Let me give a rejoinder to this article by one Nana Ababio, Political Analyst, on Ghanaweb of Sunday October 16, 2005: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.asp?ID=92212
There is a popular saying in Ghana that goes like “I was minding my own business”, but this Nana Ababio, self-described as Political Analyst, is interesting indeed for some of the statements made here. He did a decent job, but where did he get this usually dirty word “Revolution”?
Today is Sunday, but perhaps instead of giving this to God, as we normally do in Ghana, I should take a minute to offer some corrections so we all are on the same path of working for the good of our nation. Many of our school and classmates are in government now, and if they are not doing well, including my own senior [President J.A. Kufuor], is it a crime to try and correct them?
Our understanding of democracy, especially by the people elected and also by the people government, need to be re-evaluated. Else how can a group of people take $1 Billion in loans and $103 Million to renovate Water for people and for years they can't show the money and they still are not installing the water pumps! How can anybody call himself a leader when 70% of the population is without access to good drinking water and sanitation, and $103 Million gift to do the work is not accounted for?
Before I say anything, let me clarify one thing. Whoever told Nana Ababio that I am an Engineer and an Engineer only?
Yes, my Professional starting point was, and my first love is engineering, but for God's sake I have been in Management since 1980 and a CEO of my own Finance and Real Estate Company since 1987. So don't any of our Liberal Arts colleagues think they have any advantage on Engineers! In fact as some may know I am completing my PhD Dissertation in an Executive Program in Organization and Management with Leadership specialization [School of Business and Technology]. I came back from my home in Accra in April to my home in California because of that Dissertation and the poor phone and electricity situation in Ghana. In March to April 2005 electricity was interrupted at least 20 times per month! I am essentially settled in Ghana as my first home now, with two decent vehicles for use [and I won't forget the C140 Million I had to pay in duties and taxes on these modest vehicles!!]. I believe I have every right like anybody else to express disappointment at the performance of our colleagues in the Landcruiser and Pajaros paid for by the taxpayer of Ghana! Period!
Nana Ababio writes: “Kwaku Danso has been very open with his aspirations for the leadership”. Come oon! This is not fair. Most ordinary people in Ghana know that poor leadership has failed our societies and allowed even decent institutions like the Judiciary to break down! With the cedi rising from C2.7 to now C9,000, people's salaries are virtually useless today. C6 Million per month will still not allow one to own a decent car since the payment on a new small Toyota car [about $20,000] loan will be about C5.3 Million. Nobody seems to try and brainstorm how others have done it, and design a budget using modern tools, and use the grants and loans productively! Instead our leaders are blaming the Devil when skilled Professionals depart to seek honest living elsewhere, and expecting debt forgiveness when the loans and grants are not accounted for! What was the use of our education if we cannot find solutions to our society's problems and blaming the Devil? That is why I strongly advice anybody in the third world who is sincere to change to read former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's book: “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000”. Discipline is the first element of getting out of poverty! Read it! It is the Blue Print!
Let's face facts. GLU is not advocating taking legitimately-earned food away from anybody's mouth, politicians and all. I sincerely support many of my friends in Government who seem to be trying, but is the top leadership helping? We all know it is not easy to take a bone out of a dog's mouth. However, the people of Ghana have every right to expect fair play from their own elected leaders! They expect that if they pay taxes [our tax rates are 2 to 10 times what others pay in developed nations!], or levies for their sweat in producing cocoa, they will be provided with reliable water, electricity, telephone services, and decent roads systems! It is the same money, whether coming from Europe, America or generated in Ghana! It is the same cement and bitumen, sand, gravels and iron rods we use in Ghana as in America! People who pay taxes expect their streets to be designed and built well like done in any civilized societies with known specified construction materials, covered gutters, sidewalks for walking and jogging, public parks and libraries, and common sewage system will be provided to take care of the stinky gutters that breed mosquitoes! People expect to pay their taxes and have a chance to live as decent human beings! Very simple principles of life! You pay your taxes, you get services! Even the very poor in any society deserve to have basic water services and pay a minimum whiles the major portions are paid for by others who can pay! This is not theory. We do not have to look at America in everything they do. Small nations like Singapore have done a better job at social services than America. What is our excuse when we get grants of money and we collect taxes!?
Can Nana Ababio, the NPP, the NDC, or anybody confirm and tell me that these have been done in Ghana?
Ghanaians are human beings also on this earth, and they are paying taxes! In addition to taxes, millions of dollars are being given to us by external bodies! Read this from the World Bank Website: “Accra, January 6, 2005 – The Government of Ghana today signed the Ghana Urban Water Project in Accra, a few weeks after the World Bank Board of Executive Directors had unanimously voted to convert a credit amount of US$103 million meant to finance the project into a grant. This means that Ghana will not be required to pay back this amount to the World Bank” (The World Bank, Jan.6, 2005).
Since January, where is the money and where are the pumps and equipment purchased to rehabilitate the urban water? Where is the money? We have run out of excuses as a people! Period!
We know many Ghanaians don't have jobs! So, like in every society, the rest pay taxes so all of us can have decent areas to live, and basic infrastructures such as water, sewage, roads, and phone systems. Water and garbage/sewage services cost only about $20-$40 per month in America depending on where you live [City Councils hire private companies through public open bidding], and basic phone costs only about $10 per month [includes locals calls within 8 mile radius]! Anybody even old retired people can afford these necessities of life. In Ghana my water bill in East Legon is C400,000 or $45 and my phone bills runs about $35 even if the service is not used [When in use, it was costing me C1.2-C1.5 Million per month, or $133-$167/month in the last year and half]. Every country has unemployed people, retired people, disabled and children also. Civilized society even plans for compensation for small income and health care benefits for people who retire and those who become disabled. Do our politicians think about these issues? Does being a poor nation mean loans and grants that are given us free should be stolen by a few whiles only a few are specifically identified to receive water and electricity? Why are others using the moneys to buy themselves the most expensive vehicles in the world? And traveling all over the world in entourages? Why? Americans pay an average 8% sales tax compared to Ghana's 12.5%. In America individuals pay for their health insurance costs when they are working or have a business. An average cost is about $80/month and one has a Health Insurance card issued to show your rights to the services. In Ghana, assuming the average person purchases goods and services averaging $7 Billion per year for GNI [World Bank Report, 2005] and we can tax 2.5% of even half of this for Health Insurance that comes to $87.5 Millions per year! Can the government of Ghana account for this amount in health care services and rehabilitation and are the officials taking care of anybody who has paid his NHIL fee at our government hospitals? We know this is not so! Where are their ID cards to show a contract with the people who pay? They have a right when these moneys are collected, don't they? People are paying 50% to 150% of taxes and duties on their imported vehicles when they should be paying only say 5-8%! They pay three times the cost of ordinary Quaker Oats or breakfast cereal in order to feed their children. Every single item is imported because loans are at 39% interest rate and Banks loan only to friends and charge 20% from the top for themselves! Open secret in Ghana! Can we say President Kufuor has honestly tried his best to stop some of these anomalies in business? Was “Zero Tolerance for corruption” only a mantra? We all need to stand up and ask questions of our leaders! This is not a matter of “Obiaa baa saa” [Whoever comes, it's the same] and therefore “give-it-to-God”! No!
Let's look at a few facts:
1. It is a fact that Ghanaians in the Diaspora as well as in Ghana are fed up with Our President, Ministers and government officials thinking only of themselves and making money vanish (their usual financial wizardry) that are loans and grants meant for water projects and for so-called Poverty Reduction.
2. It is a fact that some of us decided to form a non-Partisan NGO [using our own money! Please note that we may be a rare NGO that is self-financed!] to push for effective change and for government leaders to account for and use the tax money to effect change for the people of Ghana. We want the government to change the constitution, decentralize and have power in the hands of town and district Chief Executives who should be elected by the people to serve the people! We need to open up our government, sell state-owned media and properties to Ghanaians [not foreigners], and prosecute those who steal public funds and ruin public property, and open up the society for information and knowledge sharing throughout Ghana. Those are what leads to effective societal change and hence development!
3. It is a fact that Ghana has received billions of loans and grants (free!!) to fix problems such as water and electricity in Ghana, but nobody can account for the money. Examples see these website and reports:
On the $103 Million Grant (=Free Money) by the World Bank since January 2005 for Urban Water Development, see this:
The World Bank (2005, Jan. 6). Press Release No.274. Ghana: World Bank Turns US$103 Million Ghana Urban Water Credit to Grant. Retrieved August 5, 2005 from Website: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20312299~menuPK:34466~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html
On the urgent call and needs of the Private Enterprises in Ghana for water and Utilities so they can operate, help create employment, see this report by the PEF: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.asp?ID=82323
On a $350 Million for a Power Pool Initiative, see this: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20567489~menuPK:34466~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html
For the more than $1 Billion in loans and grants Ghana government has received towards a vaguely academic sounding but shoddily planned so-called “Poverty Reduction” see this websites: http://www.harolddoan.com/modules.php?name=News&new_topic=77
So what are we to do? Please note that GLU is not making any judgment on these facts. They are Billions of dollars in loans recorded by international institutions like the World Bank, IFC, that are being incurred on behalf of the people of Ghana, and as we know now, most of these obviously are being paid by taxes, duties, surcharges on the people overseas through remittances to Ghana, and the extremely high taxes on any purchased items in Ghana [12.5% VAT, 2.5% National Health Insurance, etc]. Ghanaians have every right to ask:
WHERE IS THE MONEY!!!???
WHY IS OUR GOVERNMENT TAKING $103 MILLION in GRANT MONEY (free!) FOR WATER AND NOT PROVIDING THE WATER?
WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?
Let me help correct a few mistakes that Nana Ababio may want to put in his notebook:
1. Ghana Leadership Union, Inc. (NGO) was formed in the USA first, but is a fully registered and certified bond-fide NGO in Ghana! Any Ghanaian can join for a very small fee, but core foundation members pledge to pay at least $1,000.
2. GLU Forum is an open forum to exchange and share ideas relevant to Ghana, towards Ghana's development. One does not have to be a paid GLU member to join. It is true that most on the list of more than 100 Professionals, Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, Economists, Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Professors, Scientists, people in the armed services around the world, and Mines [Ghana] are on the list. It is not moderated and some even disagree with the President that Leadership is the key to solving our problems. Occasionally they bring a “fight” and people are worried that the discussions are “getting personal”, but as President I keep reminding people that conflict is part of life and how we resolve them determines character, and will help our democracy [I am known to hit back once in a while when hit (smile)].
3. GLU has no political intentions, even though members have any right as any to do as they please. [See our Mission Statement at: www.GhanaLeadership.com]. We will never support an armed revolution against our democracy. Never! We will actually actively oppose any such nonsense! [Let us use the word revolution with care!]. Anybody who wants to get into politics will have to resign, including the President/co-founder. We seek and will be a force to effect change! Period!
4. GLU is based on using the rule of law and the courts. We have a Lawyer ready to file our first case, the CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT AGAINST CEPS /The Government of Ghana coming up shortly. It will test the courts of Ghana if we can count on them to do the right thing for the people of Ghana.
5. Most of GLU core founders who have pledged and contributed money to effect change in Ghana are overseas, but 30% of the founders are resident in Ghana whiles another 30% have their residences in Ghana and are in transition home [How else do we know the problems in Ghana so well and the corruption at the ports!!]
6. GLU does not rely on any deep-pockets financiers from overseas as most NGOs do – we are an NGO of the People and by the People! We are less than one year old and we are so far staffed by volunteers, except for 1 paid staff member and adding a few more. When we need $5,000 to open the office we all responded. When we need more, the money is contributed. So it is wrong for any Political Analyst who may not have the inside financial skills some of us have to think that we have or do not have financial problems. Period! [Part of our strategy may be to throw some people off as a decoy – (smile)].
7. Ghana Leadership Union (GLU) is a non-partisan NGO and the Forum is a non-partisan think-tank. But we do more than mere TALK! Recently we conducted a successful sting operation where we had two or three employees of the Electricity Corporation of Ghana arrested for extortion of money from subscribers in the performance of their duties. We have more in the pipeline and we have other plans that will shake the Judicial System in Ghana and help steer them in the right direction. We intend to monitor Judges, many of who have the tainted public perception of corruption and unethical behaviors. We will do the same for our politicians and put them on their toes to work for the people who elected them!
8. Nana Ababio quoted me out of context when he said that “he could not land a job at the then Tema Electronics Factory”.
Come ooon! Nana! Give me a break! That sounds as if I had no job in America and was begging. As one of 14 who won an International Scholarship to America long time ago, with 3 degrees [2 Masters] in Science and Engineering, and having obtained valuable technical and managerial skills at tat time, in the Semiconductor industry, wasn't it right for me to try and find a job in Ghana where I could make a change? [Note that this is the Industry which turned Singapore and Taiwan around and created the South East Asian tigers in the mid 1980s - if you read Lee Kuan Yew's book]. The interviewers did not even have any concept what electronics was! Most of our colleagues from Ghana are now at Senior level Management in American /Western global conglomerates as AT&T, Bell Labs/ Lucent, HP, Agilent. Others are Professors and other in Medicine. So what's Nana's point if I was trying to get a job in Ghana?
9. Nana wrote: “Are Ghanaians ready for GLU to solve its leadership problems?”. Well, Nana, our problems are more than leadership problems, but eventually leaders are the catalysts for change! Some of the problems are “self inflicted”, as Okyere Bonna stated. Our people simply need to be woken up from their sleep! Democracy entails active involvement and sometimes the confrontation as we see beginning now. Kwame Nkrumah said “self government with danger”. That danger may mean holding the Minister's shirt collar and asking him face to face: “Where is the money?”. We are not advocating violence, but just the same energy we would use to protect our property if a thief tried to grasp it from us! If somebody borrows money from all of us and uses the money to buy himself a nice car, don't we consider it stealing? Then why “give-to-God” and not stand up?
What choice do the people have if their uncles and fathers have all turned out to be the selfish and corrupt individuals we see today? GLU members are Ghanaian also, remember! And we have vowed never to live under the stinky gutters and squalor as we see today whiles others take the huge taxes from the people and buy themselves $75,000 vehicles, renovate their houses for $30 Million, or do some other “gutter-to-gutter” tricks!? Would Ghanaians rather wait for World Bank experts to come solve our problems? Is it because they will bring Abrofo to solve them? Ha! Ha! Haaa!! We will send some of our students so the government officials who are waiting for Manna to drop from Heaven, or to see God in the form of a White Man, will pay them $300 per hour!
10. On Chieftaincy: Nana wrote: “Push for civil society to get rid of Chieftaincy”. Ebeiii!! Where did Nana Ababio get that impression? Or did the person who sent him copies himself wanted to be a Chief? Of the participants on the debate, only one person stood up strongly that Chieftaincy should be abolished. It would have been obvious to Nana if he had received the full transcripts that the lively debate ended up with the one person who stood strongly even admitting that he would vote for Dr. Ohene-Frempong [a Medical Doctor who was one of the most famous Athletes of Ghana in the 1960s and at Yale University, and has done a lot for Ghanaian hospitals] if we could get him to run for President of Ghana [I am ready to support such men who also have integrity and will take my hat off to Dr. KOF if he wants to run! (Smile)].
I for one respect any system that will bring positive change. In April 2005, I went to the house [in Accra, where most of the Chiefs now live] of Abetifi Chief and made a presentation on Decentralization to Nana. The President's office could not even pick up a phone to hear me out. The Chief of Abetifi did. I was surprised he agreed with me that Decentralization would help Kwahu to develop because we have the capable people. When I am home next I will show him the formula to do it [It has not been done before, right!].
11. Again our political analyst wrote that I was taking cover from one of the most respected Ghanaian ladies in the Diaspora for unsubstantiated comment. Nana, this is the first time in our history the young are interfacing with the adults. Okyeame Forum set the stage and I elevated it to a different level of open discussion so we learn about people and their character and integrity. If a woman or man is great and he does not own to his or her past, I say “sorry” and let them “take their trouble go”, as they say in my country. I don't see why people should hide their past if they are proud of it, and if they regret being on the Constitutional Committee of 1992, then so be it. If it's not true, simple Yes or No is all we needed. We need to learn openness for our generation if Democracy is to work! Okay! I don't have any skeletons to hide and I work as hard anybody to put food on the table and take care of my businesses. I don't owe anybody any more than the same courtesy I dish out when somebody ask me personal questions.
In conclusion, I want Ghanaian Journalists to know that Ghanaians overseas are as Ghanaian as those at home. Those at home don't love Ghana any more that we overseas do, and neither are they better endowed intellectually, morally, or otherwise. The days of academic talk are over. I am no Professor asking for God to solve the problems of Ghana! Some of us have been blessed to work for giant American and other Western conglomerates and managed with them. We know the language and the culture of Western management. We are not simply engineers or professionals any more that some of you were when you were kids! If 25 years of competing with them in schools and on the jobs and making viable contributions in their society is not adequate skill-sets [let's not forget the personal character and integrity to lead white people here on the jobs!], then the Ghanaians in Ghana should ask:
“How did the people of Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, India, Malaysia, and China do it? Are they all better or superior to us especially since they were in the same classrooms at the top American and Western Universities?”
Please ask that question! Look at yourself in the mirror if you are an inferior human being! In fact the situation on the ground in Ghana shows some doubts about getting too entrenched in the system. The writer asked: “Is Kwaku a President in waiting?” That is funny! I have never held a public or social position that I vied for. I am not one of those ambitious people who wake up thinking they are born to rule. No! In every organization I have belonged to or co-founded I always work as hard as if I am responsible for the positive changes that need to happen [I remember the good old days in College in Berkeley and Stanford area in Northern California when as Secretary /later President, I used to open and close the doors, including some clean up work!]. I always get involved to make any place I am better, as perhaps my neighbors at East Legon will affirm. Whether I am a President in waiting or not is not for me to determine. I don't think about it. All I know is that
(1) We all can do better than what our colleagues and fathers/uncles' generation did and what is happening now.
(2) We have the adequate skills, and no excuses, as compared to1950s – at least some of us do understand very well the forces of technology, customer focus, and globalization, the three most potent forces that are changing the world today.
(3) Our people are not as resistive to change as some assume. I have tested it. The young are as smart and ready. The rest are simply ready and waiting for a new leadership!
(4) We who have been blessed more with skills and resources have to make some sacrifices to lead by example and set the good framework for honest leadership and management in our society. We need to show the clear vision of what can be done in Ghana as done elsewhere, and then work hard to effect and implement positive and dynamic changes through modern management techniques. This is the only way future generations of Ghanaians will be proud of our beloved Ghana.
Cheers and God bless Ghana, Kwaku A. Danso, President – Ghana Leadership Union, Inc. (NGO) www.GhanaLeadership.com East Legon, Accra, Ghana [& Fremont, California, USA] Ghana Office: Contact Asst. Sec: K. Owusu Williams, Accra, Ghana 0244-057-566 Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.