Figures Have Never Been One Of My Strong Points

John-Dramani-MahamaFigures have never been one of my strong points, so do please forgive me if you find my calculations all wrong. By my accounting the government of President John Dramani Mahama is, you might have noticed that the Mahama government has been in office for about six months. In case you have not noticed, I have not written one word, not one solitary word about its pluses and minuses; and I was, believe me, going to continue giving it a wide berth, and for as long as I could, had Yaro not boxed me on the ears.

Yaro? For me to say that the level of politics we are seeing today, vindictive, violent and profligate with guttersnipe, some downright ugly and too personal, is all new to me, would be a misrepresentation of the facts. After all, I was born in the Gold Coast and what better way to trace where all this began than from the foundations of our political attitudes were formed.

However, I had like to believe, perhaps naively, that we would, with time, have this completely unnecessary viciousness of which the bulk of the electorate gain nothing from would be behind us, that with the emergence of a new crop of politicians, better educated and born to politics, political maturity would finally find its place.

The political atmosphere from Nkrumah’s fall right up to the late 1900’s I know nothing about. The 2000 general elections, more by default than design, saw me back in this country, testing the waters as to whether I could pick up from the past if I returned.

I could not believe the vapour or the liver that characterised the campaign leading to the elections. Making it all harder for me were some of the things that tumbled from the mouth of the divine one and some of his meat round the head, or lieutenants, if you insist on my sticking to English, English all the way through.

At that time I knew nothing about the two major players, the NDC or the NPP, owed no allegiance to either. But by the time the elections were over, and the NPP, which I did not think had a ghost of a chance of winning was declared the winner, they had gained my support.

Deeply disturbed by what I saw and heard, I wrote this incendiary paragraph in an article I did for this paper. I said the only time I could ever offer my services to the National Democratic Party was if someone from its hierarchy confided in me the Party had been sentenced at hell, at which point I would immediately stop everything I was doing in order to help them pack so they could reach their destination in time.

I knew, when I wrote that line I was courting trouble, and when I heard from no one within the party I thought I was home free. Never did it enter my mind that sitting behind a desk in New York’s financial district was this very brilliant – and I mean super-duper in his brilliance  Ghanaian investment banker, who is NDC to the core, and who, cut up by what I had written, was preparing to do battle with me once he managed to find my address,Why didn’t he just send his rejoinder to the Editor of the paper? Not his style. What he had to say was for me eyes, only, and when he tracked me down I was stunned.

Until my receipt of his letter – and please read this with the political maturity I expect from readers of this column because there must be a whole legion of Ghanaians who share my thinking – I had thought that the only crowd the NDC drew were men and women who are masters at dropping bile.

You know how all of us occasionally meet people who are so much in possession of themselves and dress they make us, without uttering a word, to take stock of the way we talk, the way we hold ourselves, and question our thinking?

Yaro, who I was to find in time is an antithesis of me, makes you question your intelligence. So well disciplined is his intellect I wanted him on my team soon after my reading his letter, and I lost no time looking him up soon after my return to the States.

The atmosphere of, if you are not with me, you are against has come to be so alive in this country that finding people who are politically objective Is getting harder by the day. What makes Yaro a rare breed is that although unfettered in his support of the NDC, which he joined while at Legon, he knows when to separate the wheat from the chaff.

For instance, he was, soon after Egya Atta was sworn in as president, toying with the idea of returning home to live. His answer, when I asked him why he was dragging his feet about the move, was more in agreement with what I would say than what you would expect from someone of his party’s thinking.
Egya Atta, he told me without mincing words, didn’t have political timbre. “Prof” he said “promised the country paradise but shuffled his feet.”
Because he belonged to the Rawlings faction of the NDC, I found that statement suspect for a while. When Egya Atta died, he telephoned me in Ghana where I happened to be at the time to ask me if I could shed some light on the euphoria the country fell into.

Last year, he and I, each certain his candidate would win the crown in the December presidential elections, hedged our bets; he on Mr. Mahama, I on Nana Addo Dankwa. The day after Mr. Mahama won the elections, he telephoned from New York, partly to rub my nose in it and partly to tell me he couldn’t think of a better time to move back home to set up his own investment business.

Not a smart move, I told him. Takes too long to re-adjust, plus you get to know the true colours of your fellow Ghanaians. As it turned out his wife was not keen on the idea of coming back home to live.

The minute he told me this I knew the move had been killed. He is going to kill me for my observation, but men like Yaro, too deeply in love with wives, don’t go anywhere their wives are not going to be round.

Three weeks after the elections, I flew back to the States. Yaro’s wife asked me to come for a meal with them at my earliest convenience but since I now spend the winters in the scenic Pennsylvania Dutch country, I wasn’t able to honour the invitation till early May.
I was going to ask him point blank to rate the Mahama government, but it turned out he, too, had something on his mind; why I have not expressed my views on “his” government.

“You know what they say in this country, Kwesi. The worst thing you can do to any human being is not to show hatred….” He did not have to finish that line. I knew it by rote “It is to be indifferent to that person.” The Americans believe, rightly or wrongly that when you show hatred you are at least showing recognition of a person’s existence, when to be indifferent means you are refusing to acknowledge his existence.

Oh he was hot under the collar, almost pained by what he liked to think was what I was doing. Whether his reading was accurate I didn’t know but I told him no slight was intended on my part. What he didn’t know was that in asking me to give him an assessment of the cabinet, he was throwing me, like a rabbit, onto the cabbage patch.

I decided to play it safe. I had to, given the furor in the Ghanaian community. If Kenya whose economy is doing much better than Ghana can prune down its cabinet to sixteen, what, the Ghanaian community in New York is up in arms, is our justification for a cabinet and a supporting team way too padded, more with fat than sinew. Exhausted by this debate, not destined to go anywhere, I wasn’t going to get entangled in it one more time, certainly not with Yaro, a tad too sensitive on any criticism of the Mahama government. So what I did was pick my battles.

Rather than appraising a whole cabinet, many of whom I knew next to nothing about, I concentrated on the two men whose work or non-work have already engaged my attention. In my view if one minister has been a credit to the president it is the man he has put in charge of our money, Mr. Tekper, who, I had thought was a new introduction to the government until Yaro corrected me by pointing out he was once a deputy in the Finance Ministry.

At no time in our recent history do I have recall of a Finance Minister coming close to telling us what we should have been warned of years before, years before all the labour disputes which have dogged the government since it came into existence. To get our votes, politicians promise the country the moon and the stars during electioneering campaign when they know darn well they are not in a position to deliver a quarter of what they are promising, when they know, to put in in Ghanaian English that the there is not there.

Mr. Terkper was honest and outspoken. He threw our heads into a spin by telling us what was not popular, what the government had hidden from us, shocking but things that as unpopular can get our fundaments off those lazy chairs we have been sitting on for too long.

Had Mr. Terkper been given the free hand he needed to go on telling us the truth he might have served as the glue this government needs to bind itself to the people. But it is now beginning to look as if someone has put a gag on him to stop explaining to us what we need to know. If my conjecture holds water whoever put that gag on him has done the government more harm than good.

Throughout his political career, Mr. Mahama was well-liked. His popularity, it was taken for granted would serve him well in the presidency, but he has been hit by so many problems from right, left and centre I am beginning to wonder if he would regain his popularity even if he is able to subordinate the hurdles. What the man really needs from now on is a first class public relations man who can sell him and his policies.

Meaning? The sappiest among us will have us believe that the president isn’t the least bit phased by the case against him at the Supreme Court; that he sleeps soundly night after night not feeling the case hanging over his head. Tell that to the marines!, Like us, the president is human, has all the human failings; how can be stay calm and collected when the verdict could throw his fate in the balance, plunge the country into a constitutional crisis, and worse of all – and may God forbid this and it only be the wish of the devil – cause a cataclysm of sorts?

One can trust President Mahama and Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo to be magnanimous about the verdict, anyway it turns. But what guarantees do we have, given the state of poisonous, disingenuous political atmosphere politicians have incited, that the followers of these two leaders will also take the verdict on the chin and move on?

Getting back to the Finance Minister, his decision to float our money is making a number of people overly nervous, and for good reasons. I hope that he is not so big in his shoes as to sit down with some of those at home to allay them of their fears. After all the money the money he thinking of gambling with is for the government and people of this country.

Having fallen for the candidness of Seth Terkper ( Please do not get any ideas. My admiration for the man’s candidness in a world where candidness is rare does not mean I am ready to sit down with him for a glass of hooch} the last thing I would want to do is put words in his mouth. But if I am getting a good reading of his speeches he would have preferred raising some of the money for infrastructural development from the private sector.

How was Mr. Terkper hoping to raise money from a section of the public that his political party has never really been friendly to? Had things been different, Mr. Terkper could have relied on our footballers alone for the money, but here is a case where the chickens have come home to roost. There is also the huge distrust that Ghanaians have for government, the extent of which I discovered the spring of 2012.

Three Ghanaians in New York, whose wives are attending a hen night, decide to get together. Had the three been women they would have spent these very precious hours away from the troublesome institution known as marriage doing what women d when they get together, discussing matters of common interest. Being men, accustomed to the wielding of power, they decide to do what men do when they are alone, drinking mash and talking trash.

On hearing that I was in town from Pennsylvania Dutch country, where I now spend the winters, they ask me to be the third wheel. During news time it is announced on television that Powerball, America’s only national lotto, had reached billions. We all whistled; this inspires the man whose house we were meeting to ask each one of us what we would do with the windfall if we won it.

He knew I do not play the lotto, but that wasn’t going to stop him from starting with me. When I told the group not what came to me off the top of my head, but what was in my heart –lending three quarters of my earnings to the Ghana government for infrastructural development, I was looked at as if I was scattered in the brain. Only someone who was not in full possession of his mental faculties, I was told, would make such a decision. The men must have told their wives of what I said.

The next morning every one of those three women rang to damn my soul. If I didn’t know what to do with the money they would relieve me of it. Anything the government can do to win our trust?

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