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Opinions of Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Columnist: The National Forum

Respect for Dissent

TNF Editorial:

Respect for Dissent

•the mark of Quality Leadership


Over the last week into its ending, one major issue that dominated our media front was the commentary by Nana Akufo Addo on the proposed Kasoa Interchange project. Akufo Addo's concern mainly was that the project figures required reconsideration in respect of Value for Money.

He did this without putting any contradicting figures for the project but only inferring from comparison to an earlier project, the George Walker Bush Highway also called N1. Akufo Addo said:

"I want to make a humble suggestion to His Excellency the President. Check the figures! Check them again! Invite others in an international open tender and let's see if we can't save the nation more than half of what you have signed us up to pay. The President certainly does not have to listen to me, he might very well think he is within his rights and he might even think to go back on a decision he has already made and subject the contract to a second look would be a truly unprecedented act. Yes, it would be unprecedented, but it would show strength rather than weakness on the part of the President and it could lead to a regeneration of trust in our governance process. Try it, Mr President and let's see what happens. You have nothing to lose."

While disagreeing with Akufo Addo on the suggestion to reopen tender on a contract that has already been awarded and given parliamentary approval, we can appreciate the import of his critique. Let Government communicate the coverage and cost of the project better to Ghanaians especially those in doubt. It may have been coated with some mischief but in the end, it would make Government look great and cleaner.

Our disagreement with Nana stems from the fact that he did not do us Ghanaians, and the Government any good with figures to compare the cost of the project he believes is priced overboard to. In effect, his request and humble suggestion is based on speculation rather than fact or what there is. Neither did he give us an incline as to which experts he spoke to and their capacities in arriving at what conclusion they were peddling.

Even more disappointing has been the reaction from Government. In a post on his Facebook page, Mr. Ofosu Kwakye a deputy Minister for Communications wrote of Nana Addo; his "abject failure to check with his party's MPs who approved the loan agreement for the project before making the false claim that the contract sum was inflated reveals a troubling lack of thoroughness and attention to detail which is hardly the stuff that Presidents are made of." And called it a gaffe.

What is embarrassing with the submission of Akuffo Addo as Mr Ofosu Kwakye purports? And where is the lacking 'thoroughness and attention to details' he balloons in relation to stuff Presidents are made of? Mr Ofosu Kwakye's rants at Nana Addo's invitation to the President to say the least are equally misfiring if he thinks Nana Addo got it wrong.

The General Secretary of the PNC, Bernard Mornah holds a view on this subject that we share in. "Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Nana Addo has expressed his mind. If you don't take it and the people of Ghana believe in Nana Addo, they will do it at the appropriate time."

"The people of Ghana expect their government to run the affairs of the country so that the weak and vulnerable will be protected and social services are managed for the public good...our people need to have that firm assurance now, not just by words or pious declarations, but by concrete deeds."

Dissent must be tolerated at all levels for Democracy to thrive. Abuses, Insults and Insinuations poured at dissenting views don't show any maturity in Leadership. Our Ministers and Leaders at the various levels of our governance system must realise that we pay them to serve us. It is our money they use to embark on the projects they undertake thinking that they are doing us some favour. Our leaders must appreciate that we won't sit for them do things their way without any call from us.

Ghanaians are not dump, neither are we stupid people. The good Lord has only endowed us with a high level of tolerance and entertainment for reprehensible behaviours such that we are able to swallow a lot of nonsense without resorting to violence. We only act when things are at the neck level. Else many people in public offices would not be alive today. We must learn to accommodate dissent.
We may disagree with a criticism but we must be willing to listen and respond by exposing the error in the criticism rather than subject the person to humiliating comments. That doesn't build nations