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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Columnist: Bernard Asubonteng

The President’s dilemma: Damned if he does it; damned if he doesn’t!

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

There is a popular refrain in Americans’ daily conversations that says “Damned if I do it, damned if I don’t it.” On the surface it seems like a tongue-in-cheek catchphrase, but a close look clearly shows the saying conveys much deeper meaning across cultures.

More often, average Americans use this aphorism to express their frustrations and the plight of an individual or people caught up between two or more courses of action in which any path taken appears to be a no-win situation. Under this scenario, whichever policy or action a person takes, there is the likelihood it would solicit disdain, mockery, unconstructive criticism, or combination of all of the above from mostly the skeptics and the misinformed groups in the society.

So here we are with the NPP led by Nana Akufo-Addo assuming power after almost 8 years of raw incompetence, mismanagement, and socioeconomic decay under Mahama’s NDC regime. It is true wonders never end in this unfair world we are living in. And as the sages have insisted, “empty barrel makes the most noise.” As of now, the level-headed Ghanaians among us know where the empty sound bites of the manufactured failures of Nana Addo’s policies are coming from, including the motives of the people making those hollow sounds of invented crisis.

As millions of Ghanaians know, the current president of the republic has important job to do. Among some of them are the pursuits of relevant social and economic infrastructures to help put the country onto the path of progress. To meet many of these challenging national objectives before his term of office ends, Nana Addo Danquah has to make a number of necessary policy choices and execute them, too. The harsh reality, though, is that a considerable bunch of average Ghanaians have memory issues or short attention span and also seriously unrealistic in their expectations of what the government can do within two or four years in power.

Fact is, if Ghanaians want to see sustainable changes not only in the macro but also in the micro sectors of the economy, then bold and perhaps some unpopular socioeconomic programs need to be implemented by the government for the general wellbeing of the country. These policies may take a little while to materialize or bear fruits for all to see and enjoy; but, the most significant takeaway is people need to realize that for any phenomenal transformation to happen there must be a change agent(s) somewhere to initiate the change.

But Ghanaians are noted their non-appetite for change, although they talk loud every day about change and modernization. As unrealistic and unreasonable as many Ghanaians tend to be, we always want to eat our bread or banku plus tilapia and have it right back on our dining tables the next minute. In other words, we want our president to fight corruption, revamp the economy and create more jobs; build roads and bridges; wage war against galamsey; and more importantly, reform the nation’s crumbling basic educational system. Yet, we complain bitterly as soon as the change process is initiated or is in progress. This what the president is going through as we speak.

Indeed, President Akufo-Addo has been at the receiving end of Ghanaians’ cynicisms and unstable attitudes toward genuine change in the country. The point is, irrespective of its identified imperfection, how can any reasonable or competitive-minded person in this globalized world fuss about free basic education or Free SHS policy in a society like Ghana with low literacy rate?

As discussed in this previous column, it is as if Nana Akufo-Addo cannot do anything right for this country if some of us were to listen to the doom forecasters’ unexamined projections. Ghanaians have been lamenting about the cost of basic education and its inaccessibility to all children, and now the same people are sobbing that Nana Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS has problems so let us go back to the status quo. Again, the president is “damned if he does it, and damned if he dares not do it.”

Without doubt, most Ghanaians agree the nation’s education needs radical reforms, especially toward fairness and equal access without regard to a child’s parents’ social status. Obviously, the Nana Addo hears this clarion call and responds accordingly soon after his inauguration. What many people fail to understand is, like countless major socio-cultural initiatives globally, the Free SHS may have inherent faults, yet development-centered nations do not allow problems or costs prevent them from pursuing high-end policies such as the president’s signature education strategy.

For all those people grumbling about the challenges or the cost of the Free SHS to the nation, the former president of Harvard University Derek Bok has a sensible answer for them: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Riding in taxis or ubers on my recent trips to the motherland (Ghana) last year and May this year while listening to some people talked have completely persuaded me more than ever that millions of Ghanaians need free education to insulate themselves from ignorance. To that end, the Free SHS policy is peerless and visionary investment.

No doubt, ignorance retards human advancement, nations’ development, democratic governance, and the same time breeds society full of non-critical thinkers. Think about it: If not out of ignorance will any Ghanaian fully aware of the lasting harm environmental degradation can have on its country’s long-term survival will collude with foreign nationals and plunder the nation’s natural or non-renewable resources. Is anything wrong for President Akufo-Addo to implement free basic education to help free the minds of many young Ghanaians so they become critical thinkers and learn to appreciate the sanctity of their environments? The dilemma of the president is: “Damned if he does it; damned if he doesn’t.”

Where do Ghanaians go from here?