Today, my mind is roaming in Gold Coast colonial history and the relevance of certain historical incidents for comparison to the happenings of today. The phrase ‘’everything’s all Sir Garnet’’ was very popular in spoken discourse in England at the turn of the 20th century to signify that everything is alright.
Garnet Joseph Wolseley, first Viscount Wolseley, had a reputation for efficient conduct of military operations of the empire. The Sir Garnet of course was Sir Garnet Wolseley, the very person who led and executed perfectly the first comprehensive defeat of the Ashanti Empire in 1874, a war local Gold Coasters then and Ghanaians now, call ‘’The Sagrenti War’’, an obvious corruption of his name. It would strike Ghanaians as very odd that scholars these days consider the 1870s as the effective end of British imperialism and hegemony.
Wolseley retired from active service as a field marshal and commander-in-chief of the British Army. But before he could settle down to gift us with his memoirs of an illustrious military career spanning several decades of fighting in almost all the continents of the world in the heyday of imperialism, disaster struck. He became blind and died in 1913, a year before the start of the First World War.
Sir Garnet was chosen to lead the Ashanti campaign because of the usual thoroughness with which he conducted his battles and the completeness of his victories. He spent only about two months in the Gold Coast, and left, having successfully accomplished his assignment. His performance thus justified the hopes the British government and people had reposed in him. The local moniker Sagrenti War was well earned, as well as the English vernacular expression in the title of today’s epistle.
It is my opinion, there is nobody like that in our present government whose claims of previous exploits and experience had been justified since their election or appointment, hence the increasing disappointment of many of our compatriots with performance so far. This is because we had prior to the last election, been regaled ad nauseam with claims upon claims of hitherto unexpected miraculous performance to usher us all into political and economic nirvana if we voted a certain way. I am not even sure whether those making the untested claims or those who believed them, are to blame for our current disappointments.
In present day Ghana, there seems to be a dearth of capable men and women to execute the lofty promises made by politicians. The disappointment cuts across all sectors of society, from the so-called civil society to the political and social classes. There are so many questions and national problems begging for quality response in policy thinking and formulation one is confused about the ends of political ambition. Do people offer themselves for election based on inner convictions that something can be done or on the basis of mere personal gratification? After 16 months of governance, we can now clearly see the absurd and ungainly contours of intentions and achievement of our current government. I will give several examples.
Paucity of vision
Our Tourism Minister, Madam Catherine Afeku, organised a luncheon to unveil new Ghanaian foods a few months ago which I thought was a brilliant idea since the food industry is usually one of the biggest and most profitable in every society in the world. But instead of holding the luncheon in an open space open to all of us like the Obra Spot at the Nkrumah Interchange because most of us who eat out of the home do so in chop bars, the good idea was suppressed by having it at the plush Kempinski Hotel. Any effort to alter our traditional cuisine from the stodgy, heavy meals we normally eat in Ghana should be welcomed as part of the concern for our wellbeing healthwise, our local foods economy and agriculture, and the business prospects in the hospitality and tourism industries in this country. This is just one example of the paucity of vision and the impracticality of implementation of policies in this government.
This is not all. Why are all those who made a daily noisy meal of the dangers to our democracy of the winner-takes-all syndrome in our recent past deathly quiet since the last election? Why should the national extension of our own railway system be dependent on leveraged goodwill buyout of our natural resources by foreigners at the same time as we are busy running local banks out of business with ruinous capital requirements?
Is Ghana without aid mere sloganeering? Why is the President not taking the bold imaginative step of collapsing the borders of all regions of Ghana and redraw from scratch but rather seeking easy gerrymandering for political gain to his ruling party? It is not inspired leadership to claim that the new divisions planned were wanted by the inhabitants of those areas. Why has road construction and maintenance stopped nationwide in the name of the fruitless fight against corruption? Is corruption really the number one concern of Ghanaians, not our dishonesty, hypocrisy and lack of vision whose effects are all around us?
How do we assess the likely effects of credentials and experience in our body politic? Or we like deceiving ourselves that a good doctor will necessarily make a good health minister, any lawyer can be President, an excellent teacher would be good for education and so on? Or worse, a professor ipso facto knows everything? Leadership is not about qualifications and splarkling CVs, but about the untaught ability to organise men and women to achieve certain goals.
It is alright to defend oneself by claiming our ideological differences require new governments do things differently. But this is not entirely convincing. All road be road. All school be school. All hospital be hospital. Mr Agyeman-Manu cannot pull down the spanking new medical complex at Legon and rebuild a new in the NPP fashion, because we do not have NPP or NDC hospitals, but also this government does not have forever to work its magic on us. The highway on which Ebony met her death serves exactly the same purpose as the Eastern Corridor road stopped in another part of the country; to link us more effectively together. The fits and starts and hiccups of policy and implementation are harming our faith in the ability of our leaders.
I know one day it would be announced that all the economic indices are ok as we wallow in grindingly hard daily lives. It was late President J.E.A. Mills who famously said, in response to the fixation on economic indices, that the operation was very successful but the patient did not survive. Everything’s not all Sir Garnet in the Ghana of today.