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06.07.2012 Feature Article

Minister Hannah Tetteh’s huge gaffe!

Minister Hannah Tetteh’s huge gaffe!
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I still reach for reggae songs when events seem to overwhelm me. This week has rather been particularly grueling. A sickness in the family bothered the mind greatly.

As though that were not grave enough, I had to spend time listening to the ongoing Public Account Committee of the Parliament, revealing how our officials decide to play Father Christmas with our money, by doling out big, big money to their cronies, for very dubious reasons.

Then came news that the Ministry of Trade and Industry has formed a Task-Force to chase non-Ghanaians petty traders out of the retail market in Ghana.

On Tuesday, the 3rd the sector minister made good her threat and sent task Force out.

Nigerian blogosphere was saturated with erroneous reports of deportation, eviction and brutalization of Nigerians in Ghana.

So, unable to make sense of all the noises, I settle down and listen to Lucky Dube:

If I'm dreaming don't wake me up if it's a lie don't tell me the truth

'Cause what the truth will do, it's gonna hurt my heart

Being in the darkness for so long now
Mr. President, did I hear you well Last night on TV

You said:
The group areas act is going Apartheid is going
Ina me eye me sight the future so bright
I mean I my eyes
I see the future so bright
When the blackie manna coming together
With the whitey manna
Whitey manna coming together with the blackman
Gazing at my crystal ball I see the future so bright

The fighting's gonna stop now
We'll forgive and forget I know Mr. President
You can't please everyone
But everybody liked it
When you said
Group areas act is going
Apartheid is going
Was I dreaming or what? Sometimes, one wishes that everything is just a dream and that one will wake up to a blissful reality.

I have spent the last three decades or so arguing that Africa should unite or perish. There is simply no alternative.

And just the week before, I was a member of the Pan Afrikan Council delegation that met with the Ghana's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, to discuss continental unity.

The head reels: would African nations, in this globalised age, revert to primordial, silly jingoistic madness when the rest of the world are integrating and marching forward?

Unable to take it any longer, and unwilling to employ harsh polemic, I decided on a satire. The result was “Cry, the beloved country,' which is located on my blog: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/2012/07/cry-bloved-continent.html.

No one can accuse the Mills government of being a good communicator. I have said it several times that poor communications is the greatest handicap of the professor's government.

Neither the government nor the ruling party has done a good job at selling the impressive development programmes the government is carrying out across the country. The result is that the government appears like one that is adrift, unachieving and totally clueless.

It is indeed in the communication department that President Mills lent great credence to the charge that he fielded Team B for ministerial positions.

The president Communication Director has to be gagged recently because he has a penchant for spewing utter garbage most of the time. The question remains unanswered as to why the president chooses someone that believes that puerile combativeness and juvenile garrulousness are substitute for effective communication, to speak for him.

Also, the Deputy Information Minister appears too infantile, in both comportment and in speeches, to speak effectively for a government or a party. He is mostly in the news for the negative reasons. He appears to speak before remembering that thoughts ought to precede speechifying. His latest imbecilic faux pas was the utter garbage that NPP people are dying because they wished President Mills ill!

With the government communication's team apparently asleep, Ghana's international credibility took a big bashing this week when news circulated that the Mills government has thrown the country back to the dark days of the Infamous Alien Compliance days of 1969, when Africans were thrown out of the country.

The Minister of Trade and Industry was on the airwaves saying that non-Ghanaians, without exception (in her word), are to comply with legal requirements that they should fork out US$300,000 and employ ten Ghanaians if they want to engage in retail trading.

Even after a delegation of ECOWAS met with her, she came out with a statement that the law must be upheld and that there was no going back.

She was adamant even after she was cautioned that she was not only threading on a dangerous path, but that she will be breaching ECOWAS treaties and protocols.

I reached for the relevant ECOWAS papers and discovered that Ghana will, indeed, be breaching the spirit, if not the letter of portions of the ECOWAS protocols.

This is what I discovered: According to PROTOCOL A/P.1/5/79 RELATING TO FREE MOVEMENT OF PERSONS, RESIDENCE AND ESTABLISHMENT THE HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES RECALLING that sub-paragraph (d) of paragraph 2 of Article 2 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States calls on Member States to ensure by stages the abolition of the obstacles to free movement of persons, services and capital ; RECALLING also that paragraph 1 of Article 27 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States confers the status of Community citizenship on the citizens of Member States, and also enjoins Member States to abolish all obstacles to freedom of movement and residence within the Community ; RECALLING further that paragraph 2 of Article 27 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States further calls on Member States to exempt Community citizens from holding visitor's visa and residence permits and allow them to work and undertake commercial and industrial activities within their territories : CONVINCED of the need to spell out in this protocol the various stages to be undergone to accomplish complete freedom of movement as envisaged by sub-paragraph (d) of paragraph 2 of Article 27 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States.

I am not a legal luminary and my understanding of legal terms is rather hazy, but the Protocol to which Ghana has appended its signature appears to make it clear that the country cannot discriminate against ECOWAS citizens.

The question beggared is: does the Ministry of Trade and Industry have a legal department and did the minister avail herself of their services?

I was told that she herself is a lawyer, even a corporate one.

Historians will look back at the Mills administration as one that appears not to be cohesive, and one in which top members appears not to know or appreciate what the other officials are doing.

I was at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in May this year on the occasion to mark the 102nd Anniversary of the birth of the Osagyefo.

Speaking at the occasion, The Vice-President, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, who came with former South African President Mbeki, called on Africans to remove artificial barriers, unite and mobilise resources in order to develop the continent.

In his beautiful speech, which drew applauses, Mr. Mahama charged Africans to stop depending on the West for aid and rather take their destinies into their own hands to grow their economies. He told us further that China had become a giant economy because of the high population and the strong leadership and drive to succeed.

He said Africa, with its one billion population, could go the way of China if Africans “can do away with the artificial barriers that divide us” and mobilise resources to develop the continent.

He expressed regret that Africans were not leveraging on their strength but rather depended on the West for support, which was against the vision of the founding fathers of the continent.

The Vice-President told us that nobody could “create space” for Africa to develop, hence the need for Africans to work together to develop the continent.

He further stressed the need for the Africans to let Dr Nkrumah's memory to spur them on as one people with a common destiny.

And speaking at a symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of Algeria's independence, the Vice President reiterated his call for continental unity. He said although Africa was now free from colonialism, a lot more remained to be done. "Until we join forces and bring our people together towards common goals, we would not reach our full potential in progress," he said.

He further asserted that Ghana's Founding Father, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, ultimately aimed at the unification of Africa "but this appears to be in limbo now."

The VP told us that Ghana had an indelible heritage by the role it had played in the struggle for liberation, and added that this placed on the country, the role and responsibility of always portraying what it basically stood for, which was African unity and liberty.

Lofty speeches, but how do we reconcile this with the stance of the Minister of Trade and Industry of the same government?

Are we to believe that our officials are interested only in hearing the music of their voices? Or are we to believe that they are just bloody hypocrites who play to any gallery?

What are we to make of the discordant speeches of two senior members of the same government? It is difficult to imagine such ponderous decision been taken by a single minister on her own. Or are to believe that Madam Tetteh took that decision without cabinet approval or do we take it that the VP was present when the decision was taken to sack non-Ghanaians from retail selling?

Any idiot should know that our so-called countries in Africa are in dire straits because of the hostile global environment in which we play.

It is sad that after thirty seven years we are still debating who in ECOWAS is allowed to sell what.

Whilst our minister shouts herself hoarse about retailers, our people in East Africa, who started later than us, have evolved into an Economic Union.

Most of the countries in Africa are too small to succeed, even the big ones must contend with more powerful blocs. Not even Nigeria or South Africa can expect to come out best if placed against the might of the European Union.

After much confusion and gnashing of teeth, the MTI came out with a statement on Friday, July 06, 2012 to the effect that, after all, it has been wrong and that ECOWAS citizens are, indeed exempted.

In a belated press release, the ministry has this to say: “Specifically ECOWAS citizens are not being asked to have invested US$300,000.00 neither are they being asked to employ ten Ghanaians in their businesses. They are however expected to meet the same conditions that Ghanaian citizens who start businesses are expected to comply with. This means that they are required to register businesses with the Registrar General's Department, they are required to register with the Ghana Revenue Authority and pay taxes in the same way as Ghanaians are expected to do, and because they are not our nationals they are expected to properly apply for residential status in Ghana.” - http://business.myjoyonline.com/pages/news/201207/89655.php

We would have all been spared all the embarrassment and anguish if only the minister has done her home work well.

Femi Akomolafe
Femi Akomolafe, © 2012

The author has 236 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: FemiAkomolafe

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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