Anytime that I respond to his running circus of contretemps, his defenders and lackeys accuse me of maligning a decent man without provocation. The irony, though, is that while Ghana’s portly Vice-President, admittedly, sports quite a noble mien, I find absolutely nothing about the man that is uniquely or any remarkably decent. His major involvement in the STX housing scam, for example, did not endear Mr. John Dramani Mahama to many well-meaning and level-headed Ghanaians. Very likely, many of those who had hitherto held him in high esteem had been rendered crestfallen with horror and incredulity.
For me, though, his widely remarked association with “Shit-Bombing,” as Mr. Rawlings’ Communications Minister, remains indelible. And while I can perfectly appreciate the man’s youthful exuberance when it comes to drumming investment support for Ghana, nonetheless, when such exuberance overreaches modesty and decorum and crudely veers into the outright farcical, then, of course, I have absolutely no alternative but to stringently observe the same.
Anyway, I don’t know precisely what the man was thinking when recently, while addressing a cross-section of members of the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Africa Business Initiative (ABI), Mr. Mahama was reported to have told his audience that: “Ghana is to become the leading oil producer in Africa by the next five years[,] given the country’s [oil] reserve position” (Ghanaweb.com 6/17/11).
Indeed, he may not know this, but most Americans who are interested in seriously investing in any country’s economy, particularly countries in Africa, often tend to have conducted a fairly adequate modicum of research on that country and the industry of their entrepreneurial interest. And in the age of Internet technology, the level of information access and acquisition can be nothing short of staggering.
And it is almost certain that prior to making his rather hyperbolical claim about Ghana assuming the pride of place in oil production on the African continent, Mr. Mahama had availed himself of a piddling little or absolutely nothing on the subject of his presentation. It is almost certain, because Mr. Mahama had also added that until very recently, “the media portrayed Africa as a continent in crisis and backward in economic development” and that “these perceptions are [fast] changing because Africa is now emerging as a strong economic [force], following [in] the footsteps of the Asian tigers.”
Of course, enlightened Americans like those represented by the membership of the Africa Business Initiative section of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce are well aware of the salutary wind of democratic political culture sweeping over the African continent, because it was largely the United States, with a remarkable backing of the erstwhile Western-European colonial powers, that induced the kind of progressive political culture that Mr. Mahama is now proudly and shamelessly bragging about.
What must also be promptly clarified in no uncertain terms, is the fact that contrary to what he wanted his American audience to believe, it was not the media that had portrayed “Africa as a continent in crisis” but rather, unprincipled politicians like Messrs. Mahama and Atta-Mills who had blindly and doggedly allowed themselves to be chaperoned by desperate and megalomaniacal stratocrats like Mr. Rawlings for two wasteful decades. Thus when the Vice-President proudly asserts that “Ghana has held five successful elections since the [country’s] return to constitutional rule in 1992,” he could not be alluding to the same former Gold Coast in which I was born and brought up.
The truth of the matter is that Ghana did not become a constitutional democracy in the practical sense of the term until the 2000 general election that brought the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) to power. The two previous elections, in which former Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings ran virtually unopposed, could at best be characterized as “transitional elections.” For, needless to say, Elections ’92 and ’96 were pro-forma charades geared towards the bizarre appeasement and peaceable easing out of the longtime Ghanaian strongman from the veritable wasteland and cesspool that had become the country’s political landscape.
Anyway, it is quite obvious that the basis upon which Vice-President Mahama predicated his projection vis-à-vis Ghana becoming the foremost oil producer on the African continent, cannot be any other than the jaded fact of Ghana having become the first sub-Saharan African country to have regained its sovereignty from European colonial domination. Which is just another diplomatic and longwinded way of saying that Mr. Mahama’s projection is indisputably nothing more than a figment of his own flighty imagination.
For starters, at less than 120,000 barrels of crude oil a day, Ghana ranks number 87 out of some 114 oil-producing countries around the globe. On the other hand, Nigeria which is the foremost crude-oil producer in Africa ranks 15th on the global production rankings table. Presently, Ghana does not even rank among the top 10 crude-oil producers on the African continent. And so unless he thought that he was addressing a group of Pre-K pupils in Conja-Salaga or Asante-Kokofu (tongue in cheek, of course), it is not clear why Mr. Mahama imagined that he could so readily fool any group of well-informed mature adults like the Washington, DC-based membership of the United States Chamber of Commerce. What is more, in reckoning Ghana’s purportedly massive oil reserves, the second most powerful leader of the National Democratic Congress glaringly, and perhaps even conveniently, failed to compare his country’s oil reserves with those of the leading producers on the continent, such as Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Angola, Egypt, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon (see CIA Fact Book; also, Clickafrique.com).
Of course, it makes for good self-congratulatory public relations gimmickry to trot out economic growth figures ranging between 7 and 14 percent, and exuberantly claim that Ghana’s economy has been positively transformed beyond belief. The real taste of Mamfe Tart, however, as any one of my Akuapem kinsmen and women can readily attest, lies in the eating. Of course, it also pretty much depends on the health status of one’s taste-buds, and especially how well one cleans one’s buccal cavity or mouth.
Anyway, what kind of salutary economic transformation relates so inversely steep to the quality of both a country’s educational system and its health delivery services, such as bizarrely prevails under the Mills-Mahama tenure of the so-called National Democratic Congress?
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com, 2011).