‘Dwen hwe kan’ in 2017 Ghana

BY: Colin Essamuah
 Mfantsipim SHS
Mfantsipim SHS

I do not believe there are any of our countrymen and women who do not understand the above phrase which happens to be the motto of the first secondary school in this country and my own alma mater, Mfantsipim School in Cape Coast.

Variously translated over the ages the settled English rendition is ‘’Think and look ahead.’’ Why over the ages? Because it is the oldest in this country, the very first to be established as a second level educational institution, and not an expansion, improvement or renovation project upon an older primary level school.

It is the thought captured pithily in the motto that set me on my epistle for today, as I surveyed the developing contours of our current situation. Allow me to settle on a few that seize my fancy today. Let me give them headings to concentrate your interest; the vexed role of chiefs in Ghana, vetting and approval blues, and of course, the never-ending reports surrounding the cost of the new residence for our Vice-President still under construction. I crave your indulgence not to discuss them in this order though.

Note carefully that last week, I repeated again my concerns with the cost of the office of our Presidency, the Flagstaff House, especially the pavement which alone cost a whopping $12 million. I actually threw a challenge to our Vice President , Alhaji Dr Bawumia, to cause to be published the subcontracts of the Flagstaff House project handled by Ghanaians so we can all judge the length and beauty of the animal called value for money. I wrote in this column years back without the necessary investigations and public inquiries being done on my claim or allegation, as the lawyers would say. Now, the entry of the $13.9 million cost for the uncompleted official residence for our Vice-President would make my allegation seem suspiciously like the hitherto condemned practice of equalisation.

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 That is neither my intention nor my wish. Indeed, how these two matters have been handled only proves firmly the potency of what I have continually railed against, dishonesty and hypocrisy, as the real drawbacks in the pursuit of truth and excellence in our public affairs and lives. In the end, how we see these matters will also prove the truism in what I always have said, that our democratic problem is development and not corruption in public affairs. Now that we have a fit-for-purpose office and residence for our President, we must understand and appreciate how our politicians and public servants think, and behave.

I say so because I know that the idea for a spanking new residence for our Vice-President to be built on the site of the old Nigerian High Commission chancery building behind the Police Headquarters arose in the President Kufuor administration. And contrary to popular belief, it was not sole sourced but put on selective tender. For now, that is all I have to say, we as citizens must draw our conclusions as to propriety of all that has transpired since the Vice President drew our attention to cost last week and got us in a feeding frenzy, leaving behind other pressing matters that we are perfectly capable of resolving to public satisfaction.

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Chiefs and politics

My second beef today arose out of the news that Manhyia palace, that is inferentially the Asantehene, has declared openly its support for the candidature of the Mawerehene to be elected as the Ashanti Region representative to the Council of State in next week’s elections. Why is our hypocrisy and dishonesty so deep and cloyingly annoying? Chiefs are political creatures and nothing else. But we have gone ahead to have it written in our constitution that they should not do politics, whatever that means, and we have ordinary, very unroyal citizens calling chiefs who do what they have been enstooled or enskinned to do unwise? The constitutional strictures on chiefs not to do partisan politics is meaningless and ultimately futile. Not only should it be removed and our chiefs feel free to do politics, and offer themselves for political positions, but I believe strongly that the institution itself must be abolished, as it serves no developmental purpose. In fact, it is gradually becoming a serious drawback to spatial development in this country. The trite argument of culture and tourism is patently hollow and unconvincing.

I know that as soon as President Akufo-Addo actualises his solemn promise to have our district, municipal and metropolitan chief executives elected rather than appointed, the clamour for diminishing further the role of chiefs and its eventual demise will pick up apace. It is a feudal part of our history we cling to which has cost us a pretty penny over the years as their ridiculous quarrels have disturbed the peace and hampered our development.

My sister Otiko Djaba is now finally sworn in as a minister of state. She is my sister because of her brother Hans who was a year behind me in school. I was chatting happily with Hans on Monday  May 11, 1983, in front of the Legon Bookshop, when some Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) cadres and members of the Workers Defence Committee came and seized him and took him to the cells at Legon Police Station. His crime? He was the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) national secretary and tertiary students had just completed a successful anti-government demonstration the previous Saturday, which first sent Dr Arthur Kennedy,  Asamoah-Boateng and others into exile for the first time during the PNDC regime. I also knew their father Mr Henry Djaba quite well in the days of the Popular Front Party during the third Republic of President Limann.

Up to now as I write, I do not know why I was not arrested with Hans. Maybe because they knew I was a national service staffer on campus. Which little fact ties in with aspects of Madam Djaba’s delayed parliamentary approval. I am waiting for the first time Ms Djaba would have to descend again to violent political speeches because that would be a reflection on our President. I find it intriguing that some are comparing her difficulties to that of Mr Oti Bless who I cannot remember if former President Mahama swore in, just like another nominee who met with stiff opposition, the late Professor Awoonor, in 1997 or so. We must not compare the acclaimed incompetents to the acclaimed competents.

We definitely have had a change in party and government, but we still have politicians holding public offices.