GHANA'S HIGH COMMISSIONER TO CANADA, HIS EXCELLENCY SAMUEL ARTHUR ODOI-SYKES, ADDRESSES A JOINT CONGRESS OF THE TORONTO AND MONTREAL CHAPTERS OF THE NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY (N.P.P.) HELD IN TORONTO ON SATURDAY APRIL 9, 2005
I am asked to speak on the topic “GHANA TODAY”. It is found chronologically convenient to look at Ghana's current history from the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1992. But it would be even more rewarding on this occasion to take a short glimpse at Ghana's history from its independence in 1957 for a better understanding of the country's circumstances today.
Ghana was the first black nation in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence on 6th March, 1957 from foreign colonial domination. It was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who led Ghana to independence with his Convention People's Party [C.P.P.]. He had broken away in 1951 from the United Nationalist Movement of the United Gold Coast Convention [U.G.C.C.], led by Dr. J.B. Danquah, the doyen of Ghanaian politics.
The U.G.C.C. was formed in 1948, by Dr. Danquah and a group of elite politicians, Nkrumah's defection in 1951 led to the emergence of two main political traditions in Ghana – the Socialist tradition of Kwame Nkrumah and his C.P.P., and the Danquah-Busia tradition represented by the United Party [U.P.] and its descendant parties which espoused liberal democracy, rule of law, freedom of the individual and free market economy. The N.P.P. is a direct descendant of the United Party.
Today the C.P.P. family have jettisoned their socialist ideology and most of their original policies, and have embraced the core philosophy and principles of the Danquah-Busia tradition which have now been universally acclaimed.
You should be proud of your membership of the N.P.P. It is a party founded on a solid and time-honoured foundation of truth, honesty and sacrifice. It is a party with a rich history of epic courage and self-denial for more than half a century. It is anchored on the laudable principles and ideals of its successful and distinguished founding leaders who were drawn into politics by the honour of service and not the lure of profit.
Ghana's history from 1957 to 1992 is preeminently unique. It is the only African country that experimented with all the various systems of governance in existence in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
There was the Westminister Parliamentary system at independence, which was changed to one party socialist state under Kwame Nkrumah for some 9 years; there were short periods of civilian Republican administrations for a total of about 5 years; there was even a brief whimsical flirtation with a non-party governance: for 22 years military dictatorships were foisted on Ghanaians by self-proclaimed redeemers and phony revolutionaries.
It was in such a bewildering political and social milieu that the seeds of Ghana's current economic and political woes were firmly planted. They have germinated and blossomed over the years, and now challenge the national ingenuity for solution.
· 1992 marked the return of the country to constitutional rule after 10 years (1982-1992) of Mr. Rawlings' military dictatorship. He founded the National Democratic Congress (N.D.C.) in 1992 to contest the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections, which he won. He therefore ruled Ghana for another 8 years from 1992 to 2000, making a total of 18 years as the longest reigning head of state and government of Ghana.
The New Patriotic Party won the 2000 presidential election with His Excellency Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor as its candidate. That election raised the international profile of Ghana. The peaceful exchange of government through ballot box in a free and fair election was a rare political event in Africa.
His Excellency Mr. Kufuor won a second four-year term in the presidential election of December 2004, which began from 7 January, 2005.
Managing the Economy
· The central issue confronting Ghana today is the efficient management of the economy in order to make life more bearable for the ordinary citizen. It cannot be gainsaid that President Kufuor's administration has managed the economy quite creditably. International confidence in the economy is growing which, is manifested by new business interests in the country.
By the law of averages the economic performance of the Kufuor administration in his first 4 years term far outstripped whatever was done in the 20 years of Rawlings' revolutionary era.
· Ghana and Malaysia both attained independence in 1957 – March and August respectively. Their economic circumstances were almost the same at independence. They were both poor and produced raw materials for export. Within 20 years from 1970 to 1990 the Malaysian Prime Minister, Hon. Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, was able to wipe out the poverty of his country. He turned the economy around through industrialization and export trade. He wiped out inflation, and raised the average GDP from less than US$300.00 in 1957 to US$3,000.00. He created a large vibrant indigenous entrepreneurial class, which is the country's main engine of growth. Today Malaysia is a prosperous medium income industrialized nation, exporting cars, electronics equipment, electrical machinery, textiles, clothing, etc.
· Rawlings also had about the same 20 years as the ruler of Ghana, including 10 years of absolute power as a military ruler. His legacy was the same US$300.00 average GDP, which he met, an emasculated private sector, expanded poverty, a bloated foreign debt, crippling inflation, empty revolutionary slogans and the “democratization violence”.
· President Kufuor has demonstrated that he is willing to take the right but unpalatable decisions in the long-term interest and welfare of Ghanaians. The recent increases in the prices of petroleum products in Ghana is the latest example of a courageous leader doing what he considers is right for the country, although harsh for the people.
· The Opposition Parties decided to go on demonstrations to protest against the increases. That is their legitimate democratic right, and they have been given the full protection of the law to exercise and enjoy that right. Nobody has been killed, or detained or brutalized by the authorities during the demonstrations.
But under former President Rawlings the N.D,C. government tear-gassed and brutalized protesters in the peaceful 'kume-preko' demonstration in May 1995 against the introduction of the VAT programme. Five innocent citizens were killed by known N.D.C. activists and security agents who were not punished.
· It has however become obvious that the N.D.C., which is secretly organizing and sponsoring the demonstrations, has ulterior motives. The demonstrations are being used to heap vile verbal attacks on President Kufuor and incite Ghanaians against the government. You have a whole former President joining a public street protest for the opportunity to spit out venom, falsehood and vulgarisms against a sitting President. Rawlings claims this as his freedom of speech. There is a world of difference between a free speech and an irresponsible diatribe.
· An alter-ego of the former President has condemned suggestions for an apology or a reconciliation. His boss has vowed to continue the attacks. The Ibos of Nigeria say that – “As a man danced so the drums are beaten for him”. And Ghanaians also know that in every culture, community or family you can always find a “blow-man”. But in this disgraceful drama the unfortunate victim is Ghana's international image.
· I would urge President Kufuor to choose the path of prudence and ignore this extraordinary crudity from a typical source. President Kufuor is so refined and well-cultured that he would not descend to the gutter. He is highly respected by the international community, and his utter contempt for such a boorish behaviour will earn him further kudos. Toleration is not a sign or weakness, but proof of maturity and strength of character.
Democracy and Good Governance
President Kufuor's commitment to Democracy and Good Governance has raised Ghana to a high pedestal in the international community.
Freedom of Expression and the Liberty of the Individual have now been firmly embedded in the Ghanaian society under President Kufuor's administration.
Ghana has become a beacon of hope for democracy in sub-Saharan Africa.
More remains to be done
· In spite of the genuine efforts by President Kufuor to fix the economy and improve the quality of life for all Ghanaians, the country still faces many difficulties in Health, Education, Employment, Infrastructure and the general standard of living.
· The Economy is reported to grow at about 5% a year. This is considered too low to turn the country around in the short term, and take Ghana, as intended, to the group of Medium income countries by the year 2010.
· The huge success of Ghana's contemporaries in South East Asia, especially Malaysia and Singapore, teaches that Ghanaians and their leaders need an urgent shake-up in their lives, programmes and thinking to be able to push the desired economic and social agenda.
i) Ghanaians should be willing to sacrifice more for their country. The people, who complain bitterly about hard times and difficulties to make ends meet, are the same people who dress lavishly and spend extravagantly at funerals and other social occasions. A change in this culture will lessen the economic stress on many Ghanaians.
ii) WORKERS should cultivate love for their jobs, and offer their best services at all times. This will contribute to a rise in the economic growth. Many workers, especially those in private employment, are not prepared to work hard and honestly to earn their living. They are mainly interested in their remuneration. This attitude cannot contribute to push Ghana forward.
iii) Efforts should be intensified to reduce in the shortest possible time Ghana's heavy dependence on foreign assistance for economic survival. Reliance on international assistance should become just the minimum that the country cannot do without.
iv) Tackling Corruption
The Government should take measures to react more robustly to the perception and/or allegations of corruption against members of the party and government. The President has declared his determination to establish a clean and effective government. The constant allegations of corruption against the government by the opposition are gradually undermining confidence in the administration.
The fact of the matter is that corruption is suspected to be rampant in the whole public service, including customs and immigration officers, the police, the judiciary, principals and teachers, and not limited to members of the government. Stamping out general corruption is rendered difficult by the reluctance or refusal to report specific cases for investigation.
Unless the government takes strong and determined measures to beat down the canker, no serious impact will be make.
The 2008 Elections
The N.P.P. stands a better chance of winning the 2008 elections than any other party, provided strict and effective discipline is maintained in the whole party. This is a gargantuan task, even for small political parties.
Success has multiplied the common problems of the N.P.P., and introduced new ones. Success has aggravated internal rivalry and infighting and turned old friends into enemies? It has brought on board a new crop of opportunists and fortune-hunters who are determined to harvest where they had not planted.
Everybody is welcome to the party; whatever many be his hidden motives. However, a duty is imposed on the leaders to appreciate and reward loyalty.