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Opinions of Saturday, 13 September 2008

Columnist: Akufo-Addo , Nana

Opinion Piece by Nana Akufo-Addo

NANA SPEAKS – A WEEKLY OPINION PIECE BY NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, THE 2008 NPP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE*

*The Four Future Pillars*

*Peace, Security, Education And Development*

THE disputes in so many of our communities that sometimes lead to outbreaks in violence are one of the biggest obstacles to the development of certain parts of our country. These conflicts divert our energies, consume our resources and lead, too often, to the sad spectre of parents burying their children instead of being buried by them.

Scarce resources that should be used for the important work of development, to give our young men and women education and create jobs and to give the elderly security in their old age, are instead wasted on the procurement of weapons by factions for the perpetration of violence and the disturbance of our common peace and by government in consequently trying to maintain the peace.

Long-standing disputes, modern weapons and communication tools conspire to impede our development. Thus while young men and women around the world devote their time and energies to solving technological problems and strengthening the global village, we divide ourselves, brother from brother, sister from sister and friend from friend.

My Government, God willing, will make peace, security, education and development the four pillars for the new Ghana. The December elections are about the future. Our future is about our youth. We can only build our nation's youth for the future if, as leaders, we build and strengthen our commitment and skill in creating an environment of peace, security and unity. There is no inherent conflict between unity and multi-party democracy. We can remain united whilst still holding free and productive debates on how best to move our nation forward. Such an atmosphere becomes both the means and the end in moving forwards to access to quality education and healthcare for every Ghanaian, good jobs and good pay for those who can work and a decent social welfare system for the vulnerable.

I know first-hand that our people – particularly those from the North – have a deep and sincere desire for peace. I met a young man from Bawku recently. In a brief moment with me he said fervently, with desperation in his voice, "when you are President, stop the fighting and bring peace!" He was speaking for many in our communities, in Bawku, Dagbon, Gushegu, Anlo, Sefwi and too many others where there are conflicts.

I will build on the work of President Kufuor and others to promote peace, strengthening current mechanisms such as that of the Three Eminent Chiefs, who are doing a yeoman's job in bringing to an end the protracted Dagbon conflict. My government will augment the resources of peace-making organisations and institutions to resolve disputes on time and support the state organs charged with intelligence gathering and the maintenance of law and order.

It is important that we allow the rule of law to work without fear or favour. Modern societies require that their citizens respect the laws of their country and that government enforces these laws with firmness and fairness. I am determined that our nation, during my Presidency, will meet these tests.

While peace is needed for development, development too promotes peace. Young men and women productively occupied with acquiring skills in school, earning money, creating wealth, moving up in their professions and owning property have neither the time nor the tolerance for conflicts and violence. Actions that turn brother against brother, friend into foe, must no longer be allowed to dictate the pace of our development.

I believe strongly that we will not find lasting justice for old disputes by recounting our steps in a complex effort to undo the old ills afflicted on either side of any conflict. The best way forward to attaining justice and reconciliation is to find accommodation for opposing views, forgiveness for old wrongs and by working together to build for our collective good a better, more fulfilling future.

Ghanaians are a forgiving people. It was for this reason that the National Reconciliation Commission was set up. It is a mark of our character that the stories that were told, however gruesome and painful they were, did not trigger off an orgy of retribution.

The rich Western nations that many of our fellow citizens go to as their destination of choice as emigrants have more than their fair share of ancient stories of gross injustice inflicted by one group on another. Yet their determination to modernise their societies and transform the lives of their people has demonstrated how potent this force can be as a pacifying neutraliser. Even where advancement has not erased the memories, the comfort of prosperity has helped them to take a philosophical view of the circumstances that fed the old conflicts.

Those who believe in Ghana must be active in promoting an environment of peace, security and unity. We should celebrate our diversity - cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic – as it forms a cohesive richness that we must positively exploit for the new Ghana that we are moving forward in building. But our differences should not make us turn against one another, for Ghanaians are generally a peace-loving people.

We need peace. The state must ensure that people believe that this year's general elections will not be disrupted by those who may see the national interest as subservient to their partisan or selfish personal interests. Fear must not become a deciding factor in determining whether or not people are willing and able to exercise their franchise. We must allow the state institutions invested with the constitutional powers to maintain law and order to function properly.

Competitive politics is, after all, a marketplace of ideas, where the customers (the electorate) are free to choose what to buy and what* not* to even recommend to a loved one.

I know there are some who think that believing in Ghana is old-fashioned and no longer very important. But to this I say: I believe our destiny must be determined here in Ghana, by Ghanaians, from home and abroad, of all faiths, all regions and ethnicities, working together. *I BELIEVE IN THE IDEA OF GHANAIANS WORKING TOGETHER, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY ARE, TO LIFT THIS COUNTRY UP…AND SO MUST YOU! * And I will continue to say, *I BELIEVE IN GHANA!*

Let us make her an example unto the nations here in Africa and around the world. Let us build her into the free, productive and prosperous nation our founders dreamt of so that we can bequeath her to our children and their children with pride!

Let us move forward!

God Bless You!

God Bless Ghana!