Now, we know the three who are likely to occupy the Flagstaff House dungeons next year. When I drive or I am being driven, my eyes are fixed on the traffic or the papers by me. But the other day, the eyes misbehaved near Flagstaff House. They focused on what appeared to be an invading monster. It turned out to be the entrance to the new residence or work house of the President of the Republic of Ghana.
It will be the dwelling place of one of the three main contestants after the elections next year. I asked myself, "Is that all they are fighting for?"
I described the building as a dungeon because the entrance appeared to frighten one into the prison cells of a castle. My friends said I was wrong. The entrance, they said, reminded them of the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. But whether it is a dungeon or mausoleum, have we no ideas? Should we after 50 years of independence be hamstrung by the slave trade and the burial of Nkrumah?
Whoever becomes the occupant of the new presidential institution should overcome the morbid atmosphere of the cooler and shake the country out of sloth and dependency. He can do this and usher in prosperity through leadership and ideas inspired by vision and moderated by mission.
We talk a lot about the importance of leadership. But we do not realise that we should ourselves offer some leadership in our own small place. When it comes to national issues we tend to believe that it is only the one at the top who should show leadership. But we all have a role to play. More importantly, we are partly responsible for any lack of leadership displayed by the head of government. After all, we elect the leader and government. We therefore deserve the leader and government we get. We find it irksome and a bother to exercise our democratic rights and act responsibly to promote the interests of the nation, We therefore often find excuses for the shortcomings of the governance system and convince ourselves that there is not much we can do. But the democracy we enjoy today, though not ideal, is good and we can exploit it and its institutions to elect a good national leader or President and also ensure that the leader keeps to his promises and promotes the national and not self-interests.
The electoral responsibility of the citizen should be discharged not only on the day of the election but also throughout the year before the election. Those who seek our votes would promise so much and agree to further the aspiration of the people. They would promise to reverse the backward trends in education, health care and the other social services. Above all, they would vehemently condemn the poverty and squalor which are the lot of many and solemnly undertake to bring prosperity to the nation.
But how would they do all this? We should not be that naive. The politician may acquire money by dubious means to fight election. But he or she cannot extort money from us to improve our lot. Money has to be taken from us legitimately through taxes and the like and then used judiciously to promote the national well-being. This observation is trivial to many. But we do not often behave as we understand it.
Those of us who understand should remind others of it so that when the one who seeks our votes tells us, for example, that he will improve education by extending senior secondary education to five years, we should ask him how he would do this.
The extra classrooms and teachers would require more money. Where would the money come from? We should ask. If we are not going to pay more taxes, where would savings come from and would the health services, for example, receive less funding?
Good politicians do not lie. They promise a lot and many of us are too lazy to think and therefore believe the promises. We should expose the charlatans so that only worthy men and women get the mandate to run the affairs of the nation. Anyone who has the benefit of education to understand the problems we face should educate at least 10 persons to appreciate the issues so that they may cast their votes intelligently.
The intelligent exercise of rights and privileges requires knowledge and understanding. We should not be afraid of uncomfortable thoughts. We should see things as they are. The country is in a difficult situation. Many are not happy. Many of the youth are not gainfully occupied. Many think of fleeing the country.
These are facts. They are not criticisms of the present government which has done well to maintain macro-economic stability. Many of us are confused about how to proceed to take advantage of this stability. We are plagued by capitalist and socialist shibboleths. We are confused by the advice of institutions and experts who have never succeeded in developing any poor country. We should go back to basics and common sense.
When confronted with myriad of problems, our illiterate communities plan and prioritise. When they realised the value of education and have not enough money to send both boys and girls to school, they gave priority of formal education to the boys. That was one of the reasons why girl education lagged behind that of boys in some areas. It was believed that the education of boys was more profitable. The boys would get jobs and regular salaries after their education and help the family.
We cannot deny education to some sections of the population today because that would not be in the national interest. But we do not have enough funds to educate all the youth to the limits of their ability. We have to make choices.
The choice has to be made even between disciplines or development areas. At the heart of the matter is money. We do not have enough funds to do all that we should do. What do we do? Beg? No country has developed through begging. We have to work; We have to sweat; we have to suffer a little. But all these sacrifices will be in vain if we do not plan and make choices as even our illiterate folk did.
We often compare ourselves to Malaysia and wonder how far behind they have left us. They planned. We, on the other hand, have annual budgets which tend to frustrate long term planning. The annual budget should only be a stock-taking event. We should have four-year plans to coincide with the term of office of the President.
We should go beyond the "facts" of economics and read and digest the history of the development of countries which blazed the trail after Britain.
Today's, developed countries like Japan, India, and Malaysia have a lot to teach us. They adopted developing plans which suited their circumstances while taking cognisance of the international climate.
We should interrogate those who wish to lead us. We should not allow them to treat us like children and promise so many goodies when they take office. They should unfold their plans and tell us what could be achieved in two three and four years. They should tell us how they intend to finance the plan.
We should see to it that only those who belong to the proud stock of our forebears get near the entrance of the new Presidential palace. Only such people can serve and not fleece the nation.
Source: Daily Graphic/K.B. Asante