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Opinions of Sunday, 22 January 2017

Columnist: Asubonteng, Bernard

To President Akufo-Addo’s Inbox: My new year wish lists

The year 2016, with its turmoil, is now consigned to the ashes of history. The past year saw Ghana holding general elections culminating in the election of Nana Akufo-Addo as the president of Ghana and as such the de jure commander-in-chief of the nation’s military forces.

None of us needs to overelaborate the point that millions of Ghanaians in and outside the country have high expectations, countless advice, and endless menu of wish lists they would want to relay to their newly-installed president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.

Given the high possibility of information overload usually bombarded on the new national presidents, our message will be in abbreviated format to enable it fit neatly into the president’s overflowing inbox. These suggestions are meant to serve as a refresher to the president.

Looking at the sequence of events since inauguration, President Akufo-Addo and his team appears to have a better understanding of which direction Ghana needs to take to reach the socioeconomic paradise.

Strong Bureaucratic Institutions

One of my New Year’s wish list pertains to how Nana Akufo Addo-led administration will ensure that the nation’s bureaucratic institutions are strengthened with the relevant support frameworks to make them more apolitical and independent of the whims of the ruling government.

Obviously, President Akufo Addo is perfectly aware that a fully-baked democracy is to have public entities such as untrammeled legislature; highly independent judiciary; ethical Auditor General Department; efficient and patriotic custom and border services, and many more.

Of course, all these are not achievable without set internal controls and standardized oversight structures that persistently and transparently seek to put unbreakable screws on the ingrained fraudulent practices within the moral undercoats of Ghanaian society.

In fact, one of the most significant reasons behind the United States’ democratic success story is its professional and disinterested civil service vis-à-vis the government in power. Whether Republicans or Democrats control both the White House and the Congress, the U.S. civil institutions, including the police, execute their functions without the government’s undue influences.

Suffice to say, genuine democracy endures when the citizens have high hope and solid belief that their governments are veritably committed to fairness, transparency, and accountability. Once the masses begin harboring doubts and disillusionments carved out from ethically-challenged and inefficiently partisan state bureaucracies, the credibility and the trust of the leaders within the system become the natural victims. And clearly, the citizens’ level of trust in their government and democratic governance per se are not mutually exclusive.

Law Enforcement Agencies

The role and place of the 21st century law enforcement agencies, especially policing in Ghana, are indispensable as to call for structural realignment to help meet the intrinsic challenges posed by multiparty political culture. The nation’s painstaking mission toward more stable democracy and socioeconomic development will at best hover on the fringes of mediocrities unless the police service as the country’s preeminent law enforcement body is cut off from the umbilical cord of bribery, partisanship and the central government’s grips. Viable democracy requires the rule of law to thrive; and, the police organization is one of the principal custodians of law enforcement in every modern society.

To that end, if the police force’s hands are tied up, because its leader (IGP) answers directly to, or is at the whims and fancies of the president or the leader of the ruling party, then for the most part the law enforcing mechanism is dysfunctional, to say the least. Effective policing in a democratic culture is local and community-based whereby each locality or region appoints its head of the police without the need for the seemingly colonial and partisan position of the so-called IGP.

In other words, although modern police service calls for coordination in its operations with their counterparts elsewhere, each municipality in Ghana should have its own local police head chosen by an elected district CEO. This assumes that the local chief of police is only accountable to the district CEO who in turn is elected by the people in the district. To help eliminate partisan loyalty toward the ruling government on the part of nation’s police, the central government must not play part in the selection or hiring process.

Decentralization

Certainly, President Akufo Addo’s resolve to help create jobs across the country and its countless districts is attainable, with meticulous planning. By the same token, serious priority must be given to decentralization of many of the state functions crowded in the nation’s capital. For instance, it’s hard to explain why the COCOBOD headquarters is centered in Accra when Brong Ahafo, Western, Ashanti, and Eastern regions are the major sources of the country’s cocoa production.

Decentralization spreads out governmental operations quite evenly, and injects efficiency and eliminates excessive red tape. In the U.S., citizens seeking passports don’t need to travel to Washington DC or any regional capital but go to any local post office with the required documents, and within two to three weeks the passport will be in the applicant’s mailbox—absolutely no “Goro boys” involved in passport procurement in the U.S.

First-class Communication Network

Let’s be mindful that first-class communication network isn’t just about flyovers in the cities, or that every Ghanaian has unfiltered access to cellphone, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Again, this is just a reminder to President Akufo Addo who rightly believes that we cannot have any serious conversation about decentralization without first-class road networks linking not only the major towns and cities, but also the agricultural producing areas and the backcountries in Ghana. It is perplexing to note at point in time many of the nation’s roads are deplorable and still remain deathtraps. Without good roads and excellent communication networks, socioeconomic development is a non-starter!

Galamsey as National Security Threat

Mr. President, whatever it is, treat “galamsey” as a national security issue. Ghanaian lands and water resources are gravely under threat because of the disturbing societal canker notoriously termed galamsey. There is no prudent justification for the illegal miners’ irresponsible greediness and self-serving behavior at the expense of our posterity. For the sake of Ghana’s irreplaceable environment, the NPP-led administration must ban everyone, including the Chinese, from polluting and destroying the country. No amount of “technical assistance” from China can replace Ghana’s lands. Many of us wonder if any Ghanaian/African will be allowed to mine illegally in China, let alone plunder their natural resources.

The writer is United States-based social critic; he can be reached: b.asubonteng@gmail.com