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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Columnist: Ofori Ampofo

Can we save Ghana


I have been a worried man for the last Twenty years. Sometimes, I sit down alone wondering and pondering over why Ghana has not come close to becoming a middle income society since independence. Sometimes, I discuss with friends and try to reason out together why Ghana, with all that we are blessed with, does not seem to find solutions to our societal hopelessness. Prominent among all the answers we have, are INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY AND LEADERSHIP FAILURES.

Ghana has trained lots of intellectuals out of tax payers’ money, with the hope that they would assume leadership positions and with their acquired knowledge, apply the best norms in Governance, and develop our Country and educate our unfortunate illiterate majority on their civic responsibilities. We can apply all the high level brains they have to achieve higher goals for the country. Instead, our intellectuals who have been in Governance so far have used their training and knowledge to rather steal and mismanage the resources of the Country.

LEADERSHIP - A leader is to lead and direct his or her people to achieve desired goals. If the leader of a country is selfish and can not selflessly and effectively direct the ship of state, the whole nation fails. Ghana can therefore be said to be a FAILED STATE.

There have been four military interventions on record and I can say without reservations that each one of them came to the Ghanaian Governing leadership to enrich themselves and family, and for other cronies to also get the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the people of Ghana.

If after all those years of military rule, there is still corruption to the highest order, no institutionalized working systems, laws are broken with impunity, abject poverty, and people do not have good heath care and basic necessities of life, then there is something we have not been doing right as a nation.

If our former military leaders in Government were selfless and knew what they were about in Government, knew what their goals were, and if they were determined to succeed without the lust for wealth, they would have sacrificed every bit in them to put Ghana on the road to self reliance. Military or civilian, they all had the powers to change all the exploitative colonial legacies to a more modern working system that works and has been working in the developed countries. Certain conditions, to be honest, cannot be easily changed under a multi-party democracy where every little thing has to be pushed through LEGISLATIVE BLLS. However, with good leadership, changes can be made.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NATION - The development of a Nation is basically the judicious application of the resources of the Nation for the benefit of her people. If that can happen under selfless, sincere democratic platform, that is the best. On the other hand, if that system fails the people, and a selfless and dedicated dictator emerges, like Fidel Castro emerged and did for Cuba and Cubans, what is wrong with it? It is no secret that with years of American and United Nations Embargo Castro survived and did the best for his Country. I am not in any way advocating for a Military rule in Ghana. No! Never again! I am advocating for a sincere, selfless and dedicated leader, tough and unyielding, ready to punish officials of Government and all state functionaries that steal state funds. A Civilian-led radical leadership, that will satisfy all the above, applying the nations resources to establish a functional society.

Example, it makes absolutely no sense to me when an official of Government who has been jailed by a competent court for stealing or misappropriating state funds is pardoned by the President after a few months in prison. What signal does the president’s action sends to other Government officials? Steal and you will be pardoned later for you to go and enjoy your booty?

It makes no sense to me when people live without basic necessities of life like water, good schools, good medical attention, good access roads, no jobs and people cannot afford two square meals a day. Our cities are swallowed by stinky gutters and piled-up garbage and filth. We have a country where malaria from mosquitoes kills over two hundred thousand a year. However, the leaders do not care but see the need to approve 820 million Cedis for themselves as a four year end-of-service benefit under the infamous Chinery-Hessey report.

We need a leader in Ghana who will understand that every bit of penny saved goes to add up the National treasury to give deserving service to our people. A Leader who will be bold to say no to Government official, Ministers, Parliamentarians and all those who enjoy everything free under article 71 of the constitution. If we can not get a Leader who can change this exploitative policy, I do not know if Ghana can be saved and make it a middle income society as envisaged by the NPP 2015 or NDC 2020

In a recent interaction with journalists from the Ashanti Region in Kumasi, a GNA report quoted the Majority Leader in Parliament Hon. Agban Bagbin as saying that the GH¢82,000.00 (82million old Cedis) "take home" prescribed by the Chinery Hessey report for ex-parliamentarians was a gratuity which entailed a lump sum payment and not an ex gratia or end-of-service benefit payment that has to be spread over a period.

He said the high public expectation of MPs to honor certain financial obligations of their constituents and the tendency to be branded as not having made it whilst serving in parliament had called for the need for parliamentarians to enjoy a good "take home". Mr. Bagbin in said “most honest parliamentarians are now paupers after serving the nation because they were not given any benefit to guarantee a better livelihood after serving their terms in parliament”. THIS IS ABSOLUTE INTELECTUAL DISHONESTY. There are many teachers, Head masters, Principals, Police officers and many other categories of Ghanaian workers who are paupers as well after serving the Nation. Why did Bagbin single out Parliamentarians to be treated differently, and not all retiring Ghanaian workers?

I wish to state here to our Honorable Majority Leader that his reason is not convincing enough. Everybody in society has public expectations therefore if Government officials and Parliamentarians deserve such huge end of service benefits after four years service, then all other Public and Civil servants must also deserve similar End of service benefits. What can we do to these selfish Politicians? CAN WE SAVE GHANA? IF YES HOW? IF NO, WHY?