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Why I produced Kufuor “A New Face for Africa

E. Ablorh-Odjidja

 

It took three years from start to finally put this documentary about President John Agyekum Kufuor, A New Face for Africa” to print.  It has been a joy and a learning experience.  A joy because among the things that I want to do with my time, film is at the very top of my wish list.

Of course, a film has to have a theme and a subject – a meaningful and informative one.  The search for an uplifting theme for race and nation took me to President John Agyekum Kufuor.

It was sometime in May 2008, when I got the chance to meet with the president, through an introduction by a mutual friend.  I informed him of my wish to produce for history a documentary on his presidency and administration to warn against policy reversals and distortions.  President Kufuor agreed.

He had to because “policy reversal” was and is a political phenomenon that has dogged for decades past administrations in Ghana and Africa.  President Kufuor, as a veteran politician, has witnessed many of the cataclysmic events that had impacted nations negatively because of such policy reversals.

In the course of Ghana’s 50 years plus history, many good ideas and intentions of preceding administrations have been abruptly buried by succeeding ones.  Thus the drive to attain development and political maturity has always been hampered.  And the Ghanaian character altered by the process. Of course, the many coups and the successive rebellions didn’t help matters either.

Years later, after the turmoil of coups and rebellions, the Fourth Republic of Ghana was born. Kufuor became the second president of the fourth Republic after J. J. Rawlings.

It was a very fragile moment in Ghana’s history.  Rawlings’ continuous rule of 19 years had unraveled some political nerves and left some thinking of settling political scores.  Kufuor’s entrance at this stage was to be seen by some as propitious and providential.

President Kufuor by nature is a very calm person.  Many call him the gentle giant, a name that fits, given that his real height is about 6’ 3’’ tall.  But his height would not have mattered were he a pigmy.  His calm demeanor and sensible approach to governance were colossal enough to do the job on his watch and to steer the country for two successive four year terms. When he left office, the world saw a country that was ready and prepared to continue towards good governance.

In a visit to Ghana in July 2009, six months after Kufuor’s departure from office, the then new US President, Barrack Obama had this to say:

“(By) traveling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place. … we have seen progress in democracy and transparency and rule of law, in the protection of property rights, in anti-corruption efforts…And I think that there is a direct correlation between governance and prosperity.”

As the intended producer of this documentary on Kufuor, A New Face for Africa, Obama’s statement could not have been more auspicious.  The problem was, I had still not been able to get President Kufuor in front of a camera.

In August 27, 2009, I had my chance to do the shoot, on a makeshift stage at his house in Accra.  I had Matilda Asante, a radio and television personality as the interviewer.  What resulted was a biographical sketch as well as a narration of the policies and intent of the Kufuor’s presidency.

I chose the title “A New Face for Africa” because Kufuor, by his willingness to depart peacefully from office during a testy time following the 2008 elections, had demonstrated a trait of statesmanship that was rare in Africa.  The trouble in the Ivory Coast two years later, after a similar situation, was to prove my point.

The interview with Kufuor was augmented by other mini-interviews on the same subject.  I had his colleagues in government as well as political adversaries state their views about the man they knew as President Kufuor.

There was no attempt on my part to employ a verbal commentary to guide the visual narration of the story.  The political and personal experiences of the people involved, plus the inner dynamics of the coverage, I thought, were enough.

The episode of the Presidential Palace opening and aftermath events concerning the naming of the office underscored the prescience for the theme of policy reversal.  The narration of the process that brought in a soft loan ( 50% of which was a grant, the rest at an interest rate of 1.75, with a 5 year moratorium) could not have pacified the opposition.  You could have called the whole loan a gift and it wouldn't have stopped the reversal plan that was soon to take place.. 

The decision by the new NDC administration to change the name Golden Jubilee House to Flag Staff House and to move the president's office back to the Osu Castle was to prove that given the right political environment, positive initiatives and projects can be routinely reversed by opposition regimes in Africa.  

The new administration did not want to glorify the building that Kufuor had painfully constructed in 2008 and wanted nothing to do with the name he had given the Presidential Palace.  Soon and slowly, it started undermining the name. 

Within two years of the new administration,  the Golden Jubilee name was gone; to be replaced by the old one, Flag Staff House, the name that carried the alleged imprimatur of the first president, Dr. Nkrumah.

The change sought was, however, to prove ironic.  The irony was in the originality thought to be in the appeal for Nkrumah.  Instead, the re-naming was to shift the glory past Nkrumah into the era of the colonial government that housed the commandant of the British Gold Coast army in same Flag Staff House!

Nkrumah never built or named a presidential palace.  He was busy building a state house as an inducement to house the OAU (AU) in Ghana.  Of course, that initiative was immediately reversed soon after Nkrumah was out of power!

All across Africa, policy reversal is the name of the game.  Selfishness and hunger for power guaranteed that new leaders would do anything to wipe out initiatives of their predecessors.  Their myopic visions saw these as threats to their own legacies.  This process now seems to be the genetic makeup of African politics.

Kufuor’s time in office marked a difference.  It ushered in an era of revival  of old positive ideas, especially in areas of what Nkrumah had done or wanted to do.  The focus was on the building of schools, commissioning of a dam and other national infrastructures and not policy reversals. Together with succeeding in pleading with western nations for a redress of the staggering national debt he inherited, he implemented sound policies that led President Obama on his 2009 visit to Ghana to observe:

“Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where the leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person have a track record of producing results for the people. And we want to highlight that”

The above was six months after Kufuor had left office.  It cannot be taken as an affirmation of the new NDC regime  in office.

Even the Kente weavers of Adamhomase had noticed what happened to the nation under Kufuor:  That he “lifted up the image of the country” by the way he conducted himself in office.  A gentle giant they called him.  And so he is.  You can download the entire documentary – A New Face for Africa - from Amazon.com.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com , Washington, DC, February 2, 2012

Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to publisher@ghanadot.com . Or don't publish at all.
 

 

 

 

 

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