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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Columnist: Peter D. Jackson

The character of a nation

The people of Myanmar formally called Burma woke up on February 1, 2021, to learn that the military had overthrown their democratically elected government and their leaders arrested.

"Burma Camp" is well known in Ghana as the headquarters of the Ghana Armed Forces. During the second world war, a contingent of the Gold Coast army being part of the British colonial empire was sent to Burma to fight against the Japanese. They returned home victorious after the war in 1945.

Myanmar is located in South East Asia together with Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam etc a block of countries which shared similar economic fortunes as Ghana at the time of our independence in 1957. Today, unfortunately, Ghana is nowhere near Malaysia, Singapore or South Korea. Vietnam has even eradicated malaria-causing mosquitoes. Lovers of football will tell you about the determination of players from these countries on the field.

On the morning of February 1, 2021, the people of Myanmar spontaneously took to the street to protest the military takeover. It has been two months now and with the loss of 500 lives, the protests are ongoing. The determination of the people to protect their rights, fight against tyranny, demand justice, at the risk of their lives is most admirable. It is such character that yields development, brings success, promotes creativity, drives away complacency, and prevents mediocrity. It is no wonder therefore that these countries that have experienced the devastations of war have risen from the ashes to achieve such high national developmental growth.

It is unfortunate that the experience of "peaceful Ghana" has been the direct opposite of that of south-east Asia. I recall our Osagyefo was in Hanoi (Vietnam) helping to negotiate peace when he was deposed in a military coup d'etat. In Ghana, the people have always welcomed military coups because of perceived mismanagement and corruption of the government in power and animosity between the various political parties. Ironically, the military governments always left the country worse off.

The democratically elected leadership of Ghana have always been more dedicated and committed to the development of their political parties than to the country and its people. They have engaged in corruption to enrich themselves and the party. What is pathetic is that the leadership have allowed this corruption to trickle down to the public servants and eventually to the ordinary people. As a result, the whole country is messed up in corrupt practices without any checks or control. Any attempts to bring some corrections are defeated or frustrated. Another very serious practice of the political parties is their willingness in desperation for political power to solicit the help of dark and evil forces which tend to have negative consequences on the nation. In all this, the positive elements of our culture which are time-honoured traits like truthfulness, honesty have been destroyed. Employee dishonesty is rampant at all levels of business organizations.

The greatest dilemma facing Ghana is that many people have recognized that the situation is untenable and will lead to the eventual destruction or collapse of the country but are unable to cause any lasting change. But change must come. The condition of self-preservation among the few morally upright, people of principles and integrity must end. For there are too many people who live on the fringes of society, scrapping a bare minimum of existence from the soil who need to be provided for.

The current political structure of NPP vs NDC rivalry of selfish interest must be diluted. Even the grassroots supporters of these parties who are among the most vulnerable in the society have been neglected not by choice but by default because their political masters pursue bad policies.

It is my considered opinion that a new kind of political dispensation should emerge to led by people of principles and integrity; recruit the millions of independent voters; attempts should be made to include all the existing smaller parties but not on the basis of political idealogy. To adopt pragmatic policies to confront the issues facing our dear motherland today.

The current bickerings in parliament, the failure of government to address the humongous budget deficits, inability to control borrowing, failure to address the huge disparities in income. Why should an employee in public service earn ¢GHC45,000 per month and most employees earn far less than GHC 2,000 per month. All these issues I hope will motivate the good people in Ghana to conclude that the time is ripe for change.