The current Atta-Mills administration seems to have special attachment to anything that has to do with tea. And I was not in the least surprised, when we woke up on the morning of Wednesday, 27th October, 2010 to the news that the Atta-Mills tea-train has now landed at the gates of our school children.
I am an indigene of the central region where we have always been associated with the consumption of very rich doses of tea, fried eggs, bacon, butter, cheese and so on. It is a well established norm in Ghana to be described as a lover of ‘nkyekyewee’ (fried-meals) the moment you introduce yourself as a Fante.
However, considering the age of Atta-Mills, I thought he was going to take some gastronomic lessons from his nutritionist and cut-down on his intake of all these ‘nkyekyewee’ to enable him control his cholesterol levels, keep his body in perfect shape and put to shame all those who go about making fun of Fantes as people who take delight in consuming ‘sokyee’ (richly prepared food).
However, my hope of the president being able to shame all these Fante critics about what we eat, by staying away from tea and other ‘nkyekyewee’ meals, was painfully dashed during the transitional commission, just a few weeks into his tenure in office.
Transitional committee is merely a platform where records of state are handed over to the incoming administration by the out-going one. And under normal circumstances; this process should not capture the attention of the nation in any way since it would be taking place amongst capable and highly respected representatives from both sides.
Members from both teams might consist of out-going ministers and potential incoming ones, and for the love and service of the nation, should be able to, on their own, bear the cost of feeding and transportation to and from the venue where such a process of national importance is taking place.
And here, I would like to commend the NPP group at the 2009 transitional committee for not taking per-diems and so on. However, the NDC group cannot be said to have been kind to the so-called ‘empty’ coffers they claimed to have met at the assumption of office, when they decided to throw caution to the wind and engaged in their very first act of what I will describe as a careless venture of profligate-tea-drinking. A monumental sum of over ¢1.6billion was said to have been spent on tea, fried eggs and butter-bread for the NDC group of the transitional team.
This issue became a huge public debate and the explanation given by the NDC for that huge tea-expenditure, at the time they were screaming all over the place that the state coffers were empty, was that their foot-soldiers had starved throughout the 8-years of the NPP so they decided to embark on that spending spree so that these severely-starved foot-soldiers could walk into the premises where the transitional team was meeting and simply munch tons of bread, fried eggs and washed it down with ‘Kufuor-gallons’ of milk-laden tea.
And as typical of Ghanaians, we made a lot of noise about this quantum of cash spent on tea, for some couple of weeks and simply allowed it to fizzle out. And as we kept our cool and went about our normal life under the over-bearing weight of the non-existent ‘ecomini’ policies of the current administration, we were hit with a violent ‘volcanic-eruption’ by a school pupil in Kumasi during the beginning of this year’s school calendar.
The Ashanti regional minister, on his rounds to some selected schools to fraternize with the pupils on their first day at school, asked a class to tell him who the president of Ghana is. And hurriedly, an enthusiastic pupil put up his hand, just as we all did in class during our primary school days when we were very sure of the correct answer to a teacher’s question.
Indeed, some of us, in our child-hood days, were always anxious to be the first to raise our hands to be recognized by the teacher, just to prove to our class teachers how brilliant we were, and also, to let our class-mates know that they were not taking their studies serious enough.
So, when that pupil raised his hand to answer a question from not less a person than the minister of the whole Ashanti region, he (pupil) must have definitely been very much convinced about the correctness of his answer. This is because; no pupil will be bold enough to raise his hand to answer a whole minister’s question in the presence of his (minister) entourage and in front of his teacher and class-mates, if he was not sure of himself.
Now, when the evidently bold pupil finally provided his answer for the name of the president, the jaws of the minister and his entire team dropped to their chests in complete amazement when Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Ado was mentioned as the current president of the republic of Ghana. The minister was said to have felt extremely embarrassed by that incident and he left the place with his face completely thwarted and contorted.
Here, I would say that this development has come about as a result of Atta-Mills’ own campaign promises. Kufuor was described as a tourist president who was visiting nations without even being invited. We were made to believe that all the solutions to our problems can be found here at home and therefore there was no need for Kufuor to travel anywhere but rather stay at home and solve our problems.
So, when Atta-Mills was sworned-in as president, he decided to cocoon himself in the old slave castle and completely stayed out of public view, in perfect conformity with his total allergy to foreign travels. Even here in Ghana, the president was not appearing in public until people started complaining of his invisibility. That was when his handlers started taking him round in the streets of Accra, which I described in an article at the time, as “keep-fit-exercise disguised as walk-abouts”.
And even those walk-abouts were restricted to the Accra psychiatric hospital. However, the reason for the president and his handlers to have exhibited that high level of concern for this particular institution is a question that still lingers on.
Consequently, for a president who became a prisoner of his own useless campaign promises by locking himself within the walls of the old slave castle, who are we to be disappointed when a first year pupil happens not to know him?
Now, for these people around the president to advise him to avail himself to the people of Ghana by way of actively engaging himself with activities going on around the country by way of physically being present at areas of disasters and so on, they have decided to look on sheepishly while Atta-Mills continues to wrap himself in the presidential sofas at the castle and turn a blind-eye to the suffering victims of massive floods and other catastrophic infernos.
And for these school kids to know who their current president is, his handlers have, as usual, decided to choose the easiest option of simply giving out a multi-billion cedi contract to their cronies to produce tea-cups, embossed with a ‘sexy’ looking photo of Atta-Mills, to be distributed to school children across the nation.
And my worry here is simply this; if after the distribution of these cups, another pupil happens to say that they know our president to be a Fante who enjoys drinking tea a lot, and therefore, if the cups were really meant to make him (president) known to them (pupils), then tea would have been surely added as well, then what do we do?
And to allay this genuine fear of mine, I would advise that these tea-cups for the pupils are distributed together with boxes of tea-bags, cartons of Milo, milk, loafs of bread, gallons of cooking oil, crates of eggs and packs of butter and cheese. After this, then the president would have been comprehensively packaged and presented to these pupils to enable them properly identify him by his typical ‘Fante-gastronomics’ as well.
Simply put, adding tea-ingredients to these tea-cups will work magic in the memory-banks of these pupils, as regards knowing their Fante president. The current government officials will then be saved from future embarrassments!!!
Justice Abeeku Newton-Offei
E-mail: justnoff@yahoo. com