Friends, have you ever wondered why the United States government has made it a policy not to negotiate with terrorists? Even in the face of the imminent death of her citizens several US Presidents have stated “we do not negotiate with terrorists!” Ever wondered why that is so? Why would any sensitive President, in the face of threats of the beheading of her kidnapped citizens at the hands of terrorists, ransom-seekers or blackmailers, still vouch for such a policy? Why did Jimmy Carter and others keep repeating this phrase even as some of their own people perished? They did this because they, as a people, have chosen to uphold a moral high-ground. They've chosen a 'higher ground' of morality. It doesn't matter who is in the White House…whether Democrats or Republican the United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists! In negotiating with a terrorist one legitimizes their (the terrorists') ways and means. In effect, we tell terrorists when we sit down to negotiate with them, that 'it is alright to kidnap women and children; it's alright to threaten to behead the elderly or hold people for ransom, to get your voice heard or to achieve your end'. Americans view terrorists as evil people, so 'why sit down with the devil over a cup of tea?' Why lower yourself from your high-moral ground, just to accommodate the devil?' No, they will not tolerate that…they are a law-abiding people so they don't tolerate the lawlessness of terrorists. In effect, they have values…values they call “American Values”.
Sad to say, but the truth is we Ghanaians lack that drive to always take the high-moral ground, no matter the cost. We do not have any values we can identify as “Ghanaian Values”. Hence many of the decisions we make are ad hoc. We often tend to take the 'easy way out' in any challenging situation. We don't like to make hard but vital decisions. We prefer ad hoc plans and decisions. This attitude, to a large extent, is the root-cause of a myriad of our problems: from our refusal (until recently) to acknowledge that we do not produce petrol and hence we cannot keep on subsidizing it without collapsing our economy, to the illusion a lot of us still hold that as soon as the economy improves their lot should be bettered, to the unplanned cities and towns we have created with it's attendant problems of sanitation, criminality, and thuggery, because we fear the possible repercussions of enforcing the law, etc. This lack of always taking a higher moral ground and enforcing what is right is partly the cause of the dwindling levels of nationalism in the country. A lot of people in Ghana cannot think, except on the lines of NDC, NPP, etc. When a person makes a statement, whether factual or not, people choose to accept or reject it based solely on their perception of the writer's political leanings. So even as we enter Year 2006 we still can't see beyond partisan politics. How sad!
Under the guise of advocating for a better priority list of needs for the country, some have questioned the rationale of the government of Ghana going for a loan to put up a Presidential Office building. In the face of people lacking portable water, lacking “three-square meals a day” (whatever that means), adequate healthcare facilities, etc why should we invest in a Presidential Office building? Only an insensitive government will take such a decision, they say. What would be the benefit of a Presidential Office building to the 'ordinary Ghanaian'? But friends, could not such an argument be also made against the Cup of Nations tournament that our country will be hosting in 2008 with its two new stadia (stadiums) that will be built? Do you know the cost of the two stadia? It's over $77 million. Why should we invest millions of dollars in building sporting facilities when the 'ordinary Ghanaian' “cannot afford three-square meals” a day? What's good for the goose is also good for the gander! Why did we not hear such strong protest against the building of sporting facilities? Afterall, sport is not as important as the provision of portable water, building of healthcare facilities etc. Why don't we spend that $77 million to upgrade Korle-bu, and Komfo Anokye hospitals with spiral CT-Scans and MRIs, amongst other gadgets? So why the apathy or indifference shown towards the provision of the more expensive stadia but the sudden uproar against a Presidential edifice? Whilst some of those against the construction of a Presidential office building are decent and honorable Ghanaians who truly believe in the justness of their cause, a good number of them are people with sinister and parochial minds who cannot look beyond partisan politics. I'll explain.
The seat of government, the Osu or Christiansborg Castle, was built over 4 centuries ago by the Danes. It was built as a post to exploit the African people of their natural resources. It ended up being one of the outposts of the inhumane and barbaric trade in slaves. Within those walls of what “proud” and “civilized” Ghanaians point to as the seat of the highest office of their land, lies the dungeons where so many of our own people, close relations to our own forefathers, cried out and 'gave up the ghost' after being subjected to brutal torture. Within the walls of the Osu Castle millions of people spent their last days in the land of their birth before they were forcefully carted away – packed liked sardines – in ships to unknown and strange lands where they spent the rest of their lives toiling in servitude, like beasts of burdens, for their masters. Within the walls where our President – the leader of the noble people that we are – is supposed to live and have his office, for centuries, women were rapped, people were murdered indiscriminately, little children cried in agony as they “gave up the ghost”. The dying could not have looked up to the heavens for hope for they were held in dungeons so dark that visibility was measured in a few centimeters and not in miles. It was in that same dungeon where human beings were branded with hot irons to identify the owner of the 'property', that we “civilized” Ghanaians of this modern era like to show off to our foreign guests as our Executive Mansion. Disgraceful indeed!
Our colonialists, the British, ruled from within the walls of this castle in the 1900s. It was within these same walls that policies were made to make us subservient to the British…where policies to cart out many of our God-endowed natural resources, including our Gold and timber, were enacted – to increase the treasury of the Monarch of England. But very little has changed since we Ghanaians took over our country when we won our independence. The leader of Ghana still sits in the office where his colonial master ruled him, and in many respects looks like the colonialist himself. We have still perpetuated colonial institutions like government-paid house-boys, chauffeurs, garden-boys, cooks, etc for our ministers. Years after the end of colonial rule, the same Castle became the place where so many Ghanaians (some of them still alive today) were subjected to torture under military dictatorships with the worst being the PNDC junta. Until very recently when a person was 'invited' to the Castle, that person either had to run for dear life or face torture from men with devilish leanings. The name of the Castle was synonymous to murder and atrocities. Within the walls of the seat of Ghana's presidency, thousands of her citizens were jailed without trial, received 'identification haircuts', etc. Instead of us coming together as a people, empowered by our high-sense of decency and morality, and nationalism, to exorcise ourselves from the evil past we still want to continue to 'enjoy' the bounty of inhumanity just because we think it's cheap and convenient. How degenerated we have become in terms of 'values'. Come to think of it! Since Ghana become one nation, or in all our history, we as a people have not spent a pesewa to invest in any office building for the leader of the country, except in renovations of that ignominious edifice called the Osu Castle! Yet we pride ourselves as pacesetters for the African people.
A monkey is a monkey whether in coat or not! We can spent trillions of cedis to renovate the Slave dungeon and make it shine whiter than the White House yet it will still be what it is – a Slave Castle! We can change it's name to help us forget about it's past, from the Christianborg Castle to the Osu Caste, but it sill remains a Slave Castle.
Some of our honorable Parliamentarians tell us that so long as we are HIPC they will not even consider approving the soft loan from India for the construction of an Executive Office. Yet these same Honorables, with content and broad 'toothpaste smiles', fully endorsed the disbursement of a government contracted loan to themselves, so that they could buy luxurious cars to ride in with their families. And they gladly did this twice, without seeing any ethical conflict in it! Now, if that same loan from India had been earmarked for the building of a permanent befitting air-conditioned edifice with well equipped offices and a modern library for research to house our 230 Honorables (with enough space to house their huge egos), I bet you my friend, not one single MP would have spoken out against it! Or if that loan had been earmarked as for a 3rd loan for luxurious cars for the Honorables there would have been a big “He-e-a-a-rrrr” of approval ringing from Parliament. So why then will they not support such an enterprise for the Presidency? Don't tell me it's because they care about the 'common Ghanaian'! They didn't remember this 'common Ghanaian' when they went in for their car loans. That money for cars could have also been used to provide portable water. See our selfish and unpatriotic nature?
Some cite the projects that the other countries that will be enjoying the Indian government loan are going to use theirs for to criticize the Ghana government's decision to use half of hers for construction of a Presidential Office Building. But I ask: 'which of those countries – Ivory Coast, Mali, and Congo – have not already built a Presidential palace?' Do your own investigations and find out if they house their Presidency in Slave Castles! Ask Ivorians how much it cost them to put up their Presidential Palace which sits at the heart of Abidjan? Those countries do not need to spend it on a Presidential Office Building because they have one already. But we, shamelessly since independence, rather chose to use a Slave Castle and have lacked the decency to realize that what we have been doing smacks of a people with no values at all.
Many a times we let hatred for a man to blind us and prevent us from doing what is right. Certain politicians, devoid of any sense of nationalism, try to turn every single issue into politics. They present to non-discerning Ghanaians that President Kufuor by moving to erect a Presidential Building does not care about them and only cares about his own comforts. Well, let's put on our thinking caps and subject that thought process to the scrutiny of common sense. We are now in Year 2006. President Kufuor has only 3 years left of his last term. From the time that Parliament should approve this loan (if it so chooses to) to the time that the design for that building through the bidding process to the awarding of the construction to a contractor will definitely take more than 12 months – knowing the rotten bureaucracy that we 'enjoy'. From the time that the winning contractor gathers together his or her equipment to execute the contract to the time that the proposed edifice befitting of the Ghanaian people is completed will not take less than 2 years. So that by the time our President moves into the proposed Presidential Office, former-President Kufuor will be a private citizen. Kufuor will never use this proposed office. He himself knows this, yet he still wants to build one for Ghana. For him to have proposed to erect an Executive Building for Ghana – for the first time in our history – shows that Kufuor does not think of himself or just today, but more about the future of our beloved country. He could have taken the 'populist' decision and disguised any sense of shame and still perpetuate the use of the Slave Castle, but President Kufuor is not a populist President. He doesn't seek after cheap popularity. Otherwise, petroleum prizes would still be cheaper than what we paid the Nigerians for and Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) would have collapsed under the sheer burden of it's 'runaway' debt; our country would not have gone HIPC and we would still have been saddled with over 6 billion dollars in debt, the corrupt Ghana Airways would still be flying and piling more debts to be paid by you and I and would not have been replaced with Ghana International Airlines (GIA), etc, etc. I could go on and on. But the fact is: President Kufuor does what he believes is in the interest of his people even if they (the people) are, as of now, blind to see the future benefits of his decision.
In the midst of the instability in our West African sub-region, it's very appropriate for us as a people to invest some of our resources in the strengthening of our arms of government. A strong, lean, and efficient government is what will secure our stability. The provision of facilities for our government should not and will not rest with the provision of an Executive Building, but should continue with the construction of a more permanent, modern and well-equipped edifice to house our parliamentarians, along with human resource development of our civil servants and a trimming down of our bureaucracy. In the same line, the Judiciary should also be provided with similar facilities. Whoever thinks that we cannot or should not initiate nation-building projects because some Ghanaians do not eat 'three-square meals' is not being realistic at all. Even in the richest country in the world, not every citizen eats the so-called 'three-square meals'. Visit certain parts of the United States and you'll wonder whether you are really in America. We ought to, as a people, think more of the national interest and put an end to our ugly partisanship. The maturity level of our democracy should be measured by how multi-partisan, patriotic, and nationalistic our politicians and our people are. We must learn to put Ghana first. Not every government policy should be politicized; it's unhealthy and so uncivilized. We must as a people choose the high moral ground of putting an end to letting our own President govern our beloved country from a dungeon where so many people perished. We must exorcise ourselves from the evils of the past. It's not going to be the cheapest or the most convenient thing to do, but it is the RIGHT thing to do. And we must do the right thing and leave the consequences to God. Now you've seen the light! Stand up for what is right! And not what is popular. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.