Why I produced Kufuor
New Face for Africa”
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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
the genetic makeup of African politics.
Kufuor’s time in office marked a
difference. It ushered in an era of revival of old
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
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