Job 32:17 – 21
At least the second term government of Nana Akuffo-Addo has seen a reduction in the number of ministers of state, though in hindsight no high fives for the government, as the hitherto large ministerial contingent was the government’s own invention. Most of the previous ministers were retained in their old portfolios – lost opportunity to shuffle them around and bring new ideas, thinking and faces. Very disappointing still is that 6 months after assuming office, as a returning government, district chief executives and heads of state agencies, who operationalise policies and programmes, haven’t been appointed. This has led to paralytic decision making and leadership at these offices and created a big space for malfeasance and corruption. My neighbour, Onipa Nua, is disheartened – expected a returning government to hit the ground running but so far the government appears slow, indecisive, and exhausted in their action, directions and all.
Take Us Back – #FixTheCountry – All Life be Life
Ghana is not alone in seeing widespread campaigns against inequality. Colombia is currently experiencing civil unrest and Chile has massively voted (overwhelmingly selected social justice campaigners) to change their constitution because of growing inequality. What makes the Ghanaian experience different is that the average Ghanaian, especially the youth, feel bludgeoned by the growing hardships and the impenetrable partisan firewall, which has sealed off the limited opportunities in the country. The growing inequality coupled with high corruption (real or perceived) has led to the feeling that the system is rigged and that no matter how hard one tried they couldn’t break through – feelings of hopelessness and cynicism. This is more so where high promises of change have not materialised and there is a sense that supposedly revered and impartial institutions have been comprised (touched by corruption). This undermines social solidarity and believe in institutions – each one for himself God for us mentality (nasty, brutish society, very dangerous terrain – failed state). At least, we should be relieved that we have not yet reached this last stage (loss of solidarity), hence the unison generated by the #FixTheCountry campaign. Our leaders must understand the seriousness of this outcry and seek lasting solutions to the prevailing issues. Joel 2:28 states: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (NIV). Therefore, if the youth of a nation stop having visions of the future then that nation would be a dying one. Onipa Nua, hasopined that even if the youth of Ghana refused to have visions, given the state of the nation, the dry bones of all those who died prematurely because of failed leadership, would rise and lead the campaign for change, accelerated progress and shared prosperity. Our leaders and elders should listen to the inspirational song by Dante Bowe “Take me back” to rekindle the visions they once had in their youthful days and provide the right leadership. If not all, the majority of our politicians and leaders have ‘spiritual’ fathers or prophets (the new craze in town, I hear) so can ask them to reflect with them the learning points from Nehemiah’s leadership and top it up with Naana and Dan’s beautiful rendition of that story, ‘Tsooboi’ I will arise.
Onipa Nua, agrees that the biggest problem is that successive expansion of access to education, secondary and tertiary, have rightly led to exponential growth in post-secondary and tertiary graduates. But the usual avenues (mostly public sector, and the limited number of multinationals companies) that usually absorb them are full. So they have to find ingenious, corrupt, and dirty ways, to try and get into those limited positions. i.e. it is no longer the most capable that gets ahead but the one with connections or play dirtier’. According to Peter Turchin, pioneer in using cliodynamics in analysing and understanding inequality and political instability (check peterturchin.com, for his books and writings) these frustrated professionals who have been pushed back by lack of space and dirtier peers find common interest with the others who are also experiencing deterioration in their living standards and opportunities – dangerous alliance. In order to address the rising insecurity the ruling elite resort to short term solutions (increase borrowing to provide freebies to placate the unhappy citizens) and deploy state security to crush dissent and terrorise the people when the government can no longer afford the freebies. This gradually leads to disintegration and collapse of the state. Unfortunately for the youths the reframing and explanations of the causes of their plight by politicians are influenced by narrow lenses – individual bias, class, partisan interests, so called acceptable consensus etc. – and make it hard to address their problems. As we all know, decisions and policies, like any treatment, built on faulty diagnoses and assumptions have far-reaching detrimental, even dangerous, future implications. Politicians prefer quick policies that, often appeal to the middle classes, focus on the symptoms, and barely scratch the surface of the causes. Example, government free water late last year, when high proportion of the urban poor buy water from private sellers (private sellers got the water free and sold it to the poor and those in areas without access to water), and the disproportionate impact of recently increases in taxes on the poor. Increasing taxes as a strategy to offset evasion by others is inefficient and unfair on those who pay their taxes and the poor. Why not first find ways to ensure that those avoiding or evading tax pay what they owe.
Jeremy Bentham, suggests: until this is done people have the right to resist tax increment. The dystopian view would be that inequality is inevitable and will widen as growth increases and society becomes more advanced. Yes, returns to skills and capital makes inequality inevitable but governments have a duty to address it. As pointed out by Elizabeth Warren (‘Warrenomics’) and Barack Obama, earlier during his Presidency, the rich didn’t build all their wealth by yourself (government- public money – supported them through public funded roads, education, research, security, education and health of their workers, family etc.). But those youthful voices shouting revolution, must be mindful of their utterances, some despicable – killing all oldies for the youth to take over governance (well, you are late to the party on this one, the overzealous supporters of JJ Rawlings, foolishly advocated same). Many revolutions lead to just changes in the power structure (those at the bottom come on top, and those at the top go to the bottom) and are akin to ‘merry go round’, without proper institutional reforms and cultural changes. What significantly changed in Ghana from the interruptions from the liberation, redemption, supreme, revolutionary and defence councils? As pointed out by Benjamin Constant (French Philosopher), the wheel keeps turning in many revolutions. The English revolution led to the killing of the King but, not too long, the son succeeded him; the French revolution led to Napoleon, terror and a King again. So you see, you don’t want a revolution or campaign that just changes the order and power holders but one that changes the structural arrangements and institutions of society, and ensures justice and accountability. Onipa Nua, points out that some of those leading government and state institutions,and blamed for their irresponsible stewardship, aloofness, contempt for listening, and to the plight of the suffering youths are themselves young (or just past their youthful days) and not from the one percent enclave. So we must ask ourselves what changed when they ascended to these high positions. Well, they sold their souls – Smirnenski, Hristo “The Tale of the Stairs” – or revealed their real inner being.
Shameful stab at the Edina Shark
The so called banking sector reforms (or was it clean up?) has its supporters and opponents, like everything under the sun. Even, Sekondi Eleven Wise still have ardent and vociferous fans. The reforms were ill-thought, rushed, and appeared biased (vengeful to some) from the outset. And now in a post-hoc legitimisation drive we hear the Edina Shark and his family have been sued by a Birim Group LLC, a US based ‘securities and investment’ company. Perfect timing for PR maximisation – same time as the government secured a loan from Europe to establish a Development Bank. All of us should be asking ourselves: Who is this Birim Group LLC? Are they equity and investment firm as they are purporting to be? What aretheir profit and loss, and balance sheet positions? Can they pay those monies they claim to have paid to those clients of Ndoum Groupe? What’s their background story? What’s their interest and stake in this news item? Why this particular point in time are they brining this proceedings? To my friends in the media, at least, the three basic questions that should have guided you in your reportage: who is the source of the story; what’s in it for the source/what’s the source’s interest/what does the source gain from the story; what is the other side saying or will say to the story? The media, as usual, failed in this regard!
Caleb and the Anakites
This incident exposed the weaknesses of the GJA, as it stands. How does it protect its members from harm and support them? Does it have the services of retained lawyers on call to advice and represent journalists, anytime and anywhere? I believe that, if the GJA was resourceful it could have negotiated for some kindred lawyers to provide pro-bono services to journalists should they need the service of lawyers in the cause of their work. Food for thought for the GJA aspiring presidential candidates. Caleb was living up to his name, unfazed by fortified walls and giants, when he smoothly manoeuvred his way into the NSA fiefdom, to verify the accounts of state officials re. abandoned vehicles. Unlucky him – was caught and subjected to Abu Ghraib style beatings. The promising young Caleb may need tutorials from the maestro, Wofa Nana Kofi Coomson, for his next assignment. This shameful and deplorable incident demanded unequivocal censure from all but alas the immediateresponse of the GJA was shocking (the GJA President had to quickly backtrack from his initial reprehensible statement); Citi Media’s attitude seemed lackadaisical; and some pacesetters of media freedom resorted to straws – plainly or disguisedly highlighting unrelated matters (Prof. Audrey Gadzepko re. media training, WofaKweku Baako and everyone’s favourite, Opanyin Elizabeth Ohene, re. immediate debriefing).
Caleb should have been provided with a lawyer immediately Citi got to know that he had been detained by the NSA. Citi didn’t provide him with a lawyer throughout his detention, they even escorted the young lady journalist to the NSA office and handed her over to the NSA for interrogation without a lawyer. The NSA operatives went through their phones (all the confidential sources and private information were exposed). The ‘touring’ and petitioning of some selected bodies (chiefs, church leaders, and media associations) appeared gimmickry, fanciful afterthought and a waste of everyone’s time. These bodies shouldn’t need prompting to do what is right, mercy on us if they did. These are hard questions Citi should answer: what was their immediate response when they were made aware of Caleb’s detention? Why didn’t they instruct a lawyer for him? Why did they escort the young lady journalist to the NSA office without a lawyer and exposed her to their adversarial interrogation? What is the support they give to their journalists and how do they protect them from harm? Citi is a young organisation with young journalists who are winning the heart and minds of all. Look at Caleb’s about town programme, Bernard’s viewpoint, Frema & Co’s upside down, and the in-depth general election campaign coverage and analysis. I hope they have thoroughly reflected on and learned from this incident and put the right protocols in place.
The media, of late, is becoming a platform for press releases from government and state agencies, and ‘cut and paste’ pieces from social media without any serious interrogation of these statements. For example, look at the reportage of the purchase of AirTel for $1 by the government. Compare the reportage to that of Bloomberg and others. The Ghanaian media were pre-occupied with the banter between Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (minister) and Sam George (MP) regarding the $1 price tag, without revealing the facts, more so the truth about the purchase. Aside the $1 symbolic payment the government acquired all the outstanding debts of AirTel, and agreed to provide bridge financing and sovereign guarantee to help AirTel get funding from lenders. The minister was right about the $1 price but dithered about the true cost. Well Yoofi, my long lost and fund gutter gutter mate, says that the minister wasn’t probed on this, so not her fault. While the MP disputed the $1 (never heard of such low sale price) but was bare lazy to find out and tell us the true cost of the purchase. The $1 sale price, while technically accurate, was a misleading representation by both the minister and the MP. The $1 payment signified transfer of ownership (doctrine of consideration in English law, I’m told). Firms usually do such ownership transfers when they are in financial trouble and transfer all their liabilities to the new owner, therefore the true cost is always several times the transfer price of $1. High profile companies sold for £/$1 include: Chelsea (sold in 1982 to Ken Bates for £1, with liabilities of £1.5million); Barings (sold in 1995 to ING Bank for £1, with billions of liabilities); Rover (sold in 2000 by BMW to Phoenix for £10, with millions of liabilities). Seeing ‘so called’ senior journalists glaringly displaying their ignorance, naivety, and abject reliance on hearsay masquerading as factual historical analysis or sinister attempt at manipulating historical events, makes one bilious. Wofa AsieduNkestia called such species lotto forecasters but I think that’s a bit charitable and unfair to lotto forecasters. Lotto forecasting is a skilful balance of science (pattern recognition and sensitivity analysis, without machine learning) and art (persuasion) – not that I’m a lottery fan, but I vividly remember the adroitness of the lotto forecasters who plied their trade at the Takoradi harbour taxi rank. Heads up to Wofa KwekuBaako, for often bringing genuine historical bent on analysis and backing up this with documents, though evidential truth is more than just documents.
Multimedia and Manasseh Azure keep on the investigative work you have been doing. Costly but if you want to be top of class you have to sacrifice. I applaud Manasseh Azure and Multimedia (Erasmus Donkor et al) for their investigative work. (Even though Multimedia has not been immune from the unexamined press release style reporting on their platform). Investigative and activist (follow up work) journalism requires huge investment – persistence, money and courage – and no one media agency can do that. It took more than 10 years for the Harold Evans led Times newspaper to get justice for the Thalidomide victims. If each of the national media houses: GTV, Multimedia, Citi, EIB, Media General, Class, Graphic, Ghanaian Times, Chronicle and so on, took one pressing issue – housing, road accidents/carnage, youth employment, poor health system, corruption, regulatory capture, insecurity, land administration …….etc. and gave daily reports and reviews on these for 12 months leaders woud be forced to act on these problems. On another note, why are Ghanaian journalists, overly obsessed and heavily rely on foreign commentaries, like that of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), as if they were the oracles of the heavenly version of truth. I like the Economist, it’s arguably one of the world’s leading media outlets and I subscribe to it – great writing style and all – but they have their own biases, with a pro-free market, western and business bent.
In Defence of Osagyefo
What is this new infatuation and obsession with Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore)? Very strange that these same people excoriate Osagyefo – call him all sort of names – forgetting that Osagyefo’s human rights excesses, real and imagined, pales into insignificance compared to that of their darling messiahs. My own man, Opanyin JA Kufour, recently fell for the ‘Danquah-Busia’ crap and wentKung foo style on the Osagyefo – blaming him for the lack of imagination and fortitude of our leaders. Some of us were once victims of this crap. I sensed a hint of contrition and covetousness in Opanyin Kufour’s outburst (the why always him not me! cry). Ewuradjoa tells me, the Osagyefo has been dancing to Nana Akyeampong’s ‘Nanka Ebeye Den’, with the mischievous Krobo Edusei, who happens to know the lyrics doing the turn tables. Whether one likes Osagyefo or not he is remembered as a blessing not only to Ghana but Africa, indeed, he is the standard benchmark. Kagame has been in power for 20 years, Lee Kuan Yew was in power for 31 years, Osagyefo was in power for 9 years – situate the context and compare the achievements!
The Osagyefo was a democrat and economic pragmatist (neither capitalist nor socialist). In fact he was closer to the capitalist orthodoxy at the time – a mixed economy of private and public sectors with public and cooperatives dominating the public utilities and heavy industries sector while private focused on the high investment oriented sectors – same as what prevailed in Europe (France, UK, West Germany, Italy) and still is in some sectors in France and Germany. He knew that a prosperous Ghana would have to find market for her surplus production hence his strong push for an African Union – understood, and said on many occasions, that political independence was incomplete without economic independence. An African Union gave Africa bigger bargaining and negotiating power, bigger internal market, and bigger sense of identity and confidence. Yes, he was a democrat, America was summarily prosecuting so called communist (McCarthyism), assassinating black leaders, and disenfranchising its black citizens while the UK was muzzling the press through official secrets and other legislations, supporting apartheid and denying independence and freedom to many countries, at the time, and yet they were deemed democratic? Democracy has evolved since then to what it is now: liberal democracy (rule by law to rule of just laws). I leave you in the hands of more knowledgeable pillars like Wofas Kwesi Pratt, Kweku Baako and Profs. Akosa and Lumumba re. the defence of Osagyefo.
Rasta and rights of the child
A Rastafarian child being refused admission to a premier state school in an African country, that prides itself as the Black Star and spokesperson of the African people (and descendants)? As for this, the Osagyefo and JB Danquah will equally condemn it and be lethal grade furious. Could you imagine an Orthodox Jew or Hindi being refused admission to a state school in Israel or India because of the way they woretheir hair? Not only in Israel or India would this not be permitted but in countries such as the UK, where the Ghanaian public school code originated (they have moved on and updated their own invention). What were the religious leaders scared of? Unfamiliarity of the unknown or losing control of their power? Look at those that Jesus Christ hanged out with – people that these holier than thou types (Sadducees, Scribes, and Pharisees) would call unworthy, even to look at. They have no iota of Justice in their lexicon let alone mercy! Huge relieve that the high court upheld the rights of the two young people to be admitted into Achimota School. Huge applause to the bravery and resilience of the parents in challenging the status quo, and the misleading interpretations of the legal and cultural frameworks. Parent have legal rights and responsibilities towards their children. The English Children Act defines this as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’. Along this, children and their families are entitled to privacy and fundamental freedoms – religion, culture, association, and all that.
The state has a responsibility to intervene only if the individual put themselves at risk of harm in exercising these rights, example,committing suicide (individually or as a group). Therefore any cultural or religious practice that exposes their adherents to harm could be restrained by the state. How does Rastafarianism undermines right of others or the public interest? Of course schools are spaces for growth and learning and need to uphold the highest principles and discipline but discipline should be just and humane. If majority of Ghanaians became Rastafarians or adherents to a religious practice then schools must adjust to that? Schools were made for men (and women) and not the other way round. Therefore, this floodgate that the garrulous attorney general thinks is now open by the court ruling, for people with wild imaginations (fake or dangerous religions or cultures) is spurious. Yes, attempts would be made by the imaginative types (we need these types to create an innovative society) but their attempts would not meet the acid test. It would be in the attorney general’s interest to leave this woolly argument to the pedestrian legal and education experts (NAGRAT president on my mind). The attorney general should know that he is the chief lawyer and advocate for all Ghanaians, and that it is beneath his office to drench himself in party stripes and throw childish jabs at perceived opponents. He is young, energetic and seems to have the foundation to be a good attorney general – focus on the wheat, Godfred Dame! There was a time when NAGRAT members looked down on GNAT members. They separated from GNAT to form their own association of university graduate teachers because they found it appalling to mix with the ‘lower caste non-graduate teachers’ who constituted the majority of GNAT membership. Well, GNAT has shown, this time, that wisdom is precious than knowledge – judging from the utterances of the NAGRAT ‘king’. We would all want to ascribe to Marcus TulliusCicero’s ‘preference for the wisdom of the uneducated to the folly of the loquacious’, in this regards.
Of Mice and Free SHS the Sequel
The President, Nana Akuffo-Addo, was buoyant in his demeanour and made a spirited and convincing defence of his thesis, much emphasis on his flagship Free SHS programme and media freedom records, at the Encaenia of University of Cape Coast. Congratulations Mr President! You have added educational scholarship, albeit honorary, to your sterling law credentials – opportunity for you to forensically tuck into and shape the nations education policies and systems. In his speech, the President, referred to national consensus on the free SHS programme, because all the competing parties, in the 2020 elections, seemed to have endorsed it (inaccurate) and also implying that by this inferred consensus the programme should not be critiqued; an abomination to do so (his reference to a mounted campaign by a media house). The fact that all competing parties in the recent elections endorsed it, albeit in different guises, does not make it a national policy consensus. Parties litter their manifestos with ridiculous policies and will say anything to get elected. The Ministry of Education must be clear with us and let know: when this national consensus was agreed; whether a sustainable funding formula was agreed for the programme; whether there was mandatory ring-fenced portion of the national budget allocated to the programme; whether there was an agreed national framework for the programme – objectives, implementation, performance and outcome metrics, review mechanisms and so on. As far, I am aware we have not seen any national consensus document on the programme and so the consensus the President believes exist is non-existent or at best wobblier than Kwesimintsim tro-tro.
Another point the President raised in defence of his record on media freedom was that he is the most vilified politician, or something like that (I think others will easily beat him to this new title). Personal insults are deplorable on anyone, more so the President, so should be roundly condemned. But sound interrogations and critical appraisals of government actions, programmes, and policies should not be contemptible. People tend to be hard on those they expect more from – tough love. Don’t teachers demand higher performance standards from those with the potential to be high achievers? I wholeheartedly suspect that most critics mean well and want Ghana to succeed – the nasty personal insults excluded. It is just that they are hugely disappointed – the gap between their expectations (buoyed by all the ‘moon landing’ promises and insane confidence they had in the purveyors of these promises) and the reality is getting bigger than the sea, and impervious to Madam Hawa Koomson’s big sea locking key.
Prof Adei has raised questions about graduates of JHS who achieved top grades and went on to the best SHS but couldn’t cope because they cheated (invigilators compromised, etc.) during JHS exams. Others have reported SHS graduates not being able to grasp basic instructions. As a data scientist would say: training a model with one data set and testing that model with another data (real world data) is how you prove your model works. So why pick on Prof Naana OpokuAgyeman for eloquently saying what others have said (publicly and privately)? Is it because these men picking on her have low power in their lions and lack confidence to confront the issues raised? Only uncourageous and insecure men attack high achieving women! Let’s listen to her, she has understanding of the issues and wisdom. As the ostriches that we are, we think by continuing burying our heads in the sand, the problems will be impressed by our sheer stamina to keep our heads buried in the very hot Ghanaian sand and vanish. Well, even if the problems vanished, out of pity or impression with our stamina, more and rather costly problems will be created from the head burns we got from burying our heads in the hot sand. Adade, my old neighbour, would say burying your head deep in the sand exposes all the nasty bits of your lower back.
Let’s say there were 4 Ghanaian families (Amankwa – very low income, Aheto – low income, Azangweo – middle income, Amaah – high income) with different economic means all required to travel from Accra to Axim for a treasure hunt. All 4 families are given GHS100 for their journey to Axim. Amankwa and Aheto families, even with the voucher, can take only VIP and STC buses respectively to Takoradi and from there transfer onto a mass metro bus to Axim. The Azangweos have access to a V8 so can use the voucher to top-up their fuel expenses or buy Fante Kenkey and fried octopus at YamoransaJunction. The Amaahs have access to a private jet so can use the voucher to buy drinks to stock their jet bar. All in all, the journey takes the Amankwas and Ahetos 6 – 8 hours; Azangweos 4 – 5 hours; Amaah 1 – 2 hours. Unless with cheer luck or divine intervention, by the time the Amankwas and Ahetos reach Axim the Azangweos or Amaahs would have found the treasure and would be having a jam at the Ankobrabeach. Why not use the vouchers for the Azangweos and Amaah to rather cut the traffic at Kasoa, dualise the Accra – Takoradi, and improve the efficiency of metro mass so that the journey times to Axim for the Amankwas and Ahetos (and that of the Azangweos too) are drastically reduced and put them in positions to have good shots at finding the treasure. Hope you get my drift re. free SHS for all, at this time of scare resources and competing national priorities. Someone will say what about if only families who will take VIP/STC to Takoradi enroute to Axim are made eligible for the voucher. Well, once they reach Takoradi the Amankwas and Ahetos will resort to metro mass (which may breakdown at Agona Nkwanta), Azangweos to a hired V8, Amaahs to a hired helicopters to Axim. Whichever permutation, there are number of them, even if you go the irrational ‘Stalinist’ way (all families take VIP/STC) you will get similar results. Inequalities in opportunities start, grow and become entrenched overtime. So you see there are nuisances in planning and implementing successful social and economic programmes that enhance equal opportunities and lasting national prosperity. Cancel that lingering thought of yours. This is no ‘socialist’ gibberish – equal opportunities is the key cardinal for any enduring prosperous society. Healthy democracies require broad based prosperity – enlarged middle class (the sages said). As Dave, the young London poet and rapper succinctly puts it “What’s the point of bein’ rich when your family ain’t? It’s like flyin’ first class on a crashin’ plane” (Dave – We’re All Alone)
Human beings, all over the earth, are preferential and indifferent to others, and given free range would appoint friends and family to positions of interest. Unsurprising a state that allocates resources based on preferences and feelings (‘a feeling state’) ultimately becomes corrupt, insecure, and finally a failed one. The real danger in Ghana is that there is growing mistrust in the independent bodies that have been mandated (or expected) to provide regulations, oversight and scrutiny and safeguard the broader public interest. There is a forming dangerous perception (real or imagined) that several independent state and regulatory agencies – Judiciary, Parliament, Lands, Mineral, Forestry, Environmental Protection, University Administration, State Enterprises, Police, Military, and so on – have either become or at serious risk of becoming captured. Happenings including the EPA (the proposed refinery in Tema Chemu Lagoon area); Public Procurement (expose by Manasseh Azure); FDA (COA FS expose by Manasseh Azure); Mining (too many); Military (expose on protection to ‘illegal’ mining company by Erasmus Asare-Donkor, and invasion of collation centres on behalf of individual parliamentary candidates) give credence to this perception. I’m sure more informed observers have many examples to give on this phenomenon.
Regulatory capture occurs when regulatory agencies become dominated and influenced by those that they are charged with regulating, thereby making them to rather advance the goals and interests of those entities, at the detriment of the public good (www.policyed.org). i.e. regulators develop mutually beneficial relationships with entities they are to regulate, become their servants, and do their bidding (consciously or unconsciously). Regulatory capture leaves the regulator/policymaker toothless, fearing that they will lose their power if they do what their role required of them. In some sectors, it is so entrenched that the regulatory functions have become non-functional. Partisanship has made this worse. Partisan monopoly is the new normal in the Black Star land: direct competition for contracts and appointments have been eliminated; high visible and invisible barriers have been erected to prevent or make it hard for non-card bearing party or network members to gain contracts, appointments, or opportunities; there are no alternatives to opportunities (public contracts, procurements, appointments, opportunities, capital, as the state is the largest buyer of goods/services, employer and source of capital – state banks, SME funding etc.); weak oversight institutions. The more worrying bit is that this is the ‘vertically integrated’ monopolistic type, where all kinds of contracts, appointments, opportunities – from the board chair of state agencies to the toilet attendant; contracts for building hospitals to that of supplying maths sets to schools – are affected. End to end encryption, try hacking that and see – impossible!This is no smokescreen (one of Busia’s favourite words in his sociology lectures, I’m told), it’s a social fact! Better to cut the neck of this massive python now or else it would grow too big and swallow all of us.
A recent systematic review (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cl2.1173) showed that administrative corruption in the public sector could be reduced by control and deterrence interventions, particularly when two or more interventions are simultaneously combined. Example, policies guaranteeing immunity to officials or citizens who report corrupt practices (leniency treatment) are more effective if associated with a high probability of audit (detection), than leniency alone. Naa Morkor, my old nursery mate, is sceptical of such measures in Ghana, she points to the recent abrupt sacking of the chief detective, Domelevo. As it stands, the ruling government, at any time, appoints board members (including chair) and chief executives of regulatory agencies and state corporations without recourse to any independent oversight and scrutiny. These appointees are expected to impartially enforce regulations and execute their functions, whatever that maybe. Appointments based on partisan or other preferential indices make the appointees vulnerable to capture by their patrons and networks. I believe you can think of numerous examples of this.
All appointments to boards of public agencies and institutions must be done by an independent public appointments board or commission that report to Parliament. Governments can nominate people they want to appoint to public boards to the appointments board. Equally, members of the public should be able to apply for public board positions and be subjected to the same processes as the government nominees. The appointments board would scrutinise – shortlist, assess, interview, and evaluate – and either recommend the best candidate for appointment (or make the final appointment). This will ensure transparency in appointments, excellence in organisational leadership and management, and reduce the menace of regulatory capture. As for chief executives of public agencies and enterprises their appointments should be led by the board (like all corporations) following laid procedures including public advertisement of these positions. There should be a an agreed framework that sets out an acceptable definition of regulatory capture, sources and warning signs, reporting and alarm raising mechanisms, sanctions etc. This framework should be adopted by all regulatory agencies, independent state bodies, state enterprises and agencies; used as training manual for these agencies; made available to the public; and publicised by the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE). Doing so will make it easier to anticipate, detect, resist, and punish regulatory capture. Public agencies, institutions and regulatory bodies should be required to publicly publish and make available annual reports of their entities. This will help the public to scrutinise their activities – contracts, appointments etc. – hold them to account, promote excellence, and increase trust in them. The conservative American politician and writer, Bill Kristol, in warning against the machinations of the Trump presidency stated that: “a little alarmism in the defence of liberty is no vice. Complacency in the defence of democracy is not virtue”. How prescient that was!
The NSA and the banality of evil
Scratch beneath the veil of the atrocious actions of tyrannical regimes and you will meet a blank profile the more you scratched – nobody is found in charge for responsibility to be pinned on. What Hannah Arendt referred to as the ‘banality of evil’ – the machinations of tyrant regimes and their administrators. The National Security apparatus need to clarify the distinction between, and remit of, the NSA and the BNI – which matters fall within each remit. This will help the NSA and its auxiliaries gain the trust of the citizenry. Currently, we don’t know the remit of the NSA and its auxiliaries – who does what, when, and how – and are suspicious of anything or anybody with the tag NSA or National Security because of partisan creep and our historical experiences (using ‘National Security’ to terrorise innocent people and dodge accountability). Observers – past and present – would not find our NSA, different from Mary Wollstonecraft’s (18th century English Philosopher) description of the military establishment in her time: corrupted by their coward political masters who were not bold enough to show their faces and take responsibility for their atrocious actions but rather send their handymen (‘soldiers’ who couldn’t disobey their superiors) to do their dirty work for them. Without the confidence and trust of citizens the NSA cannot effectively fulfil their mandate. Are the NSAs (in other jurisdictions), usually, not populated by high level and big picture (and brain) intelligence analysts and coordinators more preoccupied with strategic thinking, planning, and communication (not field personnel, like ASP Azugu’s boys)?
Taming of the Hansonic Bulldog
Bulldog’s arrest (Rambo Style) and prosecution for treason, is a step too far – unless the state is keeping an earth shattering evidence from the public, I doubt that. I don’t think, even JJ Rawlings’ dreaded security apparatus (which seems to be the obsession of this NSA) would have stooped that low – Opanyin Kojo Tsikata couldteach the NSA a lesson or two. The Philosopher and Politician JS Mill provided a strong defence and distinction on hot tempered speech: “an opinion that corn dealers are starvers of the poor … ought to be unmolested, when simply circulated through the press” but such words “may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn dealer”. Bulldog shared his personal views on an (entertainment!) show on TV. The NSA and its allied agencies should heed to King Solomon’s shrewd advice in Ecclesiastes 7:21-22: “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (NIV).
Asankragwa Casino Raid
You may fault the NSA for the raid but as long as they had a warrant they had the authority to conduct the assignment. Complaints can be made to the NSA, Police, and Courts if they contravened the terms of their warrant or inappropriately enforced the said warrant. The media reportage was one sided. Yes, the brutalities of innocent and curious observers is highly condemnable. The questions we should be asking ourselves include: what were the Chinese doing operating a casino in Asankragwa? Were the MP (my sixth form classmate, I discovered) and district authorities aware of the activities of this casino? Do the arrested Chinese operators have the required license? Did the NSA have a warrant? Should the warrant have been enforced by the NSA with support from the Police? And so on.
Lt Col. Agyeman is a fine gentleman (my classmate at Legon, so I’m biased), and I’m scratching my head to understand what ‘sunsum’ possessed him to preside over that despicable behaviour of his subordinates. Of course he should be subjected to the necessarily laid down disciplinary procedures – mindful of his achievements, strengths, general disposition (versus this shameful and unprofessional dint) and be proportionate in the reprimand.
Beast of no Nation – Ghana’s Sleeping Gatekeepers
Every nation (like all humans) have scars (ups and downs, mistakes, defeats and triumphs) that have made the nation what it is today. It is the learning from these scars that distinguish successful nations from the so-so and failed ones. Gatekeepers (independent institutions, thought leaders, academia, independent media, concerned citizens) in diverse ways keep nations alert through rigorous and impartial oversight and scrutiny. Without their unwavering commitment, impartiality and steadfastness nations are fallible to the traps of myopia. Effective gatekeepers help nations to ask the ‘how and why did we get here (into this mess or otherwise)’questions. They do so with genealogical and historical nuances that helps nations appreciate and contextual solutions. In recent times, growing complaints have been made by people of all stripes, depending on the issue at hand, at the seemingly damascene conversion of thought leaders (‘eminent citizens’, I’m ignorant of the eligibility criteria so would leave that to those in the know). Those who used to raise issues and critique and proffer advice and suggestions with high soprano and bass tuned voices have gone AWOL, tuned their voices to barely audible levels or resorted to utter noise.
Kahneman et al, in their new book ‘Noise: a flaw in human judgements’ (2021), refers to noise as variability in professional judgement or opinions of the same issues depending on the prevailing circumstances. Opanyin Sam Jonah captured it more succinctly in his recent ‘talk in town’ epistle. This is worrying and undermining confidence in and respect for the thought leaders and gatekeepers. Thought leaders risk becoming ‘Simpa Panyins’. Maya Angelou once counselled that “without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency: we can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” One of these eminent citizens, the indomitable Opanyin General Nunoo- Mensah (he is actually from Simpa, knows the perils of ‘simpa panyinism’, and doesn’t want to become one) is unwilling to give in to the strong damascene lightning. The conspiratorial OnipaNua suspects that caught between exposing the emptiness of their powerful friends and patrons, and upholding their duties as elders of the land the ebusua panyins have succumbed to silence and deafness, so not to incur the vengeful wrath of their patrons. If we left the stewards to run our estates and properties, without oversight, by the time we realise and shout fire, it would be too late to salvage the damage they have caused, more when the fire service lack fire hydrants. Asking uncomfortable questions and providing guidance, solicited or not, is far healthier for the society.
Malaria: Quinine Syndrome
Academics need to up their game, be proactive and provide robust research and insights into pressing and emerging issues. This should help all of us understand the serious implications and fight for far sighted policies and programmes to be implemented. Less noise, with the 20 words reactions to pop-ups, and more signal, please. Yes, I know too much of your time is taken over by teaching and marking papers of the ever increasing student numbers. You need to call for increase in faculty members – the three big Ghanaian universities would need, at least, double their current faculty numbers to be competitive on the world stage. Academics and the like need to help move Ghana from the lazy approach to problem response and policy formulation – ‘the malaria: quinine syndrome’. Look at the response to the recent alleged murder of a teenager by his peers: blame ‘quick money’ and ‘double money’ schemes (we’ve known these schemes since one can remember), close some TV stations advertising these schemes (forgetting most are done by word of mouth), rush through some misaligned media policy announcements, then sing kumbaya all solved – silly attempts to address the symptoms of the problem without any deliberate research or analysis of the root causes. We wonder when the problem re-emerge and becomes solutions-resistant (like Chloroquinne resistant malaria), next time.
Our gatekeepers, particularly academics and media, have a duty to provide effective antidote to the problems of diversity and ignorance associated with poor functioning democracies – Joseph Schumpeter (Capitalism, socialism and democracy). People are either too diverse in their knowledge (usually subject matter expert with shallow knowledge of other areas) or ignorant (know little about anything). This allows politicians to take them for a ride by clothing simple issues in complex language, with most people relying on the media (often clueless) to explain issues to them. The problem is that a lot of media folks have shallow understanding of such subject matter areas and rely on the same politicians as sources for their stories. Do we all remember applauding some so called experts and politicians for their bombastic policy recitals only to find out later, through further research and learning, that they spewed hot air? Has anyone re-watched the 2016 IEA vice presidential candidate debate? Never watched it until I stumbled upon it on YouTube, recently. How would the ‘crucify him’ drummers rate Ammissah-Arthur now? Solid and unpretentious mind! No need to say more – leave that to posterity. His party members who should have stood solidly behind him and channel his brain output, foolishly abandoned him, having been beguiled by the bombast of his opponent. We need the subject matter expertise of top notch academics and the likes to translate complex matters and often jargon-laced political nonsense, packaged as one in a billion innovative ideas, to the citizenry.
Culture of silence
Every well-meaning and objective observer would agree with what Opanyin SamJonah referred to as the ‘culture of silence’. It is only the disingenuous who wouldequate the current context to JJ Rawlings’ Ghana and its meaning at the time (fallacy of historical justification) and vigorously attempt to rubbish Opanyin Jonah’s assertion (he actually contextualised the meaning). Look at what the Judiciary is doing (issuing threatening press releases), the misbehaviour of the NSA and BNI with support from the attorney general’s office (the Bulldog case – misallocation of our limited resources), closure of radio stations and alleged attempts to blackmail media owners (the Angel Broadcasting case) and so on. The President (and political leaders) is no Elisha to know what the Gehazis (2 Kings 5: 25-26) in the government or institutions are always doing. Impartial oversight and scrutiny by accountability institutions and the citizenry, particularly those who have been elevated to be gatekeepers – formal or informal – are crucial. If the President’s reputation on fighting corruption is alleged to be in ‘shatters’ (Prof Gyimah Boadi), then one would say those institutions which are required to hold and support the President and his government to be more accountable (Judiciary, Parliament, CHRAJ and others) are in the ‘premium shatters’ category.
The church leaders who elected themselves as eminent citizens via their many associations – Christian Council, Catholic Bishops, and Charismatic Council etc. – have belatedly and conveniently remembered Christ’s advice to discuss issues first behind closed doors before going public. They should learn from the confessed mistakes of Pope Francis, under Argentina’s dictatorship regime in the 1970/80s. In any case, weren’t the ‘orthodox’ churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Catholic) leading providers of social services: building renowned schools and hospitals? I don’t know whether they still do these projects, on the level they used to do. Onipa Nua, says that their membership and balance sheet have been massively undercut by the rapidly growing new brand of churches. These new churches also attract most of the nouveau riche but surprisingly, unlike their orthodox counterparts, they are more interested in building big houses and buying expensive cars for their leaders, and making unbridled claims and noise all over place. Little sense of the grace, mercy, compassion and responsibility. No manifestation of translating the works of the inner witness to the lives of the communities in which they operate – need to learn from John Wesley.
The Judiciary, Legal Profession and the Still Small Voice
There is a growing perception, in town, that the Courts use indefensible precedents and archaic rules (contempt and so on) as cover for their mistakes, arrogance, failings and opaqueness. Precedents are doused in the culture and morality of bygone years and the Supreme Court should not use precedents to endorse the maintenance of outdated and cruel laws. The Supreme Court should set new precedents when laws are outdated (see Ruth Balder-Ginsburg’s argument at the USA Court of Appeals – Charles Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue). Paul Freund, a US constitutional law scholar, reportedly said that, the U.S. Supreme Court “should never be influenced by the weather of the day but inevitably they will be influenced by the climate of the era.” Opanyin Sam Jonah talked about the legal gymnastics that lawyers employ to cause intentional delays to proceedings to the detriment of their clients, and the public good. Look at how the Police resorted to Nicodemus moves to obtain an injunction against the proposed #FixTheCountry demonstration, and the subtle attempts to seek adjournment of the subsequent Supreme Court hearing (refused!). And at the Election Petition court proceedings where the EC’s lawyers pulled a white rabbit from their legal briefcase, a last minute legal manoeuvre, preventing the EC from cross examination – lost opportunity to, not only, hold the EC to account but to enhance trust in the Judiciary and our fledgling Independent Institutions. More knowledgeable legal and public policy minds can better comment and write on this but our judges’ blasé attitude made the judge in the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) seem loftier. Don’t we all remember our favourite action films with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Van Dame, Chuck Norris (go on, name the others)? The heroes (‘blowman’ or ‘tough’ as we used to call them, well in Takoradi) and the villains (‘killer’ or ‘last killer’ as we used to called them) would always throw away their guns and face off blow for blow, in the last action sequence – the good guy always won. No need to resort to sophistry – sometimes the villains did but they still lost. A story is told of a church commission formed to investigate allegations by elders against a priest. A respected elder cautioned that they find a way to vindicate the priest, affirm the respect of the elders, and keep the unity of the church. A wise man queried: what about justice?
Mistrust and suspicion of the ways of the Judiciary and legal profession are not new. But the societies that our Judiciary and legal profession refer to (with little learningfrom them) continually take steps to minimise mistrust and suspicion. Jeremy Bentham, the English Philosopher, vigorously argued for judicial reforms and was of the view that there were 3 possible reasons for the status quo (existence of nonsensical legal norms, practices, technicalities etc.):
(1) there could be sensible reasons to justify their existence (in that case we should argue it out and see if it adds to human happiness);
(2) it’s been foolishly accepted as a norm (the legal profession knew they were spewing nonsense but they were trapped in norms and conventions that they didn’t know were nonsense (in that case, we should educate them);
(3) it’s nonsense but the legal profession didn’t care and hide behind it, as a mask, to justify their crooked and selfish ends (in that case, we should expose them).
Argue with them, educate them, and expose them. This is how those societies we want to refer to have learned and continuously improved their systems. The Judiciary, Parliament and allied institutions and ‘gatekeepers’ are the guardrails of our democracy and they should be guided by the two cardinal norms that underpin democracy: mutual toleration and institutional forbearance (Levitsky and Ziblatt – 2018 – ‘How Democracies Die’)
Parliament Leadership – Nah! Nah!
Parliament is a powerful steward of the state, others being the Executive and Judiciary. These stewards keep an eye on each other – checks and balances, and all that. Effective governance demands watchful and non-blinking eyes, particularly of the Judiciary and Parliament. Leadership teams of both parties seem not to be up to the task ahead of them. The NDC is fast becoming the National Dumbness Camp while the NPP has settled for the sobriquet, the New Pathetic Players.
The majority leader and second deputy speaker have become a nuisance. The soundness of their utterances and judgements raises suspicion about their competencies (irrespective of the many degrees and titles in their bags) at that level and stage in our national discourse, where level headed thinking, understanding and wisdom are required. Very shameful, indeed, for a party that boosted the likes JH Mensah (Mr triple brains) and Gladys Asmah, as leaders of past parliamentary teams. The minority leadership is equally confused or is finding the task too hard to fulfil the expectations that their beefed up numbers have bestowed on them – time will tell. Haruna Iddrisu is a brilliant retail politician and an astute ex-student leader (‘mobrowas’ will strongly disagree). He needs a different leadership style (proactive and courageous), particularly at a time when every Ghanaian, and good willing foreign observers, are counting on the minority to hold the government and institutions to account. A glaring example is when he and his team gave knowingly unachievable promises to Ghanaians prior to the vetting of minister designates only to come back with numerous laughable explanations as to why they were unable to achieve their hyped goals. They should be thankful to their communications chief, who rightly sensed the mood of their disappointed followers, and shrewdly responded
They could have made things easier for themselves and enhance their credibility: laid out what essential qualities or characteristics that Parliament would have looked out for in nominees, the constitutional minimum qualification threshold for a minister, powers as MPs in relation to the appointments (which are limited), what the minority team would look out for, and their non-negotiables. This way, no one could have accused them or raised suspicions about conspiracies and unpardonable compromises. We are yet to be told whether the Appointment Committee or the minority group received the further and better information that they requested from some nominees and whether such information was of satisfactory standard. Even though the nominees have since been approved and fulfilling their ministerial functions. The future prospect of the NDC hinges on the performance of their MPs – their integrity, how they hold the government to account, and their grasp of issues. The minority chief whip was bold to tell the world that a colleague NDC MP was tempted with inducement, by a Supreme Court judge, to vote for the government’s favoured candidate for speaker of parliament. He has begrudgingly withdrawn this allegation but has since not given any further explanation as to the truth or otherwise of this allegation. He is still the minority chief whip. Ato Forson and Samuel OkudzetoAblakwa have started well. As for the speaker of parliament, Mr Bagbin, he risks becoming the man who was given so much opportunity to leave a towering legacy –to surpass that of DF Annan, in the fourth republic – but succumbed to noise and ‘me to-ism’ (competing with the President for visit by dignitaries and photos).
Vetting of Ministers Designate
Neither fluency in English language nor academic qualification is a minimum requirement for a ministerial position – lucky us, too many degrees and titles flouting around, these days, without commensurable understanding and wisdom. In fact, possession of either is not a condition for ministerial success. Hawa Koomson’sresponses to questions during her vetting were disappointing and could be classed as borderline ‘bad fail’ were it an academic exams – ‘very little understanding of the issues raised by the topic’. But, vetting isn’t an academic exams nor standard job interview (sync with organisation values and skills of the interviewee can trounce fluency and academic qualifications). It’s the shooting incident that she should have been thoroughly scrutinised on and the verdict on her appointment paused until the Police completed their report of the investigations. You don’t need to be a subject knowledge expert or have a string of academic degrees to be a minister in a specific field, in fact expertise in your area can undermine your effectiveness – limit your open mindedness and creativity. Contemporary UK Chancellors of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, the longest and most innovative in modern history, and George Osborne, the youngest and longest serving Conservative, were historians (Osborne, an Oxford degree in history; Brown, an Edinburgh PhD in history). Oh and the Governor of Bank of England from 1966 – 1973 (had no university degree, rose through the ranks).
Opanyin Kan Dapaah (National Security Minister) and Dominic Ntiwul(Defence Minister) responses to the uninvited ‘attendance’ of the military into the parliamentary chamber during proceedings were the most alarming – military commander entered the chambers to restore order, without authorisation from any superior. Meaning: a military officer can unilaterally decide to march his troops into a cabinet meeting or court proceedings, if he felt he needed to restore order, even though such institutions didn’t operate according to the military’s operating procedures (or breached any law). Are we so bereft of history and candour? Strangely, Parliament has failed to follow up this, or hasn’t found it important enough to let the public know the outcome of their follow up.
I suspect, the appointing authority, the President (and close associates) was prepared for some of his nominees to be rejected or for serious concerns to be raised about some of them so that he withdrew their nomination, particularly those he did not want to nominate but was unable to tell them because of party or personal loyalty or lobbying from influential party or community leaders. The President would have used the concerns raised by Parliament as a good excuse to offload these nominees. Reminds me of my secondary school Fante teacher, very affable man called Mr Playman, who always told students he caught in town without exeat that he would rather have left them to mind their own clandestine business but unfortunately the school’s laws required him to report them to authorities, and as a law abiding teacher he couldn’t undermine the law, so he shouldn’t be personally blamed, the law should be blamed (he would say this in Fante – hilarious). A good reference for all Parliamentarians, particularly the minority, and all the gatekeepers of our democratic governance, is Tom Hanks’ (as James Donovan – Bridge of Spies) key argument, at the US Supreme Court, for his Russian spy client, Mark Rylance (as Rudolf Abel) to be spared the death penalty: “he serves a foreign power, but he serves it faithfully. If he is a soldier in the opposing army, he is a good soldier. He has not fled the field of battle to save himself, he has refused to serve his captor, and he has refused to betray his cause. He has refused to take the coward’s way out. The coward must abandon his dignity before he abandons the field of battle—that, Rudolf Abel will never do”. Pure gold!
Who is on SALL’s Side?
Not Parliament. Not the Council of State. Not the House of Chiefs. None of the ‘Eminent’ Persons. Parliament is quite: all the parliamentarians who made high pitch noises in December 2020 – January 2021, haven’t had the guts to raise this issue on the floor, refer it to the appropriate parliamentary committee, or ask the EC to come to the house to explain their position. Kudos to the Franklin Cudjoe (unofficial SALL MP) and the citizens of the area who are fighting for their rights. I understand that the brilliant and the hitherto radical Akoto Ampaw hails from the SALL area? He was the parliamentary candidate in Hohoe for the PCP (now CPP) and the ‘Great Alliance’ of NPP and PCP in 1996 (though the NPP parliamentary candidate, Kakraba Quarshie, undermined him by stubbornly refusing to stand down for him). Just wondering, what he would say.
Manhyia Napoleon and the Battle of Dumsor
Napo, as he’s affectionately called, the Energy Minister, is full of energy and appears to have the resolve and drive needed to ‘defeat’ the fear inducing and disruptive dumsor. He should admit to our collective failure to pay attention to the teething problems of the power sector, after the much needed capacity problems were addressed, whether by the NDC. All functioning economies have excess power capacity – as contingency and export, where possible, so please stop the noise about NDC causing financial loss or whatever you and fellows call it, and see how you can make productive use of that capacity. I’m sure, even the famous swindler, Kweku Ananse would have made some improvements, however little, had he taken over from the NDC, so please sshh and focus on the task at hand and ahead; fix them, and leave an enduring legacy. Bolder still if, as sector minister, you beat your chest and solely claim responsibility for this failure of action. No one will shot you for admitting the obvious. After all, weren’t all the energy think thanks and experts quite until recently? Why weren’t they raising the needed signals? Maybe, they were doing so quietly, I don’t know. Unsolicited advice to the Minister is that he learns from the failures and rush at policy formulation and implementation at the education ministry; tap into the vast available knowledge base of energy experts (example, that of Charles Wereko Brobbey – love or loath him, he’s a boundary shattering thinker and ‘can doer’); be candid with Ghanaians regarding the state of the sector; and communicate a feasible plan for ‘banishing’ dumsor once and for all. Napoleon Bonaparte (the inspiration for your name, I suspect) would have been more successful and prevented defeat and his subsequent annihilation by the coalition of his foes, if he had learned from his major mistakes including his ill-thought and disastrous invasion of Russia.
All that Glitters No Be Gold – Galamsey and the Rivers of Pra et al
Any living beings in Ghana (including the animals in the forest and fish in the rivers) have experienced or at least heard about the devastating effects illegal mining (galamsey) is having on livelihoods. We have seen rivers that look like pools of akpeteshie bitters concoction, forest turned into plains with large muddy boreholes, and heard reports of cyanide infested rivers and soil. In any case, what is the boundary between illegal mining and legal mining? Onipa Nua, is very sure that a large number of those perpetrating these harms have, one way or the other, legal permits from the regulatory agencies – regulatory capture. Growing up in Takoradi, we all knew the flashy galamsey boys (colourful shoes and shirts) from Tarkwa and its environs, or heard stories from those who attended secondary schools in that area (Tarkwa, Fiaseman, Bogoso etc.) about how these ‘minted’ galamsey boys would take their girls from them. These were very small-scale operators, whom everyone knew in the Tarkwa/Wassa enclave.
Now, galamsey (allegedly) is big time business (tractors, excavators, offices and all that) and spread across the country – no village is left behind (true leveller of destruction!) We need to urgently take drastic measures once and for all: are we for or against illegal mining (including those ‘legal’ ones secured through regulatory compromise). If we are against it then all those operations that fall within the category of illegality, whether they have documents or not, must be treated equally in accordance to the law. Regulators who are found to have been compromised should face the law. It is plain sinister and hypocritical for the Minister (Mr Jinapor) to go ‘gang hoo’ with media cameras in tow in a discriminatory manner – picking and choosing which illegality to punish. And I’m afraid, the failure of the government’s successive attempts to control the illegal mining menace, the disgraceful escapade of ‘missing’ or rather stolen seized excavators from the custody of the state, regulatory capture, and lack of trust by the government in its own appointees and the judiciary are influencing the government’s myopic approach to their latest shot at illegal mining management.
Burning the equipment of a few selected operators amount to nothing if the culprits or owners of those equipment are not prosecuted and bestowed the full sanctions of the laws that they have breached. Whilst burning of the equipment may not be an affront to the law (l leave that to the legal experts), it is not edifying (1 Corinthians 10:23). Itappears to be a mockery of due process, and an attempt to cover up regulatory failure and compromise – my cynical view. Let’s say Kwasi Mensah sells illegal drugs in his V8 or with his Okada. Government officials go to his operational site and instead of arresting and prosecuting him and his accomplices, the officials destroy his V8 and Okada (which they can immediately seize and later destroy when authorised to do so by the court – due process). The officials’ inability to protect previously seized V8s or Okadas in their custody (due to their theft or underhand dealings by their colleagues) shouldn’t be an excuse to undermine the due process. Mr Abu Jinapor, Lands and Forestry Minister, seems determined (with a hint of frustrations) to banish this canker once and for all. He must be mindful of hidden agendas of rooftop cheerleaders. His success or failure in this campaign will be a permanent record on his political resume – he is young and has more fuel in his political tanker. He was, until his elevation to Minister, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and should know all the key culprits in this illegal mining thing, we should be very concerned about his competence and candour if didn’t. Minster, you need a Jim Malone (Sean Connery) to guide your Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) in this replay of the ‘Untouchables’.
The lazy penchant for scapegoating migrants
More often when there is serious crime in Ghana we tend to blame ‘foreigners’. We blame Nigerian residents for armed robbery (as if Ghanaians were siblings of arch-angel Michael) and the poor competiveness of Ghanaian owned businesses; instead of seeking to understand the root causes of these problems and finding lasting solutions to them. Now, everyone is pointing their ‘unsanitised’ fingers at those in the Buduburam refugee settlement, as responsible for the increasing crime wave in Kasoa and its environs and the Chinese for illegal mining (like there are no Ghanaian kingpins engaged in it or in cohort with the Chinese culprits), and hailing fusillade of abuse at Nigerians for the low patronage of Ghanaian owned retail businesses. What happened to the widely publicised Police operation that arrested 300 alleged criminals, reportedly foreigners, in Kasoa following the alleged murder of a teenage boy by two of his peers? Classic case of attacking symptoms rather that causes, with zero impact. Can the Police tell us how many of these people have been subjected to the due processes and found guilty (hope they are not rotting away on remand in prison) and the impact of this operation on crime? I suspect the very media that gave full blast publicity to the operation have not boarded to follow up! We need to ask ourselves the hard questions: what proportion of the alleged offenders arrested (and successfully prosecuted) are foreigners’ or migrants; who patronise the services of these offenders; are all the fully armed land guards all over the place ‘foreigners’; what makes these basic amenity starved settlements attractive to these ‘alleged’ offenders – foreign or otherwise; what are the barriers to access for genuine capital (ones that are exorcised from the spirit of partisan patronage) for local businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs); what key skills do our SME owners need to make them competitive; and so on?
No nation has become great without acceptance of and support from immigrants – Ancient Babylon and Egypt, Empires of Rome and Songhai, Germany and USA. We are advised to “to love those who are foreigners, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19 (NIV). Persecution of and preoccupation with immigrants are vivid symptoms of small mindedness of vision, ideas, and graciousness – Hitler’s Germany, Idi Amin’s Uganda, Trump’s America. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s expulsion of ‘aliens’ (mostly of Nigerian origin) or Iddi Amin’s (mostly of Indian origin) didn’t solve their countries problems. In fact, it had harmful impact on Cocoa production (Ghana) and commerce and industry (Uganda). Am I right to confidently say most Ghanaian families have members living (and thriving) in foreign lands, ‘working like a bull’ (to borrow phraseology from Ace Ankomah), to send remittances to Ghana? Are remittances from these absent family members not lining the dismal state coffers of Ghana with $6 billion a year? Shameful that government’s actions (Domelevo and voter registration, in border towns and Volta Region), even if inadvertently, fire this falsementality of invasion of the country by ‘foreigners’.
The Conundrum of Debts – “Kafu Dede”
Debts are neither disaster nor something to celebrate. States borrow, not governments, and are responsible for repayments. No institution will lend to a government, no matter how rich the members of such government are, without the state as guarantor, so there is always the need for transparency in the acquisition, utilisation, and performance (returns) on debts. Debts are not bad if you know what to do with it and have a prior feasible plan for repayment. Let’s say Naa Morkorwants to buy a house in Alajo, but can’t afford it with her current income. Majority of her income is spent on fees for her children (one in a private school and the other at the university) and her aging parents’ upkeep. She has completed her part-time MBA and likely due for promotion to the c-suite within 5 years. Her siblings have completed their studies, secured jobs and would be making contributions to their parents’ upkeep. Naa has made all her calculations and realised that savings from her reductions in contribution to her parents’ upkeep, school fees and expenses (as the older child completed university) and increase take home pay (from her promotion to the c-suite), would make it feasible for her to go for a loan (with 20% interest max per annum) to buy her desired house and pay off the loan within 15 years (as her parental contributions to her parents’ upkeep and child fees gradually reduced and her take home pay increased from further promotions). So all the indicative ratios (debt to income/take home pay, interest payment and repayment to take home pay minus expenses etc.) will gradually reduce. This loan will not be a burden on her children, unless the unforeseen happens (she suddenly dies). Even here the house can be sold to repair the loan to minimise any financial burden on her children. So you see borrowing is not necessarily a bad thing, all governments borrow, but the prudent and diligent ones always ensure they have a plan – like a visually impaired person who ensures that they are standing on a stone before they threaten to hit someone with a stone. Businesses, particularly start-ups, use debts as leverage for expansion and growth; knowing that future revenue from their expansion would not only pay off the debt but make them more money. Sometimes an unforeseen event might derail their plan but that’s acceptable. You could fault Osagyefo for increasing Ghana’s debts post-independence through his rapid expansion of the economy but you could, at least, point to the assets and investments, we are stilling benefiting from with no significant upgrades, from those debts.
Citizen Kofi Amoah Takes the Dance Floor
Opanyin Kofi Amoah is well known for his smooth dancing skills but he is really livingup to his name – Citizen Kofi! His campaign for a pause in the debt stockpile is ‘highly commendable’. It would be worthy to add effective debt utilisation to it, for research by IMF shows no relationship between the increase in the ongoing borrowing and growth of government assets – suspect most of the money is stolen or used for something extra-terrestrial. The Movement might want to consider: first, ask for an inventory of all national assets and investment made from the acquired loans (let’s look at the debt we have accrued so far and dissect how they have been used – have they been used for their intended purposes, do they have robust repayment plans, are the intended projects they have been used for making exponential progress etc.?). We can go as far back as the Osagyefo era or include the £3.7 billion relief Ghana got from the HIPC initiative in 2001 – 2004. Also, do we know what Ghana has done or is doing with the COVID pandemic reliefs from international donors – IMF and World Bank pandemic and liquidity loans, and the Debt Service Suspension Initiative? Secondly, test the lawfulness of this unsustainable spree of government borrowing and the huge burden it places on future generations at the law courts. The court might suggest some reasonable framework or checklist for transparency and sustainability, as next steps, even if the current situation isn’t declared unlawful – like the recent climate change legal action brought against the German government, at the German courts.
National Development Bank
Good idea, however, the media and public should be more interested in following the proposed and real structure, capitalisation and operation of the bank: how the leadership of the bank are recruited; how, what and who they give funding to; what they fund; the balance sheet of the bank etc.
Obsession with Jarganomics
I still find it hard as to why our leaders and national commentators are obsessed with Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as measures of prosperity. In any case is the sum of annual remittances, smuggled gold, and stolen state monies not more than double that of FDI? Add potential revenue from a cultivated and vibrant ‘informal’ sector and ‘Sika Gari’ would be put to shame. If we divert half of the energies and resources we use to attract FDI to provide an enabling environment for SMEs (invest to save initiatives – access to capital; training; good standard facilities – market stalls/dedicated spaces with essential amenities, transportation, storage etc.) we can generate more revenue from them (proper way of widening the tax net – build and tax – exponentially grow the economy, broaden prosperity and significantly reduce the level of inequality. FDI is important – provide access to know how and transmit skills – but of less value if there is little transaction between the big foreign firms and local ones. The costly wooing of FDI looks like a man trying to wow a new wife from outside his town with lavish gifts. A sensible woman would look at his old wife’s predicament and be worried same would befall her but a grave digger would jump on the opportunity only to abandon him when his lavish gifts giving ceased. Any government can increase GDP, through smart ‘accounting’, without any real output expansion, never mind impact on the lives on the ordinary person. Example, in 2014, the UK, through rebasing, boosted its GDP by including sex services and drugs peddling. And you have to look at the sectors accounting for the increase to understand who benefited from the increase, so a misleading benchmark for reducing inequality. Forensically interrogate the makeup and factors behind Ghana’s GDP growth and you will see that only a small portion of the population are popping the champagne while the overwhelming majority can settle on palm wine and sobolo.
Of Mention …………….
Alternate weekly press conferences/Q&A sessions by ministers could set the ball of transparency, responsiveness, and listening governance rolling. This could be coordinated by the Ministry of Information (should be scrapped by the way) or the communication directorate of the presidency
Dr Bawumia’s incubators
Why did the Vice President gift incubators to a charity? Very laudable and worthy of praise. However wouldn’t those incubators be given to hospitals by this charity? If so why wouldn’t the Veep directly give them to the ‘in need’ hospitals instead of publicly channelling them through a ‘middleman’? Will this not increase the ‘economic cost’ of the incubators (delays in transferring the incubators to the ‘in need’ hospitals, deaths of children who might have been saved by the incubators if the hospitals had received them early etc.?)
Effrontery of the Electoral Commission
Can someone tell the accountability shy EC that efficiency, though good thing (and doesn’t mean only cost saving) is not the same as effectiveness. They shouldn’t confuse the two. We want them to be effective in fulfilling their mandate. The chief commissioner wasn’t bold enough to answer questions, written or oral, at the Supreme Court but not shy in inviting media personnel for chit chat and sending press releases about being the most efficient EC since gold was discovered in Ghana land. Oh and I suspect with all the learning and incremental improvements made by successive commissioners efficiency savings would have been achieved by whoever ran the EC.
Road Carnage and the hit and run response of government
Road accident is a social problem, among the many, in Ghana now. It has killed more people than Covid-19 in Ghana, this year. Any country where a high number of its people die through preventable death (majority may be preventable) would have it at the apex of their agenda. 72 per 100000 of Ghana’s population suffered from grievous bodily injury from road accidents, more than 60% of road traffic fatalities occurred in children and young persons under 35 years, road traffic accidents accounted for 62% of deaths at the casualty unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital emergency department (see Blankson and Larty 2020: Road traffic accidents in Ghana: contributing factors and economic consequences)
Of special mention and praise
Greater Accra regional minister, Henry Quartey, has gathered universal praise for his attempts to sanitise Accra – fiercely tucked into his banku even before the okro soup is served, he has to be mindful that he can be dangerously choked if he continues to eat the banku without the okro soup i.e. he will exhausted and breakdown if he does not involve the municipal chief executives and the responsible administrative officers (and hold them to account) or get the appointing authorities to give him the chief executives and administrators with the level of competence he needs for his very difficult task.
Shout out to Pastor Otabil
Kudos to Pastor Mensah Otabil – following your daily short teachings on YouTube. Very insightful, especially, the series on wisdom and the lessons from Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Nice shirts too!
Discovery of Oliver Barker-Vormawor
A very bright young man. An example of sound and all rounded thinking with appreciation of historical and contextual nuisances, which is absent in many of the analyses from the so called top legal minds in Ghana. Keep on learning and sharing. Be resolute and not allow flattery, ego, hindrances or the seductive allure of the limelight attempts to blunt your resolve.
Martin Kpebu and legal advocacy
Admirable and eloquent defence the rights of others, particularly the less privileged. I admire your advocacy work on juvenile justice and support. There is a huge gap in the knowledge and understanding of the Police, Judges, Lawyers and media. Look at the responses to the Akuapem Polo and Kasoa teen murder cases.
Prof. Kweku Azar Keep on Keeping On
Your passionate campaign and fierce challenge, highlighting the massive holes in the legal and governance architecture is commendable. You deserve a new hat!
The Unanswered Answer
Why is Ghana’s main airport still named after Kotoka? It’s unedifying and an affront to the sensibilities of all Africans, everywhere. The man who led the coup d’état to overthrow the Osagyefo has the main entry port named after him. Some cheek! No government has had the guts to change the name. Well, we need to change the name – it can be called plain Accra international airport or named after Nii KwabenaBonnie of Osu Alata. We don’t need a referendum for this.
Ode to Tsatsu
Tsatsu Tsikata I’m in awe of you. Your zeal and brain wave never dimmed with age! It was a pleasure watching (with non-Ghanaian colleagues) at the Supreme Court.
Applause for Paul Kagame
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, for lashing at African leaders who wait to be invited to Europe and ordered to sit like school boys to solve their ‘problems’, without the leaders themselves taking the initiative to come together to address their pressing problems. Why are these summits or meetings (whatever they are called) held in Europe or a foreign continent? What goes through our leaders minds when they are accept such invitations? (Luxury add-ons – food, allowances, accommodation etc.?). Nothing is free – we like ‘free’ labelled things, don’t we? Well we should ask the biblical Esau. Why isn’t such meetings held on the African continent (after all it’s about Africa)? Have we seen leaders of others continents summoned to meetings in Europe or another continent?