Santa comes late to Ghana's ex-President Kufuor

<Ex-president Kufuor has received a fairly generous retirement package from parliament.....

...despite the fact that government projects and schools for the disabled continue to rely upon foreign food imports and handouts to keep their heads just above water

"On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” I'll guess that you have an idea about the rest of this famous Christmas song so I won't bother writing the rest of it. History lovers will remember that it was illegal to be a Catholic in England (and Ireland) from 1529 until the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. This song was thus written as a means to teach young Catholics their faith. 'True love' stands for God, 'me' the church and 'a partridge' represents Jesus Christ, the mother partridge acting as a decoy to save her helpless chicks (i.e. us).

So what the hell has all this got to do with Ghana. Well, funnily enough, it was the first thing that came into my head when I recently heard about ex-Ghanaian president John A. Kufuor's retirement package. John must have been worried about what Santa Claus (I'm using metaphors here as I can safely guess the reader is acquainted with the tradition whereas the obese guy who needs a beard trimming is an alien to most Ghanaians) was going to leave under his fake pine tree. He was already missing out on the gold spray-painted US$37 million presidential palace constructed under his tenure. Twice his nemesis in the 2000 and 2004 elections, newly elected president John Evan Atta Mills will wine and dine the elite for the coming 4 years in this enormous waste of taxpayer's money.

The Chinery-Hesse commission was established to propose a relevant 'good luck and good night' gift-wrapped incentive for Ghanaian presidents to leave power peacefully and not dangerously meddle in political life after their tenure. This is what they decided on. If you are Ghanaian you may wish to rewrite the lyrics of the above mentioned song in commemoration of this fine bulk of presents John has received.

On the first day of Christmas the taxpayer gave to me:

 1 overseas holiday (with his wife, for a maximum of 65 days)
 2 fully furnished residences
 3 saloon cars
 4 hundred thousand dollars (US) (paid as a lump sum)
 5 cars in total (all to be maintained, insured, taxed, fuelled and chauffeur driven)

Ok, this is where the numerical symbolism of the song goes out of tune, so bear with me.

 1 million dollars (US) to establish a foundation
 A 24 hour security guard
 An annual budget for 'entertainment'
 A constant police cortege while travelling
3 personal assistants and additional security personnel while travelling
 An ex gratia bonus amounting to 18 months salary
 Free medical care

And well, that's pretty much it. Of course, it has also being offered to the only other surviving president, ex-military dictator JJ Rawlings. He's the only other survivng president, cause, you see, when he came to power in '79 and again in '82 by force he had 2 other ex-presidents executed. So in that sense, I guess you could say he saved the taxpayer quite a lot of money from the perspective of this generous retirement package. JJ, ever the populist, has denounced the lucrative deal, which has been passed by parliament, as "grandiose rubbish”. On Friday January 23rd, Daily Graphic's columnist George Sydney Abugri admitted he found himself struck for words, not only because of the extent of the package but also the debacle which ensued conflicting reports regarding parliament's alleged underhanded passing of the bill. Some MPs seemed unaware that it had been voted on and threatened legal action to seek redress.

So what's the bigger picture. Well, as the Daily Telegraph reported in Britain, it does seem a stretch generous given the fact that Ghana relies on 91 million pounds of aid annually to keep the population's head above water. In other words, such extravagant gifts for one individual and his wife were ludicrous in the context of the poverty faced by many Ghanaians. Even supporters of Kufuor's party, the NPP, were uncharacteristically critical of the ex-president's farewell rewards.

The Daily Graphic compared it to ex-president Bush's retirement package:
 $191,000 pension
 secret service protection
 paid travel expenses and 2 assistants
 private fund to establish a library
 free medical care

Laura and George get no house, car nor gratuity. If I was on the US retirement commission he would get a one-way flight to the Hague to stand before the International Criminal Court. But I'm not, so I guess you are safe George.

President Kufuor has not given any public statement regarding the controversy but he supposedly would rather just three vehicles. Yeah, that ought to be enough I would think.

So it remains to be seen whether the passing of legislation granting President Kufuor 20 wheels and 2 front door keys, amongst other benefits, survive court or parliamentary challenges. It looks likely though that it will not be reversed, and that Africa's great model for peaceful, democratic transition has been dealt with in an exemplary fashion by Chinery-Hesse. Who needs 12 drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens and two turtle doves when your friends are partridges and have keys to the treasury.

John Kufuor, Ghana, Irishman in Ghana, Ghana president, retirement package, Professor John Evan Atta Mills, NPP, NDC


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