I have just read on social media that the main choice for the people of Ghana in Election 2020 has come down to one between “a thief and an armed robber,” and some people, in fact, thousands of Ghanaians, including university professors and their students, traditional rulers, oral historians and local opinion leaders, among others, have bought into this national tragedy, while other well-meaning Ghanaians have resigned themselves to it? My oh my! What happened to the spirit of Obumankoma, Odapagyan and Oson of the Fantis, Nana Yaa Asantewaa of Asante, Nii Kwabena Bonnie of Ga Dangme, King Nortsie of Eweland and others? What happened to the spirit of the Veranda Boys of “Independence Now?”
Ironically, video clips that are making the rounds on social media also show that the youth of Ghana, including members of the infamous “Unemployed Graduate Association of Ghana,” Head Porters’ Associations, among others, are happily and actively singing the praises of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, while others root for Jesse James and his 200 robbers. What has gone wrong with us as a nation? Even Ghanaians who live outside the country, people who live in societies where law and order work, also seem to have accepted this noxious idea of either voting for a thief or an armed robber.
The major issues facing Ghana today include the national economy which has been saddled with such a colossal amount of loans over the past ten years, low quality education, a poor health delivery system, endemic corruption, low productivity, the destructive practice of galamsey and national indiscipline. One would have thought that these would form the backbone of the manifestos of political parties, or the so-called dominant parties that are vying for the people’s votes. Listening to their presentations and reading through the summaries of their manifestos, the two main parties of the ruling New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress, simply tinker with these major issues. Instead they have gone back to their usual “promise heaven and give them hell” spree. Wherever possible, they have promised new infrastructural development – interchanges and highways, railways and dual carriage ways – areas where the thickest cream can be skimmed off project budgets.
Mahama as leader of the NDC has promised to return all seized mining concessions to their original owners, meaning his teeming army of brothers and sisters. The President, Nana Akufo-Addo, is promising more efficient government, meaning his grandchildren are now old enough to be roped into government swelling his government to 400-plus officials, advisers and hangers-on.
At the last count, Ghana’s debt stock today is such that apparently, a whopping 75% of all receipts, including grants-in-aid, is spent on loan servicing, leaving a meagre 25% for national development, much of which is stolen anyway. This is not sustainable. It has to change.
Over the past twenty-eight years of the Fourth Republic, there have been scandalous deals like Embreer Aircraft purchase, GYEEDA, SADA, Galamsey, Ameri Power, Aker Energy, Kelni GVG Contract, Sole Sourced Street Lighting Project, the Government Bond Issue and many more, that should have sent the people of Ghana protesting in the streets of the land. Because the people have been generally apathetic to the rape of the nation, these parties, in a typical “scratch my back I scratch yours“ vein, have ignored these damning issues in their manifestos- ”see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” With the commissioning of toilets, street markets and a few shadowy projects like an airport in Cape Coast thrown in, the people seem to have forgotten their woes of the past ten years and resigned themselves to the fatalism of “oibara ba a saa.” No, it doesn’t have to be so. Ghana definitely deserves better than a choice between a thief and an armed robber!
There is a better option
There is a better option. Having read through the available manifestos of a few of the “independent Presidential aspirants”, I am convinced that there is a better option for the people of Ghana than the mediocrity of the past twenty-eight years. There is one particular candidate who advocates for skills-based education for all Ghanaian children. Under this scheme, every Ghanaian child no matter where he or she is born, would have acquired three or more skills by age 18, whether they opt for vocational, technical or social sciences education. That way, if at the terminal point of a person’s education he or she does not find a job in the formal sector, he or she can always set up something on their own, instead of joining groups like “association of unemployed graduates” and other such demeaning organisations. That is the model in most Central and Eastern European countries. In that case, there will be no need for young people to fall prey to devious political patronage and other shady deals.
He also has a firm promise to punish wrongdoing in society. With no party apparatus to beholden to, this is the surest way to clean up Ghanaian society.
Some people believe that it will not be possible to dethrone the NPP-NDC duopoly in 2020. A little reading of our history shows that that notion is false. When Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah left the UGCC and formed the convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949, the people of the Gold Coast faced a similar, probably more daunting choice. On one side was the capricious colonial government that had set up the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board as part of an exploitative scheme (Malaysian Rubber Board, Jamaican Sugar Board, etc), around the colonies, for use to pay off Britain’s war debts. On the other side was the group of elitist pseudo-politicians that was advocating for “independence in the shortest possible time”, while they sent their children away, so they would come back in good time to replace the colonial administrators.
Kwame Nkrumah’s task was even more herculean. However, he took the challenges that faced him as opportunities and was therefore, undaunted. With the support of disenchanted ex-servicemen, he went round the country recruiting the young, unemployed, farmers, fishermen, artisans, and all those that had been on the side-lines of the elitist society, the Veranda Boys, as they were called, for positive action. In a matter of months after breaking away from the United Gold Coast Convention, he had built a formidable election winning apparatus that would go on to clock several astounding electoral victories in the next seven years, beginning with legislative assembly elections landslide just two years later. It can be done!
We have the benefit of social media, Kwame Nkrumah didn’t. There was no television. Only a few hundred people had access to BBC radio news. We have the teeming youth, the IT-savvy 18-year olds, Kwame Nkrumah didn’t. The voting age was 25, it is now 18. The youth can help spread the message like wildfire, if they understand what is at stake.
Some of our parents and grandparents of today may just be old enough to remember 1951, or at least the joy of “FREEEE-DOOOOMMMM” in 1957. They will remember the joy of receiving a Cocoa Marketing Board Scholarship in the post without having to pay anything to anybody or even travel out of the village. The village postmaster or headteacher of the local middle school brought the letter to your parents after school and the whole village rejoiced with your family. We can go back to those days again. All we need to do is to tell these leeches that we have had enough of their shenanigans. We do not have another twenty-eight years to toy with, especially for those below age forty-five.
Galamsey for instance, with its willy-nilly spread of toxic mercury and arsenic into the nation’s farmlands, surface and groundwater systems, is not only killing our citizens prematurely, it is gradually creating a major water scarcity in our country and unless it is stopped, in about ten years from now, people will have to travel long distances to fetch a bucket of water, as happens in certain countries in Africa and around the developing world. None of the two main parties will ever stop it, they are neck deep in it. It is selfishness and sheer lack of empathy for the mass of the people of Ghana. We should remember that many of them have their children and grandchildren living outside Ghana. They have their medical care, retirement and pensions all planned and taken care of. It is up to you and I to take care of ours. Don’t let them continue to ride roughshod over you. This is the year of change and must be now, not in “the shortest possible time!”
Some Ghanaians seem to have given up on our dear Motherland and have accepted the notion that Ghana’s Election 2020 is a choice between a thief and an armed robber, Ali Baba and Jesse James with their bands of thieving understudies. It does not have to be so. There are definite, choices, not among those “have-beens” that are now playing harlotry. There are fresh faces, people who have never in anyway been tainted by the filthy politics of the past. Check their backgrounds, CVs and manifestos. Where they have been in the past twenty-eight years, and what they have been doing. What have they done for Ghana and their local communities? Who are their backers and what are the implications for the future of Ghana? Ghana definitely deserves better. Paraphrasing Euphraim Amu’s famous, “Yen ara asaase ni,” our forebears played their part in 1951. It is our turn in 2020. What shall we do? “Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide.” We can do it, let us join hands and go at it together.