On 7 January, 2017 there were tears of joy in the eyes of many Ghanaians who had looked upon the past four years of NDC rule with disbelief. These people have watched helplessly as their nation’s exchequer has been rampantly robbed and the proceeds banked in Dubai and other places.
How can a government be so detached from its own electorate that when the citizenry complain of corrupt practices and the inefficient delivery of services, they are told by propagandists with contempt in their voices that “Yenntie obiara!” (We won’t listen to anyone)! How can a person who calls himself the leader of an intelligent populace declare himself a “dead goat” who cannot feel the pain that is supposed to afflict anyone subjected to incessant public criticism because of failures in his governance of the country he is supposed to lead?
Well, all that became history on 7 January, 2017. A new sheriff has arrived in town, and every “cowpoke” who had hitherto strutted his stuff in local saloons with impunity will be on notice of good behaviour or else. Smiles will replace the scowls on the faces of the men-and-women-in-the street. And the horses will neigh with contentment, untroubled by deliberately-started fires and the sound of gunshots.
But we shouldn’t let it end there. Our state institutions will, of course, do their bit to try and make us “rejoice.” But are long speeches and parades of uniformed personnel enough? I don’t think so. As soon as the Cabinet starts its work, it should begin to plan to mobilise the populace behind it in a way that has not been seen since that auspicious day, 6 March, 1957. Ghana shall be 60 years old in March this year, and the occasion should be used not for the inane celebrations we are used to, but to engage the populace in a series of nation-wide “durbars” that will enable the people to convey to their rulers, their ideas for prioritizing developments they feel they need in their communities.
The alienation of our communities from their government has, of course, been largely caused by the over-centralisation of government imposed by the ability of the President to appoint regional and district administrators, who play such an important role in carrying out rural development. I was very glad to hear that the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo intends to make profound changes in the current authoritarian system.
In the durbars I envisage, constituency MPs as well as elected and unelected officials would all be brought together, under the chairmanship of specially deputed individuals of good standing (preferably drawn from outside the immediate communities, to discuss local affairs and make recommendations to the central government on the priorities they’ve identified in their areas.
Of course, the existing administrative structure in the rural areas will insist that they have already drawn up their own priorities. But this should be disregarded, because I am sure those priorities were drawn up with narrow political ends in view. One example: how many MPs in the last Parliament were able to speak against galamsey? According to one of their own number, every time he discussed the issue with his colleague MPs, he was told it was a “no-go- area,” for they would lose votes if they attacked those who engaged in galamsey. So the destruction of our water-bodies and farmlands –a systematic nationalisation of our environment that poses an existential threat to all Ghanaians – was not seen as a priority. Now, a Chinese-speaking film-maker has told us that it’s probably too late to save our water-bodies and farmlands. What do our local folks say? Let the government listen to them. At a public durbar.
This is only one way in which the Akufo-Addo regime can seize the moment and infuse into the populace, the same enthusiasm that suffused throughout our country in the years immediately following our independence. The CPP under President Kwame Nkrumah identified national priorities through its First and Second Development Plans, and published the plans for nation-wide discussion. There could not have been, for instance, anyone who had not heard about the Volta River Project before Akosombo power came online. We knew what was supposed to be achieved by Tema Harbour; factories were established with a rational objective in mind for them within an overall national development goal.
Of course, mistakes were sometimes made in the implementation of the Plans. In particular, an over-dependence on foreign inputs for many of the projects marked them out to fail, as soon as our foreign exchange earnings crashed disastrously, following the steep drop in the world price of cocoa in 1965. But therein lies our current strength: we have first-hand experience of what leads to failure, and ought not to make the same mistake again.
In this connection, I am pleased that the President-elect is strongly wedded to the idea of government/private partnership in creating projects. Here again, we have great experience of how private “partners” can screw us by directing our purchases of foreign inputs through overseas connections of which we may not be aware. I was told, for instance, that by one of its own employees that a local cutlass-manufacturing company used to buy its raw materials from a company abroad to which it was affiliated. This foreign company consistently over-invoiced the Ghana operation for years and years. The senior Ghanaian employees were, however, silent – because every year, they were sent on holidays to the country where the raw materials were imported from, and always came back with purchases of goods for their personal use that were in short supply in Ghana at the time. This indicated clearly that some money had been surreptitiously saved abroad for them. All these practices can be eliminated now, because our experience directs us to carry out a thorough “due diligence” study of foreign companies before going into “partnership” with them.
If the Akufo-Addo government is able to reintroduce the Nkrumah-type dynamism into our economy, while at the same time, staying loyal to the principles of participatory democracy which is its avowed backbone, it will be able to usher Ghana into a new era of self-confidence and “can-do” patriotism that will at last do justice to our pride as a black nation that can match all others in achievement.
Is what I am proposing possible? Yes: I am writing this article on a Lenovo computer made in China. At the time Ghana became independent, if anyone had suggested that one day, China would be able to manufacture computers that equalled the quality of those made by IBM of the USA, he would have been laughed out of court. Today, China not only makes its own Huawei smart phones but is also reported to be able to provide facilities that enable Apple Corporation of the USA to make 500,000 I-Phones per day in China! These were arrangements that the Chinese agreed to in tough negotiations with the Americans. What others have done, we too can do.
But we must put on our thinking caps. Too many of us are sunk in a stupor that diverts our energies into fatalistic avenues, that lead us to regard failure as an Act of God to which we as mere mortals, do not contribute. No, the deity doesn’t want us to fail!
We have brains: let us use them. We have manpower: let us mobilise it for national development. We need to remember that “God helps those who help themselves!”
The time is now; we have the regime that can propel us forward. What are we waiting for? Only selfishness and laziness can thwart us. So let us eschew those two evils, among others. And Ghana can become “sweet” again – under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Article by Cameron Duodu