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Opinions of Thursday, 27 February 2014

Columnist: Adamu, Tanko Balik

Abolish state of the nation’s address

Abolish state of the nation’s address and events of its kind in Ghana

Let me guess! The reason why you are reading this article is that you found the headline to be crazy. It was intended and I do mean it in every word. Let’s start it this way. If you are a lady and I came to you and your parents and told you before them that I haven’t been paid for two months and I was struggling to pay my bills but don’t worry I will still buy you a motorbike by next week Monday. Monday comes and goes and I haven’t given you an update on your motorbike situation. We simply forget I said that before. I come the next day and tell you again that I have still not been paid and I have since incurred so much debt that things are very bad. I also add that I will be buying you a car by the next Friday. Again Friday comes and goes and I have neither bought the car for you nor told why and whether you will still get it. Then I come again the next day and say well my financial situation has gotten really bad but you don’t worry I will build a house for you. Then I don’t. Mind you, I’m telling you these things in the presence of your entire family. For some of your family members to be present to hear these things for themselves, you will have to pay for their transportation to the big city. If you are a rational human being and I give you a call again and say to you, hey can you get your family together again so I can talk to all of you? What exactly will be your reaction? I will be lucky if you even answer your phone when I call. That is normal human reaction. Please put a distance between you and I so you never have to incur another cost to hear my malarkey anymore.
That is the state that Ghana has found itself in with these constitutionally mandated less than truthful sermons. Every year around this time, the country comes to a pause to hear the president unload a boat load of crap. By the president, I don’t mean an NDC president even though they seem to do it in the worse fashion. I do mean all the presidents we have had in our fourth republic. It could have been so with the other republics but I was not there and can’t speak to it. These presidents I have concluded do not take the state of the nation’s address seriously nor do they take Ghanaians and our time seriously. In the case of John Mahama, he even postponed it without given the nation a convincing reason for doing so even though he originally chose the date himself. Basically he picked a day out of the blue, announced that he was going to tell us the state of our nation and wakes up the next day and says nah, they don’t deserve me on this day and let me just pick another day. He picks another day and shows up to open his speech with comics. Again demonstrating how unserious he views what he is about to say and so should the nation. Mind you everything he is about to say ought to have real life consequences on the Ghanaian people. Some of which can impact on some people’s ability to stay alive. But does he care? Probably not! It is just another constitutional checkbox that has to be checked. It means nothing to him and should mean nothing to Ghanaians. This is where my question then arises. Should Ghanaians continue to hold an event and incur all the cost of holding it even when it means nothing to anybody?
The Ghanaian constitution under article 67 makes the requirement for the state of nation clear. It states unequivocally that “The President shall, at the beginning of each session of parliament and before a dissolution of parliament, deliver to parliament a message on the state of the nation”. The framers of our constitution definitely had good intentions when they put this Article in the constitution. I’m no lawyer but it is reasonable to surmise that this particular provision was put there to allow the president to truthfully and honestly tell our representatives what the state of our nation was. It intended to afford him the ability to take stock. To if you like leverage with the people on what was achieved or will be achieved and also to indicate those impediments that were going to hinder his ability to achieve others. We all know that is not what we are getting these days. For those that spent the time to listen or watch the president deliver the state of the nation address, can you tell me for sure that he told us as Ghanaians what the state of our nation is? Parliamentarians who are our representatives and sat there and listened to him whether NDC or NPP, can you say you heard what the state of our nation was? I don’t know and it is very possible it is because I’m crazy and perhaps not so smart. You the smart ones should help me out.
It is one thing to pay for something and have a different item that you did not order get delivered to you. Sometimes some of the wrong items delivered can be put to other uses! It is however a totally different thing to not get anything delivered at all after you have paid for it. Ghanaians with our tax money pay to transport not just the president and his convoy to parliament house but also his vice and all the parliamentarians including the civil and public servants who have to be present. Every single one of them is there at the expense of the tax payer. Not only this, productivity amongst others is put on hold because they are watching tv or listening to the president who decides to give his speech during work hours (American presidents give their addresses at night). The public tv station incurs cost at the tax payers’ expense to air this speech. The least we can expect from such an investment is respect for our time and an appreciation of the pain and suffering some of us are going through as a result of some of the terrible decisions taken by our leaders especially the president.
To add insults onto injuries, the state of the nation itself comes as an insult on our intelligence. They are a rehash of old campaign promises. New promises are made without recourse to the reality that is currently confronting us as a people. These new promises come at a cost to the nation which is at the same time complaining of how hard times are. If you do not have money to meet your current commitments, how on earth are you going to get money to fulfill new promises? This just goes to show that even you the person making the promises know too well that they are not things you intend on doing and are just wasting everybody’s time. This is particularly very insulting if you consider the fact that you also have previously submitted a budget that has already outlined what your expenditure priorities are going to be for the year. So who exactly are you kidding? Do we need both the budget and the state of the nation’s address if they basically communicate the same thing? Mind you they both come at a cost to the state.
It is in view of all of the above cost and time wasting that I propose we seek a constitutional amendment to abolish the requirement for the state of the nation address in particular. Either we do this or we start taking ourselves and things we say to each other seriously. That is, we should not allow a new statement to be made unless we deliver on the old one or give reasons why they couldn’t be delivered. On the other hand, we could just have the president mail in his address since the constitution has not spelt out the mode of delivering the message. If we do it this way, we will all know we are just checking the box and we will not incur any cost doing that. The money saved may even be enough that the 10% gimmick by John Mahama and his people may not even be necessary anymore.

Thanks for reading

God bless Ghana!!

Tanko Balik Adamu
Minnesota, USA