Press Statement by Arthur Kobina Kennedy
PRESS STATEMENT BY ARTHUR KOBINA KENNEDY (6th April, 2006)
Thank you for coming today.
In 2001, after twenty long years of struggle, our great party, the NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY peacefully took power from the NDC. That was the first time in our nation?s history that power had passed from one elected government to another. As one who had the honour to be part of that struggle, I know how hard party activists worked to get us that victory as well as the one in 2004. You walked the streets and the bush-paths. You spent time and energy advocating the principles and the candidates of our party. You spent your treasure without regards to your own needs. You refused to surrender your principles despite inducements and intimidation. For these reasons, my fellow Asonoma, you will occupy a place of honour in the history of our nation. Give yourself a big hand!
Our party and our nation thank you. In office, our party has made strides in areas like education, press freedom, road construction and improved reputation in the West Africa sub-region. Furthermore, macro-economic indicators point to encouraging growth in our economy. Despite these achievements by our government, the morale of our party?s membership remains rather low and needs to improve.
In the next few months or so, the government produced by, of, and for our party must pay significant attention to the rumblings in our ranks. In the future, the NPP government must accept more input from the party, both in appointments and policy-making; communicate better with our party and celebrate those whose sweat and toil brought us to our current heights. If our government and party do not pay more attention to our foot-soldiers, we are in danger of losing our majority in parliament and maybe the Presidency. In our current party-based democratic system, there can be probably no government without party. That is why the government can and must take care of the party.
While the achievements of the NPP government have been encouraging, we can and must do better at improving the material conditions of people?s lives. I have come here today to talk about our nation?s future. I am a Fanti, born in the Volta Region, educated in Ashanti, Greater-Accra and the Diaspora and with great friends from all regions of Ghana.
I grew up as a poor child who never had the privilege of meeting his father and was brought up by a single mother. My mother, Abena Atta Amissah?s struggle to educate and nurture her children left me with a deep and abiding respect for the central role of mothers in our lives and women in our nation?s success. I went to public schools and without the generosity of my government and the hard-work of our cocoa farmers, could never have had the education I had. That is why on moral grounds, I feel committed to the idea that our government must provide to every child willing to learn, access to affordable education.
In 1977, I worked for the Electoral Commission as a Registration Assistant. The following year, I campaigned for the ?NO? side in my first foray into politics
during the Unigov referendum and was heart-broken when we appeared to have lost. The next year, the ban on political parties was lifted and I joined the Popular Front Party. I walked the streets of Old Tafo, Kumasi, to campaign for Victor Owusu and was saddened when we lost. To this day, I remain convinced that we lost that election because we divided into the PFP and the UNC and helped the PNP to win.
Within weeks of the PNDC coup in 1981, I wrote to condemn the excesses of the government and the curfew. As a student-leader, I helped to organize the protests against the PNDC for the murder of the three judges and retired Major Acquah. For my efforts, I was sacked and later re-admitted. From 1983 onwards, as NUGS President, I led student demonstrations demanding a return to constitutional rule. As a result of my part in this effort, I was forced to leave Ghana twice and on each occasion was accepted by the United Nations as a refugee. Before my exile, I worked closely with Mr. Dan Botwe and Mr. Asamoah Boateng, both of whom are current Ministers, Mr. J.N.A. Attoh and Mr. Sam Okudzeto of the Professional Bodies and others. When I was forced to relocate to North America, I did not abandon the struggle for democracy. I joined with Nana Wiafe, Agyenim Boateng, Mohammed Idris, Boakye-Agyarko Payin Essamuah and others to continue the struggle abroad. I wrote articles in support of democracy and when the ban was lifted, sent money to support my party both at the national and regional levels. In recognition of my commitment and efforts, I was asked to Chair a fund-raiser for and to introduce the then NPP Presidential candidate, Mr. JA Kufuor in 1996 and honoured by the Chicago Chapter of the North American branch in 1998. Therefore, I have served this party and this nation in significant ways. But I know, as you all do that politics is about the future, not the past.
I have a vision for this nation. I have skills that will stand me in good stead in the leadership of this nation. I know how to get things done. As a result of my efforts, I have been recognized by a United States Senator and my state senate. In addition to my job as CEO of a Community Health Center, I sit on my county Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and I am my governor?s representative on the Diabetes Initiative of South Carolina, which has a significant role in the care of diabetes in South Carolina. Finally, I sit on three national committees of my trade association, the National Association of Community Health Centers. As a result of these roles, I have intimate knowledge of leadership and governing skills.
For those who discount my candidacy because I live abroad, let me offer, respectfully a different view of the situation. First, our nation frequently seeks and eagerly accepts the advice of foreigners most of whom, in addition o never living here have never set foot on Ghanaian soil. It is therefore disquieting that the nation that accepts foreign expertise so readily would discount the skills of her own son or daughter just because the person lives abroad. A nation that has nearly half of its University graduates living abroad will be unwise to marginalize them. Second, I am convinced that those who ask whether I live in Ghana are asking the wrong question. The right question is whether Ghana lives in me.
The answer, my friends, is that GHANA LIVES IN ME COMPLETELY. They were wise who stated that ?No matter how long a log stays in water, it does not become a crocodile.? Third, when the national soccer team, the Black Stars embarked on their quest to qualify for the world cup finals, they looked for our best players; without regard to where they live, their tribe or their religion. That is why today, the Black Stars have made us proud by joining the first ranks of soccer nations even while we continue to be a third-world nation.
The truth is that taking our nation to first world status will require committed and competent Ghanaians, within and outside Ghana, of all ethnic groups, of both genders and of all faiths, working together for the good of this nation. That is why I fully support the passage of ROPAB and regret the partisan rancour that surrounded its consideration. I call on the Electoral Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure that Ghanaians abroad get to vote in 2008.
It is my view that the changes we need can be placed under five broad headings with relevant Millenium Development Goals as goals and targets:
- MAKE GOVERNMENT WORK FOR THE PEOPLE
- PUT PEOPLE TO WORK
- MAKE PEOPLE HEALTHY
- INTEGRATE DIASPORANS INTO OUR DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
- USE APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY
Let me focus on just the first two of these ideas.
As I have stated before, we must lessen the needless weight government as an obstacle to our progress by limiting its size, dispersing its power to our districts and making it more efficient in ensuring our individual and collective security. We must also reform our Judiciary by fixing the number of Supreme Court justices and assuring that all of them decide all cases. This will make their rulings the opinions of the entire court rather than sections of it.
To put our people to work, I have an emergency plan and a long-term plan.
Immediately, let us embark on an ?Operation Clean our Environment Campaign? that will employ thousands of unemployed youth to clean our dirty environment and help prevent people from littering our environment with trash.
Another emergency measure will be the ?Customs and Excise Acceleration Campaign? that will increase the staff of our customs and Excise department by 20 percent and cutting the wait or clearing goods from our ports for import or export by 30 percent and pay for itself through increased revenue from our port.
For the long term, agricultural production coupled with the processing of produce whenever possible has the chance to make the most significant impact. To boost this sector, we must
A: Build rural infrastructure as Busia sought to do.
B: Provide storage facilities so that our produce will not rot in the field.
C: Make the necessary resource commitment for the irrigation of our farmlands.
D: Make the necessary fundamental reforms to our economy so that there will be
widespread access to credit for farmers and other entrepreneurs.
E: Seek to open access to markets both in Africa and elsewhere by reforming out import and export system.
When we do these things, we will create good jobs that with the training from a good and affordable educational system, our citizens can have. This will create a culture of work, prosperity and happiness.
In addition to all these things, we must work ceaselessly and encourage this and future governments to work towards President Kufuor?s stated goal of
?Zero-tolerance' for corruption. Until our governance, political processes, and all aspects of our judicial system are significantly free from corruption, there will be work to do at home and abroad by this and future Presidents and governments. To be fair, the roots of corruption are deep in our society going back and getting while its branches are wide but we must keep working to reduce it.
While we measure the strength of our nation with statistics like the growth rate of the economy and the unemployment rate, our nation?s true strength should be measured in the strength of our families. Today, as in years past, our families are under assault from corruption, underemployment, drugs, soaring divorce rates and a host of other evils.
These problems are the result of long years of neglect, by all of us. That is why I respectfully raise the issue of the role of our people and communities of faith in our national life. Why there are those who believe in the separation of religion and politics, I disagree. This is because when Jesus chased the money-changers from the church, he was making a political statement. When he said ?Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me? he was making a political statement. When people of faith stand aloof from our struggles, they imply that our maker in neutral in our daily struggles but he is not. I believe that people of faith should speak out against the social ills that hold our nation back from reaching its goals. I believe people of faith should commend those behaviours that make our lives and our nation better. Furthermore, I believe people of faith should encourage leaders who are trying to help the least amongst us and to lift our nation?s sights. People of faith can bring their uncompromising commitment to truth and their compassion to bear on our public conduct and make our nation immeasurably better. When they do so, the will be doing in a fuller measure God?s work for here on earth, Allah?s work is truly our own.
Finally, over the last few months, I have consulted widely with members of my party about our country, our party and its leadership in the future. Over the next year, I will continue these consultations.
I plan to be a candidate for my party?s nomination for President in the 2008 elections. I believe that our nation can and must do better. I think that government must have fair rules for the strong to work and succeed while protecting the poor. This campaign will be based on ideas and principles instead of insults and personalities .It will seek to lift the nation?s sight and spirit and move us to higher ground .It will be about the true aspirations of ordinary people rather than the ambitions of politicians.
When elected, I will assemble a government that looks like our nation and has more women in positions of responsibility than at any time in our history. I will seek to build and to strengthen institutions throughout our nation. My government will honour our values and lead us into the future. It will make our nation proud. That government will set a standard in good and responsive governance for our continent, not just for our age but for the ages.
May God bless you and may he bless Ghana.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy
On behalf of Kennedy 2008