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16.03.2003 Feature Article

Special Joys From The PSI

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Rhapsodies On ‘Kindness’ – Verse 21 Having attended a secondary school with a cadet corps, Achimota School in my case, PSI has always meant the Permanent Staff Instructor, the underpaid, retired army Sergeant Major that Burma Camp had put out to permanent pasture in our school to train the cadet corps. Normally his tenure lasted until his death, because that extra bit of salary, in addition to his small pension, was not to be given up so long as he had an ounce of energy left in him. Besides, there were quite a few tangible and intangible benefits to be obtained from being associated with Achimota School. Recently, whilst reviewing the other PSI, the special initiatives of Wofa Jak that form the vanguard of his ‘Golden Age of Business’, I could not help but notice remarkable similarities in the operations of the two PSIs. For one thing both are old and dilapidated. The retired soldier is usually the product of a long, loyal military life, a ward of the barracks, and half literate, whose release into society after retirement at about 60 years qualifies him for nothing much more than a night watchman. A run-down bungalow at Anumle, Achimota’s backyard slum, and a little post at Achimota becomes a bright prospect and provides redemption from the other fate. The President’s Special Initiative on the other hand, is a newly-dressed attempt at perpetuating an entrenched economy of dependency by introducing a gradualist approach to the all important question of value-added manufacturing. Boiling cassava to starch, joining the competition to export clothes to a saturated US clothing market and growing more oil palm to produce more oil for export in a country that still extols the virtues of ‘key soap’ to her rural folks in this 21st century, might sound as progress to tranquillized peoples, but it does not fool us at all. And like the cadet corps’ PSI’s first successes, his pride at seeing recruits spring to attention and stand at-ease screaming ‘one, two-three, one’, Wofa Jak’s great initiatives that will starch, oil, ‘joromize’, ‘batikize’ and ‘adukudonize’ the American public, have chalked their first successes in the establishment of the Ayensu Starch Factory. This factory, which will supposedly earn revenues of US$ 3.4 million in 2004 from 12,000 acres of cassava, averages to about US$300 per acre of cassava cultivated and processed. How much of this $300 comes to the poor subsistence farmer with only an acre or two holdings does not need much of an imagination to fathom. Much fanfare over such a small national initiative! Both PSIs are also a source of great entertainment and delight to their beneficiaries. Cut out from a mold that stresses authoritarianism, order and a set-way of performing every activity, and which eschews any contrary opinion, the cadet PSI’s demeanor, and indeed very pronouncements, coupled with his attempts to impress the sons and daughters of a school which prides itself on the ownership of the English language, can be quite funny.

The command ‘Wipe it off’, a popular one aimed at instructing cadets to stop laughing could become ‘Wap pot if’ in the mouth of the semi-literate PSI. ‘Cadets Attention’ morphs to ‘Kalet, Ka-leeet Shen’ ‘Stand at Ease’ could end up as ‘Tan-O-Gbash.

But by far the most amusing to us cadets was the PSI’s lesson on ‘camouflage’, the military art of seeing the enemy without the enemy seeing you. For some reason, possibly linked to initial wrong usage that had been repeated so often as to become gospel, it always came put of the PSIs mouth as,

‘Camouflage is seeing the enemy without the enemy being seen by you.”

No amount of Achimota ‘booklong’ and ‘sabe sabe ‘ would convince our PSI that the statement made no sense. Finally, after a reprimand from no less than a visiting Commanding Officer from the Recce Regiment, the PSI relented and agreed to drop the offending word ‘by’ that was at the heart of the hoopla. “Camouflage”, he reiterated, “is seeing the enemy, without the enemy being seeing you” The entertainment of Wofa Jak’s PSI is more subtle however, and needs an astute mind to unravel its subtlety. You see Wofa’s PSI is spreading out so much that it could be coming special to your local area. Take for example the PSI on ‘distance education’. Ghana can’t find employment for its secondary school and university graduates, the drop-out rate from the JSS system is very high, but PSI has found time to teach Math and English on the Ghana Radio. And concerning camouflage, Wofa Jak's PSI has it covered. For the PSI is nothing more than a huge attempt to provide Ghanaians with a semblance of Wofa Jak’s independence of thought and action whilst the IMF and World Bank run the economy and finances of Ghana behind the scenes. Who do you think ordered the fuel price hikes, the VAT and utility rate hikes, and the freeze in wages of public servants? In this case, camouflage is 'being seen by the enemy without the enemy being seen by you'. Except for a double use of the word ‘by’, it represents quite an uncanny convergence of the two PSIs. Yet again, Wofa Jak’s PSI boldly takes camouflage to places that camouflage has never gone before, places that would make a cadet corps PSI green with envy at this elevated level of ‘being seen without being seen’ The new camouflage involves phantom projects that surreptitiously arrive in the public domain, that whet up peoples’ appetites and expectations for a while, and then disappear without a trace. We have seen it three times in the two years of Wofa Jak’s custodianship of the ship of state. Last year it was announced that there was a secret railway network to Tamale in the works, and that, the Minister of Trade was consulting with institutional investors in Europe. Then came the famous US1 billion IFC loan that was going to solve Ghana’s infrastructure problems. Of course, true to the camouflage nature of the projects, not a steel bar or tranche has been seen since. Recently a new US500 million project has suddenly appeared on the national scene that will turn Sekondi-Takoradi into a manufacturer of cellular phones, satellites, computers, motorbikes, bicycles, pharmaceuticals and all the other manufactured goods of industrialized societies, starting this year. Again, the peoples’ hopes will be high. The windfall for employment will be trumpeted in all the news media, and we shall wait in vain for some foreigner to come and shower us with the fruits of development. As expected, not a steel bar has been seen but already it is reported that Kumasi is fighting over the project with Sekondi. Having been denied the Atlantic Ocean at Kejetia, as was promised by Krobo Edusei, the Asante Boys ‘no go sit down make’ Sekondi-Takoradi, which already has the Atlantic Ocean, have all the factories too. This case of camouflage is pure and simple, ‘seeing without seeing’. It would confound the dear, old PSI of Achimota Cadet Corps.

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2003

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

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