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Your manifesto; our manifestoes: Ghana’s woes!!

Sat, 9 Nov 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Folks, some aspects of our national politics are really annoying. No consistent development plan for Ghana to ensure that a consistent path is toed for nation building!

Dr. Nkrumah had a 5-year and 15-year development plan that his detractors threw overboard when they kicked him out of office. Dr. Busia’s plan materialized mostly at the level of rural development. Nothing again till Rawlings’ Vision 2020 that Kufuor booted out and replaced with one whose name I can’t even recall.

The military governments had their own agenda for looting and messing up the economy, not building it, although Kutu Acheampong’s Operation-Feed-Yourself stood out as laudable but erratic and impulsive.

In effect, no development plan for Ghana means no consistent path toward development. Pathetic!!

The ongoing policy hiccups facing the Mahama-led administration bring to mind one major limitation of Ghanaian politics: Why is it difficult for our politicians (in government and in opposition) to share ideas and use strategies for national development without tagging each other?

One major baffling issue is clear: It is difficult for the government of the day to enunciate and implement workable economic development policies from only its own manifesto. What the NDC has put forward to prosecute its agenda of Social Democracy isn’t the abracadabra that Ghana’s economy and development challenges need. Neither could the NPP’s own manifesto be regarded as such. So also might it be for those of the other political parties. So, what prevents the government of the day from tapping into all the available manifestoes?

Is it because of some quaint self-respect, fear of being labelled a thief of ideas from its political opponents? Not so because anything that can help solve problems should be used. Or, plain laziness and short-sightedness? I think so.

Ghana hasn’t made the progress that its citizens expect, apparently because of leadership crisis and extraneous factors bordering on wayward policy initiatives, lack of commitment, endemic corruption, and many more. These are terrible problems that a responsible government should endeavour to solve, not worsen to endanger governance and good citizenship. Ghanaians (home and abroad) are unhappy that the various governments can’t solve problems to improve living conditions.

That is not what democracy should lead to. Nonetheless, Ghanaians are determined to sustain the Fourth Republic and are resolved that political stability is a certainty to be defended with their blood and sweat. It is non-negotiable. But the worsening economic situation is preventing the democracy from deepening.

The pre-1992 perennial scourge of military adventurism is consigned to the dustbin of history and will be kept there as a relic of the country’s sordid and chequered political past. No military intervention will be countenanced. The soldiers have had sufficient knowledge to know that intervening in national politics is not their specialty nor will it be accepted by the populace. Their role as the defenders of the country’s sovereignty (against foreign aggression or internal subversion) is why they remain relevant as a national institution being supported with the tax-payers’ money. If they think otherwise and attempt to re-inscribe their place in national affairs, they will do so at their own peril.

This understanding places a heavy burden on the government charged with sustaining national integrity and administering affairs to grow our democracy. That is why no government will be pardoned if it fails to use the mandate of the people to do the right thing to move the country out of the woods. There is no doubt about the country’s vast material, natural, and human resources to be mobilized for national development. What is making it difficult to develop the country is the failure of the various governments to use these resources productively and appropriately.

We have seen instances of lethargy, lack of direction, and painful incompetence to such a worrisome extent as to make us wonder whether those we have entrusted with leadership roles are really worth the mandate given them.

I want to suggest here that the problems that we have had so far in trying to develop the country can be traced to one major lapse: the narrow-mindedness of our leaders. I won’t mince words and will say it clearly here that the continuing state of gloom in the country is a manifestation of the wickedness of our leaders. It has moved beyond the level of incompetence to that of criminal conspiracy to abuse the material and human endowments of the country to serve narrow, parochial, and selfish ends. That is why our leaders don’t bat an eyelid to solve problems and prevent the agitations that characterize labour-government relations. For as long as their bread will be buttered, they care less about others’ fate.

As we brace up for the impact of the series of industrial actions put in place by the leadership of the TUC, we can only hope that the situation doesn’t deteriorate further to worsen living conditions. Poor workers, happy and contented politicians!!

At the heart of it all is the government’s inability to enunciate workable policies to achieve desired results. Why is it difficult for the government to do so? In even implementing its own political party’s manifesto, not to take about harnessing the good ones from its political opponents?

I want to say that there is much to prick one’s conscience. Let’s take the pre-elections Presidential Debates organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs, for instance. Of course, some have complained about some political bent or biases of the IEA to suggest that it was in bed with the opposition NPP, which was why Rawlings never bothered his head over its invitation to participate in its debates before Election 1996.

I remember very well how the late President Mills pooh-poohed the invitation to participate in the IEA debates for Election 2000 and 2004/2008. Then also, ex-President Kufuor didn’t do so for Election 2004; right?

But Akufo-Addo took advantage of it for Elections 2008 and 2012, even if the outcome turned out not to traumatize him. The incumbent President made his mark at the 2012 forum, coming out with good ideas that seem to have vanished into thin air now that he is in power and most needs to implement them.

The other participants (Hassan Ayariga and Dr. Abu Sakara) also proffered good ideas. Dr. Nduom did same from the fringes. Where are all those useful ideas?

One resounding benefit of the IEA debate is the provision of input on policies and programmes for national development. In fact, as I listened to the candidates speak on their vision for Ghana, I got a lot to prove that they knew what the country’s development problems were and how to tackle them. Unfortunately, the majority of the electorate went for only one whose aspirations for national development aren’t materializing yet. The problems are mounting.

Here is the thrust of my arguments, then. Why is it that the government in power cannot tap into the policy initiatives from the opposition camps? Why is the government not using all the laudable programmes of action that the political opponents laid bare at the IEA debate?

Is it for fear of being labelled as a copy-cat? What is wrong with using ideas from any quarters to solve the country’s problems, especially if the government’s own stock of ideas isn’t working well?

Apparently, the government is hesitating because of the negative politics that goes on in our part of the world regarding ideas. We have heard political opponents blame the government of the day for “stealing” its ideas. To avoid being so belittled, the government stays put, paralyzed as the situation deteriorates.

For fear of being belittled and undermined as bereft of “original” ideas/plans for national development, the party the government finds it difficult to tap into the ideas of its opponents and sticks to its own narrow focus. That is the trend, which hasn’t helped us move anywhere beyond the poverty line that we have been condemned to because of the incompetence of our governments.

The ideas that the IEA debate offered prior to Election 2012 are rich and still relevant can be tapped into by the incumbent administration. The only stumbling block is a useless ego and desire to protect a useless self-image.

If, indeed, all the ideas that cropped up at the debate are still available, they should be collected and collated for use by the Mahama-led administration. After all, it is all meant to move the country forward, regardless of who the originators are. The only hindrance is that the incumbent is shy and doesn’t want to be downgraded as lacking ideas and, therefore, turning to its political opponents’ for redemption. A useless desire to protect a useless integrity of nothingness!!

There is nothing basically wrong with using ideas from the camp of political opponents to serve the national interest. In Ghanaian politics, however, that is a tough call, which is why the incumbent may be bent on enunciating its own policies and claiming ownership for it even if they aren’t beneficial to the country. Are our leaders so daft as to remain fixated on this narrow focus in handling national affairs?

The plain truth is that the ordinary Ghanaian doesn’t care who originates which policy for improving living conditions. The end justifying the means for them is all they expect.

In this regard, I expect the Mahama administration to look far afield for input (even from the political opponents) to move the country forward. No need to feel shy at all. The Ghanaian situation calls for pragmatism, which must be the resounding imperative for national development. It is time to swallow that foolish pride!

I see nothing wrong with a government using the ideas of its opponents, especially after the general elections have determined which political party the electorate want to superintend over national affairs. Once installed in office, the government should use all means to solve national problems. If it sticks to its own, regardless of whether they are effectual or not, it will not solve problems but compound them. That’s been our lot in Ghana so far. The time for change is now. Something has to be done to make governance all-inclusive!! No single party’s vision can be the panacea for the country’s problems.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.