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26.06.2002 Feature Article

In response to Ebo Quansah’s article “ NPP at Crossroads”.

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Ebo Quansah writes: “Nearly half way through the first term of office, there is despondency in many homes. Most Ghanaians are enable to eke a meaningful living from their earnings. Most of the promises made by the ruling party on the campaign trail remain unfulfilled.”

If one did not really understand the formidable underpinnings of African politics, they would be tempted to sway to Ebo Quansah's romantic ballad, critiquing the only two year old NPP government's effort to chip at the base or is it the tip of a gargantuan iceberg bigger than the one that sank the Titanic years ago. How do you fairly pit the product of “ 19 years of the most oppressive regimes” against that of an almost two year progressive government? Of course one is guaranteed to see no results from the intense labor of the latter no matter what it did. The NPP Government inherited a lot of problems from previous governments and Ebo Quansah will be naïve to sway the dumbest Ghanaian to believe that the current government has magic (translated in literal terms as creating corrupt tactics which appear) to correct things in only two years. Borrowing from Ebo Quansah's own phrase that: “[NPP Government]…coming after 19 years of one of the most oppressive regimes ever to take the centre stage in this country, the promises the NPP made were music in Ghanaian ears.”

I would also suppose that the ordinary Ghanaian knew that the NPP government, could not by no mean ugly feat overhaul nineteen solid years and more of decadence left over by predecessors in less than two years in office. Uprooting the foundations of corruption and tumbling the solid columns of greed, which do not stand as mere physical structures which can be simply mowed down by government caterpillars in less than two years, but as destructive traits residing in individual human intentions, is no easy feat for anybody to overcome in two years. An example of corruption embedded in the ordinary citizen: On my recent trip to Ghana, I took a cab and was charged double the fare because I didn't look like a “Ghanaian resident”. There was one thing I said to my Ghanaian brother who ripped me off. “Wait until you come to my clinic, I'll charge you twice then to retrieve the extra money you charged me and some. Of course I am no doctor and do not live in the country, but you can imagine the endless cycle of corruption and how it is perfected each time it is passed around like a meal at a dinner table.

Another prime example of corruption left over from previous governments manifested in a current government official: My girlfriend on her last day in Ghana, decided to pump her last dollars into the Ghanaian economy. We decided to get snacks from a popular ice-cream joint in town. She had borrowed her father's car which had just returned from the “fitter's shop”. On our way home around the Tetteh Quarshie Circle, we were stopped by a policeman, who insisted that the car was not road worthy. We pleaded to get the vehicle inspected and all the very next day, but this gentleman would not let us leave without us greasing his palms. I refused to give in to his demands and we sat in the car and got bitten by nasty mosquitoes all night long until my friend gave up and gave him something. Of course by then, I had no more threats left for this policeman. How does the government interfere with the devious things we do in our private lives as citizens? It is either the rich getting richer and leaving the poor to rob the rich. We're caught in a vicious cycle of ripping each other off when we have the chance to get to each first. We're very clever but clever in the wrong way. How are the citizens helping the government to contribute to their own misery? How is the ordinary citizen productively helping the government to help them? How is Ebow Quansah helping the government by not encouraging the good it is doing in two years rather than criticize its little drop in the ocean effort to combat poverty? Ebo Quansah, two years is too little time to see a bountiful harvest in an arid land, go ask the most seasoned farmer. And I speak as a person devoid of all party affiliations who only wants to see Ghana and Ghanaians prosper from all our manual laboring under the brutal African sun.

The author himself admits that: “True to its promise, the Government took off on a very bright note, with a lot of goodwill from the ordinary people of this nation.” Change comes with newness and optimism. In my humble opinion, the NPP government had indeed been optimistic about bringing change as would any new government. I will not say their dream has faded. The fact I perceive is that the task that looms before the government is too much to overhaul, install new effective plans and see results in the life of the ordinary Ghanaian in two short years. The task is indeed daunting but I believe it is by these very challenging circumstances that we judge a leader to be intelligent, effective and set apart from the ordinary citizen. The Ghanaian government needs us, it is not us who need the government. Us Ghanaians need to be patient, and in the interim assist our leader in whatever roles we have been assigned, as people in office and as good citizens, to support our President help move the nation forward. We the people, with our leader as the head of our nation, together as one move the nation ahead. The leadership can facilitate our movement ahead. The feat of overhauling the status quo, the things ingrained so deep in our history and psyche, namely corruption, greed, etc. which corrode the fabric of society must be dealt with too and not left to any government. It will take magic for things to be drastically different and like I mentioned in an earlier article, President Kuffour is no magician or sorcerer. Let us be fair and realistic here. This takes me to one topic that drives me nuts. That of pitting one political party against another. This tactic only amounts to division and regression from our divisiveness. Let any wealthy nation afford to be partisan but a nation as poor as Ghana cannot afford these kinds of divisions. Unity is essential for progress. If the NPP is no good in less than two years, what use was the NDC either in twenty years? No party will be good in any number of years if we are to compare the doings of parties in the history of the nation. Now let us look at things from another perspective and ask how far Ghanaians, leaders and citizens alike have come in terms of growth and development. After all, if we think the leaders are incompetent, impotent and simply useless, did we not have the able and intelligent right as citizens to send them off into power to represent us? Do we not have abilities as a collective force to propel change through our own efforts outside the government? Will criticizing any government bring about the needed changes without destroying us first? The welfare of the citizens of Ghana is not tantamount to the effectiveness of NPP versus NDC. On the other hand, the prosperity of the people is dependent on our hard work, unity, integrity, etc. The people and what we do to help each other counts in the progression of a nation. We have to be careful in casting stones. Last but not least, I have observed that the citizens like spoilt, lazy, children, are dependent solely on governments to sustain them. When I was growing up in Ghana, my father, an agriculturist, gave each of us a little plot of land behind our home where we could cultivate our own vegetables and fruits and in essence foodstuff. He also built a fishpond with tilapias and whatnots, so we could have a source of protein to compliment our starches and have our basic need - food. When times were hard and we couldn't afford imported foods, or food in general, we would go to our garden or store of harvest to obtain food. These are little self-help efforts which we do not need the help of any government. We did not need the government to provide us with basic food. Of course one had to be innovative to stretch the same old foods, making them appear to be restaurant-style foods. So my personal story of self-dependence is not good enough. Let us look at that of our beloved sister and mother Esther Ocloo, who passed away recently and was lauded as an industrial pioneer ( an indeed she was). Esther Ocloo was poor and could not manage to continue past simple secondary school, but she didn't go wailing “the government, it sure is the government's fault for not providing me with such and such!” Instead, in her poverty, she found a way to break through the dry, dry impervious ground of poverty to become one of the most entrepreneurial people in Ghana. The point in all this? There are ways to contribute to the welfare of Ghana, without the cycle of dependence on anyone for basic provisions. It is only when we want to be wealthy like our next-door neighbor without laboring like him for what he has, that we realize how poor we are. These little efforts, like being dependent on self-efforts… home-grown trades and industries and services of home-grown professionals can bail us out of foreign debts which are unfairly pitted against our currency and productivity. How do we expect to pay off our foreign debts to begin to use our money for home projects? Ghanaians are too dependent on everyone except themselves. And Ghanaians are full of rhetoric and complaints. Simply ask your siblings or relations in Ghana how they are (wo ho te sen?) and they'll launch into a long harangue on poverty in Ghana and yet on my many visits, I wish I had some luxuries they had. On my recent visit to Ghana, I saw many Ghanaians driving expensive imported cars and living in lush homes and none of these people had stepped a foot outside Ghana-ever! Call it corruption, call it hard work, but some Ghanaians through hard work are doing well. These were luxuries that I myself no matter how long I live or how hard I work here in the U.S. can ever afford and yet Ghanaians are always crying the cry of poverty. If we cry this cry for too long, when will we notice wealth even when it is laid squarely at our feet? And what are we doing ourselves as ingenious people to correct this problem we know exists? Still waiting for the government? This is not to undermine the dire poverty of the truly poor, but to point out that necessity is the mother of invention and perhaps it is our very dependence on the government, like cripples and beggars waiting to be picked off the ground to be fed that that makes us poor. Poverty is an obstacle to be overcome through our hard work and creativity and not something to be feared or used as a chewing stick. I will suggest that the next time Ebo Quansah writes an article, it will be one that investigates the ingenious ways that government and citizens alike can help Ghana prosper in the two years of a government. He will be singing a song that I will not hesitate to sway to.

Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.

Ruth Peprah
Ruth Peprah, © 2002

The author has 9 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: RuthPeprah

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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