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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Columnist: Sampson Boamah

We have the keys but the politicians have changed the padlocks!

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo with former presidents of Ghana President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo with former presidents of Ghana

Education is vital to the progress and development of every country. Most advanced countries are developed because they created the enabling environment for their citizens to receive the requisite education for jobs which fostered their acceleration to development.

In as much as education is important to the growth of every country, the same can be said about its labour force. What is the essence of having an education without a job afterwards? If citizens who have finished their tertiary education programs are still sitting at home, how do you expect such a country to develop? This write up is aimed at talking about this delicate and troubling issue of unemployment in Ghana particularly amongst the youth and how this is a threat to our national security.

Recently, Ghana celebrated its 64th anniversary of what is seen as freedom from colonial dominance. You expect that there should be some correlation between age and development, but this is sadly not the case. What are the reasons for this surprising narrative? Perhaps this article is going to talk about one or two of them. I do not fathom why with all the numerous resources in this country, we still have these issues of underdevelopment and unemployment. You expect that after we clamoured for independence our leaders would have steered us towards a better destination but on various occasions, we have had very terrible drivers.

Ghana like many other African countries is bedevilled with the problem of unemployment predominantly amongst its youth. Why? Is it the lack of desire of its populace to work or they do not have the necessary qualifications? Education has been at the forefront of every government in this country right from the days of independence in 1957 to date. Many of the citizens have some form of formal or informal education. These forms of education have given the citizens the requisite keys to open the doors of many possibilities, but the twist is that the padlocks have been changed clandestinely by the politicians with their deceptive policies.

Every 4 years you see politicians climbing the hills and valleys of every mountain to campaign for them to be elected. They give lofty and flamboyant promises but when they come into power, they deliver nothing but oppression and woes on the very people who elected them. Just as education is on the lips of these politicians every 4 years, so it is with the issue of unemployment. Sadly, when they are elected, they forget these promises and the people continue to wail.

This article is not aimed at inciting anyone against politicians but as a responsible and concerned citizen of this country, if I do not voice out, I will be doing a great disservice against the country and posterity. Why will these politicians give heavy assurances to the people with regards to employment but the moment they assume office they pretend to forget? They wallow around and before you realize their tenure is over. Perhaps, this is a wake-up call for my fellow Ghanaians.

People who come from poor homes and very deprived communities manage to get admitted into various tertiary institutions with the hope that after their 3 or 4 years of education they will have the keys to unlock padlocks but surprisingly the moment they get the keys, these politicians quickly turn to change the padlocks. Therefore, the keys of these graduates become irrelevant and inconsequential. These keys cannot open any door because the people who pretend to care during the election period quickly forget their promises whenever they assume office.

As a student of politics and a writer, I have read and listened to the many lofty promises that these politicians make during elections. Even if we do not want to cast our minds to the days of old from 1957 to 1992, we can talk about the fourth republic where we have had a relatively stable democracy for well over 2 decades.

What intrigues me the most are the opposition political parties! They seem to have solutions to every problem in this country but the moment they ascend the throne their nature and character change. Power begins to sink into their brains, and they decide to do untoward things. When President Nana Akufo-Addo and his NPP were in opposition as then candidate Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP as the largest opposition political party, I thought they had solutions to all the problems in this country, until they came to office and I saw that it was just a talk. I dare to say that the situation is even worse than before.

A poor farmer educates the child in the hope that the child will complete his education, use knowledge acquired through his education to help alleviate the plights of the poor farmer but this is not the case. Year in year out, we have dozens of young men and women churn out of our various tertiary institutions without any hope of getting employment. These graduates sit at home for more than 5 to 7 years.

How can that peasant farmer be happy with this situation or the graduate be excited? The system has broken down and when not fixed immediately it will cause havoc. They have no better plans to ensure that these talents are utilized. All they can do is to talk and talk. Talk they say is cheap! "Plenty of talks do not fill a basket."

How can they promise heaven and the moment they come into office they deliver hell? I should be providing some data and statistics with regards to the unemployment rate, but I will not do so because per my research it looks as if the numbers have been massaged. In the first place, they do not even have a credible and reliable system. We do not even have any proper and credible data to look at and see who is employed and who is not employed. The system is completely in a mess. There are no blueprints!

The only thing these people can do is to create jobs for their party boys and girls and leave the rest of the people hungry. In 2016, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) made many promises concerning the then unemployment situation in the country and said that when they come, they will avert the situation. They got a slogan "One this, one that" but all these were a hoax.

Each day the government contradicts itself as to the number of jobs it has created. They do not even know the number of jobs they have created in the last 4 years. They said they have created NABCO for over 90,000 people, which is not even sustainable per the high cost of living. And this is not a permanent job, it has a life span of 3 years and after that, you are left to your fate.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) also while in office took the country to the IMF. The consequence of this was that there was an embargo or freeze on all public sector work for more than 2 years. Meanwhile, their party boys and girls were being recruited into the system. Their ministers were using taxpayers’ money to further their education in London and other parts of the world while their citizens were languishing in hell. How sensible and prudent is it that a government can be so callous to inflict such pains and troubles on the very people who brought them to power? These things can only be done by a clueless and incompetent government.

The deception we get from these politicians is heartbreaking and troubling. One disgusting thing is that, when tertiary students complete that phase of their education they are compelled to undertake a mandatory National Service and after that, they are left to themselves. I am not saying being a patriotic and a loyal citizen is bad but there should be some reciprocity.

Look at the state in which the country is now. It is very horrifying and terrible, to say the least. Citizens are left to their fate and engaged in all sort of things which will make them survive. I have heard a couple of these politicians wailing and complaining that the youth are losing their morals by engaging in various forms of betting.

I am not here to pass judgement, but man must survive. In any case, the laws of the land do not proscribe betting. In the just recently read budget for 2021, the government plans to tax these betting companies. Many graduates now survive on this same betting. Is it their fault? Can you blame them? Are there jobs for these fresh and energetic graduates to do? If no is the answer to these questions, what do we expect them to do after their compulsory National Service?

How do we expect to develop as a country if we have these kinds of problems that nobody is willing to help? Citizens are suffering and wailing especially graduate unemployed people. It is very frustrating that after college, one must still depend on the meagre income or salary of his or her family. The situation is even worse amongst folks who do not have such families they can rely upon. The cost of living each day is difficult.

Prices of goods and services are going up each day. Transportation, water, and electricity bills coupled with rent issues are all some of the challenges a fresh graduate face after National Service. If you do not have someone to support, how do you survive?

No wonder the crime rate in the country is rising every day because people must survive. I am not in any way in support of these crimes, but how do these people survive without a job? I was not surprised by the emergence of these political party’s vigilante groups. If your party leaders send you to destroy or beat your political opponent in exchange for money, why won't such a fellow do that gladly? The system itself will support you to commit crimes to survive!

I do not want to be a prophet of doom but with all that I see, I do not see a bright outcome if this critical and urgent issue is not tackled. I am not sure the country wants to witness anything such as the famous “Arab Spring”. Looking at the situation, I do not think we are far from it.

Today, because of the corrupt nature of our system and leaders every youth want to leave the shores of this beautiful country at the least opportunity. They want to experience a situation where their plights will be addressed and sorted. Every youth I have come across when I asked the question, whenever you get the opportunity to leave this country, will you do so? And the responses I always get is a big YES! This may sound a bit funny, but this is very sad and crucial at the same time. We read from history that our ancestors were forced to leave the shores of this continent against their wish but today their grandchildren are rather willing to be taken freely without even coerced. This is the sad reality that our country is faced with.

These politicians have taken as for a ride for too long. Meanwhile, they live all kinds of flamboyant lives. They ride the most expensive cars and eat all the beautiful things. For me, I think we have not been aggressive enough as citizens. Maybe there should be a revolution that will change the narrative, not a revolution that will change our democracy but the one that will propel our politicians to think right. Things are not right.

Unemployment is killing talents in this country. When parents spend millions of Ghana cedis to educate their children and wards and later these children become a liability to them, it is very worrying and shameful. Is about time we rose to ask questions and demanded answers? We cannot continue to be taken ride of these self-seeking political actors.

As you and I know the dangers that unemployment can cause, the politicians as well know the dangers but have put on deaf ears. What I do not know is whether they want this issue to escalate to the other level like what happened during the French Revolution or the Arab Spring. As a responsible and concerned citizen, I do not want anything untoward that will distort our progress as a country, but I want some drastic actions to be taken whether by citizens themselves or the politicians. We cannot continue to kowtow to their whims and caprices.

Look at how terrorism is eating the fibres of the country’s neighbouring countries! If we do not revert to this alarming situation now, these unemployed graduates will become susceptible and prey for these extremist groups. If we do not want our abled young men and women to desert this country, then our leaders should think fast and avert the situation. If we do not want anything like the Arab Spring in the form of an unemployment riot and revolution, then these political actors should think. The frustration and devastation are becoming difficult to bear. We cannot continue to accept this mediocre style of leadership.

If you saw any radical statement while reading this article, do not begrudge the writer because this is a very critical issue that calls for drastic action and the attention of every rational person. The issue affects everyone as well. Do not attach any emotions while reading. Do not put on your selfish and bias political lens while reading this piece. Be a citizen, not a spectator to voice your grievances out. I am affected by this mess like millions of my contemporaries. We have the keys to unlock every padlock to make us contribute our quota to the development and progress of this country but sadly these self-centred politicians have surreptitiously changed the padlocks to our surprise.

I have written this piece not to incite the youth against our leaders but to incite them to demand answers and ask them some critical, relevant, and probing questions. If we sit aloof, this country will continue to sink. It dawns on every right-thinking Ghanaian to rise and demand some accountabilities from these decision-makers. They should return those stolen and misplaced padlocks for the keys to access them. Long live our Mother Land!

Ghana must work again, Ghana will work again, YOUNG POSITIVIST, a concerned citizen of Ghana.