Are we children?

BY: Colin Essamuah

Yes, that is exactly how I felt as I contemplated just a couple of the issues which have captured the news this week; the  inauguration of yet another new driving licence and vehicle documentation for this country, and the all-powerful supposedly-leaked report of the Professor Kwesi  Botchwey Committee set up by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to find the reasons for the defeat of the NDC in last December’s presidential and parliamentary elections, and make recommendations. 

The plain facts, however, deliberately obscured and vandalised by clearly interested men and women in the media and our politics, are very different. Therefore, to my mind, what we need to understand are the motives provoking these news, and why its promoters are imploring us to believe them. 

Change of driving licence

Why is it that anytime the New Patriotic Party (NPP) comes to power, they find the need to change our driving licences? And it just happens that all these changes cost users and new applicants a pretty penny? Where are commercial drivers, that is those who drive for a living, to get these substantial sums to pay for legal permission to work?  Contrary to the general belief that you need GH¢91 to secure the new licence to be made available from next month, the real figures are astronomical, and completely unjustified as far as the purpose of the document is concerned anyway. Where from this illogical belief that securing a driving licence is the ticket to the secular heaven?

This paper, the leading newspaper of record in this country, reported on page 24 last Wednesday thus: “The new licence takes the form of a smart card that contains a contactless chip loaded with the owner’s bio-data and the driver’s personal information.’’ This technical jargon is presented as if the driving licence and car documents constitute the Holy Grail of personal and national security. Are the middlemen and the activities of ‘goro boys’ the cause of our political and economic problems in this country? The intent is clear to me; to justify the unbearably steep costs of the new documents. 

The Daily Graphic report continues as follows: “a breakdown of the cost of the new licence shows that the authority had added GH¢91 to the existing charges. Therefore, a new licence will now cost GH¢257, replacement of an expired license, GH¢155, licence upgrade GH¢345, replacement of lost driving licence GH¢205 and conversion of a foreign driving licence will cost GH¢445.’’ Are these small sums?  Who in their ingenuity, dreamt up these fantastic figures?

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The very last one quoted, conversion of foreign driving licence, is an absolute indictment on our competence, our self-belief, and our progress as a nation. Only a failed state will require a problem that is easily solvable by treaty and which will cost nothing to the user to be handled in this way.

I should know. Way back in September 1987, when I travelled to the United States of America (USA) to attend graduate school, one of the documents given me clearly stated that I needed not acquire a driving licence in America if I had a valid Ghanaian driving licence, which I did, and for the years I spent in America, I used that to drive around without any problem. The NPP fascination with new documents whose only remarkable feature is the steep cost to ordinary Ghanaians, presented in this unconvincing manner, is a testament that we are retrogressing, not progressing, under them. 

The ‘KB Report Expose’ is a clumsy forgery. The phrase ‘executive summary’ being used gives the game away. Who in government, politics, business or any serious enterprise has the time to read a 65 page foreword, in addition to the 455 page report itself? We now know they are allegedly merely talking points made up by enthusiastic forgers. Especially since Professor Botchwey himself spoke about an eight-point summary or abstract, if we want to be technically accurate, when the report was presented by his committee in June. The quality of education has really suffered if all of us can be led along this unconvincing path.  

Both the external and internal evidence proffered for its authenticity and provenance are unpersuasive and unbelievable.  Note well these fantastic words. Interception. Leaked. Confirmation. These words being bandied about reveal a lot about those using the words than the materials being discussed. The report was presented in June, how does laying hands on it three whole months later constitute an interception? 

Who leaked it? Protection of sources as a sacred journalistic principle is just being abused here. That is amoral investigative journalism. The alleged leakage very conveniently coincides with the known actions of the defeated NDC at the moment, very much like saying ‘eureka’ in the third month of a pregnancy following marriage. All those allegedly confirming the contents were at best witnesses before the committee, they were not members nor have they been proven to have unique access to its contents, irrespective of what they themselves say. They are hearsay witnesses of circumstantial matters of little practical value.  

At the time of writing, only two former members of the Botchwey committee have spoken to the media, and they both have discounted the so-called report as fraudulent. That is enough for me. Nobody can persuade me that Honourables Samson Ahi and Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, both Members of Parliament (MPs), were coerced to agree to say the same thing.

The NDC is reported in this strange document to have acquired 200 vehicles for 34 people in the media, and of this latter number, far smaller than the number of available vehicles, only four were given cars, yet it is possible to conclude that the party had a rough relationship with the media. This is not logical.

The truth of the matter is that defeat has no champions. Indeed, it is an orphan. President Mahama has accepted personal responsibility nonetheless. Everything being bandied about is almost the same as what Dr Arthur Kennedy reported in his book on the defeat of the NPP in 2008. This has become the mantra of lazy pundits who believe that every election is the same. One does not have to believe this report to legitimise the victory of the NPP. That is the kernel of the matter.

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