The Dispossession Of Cars From Former Gov't Officials

Sat, 14 Mar 2009 Source: Essien, Frank


Dr. Frank Essien

I am one of the Ghanaians who has mixed reactions when I read this from Daily Guide’s article on Ghanaweb dated March 10, 2009: “The dispossession of cars from former government officials (that) made the headlines in the early days of the Mills Administration, (is) attracting mixed reactions from Ghanaians.”

There is nothing more pathetic than this when in the execution of good intentions, either in management or in politics, the wrong buttons are pushed. Just as the German political theorist and revolutionary Karl Marx said: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. On the contrary, Mahatma Gandhi also rightly stated that freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. Surely, efforts to safeguard and retrieve state properties are beneficial to all Ghanaians, but we should remember that every act creates its social, economic and political ripple.

The information that some of us are receiving is that vehicles are being stopped on suspicion. This is not how to run a laudable assignment of recovering the people’s assets. According to the notable economist and social philosopher Ludwig von Mises, that a fact is deemed true by the majority does not prove its truth. That a policy is deemed expedient by the majority does not provide its expediency. In the pursuit of this policy of retrieving government vehicles mistakes would be made, but certain mistakes should be avoided so that the nation could be saved from the embarrassment and the possible misinterpretation of government policies.

Car ownership has continued to be a status symbol in Ghana for a long time. Consequently, retrieving state vehicles from former government officials has been a major problem in Ghana since the overthrow of the Nkrumah regime. One would have thought that at the current level of advancement in our dear country government would have learnt how to register vehicles appropriately that vehicles would easily be identifiable without subjecting innocent drivers to the kind of treatment reminiscent of military regimes. If in present day Ghana, we are being made to believe that vehicles could be registered with ease without resorting to proper documentation of ownership, then God Bless Ghana. Again, if vehicle registration could be changed with ease, which led to the raids at vehicle registration centers and stoppage of vehicles on the roads, then the Mills administration should make this one of the change that Ghanaians were promised. Otherwise, this dispossession exercise would smell like vengeance on previous state office holders.

Please, permit me to make the following few additional suggestions to bolster the easy identification of state vehicles: 1. Government should consider the New York City cab medallion system where an aluminum plaque is bolted to the hood of each government vehicle. 2. Assuming all government vehicles have special registration or license number; this same number should be etched on every piece of glass on each vehicle including the front and rear windshields. 3. Depending on the cost and other factors the government is prepared to bear (this is an opportunity cost, though) government could install the patented LoJack Vehicle Recovery System which includes a small Radio Frequency transceiver hidden in all official vehicles. I am aware that the first two suggestions could affect the aesthetic value of the vehicles and probably pose security risk to the users, but they are suggestions that could be tweaked in various ways to meet this present problem in our dear country.

Ghana, our dear country, is the cynosure of all eyes when it comes to the flourishing of democracy on the African continent and we should not allow an exercise with good intentions to smell like vengeance or holding on to anger by any new administration. Buddha rightly states that holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. As long as our country pursues multi-party democracy, we are going to have changes in governments and this exercise of retrieving state properties will continue. It is important that we have a system in place that will help easy retrieval of state vehicles and also treat former government officials with dignity. According to the Austrian economist and philosopher, Friedrich Hayek there is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. It is important that we as a nation respect individuals who have served our nation one way or the other. At the same time those who have served the nation should remember that public assets cannot be grabbed with impunity. High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations. I suggest that all former government officials who have state vehicles in their possession should honorably return them to the state unless they have legitimately acquired them from the state, which is another issue to be addressed later. The retrieval exercise of state vehicles from former government officials should not be a rallying point for sowing a seed of discontent in our dear country. Long Live Ghana.

Frank Essien, Ph.D. Albany, New York fessien1@nycap.rr.com

Columnist: Essien, Frank