By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 14, 2010
As a people in need of change, we cannot simply rely on the wisdom of our forebears (or past leaders) because the wisdom of yesteryear comes to us tangled indistinguishably with yesterday’s errors and dogmas. Our inability to untangle such errors and dogmas constitutes serious impediments that will continue to draw us back. Singling out individuals to praise is not a decent way to solve those problems.
Intellectual and economic progress requires that old beliefs be challenged, for nobody can know in advance which of our present certainties will ultimately prove to be misplaced under tomorrow’s changed circumstances. That’s the point of departure. Rawlings’ leadership style and its implications for us are obvious in our new circumstances and nobody should think that they will serve our purposes today or in tomorrow’s new circumstances if used.
Do we even need to know which of our past leaders is better or not? Can’t we tell from their legacy alone whether they achieved the purposes for which they entered office (whether through the barrel of the gun or by the consensus of the electorate)? In spite of all that praise for Rawlings, we know that nothing drastic happened under him (and those who succeeded him) to change the Ghanaian situation for the better. We still have the very basic problems that have been drawing us back since time out-of-mind. These fundamental problems still hold us back and prevent our economy from taking off. Without an economic take-off, nothing substantial can be achieved.
In all these circumstances, the drastic action that the country needs to propel its economic take-off is nil. We are still stuck on stale policies and unproductive ventures that compound our problems. We are still implementing age-old policies dictated to us by the IMF/World Bank and depending heavily on donor support by way of funding to support our budgetary requirements. Our economy is still weak because our governments haven’t changed the dynamics. It’s a painful reality.
We are still producers of primary commodities; we still rely on the international donor community to help us solve basic problems concerning sanitation, potable water; provision of health care delivery services; food supplies; common household items (including matches); and many more. We still export our primary commodities in their raw state (round logs, for instance) and cannot process them, add value to them, and fetch better prices for them as semi-finished products, at least. Tell me what those leaders did about our gold industry, for example. Do we still not send our gold bars out to the foreigners to refine and place price tags on to deny us the revenue that we need? How about bauxite, manganese, diamond, etc. that we began producing hundreds of years ago and are still exporting in their raw state?
Tell me what such a leader has done about Nkrumah’s Tarkwa gold refinery project, the Abosso glass factory, or the Tema silos. These were laudable projects to uplift Ghana’s internal economic parameters, but which none of the leaders after Nkrumah could work on to achieve the purposes for which he had initiated those projects.
Then, let’s turn to the youth. What was the Rawlings government’s policy on youth development apart from the rabble-rousing that took the better part of official action? Forming so-called vigilante groups and banding the youth together in them only created tension and wrong-headed ambitions that have angered those disappointed youths into doing anti-social things long after the realization had dawned on them that they had been taken for granted or abused for personal, political, and economic gains by their leaders. We still cannot create job openings for the youths.
How about the education sector? The same flip-flop approach to tackling problems persists such that there is no improvement in the entire system of education, be it in the case of facilities or administration of affairs. This kind of flim-flammery makes it difficult for our tertiary institutions, for instance, to house their students or even admit the qualified candidates seeking admission into them to prepare themselves for a viable future. The same old order prevails: textbooks are not available nor is there adequate infrastructure to promote teaching and learning. How do some of these praise-singers feel when they see pictures of school children attending classes under trees in some parts of the country? Do they have any conscience at all?
How about the institutions of state? They are still under-resourced and left to chance. We talk about technology and research as major development tools; but consider how our leaders have neglected this vital aspect of our resource base. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (with its numerous viable analogous institutions), for instance, has been neglected such that it cannot carry out activities to engineer our country’s scientific and industrial growth.
Then, turn to the Ghana atomic energy project at Kwabenya, which the Nkrumah government established as a major energy source for the country. What has any of these leaders been able to do to advance Nkrumah’s good cause in the use of atomic energy? How about venturing into solar energy to maximize energy sources apart from the tired Akosombo and Kpong hydroelectricity projects? Don’t talk about Aboadze thermal plant because the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t favour it. The Bui project appears to be still-born.
Our agricultural sector hasn’t seen any remarkable growth, whether in terms of improved methods of production, storage, or export. How do these praise-singers feel when they hear that in this modern age, our farmers still use cutlasses and hoes to produce food and cash crops for this country? At one level, the perennial tomato glut (in the peak period) and shortage (in the lean season) bothers the sector farmers and consumers but no one is interested in helping solve that problem. Local tomato canning factories (the Pwalugu one, for example) cannot stand on their feet to produce at or above capacity because no one in government is interested in doing the right thing.
Cotton production has ground to a virtual halt because those in authority are lethargic and can’t solve the basic problems of the producers. Through wicked policies, the government has withdrawn subsidies on inputs and failed to help in the preservation and marketing of these raw materials. In the end, our textile industry has collapsed. We are more interested in importing wax prints and other wax-based products that could otherwise have been produced locally but for our waywardness.
The entire government bureaucracy is gradually crumbling because of lack of capacity building. We are still housing our Ministries, Agencies, and Departments in the old structures that Nkrumah built decades ago. Whatever new one is added is left to rot because we lack the decency to maintain them.
Our economy is shrinking and we are proud to be consumers of other people’s products. Our tastes have changed for the worse and we are happy to spend hundreds of millions of Dollars importing rice produced in Thailand, China, and the United States while killing our own local rice industry. We do so because someone in government whose brother is an importer needs the monopoly to control rice importation and make money for the family!
Bribery and corruption are rife despite daily official pronouncements and grand designs on paper to stem those vices. Or despite the shooting to death of the military generals at the initiation of the June 4 Uprising (Rawlings’ AFRC) and the drastic punishment that was meted out to those accused of economic sabotage or indulging in bribery and corruption. Half-hearted approaches to tackling corruption have rather enhanced it because both those claiming to be fighting against it and the perpetrator are always in concert to outwit the system for personal gains.
All these problems had been with us throughout the period. Under Rawlings, they existed; under Kufuor, they existed; and under President Mills, they still exist. What is it about these Presidents that makes one stand apart from the other to be singled out and praised as the best? Not until any of them initiates any drastic policy changes to turn around the economy and inject sanity into our politics, no one has any justification to shower praises on him.
Sekou Nkrumah may have his personal reasons for sticking out his neck but he must be careful he doesn’t tread where angels themselves fear to go. Let’s allow decency to control our political manouevres so that we can give our country the requisite leadership drive to facilitate its growth and development. Malicious, misplaced, and ill-thought-out praise-singing will not help us do so. Our country is still waiting for its TRUE leaders to deliver it from the throes of under-development. Ghanaians are crying for relief!