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09.11.2005 Feature Article

Cry A Beloved Country

Cry A Beloved Country
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A cursory glance through any Ghanaian newsprint is enough to send a shockwave of fear down a person's spine. Stories have headlines which have nothing to do with the content of the article they purport to address. Sensational headlines, with the sole goal of catching the buyer's attention to the disregard of the message within, have become the main tool for Ghanaian newsprints. The Ghanaian editor does not give a hoot about providing accurate information to his/her readership – the main goal is money! Destroy characters and hard-won reputations by false sensational stories, issue innuendos against imaginary enemies, use ribaldry and opprobrious epithets against public officials, blackmail and threaten political leaders to kowtow to a certain interest or else face the furor of the editor: these appear to be the stock-in-trade of the Ghanaian editor and their means to an end – with the end being money and power…filthy lucre and unbridled power, if you please!

Ghana is now experiencing a new form of dictatorship. A dictatorship of a kind that is unlike any elsewhere in the world! A dictatorship of the media – print and airwaves. Times were when after airing your opinion in public you automatically were on the lookout for reprisals from 'offended' government officials. Editors and journalists were frequently criminalized and jailed for an opinion which displeased the 'Chairman of the revolution'. Kwaku One on One, a GTV program hosted by the venerable Kwaku Sakyi-Addo “was dumped because one of its guest's answers annoyed the Rawlings regime.” - BBC . Tommy Thompson, the late editor of the Free Press, lost his God-given life as a result of such imprisonment. A new phrase was coined to describe one of Chairman Rawlings' tools for dealing with the private media – “shit-bombing”. “Shit-bombing” is the act of pouring human excrement (fecal material) on the doorsteps and premises of media houses who have displeased the 'Chairman of the revolution'. We were under the dictatorship of the ruling P/NDC junta. Some of us, like the proverbial ostrich, like to bury our heads in sand and pretend that we do not have a history as a country. “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou.

On January 7th 2001, a new administration was ushered in office after years of dictatorship. The Kufuor Administration has turned out to be the most liberal government Ghana has ever known. In keeping with his promise, President Kufuor immediately moved to expunge the 'criminal libel law' from the books. This was a law promulgated by the colonialists and had been kept by various regimes and used to suppress the media. Ironically, today, these same people who proclaimed on roof tops to the whole country and to the world in the late 80s and early 90s how much they abhorred multiparty democracy and demonstrated their enmity against a free press are fighting tooth and nail to claim credit 'for bringing democracy and free speech to Ghana'. They call themselves 'the champions of democracy'. In fact, they have it on their resumes (CVs) as the originators of multiparty democracy and a pluralistic press. They desperately want to rewrite history so that it will be kind to them. Whilst the 1992 constitution guaranteed the liberalization of the airwaves it took a Dr. Wereko-Brobbey to force the junta to implement that constitutional provision when he started his own private broadcast, earning him the accolade “Tarzan”. But with the swiftness of an eagle the junta confiscated his broadcast equipment and forced him off air. Fast forward to today, and these same people claim credit for 'freeing' our airwaves. God have mercy!

Newspapers like the Palaver, National Democrat, the Lens, the Enquirer, and the Searchlight have standards that make one question whether some of these so-called journalists are not in the profession for malicious ends. Their free use of insulting and foul language, their consistent yet fabricated reports on some scandal upon scandals, the personality attacks they engage in, their outright and preposterous concoction of stories, are all – in short – a disgrace to journalism in Ghana. They seem to enjoy their gutter journalism to the dismay and disappointment of all those who had hoped Ghana will continue to be the pacesetter for a benighted sub region and push the frontiers of true democracy to all neighboring countries. As a country we've moved from the fear of abuse from those with political power, to the fear of abuse from those who run the various media organizations. The Ghanaian media has thrown to the dustbin one of their fundamental obligations – to provide accurate or factual information! Tune in to any radio discussion and you have people who do not have the slightest clue to the issue they claim to be experts in, making noises on the airwaves. People without adequate formal education and lacking adequate research on the issue under discussion make a fool of themselves on the airwaves by conjuring stuff from their own figment of imagination and stating them as facts – leading a million Ghanaian illiterates astray. Take for instance, the issue of petroleum taxes. We had certain people with doctorate degrees in history, sociology, etc (no experts in economics or taxation) reporting certain figures as taxes on petroleum and claiming that the Kufuor Administration had never subsidized petroleum since it took office, in contrast to what actually existed on the records. When Prof. Ivan Addae Mensah, chairman of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), disclosed the real facts they had to eat back their words. In the meantime, many vulnerable individuals had already been led astray. Full of emotions, the reaction of some of these vulnerable citizens have been unpleasant. “Emotions have taught mankind to reason.” – Vauvenargues. “The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray, and the advantage of science is that it is not emotional.” – Oscar Wilde. Yet even in year 2005 some people refuse to reason and apply science or facts but be driven by emotions.

“The sign of an intelligent people is their ability to control emotions by the application of reason.” – Marya Mannes. Sadly, emotions have gotten the better part of us. The same spirit which in the 80s led to the shedding of innocent blood, the stripping of our mothers and sisters naked on the streets and at the marketplace, the subjecting of our fathers to primitive animalistic behaviors such as spanking their naked bodies with electric wires or cables and belts for selling goods for profits, that led to the burning down of Makola market, the bulldozing of Alhaji Yusuf's newly opened multimillion dollar hotel under the direct supervision of Chairman Rawlings in April 1999 without any court order…that same spirit which led to the murder of Joy Amedume for legitimately borrowing FIFTY thousand cedis from the bank is still at work in full force. That evil spirit was driven by emotions, hatred, jealousy, and love for unbridled power and filthy lucre. Those were the years when reason was nonexistent. The emotions at the time were fired on by the incendiary words of a young disgruntled mulatto. Today, history labels that epoch as the 'Dark Ages of Ghana's Nationhood'. Never had any government prior to Chairman Rawlings' committed so many atrocities against its own people. Never had any prior government murdered so many of its own citizens. Never had any prior government sent so many of its citizens into exile in foreign lands.

Funny how whilst the then new President, Mr. Kufuor at his inauguration in 2001 was saying "I pledge that it will not be a case of one set of Ghanaians coming back from exile to be replaced by another set of Ghanaians going to exile. Multi-party democracy is here to stay. There is room for differences of opinion, our political opponents have their honoured roles to play and I urge all of us to extend the same tolerance to each other that we want for ourselves." - PANA -- one of his chief detractors and a Rawlings stooge, Ato Ahwoi, stated “the relationship between the current president and his predecessor was very cordial until those who fled the country as a result of the PNDC rule returned”. – The Chronicle . In other words, for the sake of Rawlings' comfort some people should be made to live the rest of their lives in exile and die there without stepping foot in their own beloved country – never mind that they are full-blooded Ghanaians with pure unadulterated Ghanaian blood! The Ghanaian media instead of using their privileged position to constantly remind Ghanaians about our not-so-distant past and to put issues in their right perspective so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past rather behaves as if we have no history with which to guide our path to the future.

Some of us have stopped using our God-given mental faculties and have turned ourselves into robotic machines at the whims of our 'bosses'. It is such untamed emotions that drove people like Frances Asiam, a PhD candidate and the NDC's Women's Organizer to allow herself to become 'a poodle' in the hands of Chairman Rawlings and his wife, to do their 'dirty work'. Now that she's come back to sound judgment she's realized her mistakes, albeit after tasting some of the fruits of her own labor. Since being ousted from power Chairman Rawlings has unceasingly tried to force Ghanaians to think a certain way. A way that suits his whims. On many occasions he's appealed to religious leaders, chiefs, etc to rise up against the government as he (Rawlings) perceives the Kufuor administration to be inept. But “no man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” – Ansel Adams. Another classic display of the deceptive nature of the Ghanaian media and their desire to turn emotions upside down is captured in the Ghanaian Chronicles' article “Ghana's External Debt Soars” written by one Eric KWADZO DZIEWORNU. Dziewornu manipulated information in such a way as to fool unsuspecting readers. It was only towards the end of the article, that the author after he had achieved his deceptive end hideously presented some resemblance of clear facts.

Driven by emotions and spurned on by people with questionable characters, who lurk clandestinely in the background, everything in Ghana has been turned into something sensational by a misguided media. The President of Ghana checks-in at a hotel and another NDC mouthpiece, the Enquirer comes out with a headline “Kufuor, Ministers Blow Cash in the USA” and sadly the whole nation goes mad! Are we saying that in today's Ghana whenever the president travels outside he should carry a tent with him and pitch it somewhere on the street so he can find a place to rest? Or are we saying that Ghana's president should find a rundown hotel, a $30 a night motel, a Super8 Motel and lodge there so he can save us money? Better still, whenever the President travels outside he should beg for a place to sleep at the apartment of any philanthropic Ghanaian rather than book a hotel room. When Chairman Rawlings and his junta came trotting to the US in the 1990s who questioned any of them when they lodged themselves at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Go and compare the prices of that hotel to Willard Continental, then you can come back again and talk about 'blowing cash'! Some say President Kufuor's entourage which included journalists and businessmen and women was too much. That he shouldn't have come with 47 people. Absurd! Who can bring more business people together at one platform and afford Ghanaian business men and women easy connections with their powerful American counterparts better than the President himself. A country can never develop if some of its citizens do not own immense capital. Wake up people, and be wise!

Now some are even questioning the essence of a Presidential trip. If you think Ghana got the HIPC guarantee, the G8 100% Debt Cancellation promise, the access to George Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, the UN Security Council seat, or the ECOWAS Executive Secretary position by sitting on our oars then friend, you must definitely be living in a fool's paradise. What you have to realize is that behind all those seemingly invisible institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, the G8, etc are men and women like you and I who run them and set their agendas. And like any other human being these people are impressionable, that is if you care to arrange a meeting with them and talk to them they are capable of seeing things from your perspective and understanding the problems you and your people are facing. However, if you sit on your oars and think that they are already aware of your country and its plethora of problems then think again! Why do you think they have lobbyists in the US? In this modern world the more connections you have the easier your pathway to success. President Kufuor has done a marvelous job since coming into office by making all the necessary and right connections. By the time the NPP came to power on January 7th 2001 Ghana's external debt was in excess of Six billion United States dollars ($6bn). By the end of his first term President Kufuor through his decision to take us through HIPC had slashed our external Debt to about $4.2bn representing a $1.8billion decrease. Now by virtue of his quiet Economic Diplomacy, ceteris paribus, Ghana's external debt will be totally cancelled. It will be zero! Now you want to tell me that such Presidential trips have been a waste? Come again brother, 'cos you aint doing a good job convincing me with facts and figures…and you aint making much sense!

You want to know why the Argentine economy burst in the 1990s and why they had to be bailed out by the Clinton Administration, the IMF, etc? They didn't have enough foreign exchange reserves! When Kufuor came to power in January 2001, Chairman Rawlings after 20 years of power with his “men of integrity” left you and I – our children, our fathers and mothers – a foreign exchange reserve that covered our country's destiny for 2 weeks. Chairman Rawlings left us a reserve of $200 million. In 4 years, NOTE not 20 years, President Kufuor has increased our foreign exchange reserves to $1.6bn dollars covering our country's economic security for 4 months, and you want to tell me that his government has been a failure? What nonsense! Give me facts not emotions. You can join the blind Ghanaian media full of semi-educated illiterates in their noisy chorus, or you can force them to raise their standards and present truth free of individual biases.

When Kufuor came to power, Chairman Rawlings left him an economy with an inflation rate of 42%, the cedis was depreciating at 50% to the dollar; Ghanaian banks were offering loans to businesses at an interest rate of 52%. Now you tell me which country in the world that ever developed with businesses having to pay an interest rate of 52% on every amount they borrowed. In other words, if they borrow 100, 000 cedis they had to pay back 152, 000 cedis back to the bank to clear their debt. Now add the pay-stubs of their employees, their electric bill, etc to their cost of operation and now you come and tell me why businesses were collapsing under competition with products from better-run economies. This is Rawlings legacy! This is what Chairman Rawlings does not want you to know. He was a failure. A total failure. To cover his butt he needs to force himself back to power by proxy, by hook or crook so that he can have another bite at history. And trust me, he'll do it if we don't wake up from our slumber and see him for what he is! But what are the current economic facts and figures? Inflation is about 14%, the cedis is very stable as everyone can attest to, and bank interest rates are now 22% from 52%, the economy is growing at 5.8% GDP. If that is a government that is failing then we all need an appointment with the psychiatrist.

They said Ghana will never fly a national airline again, that the Ghana International Airline (GIA) arrangement to restart the national airline is a farce. But what did we see? They've at least started flying (though we cannot yet celebrate that as success, yet the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step). They said there was no way Ghana could have a universal primary care system and that President Kufuor will not be able to replace their insensitive Cash-and-Carry health policy as he had promised to, yet the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is slowingly taking shape. They said President Kufuor lied when he promised to implement the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE), yet that program is in full swing. And even now as we talk, President Kufuor is starting a program on a pilot basis in select districts to supplement the nutrition of Ghanaian children by providing them free lunch at schools. Ofcourse, such news is not sensational enough for the media folks so it's not worth their reportage. They said HIPC would be a national disaster, yet they were fighting for HIPC funds for development projects in their constituencies so they can look good before the people. They say they are for Ghanaians' interest, but they will not even debate the bill to allow ALL Ghanaians the right to vote and have pledged to resist it through every power they have. They are in opposition so I guess they'll oppose every single thing, even if it's as trivial as reading the National Budget before the end of the year as their spokesman on finance Moses Asaga did – rubbishing the government's decision to read the budget early so that its funding can be in place earlier in the financial year.

Some people will say that all these facts that show that the country is on the right path are just mere figures and have not translated into the people's pocket. True, it hasn't totally translated to everyone's pocket! But I have one question to ask of you . . . 'name one country in the history of planet earth that ever developed without an economic stability in place?' There's none. It's almost impossible. It's like passing a camel through the eye of a needle, so to speak. So first things first. The economy should continuously be strengthened then we can talk about “money in the people's pocket”. Am sure we all know that there's no such thing as free money so those who expect free money in their pocket should quickly disabuse their minds from their communist mentality. It's about value for money. Those who are working hard in Ghana do not starve. And am talking about ordinary Ghanaians. But now we have Disc Jockeys and school-dropouts-turned-journalists, and Mercedes Benz- driving communists parading as journalists, telling us they know how to run a country better than those we elected…dictating to us how things should be done, and scanning through government documents fishing for scandals but they are like orthopedic surgeons reading EKGs (electrocardiograms) – they find things which don't exist and miss obvious things. These are the sort of people who are informing the mass. If they do think they are better at running the country why don't they run for office themselves, after all it's a free country isn't it? Palaver's Jojo Bruce Quansah tried it, and got massively rejected by the people, but the others can also try their fortune. Who knows…they might be lucky.

“The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.” – Oscar Wilde. And “where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves.” – Carl Sagan. Our history is ample proof that we Ghanaians are very capable of letting our emotions get ahead of ourselves and eventually making a mockery of ourselves. I pray that sound reason, respect for each other, and the use of reason and facts will be the order of the day and Ghana will be free from the dictatorship of the media – the Kwesi Pratts, etc. I pray that people will never forget our history and always put these thugs who are moving heaven and earth to get back to power in the right perspective of their own record. Only then will we be pushing the frontiers of democracy in the right direction.

In the meanwhile, I'll Cry My Beloved Country. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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