Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Is Atta-Mills surrounded by “Yes Men”?

The downfall of many presidents in this world has been their inability to separate loyalty from competence and surrounding themselves with sycophants and “yes men” who sing praises all the way to their banks.

Two questions come to mind here: are the president’s men so scared to criticize him or are they sycophantic “yes men”?

When Ghanaians voted for President Mills in December 2008, they had no doubt that he was poised to deliver a better Ghana but recent occurrences in the country have really turned all hopes into despair. I agree that the president has been in office for 11 months but like the old African saying goes,” you can tell a good game from its onset”. Within the eleven months, all we have seen is lot of management faux-pas and no policy direction for us to have some hope for the better Ghana promised.

Behind every successful president is a mentor or two plus blunt and efficient lieutenants who offer positive criticisms. Atta- Mills needs such people for his relentless pursuit to deliver a better Ghana. He needs the services of men/women who would be willing to tell him he's wrong. If he did, he would not be doing the things that are making him lose the support that propelled him into power.

You would have thought that as learned and politically experienced as Mills is, he would know when to listen and who to listen to. Being the third president in the fourth republic means that he has a wealth of resources to consult. For the first time in our history, a sitting president has two former presidents who are alive to offer the necessary inputs into nation building.

This in theory should have been happening but practically, well, it has not been working that that way because the NDC founder complains endlessly about the presidents refusal to heed to advice and for former president Kufour, I don’t think the president in his wisdom thinks he needs him because he is perceived by the present administration to have mismanaged the country so bad that he is the cause of all our current problems.

Besides these two, the president is surrounded by various advisors, his learned friends and associates mostly in academia, the council of state and above all his spouse to offer advice and direction.
The question is why does he make the elementary mistakes he keeps making with all the people around him?

My thinking is that, the president is either not listening or has scared those around him from offering constructive criticisms or those around him are just “yes men” who do not care if he succeeds as a president or the country moves forward.

I strongly believe the whole truth is that the castle has been taken by “Yes men” (or “yes-women”, for that matter) who are worthless to the presidency, period. The most competent and successful presidents are those who have men of integrity who aren’t afraid to advice them, even when it means telling them something they don’t want to hear but need to- even if it will cost them their jobs.

Think about it. What was the president thinking when he ordered his spokesperson to address a press conference to the effect that his appointees should open their doors for NDC foot- soldiers? The first question I ask is, who were those present at the meeting and how did the deliberations go. Did they ask the right questions but were ignored?

You do not need to be a rocket scientist- but if you were present at the said decision-making meeting and you cared about the presidency, here are a few questions you could have asked.

Mr. President, with all due respect, what happens to the over four million eligible voters who voted against you and the many others in the country? How will the directive be implemented? That is, do we set up a desk to register party members who come to see the appointees and ask them to show party cards etc?, Mr. President, don’t you think party functionaries will flood the offices and prevent your officials from carrying out their mandated duties for which they are paid? More importantly, Your Excellency, you promised to be a father for all so why only NDC functionaries now?

And above all what was Ayariga thinking churning that out irresponsibly? He should have asked the right questions or sugar-coated that nonsense at the very least.
I have really been wondering why some high-ranking persons in the NDC are complaining, is there a communication breakdown between the NDC as a party and the Mills Government, are there really greedy bastards in the party who are fighting the altruistic ones?, is the former president justified in his outbursts or the president has just surrounded himself with sycophantic “Yes Men” who are ready to tell him one-plus-one is equal to three.

There are people at the presidency who are quick to attack and insult anyone within or outside the party who dares offer constructive criticism of the Mills administration.

They claim there are channels for redress but if they did and access was easily available, I do not think that persons no less than the founder of the NDC, the Majority Leader in parliament and Dr. Spio Garbrah will resort to the media to address their issues. All of a sudden anyone who disagrees with the state of affairs becomes a villain and the “yes men” who have formed a brick wall around the president rain insults on them.

These are the people the president should be wary of. There are those hovering around the presidency who believe that they can transition overnight from being mere tramps yesterday into political celebrities on account of being praise poets and repositories of flattery. Mills must be very careful of these political vultures and sycophants masquerading as party fanatics and loyalists who would do anything and everything in their interest to win his support for personal enrichment.

As the seemingly wide- gap between the presidency and the NDC party widens, more vultures and sharks will be coming to the castle.

They will come from different forms: rejected politicians, false prophets, failed and successful business persons, professional bootlickers, and block-headed individuals among others who are playing the game of the stomach. All these people will pretend to love Mills; they will sing praise songs in chorus.

Some will shout on top of their voices and call every radio station and other media houses and boast how much they believe in him.

They will tell him how well and fast the better Ghana agenda is moving when they know word from Axim to Keta and from Paga to Accra is that the country is running too slow and the masses are suffering.
It will be only wise for the president to stay alert and listen to dissenting views within the NDC and even from well meaning Ghanaians if he really wants to deliver a better Ghana.

By. Ouborr Kutando

Monday, December 7, 2009

Obama Should Apologize To Africa (Part 2)

Concluding Part:

The significance of President Barack Obama's planned trip to Ghana should not be over-emphasized. As written by Mathew Kukah:
A more important question is, beyond the emotional and symbolic value, what difference will a Presidential visit make in the lives of ordinary people in the country?
Three American Presidents have visited Ghana as far as I can remember Bill Clinton, George Bush.

The main drivers and beneficiaries of Presidential visits are businessmen and women who, under the shadow of the President, seek to cut the best business deals, concessions, and monopolies they can get for their businesses.

For example am told that when President Carter visited Nigeria during his Presidency but it was not until over 20 years of his leaving office that they reaped the benefits of his tremendous work in fighting guinea worms around the world under the banner of his Jimmy Carter Foundation which is enjoyed by many here.

Ghana today is enjoying the benefits of the MIDA projects through George Bush and today Nigeria through Bill Clinton’s Foundation in the area of HIV/AIDS surpasses a 100 fold what his visit as President achieved. So, by themselves, Presidential visits are useful, but surely, they should not be the measure for a country's greatness or lack of.

Nigerians and Kenyans have gone to town to second guess Obama’s trip and come to the dubious conclusion that the visit is an indictment on their flawed elections. Fr Kukah asked: If elections were an issue for Obama, would he go out of his way to incur the wrath of his fellow countrymen by hugging or bowing to President Hugo Chavez or the King of Saudi Arabia as he did recently? While Chavez had amended the Constitution and secured an open ended tenure, Saudi Arabia's citizens have neither seen a ballot box or ballot paper in their lives. Is President Obama the world's electoral Pope who is going around rewarding and punishing election defaulters? Kukah concluded: It is the oil, stupid!

Yes, Ghana has just discovered oil. It therefore makes sense that the US, with its gargantuan appetite for oil ensures that it is not caught napping.

Kukah added: This visit is, in simple terms, in pursuit, defence and protection of the permanent interests of the United States of America which is the primary responsibility of any President. These interests, whether they are economic, geopolitical, strategic or even intangible, are varied and complex and only the US knows and defines them. America has shown that it will go to any length or overlook any international obligations or obstacles to achieve these interests.

I have written elsewhere that in choosing to visit Ghana ahead of his fatherland Kenya. "The official word is that we're celebrating democracy, but there are probably some ulterior motives," I continued, "It has not gone unnoticed that oil was discovered, and Ghana has 600 million barrels under it and offshore. And many Ghanaian leaders think the U.S. might like Ghana to serve as a kind of capital for Africom," the U.S. military command responsible for African operations.

Further Ghana sits on the eastern Atlantic Ocean, on the southern side of Africa's western hump. The tropical nation of low plains and plateaus is home to 23 million people. This places Ghana at a strategic location relative to Nigeria and other oil rich countries like Equatorial Guinea.

"Using Ghana as a hub would allow the U.S. to keep an eye on Nigeria and the whole Gulf of Guinea." The United States already keeps a very large embassy in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, is it a lie….somebody tell me.

West Africa is arguably the poorest and least stable area on earth. It is also afflicted by a number of transnational trafficking flows, attracted by and aggravating the special vulnerability of this region. On the other hand, the region is rich in Oil, Gold and other precious resources.

The United states are eager to be well-positioned in the on-going scramble for these resources amidst threats from China, Russia and India challenging the dominance of the United States and Europe - West Africa’s traditional friends.

Moreover I warned that Africa should not expect too much from Obama. The reason being that those that understand the way things really work in the United States, a change of a person as president do not necessarily signal a change in policy and direction unlike Ghana.

In the United States, the president is less a leader than a manager of policies formulated by corporate elite interests. Thus there is stability of the political system, regardless of who is president. US presidents come and go, but the interests remain constant.

Let me be clear. I am not downplaying the significance Obama’s visit to Ghana as the first African-American president of the almighty US of A which caught my favorite minister turned into a photographer. However, I believe that this visit is for President Obama to use Ghana as a platform to address Africa by laying down where he wishes to take the US.

President Obama is ultimately interested in expanding America’s interests, America's commitment to seeking collaborators around the world in the search for global peace and an end to world terrorism.
Yes, as Kukah also pointed out:
Obama will politely but firmly speak directly to the leaders of Africa, calling for an end to corruption and the need for an equitable distribution and allocation of the continent's resources. He will call for an end to violence and the need for Africans to hold their leaders accountable and responsible. These may be nice sound bites. The real challenge is that as he may realize, Africans have heard all this before. What they are yet to see is a clear signal from the US and the international community that they are truly committed to helping Africa. For, to do this, they must be ready to expose their multinational corporations and other corporate crooks, the sponsors of strife and violence in Africa in the course of the exploitation of mineral resources and the need to energise and support civil society groups.
But please Africans, don’t look up to an Obama as a saviour of the continent!

Obama should apologize to Africa (Part 1)

This is a continuation of my feature which appeared on this website on 31st October, 2009 titled “The Anti-African Racist Insults Obama Got Away With In Ghana”. I enjoyed the bashing from all of you and I know we are sharing opinions. Enjoy reading.

Obama apologized to Europe during his trip to France in April 2009. He was apologetic to the Arab world in his speech in Cairo, Egypt. But during his trip to Ghana he opined that Africans are responsible for their multifarious problems and said: “It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these (Africa’s) problems on others”. Obama did not have the courage to admit and take full responsibility for the role of America in the undoing of the continent.

When Obama traveled to Europe in April 2009, in a speech in France he said, “In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive... So I've come to Europe this week to renew our partnership, one in which America listens and learns from our friends and allies...So let me say this as clearly as I can: America is changing”.

Obama sounded apologetic to the Arab world when he traveled to Egypt. He said: “We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate...More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim—majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations...I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect”.

But when Obama traveled to Ghana in July 11, 2009, he said: “It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these (Africa’s) problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants”.

Obama did not have the courage to admit and take full responsibility for the role of America in the undoing of the continent.

Some American States like Virginia have apologized to Black Americans for the slave trade because undoubtedly the slave trade benefited America and was promoted by the United States government. For a long period of time Washington D.C. actually served as the chief port through which slaves were imported.

The Southern region of the United States paid for slaves to be brought over. The Southern plantation owners were supplied with their money from Northern industrialists who knew exactly how the South was growing cotton at so cheap a price. For at least 80 years of its existence the U.S. government condoned and allowed the slavery to flourish.

Yes Obama said, “Africa's future is up to Africans”, But at the root of the current crisis in Africa is surely the Slave trade, Colonialism, neo-colonialism, American imperialism, trade imbalances, the support for corruption and exploitation of Africa by American multi-national companies.

As Obama himself admitted: “I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story”.

Obama said in Cairo: “each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions”, but America and the West has not allowed African democracy to evolve on its own.

But in so many ways and in so many times, they have interfered in Africa’s development – by sponsoring coups especially the one against Dr. Kwame Nkrumah which I know off and there may be many across the African continent.

Barack Obama said in Ghana: “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources”, but what he failed to add was the role of western and American companies in fuelling these conflicts.

Obama is right when he said: “development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans”.

However, let us not forget that at the root of Africa’s predicament are the tri-partite combination of Bad leadership, Rich Countries exploitation of Africa and the imposition of wrong policies by international Institutions.

Doing a little research work, I came across Malawi which is a case in point. Not quite long ago a New York Times article describes how Malawi went from food aid recipient to regional food provider in just two years after re-introducing fertilizer subsidies for its low-income farmers. The move contravened years of policy guidance from the World Bank and IMF, which warn against such distortions of the “free market.”

In other words, by violating what its wealthy benefactors in Europe and North America say, Malawi achieved success.

Unfortunately for Ghana, the British and American imposition has produced semi-literate leaders that went against better counsel and imposed world Bank/IMF prescribed Structural Adjustment Programme that ruined our economy.

Obama has come and gone, the speech is classic and the rhetoric is exceptional. But the best way to test whether he would be different from other American presidents is to explore the question of African strategic interests, or, alternatively, American strategic interests in Africa, and examine the ways in which and the degree to which Obama's pursuit of American policy is consistent with or diverges from that of his predecessor.

For example: Africom was established during George W. Bush's regime, will the Barack Hussein Obama's regime continue with Africom? What about the interest of American oil companies in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, the Niger Delta and even ours? Will an Obama regime move against their interest vis-à-vis African environmental, economic and political interest?

In Obama’s speech in Ghana, did he comment on Barclays Bank establishing a tax haven in Ghana, warning against such vehicle being used for tax evasion and money laundering; in support of transparency and anti-corruption efforts, to expand cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing and reigning in the vicarious liability of tax havens and offshore banks.

Did he talk about pushing the boundaries of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (passed by the US Congress before his tenure) to have the expanded power to bite both givers and takers of bribes – both American multi-national countries and kleptomaniac African leaders?

Did he talk about stopping and Withdrawing US Visa from corrupt African politicians; to stop them spending their looted funds in America; Stopping the marketplace for high stakes elite bribery?

To many, the Bush personality was a bit too crude and, in some respects, robust for the world to accept. Put some colour on him, with a sophisticated and intelligent personality, and now you have the same agenda for Africa, skilfully repackaged in an Obama. The agenda remains the same-imperialistic, exploitative, and, ultimately, deadly-but the general perception is different. It is seductive.

Kojo Bonsu Now An Official Of Sports Ministry?

Mr. Kojo Bonsu, a self-styled football administrator who has harbored the dream of becoming the chairman of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) since Adam, last week, ‘impersonated’ himself as an official of the Sports Ministry in Ghana.

The embattled businessman and publisher of the Agoo magazine, who lied blatantly earlier this year that he was one of the financiers of the jet that took most of the Hearts and Kotoko women to the finals of the CHAN tournament in January when indeed it was a Military Task Order, on Friday, brought the name of Ghana into disrepute after he introduced himself as an official of the Sports Ministry to FIFA’s international relations officer, Jerome Champagne.

Like Muntaka who also introduced his ‘girl-friend’ as an official of the same ministry to the German Embassy in Ghana before acquiring a visa for her for them to jolly-ride to Germany, Kojo Bonsu had wanted to know how much Ghana would earn from participating in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Jerome Champagne, who was surprised because Kojo’s name was not on the official list of the persons accredited for the event quickly went to inform the team who were properly accredited that a certain Ghanaian has approached him and introduced himself as such and wanted to know certain things which was privy to members of the GFA.

Listening to the sector Minister, Mr. Rashid Pelpuo on Oman Fm on Monday I was very shocked as he kept beating about the bush.

On the misconduct of the NDC’s shadow FA President he said, “Yes it might be true, I went to the source (Jerome Champagne) of the information and the source confirmed it but I haven’t had the chance to speak to Kojo.”

“I did not send him to do that; I haven’t even delegated any assignments to him before so it came to me as a surprise when we were told at the table,” the Minister added.

According to the Minister, Kojo Bonsu was in South Africa after he was nominated by the government to represent the country.

Shockingly, the addition of chief agitator cum chief image maker of the Atta Mills government, Mr. Kwesi Pratt popularly called KP whose, 12-page newspaper has nothing about sports but rather writes about freeing ‘the Cuban 5’ was nominated. The question is who nominated him, is it the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) or Private Newspapers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG)?

Kwesi Pratt was on radio saying that he got only $500 for his stay in South Africa at the taxpayers’ expense and I dare him to give it out to the Osu Children Home like the promotional stories he has been running for his fellow Fanti and I will write a whole feature about his gesture and it will change my perception about him too.

Kojo Bonsu begun his diabolical move by distributing miniature flags in the colours of Ghana just to attract the attention of the media and FIFA executives before the draw, I hear.

In the early hours of the day, Kojo Bonsu is said to have approached FIFA’s international relations officer, Jerome Champagne and introduced himself as an official from Ghana’s sports ministry representing the government at the draw.

Kojo Bonsu went ahead to inform Jerome Champagne that government was spending almost $6 million to prepare the Black Stars for the World Cup tournament.

For this reason, Kojo Bonsu requested to know how much Ghana would earn for participating in the Football roll-over prize in South Africa and also asked of the Public Interest Committee (PIC) which he could not defend when he raised it after a document had been circulated by some faceless cowards.

Am reliable informed that the information about how much Ghana will get from the World Cup has been made available to the Minister when he attended the Team Seminar, this information is on the web that is FIFA’s site and every nursery kid who knows how the internet works can get it.

By his actions, is he suggesting that the Minister is incompetent like he is or may be when you are a cadre you have access and right to everything within the Mills government.

Am told that Jerome Champagne, who was disappointed by the actions of Kojo Bonsu, first told Randy Abbey and Kofi Nsiah about the shameful and childish acts of a so called football administrator.

Randy Abbey informed the FA President Kwesi Nyantakyi who also informed the Minister about it and the two men together with Fred Pappoe went straight to Jerome Champagne where he confirmed the nauseating questions he was asked by busy-body and a walk-about at the castle.

The Sports Minister, Mr. Rashid Pelpuo was shocked and dismayed that Kojo Bonsu could go to that extent of misrepresenting the country whilst he being the sports minister was present to represent the country and he has every reason to.

Kojo Bonsu, who is widely believed to be in close links with some officials of the ruling NDC government, is doing everything possible to oust the current leadership at the GFA and I can bet him he will never get the seat come 2011 like how the Kotoko seat eluded him.

To show his ineptitude, he run away from one of the radio stations which was championing his useless cause when the spokesperson of the FA confronted him there and that same night also took to his heels when he was scheduled to meet the FA President on Metro TV’s late night talk-show, Good Evening Ghana.

It is alleged that Mr. Kojo Bonsu could not even account for the performance monies given to Ghana when he was an agent for Adidas when the Black Stars got to the finals of the Nations Cup hosted in Senegal in 1992.

As for his sidekick who cannot I and repeat who cannot account for the numerous transfer monies of players by a premiership club when he was in charge and banned by a committee’s a report, should wash their dirty and stinky hands of our football and allow the GFA to work.