Upside-Down Republic: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
8th August 2015
I think it’s time I clarified a few issues with everyone. This won’t take long, I hope.
You know, I haven’t been in this job for very long. A year and four months exactly today. During that time, I’ve been given many labels. I’ve been labelled anti-government. I’ve been labelled NPP. I’ve been labelled NDC. I’ve been labelled PPP and CPP too, on a number of occasions. Very often, I’ve been accused of being biased cynical and negative. I’ve been called disruptive and disrespectful. One person o. So today, I think it’s time I told you all what makes me tick, so that going forward, we understand each other a bit better.
Am I NPP? Or am I NDC? Am I against the government or am I against the opposition. Well I am against wrong. That is all. Is it not possible for a person to be Ghanaian without belonging to a political party? Must I belong to one or the other? If I must be honest, there is no political party in Ghana that is doing enough to earn my membership. The suggestion that I might be anything like these misguided fanatics you hear on the radio attempting to defend the horrific deeds their parties commit frankly offends me. I belong to no political party in Ghana because they have all got it wrong.
We as a nation have all got it so horribly wrong. You have heard me describe Ghana as an upside-down republic. What do I mean by this? Well, an upside-down republic is one that has got everything the wrong way round, that has mixed up our priorities and continues to actively put effort into moving backwards instead of forward.
An upside-down republic is a nation where the people appoint individuals to serve them, and those servants then oppress their masters.
An upside-down republic is where we protect the strong against the weak, finance the rich while bankrupting the poor, defend the criminal and endanger the victim, give special treatment to the privileged while disregarding the impoverished, give voice to the oppressors while silencing the disenfranchised.
Or maybe you think I’m speaking too much English. So let me break it down.
An upside-down republic is where we elect people from among us to help solve our national problems. We tell them to fix our bad roads, and then we give them V8s to drive around in so they can’t feel the potholes. We want them to fix our fuel prices, and then we give them free fuel to drive around in the V8s. We tell them to solve Dumsor, and then we give them generators. We want them to reduce the occurrence of armed robbery, and we give them police bodyguards.
We demand that they improve our health sector, and then we let them go to South Africa for medical care. We demand that they provide quality education for our children, and watch as they send their own children to boarding schools in Switzerland. We want them to strengthen our cedi, and then we pay them accommodation allowances in dollars. We do everything to insulate these elected and appointed officials from the problems we appointed them to solve, and then we are surprised that they aren’t finding solutions for us? That is an upside-down republic.
When a Lexus drives recklessly and almost kills a taxi driver, and the police stop the Lexus, the windows come down and they see a man in a suit sitting in the back. They salute and wave him on. Then they arrest the taxi driver. That is an upside-down republic.
People ask whether I am against the Government. No, I am not. I am not against any individual, any party or organisation. I am just against doing the wrong thing. And do you know why I am against doing the wrong thing? Because I know we are capable of doing the right thing. I’ve seen it done elsewhere by people who are not smarter or better than us. So why can’t we do it here?
Simple things: The other day, someone reminded me that from November onwards, I won’t be able to use my passport. I’ll have to change it to the new biometric one. So I went to the passport office. Dear Lord, that place is a zoo! I can’t imagine the number of people who turn up there every single morning from al corners of the country, and go home at night without getting what they came for.
Just getting through the gate itself is a nightmare. Then you have all manner of shady characters controlling your access to every stage of the process WITH THE HELP OF THE OFFICERS ON THE INSIDE! Goro boys and criminals handling your sensitive confidential biometric national identity data! And that is if you are lucky enough to get that far in the process. In fact, if you want to see evidence that Ghana is broken, go to the passport office.
Meanwhile, this is the easiest problem to solve! We know that November is our deadline. We know how many passports are in the system that need renewing. We know how many renewals we can do in a day. We know how many new passport applications we receive in a day. It shouldn’t take Prof. Stephen Hawking to calculate whether or not we will hit the deadline at this current rate.
And if we won’t make it with our current capacity, we should be able to calculate by how much we need t increase our capacity and expand our facility to ensure we meet the deadline without subjecting Ghanaians to the serious risk of identity theft posed by this current zoo system run by these Goro boys at the passport office.
People ask if I am against the NPP. No. I am just against doing the wrong thing. The NPP is supposed to be a government in waiting. Right now, with all their in-fighting and taking each-other to court, attacking each other with machetes and acid, I don’t even know whether they are an opposition party in waiting. In other parts of the world, the opposition doesn’t just criticize government. The opposition provides alternatives. If you think a government policy is wrong, you provide an alternative. So that the people can compare and decide in the ballot box which one they prefer.
To this day, in spite of all the noise and demonstrations, I am yet to read a comprehensive policy from the NPP or any other opposition party on how they would end Dumsor. Our economy is bleeding. All we hear from the opposition are brilliant verbose descriptions of the problem, and bullet-pointed lists of how the president has failed. No solutions. If you want to be in government, give people a reason to choose you. Don’t describe the problem to us. e already know what the problem is. We live the problem every day. Give us solutions.
People accuse me of being disrespectful. Please believe me, I am not. But I also do not think for one minute that the officials elected and appointed to work for me are any better than me. I definitely don’t think the privilege of anybody’s high office places me in a position of servitude to them. They are supposed to serve us, not the other way around. That is the meaning of a republic. It means the people rule. It means we are the boss. Not them.
There is a video on YouTube of David Cameron walking into a hospital to campaign or do politics or whatever – basically taking the opportunity to create a nice photo op with hospital patients. The doctor in charge came in and sacked the prime minister from the ward. Yes, he may be the Prime Minister, but in that ward, the Doctor was in charge. It was his job to look after those patients, and he would not allow anything that would not be in their medical interest – including a disruptive visit from the Prime Minister. Was he disrespectful? Definitely not. Would that ever happen in Ghana? Not in a million years. Am I disrespectful for speaking up against the wrong thing regardless of who is doing it? Hell no. If you feel that way, maybe it’s because you haven’t earned my respect yet.
I’m just against the wrong thing. And it is the wrong thing for us to wake up in the morning, wear our designer suit, drive in our V8 tote airport and fly first class to some developed country to sit in front of their officials who rode a bicycle to work, and beg for money.
It is wrong for us to airlift millions of dollars to our mediocre footballers while approaching the IMF for a bailout.
It is wrong for us to spend a fortune on expensive engineering equipment, and then hand it over to the President’s brother to work with. And please, it doesn’t matter whether it is private or public work he is doing with it. In fact, it is worse when he is using it for public work. Let me explain.
Why should the government spend our money to buy equipment that nobody on government payroll is qualified to operate? That means they didn’t buy it for public use. They bought it for private use.
When we needed aircraft to airlift cash and fans to Brazil, we didn’t have any of our own, so we approached someone who did, and used his. Whether we paid him for it or not is another matter, but at least, I understand that scenario. We need to do a job, we don’t have the equipment, so we fall on someone who does.
But when our water bodies are clogged and we need to de-silt them to avoid flooding, and we have bought the equipment to do the job, but we then hand that equipment over to someone’s brother to use them in solving the problem for us, then there’s definitely something wrong.
Central Government alone employs 2520 engineers. I know. I checked. That is those on the Central Government Payroll. I haven’t included those who work for non-subvented organisations like the VRA and the hundreds of engineers in our Universities and polytechnics. Are we saying that even after we have bought all this expensive equipment to solve this flooding problem, we couldn’t find anyone with the brains to manage the project, so we had to bring in the President’s brother who is NOT an engineer to do it? Or are those 2520 engineers all ghost names?
But most importantly, if the Director of Urban Roads is correct, and Ghana does not have a single person on our payroll who is qualified to operate these machines, then why on earth did we buy them? Who did we buy them for?
I am not against the President or his brother, I promise you that. In fact, I’ve been dying to meet them both. But I am definitely against the wrong thing being done. People ask why I am like this, but the real question is why are you not all like this?
Look, I promise I’ll shut up in a minute, but let me just say this: The most heartbreaking thing about our upside-down republic is the fact that we don’t even realise it is upside down. That is what really breaks my heart. When I express my shock and disgust at the horrific injustices and the bone-deep ignorance that some of our people – including our leaders – perpetrate, the reaction I get from some people is: “Oh, but Kojo, this happens all the time”.
Ah. That breaks my heart. That breaks my heart because I know that if Ghana ever becomes a failed state, it won’t be because our leaders do bad things. It will be because the people accept it when bad things are done.
I promise you, I am not cynical or negative. But I am definitely biased. And for Ghana to ever emerge from this ditch we are digging for ourselves, we must all be biased. Biased against the wrong things being done. If something is not right, we must all be against it – whether the person doing it is from your party or not.
I once said something about Dumsor on my show, and someone wrote me a long message reprimanding me for speaking against the NDC government, because of course, I must be NPP. So now, if I am against Dumsor, it means I am against the Government? Does this mean the Government supports Dumsor?
Many people think the best way to do my job is to be neutral. But no decent human being must ever stand neutral between right and wrong. I am on the side of right. Always. So if you think I am against you, then you must believe you are on the side of wrong.
Please, this is our nation. We all belong to it. We all want what’s best for it. It’s ok for us to disagree, but just because I speak against what is wrong does not make me your enemy. This is OUR nation. Being Ghanaian is privileged citizenship, and we must earn our place in this great nation by never compromising on what is right. If you are ever confused about what is required of you as a citizen of this great nation, just sing the National Anthem to yourself for a minute.
God bless our homeland, Ghana.
And make our nation Great and strong,
Bold to defend forever
The cause of freedom and of RIGHT;
Fill our hearts with true humility,
Make us CHERISH FEARLESS HONESTY,
And help us to resist oppressors’ rule
With all our will and might forevermore.
I’m going to shut up now.