You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2015 06 30Article 365420

Opinions of Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Columnist: Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie

Praising Mahama's free sandals; applause for mediocrity

When I am entitled to a full loaf of bread and you give me half a loaf, you have clearly cheated or short-changed me.

A father who only exhibits his manly prowess by planting a foetus into the womb of a woman, but ends his duty to that offspring after delivery; cannot be worthy of mention when fathers are being celebrated in the less fancied Fathers Day celebration.

And when a nation or a leader has the ability to empower and enrich a people to be proudly independent and self-sufficient but opts to put them in a situation to accept and smile at freebies to survive, it is not only failure but deception.

Morally, it is okay to show gratitude for a gift. And even when you have no need for that gift, you are not expected to reject it because it's largely considered offensive. And worst of all, you may hypocritically say thank you when in actual fact you don't mean it.

Despite the aforementioned statement I will oddly say that neither President Mahama nor the incumbent government deserve any praise for presenting under privileged rural children with free sandals.

Rather, I think that they need a re-awakening and a transformation from this lame and lazy style of leadership which has been the norm of successive administrations.

I am of the firm opinion that the best gift to any people incapable of providing for themselves any of life's needs, is the empowerment for them to discover their abilities and to do it on their own.

This is supported in the old adage, ‘teach a man to fish rather than give him fish’.

And like the Biblical quote, 'All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable'.

One's ability to provide for him or herself the basic needs of life does not only give them confidence but also bolters their self esteem.

Any parent would be proud to see his or her ward get a scholarship for academic excellence but that same parent may not have inner satisfaction if he or she is not capable to purchase a mere shoe or a uniform for their ward.

Yes; the children as innocent as they are, will smile at these freebies but what if after some months the pair of sandals is worn out and fails to survive a few repairs? The end result is that they will walk barefooted again to school and their joy would be short-lived.

As we have seen of similar initiatives in the past, there is clearly no plan of sustainability because these projects on the face of it, are for political points and temporary applause just as the temporary relief a pain killer brings.

The truth is that, rural parents who are mostly farmers can provide these basic needs for their children if government shows a real care towards their livelihood.

We know of the poor prices these farmers get for their farm produce be it for cash or food crop; we know of the bad roads that cause post harvest losses because farmers are unable to transport their produce to the major market centers; we know of the antiquated farming methods they still use; we know of several other factors that threaten their revenue generation capacity, yet we continuously pay lip service to these things and pretend to be solving them but in actual fact we are not.

I was saddened recently to know that women in the Northern Region, one of the poorest of Ghana's ten regions, who pick shea nuts get as low as between one Ghana cedi for a bowl of shea nuts. Ironically, the product has a huge international market and those who buy from these women for export, are making outrageous profits.

Who is protecting these farmers from exploitation? Obviously, these women have been crippled financially from providing basic things like sandals for their children.

A Ghanaian agriculturalist who is spearheading a new form of social inclusive and profit sharing agric model, repeatedly asks the rhetorical question, "Why must the Ghanaian cocoa farmer for instance remain poorer when the one who buys and makes end products from cocoa get richer?”

I have come to a conclusion that in Ghana and Africa for that matter, our leaders have the urge and the penchant to solve the very simple of our problems that do not really bring us the turnaround we need. By so doing, they run away from the real challenges such as building oil refineries, gold refineries, tackling corruption and the likes.

I jokingly told a friend that if distributing freebies is all our leaders care about, then anyone can be a president because it is the cheapest thing anyone can do.
Try as much as possible to continue reading this piece carefully with an apolitical lens before you attack my person and dress me up with the usual partisan clothing. I am not by any means suggesting that social intervention programmes in general are bad.

But perhaps we need to redefine what really constitutes social intervention.
Per my scanty knowledge, I know that the most important human needs hover around three things; food, shelter and clothing. Any other thing you are able to add to these is a compliment.

Around the globe, social interventions have centered chiefly on the aforesaid areas but have been extended to include other critical needs like health among others.

Almost every developed nation has an effective housing policy that makes it possible for citizens even in lower income brackets to stay in decent homes or own homes over time.

And they sometimes have enough to even benefit legal immigrants to own homes as well.
Same cannot be said of the African continent including Ghana, where we tend to think that a social intervention such as giving free sandals, sanitary pads, free school uniforms, mathematical sets and the likes, are a priority when people who are even in the working bracket struggle to stay in decent homes and may never own a home.

And this is because our housing policy on the so-called affordable housing is as useless as an erected but impotent manhood.

Is it not shameful that even with the free food under the Ghana School Feeding Programme, we had to shamefully get donor support to feed only a handful of disadvantaged school children with malnourished meals in a country where there is so much arable lands for ample food production to feed these children.

But because it was not properly thought through for sustainability, today we are struggling to maintain it because the donors stopped supporting after the funding period elapsed.

How can a child living in a peaceful and stable country with both parents, a parent, extended family or even a guardian alive, be provided something as basic as a sandal by the government to go to school as if he is a refugee fleeing from war?

And the irony is that, he will wear the sandals and get into that rural school with inadequate teachers, with no library, and with no computer to impact knowledge to him.

So of what use is that Sandal? I am sure if that child walks barefooted to school with a positive mindset and has every other thing provided in the school for effective teaching and learning, he can still excel academically and become that President, Minister, architect or doctor some day.

The Late Gaddafi of Libya was a poor shepherd boy from a rejected part of Libya who became a President. As to whether he succeeded as a President or not is another matter.

All I am saying is, one needs a positive attitude even as a child to work towards greatness regardless of the lack of physical things like sandals.

In a Facebook post on my personal wall in relation to this subject matter, I got a friend telling me that the free sandals provision is a good social intervention that deserves commendation. He buttressed his point by saying that, his Uncle, who lives in Toronto-Canada, is incapable of working and gets monthly support from food to clothing.

Then I retorted; good point; because that is what I call a real social intervention programme. But I went to remind him that the intervention his uncle was enjoying in Toronto, may not completely be a free gift because he was once an active worker who paid taxes diligently and contributed to the growth of that country's economy so in difficult times he benefits.

I also reminded him not to forget that those economies are robust enough and do not use scanty taxpayer's sweat for that purpose. They do not use donor funding as well and lastly they have an economy that is industrialized enough to generate enough wealth to be distributed to people genuinely in need. They also do not have ballooning public debts and deficits to clear.

And these are the reasons they enjoy quality free healthcare, housing support, unemployment benefits, support for the aged, disabled and incapacitated persons. But even that; the government is mindful not to give more than it generates in revenue.

If Ghana wants to do real social intervention programmes, I challenge any government to try real affordable housing, pay monies to unemployed graduates, deliver better healthcare under NHIS, support disabled and aged persons financially and not the cheap thing such as free shoes, sanitary pads and uniforms.

A social intervention project such as the distribution of laptops by government which is critical to our advancement in this age of Information Communication Technology, is faced with implementation challenges. Basic school teachers who have been trained for nearly two years, are still waiting for laptops that are yet to reach them. But Government quickly jumps that unfinished project to give free sandals elsewhere. And were the free sandals also embossed with photos of the president like we did for the RLG laptops? That's just by the way.

We must stop tackling problems from the surface and get to the roots. Let us widen the tax net, tackle corruption, industrialize and get real benefits from our natural resources, wean ourselves from external debts, develop a productive workforce then when we have surplus, we can start talking about real social intervention for the populace in a careful manner.

I am waiting for the day when the Ghanaian who pays taxes can pick a telephone from his or her abode and call the hospital to bring a well equipped ambulance in real time to save him or her from dying. That for me qualifies for a better social intervention not the cheap freebies we give for votes and for the cameras.

Per the resources available to us, the Ghanaian deserves better in terms of social intervention than a mere sandal if we had done things right after 58 years of independence.

And I hope the Government is going to reimburse the DIHOC Shoe Factory for the 10,000 sandals so we don't end up collapsing it like we have done to many state enterprises over the years.

I don't want to believe this is a corporate social responsibility from DIHOC which was only resuscitated recently to be commercially viable.
Well, if it's the above, I won't be surprised especially at a time when we have struggling energy companies dolling out money to airlift supporters to Brazil to support a worthless and shameful campaign.

And to think that among the highest donor for this cause which paid a whopping one milling cedis according to the Justice Dzamefe Commission report is the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, SSNIIT.

I may have deviated briefly but I hope you can pardon me because I couldn't help but to link this nauseating scenario; it simply explains the quagmire we find ourselves in as a country and why I continuously say there is no light at the end of any tunnel as far as Ghana is concerned.

That phrase doesn't apply to Ghana because every action in this country only ends up dimming the modicum of hope we have left.

The writer; Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie is a journalist/