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Opinions of Monday, 7 March 2016

Columnist: Ackon, Paa Kow

President Mahama’s esoteric state of Ghana

Apart from the Leadership role America plays in world peace, there is another good thing many people like about them; which is the politics of hope, truth and togetherness they practice. Anyone who watched President Obama's final State of the Union Address last month would have seen the level of decorum and unity of purpose the Senators from the different political parties demonstrated. It is therefore not surprising that the deliberative assembly of the USA is called SENATE, a word derived from the Latin word SENEX meaning "the elder" or "the old one" and therefore allegedly assembling wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class.
Regrettably, the heckling displayed in Ghana’s Parliament by both NDC and NPP MP's when the President was delivering the State of the Nation Address is most unfortunate. Why is it the case that in the history of the Fourth Republic of Ghana, anytime the President delivers the State of the Nation Address, he has to be heckled by the minority and hailed by the majority in the presence of the diplomatic community, international media, school children and Ghanaians in general? Are we not teaching the next generation to be indisciplined instead of creating a just and disciplined society for them? Heckling in whichever form essentially distracts the listening audience to appreciate what the President is saying; be it truth or false
Heckling the President of Ghana is like a creation from outer space and we should not allow this to worsen our already polarized country. Obviously, there is everything wrong with the evidence-based speech the President gave because it prolonged the address and took away the seriousness which is supposed to characterize such an important occasion. However, whiles we disagree and describe the address as pedestrian, it is understandable to realize that the message is targeted at those in the hinterlands; majority of whom are extremely poor, uneducated and mediocrity praise singers.
Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution says “The President shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before dissolution of Parliament, deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation”. Reading further, Article 34(2) demands that the President presents the steps he has taken to ensure the realization of the Political, Social, Educational and Cultural objectives; as well as the international relations and duties of a citizen.
It beats imagination why President Mahama given such an opportunity, chose to depict a heavenly atmosphere existing only in the minds of some selected few as against the truthful representation of hopelessness, doom and gloom of the future of our youth and the dark clouds of fear and insecurity hanging on the lives of many Ghanaians. We should avoid the never-ending campaign about some supposed achievements of government; how things are improving; how the government is committed at putting people first but beneath all that propaganda is the reality of failure across all sectors of the economy. It is needless to propose a toast and celebrate the President for patching up a few spots in some badly damaged feeder road that continues to kill thousands of victims annually. It is shameful to find many people who are soaked in the mucked waters of mediocrity, willing to applaud and defend the government in its state of gargantuan failings. Most distressing is the attitude of the media, educated, social commentators and elite class who have become the transmitters and defenders of mediocrity.
In Obama's State of the Union Address to the people of America, apart from identifying some achievements his administration made like creating 14.1million new jobs, bringing unemployment rate down to 5%, and many others, he was humble to admit that in 2015, over 1.6million cancer cases were projected to have been diagnosed in the US, with over half a million Americans projected to have died from the disease in the same year.
Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) could be right in saying that President Mahama deviated from the purpose for which he was in parliament as required by law. Perhaps the President, need to be told that the State of the Nation Address is not, cannot and should not be the time to present his Party’s Campaign Manifesto. It is contradictory for the President to suggest that his NDC government is committed to putting the people first when the same government acting through the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC) has increased water bills by 140% as against the 67.2% announced in December 2015, increased electricity by 70%, and fuel by 32%. The reflection of these increases is the collapse of businesses due to high cost of operation and its associated high unemployment rates. Why were these burning issues missing in the address especially when the President had promised in the 2015 State of the Nation Address to position Ghana as an export-driven rather than import-focused economy?
The State of our healthcare system in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is on its knees. The 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) Situational Report on Cholera outbreak in Ghana indicated that a preventable disease like Cholera killed 243 deaths out of 28,975 reported cases, the largest the country has ever experienced in one year. In 2016, over 100 people have died out of another preventable disease called Meningitis. Perhaps, President Mahama needs to be reminded that one newborn baby dies every 15 minutes and 90 die daily before reaching the first month of their life in Ghana. Sadly, many innocent lives are lost daily as a result of inadequate basic medical equipments and emergency ambulances.
Is the President aware that Ghana has been ranked second after Sudan in Africa for open defecation? And that the country has been performing poorly with sanitation coverage of only 15 percent? The President should have mentioned how careless some people were in wasting our taxes to rebrand Metro Mass Buses at the cost of Ghc3.6million and the compassion they have received from his office.
Article 40(a) of the Constitution mandates the President to promote and protect the interests of Ghana. We all know that the President, at a security risk to Ghanaians, took a unilateral decision to resettle Guantanamo detainees, suspects of the Rwandan genocide, and Syrian refugees in Ghana without Parliamentary approval or consultation. Why were the Political Parties not briefed on such a major National Security issue?
Article 41 (k) talks about protecting and safeguarding the environment. What has the President done about Fulani herdsmen who are killing Ghanaians, destroying their crops and the environment? What steps has the President taken to punish the Chinese nationals for their wanton destruction of our natural resource and the serious hazard to life their activity has created? Why has the President allowed the sale of Achimota forest to Aikan Capital when that is the only green belt in the heart of Accra?
President Mahama is compelled by the constitution to draw up a programme for the implementation of the Free Compulsory Basic Education. It is shameful the President said in the 2015 State of the Nation Address that enrolment at the second cycle level has increased by 10% when Child Rights International estimates that over 2million Ghanaian children are out of school. Considering that one of the major factors which has contributed to the poor performance of students at the BECE since 2001 has been inadequate time to complete the syllabus, it would have been prudent for the President to talk about the steps he has taken to compel parents to send their children to school and / or the scrapping of the BECE which has become a barrier, terminating the future of 15-16-year-old students; especially because 50% of the students always FAIL the exams.
It must be borne in mind that a nation where many people cannot put enormous pressure on the leaders to provide economic, social and infrastructural development, but are willing to endlessly praise and celebrate such leaders for doing less than 10% of their job cannot be successful.
President Mahama simply failed to follow the dictate of Chapter 6 of the 1992 Constitution when he had the last chance to deliver the State of the Nation address. It appears the President has admitted by his deeds that his days are numbered and that he had the luxury of time for almost 4 hours to deliver a long hilarious send off message. President Mahama should take cue from President John Magufuli of Tanzania but hey, that will be needless since Dr Nduom will take over as the next President in January 2017.
Well, we thank President Mahama for his service to Ghana; afterall, that is all he can do! Ghanaians must be still and know that CALM CHANGE IS WHAT GHANA NEEDS. GIVE NDUOM A CHANCE!!!

Paa Kow Ackon
ackon.pk@gmail.com