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Feature Article of Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

Was Pastor Otabil's Recent Intervention In Ghanaian Politics Suicidal?

By Kofi Thompson

That those in the sectors of the national economy that are booming, are doing pretty well for themselves, can be seen in the many brand new vehicles clogging roads in urban Ghana; the many gated-communities springing up in our major cities and the plethora of shops selling a conurcopia of fast-moving expensive goods in cities and towns across Ghana.

Parents from this Ghanaian demographic, prefer to invest in the best possible education available in Ghana (and elsewhere), for their offspring.

In speaking out against "free" education, Pastor Otabil - who has worked his way up from a poor background to join this elite group in Ghanaian society - was merely expressing what many in this group of well-off Ghanaians think and say in private.

That is why reputable fee-paying tertiary institutions like Pastor Otabil's own Central University College, and the Aseshi University, do not have enough places for all those wishing to be educated in them.

Alas, those who have been left behind as some sectors of the Ghanaian economy boom, haven't been so lucky.

For those unlucky souls, life is incredibly tough. Sadly, it is this group of Ghanaians who are most likely to fall prey to the wiles of the cynical politicians making empty promises that they know very well are unlikely to be kept, once they are in power.

Yes, a developing nation with aspirations - such as the Republic of Ghana - cannot afford not to have free education from kindergarten to tertiary level for all its citizens who have the aptitude to study.

However, it is imperative that voters insist that political parties committed to offering free education - to any level in the educational system - point to a credible and sustainable funding source, before deciding which way to cast their vote.

Free education is far from being inexpensive. Ghanaians will have to make enormous sacrifices, to enable such a policy to be successfully implemented, on a long-term basis.

It will be disastrous for Ghana, if the usual recourse to implementing what the New Patriotic Party (NPP) often refers to as "social intervention policies", without first securing a sustainable funding source (as they are wont to, in such cases), is applied to implementing its "free" senior high school policy proposal.

The consequences would be dire for second-cycle education in Ghana, and apart from destroying it, could even end up dislocating our national economy on top too.

That the NPP hasn't a clue how much "free secondary education" will actually cost Ghana over the four years it will be in office for, were its presidential candidate to be elected on December 7th, should be obvious to any discerning and independent-minded observer.

It really is intolerable that because our nation is cursed with being saddled with millions of gullible "My-party-my-tribe-right-or-wrong" myrmidon-types, on whose unfailing support the two biggest political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition NPP, can count on, the NPP could possibly win the presidential election without ever letting Ghanaians know exactly how much "free secondary education" will cost Ghana, and precisely where the money to fund it will come from, before the December polls.

It is no use saying funds for its "free" secondary education policy proposal will come from oil revenues, when the NPP is perfectly aware that the bulk of the relatively paltry sums we earn from that source - because our leaders signed some of the worst oil production agreements in the world, during the selfsame NPP's tenure - are already more or less committed to the repayment of sundry loans.

Perhaps in what some see as an unwarranted intervention by him in Ghanaian politics, Pastor Otabil may have done our nation a world of good, in saying what he did about the "free" secondary education policy proposal.

Ghana is a nation full of fence-sitting moral cowards. There are many who will say that he was being suicidal in saying what he did - in terms of incurring the wrath of those who some accuse of using what they know is an empty promise, to win power in the December polls.

However, far from that, Pastor Otabil has earned the gratitude and respect of many well-meaning Ghanaians - a majority of who want a sensible national conversation about how best to fund "free" secondary education in Ghana on a sustainable basis before the December elections.

Tel: 027 745 3109.

peakofi.thompson@gmail.com Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Vodafone

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