What Is Positive Change In Ghana And What Does It Entail?

Sun, 20 Aug 2006 Source: Okyere Bonna

Lack of fear of the law and lack of transparency could be cited as the main cancer of African development. Absence of the rule of law underscores lack of accountability.

Our political system is based on connections not the rule of law. Like in a monarchy or the imperial colonial regime, the Head of State (and sometimes cronies to the monarch or imperial government, especially those who were rubber stamps of the head) are above the law. No sanctions exist to check and balance authority in many governments in Africa. Ghana is not an exception to the rule. Even where there are laws they are never enforced. In Ghana, for example (and most African states) the head of state acts (or functions) like an emperor or king. The Judiciary and the legislature purely remain appointees of the President.

The dual role of (some senior) cabinet ministers as part of the executive and the legislature in Ghana, for example, make the MP partial and ineffective. What the leading party members do is endorsing the wishes of the President (who appointed them). And woe to the nation if and when the President is vicious or resentful. Where the President goes there leads the nation.

The president and his cronies see themselves as above the law. This facilitates looting and sharing of booty. For instance in Ghana privatization of state owned agencies have not worked simply because the divestiture programs are neither transparent nor real. The incumbent government makes it look like they are revitalizing but in the end they appropriate these state industries to themselves without paying from their pockets but with state funds. A case in mind is VALCO, and GIHOC.

Revitalization or privatization is supposed to encourage competition and efficiency but not in Africa or Ghana. What do you expect when one does not purchase a business with his or her own funds or even an organization he or she had no business nurturing?Let Africa go back to the table and reason, see where we’ve gone wrong and fix it. If privatization is to yield efficiency and profitability then politicians must be transparent, subject themselves to the laws of the land and keep their hands off state enterprises.

Africa needs transparency and accountability in all sectors of government not borrowing and begging.

Africa’s Main Challenge

Africa’s main challenge is the enforcement of the rule of law and transparency in government. This is where the Establishment has failed the continent, Ghana in particular. It was big news when the president of South Africa, Mbeki sacked his Vice-President for corruption- a precedent set by the legend President Mandela. This does not happen in African politics. Impeachment is a foreign term in Africa and does not exist in the governance of the continent. The president can do whatever he/she wants and the people would be quiet, even the judiciary. In fact not only would the judiciary and parliament not stay mute but they would unashamedly come out to rubber stamp the evil deeds of the President.

In Ghana the President or head of state functions like an emperor. The judiciary and legislature remain but appointees of the President. The dual role of the cabinet as part of the executive and parliament in Ghana makes parliament or the MP even more ineffective. All the leading party (or even the opposition) does is to enforce the will and wishes of the leader of the party; in the case of the majority, the President. Woe to you if you go against the wishes of the president or leader- you would be the first to go in any reshuffle.

When the leader of the party or president is vicious and resentful the party assumes the same tag. For example 7 statesmen including a woman judge where murdered in cold blood in the 80s and up to today the courts have not been able to investigate the case. WHY? Because the Government of the day was involved.

I must submit that Ghana’s problems are not about a political party, be it NDC, NPP, CPPP, NP etc. but LEADERSHIP. The leadership or President makes the political party. It does not matter much the composition of the political party if the leader is vicious and resentful the whole party more likely sways that way. Say NDC and NPP, or J.J. Rawlings and John Akyekum Kufour; Kufour for one is not vicious and resentful hence the peace and freedom Ghanaians enjoy today. However in terms of vision and direction, the Kufour administration is little to be desired as a result of lack of transparency and accountability.

I am afraid no leader we elect in 2008 or in the future (irrespective of how good he sounds or his ideas may appeal to us today) may be different from the Establishment if the same structures of government exist. There is the strong tendency that whomever is elected as President of the nation in 2008 would eventually turn out to be the same as the status quo or the Establishment unless there is a strong display of checks and balance. Our present system of government under the 1992 constitution lacks this virtue. The 1992 constitution was drafted by a sitting military government that wanted to transform itself into a republic. I t plays down on checking the powers of the authority of the President or Head of State. It does not have a strong Judiciary nor a strong Legislature. In sum these two arms of government only exist as rubber stamps to the Executive. In effect Ghana’s woes are tied to the system not just leadership. This ought to change.

What Ghana needs in 2008 is a leader (or president) who is humble and honest enough to effect these constitutional changes. To the best of my understanding, of all the candidates for 2008 none except Kennedy has hit the core of the issues that confront our impediments. Kennedy has expressed a strong desire to engineer these fundamental changes in the system. So far Kennedy has talked about strengthening the office of CHRAJ as a first step of curbing corruption. This means strengthening the Judicial system. Kennedy has stressed decentralization. This means reducing the powers of the president or central government and giving power back to the people. Kennedy has also expressed plans to reform the 1992 Constitution to suit these goals. This is the root of Ghana’s problems, not just the Presidency or Leadership. It is the system. Once we are able to change the system the president will conform.

Ghana’s problems has more to do with lack of transparency and accountability. Taking care of these would translate into a Positive Change for our nation. However ignoring or skipping these would only be “window dressing.” What Ghana need is change in leadership not change in political party. To me NDC, NPP, CPP etc are all the same; he only difference is LEADERSHIP.

If Ghana wants POSITIVE CHANGE in 2008 and to put a dent in our economy we should leave party politics behind us, for once and concentrate on a leader who can affect a change in the SYSTEM.

I appreciate all the good talk and wishes of the other candidates but I believe it is Kennedy not the NPP or NDC or CPP and what have you who seem to be willing to get to the core issues.

As there is no checks and balance in our present system of government ones only sets himself or herself up when he or she provides a counter argument to that of the government. This is one reason why our ministers are ineffective. How careful ought one to be not to offend the President but to walk humbly before him; but what if the President were already humble-“He that is down fears no fall.” “Shall the potsherd exalt itself above the man who fashioned it up upon the wheel?” or “Shall the dust of the desert strive with the whirlwind?” Or “the drops of the ocean struggle with the tempest?” But this is what is going to happen when voters get to the pool in 2008 and vote for the Establishment (again) who might have single-handedly financed their own campaign. You need a humble leader like Kennedy to talk to, correct or suggest to.

Not until there is a constitutional change to ensure the proper checks and balance, not until the Judiciary is independent and strong Ghana would only be kidding herself when we talk of POSITIVE CHANGE.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Okyere Bonna