"if you sit in your V8, at least, me too, let me sit in a Tico"

Sometimes I feel the originator of the word ‘coincidence’ sought to challenge God’s ‘Everlasting Strategic Plan’. That’s to say that God has everything planned.

There is nothing like, “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection”. If you doubt it, please start observing from now.

Veteran actor Kofi Laing, popularly known in showbiz circles as ‘Kɔhwɛ’ was reported dead on September 16. He is said to have died of stroke. Before then, photos of his deteriorated self, went viral on social media. His, was a typical case of personal poverty and State’s neglect for the welfare of its heroes.

At about the same time, news about the sorry state of Psalm Adjetefio (T.T), a veteran Actor of ‘Taxi Driver’ fame, was reported. He does not even have what to feed with, not to mention medication etc. It took the singular empathy of Hon. Henry Quartey, Greater Accra Regional Minister, to give him a glimmer of hope with a pledge of GHC1, 500 monthly allowance. Until the Minister’s tenure as MP, ends.

My observation is that the Hon Quartey can relate with ‘T.T’s plight. First because they are both Gas. Secondly, they have the same size and weight, thus he appreciates what the actor is going through- He who feels it, knows it, they say.

Long before ‘Kɔhwɛ’ died and T.T’s plight came to light, the comic Actor of Osofo Dadzie series fame, ‘Super OD’, real name Mr. Kwaku Darko, died a pauper. The man who played the role of Osofo Dadzie (Mr. Frempong Manso) himself, died under similar circumstances. Mr Ebenezer Lartey- Ataa Mensah of ‘Showcase in Ga’ fame too.

More recently, the man known in showbiz circles as Akpatsɛ- William Addo is reported to be going blind and begging for help. Emmanuel Armah, a tick tall actor, is down with stroke. The silky-voiced Jewel Ackah died under miserable conditions. And the good old McJordan Amartey, lost one limb before he died. No state actor was seen or heard responding to the plight of these national entertainment heroes.

Hmmm! These are Ghanaians. Our compatriots, who contributed in no small measure to national development by easing our stress through their entertaining escapades on TV and in movies. They contribute in no small measure to the country’s Gross National Happiness Index (GNHI), yet the state had/has nothing for them in their times of need.

Then on Tuesday, September, 28, it was the turn of the highlife legend, Nana Kwame Ampadu to kick the bucket at age 76. He died as a result of circumstances that his family claims were preventable.

“The ambulance didn’t get here early. We went to the Achimota Hospital and we were informed that the doctor was asleep. So when he was taken to the new hospital at Legon, the doctors tried all they could, but he couldn’t survive,” a teary Akosua Agyepong, (a popular musician too), bemoaned. The ‘Kɔkɔɔkɔ’ singer described the deceased as a father.

In this case, although the family has what it takes to cater for their own, state officials, one reporting late and the other allegedly sleeping, failed the ‘Agatha’ hit maker woefully.

ɛbi te yie’ (some are living well) is the title of a song that shot the late ‘Adwomtufuohene’ Nana Kwame Ampadu into prominence in 1967. It was suspected that the tune was politically motivated. The track, which was perceived to be critical of the then-governing National Liberation Council (NLC), disappeared from the airwaves, and returned after the end of that military regime.

Within the same period of these unfortunate occurrences, the MP for North Tongu, Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is alleging that our President is traveling around the world in luxurious jets, which cost the tax payer an arm and a leg- millions of dollars. The recent trip to America alone is alleged to have cost you and me, GH₵3.7 million. Also, Mr Ablakwa alleged that the President’s trip to France, Belgium and South Africa on the G-Kelt aircraft came at a cost of £15,000 per hour.

Mr. Eugene Arhin is the Director of Communications at the Office of the President. He has denied all the allegations being made by Hon. Ablakwa. What he has not done, from Public Relations perspective, which would have rested the issue, is to tell us through the press briefings he has been holding, the actual cost of the trips. But no. Rather, he has information on plans to buy a new jet with bigger capacity for the President’s travels.

“Government is already in the process of acquiring a bigger jet for use,” Mr. Arhin said at a press briefing at the Jubilee House on Monday, September, 27.

Boss, are you also called Kwame or Kofi Eugene? Please, I humbly put it to you that you are not doing the job well. If you do not have the clearance to tell us the cost of the travel, that’s fine. But your timing for the announcement of the intention to purchase a new jet is so inopportune. Can’t you hear how Ghanaians are complaining about things not going well for them? Have you forgotten that our profession thrives on perception? That we advise in a manner that makes our bosses look good in the eye of the publics?

Please, if you have not been given a documented Job Description (JD), ask for one. From where I sit, your job purpose is to inoculate the President(cy) from avoidable public backlash. You are required to evolve strategies and tactics that would ensure that the relationship between the governed and the President, is mutually beneficial. You are definitely not a conveyor belt of information. Unless that’s what your JD says.

And your explanation that the decision to get a bigger fit-for-purpose aircraft was part of a cost saving measure on the travels of the President and other key state functionaries? Yet you did not say how much it has cost us to travel by chartered flight vis-a-vis buying a new jet and what will happen to the Falcon 900ex. ‘Drink deep or taste not’, forgotten?

Indeed, no one seems to know the cost of the trips. So I feel like entering football commentary mode. The Minister of Defense, Hon Nitiwul passed the ball to the Minister of Finance, Mr Ofori-Atta gave a ‘looong’ pass to the Minister for National Security, Albert Kan Dapaah. Our House of Representatives, in the Parliament of Ghana, are still waiting for the ball (information on cost of trips) to land on the floor of the House.

Kwadwo or Kwasi Eugene, have you heard Hon. Haruna Iddrisu’s response to your announcement? “What is this that we hear that because the President cannot bath in the current Falcon, he must buy a new jet, and then we should be interested in providing for the comfort of the President when Ghanaians are reeling under economic hardship?” he quizzed.

Kwabena Eugene, what about Sammy Gyamfi? “The mere thought of it at this time is insensitive to the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian and an insult to our sensibility. If President Akufo-Addo and Bawumia cared about the sufferings of Ghanaians, they would not even think of buying a presidential jet at this time.”

Please forget about the fact they are NDC functionaries. Remember the point that they represent the interests of constituents of 137 constituencies, just like your party, NPP.

My dear reader, this should tell you that the circumstances that led Nana Kwame Ampadu to think about, take a pen, write about, go to the studio and record a song titled, ‘ɛbi tiyie, ɛbi ntiyie kwraa’ (Some are living well while others are not at all), have not changed.

The more we change, the more we remain the same. Ghana!

Judiciary woes

Happily, it is not just a case of the political or supposed bourgeois class being better off than the ordinary Joe. It is interesting to observe that even among the supposed elite group, ‘ɛbi tiyie, ɛbi ntiyie kwraa’.

Why do I say so? Every first year student of Government as a subject, is taught that government is made up of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. We the people, are called the governed.

The Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary are called the three arms of government. Which presupposes that they are equal, in every sense of the word. In practice however, as happened in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some are more equal than others- Two legs good, four legs bad, we learnt at GIJ.

In July this year, the Parliamentarians (Legislature) had cause to complain about the fact that while they are made to contract loans to buy vehicles, pay for their own drivers and buy fuel from their salaries, members of the Executive, had all these for free.

Some of the honourables threatened to boycott the loan. They actually called for a pool of vehicles that they could tap into, as and when necessary. Their complaints and suggestions fell on deaf ears.

Subsequently, a $28 million medium-term loan agreement, involving the government, members of the Eighth Parliament and the National Investment Bank (NIB) Limited, to finance the purchase of vehicles for MPs, from 2021 to 2024, was approved.

Judging from the discussions that ensued prior to the approval of the loan, it was evident that members of the Legislature envy the Executive. In the eyes of members of Parliament, the Ministers ‘tiyie’ while they, ‘ntiyie kwraa’.

In fact, from what I know, upon assuming duty, a Minister (Member of the Executive) is given one salon car, one Toyota V8, a state bungalow and many allowances aside the salary.

I did not know about what the Judiciary was enjoying, nay enduring, until Wednesday, September 29, when the issues were laid bare by the President of the Association of Judges and Magistrates of Ghana (AMJG), Justice Senyo Dzamefe at the 40th Annual General Meeting of the Association in Accra.

And boy!! It was a tall list of woes.

  • Structural defects on new bungalows for displaced judges

President Akufo-Addo is the head of the Executive arm of government. He is reported to have promised God that if he won the 2016 elections, he will build a national Cathedral to honour His name. God listened and fulfilled His part of the bargain.

It is now the turn of our President to accomplish what he promised. So various structures, including residences of judges (members of the Judiciary) on the allocated site for the National Cathedral project, were demolished.

The Supreme and Court of Appeal judges, 21 of them, have since been relocated to cantonments and allocated town houses. But Justice Dzamefe is not happy that his flower vases, in his new home, are getting destroyed.

Speaking at the aforementioned meeting, he said, “although the houses seem nice on the outside they are on the flight path of planes from the Kotoka International Airport. Thus, the force with which the heavy planes take off directly affect the houses. Aside from the terrible noise created by the planes, the doors and other items (in the house) shake when the heavy planes fly over. In fact, two days ago, one of my flower vases got broken. Because my house is the first, I experience the heaviest noise. Surprisingly the contractor negligently failed to fix double glazed windows to curtail the noise.”

He, therefore, called on Management of the Judicial Service, headed by the Chief Justice, “to save the lives of the occupants as well as the lifespan of the buildings.”

  • Transportation needs

At Kinbu Experimental Junior Secondary School, we were taught during our Social Studies class that the necessities of life are; food, clothing and shelter. It was when I was introduced to Abraham Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of human needs, during my Organisational Behaviour class at GIMPA, that I realized that there are more- Physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a scalable vector illustration on white background

These days, what seems to have been added to these necessities is a vehicle. I don’t know whether anybody has propounded a theory on it yet, but in Ghana, if you don’t own a vehicle, you are nobody. Most young ladies tell me that’s the number one criterion you must meet to qualify for further assessment as a potential suitor. ‘Yeah, it shows you are the ish’, they say.

With a place to lay their heads guaranteed, self-esteem intact and self-actualization achieved, members of AMJG want to get mobile, “though it is part of service, especially for professionals, some of them still do not have cars or, at best, are using old rickety vehicles. The lower courts are the front desk of the judiciary. Every effort must be made to make them comfortable. They all deserve cars to work with. The bottom line is, we are all judges performing the same functions,” Justice Dzamefe bemoaned.

  • Disrespectful way of payment of fuel allowances

For those of us who are salaried workers, the salary and related allowances are like the blood that runs through our veins. Any challenges with its flow has dire consequences.

Therefore, the President of AMJG, also expressed dissatisfaction about their general conditions of service. Particularly, he decried how the Executive is handling the payment of their fuel allowance.

“Year in, year out, we have complained about this issue of nonpayment of allowances or delays in doing so. But, like we said in 2019, payment of allowances has become one of the biggest issues for the Association. It is sad that judges in Ghana will have to fight every year for their legitimate allowances to be paid.

“To say the least, it is sad that the leadership of the Association has to trek to Ministry of Finance and Controller and Accountant General’s Department and Audit Service for allowances to be paid. Therefore, we have to fall on friends at the seat of government to push for such allowances to be paid. As of September 2021, we still have not received any fuel allowance for the year.”

“It is so frustrating, to say the least; without mincing words, we are so frustrated. We feel disrespected about the way our allowances are paid. As if it is a favour being done us,” Mr Dzamefe complained.

Due to the raised tone of voice and the emphasis placed on the pronunciation of the words, it seemed to me that this is what seemed to have pained him the most, “we use our own money from our taxed salaries to buy fuel, and this is later refunded after so many months and taxed as if it was paid upfront. In effect, we pay double taxes for fuel. Tax on salaries and ex-pump taxes,” he lamented.

  • Security concerns

After addressing their physiological needs according to Abraham Maslow, Justice Dzamefe moved upwards to the Security and safety needs.

 “As of today, we still don’t have CCTV cameras in the Supreme Court room, let alone the other court rooms. The situation threatens the safety of legal practitioners who frequent the facility for their day-to-day activities”.

Justice Dzamefe recounted a situation where hooligans stormed some courts to whisk away an accused person who was standing trial. He believes these and other related incidents can be avoided if the Management makes a conscious effort to safeguard security “both in court and out of court. We daresay Management is taking the security of judges for granted,” he pointed out.

Justice Dzamefe, therefore, urged government to better their conditions of service as the current state of affairs is nothing to write home about.

  • Access to justice

As a Public Relations Practitioner, one thing I took special note of when writing speeches for my bosses, while working in the public sector, was not to give any semblance of lamentation over issues that they were in the position, based on the mandate of the organization, to fix.

However, anytime they found themselves in a forum where almost every participant complained about something, human as they are, they invariably said a word or two, extemporary.

The Chief Justice, Justice Anin-Yeboah seemed to have caught the bug of complaints as he listened to Uncle Senyo at the AMJG meeting. My heart nearly missed a beat when I heard him speak.

“We have serious constraints as an institution. In a population of over 30 million, we have less than 404 Judges and Magistrates administering justice in a litigious society like Ghana. For example, from central Accra to Nsawam, there is not a single court on that stretch until Amasaman. This should not happen in any civilized country. The same situation is true for Kumasi. From Kumasi central to Obuasi, there is no court on the way and that is a distance of about 36 miles,” he bewailed.

Ei! The CJ, on whose laps it lies to ensure that the challenges enumerated by Uncle Senyo, is now sharing his own frustrations to the extent of saying, “this should not happen in any civilized country”.

The question I asked myself after extricating myself from the momentary shock that his statement engendered, was, ‘this should not happen in any civilized country? But it is happening in Ghana, so is ours an uncivilised country?’

The silence that greeted the CJ’s comment from the rank and file of the AMJG members present at the meeting, was loud enough for one to hear a pin drop. I guess Justice Anin-Yeboah realized that. So, he quickly gave them something to clap about, “permit me to applaud the Executive and the Legislature for the construction of new courts under the District Assembly Common Fund, the judiciary is now to receive over a hundred courts throughout the country within the next year, “he announced.

A Loud sound of clap, clap clap!!! followed.

Subsequently, he assumed his proper role as the boss, “these constraints notwithstanding, we need to adjust to them in the hope that government will apply more resources to provide court infrastructure to support justice delivery in the country. We have to do our best within the limited logistics constraints to serve the justice needs of our compatriots”, he urged.

Meanwhile, AMJG’s sister Association, the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG) has also given the government a two-week ultimatum to implement their revised salaries and other allowances. ‘Otherwise, Hasaacas’. Hm!

It’s time to go

If all these issues of alleged profligate expenditure by the Executive, envy of the perks of office of the Executive by the Legislature and the lamentations of the Judiciary, amid the inadequacy of bare necessities such as, ambulance and doctors and the general refrain of ‘things are not going well’, among the governed, are occurring at the same time, I don’t consider it coincidental.

For me, it is God’s way of bringing the issues up onto the table for us to pay due attention, and resolve them. It is a divine agenda setting process, I think.

I acknowledge though, that it is only in heaven that everybody will live well, not on this earth. Here, definitely, ‘ɛbi be tiyie’ whereas others, ‘ntiyie’.

But if some swim in wealth, while others lack the bare necessities of life, it is not good. If that happens, in the eyes of the governed, the government looks selfish. Worst still, if among the three arms of government, some are more equal than others, then those who are enjoying while others gnash their teeth, need to make amends. That’s just fair, won’t you say?

That reminds me. A former boss of mine is wont to say that, “if you are the boss and I am the staff, we all work in the same organization, if you sit in your V8, at least, me too, let me sit in a Tico. After all, we will all be driving. Otherwise, where is the fairness?” What he has done after he became the CEO of the organisation, is another matter.

Gbɔmɔ Adesa!!! ɛbi be tiyie, ‘ɛbi ntiyie kwraaaaaaaaaa’.

Rest in Piece Nana Kwame Ampadu- ‘Nyame nfa wokra ɛnsie’.

Adeus - that’s goodbye in Portuguese.

Let God lead. Follow him directly, not through any human.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.