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27.03.2009 Feature Article

“To Your Tents, O Israel”

Rehoboam was made King at Shechem. The people sent for Jeroboam who was on self-exile in Egypt after he had led an insurrection against King Solomon.

The delegation from all the tribes of Israel came with a plea to Rehoboam to reduce the burden. The King asked them to return in three days time for the answer.

He first consulted his elders (the old men who had counseled Solomon). They advised him to accede to the people's request. Next, he went to the young men who advised him to tell the people that “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. When the people heard what the King had said, they said: “What portion do we have in David, and what inheritance do we have in the Son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel!” That was how Israel came to be split into two.

The Ibos of Nigeria are very ingenious and could be found in every nook and cranny of the country. When it comes to innovation and invention they are second to none. That was why they were able to withstand the federal might for a very longtime during the Nigeria Civil War. Now their adventurous nature makes them travel to many places, far and near. Go to Aba, Onitsha, Umuahia, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Nnewi and many places, and you will surprised to see the unprecedented height the innovative spirits and skills have brought to these towns and cities. Like the Kwahus in Ghana, the Ibos are mostly traders. It is therefore no surprise to learn that Onitsha is regarded as the largest market in black Africa. Nnewi has the largest concentration of skilled artisans and craftsmen in the sub region. It would interest you to know that their First President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe started his journalistic practice in Accra and was married his wife in Accra. Accra in those days, used to be accommodating to people both Ghanaians and foreigners alike. Anywhere an Ibo man found himself he regarded it as his home. They put up magnificent buildings in their places of abode but forgot or refused to do same in their towns and villages.

Then came the Civil War and everything changed. The peaceful co-existence amongst the various tribes vanished over night. Friends and neigbours suddenly found themselves on opposite sides. The only thing that united them was the guns and ammunition. The Ibos were forced by circumstances beyond their control to relocate to their home base, thus leaving behind property acquired over the years through years of hard work.

The war took over three years to prosecute and the Ibos came out of it worst off. They returned to the places they were staying before the war. Then, the bombshell.

You cannot have your property back. They are “abandoned property”. That was how the Ibos came to lose their property to the sons of the soil in places such as Lagos and Port Harcourt. Since then, they have become wiser. No matter how long they stay outside their enclave, they have made it a point of duty to put up buildings in their villages. Friends today, enemies tomorrow. Once bitten twice shy.

Now, over here in Ghana, a similar scenario is being orchestrated by an organized mob of rapacious hawks that have no sense of patriotism and national history. Ex President Kufuor is being hounded both left and right by some well-organised mob that are hiding under officialdom. But I am of the strongest conviction that he doesn't deserve what is happening to him. I have had occasions to criticize him and his regime for certain acts of omission or commission which I felt merited condemnation. I am not a person who looks the other way when acts of illegality or wrong doings are being perpetrated against a person or the constitution. Kufuor, Inspite of his perceived faults never developed Ashanti Region to the detriment of other regions. If we might admit in all sincerity, Ashanti Region happens to be one of two or three Regions that received the least development during his eight year administration.

Now permit me to go into specifics and make comparisons.

During ex President Rawlings administration, he stayed at the Castle while his family stayed at Ridge, two properties belonging to the “Ga State” and situated on Ga/Adangbe land, specifically OSU land. When he left office, the NPP Government enquired from him where he wanted to use as his office, in line with what is captured in the Green Spring Report. The former ex President said he would like to make use of the facilities which were then being occupied by his family. Four or more buildings on GA/Adangde lands, and specifically situated on OSU land were converted into his residence an office complex.

No letter was written to that effect, it was just verbal or what you might refer to as a Gentleman's agreement and the deal was sealed. Perfect, one might say, no brouhaha!

When the former President Rawlings was exiting office, he took along with him 17 cars including metal plate vehicles. It was one year after he had left office that negotiations started between the former ex President and the then President Kufuor to retrieve those cars. Even here, the office of ex President Rawlings wrote that five or six of the cars be kept for his own use and that of his family. That excludes one extra vehicle which was then at the workshop.

Now, it has come to the turn of ex President Kufuor, but a different story is being told.

The Gentleman's agreement or convention that had prevailed during the previous transitional period is being breached with impunity. Ex president Kufuor felt/ thought that since he had allowed his predecessor to select a building of his own, the same principle would prevail in his case. He told P.V. Obeng that he had identified a building which he felt would be ideal to use as an office and asked the latter to communicate his wishes to President Mills who said it was okay with him if the facility was appealing to former President Kufuor. But there was a caveat – the request must be put in writing which was done.

Now, Mahama Ayariga, Presidential Spokesman and Koku Anyidohu, Director of Communication at the Presidency have come out to debunk the claims that the President had given a prior approval before ex-President Kufuor started using the facility. Now between these Presidential Staffers in the Communication Dept and P.V.Obeng and Frank Agyekum, who is telling the truth? P.V.Obeng says he communicated ex President Kufuor's request to President Mills who gave approval and that was communicated to ex-President Kufuor. But these two gentlemen strongly deny that claim. President Mills should come out to let us know which of the “honourables” is honourable and which of them are not.

What I don't understand is the wide publicity being given to attempts aimed at humiliating ex-President Kufuor and 'cutting him down to size”? In ex-President Rawlings situation, all the transactions were carried out on the blind side of the media. It was only when the furore generated by the shabby treatment to ex-President Kufuor got to public domain that we got to know of what transpired during the transition from NDC to NPP administration.

Putting politics aside, let us review the two scenarios. Ex President Rawlings was allowed to select a place of his choice to be used as an office and a residence. He was also allowed to keep vehicles of his choice. But Kufuor is being denied all these. If there was no sinister motive behind the retrieval of those cars from ex-President Kufuor's residence, why did National Security deliberately leave the three BMW Cars behind, only to make unnecessary noise about them? They were eventually taken anyway.

Even, if we were to put the Chinnery Hesse's Recommendations aside, the Green Spring Report says the President must be accommodated and given an office. Assuming ex-President Kufuor didn't have a house of his own, how long was it going to take the in-coming administration to accommodate him. How long would it take the Mill's Administration to give him an office? What if President Mills gives him and office and Kufuor turns it down. Are we not going to have the same mistrust and unhealthy atmosphere that characterized the Rawlings-Kufuor relationship? Even, if we assume Kufuor erred by using the facility before he told Mills, {which I doubt strongly] couldn't a better and much more decent way be found to trash out the issues instead of using the National Security Co-coordinator, which from the way he is going about his job appears to have some personal scores to settle with Kufuor, to embarrass the immediate past President?

Some people have alluded to the fact that the immediate ex-President is being treated this way because of the bad treatment he gave to his predecessor. I do not want to go into the “reasonableness” or “unreasonableness” of what led to the withdrawal of those courtesies, but it is enough to state that Kufuor admitted the error in that action when he appealed to ex-President Rawlings to put the past behind and join him to move the nation forward. This was during the 50th Anniversary celebration of Ghana's independence. The occasion was when he sent the Group of Eminent Personalities to ex President Rawlings to invite him to the occasion.

When armed security operatives invaded Mills residence during his absence, President Kufuor directed his National Security Advisor to go and render his personal apologies to the Mills Household. In addition, he instructed his spokesperson, Kwabena Agyapong to render a public apology on behalf of his government. The operatives who took part in the “raid” were also sanctioned. And the raids ceased.

But, in this case, the raids against “perceived enemies” of the Mills Administration have continued unabated. O God, when will this come to an end?

I now come to a very sensitive part of this write-up. This has to do with the statement issued by the so-called Ga Traditional Council to the effect that ex- President Kufuor remains an enemy of the supposedly “Ga State” and would be accorded such treatment reserved for one's sworn enemy. Hmm. “Asem beba dabi “ The Fatwa or Edict on ex-President Kufuor has very serious repercussions on the collective existence of Ghanaians from all walks of life, irrespective of tribal, religious, and political affiliations.

It must be stated that Accra, the capital was not built nor developed by Gas alone. It was done with the contributions of others, most of whom are not Gas. Our taxes, sweat and hard work are what have made Accra what it is today. It will be irresponsible for any group of persons or for that matter a traditional authority, to declare another person “Persona Non grata”.

The Ga Adangbe Youth and the Osu Traditional Authority claim they have the first right to ownership if Government has no need of acquired state property situated on their land.. Fair, all well and good. Can they tell us if and whether Government has decided to renounce its claims of ownership to the said building and property? At least, all those who constitute the Presidents men have not come out to say that was the case. And the National Security Coordinator, Gbeve Lartey, to show how powerful he is has taken over the said property.

What then is this entire hullabaloo about? And it is not as if ex_President Kufuor says he is buying the property. Now that it has been conquered and annexed by Gbeglo Lartey and his State Security Operatives, what legal claim do the Ga Adangbe Youth and the Osu Traditional Authority have over the property?

Ayariga now says Kufuor should meet Mills to resolve the issue amicably. On that, I say, no way, enough is enough. It would be another attempt aimed at humiliating the former president. This government has shown, by all intents and purposes that it is out to humiliate and embarrass the immediate past President of the nation and top members of the out gone government. Doesn't he have a house at Dzoworlu? And can't he convert part of the residence into an office. Or does the land on which his private residence is situated also belong to the Osu Traditional Authority?

At the worst scenario, ex-president Kufuor should relocate to his home region, Ashanti where he would be among his kith and kin. In Kumasi and its environs, he would be accorded the respect and dignity which he rightly deserves.

But then, will the clarion call, “To your tents, O Israel” reverberate across the various villages, towns and cities all over the country? And if such a trumpet would be sounded, of what use would be the legacies bequeathed on us by our founding fathers?

It is upon this note that I entreat all those fanning the embers of hatred and ethnicity to be cautious of their utterance since there are many undemocratic elements within our democratic system masquerading as true democrats. At least Ghanaians are entitled to sleep with both eyes closed, if not one eye open. To your tent, O Israel is the last thing we should expect from any quarters.

And to the powers that be, a word of caution which Polonius gave to Laertes: “And above all, unto thine own self be true”

Daniel Danquah Damptey
[email protected][ 0243715297 ]

Daniel Damptey Danquah
Daniel Damptey Danquah, © 2009

This author has authored 286 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DanielDampteyDanquah

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