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20.10.2002 Feature Article

Rhapsodies on "Kindness"

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Verse 2 - The Generosity and Erudition of the "Gentle Giant".

Our rhapsodies on the patronage and "kindness" of the Ghanaian state power continue today with an apology. In the first article in the series, "Kindness and the ghost of Kutu Acheampong", we wrongfully accused the Kuffour government of not being creative in the "kindness", which they lavished on their MPs, Ministers and party faithful. We had absolutely no idea, at the time the article was published on Ghana web, that, in less than a fortnight, a press conference presided over by the President will reveal a whole new side of the creativity of the NPP government's custodianship of the Ghanaian state. In an unsavoury mix of righteous contriteness and patronage, that was spiced up with delightful doses of blissful ignorance, Mr Kuffour, President of Ghana, erstwhile 'international businessman'- as Mr Turncoat calls him-, and failed burnt brick manufacturer, admits that he made a mistake in criticising the size of government under Junior Jesus. After vacating the obscurity of the opposition into the limelight of power and privilege, he had come to the conclusion that Ghana could have a whole Minister for the Asuoya-trap based railway system of Ghana, and another Ministry for the bankrupt Ghana Airways! We must, in all plausible sincerity, also apologise for some of our earlier articles, which seemed to insinuate that His Excellency's travels overseas were for the purpose of per diem accretions. Gentle reader, little did we know that, profound erudition on 'cabinet building' was acquired during these trips. For example, in Malaysia, His Excellency experienced an epiphany - what he referred to as the 'salutary lesson' that there were twenty-seven cabinet ministers in the office of the Prime Minister alone. And to His Excellency's surprise, ..."they were all very busy working to make the office effective. And in India, to his amazement, there was a cabinet minister for a railways system, which happens to be o! ne of the most extensive and integrated in Asia - quite unlike our colonially built railways geared towards the export of primary products. He even learnt that there could be a Minister for Tertiary Education. Now whiles we are extremely happy about the education of our President from his trips abroad, even though any cheap textbook might have sufficed for such knowledge, it is the implications, for Ghana, of his cabinet epiphany that becomes worrisome. Mr Kuffour has indicated he wants the matter "discussed in the public domain", but we fear the "newly educated Chief Executive" may just be testing the grounds for a new round of patronage he is about to unleash on the Ghanaian population. After all it is his constitutional privilege to choose the size of his cabinet. With seventy two ministers and ministerial secretaries in the bag, coupled with an army of special advisors, all armed with privileges and perks th! at will overwhelm any executive in the western world, it seems Agya Kuffour is about to add some more party faithful to the table of privilege. And who says it is taxpayers' money? They are savings from being a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC)! Lest anyone should accuse us of ignoring the main text of the speech - after all, these insights into the president's epiphany came under the title 'miscellaneous' - let us assure you that we have no intention of ignoring a generic speech that could have come out of the mouth of any Ghanaian head of State, even Kutu Acheampong. Well, Kutu would have added the word, 'magnanimity' somewhere in the text; Jerry Rawlings would have probably read it backwards; Liman would have slept through rather than read through it. Why would we want to ignore the same litany of wishes, hopes, false hopes and exhortations that have characterized these attempts to strengthen the status quo of a neo-colonial economy? How could we not but comment on 'how things are hard for Ghanaians these days and how the government is doing all it can? "Of how HIPC has benefited the nation and how we should look for more things to export - anything!" "Of the 'good news' that an, 'olonka of garri' is now 4000 cedis" - my mother would have died a second death. Incidentally in Nkrumah's time, 'tinapa' would have been substituted for 'garri' in the speech! Of how the government is trying to supply textbooks and furniture to schools! Of the exhortations to Ghanaian professionals to come home and help. And, of course no set of presidential promises will be complete without mention of the imminence of some oil discovery and breakthrough for the economy. All in all, a typical Ghanaian presidential speech. Yet, what is even more eye-opening than His Excellency's newly acquired erudition is the reaction of the pundits to his press conference. As expected, partisanship played a big part of the polarized attitudes to the speech. For those who hailed the conference as an unparalleled success, it seems that the mere idea of a presidential press conference was the triumph of democracy, and not the substance of the conference itself. As always in Ghana, and as Ataa Nii, one SIL forumer rightly remarked, process has been substituted for substance. Led by one Dr Ellison on the Ghanaweb, a man who has comfortably repudiated common sense and everything noble in his psyche for a rabid Asante jingoism mixed with an equal! ly rabid partisan sycophancy, Ghanaians seem to have yielded critical reasoning to grovelling resignation, and a 'tranquillising' acceptance of 'gradualism' has serenaded the national ethos. Ghanaians call him the 'gentle giant', and indeed a friend of this scribbler, an NPP MP informed us His Excellency is affectionately called the 'silent giant'. Now even though 'silent' and 'giant' are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the word 'giant' connotes someone who rises above mere mortals. But it appears that, the only endeavour in which the erstwhile brick manufacturer will rise above any mere mortal is in his capacity for globetrotting, his sartorial enhancements and dispensation of patronage, which he made so clear at his press conference. So what's in store for Ghanaians over the remaining years of the Kuffour regime? Well, we are not prophets to foretell the future, what with the rise in world cocoa prices and the potential oil crises if Mr Bush goes to war with Sadam. What we can advise Ghanaians is to expect a cabinet list possibly as long as the list of MPs because, for every foreign trip that the 'gentle giant' embarks on, who knows what new ministries he might dream of. We might even get a Minister of Cassava and Starch, who knows? Why would the 'gentle giant' deny cabinet status to his own 'Special Initiative?" Incidentally, at the press conference, His Excellency stated that "It has never been the case that some people have come from outside to develop any country". So then, Mr President, your Excellency, 'Gentle Giant', even if thou art 'silent', tell us, why all these travels to lure 'illusive foreign investors?

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2002

The author has 34 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwesiYeboah

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