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Francis Xavier-Sosu writes: Akufo-Addo tenure; era of erosion of democratic gains

By Francis-Xavier Sosu (Esq), Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency
Article Francis Xavier-Sosu writes: Akufo-Addo tenure; era of erosion of democratic gains
JAN 19, 2022 LISTEN

I am not a fan of the Military. I was born in 1979 at a time when Ghana was under Military rule and most of my childhood days were under Military rule until 1992 when Ghana returned to constitutional rule. Since I began my practice as a Human Rights Lawyer, I have also handled a number of Military brutality cases which made me develop a very negative view of the Military and their approaches.

However, I recently chanced upon a profound statement by a renowned Military General and decided to read a little about the said general and found that he was such an astute Soldier who dedicated his life to fight for Britain during the 1st and 2nd World Wars and fought many other battles and was extremely successful. I discovered that his secret was how he perceived leadership and the roles of leaders. This was what this very successful British Army Officer said about Leadership: He stated “My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence” – General Montgomery

I decided to reflect on these words: capacity to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. In my reflections, I realized why Ghana has not developed much under previous Leaders but most importantly under this Akuffo-Addo – Bawumia led Government. I again asked, since 2016, when the NPP took over the reins of government, what can we say is our common purpose; how has this government led us to this common purpose, and in what ways has the President inspired confidence in Ghanaians into our collective future? Obviously, ours is a cocktail of failed promises, covered cases of corruption, naked abuse of power and intimidation of all well-meaning Ghanaians who criticize government, unlawful arrests of journalists; closure of radio and tv stations perceived to be critical of government, insensitive and senseless banking sector clean-up leading to several job losses, lack of accountability with covid-19 funds, among many others. How can this tail inspire confidence into a common future?

On account of the above, I have decided to briefly assess the leadership of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. This article covers the 5 years of failed leadership which could lead to a failed state if care is not taken.

Following completion of the first term of President Akufo-Addo, as President of the Republic of Ghana and Commander-In-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces and completion of the first year of the 2nd term of this government, I seek to assess the record of the Akufo-Addo-led Government in areas of Democratic Accountability and Governance, Economic Transformation, Foreign Affairs, Corruption, Security, Education, Human Rights and Media Freedoms, Industrialisation and Job Creation, and Agriculture and Food Security. The areas of assessment were carefully selected because they form the building blocks of any Democratic State and governance in general.

Democratic Accountability and Governance

Every democracy hinges on accountability and good governance. Accountable governance means the willingness to accept responsibility for one's governance decisions and actions. This implies the conscious decision to empower agencies of accountability and subjecting the governance decisions to public scrutiny on high moral and ethical standards and honesty for public life. This has been visibly missing in the Akuffo Addo-Bawumia led government for these 5 years.

Speaking at the launch of the NPP Manifesto in Accra on Monday, October 10 2016, then-Candidate Akufo Addo stated “I am passionate about promoting a state structure that rests on a true separation of powers, with three genuine co-equal branches of government, because that guarantees good governance and is the best protection for citizens.”

However, under this government, Ghana's rank on the World Democracy Index 2020 reduced from 54th position with an overall score of 6.75 in 2016 to 59th position with an overall score of 6.50 for the year 2020. This followed scores of 8.33 in Electoral Process and Pluralism, 5.36 in Functioning of Government, 6.67 in Political Participation, 6.25 in Political Culture, and 5.88 in Civil Liberties; as compared to scores of 8.33 in Electoral Process and Pluralism; 5.71 in Functioning Government; 6.11 in Political Participation; 6.25 in Political Culture; and 7.33 in Civil Liberties.

The reduction in Ghana's rank is reflected in government actions such as destruction and politicization of state institutions, perceived partiality of the Judiciary; oppressed Parliament reflected in actions such as withdrawal of military protection to the Speaker of Parliament, and open confrontation on the floor of Parliament; a pliant Electoral Commission; an Auditor General hounded out of Office; a misused Military; anti-corruption institutions in Bondage; an intimidated media; and a terrified civil and moral society.

Also, allocation to the Office of Government Machinery has increased by 937.73% over the past five (5) years, whilst that of Parliament and the Judiciary have increased by 48.71% and 18.49% respectively. This reflects a betrayal and lack of commitment to the principles of good governance and effective separation of powers as there is a clear lack of candour, humility and honesty in the leadership of this government which does not inspire hope in the future of this Country. It is no wonder most young people have given up hope in political leadership in Ghana today. This definitely does not auger well for our democracy.

Economic Transformation

In his book “From the Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000,” Lee Kuan Yew shared amazing stories about how Singaporean leaders worked together to “get the basics right” to transform a poor and third world country into a prosperous nation that the world is proud of today. That can be our story. In 2016, the picture painted by the Vice President gave hope. In office, all he stood for had been thrown to the dogs. He promised to move away from taxation to production; and it is the direct opposite under his watch. He promised to transform the structure of the economy through industrialisation to create jobs, but the reality leaves much to be desired.

Speaking at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly delivered at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York, on Thursday, September 21 2017, President Akufo Addo reaffirmed “We want to build a Ghana which looks to the use of its own resources and their proper management as the way to engineer social and economic growth in our country. We want to build an economy that looks past commodities to position our country in the global marketplace.”

However, Ghana declined on the Ease of Doing Business Ranking from 108th in 2016 to 118th for the year 2020. On the Indices of Economic Freedom, Ghana obtained an average score of 57.28 between 2017 and 2020 as compared to 78.63 for the periods 2013 to 2016. Ghana's overall public debt stock is estimated at 83% of GDP including approximately 2% of GDP in debt held through the Energy Sector Levy Act (ESLA) special purpose vehicle, according to Fitch. As noted by the EIU, Ghana's 83% effective debt to GDP ratio is more than double that of the average peer African country. According to the IMF in its April 2021 Fiscal Monitor, Ghana's debt will surge further to 84.8%, 86.0% and 86.6% in 2023, 2024 and 2025 respectively.

Also, in downgrading Ghana from B stable to B- with Negative Outlook, the key rating drivers as issued by Fitch, stated as follows: “This comes in the context of uncertainty about the government's ability to stabilise debt and against a backdrop of tightening global financing conditions. Ghana's effective loss of market access to international bond markets increases risks to its ability to meet medium-term financing needs. Ghana will be unable to issue on international capital markets in 2022 and prospects for doing so in 2023 are uncertain.” The downgrade by Fitch aligns with ratings of Moodys (B3) and that of Standard and Poor S&P (B-).

Again, as observed in the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) report issued in April 2021, Ghana is hardly able to ensure prudent debt servicing through prompt payment of maturing principals accruing from official credit facilities, thus, leaving the country in a position that can be described as highly debt distressed. This is further reinforced by Bloomberg Index, which indicates that Ghana's dollar bonds have slumped 10 percent in 10 days, moving deeper into distressed territory as the country's USD27 billion foreign debt had the worst start to the year among emerging markets, extending last year's 14 percent loss. Thus, the extra premium demanded on Ghana's sovereign dollar debt jumped to an average of 1,105 basis points, from 683 basis points in September 2021, placing Ghana among the most vulnerable credits with countries such as Lebanon and Ethiopia in terms of debt riskiness. This is Fitch's worst rating since it began covering the Ghanaian economy nearly twenty (20) years ago.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that the legacy of the Akufo Addo-led Government is one that quickly faded from a vision of Ghana beyond Aid to a sad reality of a country at High Debt Distressed levels, despite borrowing a colossal GHS220 billion, representing an increase of almost 200% as compared to GHS122billion as at 2016, the sum of which was accrued since Independence in an era intended to achieve Ghana beyond Aid. According to Databank research, exchange rates of major trading currencies such as the dollar, pound and euro currently stands at GHS6.42, GHS8.81 and GHS7.36 as of Monday, January 17 2022, leaving Ghanaians in shock over the “competence” of the Economic Management Team (EMT) under President Akufo Addo headed by the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. This is the economic record of the Akufo Addo–Bawumia led Government: An economy that has seen little transformation, safe for gross mismanagement, super taxation and sheer incompetence.

Foreign Affairs

In his speech at the launch of the Economic, Trade and Investment Bureau (ECTIB) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Accra on Thursday, August 31 2017, President Akufo Addo echoed “Our nation's foreign policy, and interventions on the domestic front, must be understood as being two sides of the same coin. It's been demonstrated over time that a country is best placed to achieve its foreign policy objectives when they complement its domestic policies.”

However, despite the above, President Akufo Addo as President of the Republic of Ghana and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) demonstrated through congratulatory messages and attendance of inaugural ceremonies support to the third term ambitions of Presidents Alpha Conde of Guinea, Al Hassan Ouattara of Cote D'Ivoire, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Iddris Deby of Chad (until his demise), and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo. The affirmation of support despite undemocratic conduct by these leaders did not render support to nor complement Ghana's democracy or the 1992 Constitution. Today, as a result of such actions, ECOWAS currently has at least two military Governments (Mali and Guinea), with the threat of terrorism and violent extremism gaining prominence daily in the sub-region under the watch of H.E. Nana Akufo Addo, reflecting one of the weakest and incompetent eras in the history of the sub-regional body.

Corruption

To address the challenge of Corruption which has plagued the continent and world over the years, President Akufo-Addo, in delivering his speech on the theme 'One Ghana: Securing Our Future' at the 2nd Aliu Mahama Memorial Lectures in Accra on Tuesday, December 9 2014, stated “If we are to succeed in securing our future, we must succeed in securing the public purse. Governments are elected to offer creative solutions to the problems that face a country. Corruption, or to call it by the name that we all understand, the naked theft of public funds, will destroy Ghana and her future if we do not take a firm stand against it. Corruption is undermining confidence in our governance system and that is dangerous for all of us.”

However, Ghana's rank on the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International reveals an average score of 41.25 following scores of 40, 41, 41 and 43 between 2017 and 2020 as compared to an average score of 46 following scores of 46, 48, 47 and 43 between 2013 and 2016. This indicates that the country has sunk deeper into corruption during the Akufo Addo years.

Additionally, according to the 2020 Auditor General's Report, Ghana lost over GHS12.8 billion due to infractions and other irregularities committed by statutory institutions in the year 2020. This figure represents an increase of 135 percent as compared to GHS5,468,398,431 for the year 2019. This was also following a sudden rise in total irregularities from GHS718,085,208 as at 2016 to GHS12,002,880,339 in 2017.

Security

As noted in the National Security Strategic Document, bribery and corruption ranked high on Ghana's national security risk register considering its prevalence and negative impact on our existing national security interests, response mechanisms and socio-economic development.

Also, according to the report, mismanagement of the economy, injustice, state capture by a group of political elite, weak and ineffective institutions, imbalanced allocation of resources and opportunities to identifiable groups, poor service delivery, systemic exclusion and marginalization as well as deprivation pose as a major threat to the security of the country and could lead to a rejection of the generally accepted social norms and values. The report further warns that this if not tackled, could lead to extremist behaviour which could further degenerate into violent extremism.

Considering that the National Security Strategic Document was published by the Ministry of National Security in June 2021, five years into the tenure of President Akufo-Addo, one can only conclude that the report delivers the verdict of the legacy of the Akufo Addo-led Government with respect to security, which have further worsened and been exacerbated under his tenure.

Education

In his speech at the New Year Greetings with the Diplomatic Corps on Thursday, February 16 2022, President Akufo Addo stated “My Government is not going to shy away from making the critical choices that are necessary for the long-term interest of our people. We are going to invest heavily in building up the most important ingredient of development: the intellectual property of the people – the mind – education, education, education – our sure key to success. We want to add value to our human capital…”

However, despite the above, the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and College of Education Teachers Association of Ghana (CETAG) are currently on strike; Textbooks for basic school students remain unavailable two (2) years after the introduction of a new curriculum. Also, there has been sudden review of the basic education system to semester system without necessary stakeholder consultations according to GNAT; lack of adequate financing, personnel and infrastructure for the free SHS policy, leading to regular cautions by the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) over the poor implementation of the policy in spite of threats of job losses; low teacher motivation; and annual accommodation challenges by Tertiary Students, among others.

As such, it is, therefore, safe to say that the Education sector under the Akufo Addo-Bawumia-led Government is in complete tatters.

Human Rights and Media Freedoms

Furthermore, despite being touted as a Human Rights Activist and advocate for Media Freedoms, the record of H.E. the President, on the subject of Human Rights and Media Freedoms leaves much to be desired.

According to the 2020 Human Rights Report published by the US Department of State, significant human rights issues included arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents, cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or its agents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious restrictions on the press, including violence and threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists; serious acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; and existence of worst forms of child labour, among others. Ghana also obtained a score of 5.88 for Civil Liberties in the World Democratic Index published by the EIU for the year 2020 as compared to a score of 7.33 for the year 2016.

Also, Ghana's rank on the World Press Freedom Index was reduced from 26th in 2016 to 30th in 2020. Statesman, Sir Sam Jonah, while delivering a speech to Rotarians at a public lecture in Accra on the theme “Down the Escalator: Reflections on Ghana's Future by a Senior Citizen on April 22 2021, decried the sorry state of human rights and media freedom stating that the culture of silence was slowly creeping into the country through convenience, hypocrisy and parochialism. He stated “It appears to me that in recent times in our Fourth Republican dispensation, the courage to stand up for the truth and the determination to uphold the common good is lost. In our dark moments as a nation, it is concerning that the voices of the intellectuals are receding into oblivion. It appears to me that the culture of silence has returned.”

This sums up the legacy of H.E. the President, on the subject of Human Rights and Media Freedoms.

Industrialisation and Job Creation

Again, in delivering his May Day Address at the Independence Square on Monday, May 1 2017, President Akufo Addo stated “The one-district-one-factory, one-village-one-dam, the Zongo Development Fund, and the equivalent of one million dollars per year per constituency policies are all being pursued to stimulate job creation opportunities across the country.”

However, despite the above, the unemployment rate for persons aged 15years and over currently stands at 13.4%, and 19.7% for persons between the ages of 15years to 35years. Also, the unemployment rate for young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 years stands at 33%, according to data from the Ghana Statistical Service following the recent Population and Housing Census.

As noted by Dr. Priscilla Twumasi Baffuor, Economist and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics, UG, current statistics reveal that out of every three young adults, one is currently unemployed, posing serious risks to the country. Even more worrying is the fact that more than 46% of the persons seeking for jobs have given up hope, although they are available to work.

The state of unemployment in Ghana demonstrates that the structure of the Ghanaian economy remains unchanged and witnessed further deterioration during the Akufo Addo years, considering the rising population. As a result, the Private sector employs only 13% whilst the public sector employs only 10%, hence the need for new ideas and urgent and pragmatic measures to remedy the situation.

Agriculture and Food Security

Speaking at the 33rd National Farmers' Day Celebration at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium on Friday, December 1 2017, President Akufo Addo stated “A thriving agriculture sector engenders prosperity in our society. Government will continuously support food production for domestic consumption, provision of raw materials for industry and exports. We aim to increase incomes and enhance livelihoods for farmers and their households.”

Despite the above statement and implementation of the much-touted Planting for Food and Jobs Programme, Ghana declined from 78th position in 2016 to 82nd position in 2021 on the Global Food Security Index, reflecting yet again the lack of policy insight and detailed approach to policy formulation and implementation by the Akufo Addo-Bawumia led Government.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that almost all the significant gains made during the period prior to the coming into office of the Akufo Addo-led Administration have been eroded. From my reflections, you will agree with me that this government has failed to demonstrate leadership with capacity and the will to rally Ghanaians to a common purpose. The Leadership exhibited by President Akufo Addo and Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has failed to discover and define our common purpose and have been most self-centered and selfish in its approaches to appointment and development. It is a leadership that has failed to inspire confidence as was perceived by General Montgomery.

From Democratic accountability and governance practices to economic transformation, foreign affairs, corruption, education, human rights and media freedoms, industrialisation and job creation, and agriculture and food security, this government has woefully failed. Our reality as a people is that we are on a path of self-destruction. The only solution would be deliberate drastic 360-degrees policy changes. I will discuss more of the way forward in the part two of this article.

May God bless our homeland Ghana!

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The writer, Hon. Francis-Xavier Sosu, is a private legal practitioner, human rights activist, Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency, Member of the Appointments Committee, and Deputy Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, with background expertise in Economics, Conflict, Security and Peace Studies. The writer can be contacted via: [email protected] www.madinamp.com

Source: Francis-Xavier Sosu

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