Okoampa-Ahoofe: In the Choice of His Brother, Mills Bests Kufuor!

In the wake of President John Evans Atta-Mills’ naming of his twin-brother to membership of a “ten-man” Economic Advisory Council (EAC), ideological opposition tongues have, reportedly, begun wagging over what many of these critics perceive to be palpable evidence of nepotism being at the very heart of the president’s employment agenda.

The preceding, we are told, comes largely as a result of members of the then-opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) having vehemently criticized ex-President John Agyekum-Kufuor over the latter’s appointment of his younger brother, a pediatrician, to the sensitive post of Ghana’s Minister of Defense. And here must also be promptly followed up the curiously bizarre fact of Mr. Kufuor having also, reportedly, named some 17 members of his immediate and extended family into key executive roles during his eight-year tenure. On the latter count, the administrative integrity of Oguaa Kofi has yet to be impugned; and you bet your bottom-dollar that when, and if ever, the same happens on the watch of Ghana’s former tax commissioner, we shall promptly bring it to public attention and scrutiny.

What is different here, however, regards the criteria by which Messrs. Kufuor and Atta-Mills, respectively, appointed their brothers to positions of public trust. In the case of Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, the criticism had more to do with the fact that then-President Kufuor appeared to have unprofessionally domesticated/privatized the critical avenue of national security into one of familial trust, rather than it being purely and objectively a matter of professional merit and expertise.

In other words, it appeared as if Mr. Kufuor had deemed his presidency to be a personal or a bona fide family property that had to be protected at all costs; and who better to do job this but a full-blooded member of the Kufuor clan!

In this, the Kufuor government came to closely and eerily resemble many a fledgling African dictatorship in which a trusted kinsman, rather than a professionally qualified party stalwart, was deemed to be the safest bet for ensuring the leader’s political longevity.

And while he had not succeeded in entrenching dynastic rule in Fourth-Republican Ghana, Mr. Kufuor’s rather impudent attempt to singularly determine who succeeded him, has certainly done serious damage to his integrity as an avid student and practitioner of postcolonial Ghanaian democracy. And, indeed, the recent “honoring” of ex-President Rawlings, a publicly avowed enemy of Ghanaian democracy, by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II, during the latter’s sportive celebration of his tenth-year occupation of the Gold Stool, in the dubious name of Mr. Rawlings having supposedly contributed enormously “to the deepening of democracy,” even as His Majesty also rather disingenuously claimed to be unreservedly “apolitical,” in the vocational/practical sense of the term, ought to give many a patriotic Ghanaian citizen great cause for concern.

And here, too, we hasten to add that whenever we have felt that His Majesty deserved to be commended, we have not hesitated to do so. In the same vein, whenever we have felt that Otumfuo, for whatever idiosyncratic reasons, does not appear to be leveling up with the Ghanaian people at large, as it were, we have not hesitated to call him up on the same count or score.

Indeed, about the only thing bizarre that we find about the composition of the president’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC), and we also fervently hope that it is a purely voluntary enterprise, is the fact that not a single one among the EAC’s membership is a woman. Couple the foregoing with the fact of the NDC priding itself in being a party that retains great respect for the Ghanaian woman, and matters could not be said to be even more bizarre. In sum, if one may enquire: Is the NDC government implying, by its total exclusion of women from the EAC, that there are absolutely no qualified Ghanaian female economists who could readily hold their own among the ranks of the current membership of the Economic Advisory Council? Come on, Oguaa Kofi, you could do far better than this!

Needless to say, we hope that this gaping exclusion of the Ghanaian woman economist from the EAC is a sincere and genuinely unintentional omission, rather than the deep-seated conviction of an impenitent and unregenerate gang of male chauvinists. It is also rather curious that in lauding the president for appointing his brother to the EAC, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, the rump-Convention People’s Party (CPP) presidential candidate for Election 2008, glaringly failed to also remark on the blanket exclusion of women from the council. Or maybe, like his fellow NDC journeymen, Paa Kwesi firmly believes that Ghana’s economic affairs are darn too serious to allow any of our academic and professional womenfolk to meddle with it?

What was also bizarre about ex-President Kufuor’s appointment of his younger brother as Ghana’s Defense Minister, was the abjectly lame defense put up by his staunch defenders, largely NPP top-dogs, that slain American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy had also appointed his younger brother, Robert (RFK), as U.S. Attorney-General.

The fact remains that in both the cases of JFK and President Atta-Mills, the consanguineous appointees were highly qualified for their respective posts, to begin with. In the case of Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, however, the justification (or even vindication) comes in retrospect, and dubiously so, because as most security experts are apt to readily own, Ghana’s newfound political stability and democratic culture have far more to do with the tenor – both ideological and psychological – of the times, particularly the decisive influence of the West, than any particular individual Ghanaian’s managerial acumen.

Still, whether Oguaa Kofi actually requires the patently otiose facility of a formally constituted Economic Advisory Council (EAC), merely because such industrially advanced countries as Obama’s America have one, in order to steer the country’s tottering economy, remains moot. For, as President Atta-Mills, himself, may readily and honestly attest, his histrionic chairing of Mr. Rawlings’ so-called Economic Management Team (EMT), embarrassingly proved to have been all bluster and little substance, a botched cosmetic surgery that may have actually regressed the Ghanaian economy.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]