J.A. Kufuor @ 84
The ancient historic city of Kumasi is the birthplace of many great Ghanaians. Born in Kumasi in the fourth decade of the 20th century, former President John Agyekum Kufuor (J.A. Kufuor) celebrates his 84th birthday on Thursday, December 8, 2022. Eight decades and four years of life are worth celebrating. An important quote in the Bible is ‘with the ancient is wisdom and in length of days understanding (Job 12:12)’.
With the passage of time, many people in Ghana especially politicians have warmed up to the second president of the fourth republic. By the grace of God, Mr J.A. Kufuor is the first elected leader of Ghana to see his 84th birthday.
One activity that dominates affairs of people is football. As of December 2022, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar takes a pride of place in local and international media. It is to be noted that Ghana first played at the world cup when Mr J.A. Kufuor was president of Ghana. Prior to that tournament, governments of Ghana had made frantic efforts to qualify for the global spectacle.
In Ghana’s first ever FIFA world cup match, ex-president Kufuor was a spectator at the stadium when the Black Stars of Ghana locked horns with the Azzuris of Italy on June 12, 2006 in Hanover. Under President Kufuor, Dr Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe took office as the last chairman of Ghana Football Association (GFA) to be appointed by government. The vice chairman of GFA was Mr Kwasi Nyantakyi. He doubled as chairman of Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA).
Members of the clubs did not like the posture of Dr Tamakloe. They ensured his departure from the GFA. In spite of the fact that members of GHALCA sacked the appointee of President Kufuor, the Ghanaian leader provided the necessary assistance to GFA. Winning bonuses and other conditions of service to players and support staff were enhanced. The first finance minister in the government of New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo was in charge of Sports when Ghana qualified for the World Cup in 2006.
Mr J.A. Kufuor had been associated with football long before he became president of Ghana. In the 1980s, Mr Kufuor was involved with Kumasi Asante Kotoko Football club which had impressive record in and outside Ghana. The pedigree of Kotoko came to the fore when Mr Kufuor had completed a two-term presidency.
At a colourful ceremony in London in May 2010, the International Federation for Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) crowned Kumasi Asante Kotoko as the most successful football club in Africa in the 20th century. In the latter part of the 1980s, Mr J.A. Kufuor was Chairman of Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
In a period of economic challenges, people and nations share burdens and leverage on positives. Ghana’s situation as the only nation in the world which has cedi as currency is a serious drawback. This is against the backdrop that Ghana imports virtually every manufactured commodity. There is thus pressure on the cedi for hard currency for imports. Togo, Burkina Faso, CÔte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and other French-speaking countries in West Africa do not abound in better human and material resources than Ghana.
Yet, the level of socio-economic anguish in these French-speaking countries is minimal as compared to Ghana. A cardinal reason for the relative relief in French speaking West Africa is the CFA franc. Among other factors, the French-speaking countries in West Africa share burdens and difficulties through the CFA Franc.
Ex-president Kufuor knew the importance of numbers when in his administration, ‘regional integration’ was added to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Kufuor wanted Ghana and West Africa to integrate faster. To Mr Kufuor, there should be more trade and exchange of socio-economic activities that bring greater prosperity to the over 250 million people in the sub-region.
By including regional integration to the foreign affairs ministry, Mr Kufuor expected that sooner rather than later, Ghana would better integrate with countries in West Africa for increased socio-economic growth.
An important catalyst for integration is language. Under President J.A. Kufuor, Ghana became an associate member of the International Organization of the Francophonie. These are countries that have French as official language. The introduction of compulsory French in the abortive four-year senior high school was important. The programme was that eventually, French would have been taught from the beginning to the final year in secondary schools. In neighbouring CÔte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo where French is the official language, English is taken more seriously than French is taken in Ghana.
The Faure Gnassingbes, the Alhassan Ouattaras, the Yayi Bones in these countries speak fluent English in addition to their mastery of French. Largely, Ghana has had leaders who have been non-proficient in French. There was another reason why the introduction of the four-year senior high school (and with it French) was important. It is estimated that thirty five to forty percent of all words in English have roots in French. Terminal, dentist, courier, dormitory etc. originated from French.
In 2001 when Mr J.A. Kufuor became president of Ghana, he was the oldest Ghanaian to be president, head of government or head of state of Ghana. At 62 years in January 2001, Mr Kufuor was past the retiring age in the public service of Ghana. Mr Kufuor knew that many Ghanaians of his age did not have access to public assistance. Some old persons had (and still have) difficulty catering for very basic needs. That led to the introduction of Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) in Kufuor’s era. This amount has provided relief to many old people and other vulnerable groups in Ghana.