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Opinions of Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Columnist: Arthur Kobina Kennedy, MD

Campaign '08: A Message to Ghanaians Everywhere

Fellow Countrymen:

Last month I launched the Arthur Kennedy Presidential Campaign for 2008. I know that thousands of you followed my activities in Ghana and debated the merits of my ideas. Whether you agree with me or not, I thank you for your interest in Ghana?s development. I believe that wherever you live, you care deeply about the fate of our nation and I commend you for that. I urge that you not only think and talk about how to make Ghana better but get involved. We should spend part of our intellect, time and treasure in the struggle to build a better Ghana. As history demonstrates clearly, citizenship is not a spectator sport. It requires the active involvement of each and every one of us.

While in Ghana, I emphasized the central role of corruption and bad leadership in our underdevelopment. Indeed, I am convinced that corruption is the most important obstacle to our socio-economic development. That is why I urged the President to do more towards the fulfillment of his ?zero-tolerance? pledge. While the passage of some laws on how the government does business is a good start, more needs to be done. Recent developments since my visit on NPP?s fund-raising have only buttressed my argument that we need more integrity in our government and political parties. Recent complaints by CHRAJ boss, Anna Bossman, have further demonstrated how much work remains to be done in this important area. We must clean up our political parties because corrupt parties cannot lead to or be supportive of honest governments. Also, corrupt people cannot lead honest governments. As long as our parties, which are the foundations of our democratic system, are not open, honest and democratic, our democracy will not be secure. Today, both of our major political parties have lost a large part of the public?s admiration and trust and there is a sense of restlessness amongst the electorate. To regain the public?s trust, our parties must first open their electioneering processes to the participation of all registered party members rather than a few delegates. Furthermore, there must be genuine consultation of the rank and file by party leaders in appointments and policy-making. We must realize that there are always people with evil motives who want to return us to the dark days when they relied on the argument of force rather than the force of arguments to make decisions for our nation. Tolerance for divergent opinions is fundamental to the creation and nurturing of a democratic culture. That is why the recent manifestations of intolerance for different opinions within both the NPP and the NDC should be cause for concern. Our parties and indeed our nation?s interests are served by those who whenever necessary, will step forward to remind our parties of their enduring principles and ideals. This patriotic duty sometimes must be performed against the wishes of party and national leaders blinded by expediency and self-interests. Sometimes, exposure to public scrutiny may be all that is required to stop the well-meaning but misguided debasement of our political parties and we should welcome and celebrate those who risk the disapproval of their parties and friends to perform this patriotic duty.

While in Ghana, I delivered three speeches, had numerous radio and TV interviews and had extensive conversations with a cross-section of Ghanaians, both within and outside my party, the NPP. The ideas that I put fourth are firmly grounded in the history of our nation and my life experiences. At the core of all these democratic ideas is my view that governments must deliver tangible progress in the lives of ordinary people.

In my speeches and interviews, I reviewed the state of our nation. In my view, the two decades of the P(NDC)/NDC era were the lost decades. The Rawlings administrations set this nation back in many areas. There were significant human rights abuses, corruption and economic stagnation amongst other things. On the other hand, despite some achievements, the NPP government has not fully lived up to expectations.

While I cannot reproduce each of my speeches entirely, in my view, to move forward, we must focus on four broad areas:

a) Making government work for people This can be done first by fighting lawlessness and crime (both blue and white collar) with a larger and better-equipped police force. This should be augmented with more resources for investigative organs like CHRAJ and SFO as well as empowering the public to report crime, fraud, and abuse of office. A government that is unable to protect the public from crime will have a difficult time convincing the public that it is effective. Furthermore, we must decentralize our government by moving power and money from Accra to the districts and allowing the unfettered election of DCE?s while making them accountable to the people of their district instead of the President. That way, if there are pot-holes in the streets of Ho or garbage in the streets of Kumasi, the people know that they put their incompetent Chief Executive in office themselves. Finally, we must create counter-weights in the branches of our government by moving power from the Presidency to Parliament and fixing the number of Supreme Court Justices. Under the new system, the President should not be required to pick any of his ministers from parliament. This will create legislators more interested in law-making than lobbying for appointments from the President. I know that some of these changes will require changes in our constitution and I will work with all to achieve them.

b) Putting people to work

We can do this by land reform, building of rural infrastructure, administrative and bureaucratic simplification and the introduction of the widespread use of credit in our economy after introducing a national ID system. These changes together with an educational system designed to meet the needs of our developmental strategies and the use of appropriate and modernizing technology will accelerate our development. The educational system I envisage will require better collaboration between our universities and industry.

c) Making a place at the national table for diasporans

This will encourage Ghanaian professionals like doctors and lecturers to work with their counterparts at home through exchange programs, the use of technology, and aggressive recruitment of diasporans to return to work and to invest in Ghana. In furtherance of this goal, the government can raise money through the floating of bonds to diasporans to fund specific development initiatives. Obviously, the granting of the vote to diasporans as planned in the Representation of the Peoples Assembly Bill (ROPAB) will be a big step in this direction. This, together with a means-tested poll-tax for diasporans will significantly address the alienation of diasporans from our national life. Many nations, including India, China and Portugal have very significant interactions with their citizens abroad to their benefit

d) Revamping our Healthcare System

First, this requires making prevention and health promotion priorities, with the return of health inspectors (?tankase?) and providing affordable clean water and sewerage to rich and poor alike. Also, we need more aggressive implementation of the NHIS, with the involvement of stakeholders including health professionals, reducing the brain-drain, and bringing discipline to our roads so that we halt the needless loss of people in road traffic accidents. A road code that is rigorously enforced, coupled with a basic emergency care system, giving accident victims speedy access to trained emergency health care personnel will improve our healthcare system significantly.

To do all these, I believe that Ghana needs men/women with new ideas, new ethics, new attitudes and a new set of skills. We should have in the Presidency men/women with ideas, vision and integrity. As we have realized, being around is not the same as being prepared. For years, Ghanaians have complained about Ghana?s inability to develop and our ineffective governance. Those abroad have sent money to family to mitigate the effects of poverty. Some have done their part by donating to local or sectoral projects. Some have funded parties and others have formed NGO?s. While all those things are helpful, the best way to bring Ghana to the front-ranks of nations is to have changes in attitude, ethics, tone and temperament at the top. Our leadership must be interested in public purposes rather than private greed. That requires a President who would stand for the new Ghana where things are done differently and where Government is truly by the people and for the people. Such a person will put together a government of Ghanaians from all corners of the earth, who have integrity, competence and compassion for the least of our citizens and can execute policies and programs. Then he will hold them to account for legal and ethical violations of their offices and poor performance. We should have a results-oriented government that knows the difference between talk and action. One that knows instinctively that leaders who ask for sacrifice from the people must, if they are serious, demonstrate that they are making the same sacrifices that they demand of others. Therefore, the place of every Ghanaian who cares about our nation?s fate is in my campaign. The place of every Ghanaian who yearns for a government that he/she can be proud of is in my campaign. I know that we can do better!

Over the next couple of years, I will be reaching out to those who want to join this historic effort. I need your contacts, ideas and your money to succeed. Over and above all these, I need your prayers so that our endeavor will be blessed by our maker. To succeed, we need to be doers and not just talkers. Let us be active citizens willing to think work and spend some of our treasure to build a better nation.

If we do the right things, together we can restore integrity and good governance to our nation and become a beacon of hope to those who yearn for good governments in Africa, not just for our age but for the ages. Let history not say that in these great and needy times, our nation lacked great men/women to confront our challenges.

Let us make history. Let us make our nation proud by taking this all the way to the castle!

Thank you and God bless you!