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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Columnist: Ackon, Paa Kow

Respectfully your excellency, what is our crime on a republic day?

Growing up as a young man, I read that on 1st July 1960, the Queen of England's Governor General finally said goodbye to the new Ghana and went home. In other words, Ghana became a Republic, a word derived from the Latin phrase "res publica" which means concern of the people or the welfare of the nation is a public affair, because it is the responsibility of the public to vote for those who are deemed best to represent them and the most suitable to look after their well-being as a society. As a republic, this means that no single person or Political Party has a "divine" right to rule Ghana. Professor Stephen Addai, former Rector of GIMPA for example has suggested that Leadership is cause and every other thing is effect. It also needs to be emphasized that, in a republic, power ultimately rest with the people.
Ghanaians who are over 60 years know that our currency (Ghana Cedi), for example, used to be one of the strongest ever everywhere at the money market. In fact, it was considered to be stronger than even the American dollar, and equivalent only to the British pound. There was little or no deceit in the social system to give anyone undue annoyance. What was remarkable in the public and civil service was the determination of workers to work hard to give satisfaction to all. My generation is completely astonished to learn that Ghana had one of the highest levels of income and some of the best social and economic infrastructure in sub-saharan africa in the 50's and 60's?. It is therefore not surprising that we keep hearing the older generation say "the good old days were really good". Indeed, they have fond memories of how the environment was quieter, safer and friendlier. Without a doubt, covetous corruption was an unknown state of thought and action. I am interested in knowing why everybody was esteemed high and none was considered low or claimed to be low. We all need to know why our political leadership has fell short of virtuous life after 55 years of republican status. Why have we made most of our national songs hollow and not the song to raise and sing? How many of our youth would be motivated to sing such songs with pride and honour? Do they even know how to sing songs such as the one beneath?
Ghana my happy home
Land of rich resources
Land of mighty talents
Of racial tolerance
Justice and freedom
I will die for you, glorious Ghana.
I will die for you in all I think or speak or do.
Progressively, it appears to me that we are losing our nationhood and there is no hope for young people in Ghana. I am not surprised a lot of my contemporaries could be seen on daily basis in long queues under the scorching sun without chairs and canopies at most embassies in search for visas which they would eventually be denied off anyway. Can our leaders say they are unaware of this state of affairs? Is this the kind of Ghana which was handed to them by our forefathers? If Ghanaians cannot be accorded respect and dignity in their own country after 55years of being a Republic, where else in the world would Ghanaians be treated like Kings and Queens? What then becomes of our Independence which made it possible for our Republic?
Beyond this entire hullabaloo, one can say without fear or favour that our leaders are not doing much to make life simple and better for the ordinary Ghanaian. It is worth mentioning that Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana gives President Mahama the power to appoint governing bodies of public corporations. This implies that, the President is privy to all decisions which are taken at such public corporations including increasing utility rates; since the President has assignees such as the Chairmen and members serving on the boards of all public corporations.
So has it now become a twelve-monthly rite for utility service providers to increase utility rates on Republic days? On 1st July 2014 for example, the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) increased electricity and water by 12.9% and 6.1% respectively. Just this evening, PURC has announced a 51.73% and 15% increase in electricity and water respectively with effect from 1st July 2015. According to the PURC, the increase in electricity has been deferred due to the current DUMSOR WAHALA. On top of this is a 10% increase in petroleum prices: whiles the Insurance Commission has also increased insurance premium to over 300%. Can anyone think about the corollary of these tactless and unwarranted decisions? Can the paltry salaries of most Ghanaians accommodate these superfluous costs? It is mind-boggling to accept that utility price increases are best implemented on the eve of a Republic day like this. If life was better 55years ago, why must it be difficult in our age of abundant technology? What is the justification for such constant price hikes when prices of petroleum products on the international market keep decreasing? Could this not be viewed as a spillover of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionality and the Millennium Challenge Account Compact two? Mr. President, what agreement have you signed for us to be massacred on a Republic day? What has become of the “I Care For You” and the “Better Ghana Agenda” slogans your party underhandedly used in recapturing power in 2008?
There is no doubt in my mind that the NDC’s ideology of Social Democracy has become incongruous as it rather promotes the excesses of capitalism such as inequality, poverty, and oppression instead of opposing it. What has the party practically done in advocating for universal social rights to attain universally accessible public services such as education, housing, health care, workers' compensation, jobs, child care and care for the elderly? I perfectly agree with President Barack Obama that “if the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost”.

Paa Kow Ackon