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11.03.2004 Feature Article

Visions of Tomorrow- Part 1

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Party manifestoes must aim at securing the welfare of all Ghanaians It's election year once again and various politicians and their parties are gearing towards electioneering mode. The selection process to put forward local MP's are in full swing, organisational strategies for rallies and media events are being put into place, old manifestos are being dusted off the shelves, party posters, T shirts and, and flags are being produced in their hundreds of thousands and some are even recruiting “macho men” to police their rallies. Knowing my fellow Ghanaians I would not be wrong in thinking others may even be looking for divine intervention, so don't be surprised if some resort to allnight prayer & tongue sessions and even insults to get one over their rivals. I hope God will forgive some of them for all their past wrongdoings and their general uselessness for ignoring the quality of life issues that matter to the average Ghanaian for so long.

I sometimes sit and wonder whether it is worthwhile for the average Ghanaian to continue having hope in the betterment of his or her life, because in the scheme of all these machinations, the status quo remains and trends in our history suggests that we never learn. In the years 1966, 1973, 1979, 1981, it was possible to believe that the termination of the various legal and illegal regimes, would bring relief from economic hardship and mismanagement. Thirty- eight years on it sounds absurd but we are still being sold the magic potion of hope by politicians as the only way for surviving and weathering the storm of poverty, lack of opportunities, illiteracy, poor environmental sanitation e.t.c After 47 years of belt tightening all we invariably end up with is politicians and other usurpers of power getting rich and securing the welfare of their families and relatives and ignoring the welfare and wellbeing of the vast majority of their fellow citizens. Unfortunately this has been the sad history of post independent Ghana. Speak to the average Ghanaian born in the post independence era in the street or on the local “trotro”, and ask him whether there has been an improvement in their lives since their birth, and I can bet, apart from the “lost generation” which have escaped abroad, nine and a half out of ten times they will answer in the negative.

It is in the light of these that I have become depressed once again about the activities building up to the elections in December 2004 and hoping that my visions of tomorrow can be realised one day. A major part of that vision for tomorrow, is to create a political culture which would ensure that fellow citizens would vote for political parties and individuals not just because their grandfathers and fathers were members, or had voted for them in the past or some uncle was associated with the veranda boys club. When that vision becomes a reality, citizens would endeavour to vote for a political party, and politicians because they have familiarised themselves with the manifesto, and made a judgement as to whether it was relevant to their aspirations and their hopes for the future. Equally political parties would not expect to win votes because of their slogans and the colour of their flags or strategy, most of which are currently based on tribal, regional, and other affiliations. But they would win votes and a mandate purely on the content of their manifestos and the calibre of their leaders and their record of achievement.

My other vision is that the average Ghanaian voter would understand why he or she needs to be interested in scrutinising the contents of the various manifestoes for policies that would help solve their problems in areas like education for instance. In the light of the fact that a significant percentage of Ghanaian children are roaming the streets of our towns and cities without basic education, because of lack of finance or school places, something that should be a concern for all of us. Is it not important for voters to find out what policies are being proposed by political parties to deal with this ticking time bomb, a very relevant issue which if ignored would create a nightmare situation for our children and grandchildren to grapple with ?

I have always thrown this challenge to anybody interested, if you wish to understand the extent of the decay in Ghana's education system please go and visit the primary school or middle school you attended when you were a child. Sure you may not be surprised to find that a significant majority of buildings, their fixtures and fittings have fallen into decrepitude. However one would think the Ministry of Education in Accra of all places would have a Policy and Planning Unit to prevent such situations arising. A visit to the ministry some months ago to make enquiries about educational matters convinced me that the set up, systems and processes in place, and above all the attitudes of the officials was a joke. My lesson was that much managerial leadership that exists within such organisations was not fit for the purpose. One can find this replicated in every sphere of our national economy.

Given the fact that in a developing country like ours, the operations of public organisations and agencies have a significant impact on the lives of citizens than anything else, my vision is that one day people would be interested to find out what plans, programmes, or strategies are in place in Party manifestoes for improving their efficiency and delivery. After all these are the bolts and nuts issues, the mismanagement of which have been impoverishing our citizens throughout our Country's existence. Lately for example we have heard once again how the people in charge of the management of the capital city of Accra unable to come out with a credible strategy or plan to keep the city clean and habitable. They have declared war again probably for the twentieth time, on filth and sanitation. You know and I know that if it cannot be done in Accra it cannot be done anywhere else.

With the current mess we find ourselves in, why shouldn't citizens ask themselves what policy initiatives and strategies are in the manifestoes of the parties to address under performance from the local level up? If you are as puzzled as me, I keep asking myself, why shouldn't the party manifestoes be translated into four or five major local languages, so that the vast majority of rural folk can understand and process the information within them? And why shouldn't the state broadcaster (GBC) or other media, initiate daily discussion programmes on these manifestoes in the various local languages, so that the “literally challenged” can be informed and educated of their provisions to enable them make informed decisions ?

My next vision relates to my concern about the calibre of some appointed officials that we have at the local and regional and national levels of government, and even MP's and other elected officials. I would dearly love to see a political culture that would understand, that it is very wrong to assume that because someone is educated to whatever level, or because he or she can speak English with an European accent, he or she can be considered competent enough to provide leadership to a development critical organisation without the acquisition of the necessary skills and abilities, which can only be acquired through knowledge, experience and training. Some one may be educated but they may not understand the basic concepts of managing people, or continually developing systems and processes to achieve national development objectives. They may not even understand how to intervene to rectify non performance, because of a lack of proper procedures and monitoring systems to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of their work. Therefore a tough guy image or no nonsense attitude will not be sustainable either.

So In my vision not only will parties have plans for addressing these issues in their party manifestoes, but citizens would be able to identify the key policy priorities that matter and the key competencies that elected officials must have before they cast their votes for them. Stephen Nyako Management Consultant Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Stephen Nyako
Stephen Nyako, © 2004

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: StephenNyako

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