What could it take Ghana to put together a National Agenda?

Sat, 4 Jul 2015 Source: Amponsah, John

By John Amponsah

Today, I read an article on Ghanaweb about archbishop Palmer-Buckle and I was greatly inspired. It contained talk of having a national agenda that got me fired up. This was only one point among many good ones that I believe the archbishop made. If you are interested in the article, it is entitled Palmer-Buckle questions quality of Ghana’s political discourse.

I personally thought that the catholic archbishop made a lot of sensible points! One of them, the need for us as a nation to have a national agenda, particularly struck a chord with me. As a result, I hope to take Palmer-Buckle’s suggestion one further step by sharing some thoughts on this platform and also hopefully finding out what other Ghanaians think about this idea. First of all, do we agree that such an agenda is needed? If not, then I suppose the discussion is over. If it is, then a few possible questions I thought to pose are: what could such an agenda consist of? Who will be tasked with drafting such an agenda? How will such an agenda come to be instituted? What kinds of systems can be put in place to ensure accountability of continuity of progress along such an agenda?

I shall attempt to give my “layman’s answers” to these questions with the hope that others might also provide further contributions.

A few preliminary thoughts that come to mind regarding the first question point at having such a national agenda address important aspects of life in Ghana such as education, human health, the economy, regional security, energy, technology, social and cultural progression. As such, a national plan of this magnitude may need to be composed of several smaller plans managed by different specialist groups and coordinated by a central body.

In relation to the second question, drafting such a plan, I imagine, could involve a select body of members of parliament across various political parties, working alongside civilian specialists, traditional representatives, religious leaders, members of civil society, and other consultants, local and possibly even foreign. The MPs would be individuals well versed in their respective party’s political visions and who have the expertise or knowledge of how to convey these political vision to the collective working on the national agenda. Civilian specialists could be derived from academia as well as from private institutions with a record of high quality analyses of national trends. There are a few around these days. Ghanaian society today still functions with the immense involvement of traditional and religious leadership. The drafting of a national agenda could very well include representatives from these two groups. Civil society groups such as NGOs have now become a mainstay for economically developing nations such as Ghana. Some of these groups play an immense role in society and not all of them are international. There are some influential local ones these days as well. They too may have a say. Finally, consultants with expertise in doing this kind of thing, including folks from other nations who may have done this or something close to this could also play a role.

To me, the third question is perhaps the most difficult one both to answer and to realize in actual terms. I imagine parliamentary involvement, and by that I mean (perhaps) the formation of a special permanent parliamentary committee tasked with overseeing the progress of the national agenda, regardless of which political party sits in power. To make things official, it could help also having a “National Agenda Office” which would coordinate the activities of all stakeholders as well as be a base for central operations. The actual enactment of the National Agenda would likely involve advertising and educational efforts through various media organs as well as through the educational system. They would manage administrative and financial aspects. An office for managing the activities of the national agenda could also be a central base of operations responsible for monitoring progress, handing publications (including a viable web presence), organizing educational, fundraising, promotional and other such activities and being “the face” of the entire endeavor. It could be a place where citizens as well as other specialist individuals or interest groups could visit and have meetings and so on.

What it would take for the actual institution of such a national agenda, the fourth question, will ultimately require political will as well as commitment to such an agenda by all stakeholders involved and especially the various political parties. Herein lies a key challenge, but not insurmountable, in my view. This is why I believe that having high level political representation on board from each political party will be a great assistance. Can our individual political parties align their respective visions for the nation with such a national agenda, at least in no small part? I believe so, or I would like to believe so.

The final question was meant to address issues of quality and sustainability, among others. Ideally, an independent body consisting of both government officials (MPs) and others will be put in place, as I have discussed earlier. The system must be properly designed to ensure easy and efficient audits. I however believe that without active and conscientious support from the greater citizenry, this project may not work as well. This does not mean ‘all citizens’. Rather, I think a critical mass (or more) of active citizens will be needed to keep this thing going. Of course, that is also assuming that competent and dedicated individuals are on board, for all the various groups I mentioned. Sustainability is one thing. Accountability is another. Both are however needed.

Finally, although the two are very different, I like to think of a national agenda in one similar way as I like to think of the constitution of a nation. Of course, the two items are very much different, yet they share a common element. That element is commitment to a common cause. I believe it is possible to have such commitment to a common cause framed as a national agenda. Perhaps it is an overly idealistic belief, and yet I still believe it is possible to think in such terms and not only to think but to aspire to have such an agenda, as a nation.

Columnist: Amponsah, John