The gasp that gripped the court of public opinion on the morning of June 23, 2008, was very palpable. There was not a soul in the land who was not grasping to make sense of the curse of Bokasa that our beloved president, John Agyekum Kufour, unleashed on the citizenry. I for one thought something was amiss; the kind of helplessness you feel when you hear some trigger happy usurper soldier, at the helm of some rag tag third world country, with just two helicopters and one speedboat to its name, has crowned himself Supreme Military Commander, Generalissimo Wontumi Nye Fooko.
What did the cat bring home this morning? That president Kufour, by the power invested in him, has downgraded the pre-existing highest national award of the land, The Companion of the Star of Ghana, and in its place minted a new award: The Grand Order of The Star and Eagles of Ghana. You know we Ghanaians love titles; Nana Doctor Wonso Kabi , Reverend Doctor Odi Asempa, Doctor Professor Mabre, etc. and this new title wouldn't have even caught our ire but the spiteful drift that followed it; that this is the exclusive reserve of persons who ever become presidents.
I said: “Oh my God, what is this circus for?” A quick snoop around Ghanaweb confirmed that I was not the only person in shock. Others were dismayed as well. Look at it this way. Say you came out of the university with first class honours. That at the time you achieved this accreditation, First Class Honours was the highest honour. Fast forward some few years later, a new sheriff comes to town with a new rule; that the new highest award is now some boondocks Alpha Super Duper Triple A class, and then adds a caveat: “By the way, only former NUGS presidents can have this class”. How would you feel?
The new order has by the stroke of pen downgraded all previous holders of the highest honour award of the land. I say let's grandfather all previous holders of the highest honour to make any sense. How many people get to be president in a generation? This new award is the least reasonably attainable honour; not even .000001% of the populace can attain it. To that extent this new order is dead on arrival. Presidents are not the only very important people in the land. President Kufour is darn plain greedy. Shouldn't the very fact that he became president be enough? Now he wants to elevate himself to practically a political saint. Look, the highest honour one could ever get is what the people give you, Mr President, not what you forcibly claim for yourself. The salt does not recommend itself, that it is sweet. Let the people say that after you. I say grandfather everybody who previously achieved the highest honour of the land into this new one. I like the sound of it, as compared to the Order of the Volta whatever, but no, absolutely no, that it should be the exclusive reserve of presidents. There could be very bad presidents and good presidents, your record should speak for itself, not your mouth, Sir.
We know why this is happening. You have given away so much of the highest honour of the land, you have kind of cheapened it, and now you want to elevate yourself to the sky. Of course you have done some very good things as compared to some previous heads of state, but sir, that is a matter of relativity, and the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. We cannot allow you to practically transform yourself into a super Ghanaian, a know-it-all Omnipotent Kweku Ananse. Let the people say you are the best, but even then that should wait after a critical evaluation by the experts when, you have left office. What do you say if we should get some real flop as president? Should such a person automatically get this honour for the mere fact that he became president? By your analogy, Mount Rushmore should have not only four statues but 44, encompassing the good, the bad and the ugly. See it does not make sense. Not in America, anywhere, and certainly not in Ghana. If Kwame Nkrumah is set as the bench mark to measure all presidents, you would know right now, whether all presidents we have ever had would make the grade. Sir, don't spoil your record. You have done enough. Good presidents live in the hearts and minds of the people, forever, not on some carte blanche.
As silly as it sounds, there is already a name for this new order in the books. It is called President of the Republic of Ghana. This new medal of honour has no merits whatsoever, because it is not based on meritocracy, it is just based on being there, your performance notwithstanding. African political history is littered with such boondocks. You must rescind this decision of making the highest honour award in the country, the sole prerogative of persons who become president. If you don't, you risk becoming a member of the exclusive class of infamous presidents on the African continent, in the company of “Emperor” Jean Baptise Bokasa of Central Africa Republic, Master Sgt. Dr. Doe of Liberia, Idi Amin of Uganda, and Mobuto Sese Seiko of Zaire. People who carved for themselves titles and ranks that became the butt of jokes around the world. You can do better than this, President Kufour. As Sarpong, Ghanaweb chart room regular put it, “he now appreciates why we have two 4year terms for our presidents”. The law of diminishing return just sneaked up on us, and we almost missed it.
By Eric Kwasi Bottah, alias Oyokoba