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25.01.2006 Feature Article

A Diasporan Presidential Hopeful Confronts The Establishment

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: “THE QUESTION IS NOT WHETHER I LIVE IN GHANA, IT SHOULD BE WHETHER GHANA LIVES IN ME”

Some think it is waste of time for a Diasporan to be vying for the highest office in Ghana. In fact some maintain that it is a long queue and that one must wait his or her turn. But what is more important, “to live in Ghana or to have Ghana live in you?” Asks Kennedy.

To live in Ghana long enough before one qualifies as a presidential candidate compels the elderly to stay in politics who might otherwise be due for retirement. It further grants autonomy to the elderly statesmen who might be too old to read or have stopped reading a decade ago; or those folks who have never used the computer, in the case of Ghana. So in the end the honorable statesman experiences diminishing returns and loses respect for lack of performance. Especially since the premise indicates that to be qualified one should have lived or stayed in Ghana continuously for at least a decade. Most of our elderly statesmen are not comfortable with modern technology and information super highway, to say the least. Thus, automatically it puts the likes of J.H Mensah and his peers or seniors ahead of the line who may struggle with modern technology. Granting our culture where the elderly is always right and the elder is always considered the embodiment of wisdom this would be a disaster for Ghana. Managing a country is not about how old one is but how good one can think on his or her feet and execute accordingly. In today's economy it implies one must be skillful in many ways including international business and politics, exposure to the tough players and the internet; ability to read and use technology. This list is but just the least of what makes a better president. The key should be vision and execution at whatever cost coupled with love for the country and the people in the polity. So what are the co- relations between age or length of stay in Ghana and execution?

Folks, to say that one must be a joker if he thinks emerging from the Diaspora to seek the people's mandate to govern would not resonate well with the people is to imply that the people back home are not sensible, to say the least. This author believes the people of Ghana have seen enough to know that those who remain in Ghana waiting only for their turn without any exposure or solid program of action when they are elected, to say the least, would just be figure heads. Folks we love and cherish our chiefs but chiefdom and presidency are two separate entities. A chief may not necessarily be a good leader. However, since chieftaincy is not on merit per se but by royal blood it is easy for some elder to step in to make up for the deficiencies of a novice or an incompetent chief. This is not the case for the office of the president. Since 1972 Ghana has been a victim of electing leaders who only learn on the job and it's been a disaster.

We are all witnesses of the fact that there is a big rivalry or resentment on the part of our political elite and the professionals in the Diaspora. You may ask why this rivalry or resentment? The answer is envy. If it is not envy then why should the government not do well to employ readily or consult the expertise in the Diaspora but rather demonizing them and asking them to wait for their turn? The government officials back home talk about brain drain at the same time the system is wasting the brains that remain. Folks, judge for your selves, which is better: to stay home and waste your brains in an inactive economy or leaving for greener pastures and remitting your friends and relatives who don't have any choice back home?

This author is a witness of how our system back home, thanks to our deficient public/national/government structures waste brains. This author remembers sitting in the office wanting to do some work but there was none to be done. Sometimes one will stay in the office and all one could accomplish in the 8 hours (of work) is to file a paper. One of the reasons being that the officer at the top would not sign the documents or release them to the next in line to work on them. Unfortunately our public officers back home has no concept of time. Yet at the end of the month all have to receive a pay check from the government. As we speak now many young energetic fresh graduates doing their national service are frustrated because when they go to work there is nothing to do. They are compelled to saunter and ramble elsewhere. Guess what will happen when their national service is over?

So if the establishment doesn't know how to engage the mind and energies of the youth and new graduates and keep on complaining of brain drain is it too much to ask the electorate to say no to incompetent old folks? They may be great advisors though. The irony is those who remain back in the home country are thinking of saving enough to relocate to the Diaspora after their term of office. While the Establishment wants to buy with cash an edifice in the Diaspora, the diasporan who had already paid off his or her house is thinking of cashing in to send his or her money home to benefit the home economy. Whilst the Diaspora believes in dignity of work and sweat equity the Establishment believes in quick money and sweat less equity. While the Diaspora is tired of the stress of working for another country and wants to retire home to a better country, hence doing all she/he can to make home better, the Establishment is in a hurry to locate a comfortable country to spend his or her loot.

One may argue, but is it not the same Diaspora who constitutes government? Yes; but the long waiting for their turn eventually robs them of their innocence and zeal to make a positive impact. We should not wait until the system corrupts the innocent ones before it gets to their turn. Having been the same professionals or part of the elite team who make things work in their country of residences, the diasporan is more likely to build bridges than to burn them; more likely to transfer the same technology and comfort in the Diaspora home. So the irony is while the diasporan is always concerned with improving conditions back home the Establishment feels or thinks the system is spoiled beyond repairs and therefore they must add to the damage. They have lost the vision of developing the rich infrastructures back home and have resorted to the collection of loans which they would take even without reading or asking for the terms of the loan. After all they will soon leave so what?

Countrymen wake up from your slumber! Your redemption does not lie with the Establishment but the Diaspora. Let us throw all our weight behind the Diaspora and let us claim our country for the good of posterity. Ghana still has a lot of potential; we have not lost our drive to become the hope of Africa. We have not lost our natural and mineral resources; in fact more is being recovered. Ghana's worth in human gold far exceeds the loans from IMF and World Bank. We only need some visionary and energetic leaders like Nkrumah when he first assumed the realm of government. The longer one waits or have waited in the system for his or her turn the more corrupt and inactive one becomes. Don't wait till the system corrupts your presidential hopefuls before you elect them. That may be too late. If you doubt the outcome of such a change why don't you test it this time around in 2008?

Help this author to debunk the argument that a man or woman who hasn't lived in Ghana for 20 years cannot win an election in Ghana. Rather let it be that a man or woman who cannot convince the electorate with a plan to redeem Ghana is not fit to run. This author believes that Kwasi Kissi's observation reflects well on most if not all Diaspora organizations: “For the moment, GLU appears to be more of a talking and debating shop than anything else. Sometimes, I wish, though, that we could build it up into a mass movement which can help put someone like you (contributors) - one of us- into power. This may sound like heresy to some but is it that impossible?” (Kwasi Kissi). Folks, those who have visited and stayed home enough have argued that unless we put some one who thinks positively like one of us in the Osu Castle we must as well forget about investing big time in Ghana. It is at this backdrop that I quote Kennedy, a presidential hopeful who have lived in the Diaspora most of his professional career in his reaction to a similar query.

“I know that there is a vast world beyond the closeted world of the media. Even though one doubts that, I have been around politics long enough to know that the media alone, even if it approves of a candidate, cannot elect him on their own. Only the people can and for the next three years, I will take my message relentlessly to them. As for the doubts that one expresses for my candidacy or that of anyone abroad, doubts about political viability of candidates abound in all of history.

To more specifically address the question of absence, John Adams had been out of the US for years when he was elected Vice-President. Furthermore, the concept of a leader being sent else where or going somewhere for grooming and seasoning is not very alien to Africa. Osei Tutu who founded the great Ahanti empire lived abroad for sometime and so did Chaka the Zulu. The premise of my candidacy is that nearly half-a-century after independence; our nation is not where it should be. There is corruption, nepotism and incompetence. I believe that if Mr. Kufuor were to be followed into the Presidency by another of his establishment colleagues, we shall have more of the same. Therefore, my contention is that we should be open to the candidacy of new men with new ideas, new attitudes and new skills. The question is what have I missed or gained by my residence abroad for the past 20 years? I have completed my Medical degree despite the political persecution that almost ruined my career and nearly took my life. I run an organization of 250 employees that deals with agencies from the Federal government in Washington to my city council. I have been honored by a United States Senator and the South Carolina state senate. I have been named as my state governor's representative to a state board that makes policy on diabetes.

During my absence, I have repeatedly written on issues concerning Ghana that have been published. I have spent my treasure, my energy and my time in advancing the interests of Ghana from afar. Compared to some of my contemporaries who stayed in Ghana, the question is will my leadership be better for Ghana or will their leadership be better for Ghana? My belief is that in the era of the global village, where we live is not as important as it used to be. The question is not whether I LIVE IN GHANA, IT SHOULD BE WHETHER GHANA LIVES IN ME! My friend I care about Ghana as much as anybody does and I do not believe that the day I left Ghana to save my life and my liberty, I forfeited all or a substantial part of my right to participate fully in our nation's politics. That is why in their wisdom, the framers of our constitution did not impose a residency requirement for national office.

Finally, the people in their wisdom may reject me and that is their right but my place in life shall never be with those cold and timid souls who will know neither great disappointments nor great triumphs because, I will always be in the arena of life, in the public square, trying to make a difference. As Robert Kennedy said, "Some look at things that are and ask why; others dream of things that are not and ask "WHY NOT?" My question is "Why not a President who has lived abroad for the last 20 years and learned how to do things, who has not been corrupted by our system because he has been outside? Why not?” (Arthur Kobina Kennedy)

Mr. Ofori Ampofo, another patriotic diasporan who has just returned from a one month visit to Ghana has since written an article challenging the Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic planning, Dr. Akoto-Osei's statement that measuring the success of Ghana's economy by the Houses and Luxury cars people are riding around is highly deceptive and that if Ghanaian Politicians are sincere to the Country and themselves, Dr.Akoto-Osei should have tendered in his resignation to avoid the embarrassment before Parliament and the whole country, tarnishing his reputation.

In his opinion, Ofori Ampofo says that the measure of success in the economy shouldn't be by the ownership of houses and expensive cars. Instead, it should be tied to the following

1. Affordable healthcare delivery

2. Available good drinking water.

3. Improved Educational system.

4. Good roads.

5. Job creation and fair Income distribution.

6. Affordable Utilities.

7. And above all, the ability for the people to afford the ordinary necessities of life e.g. Food, Clothing and accommodation.

One wonders why our politicians back home hardly talk about measures of success in the economy and rather waste their energies in talking about trivial things like houses and expensive cars the few rich like him and his contemporaries are amassing. It is therefore not surprising that the police constable or junior officer does not trust their superior for applying the law instead of taking the bribe he/she could take in the first place to supplement his/her meager salary rather than passing it on to the police boss. Two evils don't make a right though.

Ofori Ampofo in his recent observations on the home politics wrote, “Unfortunately, we keep on complaining without addressing the unfairness and injustices in the country. Countrymen, I believe Ghana has the potential to be rich; we have the resources. It is only up to us to tap into those resources, Human and Natural, to make Ghana a better place for all of us.” He concluded his article by saying “ the first thing we need to do as diasporans is to organize all associations and individuals into effective dynamic changes, in the political direction with clear message of sincerity, dedication and selflessness in our goal to move our country forward. The suggestion for Diaspora corporate capitalization until then may be an attempt in fatality.”

Ere long Diaspora must rally behind one candidate to capture the presidency. Folks permit me to conclude with Dr. Martin Luther King's observation of Ghana 49 years ago.

“I thought that this event, the birth of this new nation, would give impetus to oppressed peoples all over the world. I thought it would have worldwide implications and repercussions-not only for Asia and Africa, but also for America. Just as in 1776, when America received its independence, the harbor of New York became sort of a beacon of hope for thousands of oppressed people of Europe, I thought Ghana would become a symbol of hope for hundreds and thousands of oppressed peoples all over the world as they struggled for freedom” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). Ghana Diaspora don't let Dr. King down.

By Okyere Bonna, Secretary, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Okyere Bonna & Bless Berchie
Okyere Bonna & Bless Berchie, © 2006

The author has 33 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: OkyereBonnaBlessBerchie

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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