Change We Must Retain
12/16/2008 8:10:31 AM -
Since the momentous election of Barack Obama as president-elect of the United States of America, politicians and aspiring politicians all over the world have tried to extrapolate his message of change onto their own local political campaigns. Some have gone beyond a mere call for change. In the recent elections in Brazil for example, where the law allows candidates to run for elections under the name of their choice, dozens of candidates legally changed their names to 'Barack Obama' in hopes of capturing some of the magic and inspiration wrought by the real Barack Obama in the United States. Much of the clamour for change by politicians in far flung countries is however ill-informed, ill-timed, and not gauged by the local conditions.
One such case where Obama's clarion call is being ludicrously trumpeted by commentators and some politicians, is Ghana. The chief culprit in the misguided call for change in Ghana is Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, of the Convention People´s Party (CPP) who referred to himself as Ghana´s Obama! Change eluded Paa Kwesi Nduom at the polls as he managed to garner a woeful one percent of the total vote cast in Ghana´s elections on December 7, 2008.
Not to be outdone, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) touted its vice-presidential candidate the affable John Mahama (though not the presidential candidate, mind you!), as the `real Obama´. The NDC is now engaged in a run-off presidential election with the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) on December 28, 2008. The NDC had sought to craft a message of change in its campaign, but it managed to obtain a little over the percentage points it has garnered since Ghana embarked on real free and fair elections since 2000. The NDC is now at the end of its tether, and is bound to suffer defeat in the presidential runoff.
The misleading and inapplicable campaign for change in Ghana, based on Obama´s, is directed against the ruling NPP and its presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. It is wrongly assumed that the mere call for change, and assumption of office by a different political party in Ghana constitutes change for the better!
However, even a cursory look at the policies implemented by the NPP since it won power in 2000, on a campaign for social, economic and political change in Ghana (before the word `change´ assumed its current mythical political claptrap outside the United States), should confirm the NPP as the real conduit and champion of change, and continuing change in Ghana.
Recently, I went to lunch at a Ghanaian restaurant in Washington, D.C., and the discussions were heavily focused on Ghana politics. One man argued against a vote for the incumbent NPP, instead calling for `change´ in Ghana. He was asked to explain why he felt a change was needed in Ghana. His answer was rather incredible in its simple-mindedness, and epitomized how change has been misconstrued in its current application in Ghana. The man replied that the `only reason´ he would vote against the NPP is that (President) `Kufuor did not construct the completed Accra-Kumasi road, as a double-road (dual carriage highway)!
In unanimity, the man was reminded that under the previous government, the Accra-Kumasi `highway´, the main thoroughfare in Ghana was totally ignored, and reduced to impassable. He was further reminded that president Kufuor´s administration had in fact constructed at least a fifteen mile section of the road entering both Accra and Kumasi as dual carriage, to ease traffic in areas where traffic was heavier. The guy remained adamant in his convoluted thinking. Kufuor could have completed a tiny bit of the road with all the resources, as double road and then the next administration would continue in a piecemeal fashion, he sheepishly offered!
The campaign for so-called change in Ghana is based on similar faulty thinking and abetted by such ignorance, that it makes one recall a statement made by the then deposed president of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. In one of his nocturnal broadcasts aimed at Ghanaians from Conakry, Guinea, after his overthrow from power; (and repeated in his book `Dark Days in Ghana´), Nkrumah offered that had he known that all what Ghanaians wanted was milk and sardines, he would have constructed standing pipes churning out milk instead of the pipe-born water he constructed in major Ghanaian towns!
Nkrumah was dismayed that Ghanaians had regrettably forgotten all the hospitals, schools, and numerous developments that he had offered Ghanaians prior to his overthrow. Short memory, disdain, impatience, and even casual contempt seem to afflict and characterize the attitude of Ghanaians towards governments that rather spend money on development projects.
The NPP suffers similar dismay. It can be said that no government in Ghana since Nkrumah has embarked on such infrastructure development in the country, as the NPP has accomplished. The evidence is there for all to see! In terms of educational development, the NPP government has added to buildings at the universities; polytechnics; secondary and primary schools. There have also been major infrastructure developments at hospitals and health centers where additional buildings have been provided. No region or area of the country has been neglected in terms of these developments which have been national in scope. Nor can anyone fail to observe the construction and refurbishment of roads throughout Ghana.
The government has also sought to address socio-economic problems on a scale reminiscent of the early days of independence, when financial resources were abundant, and the population nearly a third of what it is today. Students in elementary schools are fed a good meal under the School Feeding Program. There are policies that tackle poverty. The national insurance scheme which requires a meager payment (I have sponsored quite a few people so I know what I´m talking about!), replaces the atrocious cash-and-carry policy of the NDC government, whereby sick people were turned away from hospitals because they could not afford the exorbitant fees and charges.
The changes in governance under the NPP have been monumental. Under nineteen years of (P) NDC rule, fear pervaded the lives of Ghanaians. Today, people are free to go about their business and daily lives without fear or hindrance. A member of Ghana´s Supreme Court recently made treasonable statements against the government, and in fact claimed to have sued the government. Under the NDC, that individual would not have lived to see the light of day.
Such is the international confidence in the government of Ghana that investors finally decided to invest millions of dollars to explore and develop Ghana´s oil fields. This is not due to happenstance or an act of God, as some claim. Investors and oil prospectors have always known that oil abounds in sections of Ghana´s sea bed. Investors are flocking to Ghana because they understand that the NPP government honours contracts, and provides a peaceful environment whereby businesses can flourish to mutual advantage.
There is no greater monument for change than The Executive Mansion building being constructed in our nation´s capital to house the president and his family, and also serve as offices for the president and vice-president, among other officials. It is a testament to the free speech and good governance being nurtured by the NPP government that the public has made its views heard on the money being spent wisely on the project.
There is no greater shame to the government and people of Ghana than the continued use of a Castle built by slave prospectors from Denmark in the 16th century for the main purpose of processing enslaved Africans for sale in the Americas, as our seat of government.
In 1693, King Asamani of Akwamu felt so outraged by the use of the building that he fought and defeated the Danes, occupied the Christiansborg (now Osu) Castle, with a view to destroying it!
In 1694 the Danes used treachery to have King Asamani sell the Castle back. Asamani however retained the keys. The original keys to the Osu Castle are still in the possession of the Akwamuhene at Akwamufie.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah built the Flagstaff House to serve as presidential residence and offices. Successive governments following his overthrow, including the NDC allowed the edifice to rot and become an eyesore. It has been renovated by the NPP government, as has the Peduase Lodge built by Nkrumah.
The NDC obtained millions of dollars in loans and grants to de-silt the Korle Lagoon in Accra, and also refurbish the State House to serve as our Houses of Parliament. The millions of dollars went down the drain (no pun intended!). The NPP government has completed both projects.
Of course, the NPP cannot refurbish and build on Nkrumah´s industrial projects to provide employment for the people, because those industries were sold off by the NDC. To this day, no Ghanaian except those in the NDC upper echelons know exactly how much money accrued from the sales, and how the money was used. The last of Ghana´s ships belonging to the Black Star Line, was sold on the high seas, according the Reuters news agency. The sort of change that the NDC talks about will make Ghana move backwards, ever!
Some people may shout their voices hoarse about change. But the real agents of change in Ghana have been the NPP government. It has embarked on projects and policies of national significance, that rival Nkrumah´s. Poverty cannot be uprooted in a developing country like Ghana, overnight. But the score sheet indicates that it is the NPP that is on track to developing Ghana into a country that responds to the needs of her citizens. And that explains why Nana Akufo-Addo will win the run-off on December 28, 2008. And that is change we must retain!
Credit: Dr. Kofi Ellison (Sikadwa Kofi) Washington, D.C.