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Ghana’s multiple arrested development

By Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
Posted on Monday, 4 July 2016 14:10

Ghanaian children of a certain type are strongly encouraged to learn to read with phonetics. A teacher patrols the desks and wields a ruler, with a nasty educational gleam of intent in the eye. In unison and on command, children square their shoulders and take the alphabet pronunciation head on: ABCDEFGH – with a suitable rolling Ghanaian accent – ‘Ahhh, Beeerh, Keerh, Derrh, Ehhh, Ffu Ggg, Hhhii’ resounds.

Fortunately in these days of development, the behemoth known as the Ghana Education Service (GES) supervises and approves the printing of local references to help modern children conjugate.

The book ‘prize’ goes this year to the Natural Science for Primary School text. The author’s explanation of the common use of the human head is “for carrying load”.

Wampah’s meteoric career did not give him a head for heights – or bookkeeping

Before load shedding, we had commercial vehicles that were overloaded. Load on head, adding possibly to thick skulls and stiff necks, ups the development quotient considerably.

The GES and the education ministry have great form. In 2015, after suffering in silence, a rather precious junior high school teacher publicly petitioned the ministry to withdraw a series of science textbooks replete with grammatical, factual and typographical errors.

At the time, the books had only been in use for three years. Perhaps the ‘printer’s devil’ had struck and nobody noticed; or somebody noticed and couldn’t or wouldn’t raise an objection; or simply, maybe nobody cared.

The explanation for our national turgidity lies in the early withdrawal method. Our collective intention as a country is to make a great fuss and then peel off to make another great fuss, with predictably low returns. No follow up or delivery is required. The science textbooks are probably still in use, but who knows, who cares? That precocious teacher was probably transferred far up-country to Busunu.

More early withdrawal: our central bank governor resigned in late March – via Reuters news agency, as one does – five months before the end of his contract. Henry Kofi Wampah’s meteoric career unfortunately did not help him to develop a head for heights – or, it seems, for the fundamentals of bookkeeping.

During his term in office, inflation surged – 18.5% at the last check. Currency depreciation also ballooned after his bumbling intervention in the forex market to shore up the cedi gave him a nosebleed. Wampah’s early bath, 24 hours before April Fool’s Day, is significant, as were his stated reasons for jumping ship. He left before parliamentary and presidential elections due later this year to enable a new team to settle down.

The last time we held elections, the Electoral Commission spent 878% more than its approved budget, and 17 ministries and their departments followed this admirable lead.

In his 2016 State of the Nation address, President John Mahama told Parliament: “Situations where huge deficits are created in our budget after every election must stop.
I will exercise strict fiscal discipline in this election year […] in order that we can transform this negative narrative.”

If oil prices had held, the government could have plugged its deficits. They did not and alack, we find ourselves about to issue a fifth eurobond to keep the wolves at bay.

As part of his farewell, Wampah begrudgingly announced that the country’s debt as of December 2015 was $25.6bn, or 72.9% of Ghana’s gross domestic product. So the headlines continue: Fiscal and external deficits are vulnerable to shocks, and Ghana’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating remains a B with a negative outlook.

Wampah’s departure has nothing to do with the arrest of his son-in-law in Ghana in early March. The charges of multimillion-pound drug trafficking in the United Kingdom against David McDermott, a British citizen married to Wampah’s daughter, is another case of the early withdrawal method. The gentleman in question had been living happily in Accra it seems, for years.

Cynics suggest that it took the security agencies a while to download an email from Interpol, read it – with all that phonetics training – and then find McDermott. Those cynics have been shamed by the recent burst of energy from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) which has been, as we say in Ghana, ‘up and doing’.

It issued a press statement in which it talked about the “bereau”, and cue the usual titters. However, the BNI’s arrest of three retired South African police officers with valid work visas, spelt out their intent perfectly.

The three were detained in March during training exercises with the security detail of the minority party’s presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo. The news of the ‘arrest’ was carefully stage managed and in apparent defiance of a court order granting the three bail. The BNI kept the ‘alleged terrorists’ incommunicado for the Easter bank holiday weekend. They were deported, and the legal case against them quietly dropped.

A week after this flaccid slide back into impunity, the national security adviser, a very colourful alhaji, ordered the arrest of his nosy neighbour. Peering over Alhaji Baba Kamara’s wall, the neighbour took pictures of an impressive number of 4x4s being spraypainted in the ruling party’s colours.

Matters were aggravated when the neighbour, it seems, shared the pictures and videos of the ongoing makeover on social media. The vehicles, made-in-India Mahindras, will presumably soon be launched at a colourful ceremony as campaign vehicles for the ruling party … Cue the lawyers and civil rights activists.

Fortunately, communications minister Edward Omane Boamah was quick on the draw. He has also been ‘double hatting’ as information minister as well.

Recently, he has become a serial work philanderer, taking on a third job as head of presidential communications as well. It will take the multi-faceted Boamah no time to discover why a high-ranking politician appointed by the president to hold national office, continues to run a private business.

The alhaji said that his personal property houses, albeit temporarily, cars – procured at what cost by whom is not the issue – that were being resprayed in the National Democratic Congress’s party colours. He will naturally be in charge of securing the ballot box for the next election – from a Mahindra.

Repeat after me: “Ahhh, Beeerh, Keerh, Derh, Ehhh Ffu Ggg, Hhhii.”

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