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Feature Article of Sunday, 28 October 2012

Columnist: Berko, George

Disentangling the Myth of Omnipotence of our Leaders

....from the Practicality of Holding Them Accountable to their Responsibilities


In the heat of the current Electioneering Campaigns, we have witnessed an avalanche of promises by the Politicians seeking the votes of the Electorate for various Political Offices in the Country. Whilst the practice of making such promises is not new to us, this time around, some of the alluring objects seem humongous and almost impossibly undeliverable. But yet, again, we could be consoled by the fact that there are a whole lot that our Politicians could have done for us and the Country long ago, had it not been for their stupendous greed and almost incorrigible canker of Corruption.

As we are agonizingly awaiting any relief from the wild spate of Judgment Debt Payments that we now dub as ‘Woyomegates’, we hear the candidates for the Presidential Election, in particular, Nana Akufo Addo and Mr. John Mahama, promising to provide anything but the Sun to alleviate our Poverty, and advance us to the Middle-Class Nation status that many crave for. When the NPP candidate, Nana Addo made his promise to provide us Free SHS, many, especially the NDC Supporters, quickly criticized him for doing so.
At a cursory glance, it seemed that the NDC folks simply did not like us to have a Free SHS, and many descended on them for wishing anything less for Ghana in our Education. It took a little time for the reasons why the critics objected to the Free SHS became apparent. Some of the critics claimed that the Free SHS was not Nana’s brainchild but a borrowed concept from the much-diminished CPP that a principal progenitor of Nana’s Party had unwisely abrogated out of spite for the CPP and its late leader. Other critics mentioned that the fulfillment of that promise was not practicable under our current state of Economy. There was another sector of the critics who claimed that Nana Addo was only enticing the Electorate for Votes out of desperation and would promise the Sun to get elected.

Well, John Mahama, too has made a host of promises none of which needs to be mentioned here for the simple fact that the very undermining integrity of NDC has been so seriously damaged by the “Woyomegates “ exuding to the surface on its term of governance that its promise to deliver even a needle is hardly worth believing.
It is the very intensity of this season of Political promises and its unique intersection with our Oil find that jolted me consider a Myth that our folks have lived with, for far too long, about our Political leaders. The Myth simply is that our Politicians have assumed a sway of Omnipotence with which they capture the Electorate’s mind that they are the ones that have the exclusive Powers to give us what our Communities need. And our folks have always gone along with that false claim by the Politicians. We have always seen the Government as some Organ of governance that is distant from us and only does favors when we elect its members to Offices. We have almost forgotten that we are the Government-- the Government of the People, for the People and by the People. Apparently, we have, relinquished our rights to be served by those we elect to Political positions, and they have come to expect us and all our Assets to serve them, instead. Our Leaders have assumed the role of overlords whom we must serve. They have caused us to adopt the notion that they are doing us all a favor when they use our Tax money to provide us infrastructural Projects, and manage our Economy to earn the Nation more revenue with which to augment the Nation’s capacity to fund these Projects. In fact, some of us seem to feel these Projects are funded with the Politicians own private Resources. In this psychological locus, we remain highly vulnerable to the Corruption that our Political Leaders have been inflicting upon us. Ostensibly, it has settled in their minds that they are entitled to all our State or National Assets and can use our Resources anyhow they deem fit without accounting to us.

What makes it so frightening is how such unjustly and wrongly assumed Omnipotence by the Politicians has transcended into manipulating our Laws at will to suit their whims. In a particular instance of such self-arrogation of Power, I read how Nana Akufo Addo has promised folks in the Akyem area that he would not clamp down on Galamsey, the illegal small-scale mining practice, if elected to the Presidency.

I suddenly perceived how he would attempt to achieve that. If Galamsey is, by our Constitution, illegal, how would Nana Addo, possibly, manage to keep it going against the Law unless he see himself as the Law? This presupposes that Nana Addo would have to disregard the Law banning Galamsey, regardless of whatever good reasons for which our Parliament enacted the Law. We all know that Galamsey entails critical environmental, social and physical problems. The fact that the President could change our Laws only with amendment by Parliamentary consensus was missing in Nana’s promise to the Akyem Folks.

Then, also, I noticed that Nana had mentioned he would allow the Galamsey to continue because it provides jobs for the Youths. This quickly brought my attention to our current predicament with our Timber Resources and Forests. Just a couple of days ago, an Official of the Forestry Commision, Mr. Alhassan N. Attah, was reported, per an Article on Ghanaweb, to have conceded that Ghana has lost almost all her top Classes Timber Species, especially Odum, Sapele and Wawa. The report further stated that Mr. Attah commended the Government for approving proposals for Ghana to import Lumber from Cameroon to supplement our Wood shortage.
If our leaders had not either arrogantly ignored, or insensitively neglected, the many good pieces of advice from some well-meaning, patriotic local experts and their external counterparts, Ghana would not have been plunged into this shameful, embarrassing, sad and sordid situation with our Trees and Forests. When the problem of illegal chainsaw-exploitation of our Trees erupted, along with its wanton destruction of our Forests, our Political leaders did not do enough to arrest the situation, and one of the excuses that we often heard was that the illegal, haphazard extraction of our Timber was providing jobs for the Youths who would otherwise be unemployed. Well, now that we have next-to-nothing left of the best Species of Wood to exploit from our own Forests, where are the Youths going to find the jobs lost? Are we now going to accommodate these Youths in the Galamsey business? While we have, all these years, been praying to have a blessed exit out of our dependence on Nigerias’ Oil, just as we find our own Oil, we find ourselves back in the cycle of dependency on foreign sources for Timber. How smart is that? Our Leaders have acted like the words “Self-Reliance” and “Sustainability” have never been in their lexicon, or those words have nothing to do with anything they care about in life.

Time and space would not allow me to diverge into a full discussion of Economic, Social and Environmental ramifications of losing our best Wood and Forests, here. To some, the topic is too mundane to tickle their interests. However, the inescapable fact remains that we have layers of problems that are going to cascade down on us because of our leaders’ mismanagement and greed that led to the loss of our Wood. That is not to say we the ordinary folks are blameless for this catastrophe. We surely bear some responsibility for it. Nevertheless, it is for sensing what our needs may be in the near future, at least, and, with the available resources, plan to meet those needs to sustain our development that we elect our Leaders. We must, critically, note that if our Leaders play God to us, and wickedly loot our State Assets, arrogate to themselves Powers that we, the People, have not conferred on them, and disregard the Laws that our Parliament has enacted to guide us to behave responsibly, we end up in no better situation than we find ourselves, now, with the loss of our Trees.

This is the reason why I vehemently oppose the kind of promise that Nana Addo made to our Akyem brethren regarding the Galamsey. I know that the Electorate has to know what will be in store for them for voting for a particular candidate but I strongly admonish the candidates to refrain from promising the undeliverable. If Nana, for instance, even attempts to follow through with his promise on the Galamsey, and hits the wall with a Parliament that does not want to bend the rules, weighing the benefits of Jobs versus the Environmental repercussions, how then would Nana explain himself to the People? Such is the bind that I would hope Nana, Mahama and any other Politicians seeking our votes would not put themselves in and disappoint the people further. What our Politicians need to promise our Electorate is only what is within the Law, what is within reason, what is achievable under the circumstances. Visions and dreams inspire. But they must be so defined to avoid the ambiguities between them and the realities.
If only our Leaders would be more honest, show more integrity, eschew Corruption and greed from among them, our Youths would not have to engage in such destructive and dangerous ventures that hurts us all in the Nation.

Long Live Ghana!!
(G. K. Berko-New Hampshire, USA).

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