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Opinions Tue, 26 Aug 2014

Odododiodioo University: Governance is not football

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be”...Mathew 6:21

Ghana has had her rough and smooth past. There have been eras of coup d’état and smooth transitions in this country. We normally hear of the good old days as if it is a fairy tale but with the rough past, we pray not to experience that again. In 1992, Ghana wore the democratic garment again.

Since 1992, there have been smooth transitions from one government to another and still counting. Listening to the political players as well as civil society, there is one thing that stands out in terms of how we want to be governed.

It is so obvious we want to go the democratic way. It is in line with this common denominator that Ghana is seen as the beacon of hope when it comes to democratic governance not only in the sub region but the whole of Africa. One key element of any democracy is freedom of expression.

This is basically the ability of individuals within a country to speak on issues of their choice. It is very clear from the principle of free speech that the voice of the people matter in every democracy worldwide. I must admit, that in Ghana we have seemingly vibrant citizens in all facets of our society.

In spite of our vibrancy, we seem to be developing at a snail pace as a country. This obviously means that, we are not channeling our vibrancy in the right direction. In plain language, we are not talking about the issues of governance like we should as a people. I am saying governance because; in as much as our problems could be social or economic the solution therein is more political. Politics is governance or vice versa.

The fact is, the president of Ghana at any point in time as we have now wields so much power. The president, irrespective of the political party in power, has been given so much power by the 1992 constitution. The president is a powerful executive president. The president can create and appoint people to any position he or she wants.

Government controls the national purse and resources through its ministries and agencies. Government can make the lives of citizens better or worse. Let’s not forget that, for example, it took a political fiat to make commercial vehicles allow passengers to sit in threes rather than fours and this brought great relief to patrons of commercial transport.

The point must also be made that, it is the tax payer’s monies that political heads use in running the economy of Ghana. When people of Ghana vote for a president, it simply means that they have given them the opportunity to hold their resources in trust. All I am saying is that, governance is serious business and we must give it serious attention if we really want to develop as a country.

This can happen when we speak and get serious with issues of governance. It is very dangerous to leave issues of governance to a group of people we call politicians or a select few activists.

There is a trend I find very worrying. Ghanaians are very okay talking passionately about footballers and football teams but whenever there is a socio-political issue then it’s a no go area or the passion fades. Meanwhile, footballers and football teams do not put food on our tables.

They do not give us quality health care; neither do they give us quality education. They do not control the wealth of the nation. In fact, they rather take part of our wealth. Their influence on our lives and prosperity as a nation is so remote. Why do our passions drop when the conversation becomes more political or touches on the governance of our nation?

Interestingly, those who are supposed to be abreast with the issues and educate the illiterates are not interested. I have monitored roadside conversations, commercial vehicle conversations through to social media platforms and I am not happy with the zeal with which we discuss real issues of development in this country.

A classical example is on a whatsapp page I belong to - anytime an attempt is made to discuss any burning socio-economic issue, the passion goes down. However, whenever there is an issue of football or relationships we have many people contributing. Meanwhile, we don’t pay taxes to the ‘Messis’ and ‘Ronaldos’ of this world.

When it’s about government providing free school uniforms or general economic issues, people describe such as politics so won’t talk about that. The irony is that they expect government to provide schools, quality health care, education et al.

Another excuse people give is that, whoever comes to power makes such same old promises – ‘All politicians are the same’, they add. Now, the question is: How do you expect change when we seriously don’t highlight the issues but leave the issues to a group called politicians and a select few activists?

Again, How can you expect the government to perform when all you do is to perform the ritual of voting every four years, then sit back and relax till the next four years? Why are we comfortable talking about footballers and football teams yet do not want to talk about the very person or people who by the stroke of the pen can cause a change in our lives? - A person or people who we pay taxes to; people that must create the enabling environment for us to survive.

We must begin to ask questions. We must start talking about governance in Ghana like never before. We must seek explanation as to how our taxes are being managed. We must love development more than enjoyment .We must make Ghana work again. We must get involved. From the Teachers, Doctors, Men of God, Traders, Musicians to mention but a few.

Let us all keep our eyes on the ball of governance because it is only through this that we can get a fair share of the national cake. Let us hold our leaders accountable. Let our heart desires be on the people we pay our taxes to. For Ghana is not the landmark from the Gulf of Guinea to Paga or from Aflao to Elubo. Ghana is you and I.

Resources alone do not develop a country; it is the people. We cannot be neutral on the issues of governance and politics; we can only be objective. Let us all rise and speak on issues of national interest with passion, and the change we want to see will happen irrespective of who is in power.

Joab Nii Otoe Brown
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(The writer is a national service person with the Institute of African Studies, Ug - Legon and a freelance broadcast journalist who was formerly with Radio Univers, University of Ghana.)
Columnist: Joab Nii Otoe Brown