Sometimes fate tends to put two sworn enemies at the same centre stage making them feel highly uncomfortable. And that is what happened last week in Accra when Ex-President Kufour found himself sharing the same 'high table' with Mr. Osafo-Maafo who served as his Finance and later Education Minister.
The occasion was the Third Annual Ferdinand Ayim Memorial Lecture under the theme “ Ghana 's developmental challenges: Perspective on the roles of competence, loyalty and sycophancy.” While Mr. Osafo-Maafo delivered the lecture, Ex-President Kufour served as the chairman of the occasion. Therefore, you can imagine what was going through the heads of the two gentlemen even long before the program started.
It may interest readers to know that Mr. Osafo-Maafo was sacked by Ex-President Kufour as Education Minister on allegations that he solely pocketed a $2 million kickback from some Chinese investors which he refused to share with some of the top guns in the NPP including Kufour and Kwadwo Mpiani. And since Kufour kicked Osafo-Maafo from his government, the latter has never forgiven him.
Therefore, Osafo-Maafo used the homily to 'teach' Kufour a little lesson. Osafo-Maafo pointedly stated that in the name of loyalty to leadership process, power and authority, Ghana 's development process had been sacrificed for incompetence, mediocrity, favouritism, tribalism and nepotism. I personally saw Ex-President Kufour's face turned red when Osafo-Maafo hit those subject matters.
Mr. Osafo-Maafo, who appeared unruffled by the faces Kufour was making at this time, went on to say that sometimes due to sycophancy in the same political organization competence was sacrificed for perceived loyalty. What Osafo-Maafo meant here was that those who are competent and experienced are times marginalized because political leadership prefers sycophants and praise singers.
Since the larger stage of the occasion was for Osafo-Maafo he dipped his right finger into Kufour and Rawlings eyes by stating that both leaders had become victims to such sycophants which led them to make bad decisions during their terms in office. “Sycophancy is unacceptable not only because it undermines meritocratic advancement and destroy development process but also because its close cousins – backbiting, character assassination and worst of all, pure corruption are usually lurking right around which would retard our development agenda,” Osafo-Maafo emphatically added.
The above statement was meant for both Rawlings and Kufour but since Rawlings was not at the function, Kufour was forced to take that hit alone. I saw how he became uncomfortable and the angry look on his face told it all. Kufour apparently did not like what Osafo-Maafo was saying at all but he had no other choice but to sit and listen as Osafo-Maafo kept bashing him.
Mr. Osafo-Maafo who clearly at this point was looking for a home run or something to nail Kufour with forcefully urged Ghanaians to be loyal to mother Ghana and desist from giving their loyalty to individuals who are in positions of power and authority.
The ex-Finance Minister continued by powerfully stating that most of the sycophants that we find in Ghana and government use tribal politics which is wrongly interpreted to be loyalty to create the false impression to the leadership that they could best be served by family, friends and people from their tribe and area. This false loyalty Mr. Osafo-Maafo noted breeds tribalism and nepotism in our politics and enjoined Ghanaians to be loyal only to Ghana as our Constitution requires office holders.
When Osafo-Maafo finally landed with his hammer, he told the audience that even though loyalty is important in deciding who should be engaged, “We must be able to identify real loyalty from that of loyalty through sycophancy and praise singing.” He added that “It is time we placed emphasis on competence and the best available human capacity, skills and experience.”
At this point I realized that Ex-President Kufour seems to have heard too many insinuations from Osafo-Maafo. He made some notes with his pen. That was when I predicted in my head that Kufour would not make Osafo-Maafo to go away with his home run. I stated to myself that when it was Kufour's time to speak as chairman of the occasion, he was going to make Osafo-Maafo also feel very uncomfortable.
True to my prediction Kufour who was fuming when he had the microphone took his turn and lambasted Osafo-Maafo. He emphatically stated that even though competence and experience matters he Kufour would rather go with people who are loyal to him.
The above statement clearly cast the two gentlemen apart. While Osafo-Maafo was craving for competence in government, Kufour rather preferred loyalty. I guess to Kufour loyal people cover your back when you go wrong, spin out the wrong message on your behalf; share the loot and keep quiet when something go wrong. In fact when something is even black a loyal person who is the last man standing would defend it to be white. This is what Kwaku Baako does it best to the admiration of Kufour.
The message that Osafo-Maafo sent to Kufour was that too many sycophants that were loaded into his government led him down. In fact he clearly stated that these sycophants compelled Kufour to make some bad judgments that went against Ghanaians as a whole. But Kufour who thinks he is the best leader Ghana has ever had did not think he made any bad decisions. Therefore, when he got his chance he also kicked Osafo-Maafo around.
Kufour while agreeing that competence and experience matters preferred something else: loyalty. He told Osafo-Maafo in the face that he Kufour would go with loyal people. To hell therefore, with competence, Kufour seems to have mimicked. What Kufour also meant was that because Osafo-Maafo became disloyal by keeping the whole kickback of $2 million to himself that is why he kicked him out of his government. When two elephants fight, guess what suffers. We wait to see Kufour vs. Osafo-Maafo Round 2.