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24.06.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: The Abuja Report

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, When I signed up to be the first African leader to have his record of governance examined under the African Peer Review Mechanism, I didn't expect to be overly criticized by my own colleagues. As my peers 'reviewed' me last weekend, I felt like I was sitting on hot coal and getting my bum grilled. Kwame Nkrumah will be so disappointed. He must be turning in his grave because African leaders have kowtowed to imperialistic pressure and have stopped patting each other on the back. What happened to good-old African solidarity? Peer review is good but at what cost?

Last weekend in Abuja, I was seriously embarrassed when the likes of Thabo and Olu, used a report prepared by a panel of eminent Africans to review my governance record. At the end of it all, they offered very little commendation and a lot of criticisms – more than I could take. I was sorely disappointed. I realized that my colleague African leaders do not appreciate what I've done for the people of Sikaman. Since, I took over from Jerry Boom, I've made it possible for the people of my country to breathe a new air of freedom. They say all sorts of things about me and they don't get punished with identification haircuts. Every one knows that our economy is shaping up even though people have been forced to tighten their belts a little more… well… tightly! Thanks to my astute begging skills, we have received several modern 'trotros' which make it possible for citizens to pack themselves like sardines into one big bus. Never mind the discomfort, the most important thing is that an increasing number of my citizens can get to their destinations on time, without spending hours in queues. Just recently, even the G-8 acknowledged my good deeds by canceling our county's debts. I've really done a lot for this country and its people – more than any other president has ever done since independence. Yet, my fellow African leaders have ganged up against me. Instead of highlighting my good deeds and pointing them out as examples worthy of following, they've concentrated unnecessarily on my shortcomings. What annoys me most in that “imperfect report” of theirs is that they issues they raised are so frivolous. Yet they are under the mistaken impression that they are using high western standards to judge me. Never mind the fact that most of the issues the report raised are not new to me. My citizens have been talking about these issues over and over again. So, I wonder whether this peer review thing was necessary in the first place. After all, it is a replica of the “citizens' review” I have been undergoing since I came to sit on the Black Star stool. One of their major concerns was the size of my government. Does size really matter? Well, I used to think it did until I assumed power. I don't think I have too many ministers. Eighty-eight ministers cannot be too much for a country of 20 million people. Mathematically, that means that one minister to every 227,000 citizens. It's not that bad. Furthermore, consider the fact that I need to create a lot of “jobs for the boys” and you will realize that I can even do with some more ministers. I've been toying with the idea of setting up about 16 news ministries including one each for Mosquito Eradication (to regulate the sale of mosquito coils), Weekly Clean-up Exercises (to oversee urban sanitation) and Presidential Domestic Affairs (to manage my domestic affairs and check the powers of Mama Tess). Now, my colleague African leaders are telling me that even the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs is unnecessary. I hope that those who are demanding that I create special jobs for them will take a cue from my embarrassment in Abuja and realize that “jobs for the boys” is getting out of fashion. I just can't do it when my peers are breathing down my neck.

My fellow African leaders have also told me that they don't like the idea that many of my ministers are from parliament. They agree with the rest of the world that this practice does not promote the principle of separation of powers. They wouldn't accept my explanation that I didn't write the constitution. And they insist that this must stop. They even questioned my commitment to democracy when they pointed to the constitutional provision which makes it possible for me to appoint as many Supreme Court judges as possible. To this, I told them that the framers of the constitution know why they didn't place a limit on the number of Supreme Court judges. To my surprise, they told me that if I didn't like this constitutional provision, I would have changed it long ago. They were right. I like the fact that I can pack the Supreme Court with as many pliable judges as possible. Just remember those days when I desperately needed to fill up the Supreme Court to enable me confront Tsatsu Tsikata's threat to undo my beloved fast track court system and jail a few opponents like Melorsey. As I sat before the panel, I lost concentration for a moment and started thinking about how Afreh and Melorsey are relating to each other on the other side of the world. I went into a trance and I saw them laughing heartily together, apparently plotting to deal with me when I join them. Olu promptly brought me back to reality and told me to amend the constitution to place a limit on the number of Supreme Court judges I can appoint. The nerve! I didn't have much to say so I said I will get back to him on that in August.

The peer reviewers also questioned why I continue to appoint DCEs. I told them that government's ability to implement its programmes at the districts will be seriously hampered if DCEs are elected. Can you imagine what will happen in Dagbon if the Yendi DCE happens to be an NDC man? Furthermore, I said, it is important for my political survival to appoint my own DCEs who will serve as my campaign managers in the districts. To my surprise, they didn't say much about this. They just asked me to “do the right thing” – which, reminded me of the failed campaign for greater discipline. I laughed and promised to do the right thing when I feel like it. The session with the reviewers got very heated up when they raised the issue of corruption. I don't like that 'c' word and when they mentioned it, I blushed. They chastised me for failing to resource agencies like the CHRAJ and the SFO to truly combat corruption. I told them what I have been telling you all along – that these two agencies have had very little to do these days because those who make the allegations of corruption do not come with evidence. And since I've told them not to bother investigating allegations that are not backed with serious evidence, we had decided to, in fact, reduce the amount of money we usually give them. So far, I've not heard either the CHRAJ or the SFO complaining so I assume that they are happy with what they receive. I suppose that they are also cool with the suggestion that they should not go on wild goose chases, investigating Anena's finances for example, when those who are making the allegations have not presented any solid evidence. I made a solid argument and I think they agreed with me. At the end of the day, all they could say was that I should go and pass the whistle blower and the access to information bills. This I will do but not in a hurry. I want to wait until when I am almost out of office. Why should I pass legislation to make it legal for people to be snooping around my offices and blowing whistles unnecessarily on me? Just look at what they are even doing now. Can you imagine what will happen if I pass those two bills in a hurry?

I must say that I am not happy about what those people have written about me in the APRM document. I also don't like being told what to do by my peers, whose governance records are as questionable as mine. But I went through that process for one reason – the western countries take these things very serious, you know. Even though I didn't score very high marks in the books of my African peers, my more powerful, rich peers in the west are happy to see that I've allowed my peers to 'review' me. Who knows what the benefits might be? Perhaps, further debt cancellations (for the country) and an improved profile (for my excellent self). I can hardly wait to review those who reviewed me. I will grill them like “kyinkyinga”!

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2005

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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