If not now, when, oh when, Dr Kwesi Aning?

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In Ghana, it is easy to make a fool of oneself. Journalists – or shall I say people purporting to be journalists – tend to call for comments on national affairs from anyone who holds a big position. Especially if that person happens to have the abbreviation “Dr” appended to his name.

Dr Kwesi Aning is the Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs & Research, at the Kofi Annan International Peace-Keeping Centre (KAIPC). Before he went to the KAIPC, he had served with the African Union and the United Nations.

Nothing in his background would make anyone with any knowledge of politics pick up the phone to ask for his views on two of the most explosive issues in Ghanaian politics today – galamsey and corruption. But someone from Starr FM Radio thought his views on both subjects worth eliciting.

What he had to say has brought an avalanche – nay, a veritable subsidence of Himalayan enormity – crashing upon his head. His views were republished on Ghanaweb and I have hardly ever seen so much vulgar abuse heaped upon someone for commenting on socio-economic issues.

So what did Dr Aning say that earned him so much public disdain? He was reported to have advised the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, not to fight against corruption “at the same time” as he was "fighting galamsey." The report even claimed that he had said he had conveyed that advice personally to Nana Akufo-Addo.

QUOTE: “The Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs & Research, at the Kofi Annan International Peace-Keeping Centre (KAIPC) Dr Kwesi Aning, has advised President Akufo Addo not to take up the fight against corruption now. According to the Security Expert, it will be wrong for the President to combine the fight against corruption with that of the ongoing fight against illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.

“[The] President ... has said it will be suicidal on his part to abandon the stance his government has taken against the menace of illegal mining, in [the government's] quest to protect the environment for the survival of present and future generations.“ According to [the President], the oath he took during his swearing-in as President ... enjoins him to uphold the Constitution and protect the integrity and sovereignty of Ghana, which entails protecting the nation and its people as well as its natural resources.

“Currently, a 400-[man] joint military/police anti-galamsey taskforce has been deployed to fight the menace. President Akufo-Addo has also made his intentions clear on fighting corruption and has initiated steps to setting up the office of Special Prosecutor. The Bill to that effect is currently before Parliament.

“But speaking on ... Starr FM, Dr Aning, who said no government in Ghana can fight corruption well, noted that adding the fight against corruption to the ongoing fight against galamsey will be just too much of a big bite for the President. “No government in this country can fight corruption well”, [he stated]. “I’ve advised President Akufo-Addo not to add the corruption fight right now to the galamsey fight. Because the people who are involved in galamsey are also involved in corruption and it will just be too much of a big bite for the President. So let’s fight the galamsey fight which is going fairly well [around 52%] and say how do we identify those who are behind the galamsey?. Because the galamsey fight will expose some of the most corrupt people.

“In all the galamsey fight, no important Ghanaian has been arrested. But there are Ghanaians involved… important ones. How do you import equipment from China or Ukraine or Russia and you pass them through the ports, if some important person is not part of it? [Dr Aning asked]. So there are a few important tough questions we need to ask which we’re not asking yet. So the corruption fight is important but I think we shouldn’t combine it with galamsey fight.”UNQUOTE

At the time of writing, the report of what Dr Aning said had received a rich harvest of  106 comments. Almost all the comments question the logic of his thinking. Unfortunately, many are extremely rude. I give you here, a sampling of the comment headings:

“A President must be able to multi-task”; “MOST STUPID ADVICE OF ALL TIME;” “Woye opanin bone paa [You are a very bad elder]  with dirty advice;” “Kofi Annan must fire this man”; “NDC SET TRAPS FOR NANA”; “Awwww!”; “KWESI ANING IS NOT WELL;” “Yokogari analysis;”[analysis dreamt up through the lens of a meal of  garri and beans]; ”what kind of 'doctors' do we have in Gh?”; and “The Two are not mutually exclusive”.

You get the drift.

I wish I had enough space to relay to you, some of the reasons given in support of the above headings. You can find the report and comments on it at https://www.ghanaweb.com/Ghana HomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.p hp?ID=590629&comment=0#com

The main argument advanced is that the division between the fight against galamsey and that against corruption is an artificial one. Both are evils that are crippling Ghana's economic and social development with equal force. Corruption filches from the public purse, money that could be used to provide employment for the unemployed who claim falsely that they carry out galamsey because that is the only avenue open to them to earn a living. When SSNIT bills the Ghana exchequer $72m for software  that should have cost only $3m; when named companies over-inflate purchases of all types, be it of rubbish bins or phone-tapping equipment; when millions are paid to clear rubbish from our streets and markets and yet our cities remain as filthy and smelly as ever - where shall we get money to fight galamsey? To rehabilitate the rivers streams, water-bodies and farms which galamsey has killed dead?

The comments on his statement should teach Dr Aning that maybe he's too detached from public opinion in Ghana. The AU, the UN and his current ivory tower may be good places to theorise and pontificate from, but the thinking there will not often pass muster when subjected to rigorous  “common-sense analysis" by a gathering of voters under a neem tree anywhere in Ghana.

One commenter, for instance,  made this point:

QUOTE “ The hard-working workers and farmers of this country are behind Akufo-Addo on both the "war-fronts" [Dr Aning is] talking about. For corruption takes money away from projects that could bring good roads, better health facilities and educational services.[Does] this man wants Akufo Addo to fold his arms and watch the SSNIT, SADA, GYEEDA, Zoomlion, Agambire, Jospong and other mafias steal all our money, without being severely punished?” Because he “can't fight on two fronts at the same time”?

“That is pure theory and ...it favours the [NDC's] status quo ante. ….It will harm Akufo Addo politically if he listens to it. The fight against galamsey has already gained the support of the majority of the well-meaning Ghanaian populace. ...The populace is fully aware that unless that fight succeeds, their children and THEIR children will be doomed to live in a country that is only left with polluted and ruined water bodies. LIFE WILL THEN BECOME UNSUSTAINABLE IN GHANA.... The more money is given for that struggle, and for rehabilitation purposes, the better. And that money will not become available unless corruption is ruthlessly uprooted. ….So: Go for it, Nana!” UNQUOTE

Over to you, then, Dr Kwesi Aning! Recant now or be "damned" forever in the eyes of Ghanaians.

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