supposed to be a democracy, had become so arrogant and power-drunk that they seemed determined to remain in power at all costs (regardless of the fact that a majority of ordinary Ghanaians so clearly wanted a change of government) and were even prepared to resort to treasonable and illegal actions to achieve that end.

If a majority of our military has become so disenchanted with our political class then Ghana’s politicians had better mend their ways very quickly. One presumes that Professor Mills wants to preside over a peaceful nation when he finally becomes our next president – if he does, then he must take the issue of taking firm action aimed at ending corruption amongst our political class, very seriously indeed.

As a first step, he must publicly publish the net worth of both himself and his dear wife, immediately upon assuming office – and demand same of the vice president-elect as well as all the ministers and district chief executives he appoints during his tenure.

It will be in the long-term interest of the next National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime to quickly pass a law that requires such public officials to publicly publish the assets of themselves and their spouses, both before and after their tenure of office. It will set the tone for their administration and set new standards of morality in our public life.

Above all, it will give ordinary Ghanaians (who will doubtless soon be asked to make sacrifices in the national interest) an assurance that their leaders aren’t busy feathering their own nests: at a time of economic difficulty worldwide.

If the kind of mindset that led to such lust for power and plain crookedness on the scale one could glean from the various recorded conspiratorial conversations amongst some NPP members and their hangers-on, which were broadcast by Radio Gold FM, becomes prevalent in the new NDC regime too, it will not be very long before an uprising similar to that of June 4th 1979 occurs – and any such event will finally sweep away all politicians of that ilk: and enable a new generation of younger leaders to take over the running of our country.

As for the arrogant NPP buffoons who so desperately tried to find a workable plan to trick their way back to power yet again, I can confidently say that if they had even temporarily succeeded in their aim, they could have expected a fate far worse than that of Generals Acheampong, Afrifa, Utuka, Bob Kotei, Colonel Felli, Air Marshall Boakye and Rear Admiral Amedume.

What those arrogant crooks did not know is that every step they took in the rolling coup d’├ętat they were mounting by stealth, amounted to simply digging their own graves yet deeper. For, as sure as day follows night their hubris and arrogance would have finally got them their just deserts – and that day would have come a great deal sooner than they could have ever imagined.

The die had been cast – and they would have paid for the crime against humanity that a group of supposed-democrats using lies and subterfuge to try and remain in power (in spite of the fact that they had so obviously been voted out of office), represented. Personally, I am afraid I would not have shed tears for any of them – because what they tried to do simply put them beyond the pale.

In the end they would have been hoisted on their own petard – for, it would not have been those who were then trying to stop them from plunging our country into chaos that would have ended up losing out in a bloodbath. On the contrary, it is they who would rather have ended up as losers were there to have been a bloodbath in Ghana: as a result of their foolishness and shortsightedness. Contrary to the expressed opinion of Mr. Kan Dapaah precious few of them would have escaped that fate!

Going forward into the future, let them always remember that wise Ghanaian saying: “No condition is permanent.” They must thank their maker that they finally pulled back from the brink – before it was too late. One only hopes that the too-clever-by-half Atta Akyeas in the NPP have learnt their collective-lesson well by now. A word to the wise…

Hmmm, Ghana, enti yeawiaye paa, enia? Asem ebaba debi ankasa! Long live freedom! Long live Ghana!