UN General Assembly: Analysis Of President Mahama’s Speech [2]

Sun, 2 Oct 2016 Source: Osei, Nana Yaw

Fellow countrymen, it could be deduced from the part (1) of this article that President Mahama’s absence of neutrality relative to USA-Cuban relation during his speech at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly was not only inappropriate for Ghana as a country but equally contravenes some reasons for the formation of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The remaining two issues I will like to discuss are Mr. President’s rhetoric on some West African’s dangerous expedition to Europe through the desert and the Africans’ fair chance to international trade.

His Excellency, the President of our beloved Country, Ghana, Mr. John Dramani Mahama lamented over the dangerous journey that some West Africans decide to embark to Europe through the desert during his address to the 71st session of UN general assembly. The president reportedly said the following: “A young man in West Africa drops out of school and takes to selling petty items along the streets of the city. Agreeing with four of his friends they decided to raise money and try to make it to the greener pastures of Europe. They pay their way through Niger and arrive at Agadez, from where they brave the trek of death. A dangerous hike across the harshest desert on earth. They are attacked by bandits and robbed of all their money and provisions. They are rescued by some "good Samaritans." Two members of their group do not make it. After months of living under the threat of death from any of the armed groups including ISIS in Libya, they finally board an overloaded dinghy bound for Italy. Rescued from the sea after their dinghy capsized, only one of them remains, held in a refugee detention centre in Italy. He is the lucky one. The only one of five friends to survive the perilous journey. How long he will remain in the centre, he does not know. This could be the story of any young African seeking a better life in Europe.” (Source, ghanaweb, September 21, 2016).

The foregoing statements attributed to Mr. Mahama are legitimate concerns raised on a wrong platform. West African governments are expected to tackle the issue in their various countries. Let me concentrate on Ghana. It is a duty of government to make sure that all children of school going age are in school. This partly explains why interventions such as the free-compulsory universal basic education, school feeding program, capitation grant, the removal of schools under trees by various governments are essential. We are all familiar with the horrifying tales of the Saharan carnage through the survivors of the aforementioned journey to Europe.

However, Mr. Mahama’s rhetoric on the plight of young men and women who decide to travel to Europe through the desert is like a wicked monarch who prays fervently for immortality while his/her main preoccupation is persecution. Is it not the same government who bereft the survivors of this dangerous trip to Europe of their properties at the port? Is it not paradoxical and quixotic for government to put high customs duty on gas or fuel guzzling cars only to go about giving out those cars to his party apparatchiks and aficionados? Many of the gifted cars are impounded from the very citizens some of whom went to Europe through the desert (Of course, not only one government confiscate vehicles). Duty on cars is unreasonably high at Tema Port. This is very embarrassing to the country. In a video entitled: “Underworld Inc season 2, episode 2,car jackers, circulating on the youtube.com, one car jacker asserted that a brand new car from garage cost $20,000.00 in USA while the customs duty at Tema Ports is $30,000.00 which does not make sense. This almost invariably motivated him to engage in such a nefarious act.

Thus, the president’s lamentation over the ordeal of West Africans especially Ghanaians who travel to Europe via desert was not genuine because the behavior of the government at Tema Port reveals that the politicians benefit from such people. The government and its rank and files benefit from impounded vehicles brought in by the aforesaid travelers. Robbers attack them on their way to Europe through the desert and governments rob them at Tema Port through exorbitant tariffs. What is the difference? So Mr. President come again. The only merit of the above issue at UN-General assembly is to maybe seek for help from your fellow heads of State to create jobs for those youth in order to avert such expeditions in future. However, this justification is negated by my third reason why I think those who wrote your speech did not help the country by telling the whole world that our president is incapable of creating jobs for the youth. This betrays your pan Africanist stance.

The third issue from Mr. Mahama’s speech worthy of analyzing is international trade. The president reportedly said “Africa does not need your sympathy or Overseas Development Assistance. Africa needs a fair chance to trade with the rest of the world and amongst ourselves.” (Source, ghanaweb, September 21, 2016). This is the most ridiculous and ignoble statement defeated at birth. It is true that Africa is the richest continent by natural resources but the poorest by bank account. However, where are the African goods to compete in the world market now? Competition in the international market requires industrialization but not exporting raw natural resources like gold. Mr. Mahama needs commendation for the renovation of Komenda Sugar factory for example. In the absence of more of such factories, Africa needs development assistance. Ghana cannot even supply energy to its citizens let alone generating electric power for industrialization. Africa needs a fair chance to international trade but some countries like Ghana is not ready now. Malaysia and Singapore are given a fair chance to international trade because they export products like electronic hardware to many countries. This writer believes in Pan Africanism even so, he thinks Ghana is not ready to stand without development partners now.

Foreign support has contributed to the development of Ghana. For example, in 2005, -the Danish Government earmarked 41 million Euros to support the improvement in the water and sanitation, transport and health sectors as well as other economic development ventures in Ghana. Even our budget is supported by the donor countries. For example, Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS) is the name given to general budget support in Ghana. General Budget Support involves the transfer of financial aid from Development Partners (DPs) directly to a partner country’s national budget. The Government is then able to allocate these resources according to its own poverty reduction priorities, using its own financial management and accountability systems. As a result, MDBS is the Ghana Government’s preferred way of receiving aid. Ghana’s development objectives and priorities are laid out in its medium-term development plan which up until 2009 was the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II), and currently the GSGDA. Considerable resources are required to enable progress towards these objectives and currently Ghana does not collect sufficient domestic revenue to meet all of its requirements. DPs have therefore committed to support Ghana to achieve its core poverty reduction objectives through providing MDBS.

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In Ghana, government struggles to supply even chalk to primary schools. There are other challenges such as youth unemployment, deplorable nature of some roads, erratic power supply, just to mention a few. Was Mr. President telling the whole world African countries do not need any sympathy from the developed partners? Many African countries like Ghana now cannot stand alone without the development partners. I believe in self-reliance in a gradual process. Our leaders must stop pretending all is well in Ghana. Those who wrote President Mahama’s speech portrayed our noble president as a brilliant Pan Africanist but a terrible chatterbox.

In sum, it is clear that Mr. Mahama’s call on USA to totally lift trade embargo on Cuba was a needless diplomatic brinkmanship if not aggrandizement. Americans are divided on the issue internally. Not all Cubans support the lift of trade restrictions. Cuba under trade blockade leads Ghana in doctor-patient ratio. Thus, Mr. Mahama was supposed to be neutral on the USA-Cuban relations. Secondly, Mr, Mahama’s statements on the plight of the youth who travel to Europe through the desert was Janus-faced because the same government (not only one government) rob them of their properties at Tema Port through exorbitant customs tariffs. What is particularly lamentable is that not all the charges go to the government coffers. Thirdly, notwithstanding the fact that African’s fair chance to international trade was a good call, for Mr. President to state categorically that “Africa does not need your sympathy or Overseas Development Assistance. Africa needs a fair chance to trade with the rest of the world and amongst ourselves.” Without recourse to the challenges of his own country was ill-conceived. Such a call needs systematic policy direction rather than rhetoric. Mr. Mahama must tell Ghanaians convincingly that when given a second chance he will raise national interest above his party interest by appointing more experienced people in his government. The price to pay for Kakistocracy is the number of embarrassments his government is causing the nation. Mr. President, you are a good man but remember as Alban Bagbin said: “if these are the people around the president, it means he is naked.” Niccolo Machiavelli, also asserted: “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” (Socrates)

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Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo), PhD Candidate, Psychology

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw