A President’s Post-Christmas Stress Disorder

Ebo Quansah in Accra

President Mills (left), Dr. Grace Bediako, Government Statistician (middle),Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan - Chairman, Electoral Commission (right)

It is a new model of working out the economic well being of the Ghanaian. When the price of crude oil hit $147 a barrel, a gallon of refined petrol was offered for GH¢ 5.5 in this land of our birth.

Yesterday, a gallon of the same stuff was hiked to GH¢ 6.8. This time, crude on the international market is going for a little under $90. It tells much about the new model under the Better Ghana rhetoric that Ghanaians are paying more than the price that made the then leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in opposition to promise to reduce the price of petrol drastically, once the keys to Government House was handed over to the former taxman.

Unlike his pledge to put money in the pockets of Ghanaians, which aided the vote on December 28, 2008, this pledge has not been repudiated. The last time, President John Evans Atta Mills was in Parliament to read the State of the Nation Address in 2010, he told bewildering nationals of this republic that there were no residue in the memory to remind him of the pledge to put money in the pockets of hard-up citizens of this nation, prompting one analyst to evaluate the size of the Presidential memory chip.

Evidence is emerging that in the magical feat of the Professor, when the economy improves, the people grow poorer.  In the same vein, reduction of inflation, now in single digits for the first time in the contemporary history of this republic, rather triggers steep rise in prices of goods and services.

On New Year’s Day, I was at the Dansoman Market for the first time since my resident permit was abrogated in September 2007. I asked for the price of a guinea fowl, one item on the chicken menu I have grown to love.

I will like to believe that many are those who share my taste for the fowl that brought so many problems to three tribes in Northern Ghana over two decades ago. Though it still retains its distinctive taste, the new price under the Better Ghana rhetoric of those who recently published that Green Book of phantom achievements was a bit shocking.

The going price was quoted at GH¢ 20. It took a lot of haggling to get the price reduced to GH¢ 15 each. This was a fowl that was exchanged for as little as GH¢ 3 during the Yuletide celebration of 2008. When I enquired about the ordinary fowl, I was quoted prices ranging from GH¢ 15 to GH¢ 30.

Many were Ghanaian homes that could not afford any treat for the Christmas and New Year festivities. It was a long holiday period of torture for many bread winners. It began with no gas for many. When people carried their empty cylinders from station to station, it told a story of a nation, where the centre could not hold.

These are nationals of a society that has just pumped its first oil in commercial quantity. To add to the comedy, a day-long District Assembly election is threatening to become an activity spanning infinity. What makes this local election interesting is the posture of Dr. Kwadwo Afari–Gyan.

Barely three weeks to the vote, he stood in the Volta Region complaining that money had not even been released by the Central Government for the exercise.

When the vote threatened to become a flop, he singled out funding as not one of the factors. His beef was that the printers did a poor job. But everybody knows that if the funding had been released on time, it would have afforded the Electoral Commission the opportunity to rectify any wrong before the voting day.

It is interesting that on the day President John Evans Atta Mills turned on the wheels of fortune on the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, he thundered to the cheers of oil workers on the rig and millions of Ghanaians back home: “We rejoice.”

On the evidence of the hapless Christmas and New Year holidays, and especially on the new price hike in petroleum prices, Ghanaians cannot rejoice even if they had any intention of rejoicing on the oil find.

The economic policies of the Ekumfi-born Professor, guided by Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, with statistics provided by my Viking colleague, Dr. Grace Bediako, are as relevant as Jerry Rawlings booming on social justice and combating corruption.

The economy is working magic, we are told on daily basis. But the reality on the ground has a distinctive picture of poverty in the land. As the economy improves, Ghanaians grow poorer.

In one extra-ordinary feat, we leap-frogged from a poor Third World economy to a Middle Income status without knowing. At a time when we were grappling with HIPC, we had apparently already transcended the boundaries of poverty. Like most happenings in Atta Mills’ regime, we woke up to be told that we had reached our goal five years earlier.

Here, we gave ourselves various time-tables to get there. In NDC Mark One, the magic year was 2020. Never was any official communication issued in the Rawlings regime, when assurance was not given that the year 2020 was when Ghana was destined to be in the Middle Income bracket.

When ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor and his New Patriotic Party burst on the scene in 2001, the date changed. The magic year became 2015, wiping five years off the mark. In the end, we achieved the magic feat without anybody knowing.

It took Dr. Grace Bediako, one morning after her Ghana Statistical Service had failed to capture most Ghanaians and their households in the 2010 Population and Housing Census, to realize that this nation had been a Middle Income society since 2006. At that time, we were still grappling with HIPC.

Like everything in this society, there is a phantom approach to serious business, which is why Jerry Rawlings could get away with murder.

The celebration of the December 31st coup d’etat that condemned many innocent Ghanaians to their early graves is officially barred as a celebratory event involving state resources.

All the same, Jerry Rawlings always gather the chosen few on the grounds adjacent to the Jubilee House, owned by the state, where invectives of incoherent nature are poured out from the mouth of Ghana’s supreme con man.

As many homes as possible were consigned to Christmas and New Year festivities without cheers, Jerry Rawlings stood at the cenotaph at the Revolution Square and reminded Ghanaians of the pains many would like to forget in a hurry.

Before I come to the thrust of the former air force pilot’s remembrance day of insults, it is of importance to remind Ghanaians that God Almighty has a soft spot for this nation. Oh yes, God is a Ghanaian.

That is why people with a long history of violence point to the meek of society as the cause of societal problems. When Jerry John demands that those who have killed do not deserve to live, did he reach out to his inner self? Who has shed more blood in this republic than the former junta head?

In the name of a revolution that transformed his life from penury existence to one of the richest in the society, many were those killed for no apparent reason, than they had worked hard for themselves. In June 1979 and on his return to the body politic for close to two centuries, Jerry Rawlings used several means to eliminate those he saw as threats to his fiefdom.

He has never been tried for any of those murders. He has also not been asked to account for more than three hundred Ghanaians, including Nana Osae Ntifu Ababio, known in private life as Ben Brako Bismarck, Aburihene and Adontehene of the Akuapem Traitional Area in those days, before various intrigues led to the division in the ranks of the people of Akuapem.
Apart from condemning three former heads of state and five high-ranking military personnel to the firing squad, without any justification, the former junta head inflicted all manner of pain on hard-working Ghanaians.

Haranguing the sitting President cannot be said to be the best means of getting Rawlings heard. But when you dine with the devil, I suppose you have no right to complain about devilish intensions, which is why President John Evans Atta Mills would continue to feature on Rawlings misadventure, bordering on comic relief.

On a more serious note, someone should kindly tell the President that Ghanaians are fed up with his policy of pilling more misery on already hard-up nationals. Enough of the phantom economic indicators from the President. I shall return!

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