Presidential candidate

Posted by By at 12 February, at 08 : 23 AM Print

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From my Archive


Don’t blame Kofi Mensah. The competent PRman did everything possible to get the best possible angle from me for his boss. It’s just that no one, not even Madison Avenue advertising gurus could handle me – I am simply ‘unhandleable.’ I knew Kofi for a long time. We’ve met at several press occasions. And although I won’t call him a bosom-friend, we’ve eaten and drank together at countless cocktail parties. When he landed the job to polish up one of the mushrooming presidential aspirants, I was among those he invited to celebrate his good luck. How then could he explain the ‘hard time’ I was giving his boss? He was obviously distress by what he could only perceive as my betrayal of a trust – and, even, friendship. But he shouldn’t blame me since I told him that I wanted to do an interview with one of the top politicians totally different from what is written in the papers. I also made it plain that I’ll be attacking from a different angle – not your everyday ‘ask-a-dumb-question-get-a-dumb-answer- everyone-is-happy type of ‘interview.’

“Don’t worry, Femi. My main man is a new type of politician. He’s as cool as cucumber. He can handle anything you can throw at him. He’s really a new-breed politician. You’ll see. You won’t find anything like him this side of the Atlantic.” Kofi had assured me.

“I don’t think that I should pick on your man, Kofi. I value our friendship so much that I will hate to put your new job on the line for it!” I’d cried.

Kofi had laughed it off. “You worry about your interview, I worry about my job, OK.”

I took Kofi at his words and insisted (and got) iron-clad agreements on a very favorable (to me) ground-rules. It was going to be a one-on-one basis. I could ask any question and was given unlimited time. I hope that Kofi knew what he’s getting into.

The reception was superb. A gleaming four-wheel wagon had been sent to pick me up. Kofi knew the state of my jalopy and was afraid that it might not make the about ten kilometers run to the top politician’s palatial home. The house was an architectural triumph by any standard. The mock-Tudor mansion exudes wealth, plenty of it. It looks like those dreamy Hollywood palaces. A splendidly-attired, crew-cut young guard came out of his guard house (I caught sight of several short-circuit monitors) and opened the wrought-iron gate that must have cost a fortune, with style. He bowed gracefully, touching the cape of his Samuel Doe’s style cap. Two bouncers that looked as though they could handle any problem gave us an ‘eye-over.’ They wore under-sized T-shirts on which the legend, BRUTALITY was spelled out in bold red. At our approach, four bear-size, menacing dogs woofed. God help anyone that tried to come in here uninvited.

Driven slowly through the driveway, passing the well-manicured lawn sided by eye-pleasing flower-beds, the driver deposited me near the carpool that sported the latest in high-tech cars. There must have been about twenty of them. Kofi was waiting, he came running, giving me a vigorous handshake, he led the way. The sweet fragrance of the flowers assailed my nostrils. I saw the Olympic-size pool, the water sparkling in the early morning sun. Two servants were trying to polish the spotless tiles. Five or so gardeners in dark-green coveralls picked imaginary litter from the wide, undefiled garden. Everything suggests a very high- (sorry, special) class.

The house proper took my breath away; the opulence was simply overwhelming. Passing through several circuitous high-ceilinged, chandeliered passage-ways, I was led into the great study. Behind an enormous oak-paneled desk sat the corpulent politician. The library boasts more book than your average public library. With an agility that surprised me, he came around to meet me and pumped my hand vigorously. Kofi, beaming like a Cheshire cat, made the introduction.

The big man led the way, a posse of servants flouncing around him like bees on a beehive, I and Kofi followed. We emerged in a dreamy room that I took for the dining- room. Several smartly-attired maids served us several delicacies on genuine silver- plates. The politician cut the picture of the perfect host, soliciting after the welfare of the guests at the table. Small talks were made, none on the interview. I could detect that Kofi was ill-at-ease in the presence of his rich boss. Drink followed – I could pick my choice from a wheel-cart stocked with drinks that will put the bars of many five- stars hotel to shame. Breaking with one of the cardinal rules of the profession (thou shall not accept the offer of alcoholic drink from an interviewee), I indulged myself generously with a rich, five-star cognac with the texture, taste, and smell of the wines of heavens – rich men are enjoying, no doubt about that!

“Can you briefly sketch your bio-data for us?” I asked, kicking off the interview.

Like a practiced-politician that he’s, the man cleared his throat, took a sip of his chilled white French wine and commenced a lecture. He spoke with that slow, deliberate manner only rich people can affect. With Kofi nodding approvingly, he rammed through the usual tales of the self-made wonder-boy, super-achiever who single-handedly made himself after losing both parents at an early age, living on the streets, doing odd-job here, even-jobs there until God in heaven smiled on him (My research painted a different picture). A loving and devoted husband with children (all abroad). A man generous to a fault who gives generously to every charitable cause and feels intense pains at the sight of poverty or man inhumanity to man. He does not need to be in politics; he already made all the money he would ever need in this life and the life thereafter. He simply had to respond to the clarion call of his people who are crying for deliverance.

“Your colleagues, I mean the other aspirants, also claim to be responding to the call of the masses. Pardon my cynicism, Sir, but how do people like you know what the poor masses want? Your lifestyle is simply a world away from the grinding poverty that’s their lives, how do you relate to them?”

I caught Kofi winced in agony. He tried desperately to catch my eyes but I refused to meet his eyes.

The politician smiled benevolently. “I understand the trouble you’re having in believing what I’m telling you. Our people have been so deceived in the past that one should not blame them when they refused to believe what their political leaders are telling them. Just look at the checkered history of our unfortunate nations, every pathway is littered with broken promises. Four decades after we got our independence, isn’t it time our people have adequate food and potable drinking water. Isn’t that what our leaders have been promising since independence? No, I can’t blame our people.”

Kofi was distressed but he shouldn’t have. The boss was a real pro. He’d throw me the perfect gimmick – dancing around my questions without answering them and, in the meantime, managing to get his message across.

“You didn’t answer my question, sir.”

“Didn’t I?’ He asked, guffawing the way only rich men guffawed. Kofi laughed with his boss. I didn’t indulge them – I simply didn’t see the funny side of the question. “Our people’s psychological skepticism must be destroyed. We have to provide the leadership that will inspire the trust of our people. Ours is going to be transparent stewardship…”

I cut him short before he finishes his sermon. “Don’t you think that part of the problem stemmed from leaders who came to power unprepared to handle the affairs of state, people who have no idea what public administration is all about?”

“Exactly my point.” The politician beamed. “Our people deserve the best this country can offer. From what you can glean from my bio-data, I’ve vast experience to offer true, transparently-honest leadership to our people. I represent change.”

Of course, I’ve read his story. Not only the ones prepared by his sycophantic, hero-worshipping PR department, I’ve also talked to a host of people who knew him well. “Most of the other aspirant also claim to represent change, how are you different from the crowd? What would you say is the single factor that distinguishes you from the herd, apart from your vast wealth?”

Our man of means released another series of laughter. “I have to thank the almighty God for his kindness. I do not think that wealth alone is what makes me different from the herd, as you called them. Every one of us has his positive and negative sides, but we are all different. As I said early, I have all the money I need in this life, so I do not go into politics to make money. I am not your everyday stomach-politicians.”

“How would you react to the suggestion that you want to become president only because you’re a deep pocket?”

From the corner of an eye, I caught Kofi throwing me a ferocious glare, I was far too gone to take any notice. The politician tried his best to laugh. It was a pained smile that came out instead. “Deep pocket, that’s a new terminology for me. No, Femi. There’s more to life than money. My being wealthy gives me a better perspective to understand poverty and deprivations. I am not in want, so, it’s easier for me to deal with the issues of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of adequate water, poor sanitation. These problems can be tackled and solved by those who understand them properly. A poor person will simply lack the capacity to comprehend these problems. He’ll be too handicapped to deal with them effectively.”

“I agree with you that poor leadership is among our problems in Africa, but how do we solve it when we have a motley crowd who believe that having plenty money is the only qualification they need to aspire to the highest office in the land? Don’t you think that it cheapens the presidency having all the money-bags aspiring to rule us?”

“I don’t believe so. The constitution guarantees every citizen of this country to aspire to any office and our electoral laws will surely weed out any unqualified aspirant. I believe that competition is healthy to nurture our democratic experimentation.”

“So you believe that carpetbaggers should aspire to lead us simply because they have money?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. But ours is a competitive political system. Everyone should be allowed to offer himself to the electorates. Simple. By the way, you seem to have a rich repertoire of slangs to describe people – carpetbaggers, money-bags, deep- pockets.” He laughed with his troop laughing with him.

“It is widely believed that many of the aspirants are really not interested in seeking the presidency itself. They will ‘withdraw’ at a later date with the promise of a ministerial position. What I’m driving at is that we have a presidency which every Dick and Harry with more cedis than brain-cells think he can aspire to lead. It is not done in other lands. The presidency is taken so seriously that no one can wake up and have a brainwave and think that he can lead his country. I can give the example of the U.S. of A., most of the presidential materials spent decades preparing themselves for the White House. They take time to study and analyze the problems before declaring their candidacy. Have you taken the time to study the problem of this country?”

The politician guffawed, Kofi looked as though he was going to have a fit, the security details cocked their head and looked as they would like nothing better than to squeeze the life out of me. “I don’t mean to demean my opponents, but you’ll find no better- prepared candidate than my humble self. See, Femi. I did not just wake up an put myself up for the presidency. To be honest with you, I will like nothing better than to manage my business and enjoy the little that’s left of my days on earth. But I simply cannot sit back and watch all the suffering of our people. I cannot block my ears to their cries of agony. No, that would be cruel. God has given me so much that the only way I could repay his kind bounty is by trying to help my fellow-man. I decided to join politics only because of the constant entreaties I received from all over the country and also from our fellow-citizens abroad. ”

He, once again, took me to the cleaners, but I won’t let go. “My question was how versed are you on the issues you’re going to tackle if you win the elections. Let’s take education for an example, have you got a policy on education? Do you have a position paper on health?”

“Not if, my friend, but when win as I shall by His grace. I have no doubt that by the grace of God, I’m going to win. Of course, we have our party policies on health, agriculture, education, foreign and defense and on what-else-have-you. We’ve assembled the best brains in this country to produce our position papers. We’re adequately prepared. As a loyal party member, I shall faithfully and vigorously pursue all the programmes in enunciated in our manifesto. I am in daily consultation with the best brains this country can offer. I talk daily with various experts, in both academia, and in the industry. I’ll repeat myself: “You’ll not find a better-prepared candidate than me.”

“The first question is where could one find these papers for an independent- assessment? Financially, there’s no iota of doubt that you’re well-heeled and obviously well-prepared,  But mentally and intellectually, how prepared are you to lead us. Why do you believe yourself our Moses?”

“By his grace, I am in robust health. I thank God for giving me good health. I am pushing sixty-five, but physically, I feel like your average youngster. If I have any doubt about my capacity to lead this great country of ours, I’ll be the first person to tell myself to quit.”

“I take it that you’re a deeply religious person, do you think that we still need the intervention of the gods in solving our earthly problems?”

“We cannot live God out. We have to seek His guidance at all times. Our country is the mess we are because people have simply lost their spiritual values.” The politician pontificated. I had the mind to tell him that most societies have solved their own problems without involving the gods, and also that the fact that our streets are endowed with plentiful churches and countless mosques have done nothing to rescue us from our economic and social problems, I simply let him be and changed the subject.

“I’ve read your party manifesto. Apart from that general paper, are there any papers produced by you or your party that one can study in order to see how prepared you are to lead us? If, for instance, you claim to have an answer to our food problems, you have got to know how much we’re producing, importing etc, etc. Again, if I ask you what your views are on ECOWAS, I’m sure that you’ll sing some sweet song for me. But are there papers to show me that you’ve taken time to study, say, our agricultural problems and that you have any idea on how to solve them?”

There is really no doubt now that the money-man was having a problem tolerating me. And from his deep Ashanti countenance, I know that I could easily count myself out of Kofi’s friendship list. But I didn’t care: I’ve had enough of these money-oozing pretenders.

“Look, young man (I’ve been demoted from the first-name basis), I got a lot of things to do. I am sure you can find your way out.”



About the Author 

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, 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 Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

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