$80,000.00 on fire

Three songs played in my mind as I set out to write this piece. First was, ‘Asem yi di ka’ (this issue must be addressed) by Dr. Ephraim Amu, which urged me on. Then A-plus’s ‘Mesro nsuo, na mekekayioo’(I am scared yet, I have to say it). This scared me momentarily. So I paused. Then, ‘me nkc Adjoa, anaa meko Atta’ (Should I proceed or retreat), whose composer I do not know, kicked in.

Suddenly, I remembered the call by His Excellency, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (NADAA), to all Ghanaians to be citizens, not spectators, during his inaugural address on January 7, 2017. This is what gave me the vim to proceed.

The issue at stake is that, on May 26, 2021, President Akufo-Addo had the honour and privilege to cut the sod for the commencement of construction of a new campus for the Ghana School of Law.

The project, which has been christened, ‘Law Village’, was initiated by the General Legal Council through the Ghana School of Law (GSL), to address challenges posed by dilapidated facilities at the main campus of the GSL located in the Central Business District of Accra, and the traffic congestion students and lecturers face when accessing the School.

Prior to this event, the government had come under severe criticism over its directive to operatives of Operation Halt to burn excavators seized from illegal miners.

In his typical British-acquired accent and excellence in speech delivery, the President read the prepared speech beautifully as usual. This is what he had to say in respect of the public criticism:

“I know there are some who believe that the ongoing battle to rid our water bodies and forest zones of harmful equipment and machinery is unlawful and in some cases, harsh. I strongly disagree, and I would advise those who take a contrary view to go to court to vindicate their position if they so wish. That is what the rule of law is all about. The equipment, which is being used for an illegal or criminal purpose, cannot confer on the owner or any other person, any rights whatsoever.”

Subsequently, the President’s comments have received the strongest condemnation from many well-meaning Ghanaians – NDC Parliamentarians, Lawyers, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) etc.

Three criticisms that caught my attention were from renowned Private Legal Practitioner and Host of JoyNews’ Newsfile, Mr. Samson Lardy Anyenini, the CSO, OccupyGhana and Abdul Malik Kweku Baako (He rarely opposes actions by President Akufo-Addo). These critiques focused mainly on the legality or otherwise of the President’s assertion.

Being a Journalist cum Lawyer, Samson’s dissent was succinct like a news headline, “you don’t fight an illegality with illegality”.

OccupyGhana is a protest or pressure movement in Ghana. If I am not mistaking, it is made up, mostly of Lawyers, so their condemnation of the President’s comment was a bit long. Here is an abridged version:

The President knows that he is wrong, and that Ghana’s law on ‘tainted property’ (which is what the excavators are), does not authorise the government’s ‘burn-on-sight’ policy. In each of the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act (as amended), the 2010 EOCO Act, the 2017 Office of the Special Prosecutor Act and the 2020 Narcotics Control Commission Act, special provisions are made on how ‘tainted property’ (defined to include property that is used to commit a crime) may be seized and then confiscated to the state by court orders.”

In what can be described as an atypical occurrence, Abdul Malik, said the following about the President’s remarks on JoyNews’ Newsfile on Saturday, May 29, “I do not subscribe to the burning of excavators. If government has come to a conclusion that all the laws are ineffective, and the best way of creating a disincentive or a deterrent is to burn the excavators, then it must proceed to Parliament with a Bill.”

Like Kweku, I am not a Lawyer but I agree with the legal basis of these criticisms of President Akufo-Addo’s remarks. However, I want to point out that my President, the Human Rights Lawyer, the ‘Kume Preko’ leader, Auntie Rebecca’s sweetheart, did not SAY what he READ. 

I shall explain presently.

The Machiavellian nature of the Ghanaian Politician

The word Machiavellian means cunning or scheming. It originates from the name Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, an Italian diplomat, philosopher, politician, historian and writer who lived during the Renaissance. He has often been called the father of modern political philosophy and political science-Wikipedia.

You would have noticed this statement in OccupyGhana’s release, “The President knows that he is wrong”. 

What beats my mind though is why he made those remarks. The only logical answer for me is, it is for political expediency.  Ghanaian politicians can say things that make you go, ha!!!?

Worse still, they can make one say what he or she will not, if even one’s parents or pastor asked them to say such a thing. Having worked with them for about 13 years in the public sector, I know that a Minister can tell a CEO to go and say what he or she does not believe in to stakeholders, just to make the politician look good.

The recent allegation by the Otikokorsuo, His Majesty Asantehe, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, that the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, pleaded with him to stick to a prepared speech (for him by Jinapor’s Ministry) to be delivered at a consultative forum on mining in Kumasi, and nothing else, is a case in point. The whole Otumfuor being told what to do, by a politician. No wonder he refused and exposed the Minister publicly.

In my opinion, the first time President Akufo-Addo himself, fell victim to this Machiavellian tactic, was when he was made to vehemently defend his appointment of 110 (Hyundai i10) Ministers. When criticised, he rationalized the appointments by saying something to the effect that the challenges of the country at the time demanded that number of Ministers to help him bring the country back on track.

“We have a problem and what is the best way? It is better to have men and women capable of serving the nation’s interests and to work to grow the economy. If I succeed, you will soon find out that the brouhaha is nothing compared to the success, the end will justify the means” he claimed.

However, at a time when our GDP targets for 2020 could not be achieved and Ghanaians are reeling under the harsh effects of Covid-19 on the economy, thus requiring more shoulders to the wheel, he has rather reduced the number of Ministers to 85. A clear departure from the rationale for the justification he gave in the instance of the 110 Ministers.

This is the Akufo-Addo I know. He definitely must have parried all the pressure from NPP executives and functionaries to maintain the huge number of Ministers- Job for the boys they call it. After all, he will not need anybody’s vote for anything anymore.

A father’s instincts

I am a father of three. Contrary to popular opinion, we also have instincts towards our children. We save to build houses, buy cars, pay school fees and give ‘chop money’. I acknowledge though, that many of us are irresponsible. No wonder Fathers’ Day is two weeks away, yet nobody seems to be making noise about it.

So, to live up to my fatherly duties, I am currently managing a GHC80.00 per day budget. Breakfast, snack, lunch, data for browsing, call credit and fuel are all catered for in there. Supper is a no-no.

Imagine these scenarios: Scenario 1- Against this background of personally-imposed austerity measures in President Akufo-Addo’s post Covid-19 Ghana, my first buy who is about completing University, graduates and secures a job that pays him GHC3, 000.00. The phone-freak that he is, he returns home one evening after work all jumpy, to announce to me that he used GHC2,000.00 out of his first pay cheque to buy an iPhone.

Angered by what I deem to be folly, I snatch the iPhone (GHC2, 000.00) from him, smash it on the ground and step on it so hard, it shatters into pieces.

Scenario 2- I am able to convince him that the decision to buy the iPhone is unwise so I have seized it. I make him understand that because he had no better use for the GHC2, 000.00, he should forget about it. I manage to sell the phone for GHC1, 800.00 and invest it in treasury bills. Two years later, when he decides to rent his own accommodation, I withdraw the GHC1, 800.00 plus interest and hand it over to him for payment of rent advance.

The verdict is yours.

President Akufo-Addo, in his heart of hearts, would not say that seized excavators should be burnt. That’s the point I am making.

We are talking about the father of five daughters; Gyankroma Funmi Akufo-Addo, Edwina Nana Douka Akufo-Addo, Adriana Dukua Akufo-Addo, Yeboakua Akufo-Addo, and Valerie Obaze and grandfather of their children.

President Akufo-Addo would, as I did, confiscate the tainted property and distribute it to state agencies that require them for development projects such as desilting of choked drains and road construction etc.

To think that so far, 85 excavators, 622 changfans, one fuel pump and 105 water pumps have been burnt? Nah!

According to www.Kompareit.com, a full-sized excavator costs between $100,000 and $500,000. The cost of the small excavators, weighing 10 to 15 tons, usually ranges from $80,000 to $150,000. The mid-sized excavators weighing 15 to 20 tons (the most common size), on the other hand, are generally sold between $100,000 and $200,000. The most expensive are the large models, weighing 30 to 40 tons. They are often priced between $200,000 and $400,000.

For the purpose of this piece, let’s just focus on excavators. Let’s use $80,000 as the cost of each of the 85 excavators that have been burnt, the total cost of the burnt excavators will amount to $6,800,000.00 (Over six million Dollars), equivalent of GHC39,304,000.00 (Thirty-nine million, three hundred and four thousand Ghana Cedis).

Evidently, this is not money a father and grandfather, the protector of public purse, will authorize to be burnt. Hence my disbelief that the father of five daughters and grandfather of many, would do that.

My Telenovela pastime

Anytime I tell people that I watch telenovelas, they laugh. I don’t understand. I love watching telenovelas. From Acapulco Bay, through Sunset Beach, Second Chance and Kumkumbagya, I have watched them all.

I watch it with my roommate. When an episode starts, she focuses on the romantic lessons while I fix my attention on the intrigues, twists and turns. At the end of the show, we compare notes and apply the lessons learnt in our love and everyday lives.

In each of these telenovelas that I watch, a key theme recurs. I see individuals fighting for their interests whether to win a woman’s love, win a contract, assume the role of heir to a wealthy man/woman’s fortune or appointment to a very lucrative position. I see how people can even kill to achieve their interests.

One other intriguing feature, is how people will make recommendations or suggestions that if implemented, seem to serve the interest of the one receiving the advice, but actually benefits the originator of the idea.

I suspect strongly, that a similar situation may have played out in NADAA’s public endorsement of burning of excavators and mining equipment retrieved from illegal mining sites.

In my telenovela mind, this what happened:

Title: NADAA’s enemy  

Cast: Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as NADAA, John Boadu as JB. Kate Gyamfua as KG, Samuel Abu Jinapor as SAJ and Dominic Nitiwul as DN.

Synopsis: The MP for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyapong is leading a charge to expose NPP members who are engaged in galamsey. He makes so much noise that when Operation Halt struck, a mining firm (Xtra-Gold Mining Limited) for which the National Women’s Organiser of the NPP (Kate Gyamfua), is General Manager, is attacked and 8 excavators and other mining equipment worth millions of Ghana Cedis, are burnt.

The Ministers of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul and Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, in whose remit Operation Halt falls, come under attack from party executives and functionaries, questioning their reasoning in biting the hands that feed the party. They are threatened that if President Akufo-Addo completes his tenure, they will never get an opportunity to serve in government, if the party retains power. They become distraught. In their desperation, they report the incessant attacks to NADAA and convince him that the attacks are against his authority so he should speak to assert his authority. Upon suggestion, NADAA agrees to include few paragraphs, on the matter, in his speech at the sod-cutting ceremony for the Law Village project. They leave the Jubilee house happy that their mission has been accomplished.

My storyboard

Act 1 scene 1:

NPP Headquarters- Madam Kate Gyamfuah (KG) storms the NPP Headquarters and meets the General Secretary, John Boadu (JB). The following dialogue ensued:

JB: Auntie Kate, bokoor di3? (I hope all is well?)

KG: Borkoor anka mibu efu? (If all is well, would I be angry?)

JB: Na di3n as3m? (What is the problem?)

KG: Wose wuntii s33 Operation Halt fuor ako hye mi equipment? (Haven’t you heard that operatives of operation halt have burnt equipment belonging to my mining firm?)

JB: Wose s3n? (What are you talking about?)

KG: Mese asojafuorno akoshi me equipment a!! (I said the military men have burnt all my equipment ah!!)

JB: Enti saa omoadi3nu b3bia omodiadu nono, omo enim s33 omuye saa a, party no b3y3 unpopular? Di3n so nono? (Is that where they have reached with that thing? Don’t they know that what they are doing will make the party unpopular, what is that?)

KG: Eni3 katchere omo, sika no aayedi be hywe party no, omo bekyer3 b33bi  a eb3fri aba. (Then let them know, they would have to find another source of funding for party activities)

JB: Wodie twen, mame nfr3 Abu, ono wa y3 saano (Let me call Abu Jinapor). Phone ring tone (Asem yi di ka, hina b3ka, mia ra omiara, eny3 obiara o miara) Hywe no ring tone bi nso!! Aane miaa na m3ka, maakaa, hwai na 3b3ka? (Listen to his ring tone, yes I will say it, if I don’t, who will?)

SAJ: Hello JB, I hope all is well?

JB: How come your people have burnt equipment belonging to Auntie Kate’s mining firm?

SAJ: That cannot be true.

JB: Well, she is here, speak with her. (Hands over phone to KG)

KG: Ehe!!!? (Yeeesss?)

SAJ: What am I hearing?

KG: You heard right!!

SAJ: But that’s impossible!!

KG: It has already happened and you are saying it is not possible? JB midi3 ji phone no. (Hands over phone to JB)

JB: You see the trouble you have caused with this thing? I have been telling you that you will make the party unpopular. You see what you have caused, let Nana go and we shall see if you will get any position in the party. I have to go and clean your mess, bye.

SAJ: JB, JB, hello JB, p-i-n-g-p-i-n-g-p-i-ng. He hung up?

Act 1 scene 2:

SAJ calls DN on phone. They speak in Hausa:

SAJ: Abotsi Inaakeke? (My friend, where are you?)

DN: Inaa Office (I’m in the office)

SAJ: Magana yaazo (There is trouble looming)

DN: Mei yefaaru (What is happening?)

SAJ: Maasu party sunyi fusi (The party people are angry with us)

DN: Mei suketchee (What are they saying?)

SAJ: Wei nbaba ye taashi kai kujera, baamu saamu post kuma (They are  saying that when the President’s tenure ends, we will not get the opportunity to serve in government again)

DN: Kai!! Mutee mugani baba (Let’s go and see the President)

They each leave their offices with wings on their heels.

Act 1 scene 3

Messrs. Nitiwul and Jinapor arrive at the Jubilee House. They head straight to the President’s Secretariat and they are ushered into his office. The following dialogue ensured:

NADAA: What is it that seem so urgent?

SAJ: Mr. President, the party people are attacking you over the burning of excavators. They are saying you are making the party unpopular because you will not stand for re-election. They even added that you don’t care about how they get money to run their affairs anymore.

DN: (In his characteristic boisterous manner) Mr President, it is absolutely true.

NADAA: Who, in particular, are those people?

SAJ: It is JB and Auntie Kate Sir.

NADAA: So what do you want me to do?

SAJ: I suggest that when you go to commission the Law Village, you should use the opportunity to tell everybody that it is your directive and nothing can change that. I can draft that part of the speech and give it to Eugene to add to what he will prepare.

DN: That’s a fantastic suggestion. The occasion is excellent because it is about the Law School. So we speak about the legal basis of the action.

This is how NADAA took the bait, hook line and sinker.  DN and SAJ left the Jubilee House grinning from ear to ear. THE END

The role of traditional linguists in communications

You see, there is so much wisdom in our traditional practices that we take for granted, usually to our detriment. There is this practice whereby chiefs speak through linguists or Okyeame (Akan) or Otsaame (Ga).

Some literature that I came across indicate that the position is synonymous with ambassador, mouthpiece and spokesperson. An Otsaame’s duties include being sent on high level errands to deliver messages on behalf of chiefs.

My information is that because the chief is the embodiment of the ancestors, out of respect, individuals are not allowed to address the chief directly. Any message meant for the chief is channeled through the Otsaame, who informs the chief accordingly.  It is also required that the chief, in turn, channels whatever message he has for his subjects, through the linguist.

There is much wisdom in this practice in the sense that in case the chief makes a mistake in encoding (formulating) the message, the Otsaame can correct and refine the message before delivering it to the recipients. It is also the case that when the Otsaame receives a flak for the message then the chief can intervene and refine it accordingly.

I have no doubt that the establishment of government spokespersons in the system of governance both locally and in the western world, derive its roots from this traditional practice.

Having adopted this very good practice of using spokespersons, one would have expected that politicians would stick to it in order to derive its utmost advantage- insulate the chief from inadvertent blunder.

So, President Akufo Addo has four linguists- Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Opare, Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante, Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugine Arhin.

That NADAA, a Human Rights Lawyer of great repute, decided to personally communicate this self-indicting anti-human rights message, more so at an assembly of legal luminaries in Ghana, to the whole world, is surprising indeed.

If he had used any of the linguists, he would have been saved from the criticisms that followed that unfortunate statement.  Well, if NADAA did not know, I hope I have exposed the potential land mines that he is predisposed to.

My advice is that anytime he is being advised, he should convince himself that the recommendation benefits him and him only. Otherwise, “obi befa bronya hu awe akuko”- someone will advise him to that person’s own benefit.

I dare say that the 15,000 pounds per hour chartered flight saga has the smell of this Machiavellian tactic all over it. I won’t be surprised if someone has pocketed some 10%.

PA pa- That’s Polish for goodbye.

PS: I left out ‘Letter to Jomo’ by veteran George Sydney Abugri (Daily Graphic) in the list of Columns that I used to read, to develop my writing skills. Let’s give him 5% too.

Let God Lead