Is oil curse here already?

With I.K. Gyasi

The observation is that oil can bring many blessings to a country that possesses it, but that it can also come along with its big curse.

Though the first barrel of our oil is officially yet to come out of the hard earth or the sea, it seems some of the curses are already here, blighting individuals and possibly, the whole nation. One such individual who should watch his step is Vice-President John Dramani Mahama.

They say that when you think you know somebody very well, something happens to make you realise that you do not know him at all.

I have always regarded the Vice President, my fellow Old Vandal, as a very gentle person who keeps his cool even under fire. I recall his hardly perceptible show of sadness, as he talked of the unflattering picture of the ‘North’ (Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions) as a place of violence, and the need to settle disputes in a non-violent manner.

What made him flip so uncharacteristically, when talking about the necessity to use part of our oil as collateral to secure loans for development?

He used the expression, “What the hell!” The CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF CURRENT ENGLISH states that the expression is used to show anger, disbelief, etc.

He used the word ‘baloney’ also spelt as ‘boloney’. It is interesting to note that he seemed to be uncomfortable in his use of that word. He was telling us that he was borrowing the word from ex-President George Bush, Jnr., the word is a slang meaning ‘humbug’ or ‘nonsense’.

If another person had displayed such bellicosity, I would not have been surprised. After all, we appear to be in a season of insults, some of them unprovoked and unmerited. But, for the man I thought I knew to show anger the way he did, made me sad indeed.

He said it would be ‘foolish’ (another word of his) not to use part of the oil money for development. “Fair enough!” The question is who inserted clause 5 in the Bill?

Did the Bill not come to Parliament after the Cabinet had presumably discussed it thoroughly? Where was Mr. Mahama when the Bill was being discussed at cabinet meetings?

It is not a sin or crime to change one’s mind if, and when it is absolutely necessary to do so. But it should not be made to appear as if it is the Minority that is causing all the problems.
It was not the Minority that introduced a clause that sought to tie the hand of the Government. If the Government has changed its mind, let there be the appropriate apologies, not insults or blame-shifting.

Why was Mr. Mahama angry? Is it because of the assurances he had given to a Chinese firm, Pierson Capital Group, in his letter? By the way, was President John Evans Atta Mills aware of this letter? What about the Cabinet?

If neither the President nor other members of the Cabinet knew of the writing of this letter, if no one had a copy, and if the Vice President used his own authority to write such a letter, then he has questions to answer. The oil curse fell on Mr. John Jinapor, the Vice President’s spokesperson, when he flatly and truculently denied the existence of such a letter.

In a different political culture, Mr. Jinapor should have immediately resigned or been sacked. But, there he was, unrepentant and still clutching at straws, still firmly ensconced in his position as spokesperson. The man does not even know that certain letters must be, and are signed, by the boss himself. Even before his visible display of anger, Mr. Mahama had been caught between a rock and a hard place, when he denied ever promising ten percent of oil revenues to develop the Western Region. When a GHANAIAN TIMES report of what he said was read in Parliament, only watery and unconvincing rationalisation followed.

I thought that my other fellow Old Vandal, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information, had mellowed. I was mistaken. Here he was, imputing evil motives to the Minority’s opposition to collaterisation (what a word!).

The Minority was being personal and partisan, they were not being nationalistic, they were hypocritical and parochial, they were afraid that the success of the present Government would ensure that they (the Minority) did not come to power, etc., etc. Echoes of Mr. Alban Bagbin on the STX housing deal!!! Is the oil bringing or deepening polarisation instead of unity?

The Deputy Minister of Information rhetorically posed the question, whether we should just reduce everything to partisan political terms. No, we should not, Old Vandal. But the history says that is what has been happening since independence. Check the Hansard, Sir.

Boycotts, walk-outs, speeches against, voting against, ridicule, etc. Change of government comes and the programme is changed or fully embraced. Akosombo Dam (Kwame Nkrumah), Ghana education Trust Fund – GETFUND (Rawlings), and National Health Insurance Scheme (Kufuor). Where will it all end?

It is said that a Ghanaian oil company known as the EO Group was instrumental in bringing KOSMOS to Ghana. For its reward, the EO Group was given a 3% (three percent) share by KOSMOS.

It is regrettable that the EO Group has been the subject of intense suspicion and an equally intense investigation that took the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General to the United States of America. The US Department of Justice and other agencies were contacted with a view of finding something incriminating against the EO Group.

Nothing was found, and yet, our Minster of Justice and Attorney General could still go to our Parliament and create the impression that the EO Group was still being investigated by Ghana’s Criminal Investigations Department. Why?

Is that the way to treat enterprises by Ghanaians? Or is it the case that the EO Group is “incorrect”, politically and otherwise?

Nigeria had so much oil money (petro-dollars) that at one time government officials stated that the problem with Nigeria was not money, but how to spend the petro-dollars that kept pouring into the treasury bags.

We know what happened: projects, corruption, plain stealing of the money, degradation of the land and sea, neglect of agriculture, the springing up of rebels in the Niger Delta, etc. What are the guarantees that it would be a different story in Ghana?

We must be cautious. While we need to have hope, we should be careful how we count our chickens before they are hatched. We should not allow ourselves to be divided, as we contemplate the prospect of using the expected oil wealth. Mutual suspicion and insults will tear this country apart.
The oil curse is real.

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