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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Columnist: Asiedu-Young, Bellinia

A Diasporan Presidential Candidate

The Strengths And Weaknesses Of A Diasporan Presidential Candidate – Campaign 2008

Should the physical location of any presidential candidate be a basis for acceptance or rejection by the people of Ghana?

I have been moved to add my voice to the prevailing topic - the rather passionate discussions on the coming elections and on aspiring presidential candidates. I find there is the need for all stakeholders who have the welfare of Ghana at heart to be involved in this very important discussion. The issue of the physical residence of aspirants should not be an issue at all.

Almost 50 years after our independence from British rule, Ghana is at a standstill or developing at a very slow pace. Our experience of democracy has been marred by one military takeover after another, leaving us with an economic development so mediocre, that we cannot compare our level of achievement of development with such countries as Singapore, China, etc who were at almost the same level with us at the beginning of our independence. The results – some of our citizens have lost faith in the system, and in our quest to correct this anomaly, we find ourselves often times at loggerheads on simple issues. It is mind boggling that at this time in our nation’s history, we cannot find a common ground that makes us one, rather we spend our valuable time debating which Ghanaians are more equal than others, based on our geographical locations in this global village, when our search should rather be focused on the person with the best leadership qualities and who is ready to move our nation forward.

Currently, the general feeling among some Ghanaians in the Diaspora is that they feel sidelined by policies, and that their contributions are not being acknowledged. This is a sad state of affairs for our nation. Failure to correct this, Ghana loses the ability to tap into the wealth of experience and knowledge that Ghanaians in the Diaspora can bring to the table. With apparent economic strategies that are based solely on grants and loans from foreign sources, Ghana should begin to take the Diasporan, a major source of foreign exchange seriously. As was confirmed by Ghana’s current Foreign Minister, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, during a speech he delivered to over 2,000 people at the Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in February of this year, he noted that, “money transfers for last year alone were around $4.5 billion. Family members abroad, sending money home constitutes over 40 percent of our total GDP.”

Yet, some critics have suggested that Ghanaians who are residing elsewhere may be out of touch with the way of doing things in Ghana. Some people have even pointed that they may be too bent on imposing foreign ways of doing things on Ghana, while others have said they may lack the necessary informal network of people and institutions needed to govern. While these may be true, let’s look for a moment at the alternative: the 2 immediate past Presidents we’ve had in Ghana. Our current leader, President Kufuor has been living in Ghana since he returned to Ghana during the Busia regime; and was involved in previous regimes prior to becoming a President; has he solved our problems? Our former President J. J. Rawlings lived in Ghana throughout his life and was in power for 19 years; how much was he able to do to move the nation forward? On the contrary, there is the likelihood that a Ghanaian who has resided outside for a while might have acquired a different worldview, and might be more inclined to do things differently. The person may also have been exposed to the type experience that those at home may not have, thus may not have the compromising and corrupting ties that others might have developed from being already in the system. Besides, they may have a more objective appreciation of problems and opportunities. More importantly, we should start questioning ourselves how it is possible we are able to entrust the development of our dear nation into the hands of complete strangers who have probably never been to Ghana and may have little or no experience in running a country, such as the World Bank, IMF, etc, to analyze and dissect our problems, yet we are gun-shy when it comes to true intelligent patriotic sons of the land.

In our search for a political leader, we should be looking for a candidate who brings other possibilities, and is willing to reach out to the roots of our problems, and a willingness to reform our policies - what we have done before, what has worked and what has not worked.

It is time we began choosing our leaders wisely, the geographical location of a Ghanaian candidate should not be an issue, rather we should be asking whether they display qualities that show they are ready to bring our nation out of its current state of despair. We should do right by our nation by recognizing the various strengths of the Ghanaians in the Diaspora, as a strong force that sustains our nation. Ghana can be at its best when we allow all Ghanaians to participate - an example can be taken from The Black Stars during the recent World Cup Games. It is obvious that we need to change the status quo; by selecting a new President with an excellent track record, a clear vision/focus of where he wants to lead the country; one who can work with others and attract followers to do the same. We need a President with good leadership qualities, who is willing to move our nation into the 21st century. With corruption ranking significantly as the number one social canker in Ghana, such a leader will not be afraid to check the excesses of elected officials. As has been documented by the World Bank, “Corruption exists all over the world, but the extent to which it exists in our nation is breath-taking.” This has even International Financial Institutions worried. This concern is also shared by the African Union. A report by the African Union (expressed through our Peer Review Mechanism) in 2004 said that Africa loses 148 billion dollars every year through corruption.

My fellow compatriots, the facts speak themselves, it is time for a more meaningful dialogue. Let’s seriously put our own destiny into our own hands, and be more proactive in our search for the next President of our dear motherland. Look back in those good old days, of honesty, of dignity, of pride. If we made the right decisions at this time, posterity will judge us kindly. Simply do what is right. I ask for nothing more, nothing less.

My favourite quotation of a Ghanaian, “Truth also is that proximity to a problem does not necessarily imply possession of solutions to the problem. It takes the one who is courageous, able, skilled, wise and visionary in leadership and who has the compassion and common touch and above all selfless to lead Ghana this time.”

BELLINIA ASIEDU-YOUNG,
RICHMOND HILL, ONTARIO


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