Government communications now untidy!

Mustapha Hamid Proud Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, Information Minister

Sat, 23 Jun 2018 Source: Collins Essamuah

Last Wednesday morning, I decided to watch and observe a sample of the responses of the government and the ruling party officials to the news of the day on television.

I was not amused that almost all of them, from ministers and deputy ministers of state, Members of Parliament and party officials of different hues, and other ruling New Patriotic Party(NPP) sympathisers, went about reciting ad nauseam, in their view, what went wrong in the previous administration, and which presumably, formed the basis for the change in government some 18 months ago.

This trite argument was invariably presented as an excuse for the official lethargy, the intellectual stupor and languor in the face of disasters and problems, natural or man-made.

I know exactly when this began in our politics in this country. It was the year 2001, when the President John Agyekum Kufuor administration assumed political power, and this kind of official and party communication style became the norm in the NPP’s governance. It is a phenomenon unique to fourth republican politics because this republic is the first one since independence in 1957 that we have experienced constitutional changes of government.

We have, thus, had something immediately preceding and of the same structure, to compare and contrast governance styles under the same constitution. The first elected government of President Jerry John Rawlings had no previous constitutional regime for its communicators to compare anything to. Worse, it was in that regime that we saw the initial eruption of free private media in Ghana, also courtesy of our constitution.

Media pluralism

It was during the Kufuor Presidency, therefore, that we saw the explosion in the numbers and variety of media outlets, which invariably by the obvious unintended device of emulation, established this type of official political communication as the norm in our politics since then. Partisans of the ruling NPP will be quick to point out that the abrogation of the criminal libel laws in our books since the colonial days, in the time of the Kufuor Presidency, piloted in Parliament by the then Attorney-General, and now President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was directly responsible for the exponential increase in media outlets and the resulting press freedom. But they will carefully avoid telling Ghanaians that at the time of the January 13, 1972 coup that overthrew the Busia regime, the editor of the private newspaper, The Spokesman, the veteran journalist and former Managing Director of then Graphic Corporation, Mr Kofi Badu, had been hauled before the courts by the Progress Party regime on criminal libel charges. Mr Badu is now the Chief of Staff to the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. In other words, the love and passion for media freedom has nothing to do with any particular historical party or its successors.

The above caveats are very important to keep in mind as we go along today. It is the stuff of the speechifying part of our democracy, and on that basis, I cannot fault it. Democracy is government by public opinion, and opinion cannot be known unless freely voiced out. But it seems as if talking and citing the past has become a substitute for executive action, real workable policies and programmes by our government. What has come out of the vigorous debates and discussions following the death of the late Opoku Acheampong two weeks ago in bizarre circumstances, created and sustained by seemingly serious health professionals who have no iota of empathy in the pursuit of their vocations?

Our government may seem to be imagining that talking about the problem is the end of governance, whereas our health professionals erroneously put out the palpable falsity that unless our facilities are as equipped as St Luke’s Hospital in Houston in the United States, and Cromwell Hospital in England, Ghanaian health professionals will continue to be a wasted and useless national human resource. This kind of reasoning is the opposite of inventiveness, initiative, real passion for positive change in our circumstances, and an affirmation of the extremely negative about our prospects as a people and a nation. Not even centuries of slavery succeeded in killing our souls than the reaction and lack of action on the part of those who have been given the power to do something.

Already 18 months of the given four-year mandate is gone, never to return, and the official answer to the problem of the cedi today is to cite its value in 1993 and in other previous regimes. Where is that market in 2018 that things are sold at 2005 prices? And why is such a defence even necessary or relevant? If things were so hard in the past, how can that be an excuse for accepting the hardships of today after a year and half of change? We don’t live in the past, nobody does, but in the present and the future.

I can agree that things are very difficult only to a certain extent. Our obligations to our creditors and to Ghanaians employed in our civil and public services do really consume nearly all our revenues. But the current government is not the first to be confronted with this seemingly insuperable situation. Previous governments had experienced similar environments and managed to leave us enduring legacies in concrete and stone for succeeding generations. Just one example will suffice for my despair. The Jubilee House, began by President Kufuor, was completed in the time of President Mills and first fully used by President Mahama. If Presidents Mills and Mahama had stopped construction as this government had done for so many projects started by its predecessor government, where would this nation be with a befitting imposing edifice for its Presidency?

Rail tracks

I also discovered last Wednesday that the railway tracks at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle had been removed without any sign of replacement at a time our government has a dedicated ministry for the sector. That particular level crossing is maybe the most emphatic instance of the retrogression of our thinking on national problems. I would have been very encouraged by the development trajectory of this government if it had decided to start its modernisation of our rail transport right at that juncture, to give us hope in the mantra of Ghana without aid, just as the obvious infrastructural bias of the previous regime was plain for all with eyes to see and its eternal testament. But alas.

The government is not merely place holding, or just warming seats. Concentrating all guns on your opposition has value only when you are in opposition. The opposition has no duty to help the government with suggestions or anything else because the responsibility is not theirs. On the other hand, it is the government which can exercise magnanimity in all situations.

As for the opposition, their duty is to oppose and criticise all bad policies till even extreme reactionaries take notice and effect change, to paraphrase the late radical Republican Mayor of New York, Fiorelli la Guardia. Condemning the past does not create anything worthwhile today. Our airwaves now preach the gospel of inaction.

Columnist: Collins Essamuah