Friday, March 26, 2010

RE: Atta Mills: What Are We Re-branding?

Kindly permit me a space to react to the article titled- Atta Mills: What are we Re-Branding? As published on your website on Tuesday, 16 March 2010.

In the said article, the author Mr. Prah , instead of displaying candor and intelligence in his writing to promote a proper challenging discourse, sounded more like a mischievous politician whose only interest is to paint black and create panic, confusion, lack of trust and render as in his words, disastrous and chaotic, The ‘Brand Ghana Office’ project instituted by His Excellency President John Evans Atta Mills.

For the sake of public interest and to cure the author of his gross ignorance as far as Country Branding and its benefits are concerned, I decided to share some light on what exactly Country branding is and also answer some of his grievances raised.

Mr. Prah argued and I quote ‘’what is he re-branding? It is not that Ghana does not have a good name. The visit by Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America to Ghana demonstrates amply that indeed Ghana does not need any re-branding. We have, or had a good international reputation, and all that we needed to do was continue with the quiet but effective steps previous leaders were taking to create a good image for this country.”

If Mr. Prah thought that a mere visit by President Obama of the US is enough proof that our country has achieved enough international credibility and goodwill as a democracy and a favourable investment destination then God help us because only an analogue minded individual in a 21st century digital age will arrive at this narrow and myopic conclusion.

It has to be noted that the President is not Re-branding Ghana as he alleged out of pure mischief because Ghana as a country is not a commercial product whose look can be altered or improved upon which is known as re-branding. The ultimate goal for Branding a developing Country like Ghana is to stimulate economic, social and psychological wellbeing for its citizenry through the development and implementation of a proactive and integrated national and international strategy.

Even the United States with her high standing in the international arena as far as tourism, migration, trade and international diplomacy is concerned still spend lots of money improving its image abroad and compete for her fair share of the worlds tourists, investors and international allies.

South Africa, India and many other developing countries are actively engaging in Country branding business with tremendous benefits in terms of the feel and pride if their citizens, achievement of favourable image abroad and parenting local brands into commercial success.

Sitting down to do nothing but to disregard primary journalistic ethics to politicise and ridicule a noble project like Ghana Brand Office shows that this guy was writing from sick and confused imagination when put under a social psychological microscope. Since Mr. Prah choose to confuse branding with re-branding, it’s important to understand country branding which to experts is a nation’s identity that has been proactively distilled, interpreted, internalized and projected for international recognition and to construct a favourable national image. In this vain, Mr. Prah should be aware that country Branding is not just about ‘’good image’’ determined by a foreign Presidents visit which he seeks to project as the case.

A nation’s identity defines its true self, values of her people, essence and character driven by a vision thus different from others and resistant to change. It is a call to duty of every citizen coming together willingly to tell the world same powerful, believable and interesting story about their country through a common communication channel.

Country branding is not in any way a positive spin or propaganda as he tried to paint it but rather involves the act of harmonizing all channels of national expression as varied as acts and policies of government, values and behaviours of the Citizenry, education, culture, sports, public health, taxation, public diplomacy, build and feel of settlements, promotion of export and investment and infrastructure development.

It becomes a framework to bring all Ghanaians including its diplomats, footballers, international icons such as Kofi Annan and every citizen from all walks of life in holism to be goodwill ambassadors of our nation happily espousing our achievements, greatness, hospitality, and business friendliness and to create strong local brands into commercial success.

Just as nobody goes on a therapy or medication unless diagnosed of a sickness so are Countries in the branding business too. Only nations with some kind of traditional position influence and reputation which they seek to change or improve of which Ghana is a prime example, goes into Branding.

For instance we have a past history of instabilities and revolutions not discounting the negative image of our sub-region noted for its unimaginable corruption, civil strife, indiscipline, filthy cities, erosion of some cherished values, failed States, wars, famine, diseases which all feed into the international perceptions that we are all one and the same irrespective of the reality. In spite of our shortfalls, we have achieved substantial progress in areas of democracy, good governance, human and national security, economic growth, food security and our daily efforts to lift ourselves out of poverty are attractive and positive sides of our story that need to be told through country- branding with a clear, direct and coherent communication strategy.

Creating the impression as though Ghana Brand Office is duplicating the roles of State Institutions and Agencies in marketing Ghana is quite unfortunate, ridiculous and clearly demonstrated the author is at complete loss of the roles played by branding organizations.

Country-branding in the case of Ghana is the missing link between national mobilization and development and as such the integral role of Country -branding anywhere involves the creation of more harmony and coordination among stakeholders to tell the same powerful, believable and interesting story about their country with the aim to unite the nation under a common vision and shared values, nourishing confidence, pride, harmony, ambition and national resolve, to enhance nationhood and citizenship and not to endorse and perpetuate division, create discord and other vices of gangsterism and criminal behaviours against the state and people of Ghana.

If the author is a true patriot and a concerned citizen of my Country hence decided to ridicule the branding project, then he should be asking himself why should countries such as South Korea and Malaysia whom we were at par with during independence have achieved so much in terms of development while we in Ghana stagnate as a nation and sadly see us retrogressing in our developmental efforts instead of our desired progressive development goals!!!.

The answers are pretty clear in that we have set grand targets for ourselves as a country with little or no road map to that destination. Vision 2000 came and went and now we have vision 2015 and in some quarters vision 2020 yet there is no clear cut programmes in place allowing for total citizens voluntary acceptance and participation in achieving those goals and it is no surprise that characters like Prah are on the sidelines just to criticise and destroy others’ dreams for this nation as a whole because they do not feel belonged and are brimming with selfish interest of who might take the credit when the dividends begin to pour in.

We aim for a middle income status but our rate of economy growth remains stunted with GDP per capita as low as $450 while we continue to export our major commodities in its primary or raw form in line with the colonial legacy left behind 53 years ago.

Not only did we lack commercial brands with international marketing support but also our level of infrastructure development cannot support the needed foreign direct investment. Incomes from remittances still trickles in from abroad and tourism but too slow and too small to support any major economic push while at the same time not only are we too divided on partisan political and tribal lines for any radical national mobilization for development but also we keep suffering from the negative connotation of Africa as a continent because we are doing very little to positively differentiate ourselves from the larger African and our own past despite our tremendous achievements in the last two decades which warrants international attention and goodwill.

As a Ghanaian, I feel so insulted, ashamed, and disturbed that one will choose to chastise and describe as treacherous the Mills government attempt to investigate the fraudulent sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodaphone as well as the dubious importation of Rice from India in clear violation of our laws and that of India which in part help drive Ghanaian rice farmers out of business.

Brand Ghana Office has come at no other better time to address the concomitant obstacles on our path to national cohesion and development so we can attract the needed investment, tourism and exports, jobs and not short change the birth rights of Ghanaians such as selling national assets for peanuts and granting contracts based on ‘’compassion’’ to achieve false praise singing by foreign ‘friends’ and for other parochial gains.

I urge Mr. Prah and his cronies he sought to impress to adopt and support ‘Brand Ghana Office’ project because they will be emancipated mentally and morally through the brands citizenship development programmes which will consciously affect social regulation.

The fact that brand-Ghana understands that People’s active intellectual and emotional buy-in is critical in reducing Ghana’s negative scorecard such as crime and violence, corruption, unstable political environment, poor safety and security, poor labour productivity, poor public health and sanitation makes a laudable and compelling one. The above is crucial in ending the culture of impunity, political patronage, self-vested interests, greed and loyalties to political and economic godfathers and ethnicity which can only further divide our country and set us on the bloody path of attrition.

Mr. Prah accused the President of manning the Ghana Brand Office with a little known PR man when the project has not even taken off yet!!! If you have the courage to cite Obama’s coming as the sole reason of Ghana as having a good image, then let me remind you of him telling us that Africans does not need ‘’strong men’’ but strong institutions. Ghana in this vain does not need to pay millions of dollars to well known lobbyists or PR groups to market us in the international corridors of power but strong institutions manned by competent and well qualified people operating outside the influences of politics.

We have waited for 44 years since the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah to have another visionary leader that seeks to unite Ghanaians by putting premium on our values and loyalty to God and Country through guidance and inspiration and what else can be so commendable than this.

A society can only succeed when its inhabitants can master the courage to condemn what is condemnable and embrace, support and encourage what is just. Anything short of this will only portray us as backward thinking people walking with our feet up and heads down so Mr Prah work up to your responsibilities for God and Country.

Credit: Mathias Alagbo (

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Discrimination and Victimization In the Military!

Information gathered by this blog and reaching us through concerned soldiers indicate that there is a deliberate discrimination in the selection of personnel for external and internal operations in the Ghana Armed Forces under the NDC administration of Associate Prof. Atta Mills.

The selection of the personnel for peacekeeping operations as Military Observers is highly controlled by the master strategists to ensure that officers from the Volta Region and sympathizers of the NDC are sent to countries where the UN Allowances are very high such as Darfur in Sudan and Congo. Conversely, Akans and other officers perceived to be NPP sympathizers are sent to less lucrative missions such as Western Sahara and Lebanon.

In the case of the Other Ranks who are selected for the VIP Escort duties in Ivory Coast, the policy under the NPP Administration was to give the vacancies to the Commands, Units, Formations and Service Headquarters for them to select qualified personnel as per the laid down criteria and procedures.

The situation has changed under NDC Administration. The selection of the Other Ranks from all the three Services, the Formations and Units is done centrally by the “Powers that be” and imposed on the authorities concerned. The objective of the centralization and discrimination is to ensure that NDC sympathizers are rewarded handsomely.

While their counterparts on the main Ghana Battalion (UNOCI) will be receiving thirty US Dollars ($30) per day, their counterparts on the VIP duties collect close One Hundred Dollars ($100) in the aggregate adding local allowance per day.

The policy of discrimination is to empower NDC sympathizers financially. While the officers and men of NDC affiliation are sent to the more lucrative UN operations their counterparts and colleagues perceived to be NPP sympathizers are offered the less lucrative but dangerous missions. The cumulative effect is to make the NDC officers and men richer while their so called NPP sympathizers are denied that opportunity.

This policy of discrimination fits perfectly well into the policy of empowering friendly forces as spelt out by Jerry Rawlings during his infamous call to see to the collapse of businesses of Mr. Appiah Menka and Kwabena Darko. Then President Rawlings emphasized that it would be suicidal to either empower your political opponents or create a congenial atmosphere for them to undertake their legitimate business to become rich.
It is the same philosophy and policy that are being conceptualized and implemented as far as military external operations are concerned under the NDC Administration.

If the case of the external peacekeeping operations is bizarre then that of the internal operations is dangerous and precariously pregnant with lowering of morale.

Selection for the prestigious operations such as Operation Citadel is now limited to soldiers from the Volta Region, Northern extraction and more importantly of the NDC persuasion. While under the NPP Administration, selection of soldiers for duties at the seat of government, Castle was given to the Battalions and Regiment in a Command without interference, the situation has changed under the NDC Administration.

The names of soldiers are submitted by their units in advance to the Defence Intelligence and National Security Coordinator’s office for vetting. So far, on three occasions that the names of solders from the Volta Region and three Northern Regions. Even in the case of the three Northern Regions, soldiers from the Northern Region and Upper West Region are preferred to those from the Upper East Region.

The master strategists in the NDC Administration and their counterparts in the military want to ensure that only soldiers that they are 100% sure of their loyalty and can vouch for their character are selected to perform duties at the castle.

Owing to the deliberate policy of the Military High Command under the direction of General Seth Obeng to integrate all sections of the Ghana Armed Forces into a cohesive family, even known notorious ex-64 Infantry Regiment soldiers in Units were allowed to perform duties at the Castle.

This matured Esprit de Corps approach of selecting troops for duties at the Castle is diametrically opposite to the discriminatory and pro-NDC minded selective process.

What observers and concerned soldiers are saying is that the N D C Administration should extend the discriminatory selection process for Operation Citadel to Operation Calm Life (Anti-Armed Robbery Joint Military and Police Patrols).

The Military High Command should equally ensure that only pro-NDC soldiers are selected for the anti-armed robbery operations since their master Jerry Rawlings says that the armed robbers are NPP activists or NPP hired criminals.

Another phase of discrimination in the military is taking place at the Department of Defence Intelligence.

The Department is gradually and systematically being purged of perceived NPP sympathizers. While the perceived NPP sympathizers are being victimized and or posted away, NDC sympathizers are being posted into the Department to strengthen it for the treachery, witch hunting and persecution of perceived NPP sympathizers and enemies of the “Revolution”.

This trend is in sharp contrast to what happened during the entire 8 year period of the NPP administration. Not one single officer or man was posted out of the Department of Defence Intelligence except on disciplinary grounds.

The same officers and men were allowed to do their jobs with a few additions made after interviews had been organized. Thus, all personnel at the Department during the exit of Jerry Rawlings remained there until 2009.
That may explain why an Air Force officer who without authority and authorization procured a visa for another officer, who had been charged with a service offence, tried, found guilty, convicted and given a term of imprisonment, to abscond with impunity.

There was evidence of the letter of introduction to the Embassy signed by the Air Force officer, his personal involvement in collecting the visa under official protocol auspices for the fugitive officer.

When it was recommended that this Air Force officer should be posted out of the unit, because he is an Ewe, he played the ethnic card and has remained at the Department of Defence Intelligence ever since.

Now this officer is terrorizing poor innocent personnel of the Department are perceived as NPP sympathizers because they were posted to the Department during the NPP Administration.

What personnel of the Department of Defence Intelligence and their collaborators at the office of the National Security Coordinator are doing is falsely tagging officers and men as “NPP” and victimizing them while creating and enhancing opportunities for the “NDC” friends to go on courses, operations and diplomatic duties.

The era of fear, curtailed freedom of speech, trailing of officers and men has crept into the military once again as during the PNDC era of 1982 to 1992 and the NDC Administration of 1993 to 2001.

All the gains chalked under General Seth Obeng to revive and enhance mess life have been eroded and attracted negative patronage.

Soldiers Collapse At Burma Camp!

There is widespread expression of grief; howling and gnashing of teeth within the various barracks across the nation following the decision by government to release (retire) a whopping 1367 soldiers in April this year!

This blog has learned that the matter has caused so much distress that some of the affected soldiers collapsed and had to receive treatment at the 37 Military Hospital, since the release came to them as a complete shock!

This blog can confirm that on say-so of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), that military authorities are ready to release 1,367 over-aged troops comprising the 1978, 1979,1980,1981,1982 and 1983 year groups.

What is causing the distress is that in the run-up to election 2008, propagandists of the ruling party told troops across the country that if the NDC wins power, the policy of releasing over-aged soldiers which was initiated by General Seth Obeng during the era of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) would be brought to an end and in fact even retired soldiers would be re-employed by the Ghana Armed Forces.

The policy of releasing over-aged soldiers was aimed at releasing troops who have dedicated 25 years of their lives to serve this nation and its people in terms of capability and capacity to handle assigned tasks professionally and effectively to pave way for young soldiers.

In fact during the 2008 electioneering period, a loan was contracted by the then Government to pay off troops comprising the 1977 year group but this was used by the then opposition and now ruling NDC and its allies against the NPP.

This blog has learned that beginning April this year, the above mentioned year groups would be sent home, a situation that has troubled many of them.

Interestingly, a letter intercepted by this paper and signed by Brigadier General Y Nyamekye-Yeboah, Defence Financial Comptroller dated 01 February, 2010 and copied to the Military Assistant (MA) to Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) states that in 2010, the 1978 and 1979 year groups are going to be released.

The very same letter states that in 2011, the 1980, 81 and 82 year groups are going home whilst in 2012, the 1983 year group will go home, but instead of that, all the affected year groups are being retired by force in April this year!

The notifications of release for the 1978 and 1979 year groups of Other Ranks (ORs) are due to start their Terminal Leave with effect from 1 April 2010 whilst those for 1980, 81, and 82 starts from 15 April 2010 and 1983 is 19 April 2010.

The number of troops for 1978 and 1979 are 296 and 243 respectively whilst those for 1980, 1981 and 1982 are 175 and 151 respectively. The official figure for the 1983 in-take is 655 but this we gather may go up as the 1983 year group boasts of batch 14, 15,16,17 and the 64 Infantry Regiment which had their training in Cuba.

In all, the Ghana Armed Forces is going to pay Thirty Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety Seven Thousand Six Hundred and Twenty one Ghana Cedis Ten Pesewas (GH¢30, 997,621.10) as End of Service Benefits for the affected troops and Three Million, Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Eight Ghana Cedis Seven Pesewa (GH¢3,450,748.07) bringing the grand total to Thirty Four Million, Four Hundred and Forty Eight Thousand Three Hundred and Sixty Nine Ghana Cedis Seventeen Pesewas (GH¢34,448,369.17).