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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Columnist: Eric Bawah

Smiling at the happy days ahead

During the 2012 electioneering campaign when Nana Akufo Addo promised Ghanaians that when he got the nod he will introduce the free SHS, I prayed to God to make his dream come true.

However, when the five Supreme Court Judges ruled in favour of Mr. Mahama in the Election Petition, my grief turned to anger and anger to resolution. A night fell on a different world where freedom and justice is supposed to be the guard post. (I beg, no contempt here. I am not Salifu Maase Mugabe).

It is an undeniable fact that education is one of the basic human rights and it is proclaimed internationally. In fact, it is one of the precursors to all other basic human rights.

The Free Senior High School policy adopted by many countries in Africa in particular and other policies are aimed at achieving equity in education. In Kenya where Free Secondary School is practiced, the main aim is to promote gender equality. A study conducted in Kenya indicated that gender parity indices before Free Secondary School policy were 0.633, 0.649, 0.610 and 0.620 for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

After the introduction of Free Secondary School policy the gender parity index were dropped and later increased to 0.580, 0.570, 0.590 and 0.659 for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The expectation was that parity improved since the main challenge was thought to be school fees. The Free Secondary School which was introduced in Kenya in 2008 has led to an astronomical increase in school enrolment.

The multi-million dollar question everybody seems to be asking is: If Kenya can introduce Free Secondary School why can’t Ghana do same? Dr. Kwame Nkrumah wrestled independence for Ghana years before the late Jomo Kenyatta worked to uncoil Kenya from the grip of colonialists.

If you compare the natural resources that Ghana has and compare them to what Kenya can boast of, you will realize that we are rather mismanaging the affairs of this country. The issue borders on priority. Kenyan ministers and their deputies do not ride V8, Landcruisers and other luxurious cars.

They simply cut their coat according to the size of their clothes and so they have some to set aside for the Free Senior Secondary School policy.

A country that can boast of a large deposit of manganese, bauxite, gold, diamond and huge hectares of cocoa farms coupled with oil in commercial quantities cannot introduce free SHS. While a poor country like Kenya which cannot boast of what Ghana has in terms of natural resources is practicing Free Secondary School for its citizens.

All what we are good at doing is to carry cup in hand and go on a borrowing spree only to squander and deposit some in foreign banks to be used on rainy days. Is it not a shame?

When people like Alban Bagbin, John Dramani Mahama, Haruna Iddrisu, Alhaji Fuseini, Murtala Mohammed, and the many Northerners in government today joined the “Free SHS is not feasible” chorus in the run-up to the 2012 general election, I pitied the Southerners who also moved in sympathy with these guys. These are people who enjoyed Free Education introduced by Kwame Nkrumah’s regime in the North and today when somebody said he was going to create the same opportunity nationwide, the same people said it was not possible.

In fact, they have been able to hoodwink the Southerners whose children are roaming the streets after completing JHS simply because they do not have money to pay school fees for them to continue their education. After crying from the rooftop that Free Senior High School is not possible, the same John Mahama went to parliament to deliver his last State of the Nation Address and shamelessly told Ghanaians that he was going to introduce Free Senior High School “progressively.”

Another season has come and the same Nana Akufo Addo is telling Ghanaians that when voted to power he will build one factory in each district in Ghana and the same people are saying it will not be possible. You see, it takes a visionary leader to succeed in government. Before Nana made the pronouncement, a team had been set up to make a feasibility study on the one district one factory mantra.

The man did not wake up one morning and decided to tell Ghanaians the dreams he had. Nana is saying his team has identified more than three hundred projects across the 216 districts of the country to bring into fruition his one district, one factory policy, which is an integral part of NPP’s agenda to industrialize the country. These industries, he said will be established in partnership with the private sector.

You see, there are a lot of strategic investors out there ready to come in but because of uncertainties they have refused to come. You don’t expect an investor to enter the country to do business with such high utility tariffs coupled with erratic power supply and high taxes.

If an enabling environment is created, these investors will surely come. We import toothpicks from China while we have large acreages of bamboo in some districts.

We import tin tomatoes from a country like Morocco while the Wenchi Tomato Factory as well as the Pwalugu and Techiman tomato factories are sitting there idle. In the case of the Techiman Tomato Factory, an NDC man from Accra has turned the factory into sachet water production. Parliament had to order furniture from China while the Mim Scanstyle Furniture Factory is defunct.

The Kade Match Factory is still located at Kade but we import matches from across the world. I can go on and on but I will not get enough space to tell you the more than two hundred factories which were sold by the (P)NDC. All these factories can be revamped with the help of strategic investors.

God has blessed Ghana so much so that raw materials for any factory can be found and tapped. Large acreage of lands are lying fallow. Mangos have come and gone and we are waiting for next year to have some when the fruit can be canned. The Nsawam Cannery is still there but we import pineapple juice, orange juice and other synthetic drinks from abroad which continue to kill us softly.

Everywhere you go what you see are posters of deceased young men and women with the description: “Gone too soon” or “what a shock.” I can’t wait for Nana Addo to come to power to introduce his one district, one factory and the Free SHS so that Ghana will be like the days of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. We sit by the riverside and yet we complain of being thirsty. Go to neighboring Ivory Coast and see. Factories are dotted everywhere and unemployment rate is very low. The economy of a country that has just come out of a bloody war is doing far better than Ghana

The proposed Cashew Marketing Board

When Nana Addo said he was going to establish a Cashew Marketing Board, I decided to expand my cashew farm because I know for sure that that dream like his many other dreams will see the light of the day when he mounts the throne. I don’t want to wait for him to come to power before I start expanding my farm.

The problems cashew farmers face in this country is that because there is no marketing board for the nuts, shylock businessmen buy the nuts at give away prices, thereby leaving the farmers worse off every season. That is why cashew farmers who live near the boarders like Sampa carry their products through bush roads to Ivory Coast to sell.

In 1983 when the country nearly went down on her knees due to devastating bush fires, cocoa farmers who got their cocoa farms burnt turned to the cultivation of cashew nut. Today if you go to the Northern, Ashanti, and Brong Ahafo regions, farmers have cultivated large cashew farms but anytime the season comes, the purchase of the nuts becomes a big problem.

If a Cashew Marketing Board is established, it will go a long way to assuage the suffering of cashew farmers. When Nana Addo made the proposal and the people of Brong Ahafo Region became happy, Mr. John Mahama, the copy cat also went to the region during one of his so-called “Accounting to the People tour” to tell the cashew farmers that he too will establish a Cashew Marketing Board when the people of Brong Ahafo retains him as the president of Ghana.

I now understand the reason why the NPP has refused to bring out their Manifesto. The NDC is fervently waiting for the NPP Manifesto so that they could copy from it. All what they will do, is to “rebrand” it. Just look at how they stole the NPP Northern Development fund and turned it into Savanna Development Authority!

Because they were not the originators of the idea, they could not manage it well and ended up using the money earmarked for the SADA to campaign in 2012. It has been nearly three years since our guinea fowls migrated to Burkina Faso and they are still there yet to return to the shores of Ghana.

When Mr. Mahama took his “Accounting to the people” tour to the Northern Region I was expecting him to account for the migrated guinea fowls and tell the people over there when these guinea fowls will return to Ghana for us to slaughter them because by now they have grown up and ready for our dining tables. Eh, Mahama and his NDC! You will kill us Oo! Meanwhile, I am smiling at the happy days ahead.

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