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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The new wisdom and progress paradigm

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

“Wisdom” and “continuity,” as development buzzwords, have become reality threshers in the new National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of President John Atta-Mills. The two terms, in the Atta-Mills’ Osu Castle, are ways of comparing past and present development thinking, tools for sorting out progress at a moment of plummeting global economic changes.

In a mixture of developmental rehabilitation, continuity, wisdom and revisionism, Atta-Mills has “charged his Economic Team to factor ongoing projects into this year’s Budget and other national planning programmes to engender continuity.” The on-going projects are projects left behind by the departed New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Wisdom and continuity are being sounded by Atta-Mills not in words but in deeds – the tacit endorsement being conveyed by the Atta-Mills continuity-change transition. It’s not just the retention of “policies and programmes currently in the pipeline, initiated by the last administration, which supported positive national development, must be thoroughly reviewed, preserved and added to the new initiative that would be recommended,” Atta-Mills thundered, flashing the rising confidence in Ghana’s development progress.

For long, confidence, as a progress amulet, has been in exile from the Ghanaian development radar – now it is back home.

It’s the continuity of policies and programmes of the now opposition NPP, and by extension policies and programmes since the founding of Ghana some 51 years ago. Along the way, there have been development destructions or mindlessness. Absorbing these destructions was Atta-Mills heralding his wisdom-progress-change paradigm: “The main objective of going into politics is to help people improve their lot; to develop the country; so we will continue with the development and make sure that Ghanaians can live in peace and then can live in reasonable comfort - that is what we want.”

Wisdom and continuity is also born out of accountability, transparency, and lessons drawn from some past wrong thinking, of which Atta-Mills himself have been part. At 64, and having being vice president under Jerry Rawlings, Atta-Mills is aware that his NDC that had previously ruled Ghana for 8 years hasn’t come out with enough accountability and transparency in dealing with certain projects initiated in the 1960s by the then ruling Convention Peoples Party.

Ghanaians have vehemently criticized the Rawlings-led P/NDC for selling most of the CPP established projects without wisdom, if the Atta-Mills new thinking is anything to go by - lacking transparency and accountability, and either selling the state enterprises to cronies or their proxies under dubious circumstances or letting some rot. This contradicted Rawlings’ high sounding mission of accountability/house cleaning that saw some people publicly executed.

The new Atta-Mills paradigm cut across partisanship and attempts to undo the long-running mindset of destroying or discontinuing projects by previous governments with considering all its facets. The sense, as a way of separating the old destructive paradigms from the new wisdom-driven paradigms, is “to recognize “justifiable continuity” and embody and preserve projects of the previous administration and other political parties that were compatible with the manifesto of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) upon which it was elected into power,” Atta-Mills said as backgrounder to his wisdom-progress thinking.

While the NDC’s manifesto is touted here, it is more, understandably, for political expediency than anything of the destructive Pull Them Down syndrome that has characterized previous administrations actions or inactions in destroying or discontinuing other regimes’ projects. At the higher thinking, the NDC manifesto is Ghanaian manifesto and that accommodates all previous regimes projects. There are no remarkable disagreements here. And if there is anything like that it dissolves into the greater Ghana good where the old paradigms are sorted out from the new paradigms in a Ghana with decisive crispness.

The closeness of the Election 2008 has become a transforming boundary between one age and another, between negative Pull Them Down syndrome to positive Pull Them Together syndrome, between a scheme of things that disintegrated and another that are taking shape, between dubiousness of “we” and “them.” Not from any change of heart but from simple reality. The reality draws from the traditional values of the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana where wisdom and continuity inform survival and progress.

This makes development “an all-inclusive,” as Atta-Mills flaunts, against the old tied, mindless and immature all-exclusive. This negates the “them’ syndrome and incorporates the positive “we” syndrome. It reinforces Ghanaian traditional values of rotation, and not separation, as a progress venture. It doesn’t mean regimes shouldn’t be critical of other regimes’ projects for the health of progress but while critical of previous regimes’ work they should be seen in the greater Ghana good by tinkling with them without destroying them.

The sagacity of this is seen in the chair of the Atta-Mills’ transition team, Paul Victor Obeng, a trained civil engineer, drawing from his long experiences in government and directed by the on-going higher wisdom paradigm, saying that the new presidential palace, the Golden Jubilee House, built by the opposition NPP, will be inspected for defects before Atta-Mills is “advised to move in.” This is to assuage fears of “concerns raised about the possibility that it might not be safe for habitation.” The NDC isn’t discarding the Golden Jubilee House simply because it was built by the NPP but intends to make it better for use.

That’s the new wisdom paradigm at work, with “no bias, no bulls.” It portends a new national responsibility and obligation that’s driven by traditional wisdom.

In a flash of the new wisdom paradigm, departing President John Kufour had enjoined Atta-Mills to “continue the economic and social policies that he started …to maintain the gains he chalked during his eight years in office” in order to “accelerate the country’s economy to the likes of Singapore and Malaysia which at a point in time were at the same level with Ghana.”

As Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer wrote of the Bush-Obama transition, “the beauty of democratic rotations of power is that when the opposition takes office, cheap criticism and calumny will no longer do.” The new wisdom paradigm isn’t about cheap criticism and calumny – it is about higher thinking about progress with by neutralizing the old Pull Them Down syndrome.

The NDC now own the Golden Jubilee House and other NPP programmes. In Atta-Mills owning NPP programmes, as Krauthammer would say, he dismisses “campaign rhetoric” during the 2008 elections from “policy choices he must make as president,” and in doing so further push Ghana’s progress within the context of his new wisdom and continuity paradigms.