It has been on my mind for a long time now to petition the parliament of Ghana to introduce a legislation to curb the number of times a president of the nation can travel abroad within a year while in office. This legislation should also put a cap on the size of the delegation that should accompany the president on any essential travel.
If heads of state are to protect the national purse as they often claim they would while campaigning for the office, then it is imperative that a move like this should be given the needed attention.
I know heads of state have the privilege to travel out of the country on sensible and economic grounds beneficial to the nation. But some of them are abusing this privilege and using it to go on pleasure trips. At the moment they are traveling out of the country too often and the number of people they take along with them so gigantic that a restriction needs to be placed on these travels to save the taxpayers’ money for national development.
So what the petition seeks to address is not only the too many travels that are made, some of which may not be really necessary but the huge national expenditure involved. This enormous amount of money spent on trips could be used for infrastructural development.
It is a worrying concern which, I believe, is shared by many good citizens of the country. The late Dr. Nkrumah (may he rest in peace) did not travel out of the country so much when he was the head of state. I remember on the day he was overthrown by the imperialists with the connivance of some elements in the society who disliked him, he was on a visit to Hanoi on an official invitation by the Vietnamese government. He did not go with so many people as we see heads of state do these days.
Ex-president Rawlings did not travel out of the country very much; neither did ex-presidents Atta-Mills and John Mahama. The many travels of presidents and a large number of accompanying officials started with the emergence of NPP-led governments.
Ex-president Kufuor was virtually never in the country. He was always on the move-out, allegedly on the invitation of foreign governments and taking a lot of people with him, mostly party members. There was a time when Ghanaians were told he was invited by the Prime Minister of the U.K. Tony Blair.
But on the day he left the country, it was reported that Prime Minister Blair was in the U.S, contradicting the reason given for his travel that Tony Blair had invited him. Because of his frequent absenteeism, there was a time his Vice, the late Aliu Mahama, told Ghanaians in a campaign for the presidency, that he had the experience to rule the country better because Kuffour was often out of the country and he, Aliu Mahama, was the one who was actually always managing affairs. Because of this, he was hurriedly removed from his position.
When Nana Akufo-Addo, also of the NPP, became President, he saw nothing wrong with the many travels out of the country that his predecessor had made. As of now, he has travelled abroad more than all the travels made by the two previous presidents of non-NPP- led governments combined. And he had taken more presidential aides with him more than ever. The deplorably sad thing is that he has refused to use the nation’s presidential jet for his travels. Instead, he has chattered a luxurious Airbus A318 from K-5 Aviation of Germany which he uses for his many travels and the cost of this private aircraft is incredibly $17,000 per hour(Ghanaweb,4/9/2019). This is the huge cost that the president is charging to our motherland, in spite of her massive economic problems.
On one occasion he went to Austria and Nigeria, and then up to Spain (Madrid) to watch his favourite club, Tottenham play Liverpool in the European cup championship and then to Canada and finally, down to the Caribbean. I understand on one trip alone, he travelled with more than a hundred people.
I wonder what each person went to do in Norway. It came to light later that one of them was the party chairman and another was the Ashanti Regional chairman. It is therefore pertinent to ask whether it was a party or government trip. But that is not the issue here.
The concern is the frequency of presidential trips out of the country and the means of travel; the significant number of people the president takes along on his travels and the enormity of the cost to the state. This huge amount of expenditure could be used for the provision of some of the so many amenities that are lacking in the country for the benefit of the public. This is what the parliamentarians have to take into consideration if they are true citizens.