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Feature Article of Friday, 18 January 2013

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Sometimes I weep for Ghana!

Watch them circle like vultures!!!

The election is barely over and people have already started jockeying for positions in a government that has been dragged to court. The president elect, felt so pressured and hounded, he had to leave the country for a moment just to catch his breath. Are all these people qualified to hold positions in President Mahama's government? Are they asking for positions because they intend to work hard on behalf of Ghana? How does the president separate the wheat from the chaff? Is the president free to employ whomever he wants without considering merit, diversity and moral uprightness? Will President Mahama be taken seriously by his appointees? Does the president have credibility and moral high ground to make the right choices? Is this a scramble to build Ghana up or pick it dry? Could it be that political appointment leads to riches? When will we get the right people in the right positions to put Ghana on a sustainable development track?

As usual, the appointments have started with tall resumes, detailing academic accomplishments and experience that is mind blowing. Why, in the past and now, have such qualifications not led to any developmental impact in Ghana? Not too long ago, Kufour came to power boasting of having the brainiest administration. Yet, as we can all testify, this brainy gaggle, built sand castles that did not address the fundamental challenges facing the nation. The problems of water, roads, electricity, sanitation, shelter etc continue to dog our quest to move ahead. The least said about appointments made by President Mills, the better. If we keep appointing mostly individuals with tall degrees and still, cannot get the job done, is it not time to call time out? Repeating the same routines and expecting a different result is crass madness. Isn't it time to conduct a full blown study on political appointees and their impact on moving the country forward? Why can't we hold our elected officials responsible for producing tangible and sustainable results? Why? Something is gravely wrong and we must correct it. I weep copiously for mother Ghana!

My haunch is that knowledge acquired, if not applied, is absolutely useless. Knowledge is not necessarily power but applied knowledge is surely power. I hope the president, will look to appoint more doers, instead of people festooned with tall academic credentials but no practical experience. The president must resist the tradition of appointing heavily credentialed academics, some of them fake degrees by the way, and go for those who are ready to dirty their hands to get the job done. Academic degrees do not equal performance, necessarily. History is replete with several examples of individuals who made radical changes to their country, without owning gaudy academic epaulets. I pray that for once, we get a bunch of serious doers to lead all aspects of government. God help us! The president must resist appointing suit wearing engineers! He must send incompetent party hacks scurrying. Only the best must be good for Ghana. Competency must be a key consideration among all others in all appointments.

Let me illustrate my frustration with a few stirring examples. Can anyone explain why sanitation continues to be a mess in all the key cities in Ghana? Imagine taking a group of investors to Ghana. On your way to a meeting, one of your visitors request to use a bathroom. What do you do? Send him to the bush with his suit and tie? These sanitary conditions make visiting Ghana such a chore. If born and bred Ghanaians find it hard to visit, imagine foreigners new to Ghana. Why haven't we solved this simplest and basic of our problems? Why do we have trash all over our cities? Why can't we solve once and for all, the problem of all waste disposal? Accra for example, is reported to be a sanitation nightmare, teetering on the verge of catastrophe? Why is the incompetent Accra Mayor still at post as the sanitation situation worsens? Who really is in charge of country Ghana? We can't continue to change through evolutionary adaptation.

If the Mayor of Accra, cannot identify a landfill and get the various contractors to play nice, how does he justify his position? Does the president, who lives in Accra, read the papers? Does he see the filth on his way to work? Why can't President Mahama pull the Greater Accra minister in and demand that he solve the sanitation problems? How are these politician justifying their pay? This is just mind boggling! Ghana for example, needs a master plan to address its sewer challenges. Once a sewer system in put in place, we can collect storm water and channel it away from the city. A lot of the annual flooding can be averted. Solving the sanitation problem is a major project that will create jobs, boost productivity and improve the quality of life. So what are we waiting for? We can pay gargantuan judgment debt but can't invest in our infrastructure? Where are the real leaders who really care and are competent?

Another simple yet far reaching issue is that of creating a viable address system in Ghana. As it stands, we are not able to use GPS in Ghana because we have no address system. In addition, we can't develop a sustainable credit system because we still don't have an address system. We don't have a real estate database because we don't have an address system. We cannot develop a fire hydrant system because they is no address system. If your house is engulfed in fire, how do you direct fire service to your house? How about calling for police in the middle of an attack? I know many in Ghana may assume that I am being too optimistic. However, creating an address system is bound to sprout serious and tangible economic growth. It is long overdue and we will never be open for business till we address these simple and nagging problems. The competition for investment dollars is stiff and until we make Ghana livable, we can forget it.

There is no limit to what an address system can do our economy. Why are these so called academic gurus not paying heed to the most basic problems? The fascinating aspect of this is that most of these so called intelligentsia have visited countries with these systems, enjoyed them and know how it helps the economy. Hopefully, president Mahama will add this to his priorities.

I am sure we can all swear to the fact that academic credentials does not create immunity to corruption. Indeed politics in Ghana boils down to greed and corruption. While our people suffer needlessly in the rural areas, the nouveau riche band of corrupt panjandrums, loot the coffers. As Ghanaians contemplate the inflow of oil revenue to better their lot, some jockey around the gravy train with the sole purpose of looting. Until we find a way to stop these greedy ones, our hopes and aspiration will never become reality. The people of Ghana continue to fight amongst themselves along partisan lines while a few feed fat at the trough. Until a critical mass steps and stand up to these looters, nothing much will change. You know we are in a bad place when Rawlings, a corrupt opportunist, goes after his own party for corruption.

I want president Mahama to know that some of us are tired of the fussing and fighting. We want the most able Ghanaians, regardless of what party or class, to take over and steer this country in the right direction. In the end, the president must focus on the simple things that have the biggest impact. I don't expect president Mahama to work a miracle. However, if he gets his ministers to declare their properties, gives them clear matching orders and hold them sternly accountable, he may just earn himself another term. The president must articulate a clear vision that attacks some of the most basic problems of society. Just do the basic things with a competent bunch, with an eye on corruption. Solving the sanitation challenge, building a sewer system, dulling the unabated growth of bureaucracy, actualizing an address system and putting a dent in corruption should be a great start. Please Mr. President, keep an open mind and build an inclusive government that brings this beloved country together. The time is now and we demand action. No more excuses!!!. Ghana's better days must be ahead! Yes we can! Viva Ghana.

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately dubbed the double edge sword)

I don't give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell---Harry Truman

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