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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Columnist: Akyena, Benjamin Brantuo

Ghanaian Politicians Are Dying Slowly

"Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have. Finding them in each other - activity in rest and rest in activity - is the ultimate freedom.” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Contrary to the labour laws, the Ghanaian politician hardly takes advantage of the annual compulsory working leave to rest their tired bones and perhaps seek medical attention, spend time with family, refresh their minds, and have time to study something new. They work twenty-four hours a day and seven days in a week their entire life, either pursuing political power or holding on to one. Indeed the BBC published a research conducted by Sleep Council which concluded quite unsurprisingly that Politicians are among the most sleep deprived people in society.

As will be demonstrated in this article, the implications are not merely a sin against our labour laws; it has grave consequences for Ghana’s development as well as the personal life, mental and physical well-being of the politician.

The year 2013, is exactly 15 years since Nana Akufo-Addo served public notice to become Ghana's president by contesting the then Mr Agyekum Kufour in the NPP standard-bearer race in 1998.However, there is no available record of him ever taking a break to either rest or seek medical review. Working for 15years without rest is as frightening as it is dangerous.

The increasing rate of politicians dying suddenly and unexpectedly has been largely attributed to this frightening and risky work ethic; working without rest.

Indeed many political analysts attribute the death of Prof. John Evans Mills to this kind of work culture. They opine that he would have been alive today if he had had adequate rest and taken regular breaks from work for medical reviews.

Regrettably, the same can be said of the late Former Vice President, H. E. Alhaji Aliu Mahama, late Former Agric Minister, Major Courage Quashigah, late Former Tourism Minister, Hawah Yakubu, late Former Finance Minister, Kojo Baah Weredu, and the many deceased members of parliament. What is similar to all these deaths is their suddenness in occurrence and happening mostly during the cause of active duty.

The bitter truth is that owing to the absence of regular breaks for rest and seeking medical attention, many of the current and former political leaders in Ghana are quietly suffering from all manner of serious medical conditions, which may require sophisticated medical or surgical interventions to either cure or manage them.

As a result, most politicians on retirement have become incapacitated and are dying slowly and painfully with each passing day.

The whole nation panicked when we saw former president Kufour using a walking stick only few days into his retirement from active politics. Our nerves were somewhat calmed when we heard of his successful surgery.

It is important to emphasise that the deteriorating health of politicians who side step their annual leave does not always manifest itself in the obvious manner identified above. It can be less conspicuous and almost unnoticeable. Indeed, majority of those who fall seriously ill in later life graduate from this stage. A common example being work fatigue, which may lead to extreme depression and other debilitating illnesses including stroke, diabetes, hypertension and heart attack.

It is trite to observe that work fatigue leading to depression is significantly responsible for the absence of creativity in Ghana’s politics in general and public policy in particular. It also accounts enormously for the over reliance on stale ideas, insults, aggression and outright violence as a means of advancing political interest instead of the conservative approach of using persuasive, strategic and reasoned out arguments.

This has ravaged Ghana’s growth significantly. Sadly, the Ghanaian Tax payer bears the medical cost of the politician who is unwell as well as the cost of putting the destiny of a nation in the hands of a sick person.

Secondly, the refusal of politicians to take their annual leave to rest goes beyond the health implications discussed supra. It accounts for the twenty-four hour partisan politics in Ghana and the tensed political atmosphere, which appears to be ticking like a time bomb.

In Ghana, neither the winners of elections nor losers of same, ever stop campaigning. They do not rest at all. The campaign for the next election is launched the very day one ends.

Consequently, winners of elections only focus on those aspects of campaign promises and general concerns, which are necessary to win the next elections. The long-term difficult decisions needed to turn the economy around and set it on the path of industrial growth are ignored.

As for the opposition, the least said the better. They appear to act as enemies of the state with a single purpose; a sustained crusade to ensure that there is not a single success story told of the country and government. The nonstop partisan engagement no doubt heightens political tension.

This has been the lot of the people of Ghana since 1992, a depressing and traumatic situation resulting from opposition leaders refusing to to take a break from politics, to rest their tired bones, and thereby helping to create the needed atmosphere for the victor of the elections to govern.

Thirdly, politicians need to take a break from work to afford them the opportunity to learn new things and to update their knowledge in their areas of expertise.

Most politicians have not learnt anything beyond campaign propaganda materials and document on political office files since they joined politics.

In fact, those who were born during the era when the computer and internet usage were not fashionable still have not learnt how to use these. It is risky to put the destiny of a nation in the hands of persons whose knowledge stock is antiquity.

A stranger from another planet who decides to study the Ghanaian political economic history will be left with no doubt that real growth has been stagnant for the last two and half decades.

The glorious days of Kwame Nkrumah’s complete transformation of Ghana’s economy and planting it on the altar of industrial revolution is completely gone.

Today, Politicians struggle to do anything extra ordinary or creative; the mental balance to turn things around is missing. They need a break to learn.

Fourthly, the absence of regular breaks from work by politicians also hurt their families. They have been abandoned for politics.

The lack of proper attention for kids has made the children of politicians extremely undisciplined. Thanks to political influence most of their crimes hardly gets the attention of the media.

Again, the many scandals of politicians’ sexual indiscipline, including sleeping with their secretaries, other people’s wives and most of our girls in the Senior High Schools and University campuses are truly indicative of men who are not properly taken care of in their marital homes.

The above is largely due to the following four reasons. Most politicians have abandoned their families in foreign lands, others are enduring bitter marriages, more still have broken homes whilst the last category are those who have taken a vow to remain single for the rest of their lives, following several unsuccessful attempts at building a family. The cause of all these is the inability of politicians to take a break from work and spend precious time to build a beautiful family.

In conclusion, the comments of Jessica Alexander, of the Sleep Council published by the BBC ( ) should set the tone for a national debate on the need for politicians to have regular breaks to rest.

"Time and again research has shown us that lack of sleep affects our ability to think clearly and rationally.”So the results of this study are of concern in that they demonstrate that our politicians, the people responsible for making decisions that affect all of our lives, may not be in the best mental or physical shape to do so."

It is the anticipation of this writer that in looking for the way forward, Ghanaians will be guided by the the inspiring words of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. "Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have. Finding them in each other - activity in rest and rest in activity - is the ultimate freedom.”

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