27.10.2007 Feature Article

Kofi Wayo and Ghanaians’ Commonsense

Kofi Wayo and Ghanaians’ CommonsenseKofi Wayo and Ghanaians’ Commonsense
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Mr. Charles Kofi Wayo, 50-something, is fondly called “Chuck” in Ghanaian political, social and media circles. Cigar-puffing and American cowboy hat wearing maverick, Chuck is described variously as “one of Ghana's most entertaining politicians,” “irascible political whiner,” and “impertinent saber-rattler.” Flamboyant, Chuck is known to associate himself with one of Ghana's depressing slums, Nima, a suburb of Accra, the capital – in fact he is also affectionately called “Nima Boy.” A bulky man with chubby jaws, Chuck will go more as a night club bouncer than politician. This might explain his fearlessness in taking on the democratic establishment, unearthing its inadequacies to throw at the face of the democratic players and institutions, and creating laughter all the way. No doubt, Chuck is not only the darling of the Ghanaian media but also one of the leading materials for Ghanaian and transnational Ghanaian newspaper cartoonists, gags and humourists.

In Chuck, the humour side of Ghana's democracy comes clearly alive – he warned of a “civil war” if the ruling National Patriotic Party uses its parliamentarian majority to pass the Representation of the People's (Amendment) Bill, which will allow transnational Ghanaians to vote in future elections, into law. In Chuck, the budding Ghanaian democratic system is seen as soap opera - with characters mired in sentimentalities, episodic rounds, intrigues, anger, shallowness and vagueness, pain and relief, falsehood, deceit, protests, joys, cries, argument, confusion, misunderstanding and fickleness, emotional outburst, and occasionally tumbling over each other.

A former transnational Ghanaian who was resident in the United States and shuttled between Ghana and USA for almost 42 years, Chuck's permanent return to Ghana during the dawn of multi-party democracy has made a system trying to avoid the mistakes of yesteryears, where military juntas, one-party apparatchiks, and autocrats were the order of the day, lighten up a bit. His American-style accent distinguishes him out in the stuffy Ghanaian political terrain, as one hears at his radio program on the Accra-based Vibefm. Chuck has almost dabbled in all the ideologies in Ghanaian politics and has equally being dissatisfied or frustrated with their key players. Chuck sees the ruling National Patriotic Party as “bad” and the main opposition National Democratic Party as “greater evil.” Clearly egocentric, though he sees himself as having been born into the NPP's Danquah-Busia-Dombo conservative capitalistic tradition, Chuck founded the United Renaissance Party recently, of which he is the presidential candidate, chief decision-maker, chief policy-maker, chief strategist, chief financier, and leader all wrapped into one.

Chuck appears more of pragmatist than an ideologue, with an observer describing him as “astute politician” and another as an “opportunist.” When the NPP came to power in 2000, Chuck has lobbied to either head the Energy Ministry or manage the Tema Oil Refinery. Rejected, and angry and frustrated, Chuck not only left the NPP but has been criticizing the Kufuor regime and calling President John Kufour a “con man.” A restless, complex and contradictory man, who sometimes talks before thinking without any propaganda, Chuck has taken on almost all known political players and policies he deemed unfruitful – he find the celebration of Ghana's 50th anniversary unnecessary in the face of deepening poverty. Some Ghanaian political watchers such as Moses Kofi Yahaya say Chuck has “relentlessly projected himself as the sole wielder of the magic wand for Ghana's problems besides demonstrating an unabashed penchant for blather. Wayo's doomsday scenario, reckless and irresponsible as it seems, was [is] nothing more than the bombast of a sullen politician.”

It is from such image that Chuck, talking at the tail of the heated debate raging on that Ghanaians are underdeveloped because of their “genes” and “Africans are stupid,” because of the appalling way they handle their development process, has come to the conclusion that “Ghana is under-developed because the citizens don't have commonsense.” Chuck doesn't necessarily blame ordinary Ghanaians but their elites or leaders, of which he is part, – both military and civilians – since independence from British colonial rule in 1957. For Chuck, because Ghanaian leaders lack commonsense they haven't been able to help Ghanaians acquire commonsense skills needed to drive their progress.

But how is Ghana to correct this mistake and make its citizens have commonsense? Chuck, who hasn't won any elections or occupied any politically appointed position but ironically described as “political maneuverer,” has big plans for his commonsense project or dream. First, he will contest the 2008 Ghanaian presidential elections under his newly minted United Renaissance Party. Second, he will surely win the presidential elections. Third, he becomes the President of Ghana. Fourth, he uses his presidency to mount Ghana on the "right path to development.” And fifth, he will bigheartedly use his presidency to share “his stock of commonsense with the people.”

Pretty nice thought but the attempts to resolve Ghana's developmental tribulations need detailed grasp of the challenges emanating from the schisms of the nation-state and the global system. Chuck, all jokes aside, have not demonstrated any grasp or resilience in his “renaissance” rants, not to talk of the flowering “African Renaissance” process. Still, Chuck could learn from the fact that for both historical and cultural reasons, Ghanaians' so-called lack of commonsense, as he claims, comes from their elites' inability to understand and know their nation-state well enough and appropriate their cultural norms, values and traditions in Ghana's development process, in addition to their ex-colonial neo-liberal heritage.

Part of Chuck's “Ghana is under-developed because the citizens don't have commonsense” is not necessarily lack of commonsense (the average Ghanaian have pretty good commonsense), it is the inability of the thoughtless elites like Chuck to gauge Ghanaians' commonsense from their innate values but rather do so from Western cultural ideals that has created in its wake developmental confusion. Narrowly, it is the elites' weak commonsense (much of their thinking do not start from Ghanaian cultural standards unlike the Southeast Asians) that has undermined most ordinary Ghanaians' commonsense. That's why over 70 percent of Ghanaians in the informal socio-economic sector – where the bulk of Ghana's wealth are located and entrapped - are not factored in when serious national development planning, consultations and bureaucratization are being undertaken, making it appear Ghanaians have “no commonsense,” that their developmental tribulations come from their “genes” and that “Ghanaians are not intelligent.”

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