Let the Real Work Begin for the Sake of Jeffisi

Thu, 12 Sep 2013 Source: Gyan-Apenteng, Kwasi

It would be unfair to view the amount of effort that has gone into the recent petition process at the Supreme Court as anything but very hard work, and yet in terms of the effect of its output on the immediate wellbeing of the nation we have to be glad that it has come to an end. Although neither side in the argument has provided a detailed report of its operation in the marathon dispute, it is believed that hundreds of people, drawn from the ranks of lawyers, accountants, statisticians, election experts, journalists and others were deployed in assembling the evidence. The courtroom drama itself must have involved a labour force counted in the hundreds.

Ironically, the end of this mammoth effort was so anticlimactic that even lawyers in the courtroom were seen on TV rather bemused and turning their hands in bewilderment and confusion. It appears that most of us had prepared our minds for a long day of a final flourish of “pink sheets and yes my lords”, as my neighbour summed up the whole thing. But this was not to be as the Court merely gave a terse pronouncement of its verdict before vanishing into the exalted ranks of history makers. A short but very dignified statement by Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, the lead petitioner closed the issue (at least, so we hoped).

Can we now turn to real work, of which there is a lot waiting to be done? By real work I mean uniting our horribly fractured nation, tackling the faltering economy, creating jobs, educating the young, housing the many hard-working young men and women being fleeced by unscrupulous landlords up and down the country, finding food for the hungry, healing the sick and finding a bit of reprieve for the poor… Can we tackle this enormous task with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we attended to the petition process?

Indeed, let us go back a bit and ask the question in a more fundamental way: can our politicians tackle the problems of this country with the same enthusiasm with which they campaign for our votes during elections? Every four years, politicians of every hue and creed crisscross this country going to places where no road leads. The biggest disconnect between the world inhabited by our politicians and our common earth is exemplified by what they are willing to do to win power and what they actually do with the power.

Here is a case in point: by a very strange coincidence I found myself travelling on the same very bad stretch of road that links Wa and Bolgatanga in late 2008 and at the same period in 2012 when election campaigns were in full bloom. That road is one of the loneliest and most despairing pieces of land in all of Ghana’s 238540 square kilometers of surface land. It would be unacceptable if it merely linked two little grubby towns in Ghana’s nowhere. As it is, this road linking the regional capitals of the Upper West and Upper East Regions is a disgrace.

On any normal day, you would not meet more than 20 vehicles on the most deserted parts of that road but every fourth year those desolate and obviously forgotten villages along the route are plastered with election campaign posters of every political party. I wondered who put up these posters every four years and what excuse they give to the people in order not to be lynched. Perhaps these poster messengers steal in at night as everyone sleeps. Are they local people or are they sent from elsewhere?

Last year as I travelled in the Upper West Region courtesy of STAR-Ghana I stopped at Jeffisi, one of the bigger villages along the route. The biggest structure is a big tree that serves as rest stop and a sort of reception centre at which the few passers-by stop for direction. The big tree whose leafy wings span quite a large circumference was plastered with posters of many political posters but prominent among them were those of the NDC, the NPP and the PNC. There were several people standing around doing absolutely nothing as far as the eye could see except for one young man who was pumping a bicycle tyre. I wondered what a full day meant for the youth at Jeffisi.

Naturally a small crowd gathered around our vehicle and I asked them if they knew who put up those posters but no-one seemed to know or care, judging from the shoulder shrugs and vacant stares. As we left them still standing under that tree with no need to hurry anywhere I wondered if these were not the young men for whom government policies such as GYEEDA were devised. Four years previously I had gone past that same village with self-same posters on that very tree with a group of young men standing there; just standing.

For the sake of Jeffisi and the thousands of Jeffisis in our land, please let the hard work begin. It is easy to forget that many years ago, our forefathers and foremothers decided to fight for independence for this country for a purpose. The purpose was to ensure that the resources of this land would be used to support the people of this country. Our fight for democracy was also premised on the assumption that democracy is not a destination but a road whose trajectory would take us ever closer to the purpose of independence.

In Ghana today, listening to the radio one gets the impression that politics is a self-contained activity with no windows. It is shut upon itself and has no purpose beyond the self-serving interests of its practitioners. Politicians often get angry that people like me tar them all with the same brush but I have never heard a single member of any “Communication team” of any party talk about the need to build a library at Jeffisi; to set up a youth employment training facility at Jeffisi, or to fix the saddest road linking two regional capitals which could be adorned with a genuine guinea fowl factory right smack in the centre of the highway of our dreams.

The swanky environs of the High Street in Accra could not be further removed from Jeffisi as is possible to imagine but the former is where the fate of the latter is said to have been decided. That is the theory. In practice, we have no way of knowing whether the fate of the people of Jefissi would be any different under one party from another, but it is now a moot point because the hard work of the NDC has paid off better than it has done for the NPP so the fate of Jeffisi is in that party’s hands.

The real hard work now is for the government party to understand that for the people of Ghana all the drama of the past one year will count for nothing if it fails to deliver. It may have a harder time convincing some of its supporters and opponents that the judgment of August 29 was not about high flying lawyers or guttersnipe politicians and unrepentant contemnors; it is about the people.

I told the people I spent a couple of minutes with under the Jeffisi tree that I would write about them one day. I have redeemed my promise.



Columnist: Gyan-Apenteng, Kwasi