Until very recently, I had always thought, per the rabidly anti-colonial history textbooks taught in the Ghanaian public school system, that the greatest bottleneck to our national development was purely and squarely one of unremitting Euro-colonial exploitation of the African. Now, in the wake of the Woyome and the Africa Automobile Limited (AAL) liability company scandals, in which, once again, the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has shamefully demonstrated that it abjectly lacks both the talent and capacity to economically steer the nation towards a decent middle-income level of development, I am beginning to become fully convinced that Ghana’s greatest problem, presently, is the apparently great difficulty in selecting the most sacrificial, astute, foresighted and dedicated of citizens from our leadership pool, on the part of the electorate, to productively steer our national affairs.
We must also quickly observe that this scandalous canker of rotten leadership began with the first post-colonial government of Ghana. Interestingly, too, must be promptly pointed out that Mr. Kofi Baako, the father of New Crusading Guide newspaper editor, Mr. Kwaku Baako, also gained notoriety for rudely and vigorously slapping Mr. Archie Casely-Hayford, a front-row cabinet member of the Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party (CPP), with the tacit complicity of the African Show Boy. Mr. Casely-Hayford would promptly resign his post and membership of the CPP.
What also needs to be highlighted is the fact that like the equally notorious case between President Jerry John Rawlings and Vice-President Ekwow Nkensen Arkaah, the victim was old enough to have fathered his assailant. I emphasize the preceding incidents of assault to highlight the fact that Ghana’s political culture of abject disrespect for the elderly did not begin with our Fourth-Republican dispensation. And to be certain, the latter dismal state of affairs inescapably constitutes the veritable source and cause of the magnitude of corruption scandals ravaging the nation.
In the case of the Africa Automobile Limited liability company, which may well have key figures of the ruling National Democratic Congress as significant shareholders, we have a vehicle importer who clearly breached his contract of supplying the extant government of the Rawlings-led NDC with 110 Mitsubishi SUV gallopers estimated to be valued at just under $ 5 million in or about 1998-1999 fiscal year, demanding to be paid a judgment debt of $1.5 billion, on the rather peevishly ironic grounds that it was the Government of Ghana, and not the Africa Automobile Limited liability company, that failed to meet the terms of the contract. The breach, we are told, stems from the fact that AAL exceeded its vehicular supply deadline by nearly 17 months! Surprisingly, AAL is suing for not only an alleged breach of contract against the Government of Ghana, but also for having allegedly lost its vehicle supply franchise with its parent company, Mitsubishi of Japan.
In a functioning democracy, where the rule of law is respected and staunchly adhered to, what ought to have happened should have been for the government of the day – in this case, the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) – to have demanded a drastic reduction in the value of the vehicles as originally contracted. Failure to do so, on the part of the importer, could then have legitimately prompted the Kufuor administration, with justifiable cause, to back out of the alleged contract. Instead, just the other day, operatives of the erstwhile Kufuor administration were to be heard vigorously denying that any contract had existed between AAL and the government, at all, until a rambunctious NDC deputy cabinet operative emerged in the electronic media with what clearly appeared to be the smoking gun.
Anyway, what clearly appears to have happened here is a typically myopic case of partisan political brinkmanship in which the newly-elected Kufuor administration elected not to honor an NDC-negotiated contract, for any number of reasons, positive and negative. Then, again, it could well have been that in reluctantly and cynically relinquishing the reins of governance, the NDC apparatchiks of the Local Government Ministry, that had represented the Rawlings-Mills regime in the aforesaid contract, had simply either failed or flatly refused to apprise their successors of the contractual terms and its implications.
Whatever the true nature of affairs may be, it is tragically clear that 20 years of stable democratic governance has not been healthily accompanied by the most salient ingredient of viable progress and development – continuity of policies and legal/economic obligations that stand to minimize wanton wastage of limited public monetary and other capital resources.
In the case of Nkrumah’s CPP regime, generous suppliers’ credits were awarded to relatively far richer Eastern-European state-owned firms which had the perennial habit of never delivering their products on time, without suffering any punitive sanctions from the Ghanaian government. The negative result was that the cost of the negotiated import items routinely skyrocketed to the detriment of the Ghanaian taxpayer (See Kwame Arhin’s The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah).
Indeed, Mr. Kwaku Baako could not be more agreeable in observing that the apparently flat refusal of the Kufuor administration to take delivery of the 87 Mitsubishi gallopers – 23 of the latter having already been delivered under Mr. Rawlings’ watch, it appears – ought to have motivated any good automobile salesman or woman into selling the aforesaid vehicles in order to cut down his or her losses, including the cost of storage and out-of-season sales. Instead, it appears that the Africa Automobile Limited liability company operatives had been banking on easy access to a humongous public dole from our largely lame-brained and soft-headed politicians, and so decided to play professionally stupid like their clients, in hopes of “Woyomistically” milking Ghanaians of our new-found oil wealth.
Alas, it clearly seems to me that the AAL gamble is about to pay remarkable dividends. And here, I am, of course, thinking on the order of five- to ten-million dollars, maybe. Which is why when I hear of the AAL gamble-masters dreaming on the order of $1.5 billion, I hear gunfire reports of the kind discharged on the slain Gen. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and his SMC associates. Yes, something insistently tells me that we need to reintroduce the jittery regime of the firing squad to quicken the soft-ball brain cells (or is it “gels”?) of the Mills-Mahama gang! After all, the founding-father of their party was the one who made the living hell of the Teshie Military Range a favorite national pastime.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.