The oligarchy and inhumane hardships in Ghana

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A flag map of Ghana (image: courtesy of Gordon Johnson)

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) is now in its second term and people had had raised expectations, since the first term of the party was not bad. The rule of National Democratic Congress (NDC), the other main political party, was blemished by cases of non-performance like unemployment, corruption, irresponsibility of the president and his collaborators. What people cannot forget from the period that NDC had spent in power was the erratic electricity interruptions. Lights could go off from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m during their last term. They lost the elections because of the dissatisfaction of many and, thus, the NPP came to power and ran the country between 2016 and 2020. Much improvement was noticed, and the debacles of their predecessors, to some extent, had been eradicated.

Now, what no one seems to understand is the pit into which the country seems to have descended. Ghana’s political and economic situation is the concern of many analysists and commentators because of several factors. The country enjoys a glory associated with the bourgeoning of Pan-Africanism. It is almost impossible to meet a non-African who has not heard of Ghana or does not know where Ghana is situated. The second contributor to the legendary glory of Ghana are the evaluations and reports published by the World Bank on the country. Between 1998 and 2003, and slightly beyond, one read in almost all economic reports issued by the World Bank that “Ghana is one of the best model-countries following the rules of the World Bank”, or is the country that respects and applies dutifully the prescriptions or conditionalities of the World Bank. Views diverge, since scholars like P.L.O. Lumumba of Kenya contend that any country which is hailed by the World Bank should be careful because, in reality, it is going the wrong way. Anyway, the current poor health of the Ghanaian economy is what is difficult to fathom. The country has never before experienced such a high inflation rate which keeps galloping upward. The war in the Ukraine is pinpointed as the main cause of the economic malaise in the world in general, but in almost all countries, governments adopt measures to cushion the average citizen, and frequent demonstrations force leaders to adopt measures that alleviate citizens’ suffering. Demonstrations are not common in Ghana. People tend to adjust to any new situation that settles in. Some few agitations took place in the country, especially in Accra (the capital city) over the high cost of living, but they yielded almost nothing since the demonstrators were accused of being “troublesome” by some Ghanaians.

The prevailing feeling in Ghana is that power is in the hands of one family, that of President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo. The beacon of democracy in West Africa has morphed into an oligarchy. It is alleged that President Akufo Addo’s main agenda is to avenge three of his blood relatives who were members of the Big Six, the appellation given to the six leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), one of the leading political parties in the British colony of the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana). Those three persons are, Edward Akufo-Addo (26 June 1906 – 17 July 1979) a politician and lawyer and Akufo Addo’s father. He is also remembered as one of the founding fathers of Ghana who engaged in the fight for Ghana’s independence. The second is Joseph Kwame Kyeretwie Boakye Danquah, popularly known as J.B. Danquah, the president’s granduncle, and who is credited with giving the country its current name. The third is William Ofori Atta (10 October 1910 – 14 July 1988), popularly called “Paa Willie”, and said to be the uncle of the president. J.B. Danquah is said to have fallen out with Nkrumah after the country gained independence from Britain and Nkrumah and his allies were at the command of affairs. Danquah died in detention at the Nsawam prison, not far from Accra. The general belief in the country is that Akufo-Addo contends that his father’s legacy was rejected by Ghanaians and his uncle who died in prison. His mission is, therefore, to avenge them. This at first, sounds too simplistic as a preoccupation for a president, but some few decisions and projects tend to confirm that Nana Akufo-Addo is bent on carrying out what the average Ghanaian considers his priority.

One of his first decisions as president was to rename the main universities in Ghana. The University of Ghana, Legon, the premier university of the country, was to be renamed after his late granduncle and would be the “J.B Danquah University of Ghana”. Other universities were also to be renamed in honour of faithful members of his party or the founding fathers of the nation. Fortunately, the suggestion was met with opposition. People thought that more salient challenges had to be addressed.

The other practice which is gaining ground every day in Ghana is the open accumulation of the finances or wealth of the country in the hands of the president and his relatives. The finance minister, Honorable Ken Ofori-Atta is the president’s cousin, and, allegedly, has his own bank called Data Bank. It cashes in on every key transaction that the country does; every loan that the country takes passes through his bank. He is, therefore, getting richer and richer, he is a member of the Economic Management Team of the country, and he is a Cabinet minister.  So, despite his poor performance as finance minister, he is maintained in his post because, aside from his close ties with the president, he is one of the financiers of the president’s campaign. President Akufo-Addo went further with his oligarchic manoeuvres. His daughter, Gyankroma Akufo-Addo, was appointed to the Creative Arts Council, where she was in charge of selecting the remaining members of the council, as well as setting up the proper framework for the council.

To crown it all, the president’s hometown, Kyebi in the Eastern region of the country tremendously changed overnight, since the current president came to power. Part of the road leading there has been asphalted, and there are street lights (street lights are not common in cities of this size in the country). Kyebi is a municipal district capital and so many luxuries have been installed there. Another important step in this “presidency of vengeance” as many say is the re-writing of the history of the country, to change certain facts in such a way that the president’s granduncle is elevated to a higher and more venerable position than Kwame Nkrumah. The general opinion is that the new history books will teach students that Danquah, the granduncle of the current president, was at the forefront of the fight for independence, a role that was snatched from him and attributed to Nkrumah. The new curriculum will teach Ghanaian school children that Danquah “obtained” independence for Ghana, and then Kwame Nkrumah usurped the hero’s position by announcing to the world that “Ghana gained independence”. In the midst of all this petit partisan or “one family politics”, one phenomenon which is difficult to behold and which, unfortunately has become the new normal is the increase of corruption, the laissez-faire attitude of the government, the hunger that grips men, women, university students, the loose morals and violent criminal habits that Ghanaians are forced to succumb to. One wonders where Ghana will be by the time the next elections are held in 2024.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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  1. In fact this government has proved that in terms of oligarchy, they are competent at it. Now we done know which party is better because each of them coming to power has one motif: that is “to amass wealth”. It also looks like Ghanaians have not learned lessons. Even in this hardship, if elections were to be held today, you will be surprised to see ordinary Ghanaians receiving bullets, blows, slaps…. for them. That is African concept of politics for us.

  2. Hmmm! You have really painted the picture we are in as Ghanaians too well. Life in Ghana has become so tough that even food becomes luxury. Three square meal is now like buying Toyota Lexus cars.

  3. Very interesting! But it is worth mentioning that the “much improvement” which was witnessed at the beginning of their first term in power was as a result of the measures put in place by the former government led by the NDC. And that amongst the problems Ghanaians face since the coming in power of the NPP is the armed forces brutality!

  4. I have always said that this president, NADAA is up to something only to discover that NADAA in twi means deception. He has succeeded in throwing dust into our eyes. Oh Ghana!!!

  5. Let’s ponder on this questions,
    Who founded the New Patriotic Party
    Where is he from
    Why Busia-Danquah traditions
    Get your answers and you’ll learn to appreciate that that man is just there to rewrite the narrative .

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