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07.10.2002 Feature Article

Beware Of Fair-Weather Friends

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A REJOINDER TO "NDC Must Forget 2004 - Okumukom" Nana Akwasi Agyeman whose accolades have included "Okumkom", 'Butcher of Kumasi' and 'Terror of Kumasi' is at it again. I call him the Talleyrand of Ghana politics in reference to the Frenchman, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord who lived from 1754 - 1838, and is popularly remembered as Talleyrand. In so doing, I am not attempting to equate the 'greatness' of the diplomatic Talleyrand to "Yen Nana Akwasi". Rather, it is Talleyrand's well-known and written about profligacy to shift allegiances to whomever was in power in France, that resembles that of Nana Akwasi Agyeman. Like Talleyrand, Nana Akwasi is of royal birth. Talleyrand served King Louis XVI until the French Revolution ended King Louis' tenure, and indeed his life. In short order, Talleyrand made common cause with the revolutionaries. He managed to survive, and serve in official positions through the Reign of Terror; National Convention; The Directory; Bonaparte; Restoration, and on and on. Talleyrand was a classic example of a fair-weather friend. They are the type of friends who show up when the going is good; and then vamoose, when the going gets tough. Now comes Nana Akwasi Agyeman posing for a similar role. In 1979, the June 4th coup caught Nana Akwasi in a storm. He was accused of embezzling funds, failure to complete or even execute road construction contracts for which he had received healthy sums. This man of royal blood was made to carry human feces through the streets of his ancestral Oseikrom (Kumasi). His beard was reportedly shaved off with what can charitably be called a razor blade. He was made to eat rotten Sardine and Tinapa, while soldiers mocked at him and gave him a few slaps. But was that the last of Nana Akwasi; hell no! Nor could the disgraceful experience dampen his resolve for opportunism. When Rawlings organized another coup in 1981, one of the first to embrace him was Nana Akwasi Agyeman. Later on, Nana was to say that Rawlings was right in treating him the way he did, because he (Nana) had done wrong! Typical of a Talleyrand character. Both Rawlings and Nana Akwasi buried the hatchet, as it were. Nana Akwasi 'reigned' in Kumasi as the Kumasi mayor or Chief Executive of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA). Other than a short-lived stint as "Minister of the Environment in charge of the Northern Sector" (a position concocted by Rawlings to assuage Nana Akwasi after the people rejected him as Kumasi Chief Executive in favour of then Lt. Colonel Emmanuel Okyere), Nana remained Kumasi mayor throughout the Rawlings era. It was said that Nana Akwasi served as the 'eyes and ears' of the Rawlings Mafia in Kumasi. Never did a local politician misuse his office in the manner done by Nana Akwasi in Kumasi. Never did a local politician corrupt his office in the manner done by Nana Akwasi. And certainly, never did a local politician treat his people with utter contempt and brutality the way Nana Akwasi Agyeman treated the citizens of Kumasi. Hence, when it came time to considering a royal successor to the late Otumfuo Opoku Ware II in 1999; Nana Akwasi Agyeman was one Oyoko royal whom the majority of Asantefuo did not wish to be near an "Asesedwa" let alone, the venerated "Sikadwa" (Golden Stool). After being rebuffed, Nana Akwasi vented his anger at little newspaper vendors because he claimed the way and manner the vendors displayed the newspapers announcing his loss (which was the leading headline of the day), mocked at him! But in reality, Nana Akwasi had made himself a mockery, utterly abhorred by the entire Asanteman, due to his strange and despotic rule as the Kumasi mayor. Everybody in Kumasi it seemed, lived in fear of Nana Akwasi. Reports of Nana Akwasi firing a gun at innocent citizens; slapping innocent citizens; verbally assaulting innocent citizens, filled newspapers and radios. But who would bell the cat? The rage of the people nearly led to Nana Akwasi being lynched, had he not fled the scene of one of his usual brutalities against an innocent taxi driver. One of the most disgraceful episodes during Nana Akwasi's tenure, was the physical beating he and his hired thugs (Machomen) gave to Dr. Richard Anane, the Member of Parliament for Bantama, and ex-officio member of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly. The police could not touch Nana Akwasi. Dr. Anane is currently the Minister of Roads and Transport. In spite of all these bizarre episodes, not to mention his incompetence as Chief Executive, all attempts to remove Nana Akwasi from office failed. Many in Kumasi came to see Nana Akwasi as a bad meteorite imposed on Kumasi by Jerry John Rawlings to spite the people for their anti-(P)NDC stance. Relief for Kumasi came in the form of the 2000 elections, and the defeat of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Nana Akwasi was dislodged from the mayor's office. He had been a huge financial contributor and great campaigner for the NDC. He was also a thorn in the flesh of National Patriotic Party (NPP) members during his tenure as Kumasi mayor. Would Nana Akwasi Agyeman retire to the wealth that public office had afforded him? Apparently not. According to newspaper reports, Nana Akwasi has decided to re-fashion himself. Nana is quitting his beloved NDC to his newly-beloved NPP. Nana Akwasi Agyeman's reason for bolting from the NDC is rather egoistic and straightforward: Nana has concluded that the NDC is sinking; and it cannot win another election in Ghana. And, he adds that he "cannot continue to stay till the burial of the party"! Why not? Nana Akwasi also insists his motives must not be questioned, because if he helped his 'friend' Jerry Rawlings; why should he sit on the fence now that his 'brother' J.A. Kuffour rules the roost! It all sounds elementary. I will leave the reader to figure that out!! And for those who wish to impugn Nana Akwasi's motive, Nana suggests, "any person who does not understand the move can go hang"; or as rendered in Twi "se wonte ase a, kohye ahoma"!!! In fairness, Nana Akwasi Agyeman's move is not unusual, others have switched parties, and more will follow; much like Talleyrand's. Unbridled opportunism sometimes drive such ambitions. I call these characters fair-weather friends. Ghanaians are renowned for possessing rather short memories; and the NPP may end up welcoming Nana Akwasi and his ilk with a religious zeal. Indeed, Nana Akwasi has made several million cedis donation to the party recently. But an advice: Those who welcome all fair-weather friends without question, risk losing real and principled friends.


Kofi Ellison
Kofi Ellison, © 2002

The author has 60 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KofiEllison

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