Sat, 31 Jan 2004 Feature Article

Can We Handle The Truth?

Can We Handle The Truth?

It’s too much candour good or bad for any country? William Raspberry of the Washington Post thinks not.

In one of his articles in the Post, the well-respected columnist opened his column with this very interesting statement.

“Let me make a small plea for a return to hypocrisy. It’s not that I can’t handle the truth. It’s just that I think too much candour can be bad for our national soul.”

Raspberry does not belong to the school of thought that seeks to keep everything under tabs.

He believes leaders should strive to live above reproach, tell the truth at all times-not the politically correct truth- and lead exemplary lives.

While many would label Raspberry’s statement as a pun, a wisecrack perhaps, few would disagree that it encapsulates to some extent the state of Ghanaian politics. Why would our leaders refuse to tell us the harsh cold truth? Do they find us gullible? Are we stupid simpletons who would swallow everything hook, line and sinker without discernible objections?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this for sometime and I can’t avoid asking the following questions.

Can we as Ghanaians demand the truth from our leaders at all times without our party affiliation getting the best part of us? I wonder if this is possible because it appears we are more susceptible to take a decision which would further an immediate parochial partisan interest instead of a national one? Don’t get me wrong this is not a lecture in civics or an appeal to the patriotic bone in you-I am trying to navigate your mind to something very important.

Having become accustomed to the behavioral patterns of politicians and in light of our history, can we expect our leaders to be candid with us when it comes to issues of the economy, corruption, health, governance etc?

Should our leaders continue to sweep things under the carpet instead of leveling with the people? Wouldn’t you agree that more candour from our leaders would make this nation better for all of us?

Imagine how easy the government could have sold Ghanaians on the $1 billion IFC loan if it had thrown in some candour in the mix-get down to the people and really explain the issues at stake and leave them without a shadow of doubt that you have been candid with them.

Instead Kufour and his henchmen decided to cut corners and got burnt in the process.

Despite incessant resistance from the minority group in Parliament led by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) this administration railroaded the loan agreement through Parliament without the benefit of checking the bonafides of IFC and started to pop the champagne.

The resultant expose and the embarrassment it brought in its wake showed visible cracks in the once solid reputation and respect the Kufour administration enjoyed from the public.

A little candour would have helped a lot. ET TU PNDC & NDC Who would forget the PNDC days when every effort was made to convince Ghanaians that our convulsing economy was showing signs of life. Dr. Kwesi Botchway used every trick in the book to spin the story of a recovering economy when the converse was the case. We were told the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) were bearing fruits and soon our misery would be over. Many economic giants, financial wizards, captains of industry were flown down to up the rhetoric.

Enter the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 1992.

This time the economy was characterized to us as a plane taxing on the runway waiting for clearance from the tower to take to the skies. For over eight years the plane never took off and by the time the new administration was sworn into office the tires on the landing gear were already worn off. With no landing equipment you know there isn’t going to be any taxing-not to think of flying. We sure need a huge injection of candour in our politics NATIONAL RECONCILIATION COMMISSION Almost six months ago this nation initiated an exercise to come to terms with our turbulent past and to help people who have been hurt from actions and inactions of past governments a medium to get redress and to find closure. The National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) was established to facilitate this healing process and to help this nation break away from the shackles of our past in order to work towards a better future for our good and posterity. The work of the NRC is a very important one and I can’t over-emphasise it enough. Here too we need to ask ourselves some very pertinent questions.

Would this nation be able to handle the truth when the harsh, bare facts about the murders of the three high court judges and the army major are brought to light? Would the widows and family of the former Heads of State and the senior Army officials executed in 1979 find closure if former President Rawlings appears before the Commission and admits complicity in their execution?

From what I have gathered through press reports of proceedings of the Commission and I am convinced the commission is striving to do all it can to fulfill its mandate.

This is an exercise that would do with some candour. STATE OF THE NATION SPEECH Reactions flowed within minutes President John Agyekum Kufour left the podium after delivering his thrud State of the Nation address in parliament. National Democratic Congress (NDC) Leader, Professor John Atta Mills was the first to hold Kufuor’s feet to the fire, slamming the speech as hollow and uninformed.

He went on to criticise the President for failing to tackle corruption during his tenure and also for failing to give credit to the NDC for the recovery of the cocoa sector. He described as disappointing the President’s failure to order investigation into the alleged misappropriation of money accruing in the GETFUND.

Mills was complaining about the lack of candour-exactly what we are addressing here.

After setting the tone, his surrogates in parliament joined the fray. Minority Leader and Minority Hon. Alban Bagbin and Hon. Doe Adjaho dug more into the NDC’s corruption mantra and went on the offensive.

Alban Babgin perhaps did the most unconventional thing when asked to second the motion for the adoption of the President’s speech he went straight for the jugular and lobbed his own attacks at the President for failing on corruption. Dan Lartey’s comments were pithy but straight to the point.

“The President said nothing.” Ouch. Did he really say nothing? The jury is out on that.

The State of the Nation speech is generally an outline of government programmes, how they were addressed and provide a way forward. Most commentators however believe that it is always skewed in a way to appeal to the President’s constituency particularly in an election year. So when the President presents a laundry list of the achievements of his administration in a speech that is expected to be national in character, his opponents would not be far from target if they only read ulterior, parochial and not altruistic motives.

This is quite a contentious position but don’t be surprised at all. It is called politics which in the words of Ronald Reagan “is the second oldest profession in the world but bares a close resemblance with the first (prostitution).”

Politicians are chameleons. They accuse their opponents of crimes they later perfect when they take their turn in the game of musical chairs called politics. We need to break this cycle and it has to be sooner than later. We cannot do without transparency and accountability. It is a treasure trove of resource that is needed in governance, business and in every facet of life. The media would continue to flag it up, place it on the front-burners and make it an issue that politicians cannot avoid. This column would hold issues of transparency and accountability sacrosanct-because Ghana can only move forward if we embrace candour in our politics and national life.

I’ll be back. Paa Kwesi Plange (for Gye Nyame Concord)

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