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KWAKU’S INTERVIEW WITH DR. MO IBRAHIM

Sudanese telecoms billionaire, Dr. Mo Ibrahim was Kwaku Sakyi-Addo’s guest on “KWAKU One-on-One” on Sunday, November 29 at 3pm on TV3. Dr. Ibrahim is the founder of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which awards five million dollars over 10 years to an ex-African leader who leaves an excellent governance record, plus US$200,000 year for life thereafter.

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KWAKU’S INTERVIEW WITH KABRAL BLAY-AMIHERE

Kabral Blay-Amihere, came to national attention as a student leader in the mid-seventies and later as a columnist whose militant thoughts and stirring diaries were compelling reading.

The Journalist, Teacher and Diplomat, was born at Ekwe, a village in the Western Region.
At age 28, he became the Director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Educated at Legon, London School of Economics and Harvard, Blay Amihere, is one of the widest travelled men in this country.
As the Ghana Institutes of Journalism, celebrates Golden Jubilee, what does he think about contemporary journalism in Ghana?

We will also discuss his forthcoming book, “Between the Lion and the Elephant”, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations that’s just about to take off and which he promises will rival any International Relations Think Thank in Africa.

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KWAKU’S INTERVIEW WITH FORMER PRESIDENT KUFUOR

After eight (8) years at the Presidency, a job for which he has been criticized as well as praised in equal measure. But what are his own reflections of the Presidency? Does he have regret or does he fill totally fulfilled? Here are some highlights of Kwaku Sakyi–Addo’s interview with Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, nine months after he left office.

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KWAKU one-on-one

KWAKU’S INTERVIEW WITH FORMER PRESIDENT KUFUOR

Posted by Kwaku Sakyi-Addo (admin) on Nov 30 2009
KWAKU one-on-one >>

After eight (8) years at the Presidency, a job for which he has been criticized as well as praised in equal measure. But what are his own reflections of the Presidency? Does he have regret or does he fill totally fulfilled? Here are some highlights of Kwaku Sakyi–Addo’s interview with Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, nine months after he left office.

KSA: So how’s life after the presidency?

JAK: Well, I’m trying to adjust to normal living after retiring from the presidency of Ghana. The presidency I believe is a hectic job

KSA: Is it?

JAK: Quite. Looking after an entire nation of over 20 million people…unless you are not doing your work as a President, it must be quite engaging. 8 years, I tell you, I hardly had any vacation so it is now I’m learning to take things normally. Take things in my stride, an ordinary citizen.

KSA
So tell me what it was like the morning after, after handing over?
JAK
I’ve told you it was a hectic movement after an 8 year period. I retired exactly at the age of 70 and I was looking forward to retirement from politics not from living, so I think I was adjusting…the morning after was normal as I expected. I wouldn’t have to wake up to the protocol, the security hanging around me, sort of with me here and there because there’s this conference to attend, this meeting to go, the cabinet and so on and so forth

KSA
Are there moments of boredom?
JAK
Naturally because when you have been going as I was going and all of a sudden you find lots of time, you’ll feel lot occasionally. There are periods of boredom, sometimes you feel you needed to be engaged
KSA
For people who have used drugs and are trying to change they experience what we call “cold turkey”. Did you experience that in your first few days?
JAK
I’m totally innocent of drugs and the sort of addiction you are talking about so I don’t know the feeling addicts tend to have when they switch off. But you know politics engages you intellectually, physically and all and even in retirement you want to know what’s happening around you in the world. Every morning I listen to the talk shows to BBC, to CNN and so forth and so now. So I’m kept occupied. So I don’t have cold turkey like the way you are talking about

KSA
Do you listen to my show?
JAK
Of course! I really admire you. The expertise you bring into interviewing. I really admire.
KSA
Thank you Mr. President. You have been travelling around since you left the president, is there any particular assignment that you are engaged in?
JAK
I’m engaged in many assignments. For instance, World Bank invited me to be part of an 11 member commission set up to review the banks operations since it was founded 60 years back. It is the first time it is being reviewed. I have attended the first two meeting, the third is soon and I tell you it has been like going to school. The bank wants to determine its future direction and I am part of the 11 member commission selected around the world and I’m the only one from Africa. It’s something that it is really engaging me fully.

KSA
After 8 years what is the one thing that you’d say you are proud of. What is your legacy?
JAK
Well let’s say successful government for our country Ghana. Governance a total thing. I say governance because I believe my government should be credited with having restored our economy from what it used to be before we came on the scene. Our taking the HIPC initiative I believe was the critical thing. I believe it was the point where our economy was turned around to enable the macro economy to be relayed and following the stabilization of the macro economy, the micro economy began to shape up and it was on this basis that the finance sector including the many new banks and other financial new institutions, came into Ghana making even accessing credit factor in the private sector quite affordable.

KSA
There’s criticism that your government left an amount of debt. The deficit as a ratio of GDP initially was quoted at 14 or 15%. Lately they say it is accurately much higher than that so maybe your record is not as rosy as you would like to see it?
JAK
Who’s saying that?
KSA
The Finance Minister!
JAK
A politician, go and ask say the World Bank, which this same Finance Minister applied to for support to run his budget and look at the records. Go to the statistical department to learn of the true figures and go to our central bank, I’m telling you that you can’t get development without investment and I’m telling you, you borrow to invest and when you do there’s a gestation period before you begin to see returns. The finance minister in his first five months of appointment has started talking of the economy as being quite robust, stable. Is he telling us that within the five months he succeeded to lay the underpinnings for a robust economy? That’s politics. I assure you that within the 8 years, our economy grew to the extent of quadrupling the GDP of Ghana. When we assumed office, the GDP of Ghana was roughly a billion or so. We left the GDP around 16 billion. So what is the finance minister talking of. The reserves, we came in when the reserves at the central bank didn’t stand beyond 200 million or so. They left with reserves about 2 billion. So what is he talking about? He knows so don’t let us talk politics.
KSA
Just one quick point about the poor and the gap between those who did well during the administration and the many ordinary people who didn’t do quite well also?
JAK
They say it is easy to destroy but tough to build. Remember we had to take the HIPC initiative because most of us, practically all of us were not doing well. The economy was retrogressive and so we had to take the HIPC initiative and that stands for Highly Indebted Poor Country. They say we are indebted now but I can assure you we are not poor. We took the initiative to stop, to cut the slide out, to stabilize the economy, build a platform so that we can then move forward. This is what we achieved. This is why the finance minister can say within 4 months the economy has recovered from what they say is a “broken economy” into a “robust economy” and we restored the economy so the economy could be spread to benefit of all of us the people. You look at the economy, you look at education, and you look at health delivery. These are the senses, the social indicators of which you determine whether people are not doing well or not. And then creation of employment and we put all the support bases of government in place. Take every sector of government, if it is infrastructural development, travel around the country. Would you say the last eight years are of inactivity? Is it the roads you are talking about? Is it energy? Water supplies? Education? The modal secondary schools?  We built over 4000 elementary schools. Go to the university campuses, go to Legon, just around the corner here and see whether since the first Republic, our Premier University has seen any development comparable to what they seem today
KSA
But surely there would be things that you couldn’t have completed?
JAK
No I’m not presuming at all that we finished everything. What I’m saying is that we built a very solid platform on which the economy can be accelerated. After all, our vision was to move the economy from what it was (third world economy) to a middle income economy by the year 2015 and I assure you, this was not a vain political promise. With the right government in place, that’s prepared to do the right thing, perhaps we will do better than a middle income economy by the year 2015. I say this on condition.

KSA
Mr. President is there anything looking back, you regret? That if you had the chance you would…?
JAK
I regret nothing. I’m a total democratic person, subscribed to multi party democracy. Democratic government, this system, if fairly operated would make you a winner sometime and a loser some other time. And I’m not the type who wants to perpetuate myself especially impose myself in governance permanently so I knew I was coming in for a term, 4 years, if I’m lucky and the people appreciated the work, they selected me to do the next four years and got the two so when the two were up I was…
KSA
So you were ready for the exit?
JAK
Yes! Yes! I expected I had used my terms to put up a very solid foundation in place for others to come and continue building on and with this I thank God for.

KSA
When you set out at the beginning of your presidency and then when you finished, do you feel fulfilled that we have set out to do what you wanted?
JAK
You have used the word, ‘felt fulfilled’ because I believed I improved on what I found and that… it is like doing a 4 by 100 relay, when you get the baton, you orbit well, you hand over successfully to the next runner. You know you haven’t let the side down.
KSA
I suspect you have been watching Usain Bolt?
JAK
Yes I have being looking at him, my very long friend
(Laughs)
KSA
And there nothing you’d change?

JAK
I’m not presuming to be perfect. It is a human arrangement; you are fallible and perhaps here and there, things could have been better, but overall, let me say that I do not regret!
KSA
The Presidential Palace what goes through your mind when you drive past it?
JAK
I’m just proud…whatever you want to call it but I termed it Golden Jubilee because it fell within that year when we were 50, the foundation of it. The architecture, the motive, you see this is unique. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where you will see anything like it. It is typically, Ghanaian!
KSA
Why did you initiate it? Some people think it was a waste of money?
JAK
That’s their opinion, that’s how they see it. I can’t take it away from them, but on my end it is a vital necessity for Ghana. There are certain landmarks all over the world. You go to Washington, for instance, you just walk around, the White House area and see the number of people trouping in just to catch a glimpse of the White House. Go to London, I believe the biggest tourist attraction giving a lot of money to Great Britain is the Buckingham Palace, go to Paris, Realize is there. Everyone wants to see it.
KSA
But maybe they can afford it?
JAK
Please these are not structures put up recently; they are all over 100 years old. Washington for instance at the time they built, the land there was like some waste land…
KSA
But maybe they had the benefit of slavery?
JAK
Forget about how they did it, but I’m telling you, the US then was not like the US of today. Come to Africa, go to our sister countries like Nija Castle Rock, it is a delight to get a chance to just drive around there. Go to Lome and se our cousins; the president has about 2 or 3 palaces alone. If you care to go up North to Cara, and see the structure for the President there, go to Benin, go to Burkina Faso, go to Ouagadougou and go and see the palace there… This is not exaggerative at all and there’s no waste at all in the thing that we built, especially when it incorporates the residence of our 1st President which has been restored there, which I hope our children, our children’s children would see and learn the history of the beginnings of this nation, to see for themselves where our 1st President, Kwame Nkrumah lived. You can’t buy that with money. We have restored it, it’s there!
KSA
Do you regret that you had to live when it was just about finishing?
JAK
No, we started building when I knew I had two years to go, but for me I’d say, I have a huge sense of history. I knew what I was doing; building not for my own personal comfort but for history! And I believe Ghana and Ghanaians can in due cause appreciate that this is their home. It is the indicator of our pride in our nationhood, that’s what I was doing. I’m thankful to God that I was able to finish it.
KSA
Finally Mr. President what was your last cabinet meeting like, what did you say?

JAK
…all the ministers came. It was just to say farewell to each other and for us to look back on what we’d done and also wish each other well in our future endeavors. So it was a very convivial thing, so we enjoyed the surroundings. For instance, from the top of the Central stool you see all aspects of Accra and for many of the ministers who were visiting the place for the first time, they were all so overwhelmed with this land mark we have done for Ghana. We were happy!
KSA
It was not a sad occasion. It was a happy occasion?
JAK
Parting tends to be sad, not because of living the house or anything but because of the team, such as we were was breaking up naturally. There was a tinge of sadness but overall, we thought we had served our country well, we had achieved so that was it.

TRANSCRIPTION BY:
FRANK OWUSU-OFORI.

Last changed: Dec 01 2009 at 12:57 AM

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