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Opinions of Friday, 25 October 2013

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

President Mahama must lead or get out of the way!

Ghana is no doubt in a mess! Our debilitating leadership crisis is in full glare and it appears as if silly season is now the norm. President Mahama is overwhelmed with crisis after crisis. The bad news is that President Mahama better lead now or faces more adverse action. Yes some will play politics with the current situation. Nothing new here sir! As far as I am concerned, it does not take away from the problems nor stop the president from taking action to move the country forward. The Supreme Court case is over! Mr. President, you have a clear mandate and must lead or step aside. We are tired of gimmicks and pleas for restraint. Stop the stunts and take courageous action to start healing our sick country. The time to talk was yesterday! Today beckons nothing but swift action. You will only draw sympathy when you act to solve our problems instead of the pranks that continue unabated.

I personally find it condescending and indeed annoying that the president will have the nerve to call on Ghanaians to tighten their belts at a time when he, President Mahama and his NDC phalanx, frolic in the lap of luxury. In the abundance of poverty and misery, these callous politicians continue to inflict pain even as they live above the pain they inflict. Taxes and tariffs are being imposed forcefully on the poor even as the rich and powerful foxtrot to unbridled luxury. I hold the view that unless policy makers and enforcers live under the weight of their wicked and incompetent policies, they’ll have no reason to do better and right by the people. Imagine a president who does not pay taxes but can impose taxes and tariffs and then tell the people to suck it up. Lord have mercy! Taxes on condoms? 78% taxes on electricity? 58% on water? How does this help our economy? And this is at a time when government agencies are freighted with incompetency, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness?

My brother and sisters, imagine the life of a minister of government in Ghana and tell me if they have more human needs than any other Ghanaian. Forty-five ( 45) gallons of petrol every week? Thirty-five (35) gallons of petrol every week for deputy ministers? Free house! Free electricity! Free Security detail! Free cook! Free Watch Man! Free Garden boy! Free Water! Hundred million (100,000,000) old Ghana Cedis in salary! I assume a hundred million is $5,000 dollars? 25% Entertainment allowance? How about 10% Clothing allowance? Never mind ex-gratia! Never mind traveling allowances! Ever heard of T&T? Now what is it about these V-8 Suvs? 2 free cars? One sedan and one V8-SUV!! Oh free police escort to avoid the suffocating traffic!! My friends, can Ghana continue to afford this decadence? What really do we get in return for all these freebies? We give all this but are not entitled to know the key performance indicators (KPIs) for these ministers? Why can’t the government gazette the performance indicators of these bloody leeches? Why must we give so much but get nothing in return? Have we forgotten the adage that to whom much is given much is expected? Act Mr President! Change it!

Now, given the above, don’t you think President Mahama should set the stage by asking all ministers and MPs to tighten their belts before calling on the people to suck it up? Yes, cutting these decadent perks will not solve all our problems but its symbolic value cannot be underestimated. Our leaders must lead by example! In addition, putting these MPs, Ministers, and the President in a little discomfort or on a perk-diet will awaken them to the realities of the people who hired them. Let the president drive himself to work for just a day and watch him summon people in to solve the traffic snares that continue to kill productivity, raise stress levels and consistently pollute the environment. Force the leaders to get healthcare within the Ghanaian Healthcare system and watch them fix it. So long as they live outside and above the system they create, you can forget it. This is human nature 101.

Also seriously consider this scenario! Ghana is a country blessed with tremendous human and natural resources right? Yet, what we do now is borrow money to shore up a budget that goes to support workers who literally do no work. So while our debt grows, we produce virtually nothing. When the money that we’ve borrowed lands in the hands of the 2% elite that take 70% of our budget, they spend it all on foreign goods thus creating jobs overseas. The import propelled economy is one more testament to this greasy pole that we are hell bent on climbing, even if it cost us our soul. Our government is doing everything to continue this import consumption economy (import-distribute-consume) at a time when unemployment is soaring and local industry has precariously folded. So we import chicken, banana, whisky, turkey tails, jeans, pins, needles, shoes, toothpicks and many other products that we can easily produce in Ghana. What the hell is wrong with us? Why can’t we at least cordon off specific areas of the economy for local enterprise? Where is our wisdom and bravery? Why are we so wicked to ourselves?

President Mahama must stop twiddling his fingers and take the bull by the horns. The first step is to declare a state of emergency. A state of emergency will allow him to take the draconian measures needed to start anchoring this sinking ship called Ghana. These quick fixes will only kick the can down the road and make it difficult for subsequent governments. We must fix the nagging problems from the root causes. Fix them once and for all. We can’t re-fix energy, waste or water problems anytime a new government comes in. We need continuity and that means we must learn to solve our problems collectively and in a multi-partisan way. This crappy process of discontinuing, amending or gutting efforts by previous governments just to pave way for more corruption on new projects, loans and contracts must stop now. We know clearly that half hearted fixed only goes to exacerbate the problems in the near future.

Mr. President, cut off all the perks that you and your ministers enjoy! The country is broke and cannot afford the decadence that we nurse. We can’t have 2.4% of our public workforce consuming 70% of our budget. 97.6% of our people cannot live on 30% of our budget!! Note that of the remaining 30% of the budget, a significant portion will go to corrupt practices engendered by the same 2% who are already taking in 70% of the budget. The irritating part of this is that we get nothing in return for this phenomenal expenditure. Why pay police people to collect bribes or civil servants to idle? How can we make progress if Ghana is freighted with such colossal financial burden? Is this system sustainable? And the government is waiting on you and me to ship a car so they can tax it to death to support this prattle? You lie bad!!

My friends, I think it is now clear as to why our infrastructure that is supposed to spur growth is not seeing any progress. The politicians have allocated all our resources to wrong priorities. The government is afraid of messing with these non-producing and not needed workers. It would rather continue a system that cannot be sustained, than do the heavy lifting and live with the consequences. No one is asking this NDC government to commit political suicide. However, the country must be soundly managed or political suicide will be inevitable. The poison buffet has been served! Pick your poison NDC.

I am encouraged by those who have taken to the streets to demand changes. Ghanaians can and must demand accountability and responsibility. Our government must never be allowed to sit free until it performs as expected. We must light a fire under these civil servants and demand that they manage the country well. Ghanaians must not rest until we turn this rotten system upside down. We must demand leadership from the people we pay to lead. If they can’t lead, then we politely ask that they step aside or follow. The civil unrest must persistently continue and I sure don’t care if they are politically motivated or not. So long as the demands address a clear problem, our people must continue marching. Aluta Continua!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately dubbed the double edge sword and recently mobbed as Santrofi Anumaa)

I don’t’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell—Harry Truman