Mrs Trump is in town

BY: Elizabeth Ohene
Mrs Melania Trump, US First Lady
Mrs Melania Trump, US First Lady

I am writing this Monday night.

If all goes according to plan, Mrs Melania Trump, the American First Lady should be on the second and last day of her trip to Ghana by Wednesday morning when this article appears.

This visit was announced by First Lady Trump herself at a United Nations event in New York last week.

Ghana is the first stop in a four-nation African visit which will be her first solo trip as First Lady.

It is an important trip for her, maybe far more important for her than for us.

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I have since then been asking myself; exactly what is the deal? Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt are the select four African countries.

Should we be feeling good about ourselves that we have made it on to the list and do we know what qualifies us to get on the list?

These selections used to come with long and detailed explanations from the State Department about why the US President or his wife was visiting a particular country.

You would remember back in 2009 when Barack Obama paid his first visit to Africa and Ghana was chosen.

At the time the White House put out a statement which praised Ghana for being “a truly admirable example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving democracy."  

The White House did not only praise us, they went ahead to give reasons why Nigeria and Kenya had not been chosen.

“Kenya, like Nigeria simply did not make the good governance grade”.

This time around, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the reasons for the selections.

But then these days the man in the White House does not seem to care very much about such things.

I have therefore been trying to find out if the American media had any explanation.

On the website of one of their leading broadcasters, I read that First Lady Melania Trump had set off on a trip of “a five-day, four-country tour that will take her to every corner of the vast and impoverished continent.

Departing on Monday, she opens her first-ever visit to Africa on Tuesday in Ghana in the West, followed by stops in Malawi in the South, Kenya in the East and Egypt in the Northeast.”

So, there you have it, Ghana is the geographic representative of the western part of the impoverished continent, Malawi, represents the South, Kenya represents the east and Egypt, the north.

They probably rolled out a map of the continent, closed their eyes and put a finger somewhere in the western corner and landed on Ghana.

I noted also that there were anxieties that Melania’s first extended turn on the world stage outside the shadow of President Donald Trump could be complicated if we choose to see her as the representative of her husband, who has spoken of the continent in impolite and even vulgar terms.

Doubtless there will be an army of American journalists with the First Lady and they will be looking for footage of the “impoverished continent”.

I have no fear at all that she will be welcomed wherever she goes on our continent.

If I have any hesitation, it is the announcement that she would be going to Cape Coast today to visit the Cape Coast Castle. I have no idea why anybody thinks it will be a good idea to take her to visit a slave castle.

We are apparently hoping that her trip will lead to an increase in tourists to Ghana.

Would the expected tourists be friends of Mrs Trump the model and fashion aficionado or those who follow in the footsteps of First Ladies?

I hope she is not being taken to the Cape Coast castle because Michelle Obama was so moved by her visit there when she came on the historic visit of her husband, then newly elected as president of the United States back in 2009.

Mr Trump will probably be indignant that we are putting his wife on the same level as the Obamas.

Mrs Trump has demonstrated that she has read up on these places she is visiting; she said the four countries are all different and all beautiful.

That is more than her husband has attempted, even though I note that he now says both he and Melania love Africa.

Who knows it might be on the same scale as he now loves the North Korean leader.

At least we know she is different from her husband and if we want to be really optimistic, we will believe once she finishes giving an account of her travels through “the vast and impoverished continent”, he will change his mind about Africa, will never be rude about us again ever.

Mrs Trump, enjoy Africa and make sure you try some kelewele before you leave. You can’t visit Ghana and not eat kelewele.   

Poor and dangerous MPs

I am not quite sure whether to laugh or to cry about the recent complaints we have been hearing from our honourable members of parliament.

I heard one on the radio lament that MPs have become poor.

The complaint apparently comes from the rise in the rate of income tax that has just come into effect.

Our MPs appear to have suddenly realised that the raise in income tax for certain salary grade earners that they voted for affects them because they belong to those categories.

I have worked out what I think happened during the debate on the mid-year budget review.

As I recall it, there were no dissensions.

Our MPs have always felt so dissatisfied with their pay that when the figures were brought to them indicating the salary ranges that would be affected by the increased taxes, they told themselves anybody who earns such monies must be prepared to pay more taxes.

They did not think they were included. How can they be when they are so poor?

Unfortunately, there are more shocks coming their way soon when they go to renew the road worthy certificates for their cars. Since they all seem to drive vehicles with big engine capacities, they will discover that they have to pay an extra GH¢1,000 or GH¢2,000.

It is part of the new rules and the rules must have been crafted with MPs in mind.

I think I will cry with the MPs. It is no laughing matter to have poor Members of Parliament.

It is not only because they will no longer be able to give money to their constituents, it is because if they are in a bad mood, we shall all suffer.

There is nobody quite as dangerous as an unhappy legislator.

They will take it out on all of us. For the next few weeks and months it will be a good idea to give a wide berth to your MP and don’t ask him for money.

They might not be poor but they are feeling poor, and that is dangerous.