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23.12.2005 Feature Article

Letter from The President: National priorities? What priorities?

Letter from The President: National priorities? What priorities?
23.12.2005 LISTEN

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I have heard a lot of noise the past few days over parliament's decision to approve a loan for the construction of a presidential palace for my excellent self. The minority NDC MPs were so peeved that they even refused to participate in the approval process. They staged a walkout.

Before I go on, let me suggest to the Binbag and his boys (and girls) that it's high time they adopted a new strategy for registering their protests. The walkouts have become too cliché, predictable and absolutely ineffective. If they can't think of different ways of registering their protests in parliament, how can they expect the citizens to see them as an alternative to my government?

Now back to the issue of my presidential palace. Your general response to my decision to build a presidential palace surprises me. Why? You don't want your president to live in luxury and opulence 'small'. What manner of people are you?

I am writing this letter from my hotel room in Burkina Faso. I am here attending the re-inauguration of the coup-maker Campoare. Yes, I don't like the Sikaman-bred coup makers but I love those outside of my country. Am not just here for Campoare's inauguration though. I am here to learn a few things about presidential palaces. I want my presidential palace to surpass Campoare's in grandiose and wasteful opulence. If a coup maker like him can build a palace in his impoverished, locust infested and famine-stricken Burkina Faso, why can't I do even more in rich, fertile Sikaman?

A lot of you have said that building a presidential palace is a misplaced priority. Of course it is a misplaced priority. You think I don't know that? I know. I know that Sikaman needs more hospitals where our sick brothers and sister wouldn't be forced to pay before they are treated; hospitals where nursing mothers and their newborn babies will not be detained for their inability to pay their maternity fees; hospitals where patients actually receive comfort and healing – where patients are not forced to sleep on bare floors before they die in misery and indignity. I also know that our country needs schools where our kids will receive the best of (at least) basic education without their parents being forced to pay through their noses. I know that we need to improve accommodation for our university students. Not only that. I also know that our university students need more books, better laboratories and libraries and modern information technology infrastructure. Yes! I also know that this is a country where more than two-thirds of the people do not have access to potable water. In case you didn't know, thousands of our countrymen and women are forced to drink water from muddy puddles with the goats and dogs. I know that.

Rest assured that I know our country's priorities more than any of you does. We need electricity, an efficient waste management system, a modern and dependable transport network… blah…blah…blah. I know. But I have my own 'excellent' priorities. I can't pursue all of your priorities at the expense of my own. One of my major priorities in my second term is to build a presidential palace (or mansion). It's within your right to think (and say) that a presidential palace cannot be a national priority. But I decide what should be a priority and what should not and I think a mansion for my 'excellent' self should be a priority. If you allow me, I will gladly explain my inordinate desire for a presidential palace. As a kid, I always dreamed of staying in a castle – King Fukuor in all my majestic splendour. I started my (now collapsed) brick factory because I thought that I could easily get bricks from there when I start building my palace. I chose to contest for the presidency because I saw it as an opportunity to live out my dream of staying in a castle. When I assumed office, I was shocked when I realized that Jerry Boom had neglected the Osu Castle and left much of it in disrepair. Add this to the fact that he used some of the rooms in the Castle as torture chambers and I decided that the Castle was not a place for me to stay. It's unfortunate that I only came to this realization after I had spent billions of cedis of your money to renovate the Castle to put it in shape for my habitation. I concede that this should be in the list of the dumbest things I did as president. Well, even before spending those billions on the Castle renovation, I had spent a lot of hard cash refurbishing my own house to make it look presidential.

If you are not as dumb as I am, you should realize that since I became president, I have been on a quest for a place of abode befitting the status of the president of Sikaman. I have not achieved much, though. That's why I think a presidential mansion (which is a personal priority) should now become a national priority. So I will build a mansion in which I will dwell in my last excellent days. That mansion will also be one of the monuments by which I would be remembered. I get so angry and jealous when I hear people describing Jerry Boom as a “visionary” for building the International Conference. I should also be remembered for the mansion I will build for myself and the excellent ones who will come after me.

I also want to build a presidential mansion because I think our country ought to be competitive. Being competitive does not only mean that we have to follow the sensible and prudent policies of other governments. Occasionally, we need to follow their foolish footsteps as well. Campoare of Burkina showed how foolish he could be when he built his mansion in Ouagadougou. Eyadema did the same foolish thing by building himself a mansion in his hometown. The Nigerian dictators before Olu built a gigantic mansion in Abuja. I need to show these people that they are not the only foolish presidents in the sub-region. What is wrong with me wanting to be counted among fools? You don't want your president to be competitive? What you say doesn't really matter in this case because your representatives in parliament – those on the majority side to be precise – have already decided that I should go ahead and behave as foolishly as my counterparts in other countries have done. Don't forget that they showed me the foolish path by approving the loan agreement for the mansion knowing very well that they urgently need an office complex. Almost all of the MPs in Sikaman do not have offices and committee rooms. Yet they approved a loan for the construction of a mansion for a president who already has spent too much money to renovate a castle and his own house supposedly to make them fit for presidential habitation. Don't you think that the MPs will be disappointed if I decide to abandon my dream of building a mansion? One foolish turn, indeed, deserves another. Please build me my mansion. Thank you very much.

In need of mansion,

J. A. Fukuor [email protected]

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