Mon, 14 Mar 2011 Feature Article

Did Dr. Nkrumah create 'Political Treasure Hunters' in Ghana?

Dr.kwame NkrumahDr.kwame Nkrumah

The above 'political slogan' was allegedly paraphrased by Dr Kwame Nkrumah in the Nineteen Fifties during the initial stages of his political career.

Dr Nkrumah who previously was a teacher and someone who wanted to train to become a preacher, might have been inspired by one of the powerful passages Jesus Christ used to draw his disciples and other followers to Christianity when the latter started his ministry. The disciples and people around Jesus knew his motive, and had a clear idea about the message he was conveying to them. But, what precisely was the motive of Dr Nkrumah when he allegedly re-phrased a biblical passage in Matthew chapter 6, verse 33? Was he really referring to a promise of 'abundance of wealth' to entice and woo Ghanaians into his party in particular, and politics in general? Or was he rather talking philosophically, and referring to less mundane rewards? We will never know precisely what this great Ghanaian patriarch meant when he changed the biblical message to become the political slogan above which, with the help of his 'red cockerel' that signalled 'the dawn of freedom', he 'crowed' from Accra in the South, to Zualungu in the North of the then Gold Coast Colony to solicit support for his message of 'independence now'.

What Ghanaians have come to know though, is the fact that our country has since independence become a nation besieged by politicians who seek anything but honesty and political virtue, and who speak only one single language…… the language of power-seeking, greed and individual wealth-accumulation, misappropriation of State assets, bribery and corruption, and blatant political deception. The speed with which coup-makers like Akyeampong and Rawlings jumped onto our political scene with flimsy excuses, and at such pubertal moments when the Busia and Limann governments that they overthrew had barely started to put in place their programs, is one proof of this fact. The extent to which several Ghanaians always fight over constituency seats in all party primaries prior to Ghanaian parliamentary elections is another proof.

The brutal exchanges associated with contests for flagbearership of Ghanaian parties in the period leading to presidential elections is a third proof. And the numerous aspirants who throw themselves into presidential contests, such as the 17 NPP presidential candidates who in 2008 'crashed' over one single flagbearer-vacancy, are all 'tale-tellers' who collectively tell one 'clear story', and backed it with strong 'numerical evidence' that shows that when a platoon of seagulls chase a fishing trawler, then it is because they see thousands of 'free dead fish' being thrown into the sea.

*Let no man who sleeps overnight with the 'anopheles mosquito' fail to guess how much of his blood he has lost, when this previously lean and hungry-looking 'parasitic animal' suddenly bloats ten-times into the size of a 'tsetse fly' the morning after. *When, also, the 1992 Constitution 'surprisingly' empowers the [outgoing] President to appoint a committee to determine the emoluments, including ESB entitlements, of top public officials who include the [outgoing] President himself, then let such constitutional provision that gives such powers to the President be seen as a practical demonstration, and not a coincidental affirmation, of Dr Nkrumah's above political slogan that told Ghanaians: 'seek ye first the political kingdom, and all other things will follow', which the great patriarch may have coined and used philosophically and innocently.

*The British Prime Minister is paid under £70,000 per annum, while several ordinary British civil and public servants can earn between £200,000 and £300,000 per annum…… about three to four times the salary of the British Prime Minister. Can this happen in Ghana? *Let us also talk about the repetitive 'End of Service Benefits' that are quadrennially showered on MPs, who nonetheless continue to be re-elected, if they are good; or former Ministers who can still be appointed to political offices in future administrations, if they are efficient; or former Presidents who, even after they have finally retired, are often and almost always offered remunerative international appointments; or former Vice Presidents who can become future Presidents, if they are good; etc.

Why should repetitive quadrennial ESB be paid to such continuing politicians, and in a poor country like Ghana? *And why, also, should former Ghanaian Presidents be given 'free' state houses and official cars, in addition to allowing them to retire on their full salaries, when British Prime Ministers do not get these benefits when they leave office? Is Ghana richer than United Kingdom that colonised us, and continues every year to support our national budgets financially through 'aid' and 'loans'? *A Ghanaian proverb says: 'abofra bo nwa, na ombo akyekyede'…. which, roughly translated into English, means one should not try to do what is beyond one's ability, or means.

In my opinion, the greedy Ghanaians among us will continue to seek political offices with the view to exploit this country, rather than to serve it, if they know and believe that politics is the quickest way to make 'easy money', and the easiest way to make it 'without accountability'. We should take cognisance of the fact that the availability of the 'chance to grab' creates the 'habit to grab'; and the habit to grab creates the 'culture of greed' which establishes a socially-accepted presumption of 'correctness' that, in its turn, becomes an endorsement of dishonesty and an affront to integrity, public morality and probity. *Should any reader seek verification of this assertion, let him or her read the following 'presumption' by a Ghanaian of top public stature:—

'The General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu-Nketia, has rubbished a report that he has built two mansions in Accra and Kumasi within the short period that the NDC has been in office. 'He said he would be deemed useless and irresponsible if he was unable to build such a house after holding several key political and public positions in this country for several years.' *[ Culled from Ghanaweb General News of Monday, 7 March 2011; Source: Daily Guide].

Corollary: Without apology to former President Nkrumah and Limann, this 'self-styled social anthropologist', Asiedu Nketia, is saying from above that a Ghanaian politician who does not build a house after being in office for as long as he, Nketia, has been is seen as 'useless and irresponsible'. Certainly, Asiedu Nketia will say this in our current national environment of 'political intoxication', 'moral corruption' and 'societal permissiveness' that reflect our collective Ghanaian character.

If we don't want 'seagulls' to follow fishing trawlers, then we must stop throwing 'dead fish' into the sea. The belief that well-paid politicians will not abuse their offices has not been supported by eighteen years of home-brewed Ghanaian evidence, since the adoption of the 1992 Constitution. Also, the feeling that when leaders are well paid, they will not want to overstay their offices is not borne out by the vast wealth of evidence available in North Africa and other Arab countries where power-drunk long-ruling leaders like Colonel Gaddafi, through their refusal to leave office without being forced, are demonstrating beyond doubt that: 'the sweeter the political office, the lesser the likelihood that the holder will want to exit, if he or she can hang on to it'. Again, there is no evidence that supports the view that giving politicians 'very high remunerative benefits' will attract good people into politics.

In my opinion, showering excessive benefits on politicians will rather attract 'treasure-hunters' into politics. *Therefore, we need to discourage 'wealth-minded' Ghanaians from politics, by drastically reducing the salaries and benefits of both serving and retired politicians, so as to turn politics into something that is close to 'voluntary service', which will attract only 'decent Ghanaians' who seek the opportunity to 'sacrifice wealth' to serve their country…… and not 'clever Ghanaians' who look for the opportunity to 'exploit the State' such as: some 'mosquito-like social democrats' who suck the blood of 'sleeping people' to satisfy their own 'lust', and who keep claiming that they are not 'useless and irresponsible'; or some 'wolf-in-sheep-skin type of controversial egalitarians' who secretly acquire huge private mansions, but continue to demand State-owned accommodation while their own acquisitions lie fallow; or some 'King David-like rich property-owning democrats' who, despite having plenty, take from the State the little that belong to the poor. Wealth-seeking Ghanaians should be 'pushed' to go into business, for example, where they can 'scoop' as much income as conditions, and their entrepreneurial abilities will allow them.

In conclusion, we must keep 'pythons' out of our political premises by removing 'the eggs' that attract them. We must peg, for a long time, the salaries of MPs and other politicians paid by the State at the levels where they now are; and we must also abolish the quadrennial ESB payments given to MPs and other politicians every time they seek re-election. We must strip former Presidents off a large part of the sumptuous ESB that are handed to them by committees they themselves appoint. In particular, we must stop giving former Presidents the free State accommodation and free official cars; and we must also limit their retirement incomes to a percentage of the salaries they retire on, instead of allowing them to retire on their full salary for life. *Ghana must stop copying United States, because America is the richest country in the world, while Ghana is one of the poorest.