By Kwasi Adu
A year has just passed since the nation voted the New Patriotic Party (NPP) into political office, with Nana Akufo Addo as President.
On reaching Kumasi on my way to my village, around this time last year, the euphoria in Kumasi about the victory of the NPP was so electric that bakers had special bread made which the street vendors called “Nana Aba” (meaning “Nana has come”). At almost every traffic hold-up, one would be accosted with the bread, amidst ecstatic shouts
In the months and weeks before the victory of the NPP, a day would not pass without hearing someone on radio or some other media, claiming that if Nana Akufo Addo were voted President, Ghana would turn into a “paradise”, where there would be no corruption or any suspicion of corrupt acts by government appointees; where there would be no nepotism; where there would be such effective management of the financial and economic affairs of the nation that, the country would be awash with money to afford everyone the opportunity to improve their well-being. Each district would have one new factory, each village in the savanna areas would get one dam, trainee nurses and teachers would have their allowances (“alawa”) restored, each constituency would be given one million U.S. dollars, in addition to the normal District Assemblies’ Common Fund for the development of their districts.
There would be jobs for the youth. Students in high schools were asked to vote for NPP because, with Nana as President, they would no longer pay school fees. The promised prospects were mouth-watering. It reminded me of my primary school days when the teachers used to make us sing a song which ran as “Me’pe Jerusalem a’kor” (meaning “I wish to go to Jerusalem”), which made us to think that Jerusalem was in Heaven. It reminded me of some three verses in the Bible where it is stated: “For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass”. (Deuteronomy 8:7-9)
I understand that the word “Paradise” originates from the Persian language. It is supposed to be a sort of ‘pleasure garden, garden of delight.’ To say we are in “Paradise”, means that we will be enjoying the fruits as in “the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). In that “Paradise”, there is supposed to be no sin and the devil and death will be defeated enemies. After all, “The Battle is the Lord’s”. And as stated in Revelations 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away”
I remember in the days of the electioneering campaign. One of my nephews would go on local campaigns, completely body-painted in NPP colours, with a “chop box”, topped with a pillow and a folded blanket, all on top of his head, shouting “Free SHS! Free SHS!!” I also remember, especially one gentleman, called Kwamena Duncan on Peacefm, He would shout himself hoarse to the extent that, sometimes I wondered whether someone was squeezing his balls as he spoke.
It was not only him. Several other NPP members or supporters were spreading the message of hope that Ghana would turn into a Paradise if Nana came to power. Indeed, it was Nana Akufo Addo, who led the biblical message of hope when, at a rally in Nsuaem-Kyekyewere, in the Assin South District declared “I’ll take Ghana to the promised land” (GNA; 27 August 2008). He was soon followed by Mr. Joseph Ampomah Bosompem, who, on the eve of the 2008 elections, clarion-called on the electorate to vote for Nana Akufo Addo for a transformation of the land into a “Paradise” (Daily Graphic; 5 December 2008).
In 2011, Hon. Adwoa Safo, NPP MP for Dome-Kwabenya also declared: “Nana Addo is the hope for Ghana. He is the one taking us to the promise land. ….. Today, when you sell, people don’t buy, and the only reason is that there is no money to spend.” (Ghanaian Chronicle 13 June 2011). One Kofi Amenyo, a prolific columnist on Ghanaweb, declared, that “An NPP government led by Akufo-Addo will transform Ghana into a paradise’’ (Ghanaweb; 19 August 2012).
Even the chiefs joined in. The Chief of Boso, in the Asuogyaman constituency, Osabarima Agyeman Boasia II did not want to be left out. He declared “Ghana is in pain. When Moses died, God chose Joshua and told him ‘Be strong and courageous’. These were the two words God told Joshua. It is these same words I am also telling Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, so he can lead us through the Red Sea to the Promised Land,” (www.pulse.com; 2 July 2016).
In Ashaiman, Mr. Alan Kyerematen, also boasted that “Ashaiman will be developed like paradise” if they voted for the NPP. (Peacefmonline 14 October 2016).
One year may be a good time to assess how the promised “Paradise” looks like. After all, it was barely after one year into the administration of President Mills that Nana Akufo Addo, frustrated by the slow pace of developments, described the late President as “Professor Do-Little”.
It might, for example, be useful to revisit the promise to restore the allowances of nurses and teacher trainees. Whereas nurses were paid their allowances in September and October 2017, the payments have since dried up. They were not paid for November and December 2016. We are now in January 2018 and the allowances are nowhere to be found; neither is there any sign that they will receive something in January 2018. Was is some conjuring trick, which in my village, we call ‘hanya’?
Sometimes, the dexterity of politicians at doublespeak impresses me. Although Nana Akufo Addo promised free SHS to the then SHS students, it turned out, after they voted for him, that it would only be the new entrants that would benefit from the free SHS promise. Alas for my “chop-box”-carrying nephew. He was so sure that on the day of the election, I heard him shouting “time aso ooo, time aso!” Now he is no longer shouting. And so are the teeming vendors at traffic lights, who were confident that they would be ushered into jobs as soon as Nana “comes”. They are still at the traffic lights hawking; this time without their party scarfs and T-shirts.
During the election campaign, the NPP promised a state of affairs where there would be equal opportunities for all. However, not long after they won power, the NPP National Youth Organiser, Sammy Awuku declared “We’ll fly only NPP supporters to Russia 2018” (for the football World Cup tournament). He went on: “It is time for us as party to take care of our party people”. He called on government appointees to “make sure that “if it is NADMO, if it is School Feeding, if it is Youth Employment Agency, that our party people need those jobs, let’s support them and get those jobs”. (kasapafmonline.com , 1 August 2017).
Earlier on, Anthony Abayifa Karbo, Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways, had cautioned MMDCEs that they had been appointed to “first consider New Patriotic Party (NPP) supporters for jobs and other appointments before any other person could be considered because it is their right, considering their efforts towards the party’s victory” (www.mynewsgh.com; 25 July 2018). He added, “I want to implore the DCEs here, please, party first! People have worked, toiled and struggled for the party to come to power. This is the time for the party people to enjoy, let us not negotiate that and make sure our party people get these opportunities”
Sammy Awuku’s position was soon confirmed by the NPP General-Secretary (John Boadu) who declared that government appointees would be given preference to NPP supporters in recruitment and the award of contracts, insisting that “there is nothing wrong in considering the jobs and contracts to their party people who have toiled to see the party in government”. (www.Ghanaweb.com 30 July 2017). He followed it up in November 2017 when he maintained that the NPP government would not provide jobs to other Ghanaians at a time when NPP members had not had jobs. (www.rainbowradioonline.com; 1 November 2017). He stated this in the wake of an earlier proclamation by another leading member of the NPP, Mr. George Ayisi Boateng, that, indeed, NPP members are more Ghanaian than non-NPP Ghanaians (www.citifmonline.com; 31 October 2017).
In voting for NPP for change, little did the floating voter suspect that in Nana Addo’s “paradise”, jobs, contracts and other opportunities in the country are legitimate spoils of war whereby only members of the victorious party would benefit, leaving the other citizens in the cold.
More about doublespeak. During 2016. Nana Akufo Addo bemoaned the high levels of utility bills on both the domestic user and businesses. At the time, he demanded that electricity tariffs for both domestic and business use be reduced now (Yen.com.gh; May 24, 2016) One year on, he has only just announced a slight reduction in the tariffs for business users; (www.adomonline.com; 15 January 2018). In the end, residential users have been left hanging.
Another NPP campaign promise was to move away from sole-sourcing in the procurement of goods and services. What the NPP did not say was that they were going to switch to restricted tendering, which can be as abusive as the sole-sourcing method. In any case, it is of interest to note that although in the first year alone of NPP administration, sole-sourcing has been used on more than two hundred occasions, only twelve of them have been published on the website of the Public Procurement Authority. In addition, they have recorded more than 150 instances of restricted tendering. In one of such curious restricted tenders awarded to New Okaff Industries Ltd, in August 2017, the contract price of $2.5 million for the supply of insecticides was quoted in U.S. Dollars although the company has always claimed that they use local raw materials for the production of their insecticides and fertilisers. (See PPA Website: Tender Package No. GCB/PU/HI-TECH/2016-17/VOL.1/CHEM/0002)
We have been told that inflation has come down. What is not clear is whether the government still uses that Dr. Bawumia-method whereby he used to go to Malata Market to collect “nsesaawa” to declare the rate of inflation. Otherwise, what cannot be disputed is that the prices of basic consumer goods in the market have gone up. What is also a fact, is that although we are still importing almost everything from smoked mackerel (from Cote d’Ivoire) through onions (from Burkina Faso) to toothpicks, the value of the Cedi, as against the major currencies, has depreciated considerably in the last 12 months, since we were ushered into “Paradise”.
For example, we were told by Dr. Bawumia, that one of the factors that determine whether we are having the “macro-economic fundamentals” right is the value of the Cedi as against some of the major currencies. At the time the NPP took over the economic affairs of this country in January 2017, the rate of the Ghana Cedi to the British Pound was around GH¢5.20 to £1.00. Twelve months on, at the time of writing this article, the Cedi rate to the pound has devalued to GH¢6.20 to the British Pound.
Similarly, in January 2017 when the NPP took control of the economy, the value of the Cedi to the US Dollar was GH¢3.95. At the time of writing this article, the rate was GH¢4.52.
Yet in 2012, when the Cedi to the U.S. Dollar was GH¢1.92, (Ref. https://currencies.zone/historic) Dr. Bawumia lamented about how “the current state of the local currency was lamentable because the Cedi was virtually collapsing” (Daily Guide; 31 August 2012). What should one say now then, when in “Paradise” today, the Cedi to the Dollar is GH¢4.52, the highest rate since 2008?
Then I remember the days when news used to be published that some school didn’t have desks. Dr. Bawumia would fly in like “Batman and Robin” to present desks to the poor school pupils, amidst fanfare and copious publicity. However, these days, the dear Doctor appears to have lost his philanthropic zeal. In 2017, it had to take the CEO of McDan Shipping Company to donate desks to La Presbyterian School when it was reported that the students were sitting on cement blocks instead of proper desks. Neither did we see the Vice-President respond when the students of Parkoso Community School, near Asante Mampong, were seen sitting on the bare floor to receive lessons.
One of the promises about the Promised Land, made by Nana Akufo Addo in 2016, was that if voted into power, his government would “settle all debts owed to Ghanaian contractors within the first 100 days of his administration” (www.ghanaweb; 31 October 2016). One year on, several road contractors, as well as GETFund contractors are owed arrears, some dating as far back as September 2016.
If, as the President says, he has cleared these arrears, then he should do well to ask the Ministry of Roads and Highways, Ministry of Finance, as well as the GETFund, where they took the moneys because, the reality is that, hundreds of contractors have still not been paid; unless he wants to give credence to the widespread rumours that, at the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Roads and Highways, and GETFund, contractors not known to be openly pro-NPP have had their certificates locked away as punitive sanctions. This situation appears to fit snugly into the declarations by Abayifa Karbo, Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways, High Commissioner George Ayisi-Boateng, John Boadu (NPP General Secretary), and Sammy Awuku (NPP Youth Organiser), that the government would cater for NPP members before anyone else. After all, according to them, in this “Paradise”, NPP members are more Ghanaian than others.
While preparing this article, I spoke to some contractors in the Western Region that I know. It was sad to hear that certificates of a particular road contractor, which were submitted to the Western Region Co-ordinating Council in September 2017 are yet to be received in Accra. Similarly, a GETfund contractor, whose certificates were submitted to GETFund in Accra in 2016, has not yet been paid. And there are numerous more examples like these. I wonder what is going on.
After all, we were made to believe that this government would encourage the private sector.
In any case, what happened to the NPP Manifesto pledge (2016) “to establish an automatic mechanism for transfer of statutory funds to designated agencies such as the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETfund), District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) and NHIS as stipulated by law”?.
As a government that expresses concern about the need for fiscal discipline in the economic system, one would have thought that one year into their administration, they would have made good of Dr. Bawumia’s promise to introduce a Financial Responsibility Act to instill discipline in the system. Where is it?
It could be the absence of such a fine Financial Responsibility Act that would make somebody like Mr. Alan Kyerematen to believe that if his Ministry has to assist the Millennium Excellence Foundation to raise funds, he would have to collect the funds into an interesting account, outside the ambit of the Consolidated Fund, before transferring them to the MEF. One would have thought that he would request the benefactors to pay directly into the accounts of the beneficiaries. After all, Mr. Kyerematen knows very well how to have interesting accounts opened under his Ministry.
According to the “Report of The Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana – Ministries, Departments, and Other Agencies (MDAs) for the Financial Year Ended 31 December 2008”, it was stated in paragraph 54 of the report, with regards to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Public Sector Development and PSI (where Mr. Kyerematen was sector Minister) thus: “Contrary to Regulation 14(1) of the Financial Administration Regulation, the Ministry opened and operated an account at the Accra High Street branch of Barclays Bank in October 2005. An amount of GH¢2 billion was transferred into it from the Ministry’s main account which earned an interest of GH¢7.8 million, and the GH¢2 billion later withdrawn”. No one knew what happened thereafter.
Back to Dr. Bawumia. The traders and artisans at Suame Magazine may by now be twiddling their fingers in expectation of when Dr. Bawumia’s promise to establish clusters of businesses and industrial parks within particular areas in Kumasi, would come to fruition. Again, the 2016 NPP Manifesto reiterated the promise to establish modern industrial parks in each region.
That brings us to the issue of “One District, One Factory” promised by the NPP. We have only three more years to the end of the mandate of the NPP. Yet one of the cardinal components of the “Promised Land” appears to be eluding us. In August 2017, when amidst a colourful flourish, the President cut the sod for the beginning of the Programme, he promised that by the end of 2017, fifty-one districts would have started the implementation of the One-District-One-Factory programme (www.citifmonline.com; 25 August 2017). The year has ended and we haven’t yet seen even one of such factories. To add salt to injury, the site for the Ekumfi Pineapple Factory, where the sod-cutting took place, has turned into a wilderness which grass-cutters have virtually turned into a theme park and where deer are fattening themselves in readiness for the next deer-hunting festival (aboakyer).
There are solid potentials for the establishment of an export-oriented chocolate factory using the brilliant research findings of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to compete with the ones currently being produced and marketed worldwide by China (with Ghana cocoa). CRIG has also put out both liquid and cake soaps, brandy, and pomade using various parts of cocoa, which can be produced on commercial basis. Why is the programme not investing in these? Or is “Paradise” still only interested in Ghana being raw material producers without the addition of value?
After all, it was the President who promised an “industrial revolution”, emphatically stating that “unless Ghana industrialises with the goal of adding significant value to her primary products, the country cannot create the necessary numbers of high-paying jobs that will enhance the living standards of the mass of Ghanaians”. He correctly identified that “raw material producing economies do not create prosperity for the masses”, adding that “the only way to the goal of ensuring access to prosperity is value addition activities in a transformed and a diversified modern economy”. (Ghanaweb: 30 June 2016) Nice words!!! Yet twelve months on, signs of the “industrial revolution” appear to be missing on the horizon.
It is becoming worrying that the focus of the programme appears to be falling into disarray. Whilst in August 2017, the President lauded the Ekumfi pineapple project as an excellent beginning of the revolution, the National Coordinator of the “One District, One Factory” programme now describes Ekumfi as “quantity, not quality” and has therefore “ignored” it. Again, whereas the Minister of Trade was saying in November 2017 that 192 business proposals had been approved for take-off, the National Coordinator has recently sharply contradicted the Minister, saying that, indeed, only four projects are ready for sod-cutting and that only 69 others are expected to take off in 2018. (www.myjoyonline.com; 9 January 2018).
While one is yet to see the $1 million for each constituency, one is still waiting for the beginning of the “One Village, One Dam” for the northern areas. One is still waiting for the overhauling of the Western and Eastern railway lines. One is also waiting for the beginning of the sinking of at least 25,000 new boreholes and an additional 300 small town water supply systems in the rural areas and small towns, knowing that we only have three years left of the mandate. One is waiting for when the construction of storm drains in Accra and other cities and towns would begin, since this is a massive job.
One year on, one is yet to witness the beginning of the programme which will ensure that kindergarten places are available for all four-year old children in the country.
And yes. And it came to pass in those days, when one was promised “no corruption” in Paradise. Although, until the next Auditor-General’s report on MDAs and the Consolidated Fund; or some slip-up by any of the angels, it would be too early to pick on some unidentified flying objects as evidence of corruption, there are signs in the air that show that some of the angels may not be that “bright” after all. Take the case of when gas oil in a solid pipeline, mysteriously found itself seeping into another separate solid pipeline containing petrol and in the process, contaminated the latter. Then the head-angel for the entity declared it contaminated, and proceeded to sell the contaminated product to himself and his other unregistered friends at rock-bottom prices so that they could later sell them at higher prices to other people. And when there was a public outcry, the arch-angel for the sector quickly declared that he had investigated and found no evidence of wrong-doing! And take the case whereby one of the smaller crusading angels was beaten to pulp with some of his bones broken merely for pointing out that one of the regional angels may be corrupt. Take the case when a Ministry expected parliament to approve the cost of developing a website for a whopping GH¢800,000. When some parliamentarian complained, they said it was an error. An error? This estimate passed through the rigorous scrutiny of the greatest economist we have, Dr. Bawumia, at the economic management team. He didn’t see it. Then it went to the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance did not see it. Then it went to cabinet, where the President presides. Cabinet didn’t see it. Then it came back to the Ministry of Finance again, and they didn’t see it. Then it went to the Finance Committee of Parliament and the Finance Committee didn’t see it until it came to the floor of the whole House. Aba! Such a scenario might surely have been lifted from the Bible: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). The most painful aspect was Verse 11 where it is stated: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not”.
You see: like love-making, corruption is not done in the open. And it is difficult to catch-out a person who is schooled in the art of corruption. For example, if a Ministry is aware that the reasonable price of a given contract should be GH¢100. The Ministry privately agrees with the targeted contractor making the winning bid to make it GH¢150. Whereas you can easily prove that the Ministry has willfully caused financial loss to the state, it is difficult to prove that corruption was involved, unless you can show how the extra GH¢50 reached the “private” account of the Ministry. Or let us take the case of Cocobod paying for a locally produced item, made with local raw materials in U.S. Dollars.
How come, without Cabinet approval or knowledge, a new national policy on compulsory purchase of first-aid kits from DVLA gets implemented? Who won the contract to supply the first-aid kits? And was it won through competitive tendering as promised in the days before the elections? Or was it through the dreaded sole-sourcing method, done in accordance with the gospel according to John Boadu and Sammy Awuku and Ambassador Ayisi Boateng? Ayoo!! When the clouds begin to gather on the horizon, accompanied by winds, it means that there is a likelihood of rain.
Wonders will never cease in this “Paradise”. When Google maps and other networks have a digital addressing system that provides such addresses for free, we go and pay $2.5 million to a bunch of individuals who try to plagiarize the Google one. It is sad that they were not even not able to do it properly. Unlike the other digital addresses, when one types our $2.5 million-worth digital address on Google, the result is gibberish. Is that incompetence or “create, loot and share”?
The novelty about this Promised land is how vigilante groups, obviously endorsed by party and leading government officials, go on the rampage attacking people they do not like. One time, they even invaded the office of the President’s own appointee in National Security, uprooted him from his desk, and dragged him into the streets, amidst chants of “Yen ani abre, Y’ani abre koor”. And when these vigilantes were arraigned before court, their colleagues invaded the court and set them free. Then when the police tried to prosecute the court invaders, the Attorney-General asked the prosecution to drop the case. And as for the original kidnappers of the security officer, their initial charges were mysteriously changed from “conspiracy to assault a public officer and causing unlawful damage” to a lesser charge of “conspiracy to commit a crime by rioting”. In the end, there was a mere slap on their wrists when they were asked to pay a token fine of GH¢1,800 each.
Afterwards, one of them was proud to boast that even before the sentencing, they knew about the fines and brought cash to pay the court on the spot. Now there is vigilantism everywhere. Wither are we bound? Forwards or backwards?
Before I end, allow me to comment on one laughable thing about this “Promised land”. In some times past, Ghana used to have an airline called Ghana Airways. Because our governments could not see it managed efficiently, they sold it and turned the main aircraft into a restaurant. Then they sold the other assets of the airline at knock-down prices to themselves, including people who are Ministers in the current government. Then a foreign airline, which is being run competently than ours continues to ferry our elite into foreign lands. Lo, and behold, a Minister of the party that sold the Ghana Airways turns round to accuse that foreign airline of having bedbugs in their plane. The Minister also moans about the departure lounge being moved from Terminal 5 Heathrow to Terminal 3. She said this although the then Ghana Airways used to operate from the same Terminal 3. Then the Minister accuses the foreign airline for not giving gifts to Ghana. Aba!! Why did you sell your own airline then?
When our leaders do these things and some mad man insults us, then we get angry. The one who goes round shitting all over the place (excuse my language) and the one who says, “you have shit on yourself”; who is to blame?
One is wondering whether it is a case of “Paradise Lost” (John Milton) or “Paradise Regained” (John Milton) or maybe Paradise Postponed! What sort of Paradise is this?