DIASPORA GHANAIANS & PUBLIC SERVICE (Part 2 of 2)By Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
We have described the love-hate relationship between Ghanaians in Ghana and the GLAs – Ghanaians living abroad. Some may miss the main points and focus on statistical numbers used in part 1, such as the reported $8.2 Billion Annual or $6.2 Billion remitted through the forex bureaus in the first 9 months of 2007 (per the Governor of the Bank of Ghana) – and if this represents 50% or 80% of Ghana’s total annual GDP. In part 1 we said that there is nothing anybody can do to prevent those overseas born in Ghana or of Ghanaian parents from returning home if they really want to. However there is a catch or two. It is called MONEY!
Yes, there are laws made since the days of the PNDC to squeeze the very dime out of your pocket, as one is forced to pay about 100-200% on duties and taxes. There are eight (8) different levels of taxes and fees at the ports of Ghana on your cars and vehicles and equipment. Every single item in Ghana costs about 2 to 3 times because of these high duties and taxes, which started cropping up during the 1980s under the failed administration of Flt. Lt. President Dr. Dr. Jerry Rawlings and his finance Minister Dr. Kwesi Botchwey. These men never really understood the elements of Economics and Finance, or how money is generated in a nation through the efforts of individual businesses, and yet faked their way through for 19 years! The NPP is even proving worse, in an arrogant display of borrow-and-spend polices which is a continuation of the NDC failures. This writer does not mind the occasionally partisan-motivated insults. You all have my email address and can join my discussion forum and prove me wrong.
Despite the barriers, if one still has love of country and one plans well and long term, one can still return and settle. Trust me, nobody can make any laws that will prevail in any international courts against anybody born in Ghana or to Ghanaian parents when challenged. The burden is on you to create a business so you can survive. Or join the government and possibly participate in the plunder (ooops!).
We often hear of self-empowerment, but has it become an empty cliché? International donors may give all they want to our nations, but sooner or later, donor fatigue sets in. No nation can depend on donations and the largesse of others forever, whiles borrowed funds are not used to deliver water and other needed services and build infrastructures for societal development. My advice is for the kind-hearted Western donors to think of, and device means to support self-empowerment of African nations and helping them to help themselves than continual donor grants. Some of these grants meant for school children, for water, for roads, for hospitals, have been found to end up enriching corrupt politicians, none of who get prosecuted or even investigated. As further proof of how wicked these politicians are, grant moneys and loans called the Capitation grant school-feeding program, were found recently (2008) to have been abused and misused. There was a Canadian lecturer at University of Cape Coast who was fired in the last few months (2007/2008) for criticizing the need for administrators of UCC to be riding in $60,000 vehicles when in fact Canada was sending Ghana money as grants for drilling wells! To date no Minister of Education, or the President, has commented and conducted any investigations on this firing! Our people need to be empowered for democracy to work in our society where for many generations we never understood organizational elected leadership that goes with accountability and responsibility!
Without honest men and women with relevant education and experience, personal character and integrity to manage Ghana and take leadership from the few entrenched selfish and greedy politicians, Ghana can never be what South East Asian nations like Singapore have become and done in the post independence era! Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, nicely and diplomatically put it in his book “From Third World To First” that we (Africans) seemed to be marching to a different tune at a different time.
The point is he was right! Can we keep acting like we have been doing forever! That tune and time are simply poverty and shame for all! As I have written elsewhere, old commercial towns like Nsawam and Nkawkaw were my two hero cities when growing up 50 years ago. Today there is no change, except the population and a few more hygienic ways of handling bread for customers. The big flies have lost their permit to the open foods now (to my great delight).
CAN IT BE DONE?
There are many Ghanaians who are so confused and justifiably disillusioned about hope, and the development of Ghana and other African countries that they have either given up on Ghana and keep toiling with no hope, till retirement or death overseas. Others have become skeptical if ever it is possible for fellow Ghanaians to turn Ghana around. When the idea of a new party, the Ghana National Party, was launched, many were skeptical. Let us remember that unlike the 1950s, today we have trained Ghanaians with various skills, professions, and with management experience and culturally adapted to how things work in modern civilizations. We can indeed manage our nation! Will we ever be able to return home to help in this process? Not so easy! Many are skeptical and some have lost self-confidence. Some even discourage others and doubt if movements for change such as Ghana Leadership Union or even Ghana National Party can usher in any new changes or help. They only find faults and criticize for fun.
Is Ghana then to stay dormant and have a few selfish and greedy politicians loot the nation’s public coffers? Shall we give up and let these men and women steal loans and grants meant for water and services, and not even deliver the water in years?! Will we allow them to destroy our nation’s economy and value systems forever? And sell whatever national assets and institutions they can to foreigners? The answer for some of us is a BIG NO!!
A RAY OF HOPE
There may be some ray of hope. A Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. In a message copied to the Ghana Leadership Forum, GLU, on April 27, 2008, we read the ff:
Subject: Kwasi Aboah Asare for Member of Parliament - Okere Constituency Comrades, for the past three electoral cycles in Ghana I have been urged, during my annual visits, to run for the MP of the Okere Constituency on the CPP ticket by the leaders of the party in Adukrom. For the two previous elections I resisted and convinced them of my unpreparedness to take on such an undertaking. However during this past summer when I was home I gave my tentative assent to run on condition that they gave me the four months to come back to Boston, to think about it some more so that I could give them a definite answer when I came back during the Christmas holidays. On my visit last Christmas holidays I committed to running, and this decision was not made without context. For the past three summers when I was in Ghana I had attended the CPP-Patriots meetings and during these meetings, since their main objective was the revival of the party, they had urged members to go back to their constituencies to help revitalise those constituencies, and were encouraged to if possible run for office.
I know this is a daunting undertaking but I think with your help and good wishes I can do it. I think I am ready to do this. I have been in this country, the US, for close to 38 years, have been through so much and have learnt quite a bit both in the classroom and on the streets. I have had several unforgetable experiences, like meeting up with a group of Black nationalists and holding political education meetings with them when I went on my first co-op job in Greensboro, NC, forming with other Ghanaians here in the US an Nkrumaist organization, the Ghana Study Group of North America for the study of the theory and the text, meeting up with another set of Black nationalists in Chicago, being involved with tenant and community organizing here in Boston, and union organizing and activism at the college I teach at presently have all fortified me this exercise.
At the time I agreed to run my prospective opponent in NPP was one Mr. B.R. Adu the current MP, but recently I have learnt that they have managed to convince him not to run and in his place they are putting up Dan Botwe. As I said this is going to be a daunting undertaking, but I am not deterred for I can win against him, and then again I can't quit for I have given my word.
We have talked a whole lot about changing our country and Africa, it is about time we started the doing, we need a whole lot of us over there effecting the changes we have been talking about. If a critical mass of us went back and took control of the different organs and institutions of the state we will turn that country around. I know you are all doing your bit with the remittances you send your folks without which their lives will be untenable, keep doing it, however we need your persons on the ground. _____________ In the message Mr. Alex Asare indicated he is of the Nkrumaist tradition and that ideology should be the “supreme guiding light”, as well as “the roadmap for traversing the intricacies” of government. He listed some of the core political ideologies as “National self-determination, Social justice and Pan-Africanism”.
Folks, we should rise above partisan politics when it comes to serving our town and communities and country. In life, hardly does one have a chance to give an endorsement to a high school classmate who has maintained integrity for over four decades! Honest public service should be non-partisan and no matter one’s ideology, honest men and women, even independent candidates like Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah (another students and friend) or Ofori Ampofo of the Ghana National Party, GNP, or my good friend Hon P.C. Appiah-Ofori of the NPP, should be supported to help effect changes we all aspire towards in Ghana. Let us put aside all these negative criticism meant to divide us! For after all, if my mother doe not have water in Ghana, yours may also not have it, or at best may be living in water from poly-tanks delivered in tanker-trucks! Is that what you want?
Some of us have been praying for the day when it will be possible for us to make the sacrifice and serve our communities. Many of us who studied Engineering, Science and the technologies thought we would never have to get into public service. Most thought jobs would be available in Ghana after completing their coursework. That was wrong! It is leadership that effects changes and create jobs!
Due to a vacuum in leadership, failures of the last few leadership and the many ideological battles and turf-wars, there has been confusion in Ghana. Institutions that should have been built as independent are not. For example, the Judiciary, the Press (Government Press should have been discontinued long ago!), and the Armed forces, are being manipulated by government leaders. They use the leverage of centralized planning and payroll systems. Some of us went ahead in 2006 and formed the Ghana National Party (www.natlparty.com) with a new vision. We have observed, learnt, and worked long enough to formulate our own original ideas and the rest is left to our and the next generation to dedicate our lives as others did, in marketing and educating our folks. . If we were to list some of the qualities often cited in Academic literature (example Prof. Peter G. Northouse, 2004) for effective leadership, they will include certain characteristics as - Cognitive skills (basic and acquired intelligence), - Problem-solving skills (some of which are based in knowledge and some experience), - Human-relationship skills, - Good ethics or character (honesty and integrity), and - Good communication skills (sometimes called Charisma)
Of course there are other qualities to list – such as being able to motivate and inspire people, but that is at the higher levels. My own research of 2004-2006 indicated Managing Resources (Danso, K.A. 2007) was one of the expectations of our leadership that is also lacking when people were interviewed. Ghanaians today need the very basics, i.e., honest tax collection, paying people well and demanding performance, budgeting and accountability of their moneys! Instead of the big economic talk our elites use, our people need to hear plans, with time schedules for water delivery, services, stable electricity and decent roads, and who they should expect to perform these for them. And if services are not delivered, whom do they call!! That is what we call Management! This will allow our people to plan and conduct their businesses, and travel to work in decent time to produce for their survival and all society. That is common sense economics!
I have known Alex Aboah Asare since high school at Prempeh College in 1960, and I think Alex will score very high in each of these attributes of effective leadership. I am proud of Alex and happy for the good and humble people of Adukrom and wish members of the Okere constituency the best. Ghana and Okere constituency will be very happy to receive your gifts and attributes and your public service.
I wish our Ghanaian communities would simply pick the right person irrespective of political affiliations. Dan Botwe seems like a nice man, and is reported to be one of the students in the high School I taught before coming to America. I think he is a fine man, but I wish he would support Alex as opposed to simply competing against him for party politics. Let's get ready for Alex to win and let’s work to attract other caliber people to return home and serve their communities. You will be surprised to find the little you know and understand and take for granted in the West is of enormous benefit to your people.
SHARING OUR KNOWLEDGE IN OUR VILLAGES Ghana Leadership Union (GLU) is organizing a TEACH-YOUR VILLAGE program starting this Summer 2008, in which every Ghanaian with skills will travel with us in an entourage to offer our skills free of charge to the rural areas. This could be in any subject such as Accounting, Business Principles and Practice (simple Bookkeeping), Computer Literacy, Basic Electricity and Electronics, Banking and Investment. Please contact me at the address below.
LET’S DECIDE TO GO HOME AND OFFER TO SERVE OUR COMMUNITIES!! Politics has nothing to do with love and service for our people! The challenge is that we need to create our own jobs, since government is not expected to, and has failed to provide decent jobs in even our research institutions over the last 4 decades. Ghana welcomes foreign investors and those who enter for legal business, just as others have welcomed us overseas; but let’s take control over our nation before the current crop of politicians who seem devoid of nationalism use greed to sell our lands and opportunities to foreigners.
We need to work to take control of our destiny in Ghana through public service and empower our people for change and development, no matter our political affiliations or philosophy.
Folks, let us add love to our money!!