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Opinions Fri, 25 May 2007

Africa Day! - A Challenge to Africa's Electoral Commissioners

Today May 25 is Africa Day. Hopefully our leaders will provide us with a plan on how to push Africa (and of course, especially Ghana) forward. Please find here (General News today) the cry of an African patriot who is angry and frustrated at the lack of progress and advancement on our continent. Kennedy wants to make a difference where hope is almost illusive to many incumbent governments in Africa.

On this august day- Africa Day, let me state here that our Electoral Commissioners are part of Africa’s lack of visionary leaders. The mediocre politicians who lack a plan to move Africa forward are the consequence of latent, suppressed and dormant Electoral Commission in our respective African countries.

Our Electoral Commissioners do not vet political candidates nor do they compel them to develop a plan of action for the country. Why do we conduct interviews for everyday jobs but do not require presidential candidates and parliamentarians to go through a rigorous interview? Why are Presidential candidates not required to debate themselves for the public to hear what they have up their sleeves? The people have the right to ask their president-to-be questions.

This author believes if presidential debates were a requirement as part of our democratic and political process our candidates would dare have a plan in place for every issue. Thus, Ghana would not still be experiencing blackouts and energy crisis which is killing our economy today. This issue has been a problem in the past- at least since the 1970s. We should be careful therefore to put all the blame on the NPP. To be fair to the incumbent, the government that has stayed longest in power since independence must be blamed the most for not foreseeing Ghana’s energy crisis today. Only one party has stayed in office longer enough -19years- to have developed a concrete plan to combat this energy crisis. Yet the incumbent has little excuse.

To say the least, Ghana (and the continent of Africa) needs transformational leaders in our institutions, including the Electoral Commissions across the board. The status quo-politics and administration do not solve problems; this is what is killing Africa softly. I dare the Electoral Commission to make Presidential Debates part of Ghana’s (and of course all Africa) political process. There is no democracy if a nation cannot request and require answers from our leaders.

Unfortunately, the establishment does not see any hope in themselves hence they do not dream but the Electoral Commission can help here. Our stale establishment needs motivation and a push or a whipping to come out with plans and programs to solve issues. As of now the Executive do not seem to see the need for sound policy. They contend that policies are not relevant today for young Africa as they do not see that Africa has the man power to implement these policies. One prominent Ghanaian politician has commented, “What is the need for policy when we do not have people (personnel) to implement them.” Yet in the Diaspora it is these same Africans who are making a difference in their countries of residence. It is very sad that that our leaders back home do not have confidence, trust and or respect for their sons and daughters -both within and without their home countries.

It beats imagination that it is this same establishment of our countries who are rejecting the sons and daughters Africa has invested so much in. Having given us the foundation upon which a strong intellectual structure has been built, these established politicians would not welcome the expertise and global experience the youth have which is needed to shape up Africa. What is wrong with our leaders in Africa, today? Are we interested in solution or just renting and complaining? How long will African leaders (That is the establishment) ignore their rich human and natural resources and keep begging for aid.

Even sad is the fact that our leaders have no solid plan in place in anticipation of these Western Aids. Wake up Africa! The resources you need to develop Africa are within not without.

This author came across this citation which confirms the plight herein mentioned. [This is part of the citation sealed and signed by the Speaker, Robert W. Harrell, Jr. and the Clerk of the House, Charles Reid, of South Carolina, USA]

“To recognize and honor Dr. Arthur Kennedy, of Orangeburg County (USA), for his outstanding contribution to the State of South Carolina as chief executive officer of Family Health Centers, Incorporated and to wish him all the best in his future endeavors… Where as Dr. Kennedy has made immeasurable contributions to Family Health Centers, Incorporated, to his Orangeburg community, and to the state of South Carolina, and the South Carolina House of Representatives is certain that he will continue to impact countless in the years to come, NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina, by this resolution, recognize and honor Dr. Kennedy, of Orangeburg County, for his outstanding contributions to the State of South Carolina as Chief Executive Officer of Family Health Centers, Incorporated, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors” (As cited by State of South Carolina. In the House of Representatives, Columbia, S.C May 7, 2007)

Kennedy, among all the aspiring presidential candidates is the man with a plan. Over and over again Kennedy is proving to the skeptics that he can deliver. In men like Kennedy some of us see hope for Ghana and Africa. Kennedy would not only give us one of those political propagandas and feel good speeches except to provide us heart-searching options- vision and ideas -for debate. It must be recalled that in the absence of vision a nation would perish. But this is what we see in many African countries today.

According to Kennedy in his African Day message,

“The pervasive absence of environmental policies and cleanliness has led to deforestation, water and energy shortages and a resurgence and persistence of preventable diseases that are reducing our live expectancy even as that of other continents increases. Despite the disgraceful lessons of Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Zaire, Darfur and Zimbabwe still endure as sentinels in the night to remind us of our impotence as a continent. Notwithstanding the significant quantities of our resources that have been exported from our continent in the last five centuries, human capital is becoming, just as it was during the slave trade, our leading export to the rest of the world.”

Kennedy goes on to say that the main cause of these problems has been bad leadership. That over the last half-century of post-colonial rule, we have produced more than our reasonable share of bad leaders. As a man with a plan Kennedy would not just critique without providing alternative solutions. Kennedy believes Africa can do better by taking action. Some of the points he raises are quoted below for further debate.

“I suggest that we focus on the following agenda.

A: Promotion of fair trade, not just with the advanced nations but with one another within Africa. This will lead to a doubling of intra-African trade from the current 6% within a few years.

B: Promotion of environmental cleanliness and basic health. This will increase life expectancy and productivity while attracting investors and tourists alike.

c: The adoption of policies that will reverse the brain drain in the long run and in the interim look for creative ways of using the knowledge, the talent and the wealth of African people in the Diaspora.

D: Promote a culture of living under the rule of law that will reduce corruption, armed robbery and the recklessness that causes so much carnage on our roads.

E: Halt discussions about a United States of Africa until the guns of civil discord are silenced on our continent. We must end the genocide in Daarfur and contain the tyrant of Harare before we talk of a United States of Africa!

F: Establish a pan-African Pressure group of African Professionals, intellectuals and politicians from the Diaspora and the continent that will pressure governments and institutions on behalf of African people and serve as the conscience of Africa.

Finally, most of the items on this agenda exist in the articles, resolutions and documents of NEPAD, AU and APRM. The problem is that we are a continent of virtuous talk and no principled action. Let our leaders do more in the interest of African people and talk less and let our people insist that they expect no less. If we do these things with integrity and passion, we may yet make this young century, the first African century” (Arthur Kennedy, May 25, 2007).

Okyere Bonna, MBA, MSEd.
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Columnist: Okyere Bonna