Cynical criticism and the wrath of a president

Posted by By at 3 January, at 11 : 16 AM Print

Cynical criticism and the wrath of a president.


I maintain that there is no solution for African people, except for some form of Pan African Nationalism, no matter how you cut it… We stop apologizing, stop imitating and began to innovate. For a people to be free, they have to produce one sacrificial generation. This generation must be the role model for other generations to come. Maybe a generation will have to wear dungarees so that another generation can wear tuxedos. We have not yet considered that. How do we become a whole people again? I think we should begin by finding a mirror and liking what we see. We are hung up with so many off-beat religions – none of which we created – we’re cutting each other to pieces, – deserting each other, destroying each other based on ideologies of no consequences to us as a people… We have to realize it is not the effort of any one of us that will lead to freedom, but the collective work of all of us who are sincere.” – Dr. Henrik Clarke

chorkor ghosttown

Yoruba proverb: “Omo atiro ti o lo ra bata wale fun mama e, oro lo fe gbo / The child of the crippled, who came home with a gift of shoes for his mother, wanted to hear earful.”

Readers of this column will know that I never hide the fact that Kwame Nkrumah is my favourite hero of all time. Nkrumah remain, to me, the greatest inspiration.

I am still astounded by the sheer energy, passion, devotion and the commitment of the Osagyefo to the cause of the African Renaissance Project, which he prosecuted with great zeal. Sadly for us, local traitors joined forces with the historic oppressors of our race, to terminate his rule. Since then, nothing has ever been the same with our continent. While other societies are registering impressive progress, we continue to lurch from one crisis to the other – Mali, CAR, South Sudan. And those that caused Nkrumah’s downfall today mock us as perpetual under-achievers.

It might surprise many, but President JJ Rawlings is my second favourite Ghanaian. For the many special attributes he possesses, I greatly admire JJ who, in my estimation, remains the second most successful ruler of this nation of our frustration.

My admiration for JJ notwithstanding, I had occasions to fire some verbal salvoes at the man for whom I have a special fondness.

In the article: “When the Elder loses his head,” I wrote, inter alia: “In Africa we revere old age – maybe because we hope and pray to live into old age. But like in everything else, our elders evolved strict check and balances to ensure that things properly balanced out.

Old age carries with it great responsibilities. An elder must comport himself (sorry, but I am not being sexist here) at all times. He has more responsibilities in ensuring that his conducts, including utterances, are ALWAYS measured, and that they are above board and beyond reproach.

Traditionally, an elder speaks guardedly; he dances with caution and he does not eat with both hands (metaphorically speaking).

As leaders, they are expected to show and set good examples. That may be the reason why our traditions forbid Chiefs from speaking in public, except through interpreters.

An African proverb says that it is the elder that decided to ease himself by the roadside that calls for people to come and look at his buttocks.

Ex-President J. J. Rawlings utterances at a press conference early this month, and his subsequent speeches since, left me a bitterly disappointed man.

I am both sad and disappointed that a man that I greatly admire and respect should decide to jump into the gutter with his critics and his numerous ill-wishers.

What baffled me the most is the question: what made him do it?

Readers will attest to the fact that I have always refrain myself from personal attacks and insults. Sorry to disappoint you, but I am not going to start with President Rawlings!

It saddens me greatly whenever I see the only living ex-president of this country being made the object of crude and not so funny jokes. I feel much diminished whenever I see the ex-President of my country been rendered in unsophisticated and not altogether flattering caricature.

I don’t know who President Rawlings advisers were, but in the last few months I feel that he has been badly served. Those who get paid to manage his PR should hang their heads in shame, as they have woefully failed to do their job properly. In computer jargon, they all ought to be totally DEBUGGED! How on earth could they have so badly misjudged the mood in the country? And the timing, God have mercy!

Dear President Rawlings, I do not know what your minders are doing, but I feel concerned enough to tell you that they are ill-serving you. Please, do not make the life of people like me who hold you in the highest esteem unnecessarily more difficult than it is. I hate it when I see you slinging verbal mud with all and sundry. The office of the President which you have been privileged to occupy is an exalted one, and we would all be diminished if it is to be desecrated by those who take it upon themselves to trade insults with you.

Our elders say that the man who pelts another man with pebble is asking for rocks in return. My counsel to you, for whatever it’s worth, is to please simmer down and drink from the fountain of peace. The era of Demagogy is finally and truly over in our land; try Pedagogy for a change.

Let me stop here with another advice from our elders: “the Wiseman is like a nail; his head keeps him from going too far.”

I also took on President Kufuor when he, apparently drunk with power, declared that Ghanaians are lazybones. This is what I told him, among other nice things, in the article: “When the president misfired”: “It shows gross insensitiveness on his part to blame laziness for the abysmal, grinding poverty in the land. Maybe he should blame some of the Jurassic economic policies his friends in the West are forcing down his throat, for our woes. It is all well and jolly for him to turn our nation into a begging, groveling vassal state; we begrudge him not. But he shouldn’t rub it in by blaming us for the failed policies of his government. Mr. President should come out and tell us how many manufacturing industries his government has established. He should come out and tell us how many jobs his government has created that Ghanaians are too lazy to do. No, Mr. President, several things ail us, but laziness is definitely one of them.  Mr. President should take a trip to the Northern part of our country and see where folks toil for upward of fourteen hours in their farms in order to eke out a miserable existence. The produce of their labour cannot compete with those of his friends in the West.”

I have so far refrain from frontally confronting President John Mahama because I truly sympathise with him for the lengthy court action he faced, before he had his election confirmed.

But sadly for us, the man for whom so much was expected is becoming to look like a huge disappointment. The man who, because of his relatively young age and his apparent affinity with modern ICT gadgets, was expected to dazzle us with the brilliance of the architecture of his vision, has rather disappointedly told us that he was in gear one from which we should expect him to change soon.

He also told us that he was on track and that we should gyrate with gratitude because he has solved the dumsor dumsor problem.

I honestly have some biggo biggo problem with a president that talks too much and too loosely like President Mahama does.

The presidency is an exalted office. That explains why provisions are made to properly equipped it with every comforts and departments imaginable. The president has numerous officers to assist him. These include special assistants for the many different departments at the presidency. In addition to Spokes-people, there is a full-fledged Ministry of information to help disseminate the activities of his government.

With all the ample provisions at his disposal, why then did President Mahama develop this penchant to ‘talk anyhow”?

I have written severally in this column that contrary to what our elite think of us, we are a very discernible, even if simple-minded folks. Our senses are developed enough to allow us recognize good things when we see them. If our leaders perform, we shall all see, ear and feel it.

Example is when, back from a lengthy trip abroad, I came back and saw street-lights in my favourite city, Kasoa. I went to town and gushed out my gratitude to President Kufuor. I published this in my columns, and also in a letter to the editor of The Mirror newspaper.

I did this despite the fact that the utter turpitude of his government will never make me a Kufuor cheerleader.

My main grip with our elite is that they appear to possess such minimalist mindsets that it baffles the mind greatly that they even want to lead a country.

Modern China and India are mere few years older than our blessed republic. While China has raced to the second position in global importance, India is a recognized global powerhouse in ICT and Pharmaceutical.

And those that rule us think that they have done good job by stopping erratic supply of electricity. They believed that the United Nations must hear their monumental (to them) achievements like the provisions of school uniforms.

For these they expected us to dance with joy and gratitude; give praises to them and also to our father in heaven!

This is after almost sixty years of self-governing ourselves.

With such mindsets, little wonder that our nation is making so little progress.

I don’t doubt that the president has agenda to transform the nation for the better. But it’s an agenda that he has not manage to share or even adequately articulate to us.

Apart from the nebulous ‘3 de k3k3’ election sloganeering, we have nothing to show what vision Mr. President has for us and for our nation. He has not given us anything we can race home with; no policy statement to sink our teeth into.

President Mahama has not told us what his industrial policies are; he has not inform us how many manufacturing plants he plans to build or how many Ghanaians he expected to get employment through policies he introduce. He has not told us how he intend to transform our educational institutions from ones that award diplomas to certified illiterates, to ones that nurture wealth-creating students.

President Mahama has not told us what he intends to do to rectify the anomaly of the agreement signed to export our oil in raw crude for twenty (yes, 20) years.

At the end of his term, our current president will also pat himself on the back; award himself a medal; collect his juicy ex gratia and join the jet-set clan of ex-presidents to pontificate ideas he was not able to implement when he held the power.

That has been our sad history and also our tragedy. Our leaders become ultra-wise only after they left office!

Recently, at another of his numerous visits to churches, the President went to town to admonish us not to be cynical. He made other assertions which should be challenged and corrected.

According to the reports: “… Again, he asked Ghanaians to contribute their quota to the growth of the country, since the development effort was a shared responsibility.

He said all the developed countries and strong economies, such as Japan and China rode on the faith and contribution of their people.

“President Mahama made the call at the dedication of the Lord’s Temple of the Revival Restoration Centre (RCC) of the Assemblies of God Chcurch at Roman Ridge in Accra on Saturday.

“For instance, he said, Japan came out from the ashes of the Second World War and transformed itself into a developed country, while China had also developed within a few decades, all because of the faith of the people in their capacity to make it.

“All the nations made it because their people believe that they can be great and strong. In any country, faith and belief play a role. If any country can make any progress, it is based on the faith and belief of the people,” he said.

“President Mahama said Ghana was making progress, saying that “God’s favour is on us. We have to be a nation of believers that we can be great and strong.

“The President said the leadership could have the vision, but it required the contribution of all to achieve the needed development.

It can’t be only the leader; it is what contribution every single one of us makes,” he said.

Maybe it is time our president borrow a leaf from our traditional Chiefs and stop speaking off the cuff on weighty matters/subject, especially on subjects he appears to know very little about.

Sorry Mr. President, but what propelled China and Japan out of poverty and into greatness were the visions of their leaders. Ditto Malaysia, ditto Singapore; ditto South Korea.

The hoi-poloi do not lead leaders/nations; it is LEADers that lead people/nations, Mr. President.

Nations make progress only when leaders mobilise citizens to follow the architecture of their visions.

As a student of history and political economy, I know a little about the miraculous transformations of the two Asians nations mentioned in President Mahama’s admonition. I have also read the classic by Lee Kwan Yee, “From Third World to First World…”

Mr. President, with all due respect, nations, like people, do not become great by wishful thinking. It is only those of us in African that rely on faith alone. It is only those of us in Africa that believe that gods will wrought miracles; other people create their own miracles in their laboratories.

After their most ruinous wars, the leaders of Japan and China were almost insane with intense passions to rebuild and transform their countries. The leaders of post-war Japan had a vision which encompasses every facet of national life – science, education, industry, health, agriculture. They then employed the best brains in the country into the civil service to run the machineries of state. The leaders spared no efforts to mobilise all the resources of the country, especially the human resources. Driven by an almost maniacal desire to make their nation great again, they pursued their vision with kamikaze zeal. The results were what we all see today. Within few years, the Japanese not only manage to rebuild their shattered country’s infrastructure, they conquered the world.  Those interested can get David Halberstam’s book, The Reckoning and read how Japanese auto-makers set about to conquer the world.

No, Mr. President, the Chinese miracle did not happen because Chinese leaders had faith and wait for the people to “the contribution of all to achieve the needed development.”

And it certainly did not happen because the leaders of China believed or waited for God’s favour.

No, sir!

What happened was that Chinese leaders developed the vision, made the plans and mobilised the people to realize the vision.

The leaders of post-war Japan and China planned their visions for their countries. Armed with these visions, they embarked on total mobilization of their nation’s resources, including human.

What also happened was that the leaders of the Asian nations defer their own gratification in order to build their economies. There shared fully in their people’s anguish and under-development. They did not increase their pay and backdated it. They didn’t take loans to build presidential palaces. They did not award themselves totally undeserved budget-busting ex-gratia awards. They did not sell state properties (including their bungalows) to themselves and their cronies. They did not loot their treasuries in mind-boggling corruption. They didn’t borrow money to drive around in expensive cavalcade when they cannot put food on their people’s table. Japanese and Chinese leaders did not buy presidential jets before they build their national carriers. They didn’t bloat their cabinet with ill-performing ministers. They didn’t develop tastes for expensive foreign goods. They did not parley with parasitical and useless priests; they befriended and nurtured scientists, engineers and technologists. The Asian leaders were highly disciplined and they LED by example.

Sir, these are what history and the records teach us about the Asian Miracles.

Apart from Nkrumah, it is sad that no other leader ever made a national development plan and share it with us and we still can see the glaring difference.

Mr. President, what is faith where a vision is lacking?

It is only in Africa that we have leaders who feel more comfortable with Pastors and Priests than with Scientists and Engineers, and they pretend not to know why their nations do not make tangible progress. It is only in Africa that we have leaders who talk about employment, but spend more time opening churches and mosques, rather than factories. It is only in Africa that leaders still wait for God’s favour to transform their countries. It is only in Africa we have leaders that believe that their jobs are done after they sign contracts with foreign firms, rather than challenge their own people to solve problems.

Example: What stops the president from calling on the country’s Academy of Science and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Technology to come up with a solar solution to the nation’s energy crises within two years? President Kennedy challenged American engineers to put a man on the moon with a decade; they obliged him with months to spare.

What stops the president from ordering his minister for education to completely overhaul our school curricula to make them meet today’s imperative rather than continue with the colonial ones we currently use?

What stops the president from tasking the University of Ghana at Legon to overhaul the Odawna river, desilt it, and turn it into a commercial entity with provisions for fishing, leisure and transportation?

In his wisdom, the president staffed the Ministry of Agriculture with three ministers, including one for fisheries.

Yet, in none of the sectors has our agriculture been transformed. It takes between two to three months to grow and harvest Maize and tomatoes. Rice takes about six months. Tilapia fishes mature in three to four months.

Did our president appointed his three ministers to ensure that our staple food become abundant and affordable, or did he just find jobs for the boys?

What galls most is that we have very little to show for the enormous sums we expend on our elite. Despite our having three ministers in charge of agriculture, we still run huge bills in food import.

And when we complain, our president has the temerity to tell us that we are being cynical.

No, Mr. President, faith alone will never propel us to greatness. We all would “love to contribute to make the contribution of all to achieve the needed development.”

But the question is: where is the vision; where are the plans to which we can contribute? What masterplan are we contributing to build, Mr. President?

What ideas can we contribute to a non-existing vision?

I end this piece by offering the same advice I gave President Rawlings to President Mahama: “I most sincerely hope that the president’s minders will be more forthright in advising him that he should not jump into gutter with social critics. His is an exalted office; a hallowed sanctity that must command reverence at all times. No occupant of the presidency should make it his business to trade verbal punches as we all would suffer when our nation’s CEO is turned into a verbal punching bag. The gods know that conditions in our land of suffering is excruciating enough, and that it takes very little to dart into the nearest gutter and fire poison darts at all and sundry. Heaven forbid that the president should be the object.”


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

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