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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

A New Presidential Jet?

?If the herd that went out to graze has not come back from the fields, we do not allow other herds to go out? - Akan Proverb

Two issues which have assumed greater public attention of late are the Representation of Peoples Amendment (ROPAB) and the need for a new presidential jet for the president for both his domestic and international trips. It appears the agitations by a minority group over the ROPAB seem to eclipse the former. We must all be grateful to God Most High for saving the president and his entourage from air disaster time and again. Hydraulic failure caused the plane flying the president and his entourage to have an emergency landing during a trip to the recent Africa Union Summit in Sudan. In the unlikely event of losing the president and his entourage in a fatal air crash, Ghana would have to spend millions of dollars to organize elections to elect a new president. There is no formal word from government about the need for a new presidential jet. The media and social commentators have awarded themselves the contract of engineering the debate on a new jet.

The executive may have been constrained from commenting by the fear of criticism. This is because the dark clouds that hang on the controversial new presidential complex have still not been dispelled.

Tax payers are yet to be informed about the findings on the controversial Gulf Stream executive jet plane, serial number 493. Over five years since the NPP assumed office and it has not been able to reveal the full facts of that acquisition. One school of thought says the source of the plane is unknown. Granted this were true, where does the money for the repayments go? Are we paying into a ghost account in some desolate valleys? What kind of fairy tale is this? Paying for something which you don?t use amounts to causing financial loss to the nation.

The president from day one decided not to use the Gulf Stream executive jet. The NPP transformed the so-called ?flying coffin? into a palanquin. It appears commercial flights have dominated the president?s international trips. We must be concerned about the life of the president in using commercial flights in his international trips. How safe is it for the number one person in the land not to mention the added inconvenience of waiting for the next flight during transit does not augur well too. In an era when terrorism is assuming international dimensions, we must be concerned about this.

It might appear to be a straight forward case of getting a new presidential jet, but wait a minute. Let?s answer these questions dispassionately. Who owns the Gulf Stream Jet? Do we as a nation own it? Why is it that the president is not using the Gulf Stream Jet? Is it because the NPP when in opposition criticised the purchase of the jet? The Ghanaian public must know this.

When the Tamale Regional Hospital is crumbling under the weight of long years of neglect and getting water in Tamale is such a major issue - and the chorus as usual from government remains: There is no money. Is this how we treat tax payers? priorities?. The Akan adage ? se etua wo yonko hoa wose etua dua mu? to wit, whatever affects your friend means nothing to you. Most Ghanaians will be peeved should there be any new deal to get a new jet for the presidency in sense that if there are issues relating to the executive, funds can almost always be secured even if the Finance Minister has to cross the fiercest battlefields in Baghdad or darkest dungeons in Dafur to get the funding. However it appears that when it has to do with other sections of society, the attitude from the leadership is sluggish. For the last decade Ghanaian universities have been complaining of not been funded properly, not to talk about the accommodation problems on our campus. Students are crammed in small rooms like concentration camps. Those who can afford hostels are living in dilapidated buildings like police cells-no proper ventilation. In lecturer theatres, you find students in windows listen as lecturers shout.

Should the executive come out officially to say that there is a need for a new jet, Ghanaians should tell the executive to sell the Gulf Stream and use the proceeds to buy one. As in the Akan adage quoted above this article the herd ?have not come from the fields so we cannot allow others to go out. Is the issue of a new presidential jet a need or want? So long as the president can embark on his trips without a new jet, then it is a want. The College of Engineering of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology needs machines for research. We need to strengthen and fund them so that in the near future, the Department of Aeronautic Engineering can manufacture a plane called Kwame 957.

A new presidential jet can wait but people in guinea worm endemic areas cannot wait. They need to get pipe borne water. Someone sinking does not have to be calmed down. He has to be rescued and quickly too. Let us rescue our ailing and collapsing local textiles and poultry industries so that they can contribute their widows mite to boosting the national economy.

One solution to this jet matter is to cut down on executive travel altogether. Having made a huge international impression from the outset, now is the time for the President to mind the economy. The government will be judged at the next election not on how many Presidential air miles have been clocked but by the strength of the economy. Ghanaians should not be condemned to perpetually make do with economic hardship. Economic miracles are possible in our time but they are the outcome of deliberate government strategizing and hard work which will only be achieved when the President and his Ministers sit on their bottoms.

I will end with this paraphrase that the heights that great people reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight ? whether with a Gulf Stream Executive Jet or with a ?flying coffin?. But they were successful, who whilst their peers were globe trotting stayed at home to mind their economies.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is an international freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through:
Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation,
P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi.
Tel 027-740-2467 www.interconnection.org/lotfound
E-mail: appiah@whatsonghana.com


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