Ghana: In Search of Controversy

Posted by By at 5 October, at 08 : 39 AM Print

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The Ghanaian president, Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is, undoubtedly, one of the most resilient politicians in the land. There is also no question that he was among the most qualified to ever sought the high office. The determination of this scion of one of Ghana’s most illustrious families, son of a former president, was also never in doubt, as he doggedly sought the presidency three times before he won in last December elections.

Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo

The 72-year president, a very astute and experienced politician, told Ghanaians that he had extensively studied their problems and will solve them in no time. Given his pedigree and his lofty promises, plus a pledge to hit the ground running, the expectations of him to deliver was sky-high.

Today, discombobulated Ghanaians are asking why their leader, with all his vast experience, is lurching from one controversy to another.

Right from the beginning, Nana Akuffo-Addo’s presidency was inauspiciously marred by the public ridicule that greeted his inaugural address, when it was discovered that his speech-writers had engaged in massive plagiarism, lifting texts verbatim from several US presidents, among others.

The dust had barely settled on the scorn poured on Ghana by local and international critics when the president went to cut the sod for a National Cathedral. Many Ghanaians shook their heads in disbelief and asked why their new leader thought a cathedral is a priority, in a country where every available space is dotted with a church or mosque. A good example is the large Industrial Estate at Kaneshie in the capital, Accra, where factories and warehouses have been turned into Megachurches.

This year marked Ghana’s sixty years of independence. The occasion, nicknamed Ghana @60, was also greeted with controversy.

The government promised that no state fund will be expended and set up a committee to run affairs and seek sponsorship from the private sector. All well and jolly except that the president found some ways to mar the occasion. Not only did he and his vice decided not to wear the official uniform, the president used that occasion, of all times, to revive the age-long controversy between his Danquah-Busia political dynasty and the partisans of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.

Ostensibly a multi-party democracy, Ghana is, effectively, a two-party state. The Busia-Danquah political lineage, to which the president belongs, have always been at loggerheads with those that claim allegiance to Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, even if only at the lip-service level.

Ghana, like most African countries, still suffer from deep ethnicity and tribal divisions. The states, carved out to serve colonials interests, are yet to become viable nations.

In Ghana, the other tribes accuse the majority Akan tribe/nation (they dominate the Danquah-Busia group), of arrogance and overbearing. Some, especially the Ewes in the Volta Region, faulted President Akufo-Addo’s appointments, which is said to be tilted heavily towards his kinsmen.

But it was the president’s attempt to rewrite history on Independence Day that peeved many people. Things would probably have died down if the president’s men did not attempt to ram their version of Ghana’s history down their compatriot’s throats. Many of them went to town to dismiss Kwame Nkrumah as the Founder of modern Ghana.

The attempt at revisionism did not go down well with Nkrumah’s hardcore partisans. Nkrumah’s daughter, Samia Yaaba, released a statement and gently reminded people that attempt to besmirch her father’s legacy is an exercise in futility.

The more battle-hardened of Nkrumah’s supporters were not as kind and as gentle as Samia, they launched a pungent and very scathing attack on the president and his men, accusing them of fanning ethnic division and promoting an Akan Agenda.

More ominously, a group in the Volta Region revive a dormant secessionist movement which called for the independence of the region, formerly part of German-run Togoland, to be called Western Togoland. They Police promptly arrested and charged three of their leaders with treason.

It remains unclear what the president and his men hope to achieve by fanning the ember of ethnic chauvinism at this very early stage of their administration. It was not a pretty sight to see many Ghanaians picking cue from their leaders, donned the garb of ethnic cheerleaders and heap tribal invectives at each other.

Supporters of president Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) are, generally, very loyal. They stood by the party through thick and thin and bore their years in opposition stoically. It was incredible then to see the president succeeding in annoying his own hardcore supporters. It happened when the president sent his final batch of ministerial appointees to the parliament for approval. His list brought the number of ministers to one hundred and ten (yes, 110).

Ghanaians even committed NPP supporters, felt scandalized.

Many riled Ghanaians took to the airwaves to vent their anger at what they perceived as an attempt by their newly-elected rulers to find jobs for the boys and girls who helped them to win elections. They cited the hypocrisy of seeing a man who, over the years, vociferated loudly against government excesses and lambasted the previous government for appointing an 85-strong cabinet, only to come to power and increase the tally.

The anger of Ghanaians would be best appreciated if situated properly in context. Naturally-endowed, the country remains a poor country. Its economy is in very bad, even dire, straits. Ghana depends on donor support for close to a third of its budget. A paltry GDP of US$10.7 billion gives the nation a measly GNP of some US$478. Many Ghanaians still live in conditions of shocking poverty. Many villages, especially in the northern part of the country, rely on NGOs for their educational and health needs. That notwithstanding, Ghanaian officials enjoy remunerations that will be the envy of officials in the countries that offer them support. For example, each Minister in Ghana is entitled to a V8 Jeep, police escort, free house, and household supports, among other mouth-watering emoluments.

The president used his first State of the Nation address delivered on March, to lament about the parlous state of national affairs. He bemoaned how Ghana has been badly misled over the years and asked why many citizens still live in poverty.

With so many critical areas crying for attention, sober-minded Ghanaians asked why their elderly president deliberately court controversy.

Ghana, like many African countries, still faces developmental challenges of truly epic proportions. Basic like water and electricity are still in short supply. More worrisome are the activities of illegal miners (Galamsey in the local parlance) who have denuded much of Ghana’s prime forest and polluted many of the river bodies that the people depend on for their sustenance. Galamsey activities have been well publicized, but corrupt officials continue to look the other way as their nation’s environment is destroyed and the wealth stolen.

It baffles greatly why, with all these challenges, the president chose to stoke the ember of tribalism. He would be better served if he devotes his energies and attention to solving Ghana’s huge problems.

Some commentators, perhaps uncharitably, opined that the president is trying to divert attention because he does not have answers to the huge problems he inherited. Only time will tell if they are right.

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.

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