THE VISITOR WHO CAME IN FROM THE OVAL OFFICE (1)
By: Kwame Gyasi
“Nobody with a vigilant conscience can be satisfied with the current situation”
Akbar Hashenmi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran
Ghana was the first African country, south of the Sahara, to achieve independence from a colonial master. Ghana was the first African country to produce a President of the United Nations in the personality of the late Dr. Quaison Sackey. Ghana was the first African country to produce a Secretary–General of the United Nations, Busumuru Kofi Annan. He served two terms on the trot by worldwiwde acclamation. Ghana produced the first personality in the person of the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to be voted by BBC listeners as African’s Personality of the century”. Ghana is the first African country to host three United States presidents on the trot by three different national governments.
Ghana is the first country in living memory to host, arguably, the three most important religious personalities of the world within a period of one month in the early 1980’s. There were Catholic Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam. Ghana was the first African country to win the African Nation Football Cup four times. Ghana started her national football league five years ahead of the German national football league.
During the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, Ghana had unprecedented five boxes reaching the gold medal zone. The University of Ghana Business School is reputed to be the first business school to be established in the commonwealth. At independence, Ghana’s economy was stronger than that of Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia. At independence Ghana had one of the most distinguished Civil Service in the world.
All these historical facts pale to nothing when one considers the state of Ghana. Ghana today reflects the thoughts of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran, quoted at the beginning of this article. It really does not matter that Rafsanjani was expressing his thought on recent events in his country, Iran. Rafsanjani could as well be expressing his thought on the deplorable state of Ghana’s social, political, economic, democratic, infrastructural, educational, technological, health and basically every ascept of human life. Fifty two years of independence has confirmed the fears of Lee Kuan Yew when he soliloquized years back thus; “I felt sad. I was not optimistic about African (Ghana). I was impressed, but wondered why a country so independent on agriculture should have its brightest and best do Classics – Latin and Greek. If their (Ghana’s) brightest and best gave up the fight and sought refuge in a monastery, not in Africa but in California, the road to recovery would be long and difficult.” (Lee Kuan Yew was speaking about Prof. Abraham).
When Busumuru Kofi Annan was as the United State Secretary–General, he never hid his embarrassment at any time he surveyed the leadership scene of the Africa continent. He constantly felt embarrassed at the morons, the hen- pecked husbands and the waifs parading the continent as heads of states and heads of government of various African countries. He must have felt like an orphan among princes and princesses at international foras at the public opprobrium clandestinely heaped on him from well defined and identified corner as a result of the idiotic behaviors of the leadership.
He always took to educate African leaders the essence of good leadership all to no avail. In fact, one time he was moved to speak aloud thus: “in many countries (Africa) the wrong kinds have made it to leadership. They see power for the sake of power and for their own aggrandizement rather a real understanding of the need to use power to improve their countries. The qualities of the leaders, the misery they have brought to their people and my inability to work with them to turn the situation around are very depressing. Unless we find a way of getting to focus on resolving conflict and turn to key issues of economic and social development, the effort that we are all making will be for naught”.
Indeed, the Busumuru is not African who found himself in leadership position to express anger, sadness and exasperation at the unacceptable incompetence, greed and arrogance of the African leadership landscape. Prof. Sule Gambari, the former Nigerian Under Secretary at the United Nations and recently the United Nations Special Envoy to Burma had this to say: “ Africa failed to produce a productive middle class but instead had produce a parasitic elite that lived off the fat of the land through non – productive activities dependent on political patronage.” Bishop Simon Chihana of the International Fellowship of Christian Churches added his voice this way: “We Africans have borrowed from European and American nations without paying back and this gives power to our leaders to come and control our economies and even monitor our elections”.
Long ago, another famous personality of African descent, Booker T Washington put it a flowery language: “Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion, as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornament gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is much dignity in tilling as in a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities”.
A few weeks back, a very powerful and handsome gentleman with ears which should provide a wealth of artistic impression and delight to any cartoonist visited our shores from the Oval Office with his pretty wife and two charming teenage daughters. The man who destiny has penciled in to succeed Nelson Mandela as the most influential statesman the world has ever produced was President Barrack Hussein Obama, the current President of the United States, arguably the most powerful nation in the world. President Barrack Obama deliberately, as part of his worldwide diplomatic and foreign agenda, selected Ghana as the first black African country to visit. He had earlier made a whistle stop visit to Egypt to do one of the best things he has come to be known to do best; epoch making speeches in which he outlines his diplomatic foreign policy statement for his regional audience.
He came to Ghana with two items on his agenda; firstly to outline a diplomatic and foreign policy statement for Africa and secondly take his wife along a memory lane of the slave trade route. Anything else which happened during the visit was in the world of the village youth, “comedies “. Compared to the two earlier visits of his predecessors, President Clinton and President Bush, to the untutored mind, of the President Obama was an anticlimax. For once, the anxious publics were swerved and never had a dog’s chance to sight, let alone interact with their hero and role model. Secondly nor was left wondering where all the 1000 policemen and policewomen who were detailed to provide security for the august visit, were closed long before and after the Oval Office Visitor was expected to pass or had passed?
Many commentators and critics have already provided their own commentaries and write- ups about the visit from different political, social, and economic, albeit technological viewpoints. In their euphoria, many failed to touch on the lessons of the visit. Worst still many failed to do a digest of the two most important items on the agenda: the speech in Parliament and the visit to the Cape Coast Castle. Many who attempted dealt with the form rather than the substance.
The worst offenders were those who approached the entire visit from the partisan political angle. However, neither my independent mind nor my own opinion of the visit can detract me from calling the cartoon in the DAILY GUIDE in which our august host had to be taken through tutorials by his mentor as to the correct pronunciation of the name of the august visitor.
As I have already stated, President Obama’s ears should provide joy to any cartoonist, be he she an amateur or a professional. Already, a famous Kenyan cartoonist have caricatured the ears of President Obama to look like satellite dishes, an act which could have fetched a death sentence if it had been performed on an African president. So that cartoon in the DAILY GUIDE should have earned the cartoonist of the DAILY GUIDE an honorable mention in President Obama’s speech just as courageous journalist Anas Arimi Ansa earned the recognition he richly deserved.
There are many sub themes around which the visit of President Obama could be treated and discussed. On the positive side, there is the selection of Ghana as the first visit to Africa, south of Sahara, the attention of the nation got, the content of the speech in Parliament, the visit to the historical town and the educational capital of Ghana, the unrealized long term benefit of the visit and many more. On the negative side, many commentators have provided enough of literature to make the people seating at The Castle and in charge of the nations affairs to have enough goose pimples to form a large field of water hyacinth to cover the entire Volta Lake, that is if those honorable people populating The Castle “Know shame”, to quote a well – known Nigeria saying.
The Spectator - page: 6 SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2009