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15.01.2003 Feature Article

The Lexicon of Governance in Ghana.

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Rhapsodies On Kindness - Verse 10

Once upon a time, the language and slogans employed by our governments to explain their strategies for economic development and internal political harmony were fairly straight forward and self explanatory. The goldsmith's son's pre-independence call for 'Self Government Now", and the post independence slogan, 'Work and happiness', required little imagination for public comprehension. In tune with the simplicity of the demands, the colonial state was handed over to Kwame like a baton in a relay race, and, diligently, the population gloried in the affordable price of canned sardines, 'tinapa' and milk. Even 'Socianism and Capitanism'- as Teacher Essilfie of Akwadum village pronounced them- those popular slogans of the Nkrumah era, were fairly straightforward. 'Socianism', in the minds of many, meant 'di ma me ndi bi' (chop and let me chop); and ,capiatanism, also meant 'di ma me ndi bi'. People were definitely not confused about the issues of the day. The Goldsmith's son himself made no bones about his place in society. He was the Osagyefo, Fount Of Honor, Man of Destiny, and, lest children should have any doubts, it was made clear to them that, 'Nkrumah never dies'. Similarly, the era of Kutu, the alumnus of Swedru Business School, yielded no serious complexities in the lexicon of! Government. 'Operation Feed Yourself ' was exactly what it said, and for a while, our peoples indulged the Chairman by planting food on every available piece of land in the cities, even if that meant that some crops were irrigated with the toxic waters of the Odoorna River, or shall we say, gutter. Admittedly, under Kutu, there was more profundity attached to the government's semantic offerings. The single word, 'kalabule', so stirred the collective passions of an entire nation that even children, as young as five, engaged gleefully in the age old art of old buying and selling. Of course, it did not matter if one owned the products or not. So long as the 'exhibit' passed through your hands, you were entitled to do your 'connection'. Under the aegis of the 'connection', a free- for-all orgy of illegal trade, geared towards survival and self-aggrandizement, d! ominated the national conscience. It was the era when street cigarette hawkers were turning into rich folk and the collective national palate salivated at the mere mention of 'essential commodities' - those canned bits of fish, milk, meat and sugar whose possession could raise the social profile of the possessor. Frequently, Kutu was wont to look down on his minions engaged in their orgy, and spice their lives with a few verbal delectables. He was partial to complex nouns like 'magnanimity, equality, solidarity and equanimity. Rumor has it that Kutu could deliver a three-hour speech composed entirely of different permutations of his favorite nouns. "Ladies And gentlemen" " Magnanimitee........Solidaritee......Equalitee......Equanimitee...... Communitee..." "Solidaritee..... Equanimitee....Communitee....Magnanimitee,,,,, Equalitee...." Communiteee...Magnanimitee......Equanimitee....Solidaritee.....Equalitee.." After three hours of such intense verbal gymnastics, he would sign off with the usual, "Thank you and may God bless you all." And why not? His magnanimity had touched so many young Ghanaian women. In solidar! ity with his fellow generals, he had looted the national treasury, leaving Ghanaian communities equalized in abject poverty. And finally when the end did come, it was with equanimity that he faced his accusers and coolly asked them, "Gentlemen of the press, which one amongst you does not have a girlfriend in addition to his wife?" It fell to Junior Jesus then to embellish the language of governance and give it a qualitative shift, especially after the dull years of the Liman administration when the only interesting national policy was 'Gyinabu', a refined form of 'Kalabule', in which the 'exhibit' did not require concealment during the process of the 'connection'. Right before one's very eyes, in broad daylight, Ghanaians begged to be robbed of their cedis in exchange for a few 'essential! commodities'. Like a thunderbolt from a serene sky, Junior Jesus dropped 'revolution' on the overburdened heads of Ghanaians. And with his 'revolution', as in a human body, came many organs. PDCs, NDCs, IDCC, CVC, CDRs and WDCs. The organs were everywhere. On the billboards, on radio, on television, in the newspapers, at the work sites, in the village, towns, and cities, the organs hung over Ghanaians like a giant octopus with dangling spherical orbs that suffocated freedoms in the name of 'people's power'. Accompanying the organs of the revolution was the catch phrase, 'we are in a revolution'. This phrase became the pretext for any individual and state excess. Judges wo! uld be murdered because, 'we are in a revolution'; Women traders would be stripped and whipped because 'we are in a revolution'. Your neighbor could look you straight in the eye and sell you a box of matches at ten times the 'control price', and justify it with the ominous words, 'we are in a revolution'. It was the catch phrase for pain and suffering inflicted by Junior Jesus and his minions. At the same time, the word 'accountability became the guide to the conduct of affairs of public servants. Much like its sister phrase 'we are in a revolution', 'accountability' could make you rich, could make you poor, could get you jailed, could even get you killed. But as Junior morphed from military fatigues to tailored suits; as his hollow cheeks filled out; as the unkempt hair blossomed into a ! formidable Samuel-Doe-like Afro; and as he exchanged the Flight-Lieute nant rank for a couple of doctorate degrees, so too did the cheap language of revolution give way to semantic sophistication. Thenceforth, the World Bank-and-IMF-led 'Economic Recovery Program (ERP) would dominate' the lives of Ghanaians. Lest you think the ERP is as straight forward as it sounds, let us caution you that this was the era of sophistication and nothing was that simple. Before Ghanaians could achieve 'economic recovery', we had to first go through 'structural adjustment' which made us poorer, then PAMSCAD, another program that was supposed to mitigate the poverty of 'structural adjustment', but which, in fact gave Ghanaians the 'Rawlings chain' of poverty, For our ingenuity, Ghanaians were rewarded with the epithet, 'success story of Africa'. This period, which also saw Junior Jesus transform from Chairman to El Presidente was also the age of euphemism. Government ineptitude would now be covered up with beautiful sounding phrases. Decentralization and District Assemblies, ostensibly set up to bring 'power to the people' became the means for government to abandon its side of the social contract and leave the people, especially the rural folks, to fend for themselves, with a little help from foreign NGOs. Under this banner of 'decentralization', the government was only supposed to create an 'enabling environment' whilst the people were supposed to be 'capacity building'. The result? Government and party functionaries 'enabled' their pockets and bank accounts, as the people got more and more incapacitated. Then cocoa prices fell, gold prices plummeted, oil price! s rose world wide, and no euphemism could hide anymore the dire strait s that Ghanaians lived in. So Ghanaians booted out Junior Jesus and elected the NPP led by the globetrotter, Wofa Jak and his "golden age of business". Similar in substance to Junior Jesus and the NDC, Wofa Jak and the NPP, however, brought a new sophistication to the euphemisms of governance, which is not surprising since the NPP has always boasted of an intellectual tradition apart from the 'verandah boys' of the goldsmith's son, and Junior Jesus' goons. The 'golden age of business' itself is yet another ploy that leads to the same 'enabling' strategies of government and its hangers on. It is a skillful maneuver that effectively puts the economy of the country under the administration of the World Bank and the IMF. Patronage has moved away from NDC loyalists to NPP faithful, most of who ! have transformed, overnight into building contractors. Instead of a perceived 'Ewe hegemony', we now have a perceived 'Asante hegemony'. Under the banner of 'zero tolerance of corruption', which replaced 'accountability', 20 year old right-hand-drive busses have been imported sans spare parts to bring the benefits of mass transportation to our stalled cities. And as the Finance Minister said, "the government will also reinvigorate the structural reforms, improve the functioning of the foreign exchange market and strengthen public expenditure management, transparency, accountability and good governance." Further the government will create an enabling environment to invite private sector participation in order to implement the poverty reduction strategies that will create the need for capacity building in the district assemblies, which will in turn solve all the ethnic flashpoints that exist in the country in this era of positive change. At the same time, since the decision point for the Highly Impoverished Poor country status has been reached, the government will begin sourcing funds and deliver them in tranches with the necessary due diligence, without compromising our sovereign guarantee, all in the hope that these will bring the necessary macro economic stability that will make Ghana the preferred investment destination as we embark on a program to restructure or rationalize the public sector in this 'golden age of business' I told you. We are in a revolution!

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2003

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

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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