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10.07.2014 Feature Article

Debating Larry: Policy Forum on Facebook

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Following the #Occupyflagstaffhouse protest, my antennae has always been up trying to catch a healthy debate on the merit of the 20-point petition presented to President John Dramani Mahama on July 1, 2014. Lo, I found an interlocutor in no less a fine mind and courageous patriot than the former national security coordinator, Lt. Col Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, hereinafter referred to as LGL. The discourse reproduced below is an extract of the multi-person discussion held on LGL's Facebook timeline. My intent of highlighting only the bilateral convo between myself and this able and effective interlocutor with immense experience in policy and security, is not to de-contextualize but to focus on key points peculiar to our bi-lateral discourse. The preamble as stated below is the original text laid out by Col, the basis upon which discussion ensued.

The preamble
LGL: "We want deadlines"... 'Their 20-point concerns range from erratic power supply, unpaid statutory funds, 'unreliable supply of potable water across the country, the ever-depreciating value of the cedi, constant increases in taxes, inefficient revenue collection, very poor road networks, constant increments in utility tariffs, frequent increase in the prices of petroleum products"'. Building a nation or playing party politics?

Me: Col, I salute you for demonstrating the courage of your conviction in this public space. Have painstakingly read through all your thoughts whilst engaging with your interlocutors. I do reckon that certain few benign responses would add a bit more color to this discourse. I did participate in the protest. Indeed it was my first civil protest so I made sure to document my experience. You would find the link at the bottom this write-up. Feel free to read through at your leisure time sir. Your question; building a nation or playing party politics? Quite a provocative question. I find two implicit assumptions and an innuendo that I should like to address.1 First the innuendo. That the Occupy protesters seem to be doing the latter is a bold presumption. As I indicated, I did participate in the protest and I walked through the rain from Efua Sutherland park to Afrikiko with young men and ladies who seem more interested in bread-and-butter conversation than who succeeded President Mahama in NDC or whether Alan Kyeremanteng would win the NPP flagbearership. These were common everyday people concerned about the gap between government claims about better Ghana and their wallet. I personally stood by young lady I would bet is barely 25years, wielding a placard that read "NO MORE CORRUPTION". What has this country come to? If anything colonel, the government has succeeded in turning nonchalant moderates into politically engaged patriots. This is what the members of your "class" fear the most; a hitherto docile and apathetic so-called "bourgeoisie" now prepared demand accountability for their NHIS contributions and to make intelligent inquiry about SUBAH, SADA, GYEEDA etc. Let's face it colonel, the proposition that legitimate demands made by the citizenry of a state that essentially ought to represent our common aspirations is "politicking", in and of itself is backward thinking (respectfully speaking sir). And so I argue against your motion (innuendo) that #OccupyFlagstaffHouse was partisan politics and not nation-building. 2. You questioned the wisdom of "deadlines for what is enumerated without recourse to capital". Well, can you blame any Occupier? We heard the same refrain before the Blackstars compelled an airlift of $3m. Col, do you remember the Christian Health Association and the NHIS saga? The examples about col, I promise you. You have to admit Col, that this government seem to find "capital" only under pressure. It seem to me their fiscal creativity requires a bit of civic pressure to bloom. The Occupiers are therefore only speaking the language sir. Such a small space and so much to say. I will bore you no further sir. Please enjoy my piece on the Occupy protest. Feedback would be appreciated too sir. God bless our homeland Ghana.

LGL: Nkunimdini Asante-Antwi, thanks for your rather incisive comment. My post was an open question based on the issues as posted for which deadlines were being asked for and not a comment on the march per se. I wished you had discussed that. My view on the march? I have expressed that elsewhere that in my view a call for further decentralization and voting for MMDCEs for instance would be a more formidable call for nation building considering that we are in the process of reviewing the constitution and that that becomes an opportunity that should not be missed. Just my view. You talk of "elitist political class" and "what they fear most." I talk of restructuring to empower the people and their local communities and I could join a march for that. It's all a just a matter of priorities Anaaa?

Me: Fair view it is. Decentralization and voting for MMDCEs; all "formidable call for nation building", no doubt. Please permit me to also argue that our current priorities are a matter of perspectives. Let's not forget the double digit fiscal deficits, ballooning debt and the cedi on marijuana problems, which by the way, I am absolutely certain has placed the government in a position to breach a few more statutory obligations (non-payment of NHIS, GETFUND etc.). Insolvency as a result of bad policy choices has turned the government into an inadvertent law-breaker. Talk about leadership by example. Am hardly surprised with the breakdown in values and common sense in our social fabric. So Uncle Larry, lets restructure to empower people, lets vote for MMDCEs, let's review the constitution, but if fiscal prudence, political exclusion (yenti3 obiaa) and propaganda would substitute for sound policy, inclusivity and integrity then nation-building would just be a fancy lexicon for concert party. And oh, Uncle Larry, the march was a bottom-up approach to "restructuring to empower the people and their local community". There is a sequel on Friday, so please be a good sport and get your red ready. By the way, I genuinely think you ought to be a policy advisor to our President. His government could benefit from your insight and policy perspective. Very sharp. I mean that sir.

LGL: Wish you well on Friday. Hope you have a new message.

Me: Thank you sir. Same message though, just fresh impetus.

'Our system of government is one of checks and balances. It requires compromise; compromise between the Executive and the Parliament, compromise between one House and another, compromise between the States and the Commonwealth and compromise between groups of persons with legitimate interests and other groups with other legitimate interests. There is room for compromise, indeed demand for it in a system of checks and balances.'

-Peter Costello

God save our home land Ghana.

Nkunimdini Asante-Antwi
Nkunimdini Asante-Antwi, © 2014

The author has 76 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: NkunimdiniAsanteAntwi

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