MP on a bike; GMA’s opulence

BY: Enimil Ashon
the director-general of the Ghana Maritime Authority
the director-general of the Ghana Maritime Authority

Story: In 2018, life is so unbearable that the rich and privileged in Ghana commute to work on bicycles! Headline: MPs lower standards by riding bicycles.

To “lower standards” is to descend into the gutter of the poor or to do something so outrageously unthinkable that it will attract attention in “normal” communities.

At the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, when a Vandal lowers standards, the offence is considered so grievous that he is ponded – a death sentence.

So let it be said, and so let it be written, that in November 2018, an MP in Ghana lowered standards by riding a bicycle to work.

 That’s unthinkable!

In Akan and Ga, that is “musu”, an unheard-of abomination that must never be whispered among the rich and privileged.

In 2018, after only one term in Parliament, Ras Mubarak considers himself so high and lifted up above the poor and wretched of the earth that riding a bicycle is a sign of protest.

 The implied message is that life has become so unbearably hard in Ghana that the rich, unable to afford fuel, have come down to the poor man’s level.

In France, around 1789, when told that the people (the poor) were in the streets demonstrating because they had no bread, Marie-Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, retorted: “Qu'ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.” That’s life!

No, that is not life – at least, not in countries whose citizens’ taxes keep us alive.

In 2009, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s bicycle was stolen.

Not to be late for Parliament, the first option that came to mind was to catch the bus (public transport like Aayalolo bus) to work.

 He was spared this slower option when his parliamentary aide (Desmond Swayne, himself an MP) offered up his own bicycle.

And he did it because the Prime Minister had an urgent matter to discuss in the august House, a matter more urgent than his (Swayne’s).

When the press sympathised with him over the loss of the bicycle, the Prime Minister answered: “It (his stolen bicycle) is priceless to me."

In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron, on an official visit to Denmark, decided to tour the city of Copenhagen. He rode a bicycle – accompanied by his host, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen.

In the Netherlands, people are used to seeing Prime Minister Mark Rutte arriving at his office for regular duties on bicycle.  In 2012, he received an official delegation from Iran at his office.

The Iranian delegation who had arrived a little earlier, ahead of the appointed time, were in shock when the Prime Minister arrived at work on a bicycle.

Back in Tehran, the head of Iranian police (the IGP of Iran) who was in the delegation, told a local TV how the Iranian delegation were ashamed when they saw a minister of an European country riding to his office on a bicycle.

The Netherlands is ranked 16th in the world in terms of GDP; Ghana ranks 79th.

Got my drift, dear reader? In countries that know how to save money so they can lend it to us in Ghana, riding a bike is not a sign of protest: it is a way of life.

In Africa, the only way to show you are not poor is to own a car, even if its acquisition will kill you.

If Ras Mubarak’s style of protest gave me occasion to laugh (at us, Ghanaians), the opulence-mentality of the director-general of the Ghana Maritime Authority got me so incensed I couldn’t breathe.

Eleven air-conditioners in a four-bedroom house, and he tells us that he is so used to opulence that even the 11 were too few?! What a ….!

In a country where humans compete with cattle for water in streams and whose children sit and write on bare earth or under a tree that is called classroom!

For me, however - at least, for today - my beef is not on the number of ACs, nor on the alleged GH¢135,000.00 (one hundred and thirty-five thousand Ghana cedis – or one billion, three hundred and fifty million pre-Kufuor cedis!!!) he spent on an end-of-year staff dinner party in 2017.

 For me, this expenditure would still be excessive even if 1,000 people were at the party.
Why are we so prodigal?

For those who think holding those expensive meetings in the CEO’s hotel is not a conflict of interest, the question which a committee of enquiry or a court of law will ask is, how come the GMA suddenly discovered the existence of that hotel only during the tenure of the incumbent CEO?

Even that one is not my beef today.

My worry is about this culture of “coffee breaks” and snacks at every little meeting we hold.

A conference or seminar or workshop that starts at 9am will break for snacks (coffee-tea-cocoa with croissant, kish, samosa, sandwiches and …rolls) at 10:30am, followed by lunch (jollof, fried rice, meat, fish, kelewele, with soup and bread and butter as starters) at 12:30pm and another coffee break - (coffee-tea-cocoa with croissant, kish, samosa, sandwiches and …rolls) at 3pm.