Opinions Tue, 9 Apr 2013

Our Ghana-Lessons From Malawi And The United States

Few months ago, H. E. Joyce Banda, the President of the southern African country, Malawi took office in April 2012 following the unexpected death of her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika. Her contagious rendition of selfless service in her first few days is an enthralling piece that will even leave a staunch and hardened crusader against feminism in the highest echelons of power gaping and gasping with fractures all over. She made history at the time of her appointment as the first female president of Malawi and the second female president in Africa.

She ascended to fame in the Malawian body politic in 2009 when the late President Mutharika appointed her as his running mate and won the presidential elections of that year. Shortly after, she publicly stood up in 2011 to her boss when she resented his decision to endorse his plans for his brother, the then Foreign Affairs Minister, to succeed him as President in 2014 when age would have caught up with him. Instantaneously, she was thrown out of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party but the President could not nullify her Vice Presidential slot as she was elected and not appointed in 2009 as a running mate and rightly so, under their constitution, she was to take over the reins of power should the President die in office. BBC News recently reported that, the government of Malawi, headed by Mrs. Banda, has invited bids for its 14-seater presidential jet which is being sold off as part of cost cutting measures. The plane will be sold to the highest bidder. The President is said to have refused to travel in the jet since she took office. The jet, a Dassault Falcon 900 EX, was purchased five years ago at a cost of about $13 million. You can imagine the scuffle its purchase is bound to sparkle in Malawi, considering the fact that it is one of Africa’s poorest countries.

President Banda is reported to have said that the money raised from the sale of the plane would be used to provide basic services for Malawi’s poor. All Africa News also reported that President Banda has put other austerity measures in place as well, including cutting her own salary by 30 per cent. Elsewhere in the United States, the New York Times reported that, President Barack Obama will return 5 per cent of his salary to the U.S. Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers hurting from $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts. Hundreds of thousands of workers could be forced to take unpaid leave if Congress does not reach an agreement soon to undo the cuts, which came as punishment for the inability of the Obama administration and Congress to come up with another way to address the country’s gaping debt. “The salary for the president, as with members of Congress, is set by law and cannot be changed,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney said late Wednesday. “However, the president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government.”

This notice followed a similar move a day earlier by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who committed to taking a salary cut equal to 14 days’ pay — the same level of cut that other Defense Department civilians are being forced to take. Obama isn’t the first president to give up part of his paycheque. John F. Kennedy donated his presidential salary to various charities, according to Stacey Chandler, an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. George Washington, the first president, tried to refuse a presidential salary, but Congress required that the position pay $25,000.

Inferring from these hallmarks of impeccable display of non-parochial statesmanship, i ask, what is wrong with Ghana’s body politic.+ Here in my Beloved Ghana, a total of GH¢47 million has been paid by the government as ex gratia to the 230 Members of Parliament (MPs) who served in the Fifth Parliament of the Fourth Republic. Out of the amount, the MPs who retained their membership of the House after the December 7, 2012 elections received GH¢276,000 each, while those who lost their seats were paid GH¢311,000 each including a resettlement grant.

Should we begrudge Article 71 of our constitution or the Professor Ewura Ama Addy Committee which was set up by the late President Mills? How worse can it get? When did we lose our sense of love and patriotism for our homeland, is it worth singing and professing our national anthem and the pledge respectively at all when we consistently do the exact opposite?

The boldness of pacesetter President Joyce Banda is awesome because with all the powers at her beck and call, her penchant desire of alleviating the plight of the majority of her people has been paramount rather than succumbing to the whims and caprices of comfort and pleasures, as portrayed with immeasurable bravado on a daily basis by most African leaders amidst pump and pageantry. Water, such an irreplaceable necessity of life, is rationed in this 21st century here in Ghana and it is as if we don’t give a hoot about it? To further complicate the issue, we had our minister for water and resources on record to have said that, ’we have always rationed water between Accra and Tema since I was young and it has not changed, it cannot change in one year or two years…” If we cannot pardon ourselves in times of fuel rationing, how on earth can we keep our cool with water?

If indeed we hold these truths to be self-evident; that we have a problem with water, strike actions are rife countrywide with salary discrepancies every now and then, all pointing to the blatant awareness that our so called single-spine salary structure needs to be revisited, and students like myself have been experiencing interruptions in pursuance of their academic activities for almost a decade, how come we are so docile in demanding our due from our political governors. “And in solemn declaration and affirmation of our commitment to: freedom, justice, Probity and accountability”, who cares about this dictate in the constitution when the very representatives who are supposed to rout for their uphold have chosen to play the ostrich with regards to matters pertaining to their ex-gratia.They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. The want, will and hopes of the people have been played down so far.

Our Ghana has been so fortunate to be blessed with so much, from natural resources to human resources but what has been invariably eluding us is selfless leadership. I am talking about that crop of leaders who are genuinely in to better the lots of our Ghana and not their pockets, leaders who are willing to sacrifice for the good of their citizens, leaders who are eager to change the face of our Ghana politics and put it on an enviable pedestal. Parliamentarians who are ready to stand up and be counted when it matters the most .Parliamentarians who will go there with the chief aim of serving other than amassing wealth. We want political governors who are so concerned about the plight of their people and ever ready, to avert the downward spiral of decay currently transpiring in our Ghana. This is the Ghana I crave for and I sincerely pray our current crop of leaders carry us to a destination where the fields are green. And whenever, wherever, whichever way the mantle of leadership falls on you, brighten the corner where you are and together we will get there. Thanks to President Banda and President Obama.

Michael Dale-Asiedu, michaeldaleasiedu@gmail.com

Columnist: Dale-Asiedu, Michael