Feature Article of Sunday, 22 August 2010

Columnist: Peters, Anthony

A better Ghana, can Nana Addo up his game or

A better Ghana, can Nana Addo up his game or was it rhetoric!

By Anthony Peters

Nana Addo’s recent statement at party headquarters to build a prosperous nation for all Ghanaian if he won the next election, has divided the country. It opened tribal politics once more with his opponents seizing on his personality and rubbishing his intentions without even considering its content. The message was succinct, and the evidence that life hasn’t changed much for most Ghanaians since independence is a fact.

That he used his winning speech to highlight the need to create a better country for all was a step in the right direction. But hold on, under current political arrangements with power concentrated at the centre, could he become a political fixer or just like leaders before him added up to the diatribe.

Ghana undoubtedly is at the crossroad waiting for able direction to harness her wealth for the benefit of all. Since Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP days to the present administration, quality of life for most Ghanaians had lowered. Some live in dreadful circumstances and, denied the bare necessities of life. That these facts were ignored, with the country celebrating Ghana at 50, when some communities don’t have clean drinking water and electricity exposed our leadership inefficiency and priorities.

Lunching a book on “Why Africa is poor and what Africans can do about it”, former president Kufour remarked that "Leadership is the key to unravelling the problems of Africa”. That Nana’s speech to party faithful tried to grapple with the issue of development to lead Ghanaians out of the abyss is one thing, but can our political structures in its present form deliver?

The structures of government are so weak and sometimes irrelevant that checks and balances just don’t exist and leaders in a cavalier way get away with murder. To entrench our democracy to bring prosperity to all, in my view starts with diluting concentrated power at the centre. It starts with limited government where real power rested with electorate to hold people to check. I’m still struggling to understand why a country like Ghana pays her parliamentarian’s wages with month watering perks that are enviable and unmatched even in the private sector.

Having power is one thing, but its real beauty lies in using it to serve the poor and vulnerable in society, giving them opportunities to aspire to. Rather, it has become a gravy train to riches for an elite few and politicians who think the country owes them everything. Am I jealous, yes I’m and bloody right too. Most disadvantaged people live by toxic waste, open gutters and environmental unfriendly areas which are detrimental to their physical /mental health as if they are sub-human beings. Where is the conscience, let the real leader step forward.

Instead we have pursued the same agendas throughout the years without questioning if our systems are working effectively and efficiently to deliver change to the people it is there to serve. The poverty on the streets with children of school going age begging alongside their parents to make ends meet is demoralising. That armed robbery and crime is on the up has its root in our inability to address social mobility/ disadvantage by reducing the gap between rich and poor.

I will argue that the mechanics of government requires radical overhaul for effective working and progress. Our systems aren’t working because of the concentrated power at the centre. The time has come for devolution, and also to allow for the private and voluntary sectors to use their expertise to support national development.

Devolution will give more accountability with responsibility and importantly involve local people with their community’s development. For instance it’s far easier for the education board in Sunyani district to ensure that schools aren’t failing children in the local area. At the moment children in public schools are at a disadvantage compared with those attending private school. The evidence is telling when you consider the numbers in public schools and how many children are able to make it to university or high education.

Yet we pour money into the system without holding schools accountable for failing children. Department for Social Welfare has become anachronistic and irrelevant. To achieve better outcomes for children and their families and vulnerable adults, to address social disadvantage through empowerment, that departments for instance should cease to exit. Instead, focus on having social workers employed by the district assemblies to help children and their families, the poor and disadvantaged people in our society to become independent.

District assemblies are better placed to implement housing, environmental and sanitation agendas better than national government could. They could do the same with education by regulating failing schools to ensure there is better value for money.
On law and order, the district assemblies through partnership working with the police can keep their local areas much safer.

The civil service is another area for incompetence and endemic bribery to get things done. This must change. First and foremost the nation must realise that limited government and not more, is the answer to our problems. Devolving power to the regions so that local areas decide on their priorities must be a given for the way forward. By giving power to the people this way, getting them more involved in local politics, citizens will become empowered, care more about their locality and take pride in its development.

For the police service, the time has come to do away with the post of IGP which is politicised and adds little value to the institution. I will suggest fragmenting the force into regional blocks with commanders who will become accountable to and, work in partnership with local stockholders to prevent crime and anti social behaviour. We must make the police force relevant to the C21st through rigorous disciplinary to uphold to its duty.

In my view civil service inefficiency and corruption can be tackled by bringing in laws that empower citizens to sue for compensation if agencies fail on discharging their statutory duties. Because departments and agencies would be expected not to waste tax payer’s money, such claims will draw attention to scrutiny and with the possibility of heads rolling, proper accountability can be delivered.

So for me the next election should be about radical ideas and policies to change the face of government and bring prosperity to the people. We are at the watershed requiring difficult decisions and sacrifices to move forward if the country is serious about achieving her millennium goals. It takes strong able leadership to make these changes however unpopular it is initially. I don’t doubt Nana pedigree but if NPP wins the 2012 elections will you be radical enough to be able to create the prosperous society you spoke about?