FROM PROFESSOR TO PICKETER: The Lost Generation and the Missing Money
Ghana is neither worth living for nor dying for. That’s how many feel at the moment. Honestly. Think about this: I’ve known Uncle Kweku since his graduate student days on the University of Ghana campus. I was only a lad then. He would later complete his graduate studies, an MPhil in linguistics, and top it up with a PhD from Oregon, USA.
After an illustrious career as an academic (see his brief bio here on the University of Ghana website) he not only retired as a full professor but even served as Pro Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s premier university. What do we find the illustrious son of Ghana doing these days? Picketing on the premises of Ghana’s Ministry of Finance to demand that the government exempts his and fellow pensioners’ bonds from being sequestered in the dubious Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) programme. I know for a fact that virtually all of Prof. Kweku Osam’s pension monies are in these bonds. Ei! A former Chief Justice also picketing alongside the other day is reported to have said, “I am over 70 years now. I am no longer government employed, my mouth has been unguarded, and I am talking, and I am saying that we have failed.”
“BACK TO THE FUTURE”
When Uncle Kweku overtly verbalized to the media in an interview on one of the picketing days that he would dissuade his children from ever investing in the Government of Ghana’s financial instruments because “they are risky,” he seemed to have read my mind. Seriously. For while I agree that it is despicable to draw the aged into this DDE debacle and punish pensioners who have planned well for their future and lent their own monies to government to work with, I have an even greater concern for the young people of the country who might take decades to recover from this rude shock. It has taken years to grow a savings and investment culture in Ghana.
As previously started in an earlier article on this matter, “I am pained that, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Ezekiel 18:2). For over 20 years now, The HuD Group and I have championed a culture of savings and investments in Ghana, and had the JOY of seeing thousands heeding the call, especially young people.” I recently met one of the young men I used to travel the country with to inspire and teach young people to form investment clubs and start investing. He’s currently the managing director of a major investment company in Ghana. He intimated how this whole DDE disaster made him shed several kilograms over a month, being at the receiving end of verbal and other forms of abuse from frustrated and fearful investors. At the time we spoke, people were withdrawing an average of 100 million Ghana Cedis each day from his outfit. He had already dispatched 2.5 billion Ghana Cedis when we held our conversation.
BACK TO THE PENSIONERS
So what exactly are we working for? The calibre of pensioners-turned-picketers is disheartening: doctors, engineers, civil servants… If retired professors and chief justices are protesting, what about the no-namers and the many who are too old or too ill to hit the streets? I am privy to a WhatsApp message Prof. Kweku Osam sent that was meant to be just informational, but ended up being very transformational for me:
The last time I took part in a public demonstration against a government of Ghana was in May 1983, as a fresh graduate student. That was when students in the country rose up against Rawlings and his PNDC. Today, God willing, I’ll join fellow Pensioner Bondholders to protest at the Ministry of Finance. The government should leave Pensioner Bondholders alone. Touch not the Pensioner Bondholders.
Think about it: Uncle Kweku began his working life protesting the government. Forty years later, he is ending his working life with yet another anti-government protest. Virtually all his lifesavings is now being held at ransom by a government that has misled and mismanaged her affairs, Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine notwithstanding. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness between the 1983 protest and the present one on the eve of our sixty-sixth independence commemoration, Ghana itself is a pensioner by age, without much to show for it. We’ve got to do better for our people, old and young alike. Seriously.
Prof. Osam’s generation–my parents’ generation–is the same one the current Finance Minister, Uncle Ken, belongs to. It is the same crop of people who plotted military coup d’etats a generation ago in their youth. Now they won’t exit quietly either, not without a financial coup de grace. With trepidation, dare I call them the lost generation? And they did not only lose themselves and their way, they lost money–theirs and ours.
But to what will my generation and those following rise, having clearly observed that Ghana is not worth living for and Ghana is not worth dying for? That’s how many feel at the moment. Honestly. Think about it.