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Opinions Sun, 24 Feb 2019

The uncaptured real State of the Nation

Two days ago, Nana Aba Anamoah’s State of Affairs on GhOne TV aired the discussion she had with some indigenes of Nima about the State of Nation Address that the President delivered. The discussion took place at a place called Futa Square, Nima with the youth comprising mostly males and a blend of old and new bevy to draw out the citizenry expectations ahead of the address.

In Article 67 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana, under the caption Presidential Messages, it states that “The President shall, at the beginning of each session of parliament and before dissolution of parliament, deliver to parliament a message on the state of the nation.” Therefore, all Presidents since John Agyekum Kufuor (who first implemented it) have ensured that the constitutional activity come alive. Suffice it to add that President Rawlings never delivered what has now come to be known as the State of Nation Address (SONA) though the constitution was promulgated under his stewardship as President. But that is another issue for another day.

Over the years, the day for the delivery of the address has been characterized by pomp and pageantry with the aficionados of the ruling government storming Parliament to offer support to the President and opposition party members doing all what they could to put a twang on the free-flow of events. The house of Parliament and its members are not exempted from these shenanigans. They heckle, hoot, ululate and sometimes hold placards with unsavory words written to irk the other party. Once upon a time, the late President Mills was heckled to the point of mis-pronouncing a word (econimi for economy); an incident that generated a gale of mockery and ridicule from the citizenry.

The most interesting aspect of this State of the Nation caboodle is the unfortunate fact that the President of the day delivering the address usually uses it as a Public Relations opportunity to garnish and embellish the shambolic performance of the government of the day. And that was the crux of the discussion the youth had with Nana Aba Anamoah. The youth held the belief that the real State of the nation which is very appalling did not find its place in the address of the man elected to ensure things are hunky-dory for the citizenry.

Ghana is a country blessed with enormous resources but as I type now, nothing shows we are blessed with these resources. We are poor. The entire country is engulfed in poverty. We are still tied to the apron strings of our colonizers who we all agree have nothing good in stock for us. Majority of the youth of the country have no confidence of making it in the country. One can easily say the nation then has no future since its youth (its future) are bent on leaving the country to make it outside. Few weeks ago, I was part of a Focus Group discussion organized by the Initiative for Youth Development under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration. The discussion that day was about dissuading the youth from beating the desert and other dangerous routes to get to Europe for greener pastures. Some of the returnees present painted horrible pictures of the things they passed through and the awkward situation they experienced. Yet, participants confessed boldly that when buses are lined up there and then to leave this country, they are ever ready to move. They stated emphatically that the real risk is to live in Ghana. That is a very sad situation we have now because we have not been able to turn things around with the enormous resources we are endowed with. This gives fillip to the logic that “if a country mismanages its resources it should be prepared to face the music of hard times.”

Ghana once upon a time was synonymous to peace and security as a nation. The converse is what we have now. A journalist works very well to expose corruption and he gets killed after a Member of Parliament foolishly calls on the public to pounce on him anywhere they see him. In the past few months, there has been heightened calls for the security service to up its game because the killings in the country were becoming one too many. The murder of Hussein Suale (Investigative Journalist), Josephine Asante (Public Affairs boss of Tema ports), and Nene Atsure Benta III (Mankralo of Prampram) leaves the citizenry worried about the security situation in the country.

Graduates are confused. They don’t know what to do (as one musician sang). In my community where education level is on the low, graduates are no more the role models to the scores of youth because most have completed school and are home doing nothing or doing work that yields nothing worthwhile. And that is very dangerous for the community and the nation at large. The unemployment rate is very alarming. Desperation is setting in and the profundity of despondency undesirable. If this situation prevails, it will be dangerous to us as a country because of the interesting logic that in desperate times, fortune must give way for more assertive hands. The youth will do anything to survive. This should not be allowed to set in.

Parliament of Ghana

Sanitation in the country is very terrible. The President stated that he will make Accra the cleanest city before he leaves office. This statement when juxtaposed with what is happening in the city should be taken cum grano salis. You go through town and you think you are on a different planet. Containers filled with filth right in the middle of a highway, sack loads of rubbish left on the street with cars running over spilling it over the street. And this can be found in the part of town that is noted for the elites. So if there is not great exertion on the government’s part different from the usual mouth-running, Accra (and by tether, Ghana) will continue to be filthy and dirty. Chinua Achebe, the one who knows stated in an angry book, The Trouble with Nigeria that “one of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations. That is the cargo cult mentality that anthropologists sometimes speak about – a belief by backward people that someday, without any exertion whatsoever on their own part, a fairy ship will dock in their harbor laden with every goody they will have always dreamed of possessing.”

The president was overwhelmingly voted into office on the back of the many promises he made. In 2016, he sounded like a man ready to serve more especially when the President then, John Mahama, seemed clueless about how to govern. One of the issues that gave people hope was the promise to help stabilize the cedi. The cedi had witnessed one of, if not the highest rate, of direction between 2011 and 2016. It was affecting trade so much that coupled with the power interruption then, businesses were folding up while the ones that had the strength to continue had to lay off workers. So the election of the President was a strong message of hope for Ghanaians. They wanted the cedi to appreciate against major currencies in the world or at least be stabilized. It’s been two years and the cedi depreciation of the cedi runs faster than the most devastating diarrhea. It might be depreciating at a lower rate, as we are made to believe, but the ordinary Ghanaian did bargain for a reduction in cedi depreciation rate. They want a stabilized cedi. So when the Vice President tries to reduce the debate to which government had the highest cedi depreciation rate, he trivializes the issue and fails to look at the major things we should be doing. It even gets worrying that the president didn’t extensively touch on the cedi. This is one of the real state of the nation the president chose to ignore.

Some have argued that we must be patient with the President to allow him execute his agenda and we should judge him at the end of his tenure. These were the same things John Mahama said when he was questioned about how he was running the country. He told us to be patient with him and judge him at the end of his tenure in office. We listened to him and showed him the exit door when the time came. This time around, we do not have the patience to wait for another four years before we allow out thumbs to do the talking. We must, with the past in mind, push our leaders to do more. We have been patient enough and now we must speak.

The forbears of our country had a very prosperous Ghana in mind when they fought gallantly for our independence. In his Motion of Destiny, Kwame Nkrumah had high hopes for the country when he stated that “we have to work hard to evolve new patterns, new social customs, new attitudes to life, so that while we seek the material, cultural and economic advancement of our country, while we raise their standards of life, we shall not sacrifice their fundamental happiness. That, I should say, Mr. Speaker, has been the greatest tragedy of Western society since the industrial revolution. In harnessing the forces of nature, man has become the slave of the machine, and of his own greed. If we repeat these mistakes and suffer the consequences which have overtaken those that made them, we shall have no excuse. This is a field of exploration for the young men and women now in our schools and colleges, for our sociologists and economists, for our doctors and our social welfare workers, for our engineers and town planners, for our scientists and our philosophers. Mr. Speaker, when we politicians have long passed away and been forgotten, it is upon their shoulders that will fall the responsibility of evolving new forms of social institutions, new economic instruments to help build in our rich and fertile country a society where men and women may live in peace, where hate, strife, envy and greed, shall have no place. Mr. Speaker, we can only meet the challenge of our age as a free people. Hence our demand for our freedom, for only free men can shape the destinies of their future. Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members, we have great tasks before us. I say, with all seriousness, that it is rarely that human beings have such an opportunity for service to their fellows.”

Any state short of the above is undesirable and we must diligently work our way out of that.

Columnist: Inusah Mohammed and Abdul Rahim Naa-Ninche