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24.12.2002 Feature Article

Prudent Governance & Political Egoism In The Midst of Scarcity;

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WHICH WAY FOR GHANA.? "Political governance should be a means to abridge the gap between the rich and the poor, but never a means to widen it.” “Political office should not be a means to enrich oneself, lest you pay for it with disgrace and scorn." ...Isaac M. Larbi There is a saying that "he who does not have, the little he has will be taken away from him". If this is anything to go by, then it can only mean that political officers who have privately (on their own) made it in life, must add unto what they already have when they come to office, depriving the masses who are indigent. But I believe in politics, it should never be the case especially when we have leaders who proclaim to be genuine. The purpose of politics and governance should never be a means to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, but a means to abridge it. I read and follow with keen interest the story of Ghanaian politicians who immediately after coming into office, begin to ask for cars, houses and what have you. Political life, soon after elections, become the harvest season for many of them, who think, that is the way to prove that the office is an important one. Indeed it is an office of importance, but it is not the fight for cars and the magnificent houses that prove it. We all know it. This is what I choose to call political egoism - a means to show one's success overnight to families and friends through political office. Brethren, our politicians think that they must enjoy facilities that are commensurate with their position as pertaining in other countries especially in advanced countries where their counterparts enjoy significant benefits. If that is so, what then make us poor? They tell Ghanaians the country is poor, but at the same time, they want to enjoy as much, whilst asking the majority to endure the suffering till things work out. Leadership by example is not enjoying whilst the people suffer. We both enjoy and suffer together. But this is not the case in Ghana, the so - called HIPC nation. The media has to rise up to the occasion and make a case out of this. Like in some countries, the media make issues a national concern which is debated upon for the people to be more informed about it. This is because the media has been identified as a potential tool to influence governmental policies. It never had the name the 4th estate/arm/realm of government by its existence. It worked for it. I think that an issue of this nature should be debated for the people of Ghana to decide whether we want our leaders to enjoy commensurate facilities that go with the political position/office or not. We should all share a common but differentiated suffering - a suffering created by poverty, rather than to see our leaders enjoy (adding unto what they have or have not) when the masses are suffering with no additions but subtractions. What we expect from our leaders of integrity, is to decide on a lesser value of such amenities so that whatever is left in terms of money could be used for other developmental projects for the benefit of the people. e.g. The use of an S- Class Mercedes Benz by a Speaker of parliament alleged to be costing $90, 000, could have been reduced to a use of a Pajero costing $50,000. That way the remainder could be used to, at least, provide books and internet facilities in our schools especially the universities and high schools where students graduate with no knowledge of computers - a basic necessity that every student in Ghana is entitled to at the moment. To use $90, 000 for just one person, although the work happens to be difficult, cannot ensure reasonable, equitable and the fair use of state resources for the benefit of all citizens of Ghana who are all entitled to a share in the national cake. Our leaders must demonstrate true leadership by example and stop demanding too much from the state resources when they know very well that we are poor, including them as well. If they want to work privately and to charge professional fees, that is fine. We will have no problem with that, but they will have to resign to do that. Being in political office in a poor country like Ghana calls fro sacrifices. Ghana needs sacrificial leaders now to enable the nation stand on its feet. We do not need leaders who will demand so much just because they are seemingly perceived to be working. I posit that immediately they assume office, they take on the cloth of poverty as they represent poor people, and it does not matter whether they were rich or successful in their private life’s. For this reason they are expected to conduct their business as poor people hoping that when things get better, they will also benefit. We need to and must cut our coat according to our size. If you are a Minister in Ghana, you cannot be expected to behave like a Minister of even Nigeria, let alone behaving like a Minster in The U.K. or U.S.A. This is because they have more than we do. The consequence of such attitude towards their positions and how they portray themselves, psychologically influence the get-rich-quick people in our midst to do all it takes to become politicians with the intent of using that as a means of enriching themselves. It is very obvious in Ghanaian politics that people rush into politics to become DCE's and MP's knowing very well that they will surely end their term in office with at least 3 cars or more, all being modern Pajero's, BM's and Benze's in addition to mansions which they could never have obtained in ordinary private lives within 4 or 8 years - the years they spend in office. There is no way Honorable E.T. Mensah, the former Minister of Youth and Sports under the NDC government could have built his alleged mansions with golden tiles if he hadn't become a Minister. By illustration, is the case of a JSS teacher or a Headmaster who enters into politics to become a DCE or MP, knowing very well that he will surely be successful just after 4 years in office. This was very rampant in the days of the NDC when we had bogus NDC members as MP's who only went there to contribute nothing but enjoyed the most. This is a clear case of misplaced priority and the earlier the media take such iss! ues up on behalf of the majority of Ghanaians who are very gullible, the better for this nation of ours. The usual way which we all know by common sense (but unfortunately the majority of our leaders are refusing to take) is to be successful or make it on your own. Then after you can enter into politics with an intention to serve your country and thereby make a name for yourself. Our system is very vulnerable to corruption, and as such, our leaders should not in any way give an impression that politics is a way of making money, ensuring success in life or enriching oneself. We have been through political turmoil and are now trying to build and sustain a better democracy full of proper democratic principles. We do not need such attitudes from such officers in high offices such as MP's, Minister’s, and Speakers of Parliaments. That will be setting a bad precedence of a country whose leaders overtly and professedly proclaim to be genuine, but covertly disguise and institutionalize corruption under the pretext of being entitled to it by color of their position or office. I want to state that our situation is different. As a poor country, we need to define corruption to include situations where our leaders instead of sharing and being a part of the poverty, take for themselves what they think they deserve by virtue of the office and leave the majority to suffer because they are not in such a position. It will be highly imprudent and unfortunate under our circumstance to behave this way. Honorable Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey is a very successful lawyer who from all indications have made it really big in life. The question I want to ask is; what the hell on earth does he need such a car for? The proper way is to let the people know that, although, the position/office demands such a car, the good and reasonable leaders have decided to use a lesser valued car in order to save extra, for the benefit of the very poor. Their behavior should manifest an intention to help and assist the poor live a better life rather than amass wealth from state coffers through institutionalized covert corruption. We expect this to be their attitude and the proper approach to developing Ghana especially in these days when the external loans and aid we need badly are not forthcoming. I am always amazed when I hear our MP's and Ministers crying about cars, especially about the need for them to have Pajero's because of bad roads, to enable them travel to their villages for visitations and interaction with their communities; and at the same time, they need saloon cars when they come to Accra for Parliamentary business. Why will a nation as poor as ours decide to buy Pajero's for them in addition to Saloon cars? Why shouldn't a prudent government decide to buy just the Pajero for both activities to save us money? What I want to submit by this piece is that being a Minister, MP or a Speaker of Parliament does not entitle one to such expensive and luxurious facilities/amenities in the context of Ghana as a poor nation. And that is why the people are crying and will continue to cry about. Why should a poor person drink porridge to sleep for a whole year and more without any change, for a politician to drive a Mercedes Benz or Saloon car in addition to a Pajero soon after coming into office, when it was the same poor person who voted the politician into office with only one aim - to better his life. It is a question for us all to answer. I know and understand the fact that serving in high office is very tasking and demanding, hence it has to be attractive for people to volunteer to serve their nation. But I think that in Ghana, our political offices should be attractive only after office and not when in office. That way, those who duly and diligently serve their nation will be awarded accordingly. And for those who mess up, the Fast Track Court will be there to Fast track them to where they belong. We thank the Lord for the noble ones in their midst who are doing their best for the nation, although, they also face equal temptations. God Bless our Homeland Ghana. Aluta Continua !!!!! Isaac Larbi War Crimes Research office Washington College of Law American University Washington, DC. USA. 301-725-7670 http://geocities.com/mintalarbi

Isaac Larbi
Isaac Larbi, © 2002

The author has 2 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: IsaacLarbi

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