Soldiers

On February 28, 2022, the learned Professor Raymond Atuguba delivered a public lecture at Erata Hotel, East Legon, Accra under the auspices of SOLIDAIRE Ghana. In his lecture, Prof. Atuguba asseverated that a coup is imminent in Ghana. In his own words, “We do not want a coup in this country. Yet, I fear that if we do not act quickly, we may have one on our hands very soon”.

This is what many, including myself, find absurd about the learned Prof’s lecture. It makes no rational sense for a Professor of Law to say “We do not want a coup in this country. Yet, I fear that if we do not act quickly, we may have one on our hands very soon”.

It is difficult to rationalize how a learned law professor, a supposed custodian and advocate of democracy, constitutionalism, and the rule of law, would justify an “imminent coup” on the basis of a faltering economy. Not too long ago, the Ghanaian economy faltered gravely, yet no one asked for a coup. I shall return to this.

Perhaps, the only way to make sense of Atuguba’s ‘nonsense’ of an impending coup because of the current economic challenges is through a partisan political lens. The stark reality is that in the last 65 years of independence, our politics has been an exclusionary one. It has only gotten worse in the 4th Republic. The group or party that forms government gains everything and those who lose power lose everything, especially things they took for granted while in government. It has been described as “the winner takes all” politics.

This results in a situation where Ghana is seen as belonging to those who win elections or form government and those who associate with them. Those who lose elections and get kicked out of government only see RED. In opposition, Ghana is abominable, nothing works, and the future is a horrible and dreadful one. They manage to convince the nearly half of the voter population that is associated with them that Ghana has no future. Sadly, this appears to be Prof’s situation.

At the public lecture he was introduced as the Dean of the University of Ghana School of Law. This, according to him, makes it difficult to speak the “naked truth”. However, he deliberately failed to remind his audience that he was once the Executive Secretary to former President John Mahama. And hence he was not just a Dean, but also a politician. And history in Ghana has taught us all what politicians do and say while in government and what they do and say when in opposition.

The Dean of the UG School of Law makes the most fallacious statement that “No one speaks the truth” in Ghana. This is most unfortunate; but it is understandable. In the partisan political environment that we have created for ourselves, there are many “truths”. What is true for Atuguba and his political associates is a horrible lie for their adversaries.

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The reverse is true. Having postulated that “we all live a lie”, Professor Atuguba exonerated himself and proceeded with his “truth” about Ghana. All hear him, Atuguba, the POLITICAL PROFESSOR!

I am compelled to agree with Professor Atuguba about the state of the Ghanaian economy. There are monumental challenges. It is not novel to recount these challenges, no additional knowledge is gained by doing that. As Einstein once said, “any fool can know, the point is to understand”. A proper understanding is important, not a jaundiced one laced with partisan politics.

On page 16 of his lecture, Professor Atuguba tells Ghanaians that “we must not accept the lie that the current economic crisis is due to COVID-19”. We hear you, Professor. However, in your conclusion, you say among other things that “we are living in a really fucked up world today. A third world war is imminent over Ukraine, of all places. A COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the world”. I guess this “fucked up world” is minus Ghana?! I hope Prof and his political associates can elevate their minds from “knowing” that a third world war beckons, to understanding that the prospect of that war alone partly explains the rising fuel price.

Professor Atuguba, the rising fuel price is not a Ghana problem. As you try to adjust from “knowing” to “understanding”, please read the following article: Rising fuel costs are crippling Africa’s economies .[1] You will see that in South Africa, fuel prices have risen by 40.5% in the last one year. In Burkina Faso, fuel prices have risen by 8% this year. The Kenyan government has raised taxes on household goods such as cooking gas, fuel, and food by 14%, while Nigeria, with historically low fuel prices, is in its fourth week of severe fuel shortages.

Prof, your conclusion that “Today, things are 10 times worse” than they were in 2014 is debatable. It does also underscore your partisan and twisted understanding of reality. The idea that you and your political apparatchiks are right and that all the groups that you accuse of being loudly silent today are wrong, is most absurd and arrogant. Please accept that while we all know what is happening, some have better understanding and appreciation that goes beyond your partisan narratives.

Prof. Atuguba, in 2014, fuel prices were lower than they are today, but do not forget that fuel shortages were regular occurrences in 2014. In June 2014, the country was hit by severe fuel shortage because your government was owing the Bulk Oil Distribution Companies (BDCs) GHC1.8 billion.

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In October 2014, the country experienced a debilitating gas shortage (Graphic online, October 6, 2014). In December 2012 the country under your darling President John Mahama, was hit by an acute fuel shortage that lasted for several weeks. Today, notwithstanding the fact they are expensive, at least petroleum and gas are available.

Prof. Atuguba, remember that for much of 2014, the country was in the grip of DUMSOR. Businesses were collapsing at an unprecedented rate. Welders could not get electricity to do their welding; cold store operators looked on while their products (fish and meat) rot, wiping out their capital; and mechanics could not do their repair works.

School children had to learn under street lights and doctors had to conduct surgeries under phone torches. The night time was a complete nightmare for Ghanaians. The country lost about 2% of its GDP in 2014 to DUMSOR alone. That translates into a loss of USD$680 million (ISSER, 2015). Today, the lights are on for most Ghanaians throughout the day. This costs government a fortune.

Prof Atuguba, you will recall that in 2014, your government cancelled the teacher and nursing training allowances. As you may know, those allowances have been restored by the Akufo-Addo government. Interestingly, you and your boss, John Mahama, – two beneficiaries of the Northern Scholarship – were struggling to pay feeding grants for that scholarship.

Threats to close schools were rampant. Today, Ghanaians facing difficulties understand that they do not have to pay for school fees because of the introduction of free senior high school (Free SHS). Yes, Free SHS has its problems, as with all policies, some of which emanates from the economic difficulties we currently have. But the truth is that Free SHS offers parents, guardians and relatives of school going children, enormous financial relief. Certainly Prof, you will agree that it will be most unfair to describe silence of such parents as hypocritical.

Prof. Atuguba, you will again recall that in 2014, your government had already sealed off the public sector to new entrants. Trained teachers and nurses could not be employed by the State even though there were more than 100,000 teacher shortages across the country.

The hospitals and clinics needed more nurses. The CHIP Compounds had no trained medical personnel. It might interest you to know that this government has recruited several thousands of teachers and nurses. In November 2021 alone, government gave clearance for the recruitment of an additional 16,000 teachers.

Prof. Atuguba, I am sure you have forgotten that in 2014, your government confiscated the dollar deposit of Ghanaians. Yes, the John Mahama government in its desperate attempt to arrest the depreciation of the cedi restricted access of Ghanaians to their dollar deposits. Yes, a lot happened in 2014 than you want to remember!

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Prof. Atuguba, in the period 2013-2017, when you and your darling Mahama were in charge of the affairs of this country, Ghanaians really suffered. According to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS, 2019), for the period 2013-2017, more than half a million Ghanaians became poor. The first time since 1992, that the absolute number of the poor in Ghana have increased. These were men and women of ruined fortunes; yet they neither called for coups nor revolutions. No Never!

Prof. Atuguba, reflective Ghanaians continue to ask what happened to cause all those miseries? What had happened? Not much adversity had befallen our dear country during your time as the Executive Secretary to the President for all these hardships. If anything, you had inherited an oil economy with fresh injection of petrodollars.

Before you resigned in 2014 or thereabout, the country had received more than USD$2billion oil money. You may remember that in 2012, your government allocated USD$165million of the oil money to the Office of the President for infrastructure development.

Will you be honest enough to tell Ghanaians which infrastructure projects the Office of the President directly undertakes? Perhaps, you will appreciate a little reminder on the fact that your government led by John Mahama taxed everything there was to be taxed, including condoms and our dear hardworking ‘kayaye’ sisters.

Prof. Atuguba, we would like you to know that we appreciate the current economic situation is not good. We know the debt level is high and rising. We know that inflation and the general cost of living are rising above the pockets of the ordinary Ghanaian. But, unlike you, we accept that in the 65 years of Ghana’s nationhood, no event has had the most cataclysmic impact on Ghana and the rest of the world like the COVID-19 pandemic. Shutting down Accra and Kumasi for three weeks had never happened in our history.

Closing the Kotoka International Airport for nearly a year is unprecedented. The land borders remain closed. Compelling hotels and tourist centers to close and banning conferences and workshops have never happened before. Closing the schools and universities for about a year while still paying teachers/lecturers is a big deal with no precedent in our history.

Prof. Atuguba, if you will be candid with yourself, in 2014 the Ghanaian economy was as challenged as it is today. However, for you, in 2014 the time was not ripe for a coup. It was only ripe for Prof Atuguba to quietly exit the Flagstaff House into obscurity back into academia. We definitely want to hear our “intellectuals” speak on national issues. But when they do speak, they must be honest with their audience and the Ghanaian people.

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