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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

The January 2009 Political Change was a Wake-Up Call.

The current political developments and events at the BNI have revealed that the January 2009 political change to usher the opposition into power was a Wake-Up call for Ghana to rethink through her political destiny. The Bible says clearly that things just don’t happen; they occur for a cause and purpose. Ghana seems to be going through political developments ordained by the All-knowing God. Between 1981 and 2000 J J Rawlings ruled Ghana at his whim and caprices. Though he crafted the 1992 Ghana Constitution to pave way for multi-party democracy he orchestrated politics to his advantage and won the two immediate 4-year terms. Even the opposition rejected the 1996 general election for various electoral mal-practices and wrote the stolen verdict. During the 19 years that the P/NDC ruled Ghana there were human rights abuses, partisan favors for NDC, economic incompetence, bad governance, massive corruption, poverty destitution and the general lack of progress. Ghana was ready for a change.

In 2000 President J A Kufour and his team justified the political change by their able leadership. They strengthened the fledging democracy and encouraged free press. They stabilized the currency and halted inflation to almost a single digit. They introduced Presidential initiatives and provided leadership and developments. Even on Adom Fm Father’s Day program this year, a child called in to wish President Kufour a Happy Father’s Day for the school feeding program, capitation grant, health insurance scheme and other developments he initiated. The child said Kufour was a good grandpa. That was chilling in deed. NPP improved Ghana’s international image outside and Ghana assumed her rightful position as the torch bearer of Africa. Even in Sports the Black Stars qualified to participate in the world cup for the first time. Ghana was on the right track and consensus of opinion could have favored a mandate for them to continue with their rule. But alas, they took the wrong turn in the later part of their administration and coupled with allegations of massive corruption they dropped the baton. They were arrogant and disrespectful.

The most intriguing thing NPP did was the 18 Presidential candidates who splashed money around just to wrestle power for their presidential slot. It said so much about them. Some even abandoned their ministerial positions to contest for the flag-bearer slot. Obviously Ghanaians became suspicious of their political intentions. Could these leaders be trusted? Ghanaians were bewildered! With these nagging questions on the minds of the citizenry an election that could have been an easy victory for NPP became a keenly contested battle. The opposition, NDC won by a narrow margin of 30,000 votes at the second balloting. Though there were few allegations of riggings and electoral mal-practices they were not so overwhelming as to have altered the true results. The people just rejected NPP and thought that under the circumstances NDC was a better alternative though unwillingly.

There is a Wake-Up call for Ghanaians to reflect seriously about the political destiny of the nation. The politicians preach virtue but practice vice. NPP raised hell when they were in opposition. The tides changed when they assumed power in 2000. NDC was now in trouble. The NPP government in a way applied selective justice to compel NDC to account for their ill-gotten wealth when in power. The constitutional provision of “knowingly causing financial loss to the state” became a popular slogan. They chased NDC gurus and those who fell victims to the law were put behind bar. Solemey even died in prison. NDC raised their heavy voices on Kufour and they made him uneasy. Consequently, Kufour granted the victims pardon and squashed pending cases that set Mrs Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and others free. Meanwhile there were signs of widespread corruption within the Kufour administration but such individuals were given the option to resign for want of evidence. Everything was like a circus.

Today NDC is in power and NPP is in trouble. The Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) is after NPP gurus and this institution is as powerful as the Khamenei Ayatollah Guardian Council of Iran that oversees elections. When the BNI prevented Asabee and his family from traveling at the Airport he was barking like a wounded dog and vowed that he would not honor their phone invitation except by a written letter. Could he stick to his gun? Under NDC regime democracy could even be window dressing. The BNI is ‘John the Baptist’ gradually preparing the way for “knowingly causing financial loss to the state” to be implemented. Very soon some NPP gurus would be behind bar. NPP and NDC have knives in each other’s throat ready to slash. Revelations at the BNI clearly suggest that had the NPP retained power in January 2009 they would have covered up the corrupt practices of their regime. The NDC victory has become a blessing in disguise to expose the wrong doings of the NPP regime. But having said this, the 3.6 billion cedis is a whooping expense for the Atta Mills transition team. In 2001 the Kufour regime didn’t spend any staggering amount. Ghana is in trouble because only few of her leaders have the passion to sacrifice.

While it is appropriate to investigate into corrupt practices and prescribe the necessary punishment the results are undesirable. Again, are these really deterrent? There is too much cost involved and human resources also become a waste in the prisons. Of course, we have to hold people accountable for their actions. But my fear is it is not working? Our leaders are so hardened that they would rather do the crime to enjoy today and find means to cover up. So it seems to me instead of attempting a cure let us collectively work on prevention too. The disease is widespread and endemic in the society. Treating the symptoms will not get us anywhere.

Corruption is institutionalized and affects a greater part of the populace at their work places and in the jobs entrusted to them. All the government three arms are affected: The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Signs of corrupt practices abound everywhere but there are no hard evidences. We inherited a system from the British that is not helping us. The British enticed their white technocrats to accept jobs in Africa with fringe benefits: cars, bungalows, watchmen, drivers, garden boy, cooks, etc. the African leaders have passed these unto themselves enslaving their own people.

The whole idea of contract award is license to kill. It breeds kick-backs, nepotism, favoritism, and above all inefficiency since the most qualified would not get the contract. Our 1992 working constitution was fundamentally fraud at birth to satisfy the whims and caprices of the leadership. It made the MP’s approve of extravagant ex-gratia awards for the Presidents and for themselves too. Govt officials leaving the job can arrange to buy their two-year old duty cars. MP’s should be appointed to corporate boards. The govt is centralized and the President appoints people to key positions. There is no room to decentralize and elect regional ministers. These are the core issues breeding corruption in the country. We need to introduce modern ideas to move our nation forward. The constitution should be overhauled. President Kufour said he would to do that but it became lip-service. President Mills has mentioned it but would change come from the top down?

My humble suggestion is we need a change as a way to minimize and prevent some of the corruption. Cant these be prevented? Yes, they can! President Obama has shown the way. He has initiated sweeping changes that have affected the Washington gridlock. He has tackled all the old institutions and policies that have boggled down progress in the U S. For political convenience, President Atta Mills may not have the courage to do the right thing we have to compel him. Change will never come from the top down. Rather it is from the bottom up. We are the change we are waiting for. All that we need is a soldier of change. It could be some few individuals or an organization that would be committed to the change. Kwesi Pratt Jr with his CJA is indecisive. He was against the recent fuel increase but has since been quiet after he returned from the castle. Can he be trusted? We need a grass-root organization with able leaders who would be committed to ensuring positive changes in the nation.

(The author studied organization leadership and believes that the problems are not above Ghanaians. Those who have passion to help in the political development of Ghana may contact the author for further action)

Ken Atta-Boakye Woodbridge Va USA (703 441-6522)