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Feature Article of Sunday, 23 December 2012

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Can You Hear Me, Mr. President-Elect?

Author’s note: I’m writing this piece on the presumption that Mr.Mahama is duly declared by the electoral Commission as the President –Elect. And, probably remains so after a legal challenge. If that is the case I’d congratulate him and would like to offer the new President of Ghana my advice.

I’M NOT A politician. I have no professional experience to speak to your transition team and I didn’t even vote for you (a full disclosure). So I presume this piece will never make it to your desk. It will most likely be deleted from your inbox, instantly. Or a copy will be found in the trash can at OSU Castle. I know I don’t qualify to give you ideas or advice. There are highly educated, hard-working experts, people of goodwill and energy, who are far qualified than me to prescribe remedies for improving the quality of life for our country. Unfortunately, there are also many voiceless, dedicated, noble statesmen and public servants who have devoted their lives to guiding Ghana to a brighter future.

Then, of course, there are the acres of activists, pundits, philosophers, foot -soldiers and other freelance geniuses who hold millions of spellbound with their wisdom on what’s wrong with our nation—they’re the reason we’re in such a horrible mess. So in the spirit of our founding fathers, who envisioned a nation that would be guided by determined citizens of genuine concerns and ideals—not career politicians, not self-serving bureaucrats –I’m bound to open my mouth and speak my mind and offer suggestions. I have been doing that for more than twenty years.

As a newly-elected President, you’re going to get a lot of advisers and ideas all over the place, so I need to get your attention now, before your office gets so crowded and clogged by job seekers and ‘fortune hunters’. Right off the bat, beware of your own people, be a Trailblazer and an architect of a refined presidency which can out-live you. I may already have made some of your people mad, and I haven’t even gotten warmed up. But let’s not let that get in the way of good suggestions. I hear a lot of weeping and moaning these days about the state of the country. Their dissatisfaction has two main, related causes: first, government does too many things they don’t want it to do. Second, every time the government does anything, it ends up costing them too much money. The cost always outweighs the benefit. In other words, the people who pay for the government are the people whom government seems least interested in serving. You could say that they’re not mad at the government---just the people who run it. It’s ok---it’s considered to be positive and healthy expressions of honest, righteous grievances, so don’t take it personal. Here are my suggestions:

Move Into the Jubilee House ASAP:

Forget your political pundits and move into the fLAGSTAFF House and make Ghana proud. They will rather love to see you live in a century old slave castle than in a modern, well-constructed Palace which was paid for by Ghanaians—just to prove a point or two .Using the Newly-minted Presidential palace will not only make us gain international respect in the diplomatic circle but, it will definitely increase the nation’s self-esteem. Go ahead and move in and turn the Castle into international tourist attraction, to showcase the residue parts of colonization and slavery. Find people who will tell it like it is:

The Flagstaff House or the Castle can be lonely, isolating, and distorting place---Presidents tend to hear nothing but good news from their subordinates and criticisms from foes. So try as much as possible to receive members of the public as well as your old friends and correspond with people around the country. When you take your vacations don’t go outside the country. Stay at hotels and private homes so that you could talk to ordinary Ghanaians. That will also allow you to gauge what ordinary folks go through every day to make the two ends meet. Please don’t depend solely on the truck-load of your staff. Seek out independent advisers who are confident enough to tell you the things you may not want to hear—but need to know.

Politics are partly entertainment:

Pick your cabinet wisely and get rid of the” greedy evil-dwarfs” before they ruin your administration. Seek advice from other political parties, provided they have good ideas to offer you to govern. It’s not a sign of weakness but, it’s called finding a common- ground---not just with those you differ with politically, but everyone. We need more good people to help you tackle the tasks ahead of you. So tap into the pool of Ghanaian professionals, both home and abroad and seek their knowledge. But, let assets declaration of your ministers be a criteria for job qualification.

Turn Your Weakness into Strengths: We don’t want mother Teresa to rule Ghana. We all have our weakness so look deep within yourself and see how you can turn your weakness into your advantages which can benefit Ghana...Don’t be afraid to admit it when you screw- up. Your fan club membership will soar if you let Ghanaians know that you’re human with flaws like anyone else.

Speak to Ghanaians regularly:

We live in a modern world with sophisticated technological gadgets. Make good use of them .Get online, send text messages and present your cases in an unfiltered way to a broad audience; both home and abroad. Make regular appearances on TV and town hall meetings across the land and try to maintain your calm, humility and audible voice. Most politicians are viewed with wariness and distain by electorate, so try as much as you possibly can to tell them what they need to hear not want you want them to hear.

Keep Religion and State Separate:

You seem to be a very religious man, but resist the calls for the formation of any religious alliance with politics. Believe in the liberty of conscious and stay out of matters of faith .After all, public life is complicated enough without turning political disputes into religious ones. Always have a backup plan or two:

You’re lucky to have a house full of NDC Mps. But that can also be your political death trap or an Achilles Heel. Don’t let them push everything down your throat. Watch out, some of your own members will try to ‘wayominaze ‘you and make you look bad while they laugh all the way to the bank. So you should always have at least two cards to play in any given situation. It’s a failure of leadership to proceed with only one plan.

Let the media be your ally:

Do the reporters and editors start their search for the truth in a totally unbiased, objective way? Do they actually investigate to see if an allegation holds up before they report it? They will tell you they do. They will vow, promise, swear, aver, and take an oath with one hand on the Bible that they do, but they don’t— however, that shouldn’t be the reason to fight them. If you tell the truth all the time there is no need to fight them. Remember Mr. President, the current environment has amplified the loudest and helped most partisan voices and speed up fact-free theories about politicians. So watch what you do or say. In short, with the help of the media, political insurgents have tilted the national conversation.

On Job Creation: To increase the employment potential for the youth, embark on the rehabilitation of the railway transportation system. This sector can single-handedly provide enough jobs for the youths and other segments of the society. When I say railway transportation, I’m referring to making the railway system accessible as the means of transportation for the public.

A Railway transportation network across the country would not only create plenty of jobs but, it would be a relief for our congested and dangerous roads .A trip across Ghana from Takoradi or Cape Coast to Bolga by railway could be fun. It would be an extraordinary experience to get around and see other parts of the nation with less stress and risk. Travelers using railway ports, going to the north from our country and to our neighboring countries would reach their destinations with less hassle than on the roads. Accidents could be reduced so that we can take a break from too many funeral activities on Saturdays. Speaking of job creation, did you see the self-appointed pot-holes road contractors during your campaign? What are you going to do to address their problems? One Thing That Makes Ghanaians Vexed:

Please, if you forget everything that I have said so far don’t forget this one: Don’t ever give anything to your ministers or MPs without consulting the electorate. See yourself as a CEO of a company called Ghana which is owned by shareholders (Ghanaians). You can’t raise your employees’ pay or give them car loans, free petrol and free- this, free- that without informing the shareholders of your intent. At the end of the day the company’s interest should be your hallmark. And, when things get tough don’t forget those elderly patriots who stood in line for days just to vote for you or against you. You can’t take their aspirations and concerns for granted.

I’m sure on your campaign trails you saw how our river bodies have been polluted by mining activities beyond repairs. You also saw how most Ghanaians—especially, those in the rural areas---have been marginalized and dissatisfied with the quality of life and the local and national leaderships. And, there is enough mistrust in the system. Please try to address these deficiencies. There is also a need for decentralization of Ghana. Why can’t the ministries of Agriculture, education, social-welfare, sport and culture be relocated to other parts of Ghana to speed up development?

You have unenviable tasks. You’re going to be fighting with multi-alarm fires simultaneously because of Ghanaians’ soaring expectations. But you will come out fine if only you focus on your goals like a laser beam and genuinely continue to have the nation’s interest at heart. The world is a competitive place and there is few, if any, incentive for other groups or individuals intentionally making decisions in your best interest. So you can’t and shouldn’t rely on others—-one -hundred percent to look for your interest. Our fragile and infant democracy needs a brand-new mindset and visionary leadership in order to allow many economic self-imposed Ghanaian exiles the chance to work, live and raise their children and ultimately die on their motherland. Please don’t disappoint them!

One more thing: Please don’t forgo your health needs for the sake of your duties .Remember; a healthy presidency makes a vibrant and a healthy nation. So take care of your health needs .Find your own Camp David site for your relaxation and emotional battery charge because we need a president who can cultivate creativity.

I thank you sir for your undivided attention. You’ll definitely hear from me again and again after your honeymoon. Good luck and keep hope alive!

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (Voice of Reason)

Ghana.

*The author is a social commentator and the founder of the Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment Foundation for Disadvantaged Youth of Asuom.

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