Farewell, Brother Tony

  • PublishedAugust 20, 2007

“The fear of missing out means today’s media more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these modes, it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits. But no one dares miss out… The final consequence of all this is that it is rare today to find balance in the media.” – Tony Blair, the former British prime minister.

Be kind to Blair has become the new catchphrase in these parts now that Brother Tony (some people call him George Bush’s “sidekick”) has finally called it a day. Let me look over my shoulders first – because a gush of wind has blown through the office window and blown open my dictionary, and I can see an entry saying “good riddance”. That is not very kind, but considering his many cardinal sins over 10 years at the helm, that is the least any discerning Iraqi, Afghani, African and, particularly Zimbabwean, would wish him. Let’s pray Gordon Brown gives us something different, especially on the Zimbabwe issue.

I used to vote Labour. I voted Labour in 1997, the election that brought Tony Blair to power. For those who don’t know, in Britain we don’t directly vote for a prime minister. Blair does not stand for national elections like, say, President Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He stands in his constituency as an MP and he is voted for as an MP. In effect, the people who directly vote for him are his constituents only. The rest of the country does not. We vote for the MPs in our constituencies. And the leader of the party that wins the most seats in parliament becomes the prime minister.

The Americans have a different system. They vote directly for their president, yet popular votes do not produce a president there. You win a state and each state is assigned a number of collegiate votes. That adds up to produce a winner. That is why Al Gore can beat George Bush in the popular vote in the 2000 elections and still lose the presidency.

The point I am making here is that to “each his place” – every metropolitan power has a system of choosing its leaders that best suits its type of democracy and national interests. In fact, some democratic-minded people would say neither the British nor the American system is democratic enough. Surely, in traditional African democracy that will not be counted as democracy at all. In traditional African democracy, if we want to elect a leader, we all meet at the village or town square or under the trees and vote directly, via a show of hands or acclamation; for whoever we want to be our leader or representatives. No frills.

Therefore, it is not very helpful for the West that have different systems themselves at home, to come into our countries and try through various manipulative ways to impose a one-size-fits-all for us. That is a recipe for failure. No wonder “democracy” (Blair type, Bush type, Chirac type – we don’t know which) is still a “hanging chard” in Africa after decades of trying it out there. But never mind. Brother Tony can say “I won three general elections” and technically he is right because, though nobody votes for him directly as prime minister, that is the system Britain practises. If Britain and America did not practise their systems, and say, Zimbabwe practised it, they would say it was not democratic enough. It is like the cigarettes issue. It is now mandatory in the West for cigarette manufacturers to write on the packets that “cigarettes kill”. And yet they are still allowed to manufacture them and sell to people. If the cigarette manufacturers were not predominantly Western companies which pay huge taxes to Western governments, you can bet your bottom dollar that cigarettes would have been declared illegal everywhere in the world.

Remember the Opium Wars and how Britain went to beat up the Chinese on three different occasions for refusing to smoke opium. The Chinese realised very late that opium was bad for them; the Emperor then outlawed it, and the British said “no way, you will smoke it!”. And true to form, a belligerent Lord Palmerston, for so long British foreign secretary and later prime minister, sent the warships – three times – to beat up the Chinese and forced opium down their damned throats and noses. The British even seized Hong Kong to boot and kept it for 100 years thereafter!

Today opium is an illegal commodity. And one of the sins of Afghanistan is producing it and exporting it illegally to the West. You can stretch the logic – if cocaine was produced in the North, and not the South, you bet they would find some smooth advertising jingle to make it legal across the world.

But, let me push on; Brother Tony doesn’t have all day to wait for me. Yes, I voted “for” him in 1997, but his “ethical” African policy stopped me from voting ever again! Two things I particularly couldn’t stand: His support for Clinton’s America in the destruction of DRCongo (1996-2002) where they used African frontmen (though there were some American, especially African-American, soldiers involved) to lay DRCongo to waste, and in the process killing or causing the death of an estimated 5 million Congolese!

And then, there was Zimbabwe and Iraq. Blair can be forgiven many of his sins but his Zimbabwe policy – where he allowed an initial mistake by Clare Short (his then secretary of state for international development) to balloon into a crisis that has spelt doom for 13 million black people in that country – will follow him to the grave. It shouldn’t have been like this at all. But because of the interests of 4,500, predominantly British-descended commercial farmers, Blair’s Britain has deliberately driven a coach and horses through Zimbabwe and in the process trodden over the interests of 13 million black people. And what really sticks in the gull? Blair and his allies in Europe and America then go around the world, telling people that they are rather the ones fighting for the interests of black Zimbabweans! Well, shame has lost all meaning! Joseph Corre, a British multimillionaire who rejected his MBE in June because of Blair, called him a “dishonest man”.

Today, having used the British and the Western media to tear Mugabe and Zimbabwe apart, Blair can still muster courage to tell us, in the evening of his rule, in one of his farewell speeches on 12 June, that “today’s media more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these modes, it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits … The final consequence of all this is that it is rare today to find balance in the media.”

Hear, hear. Isn’t that what Stanley Baldwin (three times British prime minister) meant in the quote that Blair took from him for his 12 June speech?: “Power without responsibility has been the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.” Brother Tony had power, but did he exercise it responsibly in Zimbabwe?

Somebody asked me the other day why I was so “obsessed” with Zimbabwe. The answer is simple: “Because I am a Ghanaian. And we have the benefit of hindsight.” The same tactics were used in the 1960s by America, Britain and their Western allies to get rid of Nkrumah. And Ghanaians fell for their trickery! And what did we get for it? Today, anybody who wants to insult Ghana only has to point to the great strides Malaysia has made in 50 years of independence. The leader who would have made Ghana the Malaysia of Africa has become a hero in the grave. And what use is that to us now?

Never again should any group of Africans, whether they are in Zimbabwe or South Africa or Mali, let what happened to Nkrumah happen again! We must have some living heroes and learn to protect them. Bob Marley’s admonition still holds: “No longer shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look.”

Before I go, let me share this exciting news with you. Ghana, our beloved country, has hit oil at last – “top quality, light oil!”. It calls for champagne. Where are you, Nigeria? The Ghanaians are coming. A consortium of three firms, Tullow Oil from the UK, Kosmos Energy and Anadarko Petroleum (both from the USA), announced the discovery on 18 June – 600 million barrels of light oil reserves in the Mahogany exploration well off the Western Region of Ghana. The find is far greater than the 250 million barrels that the firms had earlier forecast. Tullow’s chief executive, Aidan Heavey, said “it is one of the biggest oil discoveries in Africa in recent times” but warned that it could take up to seven years before the oil started to flow. Boy, we can wait.

An ecstatic President John Kufuor could have put his dancing shoes on if he were not in his office when James Mussleman, the CEO of Kosmos Energy, told him: “We are pleased that the first well in our multi-well West Africa exploration drilling programme is a success!”

“Thank God”, the president exclaimed, and urged Kosmos, the very company that found oil in Equatorial Guinea and was able to extract it in no time, to break its own record by moving quickly to develop Ghana’s reserve.

If only God would so smile on Zimbabwe and give it oil, too. From nowhere, Zimbabwe suddenly hit diamonds last year. Please God, let the oil flow in Munhumutapa, so that Brother Tony would have a nice retirement. But please don’t mention BAE and the Saudi contract.

Written By
Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *