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Opinions of Friday, 6 July 2012

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

This Is The Mother Of All Stupidity

Words can not adequately capture my indignation over the recent announcement by the Electoral Commissioner to create 45 new constituencies out of the 42 new Districts created by the government. This proposal, which has both shattering social and economic implication, is hardly making any waves across the political spectrum save a few pronouncements and threats of court action here and there by individuals and organisations based on some legalistic hogwash. The main reason advanced by Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, is the constitutional demand stipulated under article 47(5) of the current constitution. And I have been waiting for our legislature to come up in arms to stop this from happening, and the house seems silent as the grave.

The rule of law is one of the best ideas ever conceived by man for the successful governance of any modern society. And the constitution, the sacred document of the land, provides that indispensable level playing field. The fundamental function of the constitution is for the benefit of the people, but not to bludgeon them into the dust. The preamble to the Ghanaian constitution makes it clear that its adoption is based on: The Principle that all powers of Government spring from the Sovereign Will of the People. This is my question: is this self- destructive policy the will of the people? Why would any government in this time of global economic crisis think of such baloney when even well establish democracies like Great Britain are considering reducing the number of seats in their parliament? The Brits floated the idea about four years ago, and they have not been able to deal with it, though, all the parties realise the need for it. Yet, they cannot make any headway, because all the various political parties are grandstanding, since none of them want the new demarcation to affect their electoral prospects in the future. So once this is created, and in future we realise the folly of our current action it will be very difficult to do away with it.

To put things in perspective, I will give a brief history of how governments came into being. It started when man graduated from the hunter gather era to cultivate the land, and live in communities. In that epoch, there were some people who were strong, but lazy to till the land. So they wait until the harvesting season to raid and rob those who cultivate the land of their hard labour. With time the ranks of these brigands swell, in addition, to competing camps. As the pickings become inadequate for all of them they start battling for dominion in their sphere of influence. As a natural progression, those who farm the land also try to minimise their loses to the barrage of ruthless marauders. They then formally give part of their produce to the strongest of those marauders in exchange for protection like the Mafia in America organise themselves into protection rackets. Time transforms one of the heads of these group of organised ‘thieves’ to become the king in the community as the victims themselves wholeheartedly send part of their produce, which in Ghana is referred to as paying homage in exchange for peace and tranquillity. Civilisation has mutated their nature over millennia to assume sophistication into modern government. Nevertheless, it is the same people who don’t want to work, but prefer to live off the people who are already struggling to make a living.

In essence, Governments are a burden on society, and especially when it comes to democracy it is more of a luxury, but because of anarchy we have opted for it. It is not the best, but compared to its competitors it is as harmless as a dove. In Greece, they are struggling big time, and it has the potential to drag the European economy into uncharted waters, perhaps, a depression, because of tax evasion and bloated government expenditure. And it’s a similar situation we find ourselves in Ghana.

We have unnecessary duplication of leadership in the country. There is the central government with its regional and district chief executives, and their army of bureaucrats. Then the uncountable, unproductive and unaccountable traditional chiefs, besides their courtiers, who do nothing, but sell lands to multiple buyers creating a whole lot of social and economic problems. Nkrumah kept these people, because he didn’t want to cause any friction, but they have outlived their usefulness.

We have a whole lot of overlapping ministerial positions. Why do we need 25 member council of state? How many children do we cram into one classroom under one teacher? How many doctors per population density do we have? For the latter, the various medical schools in the country train enough doctors for our needs, yet, the salaries of these productive members of our society is not adequate so they move to greener pastures creating the artificial shortage in the country.

I personally think the 230 parliamentarians are even too much for our economy. Big government isn’t anything outlandish it’s all about the number of people who draw their livelihood from the tax payer. Currently, I understand they want their salary doubled to over GHc 7,000, which will be notching close to the salary of British parliamentarians who are supported by more than 1.5 trillion Pound Sterling economy. The 56-member house of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly has requested for an increase in their allowances as motivation for them to work effectively. Now it is allowance; with time the pressure mounts, and it is increased. In no time it will become salary. Just think about all the district assemblies dotted around the length and breadth of the country, and quantify the financial burden this entails.

When the government embarks on certain one off extravagant expenditure like building a new presidential palace, I get angry, but I don’t brood over it, because its economic impact is minimal in the larger scheme of things. But the creation of 42 new districts and the resulting 45 new constituencies has an irrevocable sustained economic drain that will burden the tax payer. The national debt is already ballooning at an alarming rate. You will think that the government will spend money on things like health that will have an incremental impact on the economy. Yet, what do we see creating employment that will just absorb their party functionaries like Koku Anyidoho, who just knows how to shout from the roof tops, all over the country at the tax payer’s expense.

The currency of the country is on an intermittent perpetual down slide and nothing seem to be done to curtail the canker, and we are adding more fuel to the problem. Productivity is what backs, strengthen and maintains the purchasing power of a national currency. Now, if a sizeable chunk of the population is engaged in nothing, but just talking and pushing papers around who then produces the tangible things that will back our currency. And this is not just in government; it happens in our spiritual lives as well. Any idiot wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and he says he is a prophet, pastor and what have you. He sets up a church, and scheme to entice about ten anxious members, and he wants to live off them irrespective of their income. And they resort to bombastic trickery, and sadly our people who are desperate fall for it. My brothers and sisters don’t let these lazy tricksters rob you of your hard earned money. St Paul himself had a trade; he was a practicing tent maker.

Dr Afari Djan argues that his action is base on constitutional requirements. On the other hand, he could have just made a recommendation to the government and add that: this is what the constitution demands; I have done my work, however, I think due to the economic situation in the country it should be shelved. I charge anybody to go to our various universities to find out the number of ground breaking research findings still sitting on shelves, because there is no funding for them to be implemented. He can recommend that as a statesman, and if the Atta Mills government should go ahead with the creation of the constituencies he could then come out to criticise it, and threaten with resignation. After all how old is he? He just turned 67 well over the Ghanaian retirement age. And Ghanaians would have been up in arms in his support. After all there are a whole lot of African countries that are after his services. Is it all about job security? Dr Djan the job opportunities for you are endless; the colourful nature of your CV will ensure that.

Nonetheless, nobody is speaking for the beleaguered Ghanaian tax payer, and the opposition who are paid to hold the government in check is not doing its job. And what do we hear from the minority leader? He thinks something smells of gerrymandering. He is inherently thinking about his party’s electoral prospects when the constituencies are inevitably created, but not the tax payer who is going to foot the bill. Literally, all the powerful people in the country, from the President, the leader of the opposition, speaker of parliament to the minority leader no body is lifting a hand to help mother Ghana. You will think that Nana Akufo-Addo will be speaking against this stupidity, if he is serious about his free education mantra. Because he will need every pesewa, which will be wasted on these new MPs. However, nobody is talking, but this is one opportunity for these mentioned leaders to show their leadership and love of country.

I have always contended that there is a leadership problem in the country. The first article I published at ghanaweb was about this perennial cancer since independence and someone commented that I am a baby trying to re-write Ghana’s history. His rebuttal was that I lumped all our past leaders, including Busia, and painted them with the same brush. And he believes Busia gave us one of the most sustained economic growths, and for that alone he is beyond criticism. For someone whom his apologist taut his democratic credentials he did not behave anything like that when he was in power. To those who defend him to the hill. What was his reaction when the High Court ruled in favour of Mr Sallah regarding his forced retirement? He said: no court could force him to change his decision. What did he do when Gen Ocran queried that the members of the PP government had still not declared their assets according to the requirement of the 1969 constitution after two years in office. Gen Ocran was told that it will take 14 Ocrans to overthrow the PP government. And this was very emotive, because Ocran was a member of NLC that overthrew Nkrumah. Lastly, in my estimation, the most ignorant and despicable action of his regime is the Aliens Compliance Order. Its only people who don’t understand economics and lack the knowledge of historical precedence will behave the way Busia did. I personally think he is an overrated academic. If he was that smart he wouldn’t have bungled the national economy with his aliens’ compliance law, which nailed the coffin of the already tottering national economy. As a smart person before you implement any policy you have to think it through to weigh both the initial and long term effect and implication. How it is going to affect the economy in 5, 10 or 15 years down the line. Not the immediate electoral advantage – playing on the ignorance of the people like a banjo. All our leaders, bar none, execute their office only to serve their interest and their party, but not that of the nation.

Critically, I find Busia’s action absolutely indefensible, because he knew the Akan saying that it is foreigners who build a town. Hang on; it is actually a universal wisdom. England was built by foreign expertise like the Huguenots and the Lombards. Even Churchill once wrote: we owe London to the Romans. For him to have carried out that edict, while he claimed he studied economics at the University of Oxford is shameful to his Alma Mata. This is the sort of problems we have with leadership in the country, and it is a malevolent cancer that is gradually destroying the country.

Finally, if our population has increased hypothetically what is wrong with apportioning the excess onto the existing 230 rather than creating new ones all together? If the constitution seems to be the problem – it is not set in stone; the legislature should come together to have it amended. Even if the economy is doing very well this 45 new constituencies is superfluous; on the down side, with respect to the state of our economy, it is absolute stupidity. Are they trying to tell us that should the population of the country increase by ?-amount without a commensurate increase in GDP they will still increase the number of districts, besides the number of constituencies? They can re-demarcate depending on the movement of the population density, but not create new constituencies.

The constitution was written for our liberation, and not to enslave us. If you read this, and you care for Ghana organise yourselves to stop this from happening. If our leaders have become lunatics let us show them that there are minds of sanity in the country.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr.