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Opinions of Thursday, 9 March 2006

Columnist: Adin, Kwame

ROPAB: A Fatal Step

There's nothing to crow about the passage of ROPAB.

K4's government took a fatal step when they made a conscious decision to pass this flawed bill at any cost. They took the gauntlet by their rough and tumble acts of running over the objections of the opposition groups of party coalitions, students, workers, and even NPP members like Kennedy and Koi-Larbi. K4 has driven a wedge among Ghanaians. Unfortunately, K4 has just repeated Ghana’s history whereby the ruling government's decision is based on monologues. Such is the trait of a dictatorship.

Ropad offered a tremendous opportunity to engage Ghanaians from all segments of society in discussing the electoral process and government responsibility. This process should have taken place in villages and towns across Ghana, and in Ghanaian communities outside of Ghana. Ropad should have become a platform to be used to generate discussions about citizenship and responsibility, and to talk about the roles and responsibilities of Ghana's missions.

ROPAD could have become a basis to actively involve Ghanaians on group basis in development issues in Ghana.

Instead, K4's government, like sharks that smell blood, thought they could go in for the 'kill'. They saw an opportunity to advance politically.

Thus they sought to present themselves as advocates for the voting rights of Ghanaians in the diasporas. The passage of Ropad is at best a pyrrhic victory. The bill deserves to be framed and put up in the Hall of Shame. In reality, this brazen act of the government has cemented cynicism in an already skeptical public. Regardless of whether Ropad is implemented in 2008 or later, Ghanaians must be prepared for explosive election disputes.

The real impact of voting by Ghanaians in the diasporas will be limited. A case in point is Mexico which has a population of well over 5 million citizens in the USA. Mexico made provisions for Mexicans in the USA to vote in elections in their country. However, to the dismay of Mexican authorities, less than 60,000 actually registered to vote. One would expect that given Mexico’s resources and its proximity to the US, a great number of Mexicans should have registered. But that never happened.

Most Ghanaians in the diasporas, even those opposed to ROPAB, welcome the opportunity for their voices to be heard in matters of the state. However, NPP (and for that matter, any political party) has too much at stake to be involved with Ropad. The involvement of NPP in Ropad is tantamount to ask cats to make rules about how to catch rats. The signing of ROPAB bill is analogous to the coach of Black Stars asking Ghanaians to strive together for a formidable team well after the recent African Nations Competition. The nation can avert a debacle when all segments of society have a fair and equal opportunity to debate this critical matter. For the process to be transparent, all political groups must be neutral. It is disingenuous for K4 and NPP to pass Ropad now and then maintain that Ropad might be implemented after 2008. As Mandela demonstrated successfully in South Africa, the best form of leadership is one by consensus.

K4's government, in particular, ought to be circumspect. History of politics in Ghana should be a guide. The recent history should be a measure of how not over-reach in matters of the state. The government’s moral turpitude ought to make K4 deliberate with Ropad. Ghanaians from all ethnic groups and political affiliations (NPP Koi-Larbi, Kennedy, and others) are alarmed at such violations as official power abuse, visa scandals, sexual escapades, graft, and improper property acquisitions which have become routine. Rightly, Ghanaians cannot understand the inordinate devotion of national resources to Ropad, when most people in the country are eking out a living. What is the government's response to the lack of drinking water, electricity, food, health care etc? Ropad? K4’s government has shown by the sheer energy they have devoted to Ropad that their priority is not water, food, health care etc. What does the government do next? Ropad has passed, but it must wait for 2008 or later. Meanwhile the deprivations Ghanaians face are immediate. The afflictions Ghanaians are subject to are daily. How can K4 explain to nursing mothers, children and elderly at Ejura, Wa, Kintampo, Elmina, Swedru, Hohoe, Sogakofe, Adenta, etc that though he cannot provide them with good drinking water, healthcare etc, he has passed Ropad overnight?

Now that Ropad has been passed, K4's government can enact a law expeditiously to free the mothers and neonates who remain captives at Korle Bu, Okomfo Anokye, and other hospitals due to their inability to pay delivery cost.

K4 is a father and he understands the angst parents experience when they cannot hold their babies in the comfort of their homes. Next, K4 can request that ministers such Anane, Lamptey, Quaye, Edumadze, etc whose integrity have been questioned to go on extended paid leave. K4 must then appoint a bipartisan commission comprising political groups, judiciary, and statesmen and stateswomen to investigate any accusations leveled against these ministers. CHRAJ lacks the capacity to do such investigations. OSF is too close to the government of the day.

K4 can draw inspiration from other countries. Take the example of former US Congressman Randy Cunningham, a conservative Republican, hawk, and Vietnam veteran. Cunningham faces a ten-year sentence for betrayal of the public trust by accepting bribery. A defense contractor gave Cunningham a sweet-heart mortgage deal and access to use a luxury boat, and threw a birthday bash for his daughter. Kenya’s bribery scandal is another lesson. Or, take the case of Zuma, the former vice-president of South Africa, who was dismissed for graft.

At this point K4 must think of his legacy. Any step he takes is critical. His state of the union address became a personal and vitriolic attack on his political enemies, and a campaign for ROPAB. Meanwhile the state of Ghana union is abysmal. Even though so much opportunity has been squandered, there is still time for K4 to assume his responsibility to Ghanaians.



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