By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Let’s hear him: “Busia would’ve made Ghana a ‘fantastic’ nation”—Former President John Kufuor has said Ghana would have been a better country than it is today if former Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia (late) had been allowed to carry through with his policies when he assumed power in 1969. According to him, the private sector agenda which was being promoted by the late prime minister was imperative for the development of the country.
Speaking to Citi FM on the 45th anniversary of Busia’s assumption to power, Kufuor said: “His ideas would have been fantastic for this country. The man believed in the private sector, under him a host of businessmen, all the big private sector people had a place under him. He understood the private sector and their role in providing infrastructure.” (See: Busia would’ve made Ghana a “fantastic” nation - Kufuor)
I wonder what purpose Kufuor sought to achieve with this sorry utterance, 45 years after Busia had entered office only to be booted out 27 months later by the Acheampong coup d’etat because of obvious inadequacies.
Within the period, Busia did many things—some good, the rest bad, really horrible!! The good ones include the rural development programme that saw the expansion of rural areas and provision of amenities. Off the cuffs, I can’t remember any other. If you do, just fill in the gap, my good friends.
The bad things done by the Busia administration can fill a tall list:
The 44% devaluation of the Cedi on 27th December, 1971, with a negative rippling effect on the economy and standard of living; a decline in the production of goods and services since the private sector employed about 60% of workers. The average monthly earning of labour in the private sector also dropped from 93.23% to 81.03% while the prices of consumer goods and services increased.
To cut the cost of production, investors decided to lay off workers, which led to a drop in the strength of the labour force from 109,600 to 101,100 during the period under review, making the unemployment situation worse than ever.
The subsequent demand by workers for an increase in the minimum wage from 0.75 Cedis to 1.50 Cedis was flatly ignored.
the Apollo 568 problem and Busia’s disrespect for the courts (His infamous “No Court! No Court!” outbursts on 20th April, 1970 come to mind here); a flagrant abuse of the Constitution.
The PP government was also criticized on social issues. Among these was the Student Loan Act of 1971, which abolished Dr. Nkrumah’s policy on fee-free education in Ghana. Under this new Act, the government was only responsible for paying the tuition fees of students and, as such, for the first time in the history of Ghana, students were made to pay their own maintenance fees.
The introduction of a national development levy on the already suffering workers. on 10th September, 1971, the government with its constitutional powers passed the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 383, giving it the power to dissolve the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which was at that time the central organ of the labour movement.
The disgruntled members of the 17 unions forming the TUC, who were banned under the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 383, re-organised and, in conjunction with the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), issued a statement condemning the government for the mediocre management of the economy that it had exhibited since voted into power. The TUC and NUGS cited, among other things, the rate of escalating poverty within the working class and called for an urgent reversal of this damaging trend.
causing the then Minister of Finance (the now senile J.H. Mensah) to pay salaries of government functionaries one clear month in advance; Indeed, while the government was calling for austerity measures, some of its members were seen indulging in various corrupt acts and leading what the masses called “opulent lifestyles”.
the military also took a hit when their annual budget was cut by 10% and some of the benefits they used to enjoy during the tenure of Dr. Nkrumah were, thus, obliterated. These cuts resulted in agitations at the barracks, and prompting the Acheampong coup.
Accumulation of the country’s foreign debts (that would provoke Acheampong into shouting at the seizure of power “Yentua!!”, meaning “We won’t pay those debts!”); tribal politics by sidelining the Volta Region where the progress Party was humiliated at the 1969 polls;
refusal to extend the Akosombo grid up north (saying that “It is impossible for anybody to imagine that the Akosombo hydro-electric power can be extended to the Brong-Ahafo Region and Northern Ghana”); the Aliens’ Compliance Order that would instigate the Shehu Shagari government to retaliate twice against Ghanaians living in Nigeria;
the government’s attitude to the Apartheid South African regime at the time. Busia’s government did little to ensure press freedom. This was amply demonstrated when the Prime Minister, with his reserve powers, dismissed the editor of the Daily Graphic (the national newspaper) for being critical of his views on the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The list of the bad sides of Busia administration includes many more, but I will end it here. It wasn’t all rosy then, and Kufuor shouldn’t throw dust into anybody’s eyes. Under Busia, the country’s economy wasn’t booming; so, how could he turn Ghana into a paradise?
On a more serious note, let me fault Kufuor here. Granted that the Danquah-Busia political culture was repudiated at Election 1979 for it to remain in the political wilderness for 30 years before Kufuor won the 2000 elections, what exactly went wrong to prevent Kufuor from revisiting Busia’s agenda to turn Ghana into a paradise himself? Interestingly, Kufuor was part of that government.
Why did Kufuor not do so as a carrying-over of Busia’s ambition to develop Ghana? Of course, he played his part by initiating some programmes and projects; but such an effort couldn’t move the country out of the woods. He left office, bequeathing to his successors mountains of problems that they have added their own versions to.
Ghana is still in the woods, not because Busia wasn’t allowed to complete his term in office but because it hadn’t put anything “paradisical” in the pipeline. Is this the kind of administration that should be praised as poised to do what Kufuor is attributing to it? So, for Kufuor to think that Busia’s government was anything spectacularly functional is a shamefaced lie to be pointed out. Doesn’t Kufuor do better when he zips up his mouth?
I shall return…
Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor to continue the conversation.