04.06.2003 Feature Article

Letter From The President (IV)

Letter From The President (IV)
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J. A. FukuorHosu CastleAccra Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents; How are you coping with the HIPC climate? I hope you are not starving yourselves because of HIPC. Our Fante elders say that “Kafo mpo dzidzi”, meaning “highly indebted poor citizens have a right to eat”, so go ahead and eat all you can. I will encourage you to eat, at least, one meal everyday – it need not necessarily be a square one (banku is usually round but it’s good for you). You might be wondering why am talking about food. Mama Tess has been interacting with some foodsellers in Accra and she’s reported to me that those food sellers have recorded a massive drop in sales, which they blame on my recent calls for Ghanaians to tighten their belts. According to Mama Tess, the food sellers are also complaining about the increasing cost of maize, rice, tomatoes, etc. You will, no doubt, agree with me that the Agricultural Major is doing his job quite well. If he’s doing his job so well, why then are food prices soaring? The Major and his lieutenants blame it on ‘Middlemen’ and ‘Market Queens’. My people like to create titles but from my investigations the middlemen and the market queens are in the same profession. The only difference is that a middleman is, well, a man, and a market queen is, if you care to be reminded, a woman. These groups of people are literally food merchants who buy cheaply at the farm gates and sell the same foodstuff at exorbitant prices in the marketplaces. For example, they buy a crate of tomatoes for just about 200,000 cedis from farmers at Pwalugu and sell the same crate for 900,000 cedis at Makola. The market queens and middlemen do go through a lot of trouble to bring the foodstuffs to the market centres but that is no excuse for them to sell at such high prices that my people are not motivated enough to eat. These days even ‘face-the-wall’ is not as cheap as it used to be and roasted plantain is seldom referred to as ‘Kofi brokeman’. Mama Tess, who is my ear on the ground, reports to me that a lot of people eat banku without fish, especially in Accra and warns that we are heading towards a national malnutritional epidemic. All this because of ‘market queens’ and ‘middlemen’. Well, I am compelled to take some drastic steps. We have to build more roads and open up the food centres (or the farming areas). The only problem is that we don't have money to build these badly needed roads. As a means of making money available for the roads, I have decided to disband the national football team, the embarrassing Black Stars and sack their talkative coach, whose name I can’t pronounce. I must say that these are just suggestions am thinking about so don’t get so excited and do anything silly if you disagree. If we sack the coach we can make savings of about three thousand dollars a month, which is not sufficient for the construction of a one-metre road. Don’t you think it can be used to hire a ‘grader’ to level some of the bumpy roads? In fact, am thinking of banning all sporting activities in the country. I’ve always believed that all work and no play makes Jack a billionaire. So let’s channel our scarce resources into educating ourselves and filling our empty tummies. When the tummy is filled you start playing all sorts of strange games, you think of living and dying in space, you get adventurous and want to sail around the world in a canoe. I don’t really agree with those who say that sporting activities can unite the people. To those who say that sports can improve our physical fitness and that ‘a sound mind is in a sound body’, I say that anyone who crave for increased physical fitness should go to the field and weed. So, just as a reminder, am thinking of banning sports and saving some money for the roads. Another suggestion I am considering to help reduce the price of food is to change the job description for our city guards. You notice that they like to stand by the roadsides to demand money from wayward drivers. I’ve given up on those indisciplined drivers – I think they will only change their attitudes when they are also well-fed. I will therefore send all those city guards (they will now be known as the market police force) to the market centres to check the activities of those middlemen and market queens. They will be tasked to search for, identify and arrest all those middlemen and market queens and, you know, deal with them drastically. Am not condoning any atrocities though. For starters, they could seize the food, take it to the Agric Major to determine the appropriate price and send it back to the market for sale. I know they will also help themselves to the food items they seize but I prefer this to the ‘market lords’ cheating our hardworking farmers and ordinary ctizens. Am also looking for strategies to get the IMF and its sisters to be giving us more money. I was told that if I did all they asked me to do, they will give me so much money. But it seems that the more I accede to their demands, the more confidence they get to issue fresh, hard-to-follow instructions. If you meet anyone from the IMF, World Bank, the Paris Club etc. tell them that am ready to do whatever they ask me to do but they have to stop playing hide-and-seek with me. I need the money they promised to build roads, to pay the market police and, Insha Allah, buy a bigger jet for myself. In the meantime, I implore you to go out there and EAT. Eat what you can afford and stop cursing me for your inability to ‘chop better’. Whatever you are eating now, remember that someone, somewhere has had even less to eat. That someone is certainly not me. Your Excellent One, J. A. Fukuor

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