If Dr. Tony Aidoo is smarter than you are, then there is every cause for your funereal celebration; and here, of course, I am referring to Mr. Frank Agyekum's widely reported justification of the inexcusably obscene end-of-tenure send-off package for President John Agyekum-Kufuor, on the immitigably idiotic grounds that parceling out such morally and materially offensive largesse to the former premier “will [somehow] ensure [that] presidents live comfortably after they exit executive office and by so doing[,] discourage them from hanging on to power” (See “Public Go [sic] Wild Over '419' Ex-Gratia” Ghanaweb.com 1/21/09).
First of all, who told Mr. Frank Agyekum, the former New Patriotic Party (NPP) deputy Information and National Orientation minister that presidents have any divine right to indefinitely hang on to power, short of the abject timidity and cowardliness of those upon whom they lord, thereby allowing these megalomaniacs to perennially oppress them?
To be certain, I was not about to comment on the latest Kufuor faux-pas anytime soon, at least not in the offing; but public reaction to the latest Kufuor scandal has been so swift, globally damning and embarrassing as well as emotionally and morally traumatizing that it would be almost definitely criminal for me not to record it for the sobering benefit of posterity. And here, I must also take the opportunity to highlight the fact that I was summarily expelled from membership of the Diaspora branch of the New Patriotic Party or NPP-USA by the “Ejisu (or Edweso) Boys,” precisely because I had dared to accurately, both literally and figuratively, describe the Manhyia (actually Denkyira) street tough and genial rascal as “Old Sleepy Eyes.” A Ghanaian-born Kentucky Fried Chicken deputy attorney-general (I hear the SOB is now retired) had called for my outright membership dis-enrollment, with the religious approbation of the NPP-USA executive board, of course.
And here, I hasten to express my ineffable gratitude to the “Ejisu (Edweso) Boys” for summarily expelling me after seven uneventful months of aloofly trucking with these Abongo Boys. Needless to say, my unstinted and continuous support of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been squarely predicated on my unwavering and firm belief in the Danquah-Busia ideology of a free-market and a property-owning democracy as the most effective method for guaranteeing Ghana's salutary and civilized development. In this context, I prefer to envisage myself primarily as a statesman, at least a remote (or an at-large) armchair statesman, to being institutionally associated with any particular political party or ideological machinery. I am also glad to observe that during the seven months (late May 2007 to early February 2008) that I spent as a dues-paying member of NPP-USA, I never physically attended any of the party's membership meetings. I, however, became convinced of one thing – and it is the indelible fact of my being incurably an independent-minded Ghanaian citizen who is congenitally not wont to toeing the proverbial party line.
What fascinates me about the scandalous Kufuor retirement package is the fact that the package appears to have been voted upon by the former president's own personally constituted “Presidential Committee,” rather than a plenary session – or full-house – of the Ghanaian parliament. I have not bothered to check what Ghana's Fourth-Republican Constitution has to say on the latter score; nonetheless, I am almost certain that the very constitution of the so-called Chinery-Hesse Committee that outrageously recommended that Mr. Kufuor be awarded an ex-gratia largesse of 2 houses (of unspecified value or size) and 6 chauffeur-driven automobiles fully paid for by the State flagrantly acted ultra vires. If so, then the Atta-Mills government would squarely be within its constitutional mandate in calling for a thorough investigation into the activities of the Chinery-Hesse Committee and swift action taken to forestall any such scandal of global proportions in the near future.
It is also interesting, as NPP-MP Mr. P. C. Appiah-Ofori observed to the Accra-based Joy-Fm radio station, recently, the parliamentary clerk's wild claim that the ex-President's retirement package was constitutionally approved on December 7, 2008, when Parliament was in recess and eligible Ghanaian voters were massed up at the polling booth deciding who should preside over our national affairs for the next four years, does not hold water, as it were (Ghanaweb.com 1/21/09). What is clear here, though, is that somebody is not telling the truth; and it is imperative that an investigation is promptly launched in order for the people to get to the bottom of the events leading to the outrageous recommendations of the Chinery-Hesse Committee.
In all this, what is being conveniently ignored by concerned readers and observers is the fact that both elected and appointed operatives of the Ghanaian parliament also received equally unprecedented and outrageously generous retirement packages from the Chinery-Hesse Committee. For instance, former Speaker of the House Mr. Begyina Sekyi-Hughes, is reportedly entitled to a lump sum ex-gratia of ¢ 126,000.00, a salon car and something labeled “an all-purpose vehicle” to be perennially maintained and serviced at the expense of the impoverished Ghanaian taxpayer. Mr. Sekyi-Hughes is also entitled to an unspecified non-taxable pension package, and free dental and medical services for his family. Former deputy speakers are also entitled to a similar package, as are also former majority and minority leaders and their deputies, as well as parliamentary whips and their lieutenants.
It, therefore, appears that Members of Parliament (MPs), who reportedly jubilated over their own lump sum ex-gratia of ¢ 56,000.00 and full non-taxable pensions – whatever the latter may entail – as well as giveaway purchase right to something called “post-duty vehicles,” I suppose the latter regards their freely issued official vehicles, only became livid with both anger and envy when they discovered to their horror that, indeed, in the apparently Animal-Farm type of political culture presided over by Mr. Kufuor, the ex-premier was unquestionably far more than equal to all else.
As a good friend and confidant fumed to me in the wake of him learning about the scandalous contents of the Chinery-Hesse Committee's terms of reference, as it were, such largesse packages would have made perfect sense in Ghana's slavo-colonial era. But then again, with such curious Eurocentric cognomens – or surnames – as Hughes, Rawlings, Wood, Mills and Bamford dominating our postcolonial Ghanaian political culture, what ought one to expect?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. His 14th volume of poetry and 19th book, “Marlena: Sexual Indignities,” will be published in February 2009. E-mail: [email protected]
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