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Opinions of Saturday, 14 September 2013

Columnist: Afram, Ernest

Ghana must work again!

Finally it’s all over, the 2012 presidential elections has been decided on and the people of Ghana have affirmed their belief and continued commitment to the 1992 constitution and our democracy as a whole.
It is now the turn of our politicians of all persuasions and persons placed in positions of authority to step up to the plate and up their game to deliver to meet the aspirations of the people and enshrined rights of the people in the constitution. The people have patiently endured pensive months for politicians to seek their political and democratic justice from the courts, and now it’s their turn to guarantee the people social and economic justice.
It is very easy to miss the hardships and struggles of the working poor and people in our society due to the resilience, creativity and survival instinct of the Ghanaian.
Denied access to safe and clean drinking water, we dig our own boreholes equipped with our own mini pumping stations to supply ourselves water; Others pay 50 times over for water trekked in to their homes by make shift water tankers designed by us; A third group have had to depend on the now popularly named “Kuffour” gallons for water which they transport via manpower to their respective homes. All of this is compounded by the total absence of and poor conditions of other basics such us drains, roads and schools. This scenario is multiplied many times over in all facets of our daily lives in this country and yet the Ghanaian soldiers on and work around the situation with the belief that real change can be attained through our democracy.
Our politicians however, will be gravely mistaken if they continue to take the accommodating spirit of the people for granted. There is a tipping point, which when reached could erase the political stability, hard work and democratic gains of the 4th Republic and our history attests to this possibility.
There is a siege mentality which has plagued the politics of our 4th Republic democracy.
I am referring to that mentality which fails to see the need for and role of the opposition in a democracy and more so in a multiparty democracy. There has been the tendency to view opposing views, thoughts, ideas and criticism as “playing politics” whatever that means. Thus whenever government’s policies are criticized the government’s communicators and information machinery think it their business to rebut all criticism, instead of coming out to explain to the public the reason for or why whatever decision was taken. In most cases these very communicators confess they are not appraised on the matter, which in and off itself is a confession that they are defending the matter just for the sake of defense.
Unfortunately this approach to public debate and governance has had the net effect of depriving successive governments the opportunity to listen to and consider alternate views or approaches to issues affecting the state. What we end up with in the long run is a poorly interrogated party position on what or how a matter should be handled. Even within the parties the thinking is left to the same people whose ideas, thoughts and policies have failed the nation over the past decades.
This has been the prevailing trend since the inception of the 4th Republic; unfortunately we have failed to learn for the countless ditches this approach has led us into. Although this tactic may be strategically beneficial to some political parties, I do not see how it has benefited us as a nation over time. We have practically denied ourselves of all opportunity to critically access policies before implementing them, sadly enough this trend also prevails in our parliament.
The recently released Gyeeda report is a classic example of the net result of depriving oneself of the opportunity to critically access and debate policies before implementing them. Unfortunately the harm has been done and our politicians will skillfully pass down the bill down to us in the form of higher taxes, reduced subsidies, poor services and in some cases no services at all, all with the excuse that there is no money. We spent over a billion Ghana Cedis on the Gyeeda program over a period of 4 years and have nothing significant to show for it. Yet still the politicians who supervised the mess have received their gratuity for the period in question adding insult to injury.
We should be mindful of the fact that there is definitely a tipping point; there is a limit to how much more the people can take. If our history is anything to go by, then it is fair to say our politicians have missed previous lessons learned.
The same can be said of the back and forth policies on education; four years here; three years there; and our children suffer for it.
I implore the President to allow for dissenting views in policy making, if we are all to suffer the consequences collectively , then we expect to be heard in the process of formulating policies.
Having said this, I must caution the “opposition” and all, there is a prevailing sense which tends to think the opposition’s role is to work hard to ensure the ruling party fails. This approach is not only counter- productive but a reflection of a bankruptcy of ideas on how to be effective in opposition.
This situation has arisen more so in Ghana because the leading political parties are practically not driven by any set political, social or economic ideology with informs their policies. Even with the absence of any definite national development plan, there are enough policy directives in the 1992 Constitution to provide clear direction to successive governments. What is needed then is the how, with what, when and where. This is where the ideology of the parties comes into play, unfortunately in the absence of a clear ideology providing direction to our parties; we have been tossed about from one manifesto led government to the other with no clear focus, coordination and direction.
The country has been the worse off for this; we have spent billions of dollars on various projects over the past 30 years and have piled up debt on debt for future generations but have next to nothing to show for all that, not considering the fact that somewhere along the line a good chunk of our debt was forgiven.
On our part, we the opposition must not criticize for criticizing sake but criticize constructively; offering alternative approaches to policy and cogent arguments to show why their approach is a better option. This approach will not only deepen our democracy, it will greatly help move this nation forward and improve on the lot of the people.
We cannot continue to chop at the branch we all find ourselves on; else one of these days we will all come crashing down.
Even as the opposition will continue to use the court of public opinion to champion their messages and opinion, it begs asking that we not only do this with the sole purpose of pointing out the short comings of the ruling party but provide alternate direction and ideas to achieving the common good.
The opposition should persevere with the same tenacity and spirit with which they pushed on during the electioneering period to ensure the nation’s finances are better managed and the lot of the people is improved. Opposition over the years has been limited to “machoistic” rhetoric over the airwaves, newspapers, social media and a sprinkling of demonstrations, all aimed at making whichever government is in power unpopular. I pray that we don’t leave things to rhetoric but press on to ensure right is done.
Our final appeal is to the people, supporters of political parties, independents and all; we cannot afford to remain aloof any longer. Unfortunately there is nothing like an NDC poverty or NPP poverty or hardship. Difficulties are difficulties irrespective of your affiliation. There is the usual refrain “as for me I don’t like talking about or involving myself in politics”. Most often than not if you interrogate this further you find out they actually mean they do not like discussing national issues. If we the direct beneficiaries and financiers of good or bad governance take a back seat and adopt a pray and pray approach, who do we expect to do the talking about and push for change. Unfortunately the consequences of our actions or inactions today will be borne by our children and children’s children. Therefore even if we have given up all hope of any real change happening in our life time, let us at the very least fight to better the future of our children.
There are other’s, particularly those in the “middle” and “upper” classes who claim they are not bothered and have checked out of the system, because they have insulated themselves from the vagaries of the system. Where there is no water they have dug boreholes; generators where there is no power; private schools where the school system is failing etc. What these persons fail to see is the fact that in the same way a rising tide raises all ships, the reverse is true. We are all in this ship together and when things get really bad we all will be affected. It is a fact that in the event of an uprising of the such that we have witnessed before in this country and most recently in Egypt, the excesses are felt more in our communities than in those of the politicians.
I therefore entreat us all, rich, poor, Christian, Moslem, Traditionalists, CPP, NPP, PPP, NDC, PNC, Independent etc that we all get involved and remain vigilant to ensuring we move this nation forward. Ghana is our lot in all of this. After all has been said and done, we are One Nation; One People; One Destiny.
May God Continue to Bless our Homeland Ghana!!!

Ernest Afram,
Deputy Director of Communications, CPP