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SELECTION OF PROFESSOR JANE NAANA OPOKU-AGYEMANG AS RUNNING MATE TO MAHAMA ICONIC AND MOMENTOUS

It is important to acknowledge that no ticket can ever be perfect. However, each ticket can be examined on its merits and what it offers potentially, to the people it seeks power from.

The long wait and calls for the running mate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is over with the naming of Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang. Since the beginning of the year, calls have intensified mainly from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the flag-bearer of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama to name his running mate. This debate has been settled on Monday July 6th, 2020.

The choice of an accomplished educationist, Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang who is said to hold remarkable master’s degrees as well as Ph.Ds, seems to have shifted the expectations into the 2020 elections. While many were of the view that the incumbent Vice President, His Excellency Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia would be the motivation for a choice of a running mate with economic background, HE John Dramani Mahama appeared to have shifted focus from the use of Dr. Bawumia as a benchmark for his choice.

Education remains an important issue to the Ghanaian people. Just as economic issues which reflect the livelihoods of the people is of paramount interest, so is education which spells out the future of any nation. Going into the 2020 elections, the NPP is expected to tout its achievements in the education sector key among which is the introduction of Free Education at the Senior High level.

While many of the promises in the area of economy remain unachieved, including reducing the exchange rate and inflation rate (it’s important to note that Ghana has lost a grip of single digit which lasted some 3 months, and had run back into the double digits), remain largely lost. The pledge to drive down the cost of fuel, which has a great bearing on the livelihoods of Ghanaians, remains unachieved. Today, the cost of transport is seeing increases outside of the control of leadership.

Many issues would come up and play important roles in the choice of leadership for the next four (4) years for Ghana. The country had, since the inception of the 4th Republic, elected presidents and vice presidents from different backgrounds.

However varied their backgrounds, the Ghanaian people expect constant supply of water, constant supply of electricity, good roads, access to medical care which comes with the building of hospital infrastructure, provision of decent educational infrastructure, among other things.

The choice of Professor Opoku-Agyemang, has brought about some enthusiasm as well as disappointment for some who perhaps might have expected their preferred choices within the NDC. Generally, she appears to have been accepted by the Ghanaian public which is an important currency to carry for trade.

She brings to the ticket of John Dramani Mahama, credibility, integrity, expertise in academia, experience, maturity, calmness, intelligence, and accessibility. She obviously presents a different world of intellectualism, articulation of ideas, and policy initiatives. Her 53-paged Curriculum Vitae (naas-cv-1.pdf) outlines her varied experience in her chosen field.

While these positives are so overwhelming, a scan of the media landscape and discussions thereof, reveals an attempt to taint her with some policy decisions that were taken when she was minister in charge of education ahead of the 2016 elections.

It is important to build a discussion around the motivations. She remained a minister at the time, whose decisions and policies were not implemented without approval. However they came, their intentions ought to be examined to ascertain their intended outcome.

For instance, allowances at the Teacher Trainee level were withdrawn, and replaced with student loans for teachers. We must apprise ourselves with the fact that at the time, Teacher Trainees who passed out of school, were upgraded to Diploma Certificate holders, making them fall within the tertiary category. It came along with improved salaries and conditions of service.

It is also important to understand that the introduction of teacher trainee allowances, was done to motivate teachers into training colleges to enable the nation train more teachers to meet the rising demands. Fast forward, ahead of the decision to withdraw the allowances, there were teachers within the Ghanaian society who were not receiving postings due to unavailability of funds, as well as schools, as teachers have become abundant in supply. Having increased conditions of service, and having accompanied same with improved certification statuses, the decision was then taken to ensure that the situation as pertained to other tertiary certificate holders, are made even for teacher trainees.

As with other tertiary institutions such as university and polytechnics (Technical Universities), students are only able to apply for students’ loans which they pay after they secure employment. It must be emphasized that many of these students go many years without landing jobs while their loans begin accumulating interest from the very day the students are adjudged to have completed school as there are no automatic employment mechanisms in place.

On the contrary, in addition with the allowances that teacher trainees were being paid, the provision of jobs rests solely on government hence, they have to wait on government to post them to their duty posts. While this was the case, they are bound to serve the nation mandatorily for a number of years before they could break ties with government to pursue their personal dreams if they so wish to.

The new offer, which was implemented under Professor Jane Opoku-Agyemang was that students at training colleges would lose the monthly allowances being paid them, allowed to pick student loans, which they would pay for while government remain obliged to post them after their graduation.

What was again on offer was that as a result of the cancellation of allowances, graduates are no longer bound to serve government for the mandatory number of years. They are therefore free after school, to pursue their private interests. A student who wishes to remain in government employment, would be required to apply for same before completing school, with government obliged to provide them with the employment.

The introduction of allowances came with its own challenges. For instance, teacher training institutions that had the capacity to pick over 500 students, were restricted to pick less than 200 students because government could not afford paying the 500 students the allowances. This hindered the enrollment of students, and prevented the nation the opportunity to train more teachers, while locking up resources that could be used to build additional decent classroom blocks for employment after school. Following the withdrawal of the allowances, the quota system that saw to the reduction of intake at admissions, was removed and for the first time, Teacher Training Colleges or Colleges of Education were able to admit to full capacity. Indeed, records show that that year saw a greater number of admissions in our teacher training institutions.

This phenomenon took away the issue of inability to afford. However, it is important to note that while the intervention cleared the notion that many could not afford as admission were higher even though students were aware they would make full payment without allowances, we need to apprise ourselves yet again with the fact that there are some who could not secure admission because the allowances were cancelled. To some families, a withdrawal of such a support, means a lost hope.

What could be the case is that scholarship packages are to be set up to identify such needy families and placed on government scholarships. The problem with our country is that many who are truly in need, hardly get such opportunities to pick such facilities. To the many who would even get out of the few, reports would tell you that they have to pay one way or the other. But, that could have been the perfect arrangement in order to ensure equity in the admission process which would be expected to mitigate the impact of the withdraw of teacher trainee allowances.

Like the nursing trainee allowances which were equally withdrawn and replaced with students’ loans with government commitment of the use of resources to create the needed hospitals that would guarantee employment for the trainees which didn’t go well, the education sector decision was faced with similar upheavals.

Following the promise by the Akufo-Addo campaign of 2016, the Ghanaian people gave them the nod to steer affairs. Even though the allowances were restored as promised, the quota system was also restored surreptitiously. It was a reversal to the situation that existed before the Mahama administration took the decision to take off the quota system and to allow full admissions. The government of Nana Akufo-Addo restored the allowances, but limited intake. Evidence abound that from the 2017 admission, the number of students admitted into training colleges and nursing training colleges reduced since the allowances were announced to have been restored.

It is important for the country to reach a discussion as to continued paying of allowances to students while we lack the infrastructure to employ those who have passed, graduated and ready to work. It appears we cannot offer both at the same time as a developing nation that is battling infrastructure deficit at all fronts. That choice needs to be made. The Jane Opoku-Agyemang (Minister of Education) and Mahama administration took a step that was apparently used against them in the 2016 elections.

The other issue that is worthy of note is the discussion over the withdrawal of Research Allowances of lecturers. The alternative on offer at the time was to stop the wholesale payment of research allowances, and to create a fund that would see lecturers who wish to conduct research, applying to the fund for resources to be allocated for such research work. As stated above, it is important for a national debate on what we want as a nation; to continually pay research allowances to all lecturers, or to fund specific research requests which ensures that when resources are drawn for the purpose of research, the outcome satisfies the state’s commitment of such funds.

It is important to acknowledge that no ticket can ever be perfect. However, each ticket can be examined on its merits and what it offers potentially, to the people it seeks power from. The two administration that would lock horns for power in 2020, have records to their names. The Ghanaian electorate would measure the extent to which the Akufo-Addo-Bawumia ticket had faired on their promised ahead of the 2016 elections. Fortunately for the electorate, there would be little or no time for rhetoric of which of the tickets can do this or that. There is measure! Given the opportunity in the past, what have you done? And based on that it is possible to predict that given the opportunity once again, this or that would be done.

The Jane Opoku-Agyemang’s choice, comes to shift the anticipated political temperature. It is important to reiterate the fact that the Ghanaian voters now is more concerned about who can best improve their livelihoods and not who can throw the best political jabs. Over the past years, these jabs have proven worthless and needless in providing the comfort and safety the Ghanaian people expect from their governments. Obviously, the running mate chosen, Professor Jane Opoku-Agyemang doesn’t appear a person who would dive into such unproductive political journey.

The NDC has a lot of explaining to do on the issues that would come up during political debates with regards the few issues analyzed above. It is important to raise the intended outcome for which these measures were all pursued, and to get the Ghanaian reason with them. If the party wishes to pursue those interventions, it requires some effort at engaging the public for its approval and acceptance. If the party intends to abandon them, their manifesto into the 2020 elections perhaps might give a clear direction in this regard. Whichever way, the nation needs to have a direction in dealing with this phenomenon in the not-too-distant-future.

It remains a fact that under the previous interventions, academic freedom remained protected unlike today where efforts are being targeted at government control of the academia. It remains also a fact that no measures were instituted to reduce the number of teachers who would be employed by introducing licensure exams which require teachers to pass before they are posted. It also remain a fact that those interventions never required teachers to proceed on a one year mandatory national service, subsequent to which they would be posted subject to a successful pass at the licensure exams.

The party requires to identify and analyze as well as project the impediments that have been placed ahead of securing a job as a teacher even upon receiving those allowances that have been restored. The quota system reintroduced, must also be discussed to elucidate on the challenges it portends for the growth of the country.

The lecturers who were offended by the replacement of the research allowances, must be engaged properly. If the Mahama-Opoku-Agyemang ticket would revert to their plan, there is need to enable the lecturers cherish the difference between sacrificing their academic freedom for continued allowances which could easily be altered once the proposed Universities Bill is passed with government having the largest representation out of which a quorum for meetings could be formed with decisions binding on the whole.

The party must also communicate its achievements in the education sector with the named running mate as Minister. Key among the interventions that came to the rescue when the free Senior High School was commenced is the Community Day Senior High Schools which were doted across the country. As a matter of record, construction of 123 of those schools were commenced.  By the exit of the then NDC administration, over 40 of those schools were completed which provided safety to contain the excesses of the free SHS. On record, each of those schools has the capacity to admit one thousand four hundred (1,400) students. Each facility has a General Science Lab, Physics Lab, Biology Lab, Chemistry Lab, a Library, a Computer Science Lab, Teachers’ Rest Room, 16 Washrooms, Headmaster’s Office, among others.

The ticket provides a solid ground for assessment. It provides a clear focus of the NDC into the 2020 elections, and provides a complete revolution in women representation in politics. Indeed, if the ticket succeeds, that is the second highest office of the land. On several occasions, the Vice, Professor Opoku-Agyemang, would act from the top office. The first of its kind that a woman is nominated on such a huge ticket.

It is appropriate to congratulate her, and wish her well. The campaign for the 2020 elections is set for the NDC and the NPP, and I believe that issues would lead the discussions as the John Dramani Mahama ticket presents an experienced ticket to take on the Akufo-Addo ticket.

 

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Featured

MY TAKE ON FOUR MAJOR ISSUES OF NATIONAL INTEREST

It has been a while since I presented you with my opinions over happenings within the country, Ghana. Not because there is nothing to speak about, but mainly because there has been so much happening that by the time you are almost set organizing your thoughts, another issue pops up, taking more prominence and eventually shifting the public discourse. I have decided to present my opinion on four issues that have dominated the discussion in the public space. These issues would bother on the Kidnapped Takoradi girls who have been confirmed dead, the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission Report, Corruption and the current dimensions on the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

 

Missing Takoradi Girls

This subject of the missing Takoradi Girls had dominated our nation for over a year. Since the missing of these girls was reported in the media, several angles of their stories were reported by the media from various narrators.

 

Indeed, their missing, and the public discussion therefrom, were mainly occasioned by the speed at which the Canadian citizens were rescued after they were reportedly kidnapped in Kumasi in June 2019. Report can be found on bbc (https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-africa-48547503). Until their rescue, many Ghanaian had almost forgotten about these kidnapped Takoradi Girls as the media had not given them much publication months after their initial interest in the subject.

 

Soon after the successful rescue of the kidnapped Canadian girls, there were growing demands from the general public on the Ghanaian Government to intensify efforts equal to those used in the Canadian girls rescue to rescue those missing girls of Ghanaian parents on whose behalf the government and the president exercises power. These growing demands led to the security officials making statements of assurances. For instance, the National Security Minister, Mr. Bryan Acheampong is reported by ABC News Ghana to have indicated that the missing girls would be found as their whereabouts were known to government, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Missing-Takoradi-girls-will-be-found-Bryan-Acheampong-755684).

 

Not only him, even before the rescue of these Canadian girls, somewhere in April 2019, the Director General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, Mrs. Maame Yaa Tiwa Addo Danquah, made the greatest of assurances to the families of these missing girls and the Ghanaian public. She was emphatic in her presentation to the effect that the Service was aware of the whereabouts of these girls and that they would soon be rescued and reunited with their families, (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/ghana-news-takoradi-kidnapped-girls-we-know-where-they-are-cid.html). This statement gave the entire nation some hope, and to the families, a great sigh of relief that in no time, they would see their children who had not been seen for many months.

 

It came as a total disappointment that when pressure mounted for the police to follow up on their promise to the nation and the families of these girls, the same Director General of the Ghana Police Service’s Criminal Investigations Department, Mrs. Tiwaa Addo Danquah came back to eat back her words and indicate that her initial assurances were meant to provide hopes for their rescue, (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/i-said-the-takoradi-girls-have-been-found-to-give-hope-to-family-cid-boss.amp.html).

 

It came eventually as a shock to the nation and the families that in about August 2019, bones of these missing girls were reportedly found in a septic tank in the house of the suspect in a story that was just waiting to bring closure to these whole saga of their whereabouts. The Daily Graphic reports (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/police-retrieve-skeletons-suspected-to-be-that-of-3-missing-takoradi-girls.html). These bones were carried by the Service for DNA tests to prove their relations to the missing girls. In September, 2019, the Police Service broke news to the families that the DNA test of the bones collected from the septic tank confirmed those of their daughters, bringing closure to their hopes of ever seeing their daughters a year after they were kidnapped, (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/police-retrieve-skeletons-suspected-to-be-that-of-3-missing-takoradi-girls.html).

 

The drama that greeted the entire kidnap and operations to rescue these girls exposed our nation greatly to some major security challenges. The assurances that came through the security and the unfortunate results that proved that their reportage and assurances were made at a time these girls were already dead, leaves much to be desired. The nation deserves better, and people in authority ought to be guided.

 

There were several calls on the Director General of the CID, Mrs. Tiwaa Addo Danquah to have resigned her position after this gross failure in a matter that had the entire nation waiting based on her assurances. Indeed, her assurances actually inspired the president to give assurances to the families of the missing girls in July when he visited the Western Region on a tour of the Region (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2019/July-25th/police-working-hard-to-find-missing-taadi-girls-akufo-addo-assures.php). Having led this huge embarrassment on the president, and the entire security setup, it was expected that she would be motivated to resign over failures, but that is yet to happen.

 

Ayawaso West Wuogon

Ghanaians, as early as 31st January, 2019, were greeted with the worst form of political violence in a by-election under the 4th Republican Constitution at Ayawaso West Wuogon following the demise of the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area Hon. Boakye Agyarko. As early as 9AM local time, there were reports of gun shots and injuries on innocent Ghanaians by operatives who were severally reported as vigilante foot soldiers of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) who have found their way into the state’s security. This led to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) announcing a pull out of the race, leaving the NPP candidate Miss, Lydia Seyram Alhassan as the only contender who was later declared winner with some 19% voter turnout, (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/ghana-news-gunshots-at-ayawaso-west-wuogon-by-election.html).

 

Following the public outcry, a three-member commission of enquiry was formed to find the facts and to make recommendations on the facts ascertained thereof. The Emile Short Commission did its work, and presented their report to the president in March 2019 (http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/media-center/news/5481-emile-short-commission-presents-report-to-president-akufo-addo). Following calls from the general public, the President issued a White Paper on the report and caused it to be published in September 2016 exactly upon the expiration of the constitutionally mandated 6 months duration.

The White Paper among other things, dismissed the critical recommendations and eventually rubbished the Short Commission’s report which was televised before the general public by renowned statesmen and woman. You can download copy of the White Paper following this link (https://starrfm.com.gh/2019/09/download-govt-white-paper-on-aww-commissions-report/). This posture confirmed the fears of many who expressed their reservations over the outcome of the Commission of Enquire proposed to be established in February, 2019. Indeed, the opposition National Democratic Congress, in firming up their doubts, boycotted the Commission and refused to participate in its activities (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.modernghana.com/amp/news/915022/ayawaso-violence-ndc-to-boycott-emile-short-commi.html). That notwithstanding, the party allowed individuals in their personal capacities to exercise discretion on whether or not, they would attend to the Commission.

Indeed, the Hon. Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Samuel Nartey George, who was seen abused in video footages that made the rounds, attended upon the Commission and gave his evidence before the Emile Short’s Commission. It came as a surprise to many that the Government’s White Paper rejected recommendations that the security officer seen in the video assaulting the Hon. Sam George did so as a defense to provocation for which reason the government would not accept recommendations that he should be tried and punished (https://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2019/September-19th/bloody-by-election-sam-george-attacker-walks-free.php).

In addition, one Ernest Akomeah, also known as Double, a known NPP vigilante operative, and who openly admitted having been recruited from Circle where he plied his mobile phone trade and was given only three weeks training (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Short-commission-I-entered-National-Security-after-3-weeks-training-Double-728283) and yet was fit to be deployed on such a highly professional exercise, was recommended for prosecution. Over a month since the Emile Short Commission’s report was published, Government remains mute on the way forward.

The conduct of government brought about criticisms which reveals a premeditated plan to hide behind the Commission and the power of government to issue White Paper that is backed by law, to exonerate party operatives who have found their way into national security and are operating dangerously with state power on their side. Many have questioned the need to waste the taxpayer’s money on outcomes of a commission whose report government clearly had a position on. Indeed, the Government’s White Paper sought to undermine the work of the Commission as it presents that the Commission deviated from the terms of reference set out for their operations.

 

Ayawaso West Wuogon remains one unfortunate political scar on the forehead of Ghana’s political journey that would be referenced for a very long time to come. Meanwhile, government has a lot to do to allay fears that it deliberately infiltrated the security services with the likes of ‘Double’ to entrench its stay in power.

 

 

Corruption

The subject of corruption has become too common under the administration of President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo. Indeed, since assuming power, a few weeks after he was handed power, the first ever corruption scandal was reported from the Bulk Oil Storage and Transport company (BOST) where some 5 million litres of fuel was reported to have been contaminated and disposed of through means so alien to government procurement processes. Indeed, in May 2019, BOST report indicated that the event of the contaminated fuel sold out to Movenpina was criminal (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2019/may-2nd/movenpina-zup-oil-contaminated-fuel-saga-criminal-bost-report.php). This was one of the first, if not the first scandals to hit the Akufo-Addo Government. Unfortunately, the president, in the midst of investigations, cleared the officials of any wrong doing.

 

This single conduct, gave the clearest indication of how the President intended to handle issues of allegations of corruption against his appointees. His appointees took the view that the president would be frontally dismissive over allegations of corruption made against them as they realized he would present to the people of Ghana, a clear indication that his government is made up of angels who could not be corrupt.

 

Earning the title ‘Clearing Agent’ was not out of hatred for the President, nor out of nowhere. His approach in dealing with allegations of occupation against his officials, cut him across as a president who was ready and willing to clear his appointees in all matters of corruption.

Indeed, the famous Cash for Seat, which was a clear case of extortion from expatriate business men for an amount of $100,000 for a seat close to the president involving the Trade Minster and his Deputy, which was cleared by the president at the time Parliament was not done with its enquiry, giving tone to the Majority side of Parliament of the president’s intended outcome, was unfortunate, and one of the reasons for the accolade ‘Clearing Agent’.

 

Again, from among the lot, reference can be made to his statement that cleared the current Deputy Information Minister, Mr. Pius Enam Hadzide of wrongdoing following the established visa fraud involving Ghana during the Australian Cup in Good Coast Australia at the time he was the Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports. In that scandal, Ghana was involved in Visa racketeering, issuing visas to people who had no business holding such visas. It was established that the said incident occurred, but the president was in a hurry to clear Mr. Hadzide of wrongdoing, citing a committee report that the public is yet to see (https://www.gbcghana.com/1.11634534). Today, Mr. Hadzide remains an avowed defender of the Akufo-Addo’s Government over corruption scandals because he is himself a beneficiary of corruption cover-ups.

 

Then came the issue of ‘Galamsey’ in which the Secretary to the Inter-ministerial Committee that was supposed to check illegal mining was caught on video receiving monies in a video documentary by international awards winning journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas in a bid to offer them cover to mine illegally. The president yet again presided over the matter and cleared the said official of any wrongdoing, again citing a report that the public has not been allowed to see.

 

The issue of corruption has become so pertinent that even foreign diplomats have begun speaking up. The United States’ Ambassador to Ghana had had cause to speak up. Mr. Robert Jackson was reported to have charged the president to prosecute his corrupt officials as far back 2017 (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Deal-with-corrupt-officials-US-Ambassador-to-Government-601745).

 

Then came the The Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Ron Strikker who brought the Government’s attention to its drive of Ghana Bayond Aid and asked if the country could refocus on Ghana beyond corruption (https://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2019/September-6th/why-not-ghana-beyond-corruption-dutch-ambassador-asks.php). It must be noted that he came under severe attack from government machinery for that singular call, a call I consider to be appropriate. For instance, the various allegations of corruption and scandals which were counted at a minimum of 107, if quantified, could rescue this country from the economic dungeons bringing this country to a point where the meagre aid would be meaningless.  

 

After him, came the Australian Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Andrew Barnes who opines that corruption is a problem in Ghana to the extent that he has had to keep up with it (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/video-atheist-high-commissioner-wonders-why-corruption-is-a-problem-in-ghana.html). And what is much interesting with his observation that would make it difficult to reject by government is the fact that, we actually exported corruption in the visa racketeering scandal to the Gold Coast games in Australia, his home country. We have proved beyond boarders that our officials are capable of being corrupt even beyond our shores.

 

Corruption remain pervasive under the current administration, and to the extent that foreign diplomats have begun speaking up on same, government must have to sit up and deal with this social challenge.

 

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

The past week has been dominated by discussions on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in Ghana’s curriculum at ages as early as 4. This sparked wide fear among parents and religious bodies across the country with many fearing any such move would expose their children to same sex orientation among others.

Press statements and conferences on the subject matter abound on the internet. I will pull out just two for your reading pleasure. First is that of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council which called on the government to withdraw CSE (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2019/october-3rd/churches-demand-total-withdrawl-of-comprehensive-sexuality-education.php). The second is a statement reported from the Office of the National Chief Imam (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Drop-satanic-CSE-in-national-interest-Chief-Imam-785411).

 

In these two statements, there is a clear indication that the cultural and moral values of the people of Ghana must be respected and protected. Government had, over the past few days, after one exposé after the other was made in their frantic efforts at blaming everyone than themselves, come under severe public backlash with demands that this new curriculum must not get close to children of parents.

 

It must be established that reading across the objectives of the various international agencies that are funding CSE, there is a clear agenda targeted at adolescents and people younger. Adolescence is determined from between ages 10 and 19. If the objectives are currently targeting children below adolescents, then there is cause for worry. Undoubtedly, the Swedish Government is providing funding for what it captured as “curriculum-based CSE”, which clearly spells out the mode of administering the Comprehensive Sexuality Education to children including those of Ghana.

We have had contradictory positions from government officials key among them, the Minister in Charge or Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh. Perhaps unaware, he was recorded in a video in February, 2019 stating clearly that CSE would be introduced in September, 2019. He was soon to deny any knowledge of it, and to make claims that the said CSE has not been included in the new curriculum framework and Teacher Resource Packs handed to teachers. However, evidence on the ground points to the fact that teachers were indeed trained and remunerated over CSE, have been given resource packs that contains CSE, which are currently available in schools.

 

Again, what emerged was the fact that in 2019, the full budget document submitted to Parliament, on page 86, paragraph 369, contains a statement on CSE presented by the Finance Minister which clearly indicate government’s knowledge on the subject and its inclusion. One wonders how an unapproved topic had found itself into an approved curriculum.

 

Fast forward, the president has sought to give parents assurances that under his watch, same sex orientations would not be allowed to take hold. Many had expressed skepticism over his commitment to his words. In the past, he was emphatic that he would not run a government made up of family and friends, but his government actually consists of family members and business associates never witnessed near what he criticized in the past. He was also reported to state that he would not collapse ‘Galamsey’ but he has actually collapsed it and instituted stringent laws that would punish severely, anyone caught in the act.

 

Following his statement that same sex marriage and the legalization of same was “bound to happen” on Aljazeera in November, 2017 on “Talk to Aljazeera”, there were fears on what he actually intended. Even though sometime in April of 2018, he was offered a perform by the Global Evangelical Church to clarify his position, many fear how genuinely he is committed to his words especially after hinting that the emergence of a force would give rise to the legalization of same sex.

The crux of the matter is that, even if under his watch, same sex would not be approved, as it is obvious over 95% of Ghanaians including his Majority in Parliament would not want to have anything to do with its passing into law leading to him promising the nation, what would one describe moves to ensure that a curriculum is structured in such a manner than would provide room and tolerance for one’s sexual preferences which would in future bring into full force a change for the legalization of same sex many many years after he has left power? Would one not be right to say that his government gave the tacit approval to same sex legalization in Ghana? These are the genuine fears that Ghanaian parents harbour, and would require more than words to be allayed.

 

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ACCOUNT FOR COVID-19 FUNDS BEFORE LEVYING US

For quite some time now, I have relaxed in writing. Not because I have nothing to write, but because there are too many issues unfolding which are so important and complicates what topic to choose to write on. Today, I have decided to concentrate some attention on the signs that are becoming clear of the next four years of the President Akufo-Addo’s government. Governance is an important part of every nation. Where it goes right, the people benefit, and where it goes wrong, the people suffer. Many were those who were ecstatic about a year ago over what government termed free interventions to businesses and individuals. There is no doubt that some people benefitted from these interventions, but the question remain, how many people really benefited contrary to government claims? And how do we verify the claims of government in the absence of data? This article would raise some critical issues that we all need to reflect over and demand, the basis of which government may just be open to us and make governance better.

It has emerged that the free water to “all” citizens and free electricity to lifeline customers and the proposed 50 per cent reduction for domestic and industrial consumers, were not free after all. We are waking up to a levy in this regard which government hints it intends to use to pay for the expenditure made to the tune of some 19 billion Ghana Cedis (3.16 billion USD). This proposal in the Budget and Economic Statement of 2021 presented before Parliament a couple of days ago, has attracted public uproar with many condemning same. As usual, there are those who would defend it, albeit that they were part of those who trumpeted the goodness and mercies of the president at the time for providing these services for free without any knowledge that Ghanaians would be asked to pay for them after the elections of December, 2020.

We must put the issues in their proper contexts. When in March, 2020 thereabouts, the President decided to impose a lockdown as a result of the country recording Covid-19 cases, some interventions were announced. Before then, proposals were made for the government to access the Stabilization Fund established by the previous government of John Dramani Mahama for the purpose of providing cushion for the Ghanaian people on whose behalf the Fund was set up. Because of the widespread support, including the suggestion coming from the former President John Mahama, Parliament was able to amend the Act establishing the Fund to enable the President through the Finance Minister withdraw USD200 million (the equivalent of Ghc1.2 billion).

In addition, after meeting the conditions set by the World Bank, some initial USD35 million was released to support Ghana (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/04/02/argentina-banco-mundial-covid-coronavirus). Subsequently, another USD65 million was released as part of the support for Ghana for the fight against Covid-19 (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/11/10/world-bank-group-supports-ghana-to-boost-its-covid-19-response). Soon after, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advanced a Rapid Credit Facility to the tune of USD1 billion to Ghana to aid in the fight against Covid-19 (https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/04/13/pr20153-ghana-imf-executive-board-approves-a-us-1-billion-disbursement-to-ghana-to-address-covid-19). It is significant to note that the IMF facility is an interest-free loan with a 5 year moratorium which simply indicates that the loan repayment begins after 5 years. This again suggest that the Akufo-Addo second term in office would make no repayment on the IMF Rapid Credit Facility. It also means that the President who comes after him in 2025, would be the one to look for money to start repaying the loan.

It is also important to recall that the IMF facility was approved on or about the 13th of April 2020, and by the time disbursement was done, the lockdown imposed for which this fund was badly needed, was lifted on the 20th of April 2020, just 7 days after the money was accessed. Ghanaians went about their businesses with only news of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) providing stimulus packages for businesses.

We must also remind ourselves of some important issues that raise serious questions on the use of the Funds secured. Before that, I must establish that due to the challenges of Covid, the government launched a Covid-19 Relief Fund and solicited for funds from businesses and individuals. It emerged that even state institutions made donations into the fund with questions on the legality of such conducts. As at the last recall, some Ghc50 million was reported to have been donated into the Fund. This Fund was expected to be used to provide relief to those who require it. We are yet to have a full record of its usage.  

Government apprised us to the effect that during the lockdown, some 400,000 citizens were provided food. We all saw what was fed people and how that was done. While, in Parliament to brief the House, the then Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, could not explain the very criteria that was used to select the said 400,000 Ghanaians who benefited from the food distributed. Indeed, what government did was to determine the amount of money allocated, determine the cost per head, and the amount allocated divided by the cost per head and to arrive at a figure of 400,000. There was no transparency in this process, and there was no serious accountability.

In any serious country, the poor and vulnerable who needed this intervention, would have been identified, their various places of residence marked with a list identifying each of them, and then they are marked on daily basis as soon as they take their food. What was done was short of this, and yet, Ghanaians are expected to swallow government narrative. What we saw, were trucks with cooked and packaged food, once they arrive at a location, anyone who is able to show up, gets served and that was all. We forgot that there are people with disabilities who might not be able to come out to get their food but who needed it most, and who never got the intervention so intended. I therefore would refuse to accept that 400,000 Ghanaians were fed during the lockdown until such a list is produced that can be verified.

In the 2021 Budget estimates presented in Parliament, the Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs in paragraph 361 states “As at end December 2020, about GH¢412.88 million has been disbursed to support 277,511 businesses of which 69% were female-owned. The scheme has saved over 650,000 MSME jobs. In addition, 8,159 beneficiaries received technical training on Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy and Bookkeeping to improve business practices.” It is difficult to doubt these figures. However, it is highly difficult to believe the same figures on the back of the principle I advanced in the paragraph above. It is easy to throw in these figures in an attempt to balance the budget and to conceal the real expenditure made in this regard. I would call on the Finance Committee of Parliament, to as a matter of need, demand the full list of the said businesses that benefited from the interventions to confirm the 277,511 figure provided in the budget. A simple mathematics, which may be flawed because the packages were not distributed evenly, provides that by dividing the 412.88 million by the 277,511 businesses, each business received some Ghc1,488 (the equivalent of USD248). We need to know what went into these disbursements and their impacts.

As cited earlier, we accessed 1.2 billion Ghana Cedis free money from our own savings for use during the pandemic. Its usage is eluding us as government has remained unwilling to speak to the usage comprehensively. We expected that part of this money, including other funds such as the one from IMF, would cater for the supposed free supplies. If today, we are being asked to pay back in levies, I would be right to wonder what we used our own free savings to do. We are aware, and as I stated earlier, that the IMF facility which is the largest, granted Ghana a 5 year moratorium. The Akufo-Addo government would make no repayment on this facility. That being the case, why is he levying Ghanaians in the name of paying back for the freebies? Is it not just fair and right to leave the campaign to mobilize for funds to pay back the loan with the next government that would be charged to pay? What he is doing now, is simply to mobilize money to meet budget expenditures and then leave the loan amount for another government to pay. That truth must be told us.

Further, we are being charged a levy for the collection of refuse dubbed Borla Levy. We must again ask what this has got to do with Central Government in our context. We have assemblies that have consistently charged levies on citizens. The waste collection companies charge for the waste they collect from households. What therefore is the basis for the proposed introduction of this Borla Levy for revenue to the Central Government? I think we need some explanation.

We all recall that when the Value Added Tax was introduced in about 1995, the current President Nana Akufo-Addo, joined a demonstration against the proposal. This led to the death of one of the demonstrators which attracted wide attention and commentary. Many were those who believed that his involvement in that demonstration, shot him into the political limelight of Ghana. One would have thought that he would have nothing to do with VAT soon after becoming president in 2017. But, that was not to be. In 2018, under the guise of restructuring VAT, an increase in the rate was observed. In the 2021 Budget and Economic statement, there is a further proposal to increase the VAT rate by an additional 1 per cent. Several other levies have been imposed including some in the energy sector which is expected to increase the cost of a litre of fuel.

I have had to bring in these issues of taxes in addition to my presentation on the covid-19 expenditure to expose how government is desperately in need of cash to meet its fiscal obligations. The recent attempts to slash the budget of the Legislature and the Judiciary, speaks a great deal of how broke government is. The management of the Covid-19 funds reveals how reckless government was in organizing its expenditure. We should have known that since the pandemic had no timelines, we ought to have been circumspect in the rate at which we depleted monies that came into our hands as we were lucky to have. We behaved as if we had in our minds, the duration of Covid-19 and proceeded to expend the monies in such a way that would provide political advantage. The reality faces us, and the ordinary man who might not have benefited from any of the so called freebies, would be compelled to pay for government’s recklessness in spending.

Indeed, at this time that government is burnt on recovering from the shocks of Covid, we are not out of the woods. Covid-19 is still having an impact on our economy. Not too long ago, Brazil had had to contend with rising cases. Some countries have recently reintroduced restrictions in order to have a grip of the ravaging impact of the pandemic. So what happens, perish the thoughts, if Ghana happens to be hit yet again? As we speak, many people are yet to find their feet back to work. Businesses are merely surviving, others remain closed because they are unable to operate based on the measures government had introduced.

In all of these, I hold the view that government had not been transparent to the citizens. There has been a complete lack of transparency in the handling of the entire Covid-19 crisis. People might have used the opportunity to make money which the state must be interested in retrieving. In order to ascertain that, there is the need for a special audit into the management and use of all monies secured in the name of dealing with Covid. We are almost 4 months into the year 2021. We are yet to receive any assurances of any full-scale special audit into the management and utilization of the Covid-19 Funds and related revenues and expenditures. Government must provide the citizens with a full list of those who handled the monies, what they used it for, and those who benefited so that we allow persons listed the opportunity to confirm or state otherwise what the claims in the accounts are. We just cannot ignore this and pretend nothing had happened. We need to demand higher standards of accountability.

Governance must be aimed at resolving the curiosity of citizens. A transparent government will attract the support of the people. What is the motivation to pay additional taxes when existing revenues are not accounted for in a manner that set aside all doubts? The duty of government must go beyond taxing and spending, just as the duty of citizens must go beyond paying taxes and hoping that they are spent in the right manner to include demanding accountability at all levels with government willing to remain accountable when called upon.

I am of the view that the Ghanaian people must be given sufficient reason on how what they were told to have been given free of charge, has had to be paid for. It therefore requires that accounts are rendered fully so we know our shortfalls and the measures being put in place. In that way, we will be more than willing to contribute our quota towards the development of this country of ours.

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STAYING CONNECTED TO YOUR FOLLOWERS

I have spent the last two months studying a phenomenon on social media. I have used the period trying to ascertain the level of engagement by “Stars”, prominent persons, business men, politicians, DJs, actors and actresses, musicians etc. on their Facebook Pages. I would piece together this opinion without specific mentions except to make a few indications on some relevant information for the purpose of this article.

I have observed many personalities some of whom, have followers of between ninety thousand (90,000) and 8.1 million. From my observation, something is wrong with the level of interactions involving the personalities on their respective pages. I would not pretend to know than anyone in this regard, but my little understanding is to the effect that social media was actually meant to bridge the gap that was built over the years between audience and traditional media. This cannot be in doubt if we examine how social media networks have tried to connect as instant as possible, audiences to the people they follow.

People do not choose to follow your account for nothing. They do so with the aim to reach you as you attempt to reach them. Unfortunately, this entire space for those I have observed, has turned into a one way communication channel. Today, in order to incorporate the views of listeners and viewers, as well as readers, radio stations, television stations as well as newspapers, have created online platforms and have created other avenues that allow their followers to make inputs and to air their views.

Today, people are comfortable associating with individuals and outlets that would make them relevant and appreciated. If you have a huge following and you assume that is just an opportunity to keep dumping your materials without finding the time to appreciate what people say on the page, you are getting the entire concept of social media and your presence there wrong. 

How possible is it, that, a person with over 4 million followers, could make a post and after one (1) day, get less than 100 comments? Is it for nothing? Or it is simply the feeling by followers that the accounts do not respect their time to comment on posts made on those pages? I specifically examined some accounts. In the first instance, one of a Nigerian celebrity with a following of 2.7 million made a post of four days at the time of putting this piece together (Sunday Jan. 31) and had 74 comments and 9 shares. Another account of one top movie actor with a following of 1.6 million made a post on the 24th day of December 2020 and had 199 comments with 25 shares by day of 31st January, 2021. A top Ghanaian Dancehall musician with a following of 2.7 million made a post on the 24th day of January, 2021 and ended up with 283 comments and 106 shares. 

In my further reviews, another top actress in Nigeria with 2 million followers made a post which was about 19 hours by 18:07 GMT of 31st January, 2021 at the time of my review, and got 117 comments with 24 shares. A top Ghanaian Radio Show host with 575k followers made a post which was 1 day old at the time of my review and ended up with 13 comments and 3 shares. On 25th December, 2020, another top Ghanaian gospel female musician with 190k followers made a post and had 102 comments with 17 shares. A long standing and popular hip-life musician with some amazing tunes to his record, with a rather disappointing followers of 91k followers made a post on 19th January and had 47 comments with 4 shares.

I then reviewed the Facebook page of one comedian in the industry with 95k followers who made a video a day earlier and had 11 comments with 2.4K views. On 12th August, 2020 another top Ghanaian highlife star with 101k followers made a post and ended up with 31 comments and 15 shares. 

I bring you these figures to drive home the point that their walls could be better if they had been a bit engaging. For instance, if one spends time responding to 100 comments that are made by their followers, it automatically takes the comments up to 200, doubling the figures which would apply in the person who takes time to respond to 1k comments taking the comments to 2k. Consistently, Facebook highlights posts that are engaging in order to catch the eyes of many more. 

It would be simplistic to mount a defense with claims that some of these people could be more active on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, than Facebook. The point then, why do you have a Facebook Page? Why not close it if you think the followers on that platform are of no importance? Building a page is not an easy thing, and keeping it even requires more efforts. Opening a page to attract people and later ignoring same people is counterproductive and must be discouraged.

This problem can be solved. Get someone and engage the person professionally to manage your accounts. After all, no one engaging followers can be identified. The timing must be done in such a way that updates and engaging in conversations do not expose you. For instance, a musician on stage performing, cannot at the same time be engaged in responding to comments under a post. Once you do that, you have created a fake impression, and once your followers are aware that you are not the handler of your account, that ends it. 

The recruitment process can be technical. In this process, you must find someone who has the skills and the art. Without skills, no art can be perfect. The person must be able to have some needed skills on hand to communicate clearly. Every personality has a way of communicating his or her words, his or her choice of words, the level of tolerance, the level of acceptance of criticism etc. This requires that you find someone who can speak your language and type it out as you would do, and be able to hold discussions as you would.

This sometimes gets difficult especially when messages are sent that the manager of the account cannot just provide the answers, and where opening them without responding could mean a lot, the owner of the account is required from time to time, to manage the messages box to ensure that there is up-to-date engagement which makes the page more responsive.

I can assure you, that, accounts that are responsive, would always have engagements. An account that has the account name of the owner commenting under posts, motivates more than anything else. Is it not unfortunate, that, in so many instances, people who have nothing to do with the posts are those who engage in liking and commenting on responses from others? How beautiful, could it be, that, an owner of an account is seen religiously, and or from time to time, come under every comment to appreciate the comments with some efforts? 

Indeed, if the world were to remain where it was before Facebook and other social media platforms, no one would require anything extra from anyone. But to the extent that we chose to move with the new media from the old one, we must be ready to do what is required of us. If we cannot do these basic things, we have no business being on these new platforms.

The lack of efforts to make these accounts look real, has resulted in followers seeing these pages as dumping grounds, where their views are of no importance to the owners of the pages, and this pushes them to where they would rather be appreciated. Let us be guided, and Mr. Big Man, you could be bigger by engaging more, your followers. 

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WHY YOU MUST HEAD TO THE POLLS

Elections are a civic duty implored on every citizen of voting age to participate in deciding those who govern their state(s) over a period of time. The right to vote, has been fought for as a civil inalienable right which resulted in the loss of lives of many who stood to demand those rights. Back in the days, the right to vote and participate in decision making, was a preserve for a category of people. The many whose lives are affected by the decisions of the few, had no right in choosing who makes those decisions on their behalf.

Several civil rights, aside demands for freedoms from discrimination from access to public places and the unimpeded right to use state establishments, were hinged on the rights to vote and be voted for. Granting these rights, did not come easily. Unfortunately, many have rather chosen to reluctantly exercise these rights, and in some cases, refused to exercise them over what they say are the unprofitable gains in participating in voting.

Elections, no matter how they are viewed, at the national and parliamentary levels, are meant for the selection of leaders to steer the affairs of a nation to a “desirable” end. Unfortunately, and I must admit, many who seek political power, are engrossed in securing personal benefits over the welfare of the masses they are expected to provide for.

Ghana had had her version of its unique democracy. Indeed, the tenets of democracy are universal. Their eventual ends are to improve on the total infrastructure, both economic and social, provide jobs, and create an even and equitable opportunity for citizens to aspire and pursue their potentials to the end while granting them the freedom to choose their leaders and to change government anytime they desire to do so. Since independence, various military interventions were witnessed in Ghana. Indeed, the third republic was interfered with, giving way for the inception of this fourth republic that we are participating in today. Restoring Ghana to a republic in 1992, came as a result of the lack of our citizens to exercise their democratic rights which are greatly rooted in the rights to vote and be voted for.

Since 1992, we have held elections to elect leaders such as Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings of blessed memory, John Agyekum Kufour, late John Evans Atta-Mills, John Dramani Mahama and currently, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo.

The 2016 elections were quite unique. We witnessed a sitting President losing his quest for a second term to a candidate who was trying the presidency for the third time. The promises that were made in the 2016 elections, were quite unique. While the incumbent president was mindful of promises that may trigger the Ghanaian electorate asking why the promises being made were not executed while he had his first term, the opposition candidate had his free range to make promises that one can best describe as lofty, given the outcome.

Key among the promises made at the time by the current president were that he would protect the public purse, fight corruption, transform Ghana, among other promises. Indeed, in his promise to fight corruption, he promised to establish the Office of Special Prosecutor who was supposed to be the last stop in the fight against corruption. Prior to the establishment of that office, the President is on video to have promised the Ghanaian people that he had no space for those who were seeking appointment into his government to make “more” money. Upon the creation of the Office of Special Prosecutor, the President is on record to have stated that the Office of Special Prosecutor would instill the fear of God in corrupt officials.

Video credit: Ghanaweb.com

In the selection for the Office of Special Prosecutor, he went to Mr. Martin A.B.K. Amidu, a known anti-corruption crusader with the enviable title of Citizen Vigilante. Before his approval, long in 2016, Mr. Amidu went on a live video to appeal to the electorates to vote for Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2016 elections as he believed he would fight corruption at the time he Mr. Amidu had fallen out with the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the party he was a member of from its inception.

Mr. Amidu took office in 2018 following the creation of his office through an Act of Parliament. Over the period, many were those who were questioning his output after his constant public outbursts. Little did the public know that the very environment he required to work effectively, have been denied him. Key among such, are permanent staff and the needed salary. It emerged eventually that for 2 years, he worked without salary. He worked with staff on secondment, and without an established permanent office to enable him function.

What Mr. Amidu made us understand was that the President was interfering in his work as Special Prosecutor in the matter having to do with the Agyapa Royalties deal which can squarely be laid on the doorsteps of the Finance Minister who is a brother to the President. According to him, the President was making every effort to save his brother who could be a subject for investigation and possible prosecution. In the first place, Mr. Amidu erred in submitting a summary of his report to the President. Be that as it may, he never asked the President to act as a conduit in conveying the response of the Finance Minister, his cousin to he Mr. Amidu.

Fast forward, a couple of days ago, Mr. Martin Amidu had had to resign his position as the first Special Prosecutor after two years of occupying that office. Prior to his resignation, he undertook a corruption risk assessment into the Agyapa Royalties deal which sought to monetize our gold royalties. From his report, several infractions were identified which according to him, may require further investigations. Per the law establishing his office, he reserves the right to launch extended investigations into corruption and corruption related offences bothering on procurement.

Page one: Mr. Martin Amidu’s resignation letter

Page two: Mr. Martin Amidu’s resignation letter

Page three: Mr. Martin Amidu’s resignation letter

Page four: Mr. Martin Amidu’s resignation letter

In a response obtained from the President through his Executive Secretary, the President was exercising his discretion to ensure the other side, the affected party in the report, is heard. As stated, Mr. Amidu never solicited this help from the President. In any case, if Mr. Amidu had proceeded with his criminal investigations, and had processed the finance minister for court, he would have had the opportunity to have his side heard. Putting one in court on allegations of corruption, does not automatically imprison the person. That right for fair trial which provides the rights to defense, would have been exercised and or granted. Therefore, any action taken by the President to push the Special Prosecutor to incorporate the response of the Finance Minister into his assessment report, is tantamount to interference in the work of the Special Prosecutor who was expected to be independent in his dealings.

What has resulted in this whole drama, which in my view, is highly avoidable, is cronyism. The appointment of family members and friends into the government of President Akufo-Addo, places him in a position to act as a family head in government and as a result, intervene in all matters that would implicate his family members, rather than showing leadership in assembling corrupt appointees before the courts for trial over wrongdoing. The President has placed himself in a position of conflict – to watch his brother(s) taken through the courts for possible imprisonment when he could save them? In order to avoid such entanglement, it is advisable to compose a government with people who have no clear family relations that could weaken the commitment to fight corruption.

Readers must be clear in their minds that by waking to a situation where the President has paraded his family members and friends in his government, was a betrayal of the trust of the people. In 2016, he was emphatic to the people of Ghana that he would not operate a government of family and friends (ghanapoliticsonline.com › akufo-ad…Web resultsAkufo-Addo: “I won’t operate a family and friends government in Ghana … ). At the time, he was criticizing a single family member of President John Mahama, Mrs. Joyce Bawah Mogtari who was then a Deputy Minister for Transport. She was and is a lawyer, holding LLM in Maritime Law. Till date, she has not been cited in any corrupt deals four years after leaving office. So, to wake up to the current President appointing close to 60 members of his family in his government, is a betrayal of the trust reposed in him based on his promise.

The signs that led to Mr. Amidu resigning, are those that are predicated by the weaknesses of composing a government made up of family and friends. It weakens the leader, and makes him weak to fight corruption. It was never expected that Mr. Martin Amidu would make statements to the fact that the President was merely paying lips service to the fight against corruption. To him, the president has lost that fight totally, has shown no will to allow his office fight corruption, and as a result, resigned from a position he was expected to hold as a “poodle” of the President.

Two key promises were also that his administration would protect the public purse as well as transform Ghana in eighteen (18) months. I choose to put these two promises together because they interrelate. If one is able to protect the purse, one is able to use the proceeds from the purse to transform a country. At the time these promises were made, Ghana had about 86 ministers and about 600 Presidential Staffers. That list was considered large. Soon after taking office, Nana Akufo-Addo appointed 110 ministers and 1164 Presidential Staffers into office and later increased the list to 125 ministers and about 1,700 Presidential Staffers. This automatically increases the wage bill, increases the state expenditure on emoluments, providing accommodation, vehicles, and other offers including cost of foreign travels. One cannot protect a public purse with this ab initio.

The people of Ghana expected that based on the President’s promise to transform Ghana, that must be in line with his large government. Indeed, some individuals who spoke on the size of government, gave the president the benefit of doubt in relation to his vision to transform Ghana. As we speak, the promise to provide every village in the now five Northern Regions a dam, is nowhere near fulfilling. The promise to provide a factory per district, is nowhere near accomplishing. The promise to provide every constituency in the country the equivalent in Cedis of 1 million USD per year, has not been fulfilled. The promise to provide jobs, rather resulted in the collapse of businesses and job losses. The promise to build 350 senior high schools from scratch, has seen no school under construction. The promise to provide every village with water and to solve every toilet problem, has not been fulfilled.

The Ghana promised to be transformed in 18 months, has not seen anything close to that. Today, the people of Ghana who have access to potable water, continues to reduce because the current government has not deliberately expanded access to water as the population expands. Electricity expansion has slowed to some 2 percent in the last almost four years. This has resulted in government extending its target for universal access to electricity. While at that we must have at the back of our minds the fact that in history so far, this government has received more revenues than any government, and had borrowed than all governments put together since Ghana’s independence. Unfortunately, there are no massive infrastructure to be credited to the loans and revenues secured over the period.

The major interchanges ongoing in Accra including Pokuase, Obitsebi Roundabout and the completed Tema Motorway Roundabout projects, are traced to the John Mahama regime. The designs and funding for those projects, constituted part of the loans secured under the Mahama regime. Out of the over 150 billion Cedis secured in loans by the current administration of President Akufo-Addo, the only interchange that can be traced to its debts is the Tamale Interchange. Today, Ghana’s infrastructure drive has reduced. The records would show that capital expenditure has dropped significantly since 2017 compared to what it was in 2016.

The only government flagship, free SHS, had faced a glitch resulting in the introduction of a double track system because even this foreseeable challenge, we did not prepare for. We could not expand infrastructure in the various schools to accommodate the surge in numbers. In its third year, we are still not sure when this challenge is to be addressed fully.

Under the John Dramani Mahama regime, every district in Ghana can boast of one development project or the other. Nationally, monumental projects are seen. Today, the Akufo-Addo government cannot point to any projects in the health sector that match the Ridge Hospital, Bank of Ghana Hospital, Maritime Hospital, University of Ghana Medical Centre, Dodowa Hospital, Afari Hospital, Sewua Hospital, and the many hospitals, Polyclinics and District Hospitals across the country.

Few days shy of four years, the Akufo-Addo government cannot point to any single school they built that come close to the E-Blocks being built by the Mahama Administration ahead of 2016. Out of a commitment to build 200, some 123 were started with 46 completed before H.E. John Mahama left office. This government has not designed a single school, let alone construct same. The government of President Akufo-Addo cannot boast of a single public university that seeks to provide space for higher learning for our youth.

This government, since taking over, has not added a single megawatt to the national power stock even though it claims to have solved all our power challenges. However, we have been told severally of how the John Mahama administration left behind excess power that we did not need. How he left excess power, but was unable to solve Ghana’s power challenges, only operatives of the Akufo-Addo led government can help us solve that puzzle.

Ghana heads to the polls in a few days. The Ghanaian electorate has the opportunity to restore this country. The rights to vote, as stated above, is one that we must not and cannot toy with. There is need for the electorates to prove that indeed, they have the welfare of Ghana at heart. Building infrastructure, is development in every developing nation. No developing nation can be said to have developed without good roads, without state-of-the-art hospitals, without good schools, without potable water, without electricity among others. From all these indicators, it is just easy to look back into the administrations of the front runners to determine who has done better. In the area of roads, hospitals, schools, water, electricity, etc, John Dramani Mahama stands tall.

In the fight against corruption, while one would admit that John Mahama is and was not a saint, he handled corruption better than the man who promised never to let corruption come close to him. John Mahama was able to jail his appointees and processed others for court. He was able retrieve monies paid wrongly, back to the state. He never shelved any of his appointees accused of indulging in corruption. On the other hand, President Akufo-Addo is playing the saint. He presents to us, an image that he is working with angles who are clean and can never engage in corruption. He has shown lack of commitment in the fight against corruption. He has shown that at no point, would he allow his appointees who are dominated by family members in strategic areas, to be tried for corruption.

John Dramani Mahama, Flagbearer, NDC

As a result of that conduct, Ghana has lost the fine opportunity of benefiting from the skills of Mr. Martin Amidu who has shown commitment to fight corruption no matter whose ox is gored. The promise to fight corruption, has been proven a rhetoric under the Akufo-Addo government. In order to restore some dignity in our governance, we must elect a leader who has at least shown that commitment to allow his appointees who have gone off-track, to answer for their actions. A further step to keep President Akufo-Addo in power, means concealing corruption and protecting corrupt officials, while fighting and intimidating those who would attempt fighting corruption.

Ghana deserves better from you as an electorate. This opportunity to exercise your civic duty must not be overlooked, nor exercised wrongly. We cannot be seen rewarding weak leaders who promise one thing and do the opposite by flooding government positions with familial relations that ends up tying their hands from being able to demand accountability. December 7th, offers each and every one a glorious opportunity to make a difference in restoring our country back on the path of development. I have made a choice, and that choice, is to give my vote to His Excellency John Dramani Mahama.

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RULING FROM OPPOSITION: HOW THE NDC IS DOING IT

Since the launching of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto in Cape Coast, the Central Regional Capital ahead of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), so much was anticipated of what the NDC was to bring to the people. The ruling NPP was caught in the same situation the NDC was found ahead of the 2016 elections. As a ruling government, the party was to tell its story and in the same space, provide some hope of what it intends to do given the chance again. In that space, the government is also careful not to publish a voluminous document that would not attract readers. As a result, efforts were made to provide a document that would interest the electorates as was done ahead of the 2016 elections.

Unfortunately, it appears the very day the manifesto of the ruling government was launched, the document lost its public interest. Soon after that the NDC was expected almost immediately, but ended up postponing their manifesto launch for one additional week. Discussions from the ruling government were pointed at a theory that suggests that the NDC had nothing to offer the people of Ghana for which reason its manifesto launch was postponed. Then the day came, the much anticipated document was launched in a very colorful event at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Auditorium. That document, became the talk of the day and has consistently in parts, been subject of actions by the ruling government.

This article would focus attention on some very critical promises contained in the NDC manifesto that has gotten the ruling government scrambling upon itself to implement to show that there is nothing the opposition NDC would come to government to do. That proposition is completely amateurish. That sitting in an exam hall, a colleague was able to catch a point I intend to develop, doesn’t mean he would develop the point with the very details I intent to. The blueprint remains a masterplan of the originator and cannot be done by any other person who attempts to copy the idea. If one considers the processes adopted in formulating the entire NDC manifesto for the 2020 elections, it cannot be in doubt that the details and tactics are left outside the document. Citizens actually developed memos of plans and tactics of their intentions as inputs to the manifesto which was studied, discussed, and reduced into bullets for the purpose of marketing. The details are only known by those who read the documents and have possession of them. This cannot be done better by any other person other than the NDC formulators. It is therefore weak for anyone to ask what the NDC is coming to do if its promises are already under implementation. Simply put, the NDC are those who know better what they intend in their promises and they can best do it better. Here we examine some of the issues:

1. Public Universities Bill. This Bill, on Thursday 22nd October, was suspended and or withdrawn from Parliament. This Bill has been on the table for months, and had since received criticisms from the university community. I remember vividly how Professor Raymond Atuguba a law professor and Dean, School of Law, University of Ghana, and the Legon Branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) spoke vehemently in opposition to this Bill and indicated how the passage of the said Bill would infringe on academic freedom and make the public universities toothless. Indeed, in some few write-ups, I equally gave snippets of information on what the bill intended. The Bill mainly sought to give government an upper hand in the University Council. Following some major setbacks on the desire of the current administration to interfere with the freedoms of the public universities following the impasse at  Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Education Winneba (UEW) and the University of Cape Coast (UCC), the government attempted to install its desires, but was defeated to it.

As a result, this Bill was formulated to avert any such future “defeat” on the government. To deal with it, the government sought to reduce the University Council from its current composition of about 23 to 13 while increasing its representation to some 8 with 7 of the members on the council being able to form a quorum for meetings. What this means is that even the representatives of government on the Council can call a meeting and take decisions that are expected to bind all members on the Council. That was how rootless government was proceeding against all warnings. The government disregarded every public caution and was moving ahead. No one thought anything could stop the government from seeing this Bill passed into law knowing that it has majority in Parliament.

During the manifesto launch of the NDC, the Vice Presidential Candidate, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, who herself was a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast and who knows the value of academic freedom, made an emphatic statement to the effect that the NDC will withdraw and or repeal the Public Universities Bill if passed into an Act. This has led eventually to the government taking steps to suspend efforts at passing the Bill in the manner they would have. This tells readers of the lack of consultations that went into the drafting of the Bill in the form and manner we have it until its suspension and or withdrawal.

2. Inclusion of private senior high schools into government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) programme. The current government’s resort to running double tract at the Senior High School level was mainly due to lack of infrastructure in public schools. I have written extensively on how free SHS has come to stay and why we must move on to the next phase in dealing with the challenges confronting the policy implementation. These infrastructure gaps were noted by the previous John Dramani Mahama’s administration for which reason efforts were made to expand access. This policy was abandoned resulting in the limited spaces at these schools which brought about the current double track.

As an immediate measure, while implementing a permanent solution to run a single track, the Mahama future administration has promised to include private senior high schools in areas where public schools are inadequate to contain the numbers. This proposal was bastardized by the ruling government only for us to be told of a meeting scheduled and actually carried out with private senior high school owners to consider their inclusion by this government in the running of the free SHS programme. Here again, the NDC and Mahama’s plan has been proven right and the best alternative in dealing with the challenges of free SHS today.

3. Introduce Cocoa farmers pension scheme. This subject has also proven critical and of interest to cocoa farmers. Indeed, until Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities, cocoa was its major export which has sustained the economy for decades. We all can attest to the plight of cocoa farmers across the cocoa growing areas. It was therefore a welcome news from people who engage in cocoa farming when the pension scheme idea was proposed by the NDC manifesto because it provided hope that the cocoa farmer can be assured of some payments at old age.

As expected, a few weeks after this proposal, the Cocoa Marketing Board (COCOBOD) all of a sudden developed a scheme in this regard and was set to inaugurate it. It was amazing how the country and cocoa farmers never heard of this until the NDC manifesto was launched. Then by October of 2020, a supposed scheme was to be ready for cocoa farmers. This tells much of the pressure that emanates from the organic manifesto of the NDC.

4. Imposition of ban on salvaged vehicles. A couple of weeks ago, an announcement was made by this government that this ban has been suspended. Indeed, over the past few days, I have seen salvaged vehicles moved across the Accra-Tema motorway into garages for repairs and sale. This confirms the fact that salvaged vehicles continue to come into the country. Indeed, the ruling government actually went through the process of placing a ban on the importation of salvaged vehicles no matter their state. I remember how garage owners and car dealers raised objections and suggested modifications on what government could do. Unfortunately, their cries were ignored, and the Bill passed into an Act.

Every call by ordinary citizens who could not afford the alternative proposed by government were ignored. Not until the NDC manifesto was launched where the Presidential Candidate John Dramani Mahama promised to repeal the portion of the Act banning the importation, government was going to go ahead to implement the law. As the manifesto promise of the NDC in this regard began to receive widespread approval, the government began to reflect on the issues and resolved to suspend the implementation. We must all note that suspension does not mean repeal. As to whether or not the government has what it takes to suspend an Act of Parliament, is a matter that can be best addressed by lawyers and the legal brains. But, the overall effect of the NDC manifesto is that it succeeded in getting the government to put on hold, the implementation of the ban on salvaged vehicles. What comes to play after the elections, is to be seen in a matter of weeks should the current government retain power.

5. Expand access to professional legal education. Professional legal education is an issue that has been of great concern to lawyer hopefuls. The NPP actually stated that the expansion of professional legal education cannot be done at this shortest time. As a matter of fact, a peaceful protest by some law students last year to register their displeasure at the massive failures aimed at restricting their entry into law school for professional legal education, was met with brute force by the government. On that same day, the leadership of these law students sought the audience of the former President John Mahama to abreast him of their grievances. He listened to them, and made a proposal in his manifesto to ensure the accreditation of qualified faculties to undertake professional legal education.

As a matter of fact, the law students placed side by side the manifesto promises of the NDC and the NPP and analyzed it and concluded that they are more convinced that the NDC manifesto better addressed their challenges than that of the NPP.

All of a sudden, the school that was unable to pass 200 law students last year to undertake professional legal education, has passed over 1000 this year for same. This has led eventually to the proposal of running a triple track in our law faculties. Indeed, the solution of the NDC never intended running a double tract let alone run a triple track. As a matter of fact, the law students have still emphasized that the current dispensation remains inadequate to their aspirations and are still hopeful for the implementation of the proposals made in the NDC manifesto.

6. Legalize Okada (commercial motorbike operation). The use of motorbikes in Ghana is legal. As a result, the use of motorbikes for private and courier services is allowed by the laws of Ghana. On the other hand, what is not legally allowed is the use of motorbikes for carrying passengers for commercial purposes. What is quite interesting here is that the same law allows for the carrying of a passenger once no financial commitments are involved. Having looked at the issue, the John Mahama ticket has promised that commercializing the operation of motorbikes known mainly as Okada, is the best way to go. As it stands, even in the face of the law, commercial operation of motorbikes is still underway.

Today, we have communities within the capital city that as a result of bad roads, commercial vehicles have refused to operate to those communities. The only alternative means of transport remains motorbikes. This has made the operation of this means of transport a source of livelihood for some people. Indeed, these operations have penetrated into central parts of the capital city as people have resorted to the use of Okada in order to beat traffic that is increasingly becoming unbearable in the central parts of the city.

When this issue was addressed by the NDC in its manifesto, there were conflicting positions from the ruling government. At a point, the Transport Ministry hinted of a supposed blueprint and consultations that were leading to the legalizing of Okada operation. Then the Vice President made an emphatic statement to the effect that the government will not legalize Okada. This clearly stated the position of the government ahead of the elections with some 800,000 votes at stake. He proposed an alternative of providing Volkswagen (VW) vehicles to Okada riders. This proposal has been exposed as lacking deep understanding of the challenges that is increasing Okada operations. Traffic and bad roads have sufficed as the two major reasons for this phenomenon which cannot be resolved by merely providing vehicles to Okada riders.

Just as few days ago, the National Organizer of the NPP met Okada riders at Circle to provide them some form of assurances and to hint that the next opportunity given them would ensure the operations of Okada. It has clearly been established that regulating the operation of commercial motorbikes is the way to go. No matter what we do, this phenomenon is on the rise and we only need to ensure that this means of transport is safer. I made some suggestions in my earlier writings which are readily available on my website (www.askattuh.com). The overall effect is that the NDC’s position on the operation of Okada has pushed the government into a state of confusion.

7. Cancelation of Teacher Licensure Exams. This year’s teacher licensure exams was nearly suspended. Indeed, it was put on hold and deliberated upon. Indeed, it was obvious that the government did not really want to be seen to be giving too much to the NDC. But this was critical to teacher hopefuls. In addition to canceling the teacher licensure exams, the NDC promises to cancel the compulsory national service teachers have been compelled to undertake since this government took over, and to restore the automatic employment of teachers immediately they complete school.

As it stands, the government is yet to make any plans towards the other side with regard the cancellation of national service for teachers. The reason for the silence is that the national service of these teacher hopefuls would come next year which is of no pressing importance ahead of the 2020 December elections. The government feels there is no need making any decision on the national service of teachers because it would never come up for consideration until next year when it must have won or lost the elections. With the silence of government on this matter, they would continue the national service of teachers. And our teachers and teacher hopefuls must seek answers on the way forward.

The NDC continues to hold that it is sufficient to ensure the examination of teachers while they are at school without calling them back to write exams long after they have completed school. The first part remains a headache to government, but our teacher housefuls must have a clear mind on the position of this government on their fate after school or after this year’s licensure examination results are released.

8. Agyapa Royalties deal. As we speak, the deal is currently on suspension and not abandoned. This very deal is facing this current confusion because the NDC has made an emphatic promise to cancel the deal. Currently, efforts have stalled, at least openly, in seeing to the conclusion of the Initial Public Offer (IPO).

Government and the Finance Minister rose to the defense of this deal. They told us how this deal was the best to have happened to us as a nation. Few days ahead of its suspension, the Finance Minister was upbeat on how the deal was going to go through. He stated that this was the best time for the IPO to take place because Ghana stood a chance to benefit. It took the NDC’s strong position to put stick in the spokes of this Agyapa Royalties’ wheels.

9. Absorb Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo) staff into permanent employment. We need a little exercise here. I must begin by admitting the sincerity in the interview I listened to of the flagbearer of the NDC in his unsuccessful drive to deal with unemployment in his first term. He stated that he had that difficult because he focused more on building infrastructure which he believed could offer jobs to the people, noticing that he has committed to tackling the infrastructure and jobs concurrently in his next term. He promised a 1 million job opportunities in his next four years with a 250,000 employment avenues per year. He also advances that his BIG PUSH agenda is aimed mainly to provide jobs to our compatriots as well.

Today, let us take for instance a First Degree holder who has been recruited into NaBCo and attached to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA). That person is being paid an allowance of Ghc700 a month whereas if that person is recruited directly into GRA, he may earn a net salary of about Ghc3,000. In order to ensure that this said monthly salary is spread over 4 months, the graduate is recruited under NaBCo and deployed to provide services to GRA and be paid less. Do we in our true hearts, assume that if this person is recruited into GRA, he would not be happier?

That is why I am quite assured with the promise to ensure that everywhere these NaBCo trainees or recruits have been attached, they would be regularized and absorbed and be paid their deserving full salaries by the next Mahama administration. All of a sudden, I have picked signals that government has made claims to absolve fully and pay the standard salary to some 50,000 of these NaBCo recruits. This reveals that the NDC manifesto has touched on something very sensitive to our youth and employment.

10. Build district hospitals in districts without same. President John Mahama, candidate of the National Democratic Congress into the 2020 elections, began making these promises immediately COVID-19 visited Ghana in his attempt to link his masterplan in health which was virtually abandoned by the current administration until coronavirus threatened our health sector. It remains a fact that but for the interventions he made in the health sector, Ghana would have been badly exposed to the devastating impacts of COVID-19. As a matter of fact, top government officials were saved from the unfortunate impact of COVID-19 at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) which was built by the vision of the NDC.

The Ridge Hospital (Greater Accra Regional Hospital) which was designated for the treatment of COVID-19 was uplifted to its modern state by the vision of John Mahama. The Ga East Municipal Hospital, which was instrumental in this whole fight against COVID-19, was built and executed by the vision of John Mahama. As a result, he commits to ensuring that state-of-the-art district hospitals are built across the country for districts without district hospitals.

This whole idea was immediately hijacked by the current administration and trumpeted by the president. Having counted, he arrived at a number of 88 districts without hospitals. It is also on record that in his entire 4 years, not one district hospital has been built. On the other hand, the Mahama administration is credited with about 21 district hospitals. Between a government that had built none and one that has built 21 over the same period, readers can best determine who can do more of these given another opportunity.

11. Comprehensive Sexuality Education. This subject continues to linger. Ghanaians may seem to have forgotten that there are many answers yet to be provided some of which include whether this curriculum would be introduced or not. It was only suspended and as we speak, government is tight-lip on it. What are we to be confronted with in the next academic year? Parents must continue to harbor the fear of this whole drive being reintroduced. This year, we have not heard of this subject because the academic year has been suspended. By the time we get back to this, elections are over and should the current administration win, I have no doubt that this subject would be implemented. Otherwise, we should be hearing a definite position on this matter as we speak.

The NDC has committed to withdrawing this from our curriculum at the stage this government intended. Evidence has been produced of how this government is completely under pressure and has actually benefitted from funds meant for the purpose. What becomes of our views after “blessing” the same government with a second term? Don’t forget that when we still hold the power to decide on their fate, they almost walked over us with its implementation.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is seeking power to govern. The party is presenting a presidential candidate who has held office before and who has proven a great level of sincerity. In putting in place his proposed plan of activities, he went to the people, sat with them and took their views. This clearly manifested in the high level of interest and enthusiasm that greeted the manifesto when it was launched. As of today, that manifesto continues to prove to be organic with aspects of it receiving attention from government including the latest being the suspension of the Public Universities Bill for consultation. The NDC manifesto has proven strong and of major blueprints. No matter how the current government tries to implement its promises, as stated earlier, the best plans and tactics are in the heads of those who birthed the ideas. You cannot be deceived! Weigh the facts and place your faith where the plans and strategies with the tactics emanates from.

Governance is a serious social enterprise that must be undertaken in line with the aspirations and needs of the people. The moment this focus is lost, the legitimacy of the people only awaits “renewal”!

ASK

RIDGE HOSPITAL: A MODERNISED DEATH TRAP?

Medical care is one important aspect of human life that has led many governments across the world, if not all, to one way or the other, invest in medical facilities and equipment to deal with issues of health of citizens. No matter the political ideological motivations that underpins a government, the health of the people remain paramount. Indeed, a healthy nation they say, is a wealthy nation. This is engrained from the belief that when people are healthy, they can undertake economic activities that eventually brings bearing on the economic performance of any nation.

In Ghana, several coordinated efforts have been put into ensuring modern medical facilities with their attendant equipment to ensure safer healthcare delivery to the people. I must note the presence and significance of private medical facilities dotted across parts of the country, all aimed at providing the best healthcare to people at “affordable costs”.

So much was the commitment of government in ensuring affordable healthcare that the National Health Insurance Scheme was piloted and later introduced to ensure that the people of Ghana are able to access quality healthcare at the best affordable cost. I must note however, that, the purpose of this whole scheme is also being misused. I would spare a few thoughts on why I think so.

Today, you hardly could find a medicine that costs Ghc40 (less than US$7) and above, being issued on national health insurance account. Medications that are considered a bit “expensive”, are suddenly not available at hospital pharmacies. Funny enough, some of the pharmacists at those facilities, are able to refer you to a pharmacy they think you could get those prescriptions to buy.

This kind of system, based on its current establishment, may lead to the state losing money. Let us assume for instance, that I have been prescribed a medication that cost Ghc100 (US$14) to obtain from a hospital pharmacy under the Health Insurance Scheme, which I did not get from the hospital, and I have to visit a pharmacy to acquire, how is that unavailable medication at the hospital pharmacy gets treated?

For my candid view, hospitals cannot help an effective health insurance accountability in our current system without the national health insurance office having an office stationed in those facilities. Government has found an easy way to introduce capitation which in my candid view, solves nothing. Here again, if a hospital knows that they have been allocated Ghc1 million in claims, whether exhausted or under-spent, it would be expected that the hospitals would do everything possible to ensure that they spend lower to be able to make profit on the monies to be released by government. Under such circumstances, it can be expected that common drugs could be declared unavailable.

What I think could resolve this completely is that, if health insurance offices are located in hospitals, every patient who visits the hospital for service delivery on the health insurance scheme, could walk to their office after service delivery and have the records of medication delivered on the scheme recorded to aid in accounting for the exact amounts to be funded by the health insurance scheme.

Back to the very subject, the previous administration under His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, invested some two billion dollars (US$2 billion) the equivalent of about Ghc8 billion at the time, in lifting the image of government hospitals. That exercise resulted in the construction of the University of Ghana Medical Center (UGMC), the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, the Dodowa District Hospital, the Maritime Hospital, among others, with the construction of several polyclinics, district hospitals, regional hospitals, and CHPS Compounds. The commitment was simply to ensure the provision of hospitals as close to the people as possible.

The specific case of the Ridge Hospital, which is named the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, was to ensure that the pressure on the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, was minimized while maintaining that facility as the nation’s number one referral specialist hospital. The Ridge Hospital had seen its old structures demolished and a new modern medical block established from scratch. The first phase was completed and handed over in November 2016. The block underwent some synchronization and training as it was the first of its kind, (a paperless facility) which required training for its users.

However, since its opening to the general public and subsequent operation, it has recorded some unfortunate cases that brings to question, the need for such a facility if negligence and attitude to work would result in the loss of precious lives.

It has become common for those who have had experience in that hospital, to question your rationality of sending a sick relative to that hospital when the life of the person is at stake. People could easily ask you “do you want her to die for taking her to that hospital?”.

Naturally, we could understand the enthusiasm that would lead the public to take their relatives to that hospital because they see it new, and believe it has what it takes to provide the needed quality healthcare. But, upon experiences from some, it could be the worst decision to take a sick relative to that hospital on matters of life and death.

Recently, a colleague whose partner delivered at the hospital, had cause to complain bitterly to me over how unserious the medical staff were conducting themselves on his woman who had some complications during child birth. Another colleague also had cause to inform me how he resisted an attempt to refer his partner to the Ridge Hospital. According to him, based on sampled opinions, he feared losing his partner over medical negligence and recklessness in that facility. He told me that when the doctors at where his wife delivered mooted the idea of a possible transfer of his partner to Ridge, these were his words “I beg you, whatever you think Ridge could do to save her life, kindly do it here for me”. This, according to him, was because he feared losing the woman he cherishes. For an individual to pass such a comment on a new facility like Ridge, it tells a lot of what people make of the facility.

I have also picked concerns from a colleague who had a relative admitted at the hospital who recounted how, but for the fact that he has some experience in medical care, he could have lost his mother. He could clearly see how nurses were going about their businesses without any sense of urgency and concern. According to him, his relative, after having gone through a painful surgery, has only been administered paracetamol as part of the pain management protocol. He was able to go through the prescriptions and found that the doctor actually prescribed something else which was more effective, but the nurse was so negligent that she only came to administer what she felt to administer.

This takes me to two significant issues that became viral in our national discourse. There was an incident of one Mustapha Mohammed who lost his wife and baby at the Ridge Hospital due to negligence arising from a Caesarean exercise that his wife had had to undergo. The complaints were so bad that the man felt the hospital staff and those detailed to work on his wife, did not show care and had to result in her death. As a result, he proceeded to sue the hospital for a Ghc5 million (USD800,000 thereabouts) damages.

The second issue has to do with one Mr. Emmanuel Kuto, the Director of the Ghana Institute of Languages who lost his wife over what he described as wrong medication to his wife. According to him, though he had no means to confirm that his wife was administered wrong medication, he could gather from a phone conversation between the doctor and a nurse that the wrong medication was administered to his wife by the nurse, contrary to what the doctor actually prescribed.

Page 1: Screenshot of Mr. Emmanuel Kuto’s Facebook post
Page 2: Screenshot of Mr. Emmanuel Kuto’s Facebook post
Page 3: Screenshot of Mr. Emmanuel Kuto’s Facebook post
Page 4: Screenshot of Mr. Emmanuel Kuto’s Facebook post

Medical care is an important aspect of sustaining human life. Aside the beautiful edifices and wonderful equipment, if the human resource attitude to work is wrong, every other outcome would be wrong. The expenditure incurred by the state is therefore unjustified. Meanwhile, these investments, aside aiming at providing world-class hospitals for medical care, are also aimed at providing jobs to our compatriots in the medical and healthcare fields.

The Dodowa Hospital is one facility I thought could be a perfect example. But, in a discussion also with a colleague recently, she lost two of her colleagues during childbirths, one paralyzed and the other currently battling fistula. The unfortunate part is that, all these four individuals were/are nurses, who chose the Dodowa hospital for their antenatal because they also thought it was new and could provide them the best care.

I am greatly concerned over the damage we could be doing our nation if attitude in these modern hospitals do not proportionate with the edifices we spent taxes to build. Our modern hospital facilities, must not and cannot be reduced to death traps.

I am not by this article, suggesting that all staff of these facilities are the same. There are those who have taken their calling serious and dealing with human beings in accordance with their professional dictates. I wish to congratulate all such people. They must rise up and help clear the system of their colleagues whose actions are bringing a dent on their collective image.

The most devastating of all is that when issues of complaints are raised, they are mainly presided over and ruled upon by the same institutions. I do not think this speaks well. This cannot guarantee a fair outcome and portends a likelihood to cover up. As a result, I have carefully examined the promise made by the John Mahama manifesto to establish a Patient’s Protection Council which is aimed at implementing fully, the Patient’s Rights Charter. I believe this would provide the independence in bringing finalities to issues that arises from medical negligence among others.

Our new and modern medical facilities must live up to expectations. As our citizens see new medical facilities spring up in their areas, we must ensure that the confidence such structures comes with, accompany them to assure our citizens that we are making progress in our medical care and the commitment by government to deliver same.

IASK

THE MANIFESTO PRESSURE: HOW THE NDC DID IT

On Monday 7th September, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) launched its manifesto for the 2020 elections dubbed The Peoples’s Manifesto with the theme Jobs, Prosperity and More. The manifesto, which has received nationwide acceptance and generated a lot of interest, was compiled upon engaging the general public and taking their input in what they want a future NDC government to do for them. It was not surprising that the document was widely accepted and has dominated public discussions consistently almost two weeks after it was launched because it seems to have incorporated the general views collected from the people during the consultative process that began about October last year. Since its launch, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) seems to have abandon its own document of programs and policies launched two weeks ahead of the NDC manifesto, and rather, running to implement key and major promises that seems to have resonated with the people. This article will not exhaust the issues, but would serve as a catalyst for further writings on the subject matter of the NDC manifesto 2020.

The Akufo-Addo’s government backtracking on some major decisions it failed to incorporate the ordinary views of the Ghanaian gives you a clear indication of an African politician, whom, upon winning elections, assumes all wisdom to govern resides in him, and proceeds to assume that having been given the opportunity, all his decisions to be taken over the period of his mandate, have been legitimized by the victory in the elections.

Having realized that another election stares him in the face, President Akufo-Addo is in a dilemma as to implementing or not implementing critical issues on his table ahead of the elections. As we speak, he is yet to set in motion, the Agyapa Royalties deal. In that deal, with the little reading I did, the agreement expires by the 31st day of December 2020 if it has not been fully implemented. Unfortunately for the government, many people are speaking against it. Numerous Civil Society Organizations, political actors, including the major opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, have spoken against the deal with the NDC promising to cancel it when elected by the good people of Ghana. The government is in a fix on this matter. The unfortunate, but common claim of it having been passed by Parliament, has collapsed in this regard. The Minority of Ghana’s Parliament have successfully informed the Ghanaian people that they were not part of those who approved the deal. In effect, even though parliament can be said to have passed it, it remains a one-sided NPP affair.

Again, an issue of great concern to the academia, is an attempt to infringe on their freedom. The Public Universities Bill is ill-intended. The Bill was introduced in Parliament with the sole aim of curtailing the freedoms our people in academia enjoy, and to have government dominating the University Council. This Bill was informed by the failed attempts by the current government to interfere in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) impasse that occurred some years back. The intervention instituted by the government of Nana Akufo-Addo was questioned which later led to the withdrawal of that intervention. The later events at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), have all informed the current government to do something to prevent its hands from being tied should future situations as that of KNUST, UCC and UEW arise.

In that Bill, government seeks to reduce the number on the universities council from its current number of 23 to 13. The current arrangement, does not give government the majority on the council making it difficult for government to influence decisions at public universities. As a result, the new Bill has the proposal for a 13 member council, out of which, 8 are government representatives, and out of which, 7 can form a quorum for meetings and take decisions that are binding on all. If government alone has 8 representation on a 13-member council and 7 out of those 8 can form a quorum, then government has already taken over the university council, and can reach decisions that are clearly influenced by government.

The Public Universities Bills has been stiffly resisted, chastised for lacking the needed consultation, and having the current largest opposition party NDC yet again, promising to withdraw that Bill for good. The government once again, is under pressure because elections are staring into its face, and must bow to the wide demands for such a Bill to be abandoned. Just yesterday, the University of Ghana chapter of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has called on government to withdraw the Bill.

In addition, the nation is faced with a critical challenge in its transport system, the use of Motorbikes for commercial activities. Indeed, people have been using motorbikes, popularly known as Okada, to do deliveries from one point to the other, which is clearly a commercial activity, except that they do not carry on an additional passenger. The existing law, only ban activities related to commercial use of motorbikes. I am yet to know what definition fits those who use same banned means of transport to do deliveries which are in themselves commercial in nature. But, here again, the law does not prevent anyone from using a motorbike for private purposes. Indeed, it does not prevent me from jumping on my motorbike, and picking my brother on the back of it. The difficulty then is, at what point do we determine that the person sitting on the back of a motorbike, is a passenger, or a friend or a relative who is being sent to another destination at no cost?

We cannot be lost on the reality of this challenge in our country. The ban remains in force for years. Yet, statistics would show that motorbikes, since the ban was introduced in 2012, have increased in number. Indeed, the office of Ghana’s Parliament, where the ban was passed into law, has an Okada station right in front of it. It is providing food on the table of many young men. It is feeding families, paying medical bills, educating people. Indeed, not too long ago, while at the university, I had an opportunity of getting closer to a colleague classmate. Upon a few conversations, he was an Okada rider, he embarks on Okada business from morning, and comes to sit in class with all of us in the evenings. We graduated on the same day, and his schools fees was paid from this business.

And so, instead of pretending not to see the problem, and pretending to have a law that we all can agree has failed, we must find ways of ensuring that the nation safeguards its citizens – both lives and livelihoods, and that is what the NDC 2020 manifesto seeks to do. Laws are made for men, and not men for laws. We are expected to ensure that we implement safety measures while punishing those who have chosen upon themselves to disregard the measures instituted.

People are justified in their fears of the behaviors of some of these riders. Their blatant disregard for traffic rules, among others. But, we cannot look at that in isolation. I have come across Okada riders who are so respectful and focused. We must cast our minds to the fact that because they are not recognized as legitimate road users, the police, and we know how some of them have established themselves to behave, have made them endangered species. They arrest them for no wrong, and extort from them. As a result, in traffic intersections where they suspect police officers might be present, they disregard traffic regulations, thereby endangering their lives and those of their passengers and other road users. These can be corrected, I believe, with recognizing and legitimizing their road use. In order to ensure a safer Okada business, I have made these four suggestions recently in a Facebook post:

1. Differentiate between licensing plates of Commercial Motor riders (including delivery riders) and private motor riders. Currently, the blue plate is issued to every motorbike.

2. Separate private motorbike insurance from commercial motorbike insurance and ensure premiums that are realistic.

3. Set up motor training schools as we have with driving schools and ensure standardised training for the purposes of licensing for the riding of motor bikes. The current crop of riders can be trained to ensure safety while a medium to long term structure is instituted to ensure approved training ahead of obtaining a license to ride a motorbike for both private and commercial purpose.

4. If possible, consider the creation of a motorbike traffic unit at strategic police stations to enforce laws in this regard (automatically would lead to the increase in police force creating employment).

The current government deployed its communicators since this idea became public as a promise from the opposition NDC through its Flagbearer John Dramani Mahama, to discredit the idea and to bastardize same. The opposition seems to have stood its grounds and made its case clearer. The decision has received wide acceptance, and promises to result in electoral fortunes for the NDC. All of a sudden, the government that deployed its officials to bastardize the idea, we are told had long commissioned work into possibilities of legalizing the Okada business, and is in the consultative process to legalize same. Readers and Ghanaians are the better judges on what they have heard and how the government all of a sudden, has a plan on this matter long before they went to bastardize same.

Then the issue of Free SHS comes to the discussion again. I must establish that, free SHS has come to stay. The NDC, through its flagbearer John Dramani Mahama, has made it emphatic that he will not abolish free SHS. In my last article titled “GHANAIANS HAVE SETTLED FREE SHS: WHAT NEXT?”, I made the point that we must put this debate that the current government is seeking to approach using fear mongering behind us and focus on how to make it better and which of the political parties can convince Ghanaians that it can do it better.

Even those in government agree to the need to review the policy. A review in this case, includes ensuring an end to the double track which government says it is working at achieving. Indeed, what government communicators are doing, which they have failed at, is to make the point that the former president Mahama was against free SHS and could not turn around today. That is not appropriate. The simple question to ask is, “was the free SHS implemented smoothly without any challenges since it was introduced?” If your answer is YES, then you can talk against John Dramami Mahama, HE. If your answers on the other hand is NO, which means it came with huge challenges, then he wasn’t wrong.

As President, knowing the difficulties, he was aware implementing the police at the time with little infrastructure, many would be displaced. And it happened. The current government only found a solution in implementing a Double Track system. It didn’t mean infrastructure was improved at all, the alternative that John Mahama was advocating for which he preferred a delay in implementing the policy on a wholesale level. He began free SHS for some selected category in the day schools. That alone shows a certain commitment to providing free education.

I would spare a moment to address an issue, or better still, a concern I have had to address. Recently, following the manifesto launch of the NDC, there was an announcement to include private schools in the free SHS structure. This, has been advocated for by private school owners, who said that government should post students to them and pay exactly what it pays to those in the public schools, and they would deliver. This would maintain their businesses, and keep teachers in the private sector also employed. As we speak, many of those schools are closed down, and have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do not also forget, that, in preparing for such progressively free SHS as enshrined in the Constitution 1992, he began building fresh Senior High Schools in order to expand access. We cannot discount the significance of such interventions especially that each one of those schools, has the capacity to hold 1,400 students.

A friend, outside of this country, in a discussion recently, queried why the NDC would decide to include private senior high schools in the free SHS scheme. According to her, in the jurisdiction she finds herself, private senior high schools are performing better, and are the most expensive. As a result, she and her other colleagues, believe that we must keep private schools at their “best”.  I took the opportunity to clarify this very important issue.

For a start, I told her the situation in Ghana, is the direct opposite of what she and her friends assessed where they are. I told her, in Ghana, private basic schools, are performing better, while the public senior high schools, are those performing better at the senior high level. I asked her if she could remember the last time parents were massing up at private senior high schools to secure admissions for their wards at the time education at the level was decentralized.

The issue is, the public senior high schools such as Achimota, Aburi Girls, Wesley Girls, Mfantiman, Mfantipim, Presec, WASS, St. Augustine’s, etc, have carved a niche for themselves. The public SHSs have proven tops in that category. On the other hand, private schools at the basic levels from Crèche to Junior High levels, have proven tops. In effect, we see how parents who have used the private basic schools to educate their children and paid dollars and pounds in some cases, switch to look for public senior high school placements for their wards. As a result of that situation in the past, the pendulum switches, pushing those who have used the public basic schools, to now find space in private senior high schools because they could not make the grades.

The reality, I told her, is that, by ignoring the private schools at the senior high level, we are rather funding the education of the rich (those who secure admissions for their wards at top public senior high schools), to the neglect of the poor (those who are pushed into the private senior high schools because of low grades). So extending free SHS to cover private schools, means extending such funding to the poor as well. Indeed, the private school owners have committed to running the same programs at same cost as government schools and we can only take that opportunity and ensue adherence to the standards set in the government schools.

While at that, was it not surprising that days after the NDC manifesto made that promise to include private schools, the government which has ignored the inputs by private school owners and their suggestions, has run to go hold meetings with them to consider including them in the free SHS program?

I am sure the Ghanaian voter is more than sophisticated. The Ghanaian voter read through the lines and acted in 2008, some 12 years ago. In that year, the late President Mills promised to reduce fuel prices drastically. The NPP administration under President Kufour and Nana Addo as flagbearer, made claims that they were charging realistic prices and could not reduce the fuel. They took that position into the elections of 2008. When they could not secure a victory in the first round, they announced a reduction in the fuel prices. Professor Mills yet again, promises to reduce the fuel further. The elections were lost by the NPP on account of not being truthful to the people.

Same signs are showing today. Today, they have undermined the very things the NDC has promised and are now jumping over themselves to implement same. I am sure the Ghanaian can read between the lines, and knows where his or her bread would be best buttered!

ASK

GHANAIANS HAVE SETTLED FREE SHS: WHAT NEXT?

The President, Nana Akufo-Addo, during the New Patriotic Party (NPP) 2020 Manifesto Launch in Cape Coast over the weekend, made comments to the effect that the John Mahama administration cannot be trusted with Free Senior High School. He made so many other claims which I think are not really the case and needs interrogated further.

The people of Ghana were presented options in the 2008 elections including free SHS. They voted against the proposal for free SHS. The same people were presented options in 2012 which included free SHS. They voted against free SHS yet again. In 2016, the same people were provided options including free SHS, and they voted for free SHS among other promises.

It was about the choices the people made and what they choose their resources to be used for at any given point in time. At the time, between 2008 and 2016, what was the essence of providing free Senior High School education when basic schools were being carried out under trees? When many are without access to quality healthcare? When many are without access to roads? This is not to say that these conditions aren’t prevailing today. But, the reality of the Ghanaian ahead of the 2016 elections was that many schools under trees were removed. Many infrastructure at the Senior High School level were added, with new ones started and some completed, including the building of additional public universities which provided assured quality and affordable cost.

At the time of the 2016 elections, more hospitals have been built with many having access to quality healthcare than was the case between 2008 and 2016. Many CHPS compounds were built bringing healthcare closer to the people. Many roads were constructed, providing some relief in the area of roads to a large extend by the 2016 elections.

All these infrastructure requirements were prevalent, albeit improved ahead of the 2016 elections. Indeed, no matter the choice that the people made in public elections, the choices were not made for the other sectors to be abandoned. When the people made their choices between 2008 and 2012 to ignore free SHS, it wasn’t that they didn’t need education to be free, neither did they opt for quality to be compromised. They however made those choices to include the fact that the various educational infrastructure be improved, and the cost of education as affordable as possible. In living with these silent demands, the then administrations of Atta Mills of blessed memory and John Dramani Mahama, ensured that quality was improved, access was improved, and eventually, progressively free education introduced at the senior high level.

When in 2016 the people wholly opted for the implementation of free SHS, by electing Nana Akufo-Addo, His Excellency, they simply made choice for a wholesale implementation, knowing very well the alternative forgone, as the economists would attribute with opportunity cost. They made a focal decision that should ensure that no cost at all was paid at the senior high level. They were mindful that schools under trees were largely addressed at the basic level although not completely. They were aware that intake had improved at the senior high level through the addition of infrastructure and new schools by the Mills and Mahama administrations. They were aware that space at the tertiary levels were increased for additional admissions. They made these decisions, mindful of the fact that the population continue to increase.

When they made the choice of free SHS as an alternative to whatever the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was promising in 2016, they were aware that there was need to keep the expansion of water, electricity, roads, hospitals, schools as well, as more and more were needed considering the increasing population. They made those decisions with the greatest faith that those being elected, would remain decorum and sensitive to the other needs of Ghanaians including being accountable and bold to deal with corruption.

As Ghanaians would be presented the opportunity to vote in the 2020 December polls, they would make a total assessment of the performance of the Akufo-Addo administration in all areas of governance including their flagship promises that earned their votes.

While at that there are general policy decisions that Ghanaians would expect are held constant. For instance, Ghanaians never elected a government to assume office and increase the number of ministers from 86 to 125, particularly when their performance hasn’t set them aside as contributing anything significant to the governance of the people. When they voted in 2016 to elect the Akufo-Addo government, they did so without approving the appointment of family members including daughters and the mother of the president’s child, including cousins, nephews, brothers, sisters, in-laws, family and business associates especially that the appointment of one nephew of the former administration was a motivation for a promise by candidate Nana Akufo-Addo never to appoint his family members and friends into his government.

The people, while voting in 2016, never substituted “nepotism” for what is the case today, and never sacrificed the need for accountability. They didn’t know a time would come when a Managing Director of a Port could be appointed when two years after his appointment, the existence of the said port cannot be traced, yet the Managing Director would keep drawing salary over his position. They never elected that corrupt conducts such as Ameri, PDS, Australia Visa scandal, BOST evaporated oil, among others, would not be investigated and punished. They never opted that a managing director of a state organization would spend 1 million Ghana Cedis ($173,000) to expand a two bedroom house into a four bedroom house, with 11 air-conditioners for these 4 bedroom house.

The people of Ghana, while making that choice in 2016, never expected that their demands for standards and proper execution of decisions, would be disregarded. They never expected that the state power would be used to abuse innocent citizens on an election day with impunity without any efforts at punishing anyone as seen during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election of 31st January 2019. They never ceded their rights to their mineral royalties in an opaque contractual agreement as we are seeing today.

While they assess government on their big tickets, they would measure the dignity that has been brought to the seat of government. They would measure the Akufo-Addo administration to the extent that they lived their words preached while in opposition, and not based only on what it has done in government. For instance, some of the promises were that they would move the country from taxation to production. The Ghanaian people are in a position to tell how far they lived that promise.

They promised to protect the public purse. The scandals that broke out, the monies that have been lost, the large size of government, among others, would be assessed to evaluate how these protected the public purse particularly how government acted to safeguard the interest of the state in such efforts to fleece the state. For example, when ECG, an organization with assets valued at 20 billion Ghana Cedis ($3.5 billion) was handed over to PDS based on what government described as fraudulent representation, with its attendant loss of USD190 million based on the withdrawn Compact II agreement, the Ghanaian people would hold accountable government decision not to pursue any individual(s) whose actions and inactions resulted in such a loss to the state.

As the people go to the polls in December on who gets the nod to govern for the next four years, some decisions are settled. There is no way Ghanaians or any leader can reverse the free Senior High School policy under implementation. That debate is settled. The only way that would be up for debate is if any of the two major parties were promising a withdrawal of the policy while the other advances arguments of maintaining it. As a result, the discussion must shift to how best that policy can be improved not to compromise on the quality of the future of our children.

As we speak, even government would agree that the free SHS requires a second look. The government agrees more infrastructure is needed to end the obnoxious double track system which has cut down on the contact hours of school children. Government would agree that increased intake means increased need for text books, among others from government at a time that parents are expected to pay nothing. The results of what we saw on our social media and television screens from some senior high schools soon after the commencement of the West African Senior Schools Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), with the braving show of high sense of entitlement, wouldn’t be endorsed by any parents, let alone government.

The decision by a government to opt for the investment of public funds into past questions, examiners report and marking schemes and training of teachers in same, instead of ensuring the total completion of the academic syllabus, would be measured as to be either good or bad by the people. Merely implementing free SHS without recourse to ensuring the highest quality, I am not sure is what parents opted for in the 2016 elections when they voted for a decision for the NPP government to come take over the rings of power and to implement it.

I am sure that an assessment of a decision into the next four years, would include how best this whole free SHS enterprise can provide parents the comfort that their children’s future wouldn’t be compromised. They would expect the two major political parties to make commitments to that and I have no doubt that if the people do not see that in the ruling government that implemented the policy, they would not remain “blinded” to an alternative that gives them that assurance. I would rather suggest, that, instead of wasting efforts at creating fears about what the NDC and John Mahama bring to the free SHS table, irrespective of their position in the past, the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo must spend time promising on what it would do to prevent the scenes that occurred recently that many Ghanaians condemned including the blatant insults on the person of the president by beneficiaries of this free SHS.

Yes, it is true that the NDC and John Mahama, even though evidence abounds that began the progressively free education, were not for the wholesale implementation of free SHS with reasons that include the lack of adequate infrastructure. That notwithstanding, the people of Ghana have opted for it. The next administration wouldn’t rely on the personal funds of the president to fund free SHS. The people have chosen the use of part of their resources for the total expenditure on free SHS. Which president cannot commit the people’s resources to what they chose it to be spent on? For this, anyone can do. What would be exceptional is the details of that exercise on how best it would inure to the benefit of the people.

Free SHS has come to stay. Not Nana Akufo-Addo or John Mahama, with the greatest of respect, can cancel it without the total national debate on this whole enterprise. As a result, enough of the threats and fear mongering on this policy. We demand cogent and adequately measurable measures that would assure us quality. Aside free SHS, there are numerous teething problems facing the people. Access and coverage of quality water has dropped from the 76% in 2016 to some 68% in 2019 as a result of increased population without commensurate investment in water infrastructure. Access to electricity is reducing in percentage terms as the rate of expansion has slowed while target for universal access to electricity has been extended.

So much faces the people of Ghana including their roads, schools (beyond the freebies), hospitals, jobs (which remain a challenge to the youth), among others. For instance, during the launch of the NPP manifesto of Saturday 22nd August, no further plan has been laid out on the fate of NaBCo trainees into a next Akufo-Addo administration as their 3 years contracts are due to end in 2021 thereabouts. These ad hoc measures, though addressed a certain need, have failed to tackle them fully, and we should be concerned over how we can solve some of these challenges for good.

I wish to conclude, that, Ghanaians must be respected ahead of this campaign to have the sophistication to discern. The same people who made choices in the 1950s have made their choices into the 2016 elections, and have what it takes to make decisions into the 2020 elections. Fortunately for the Ghanaian people, the two front runners have served one term each and they are in a position to determine their sincerity towards the people. They can measure Nana Akufo-Addo on his delivery regarding the things he projected as wrong under the Mahama regime. They can also measure how the Mahama administration handled similar instances of issues they have witnessed since 2016 and can best judge for themselves who is more sincere and sensitive to their needs.

 

ASK

OUTDOORING OF PROF JANE NAANA OPOKU-AGYEMANG AS RUNNING MATE: WHAT I GATHERED

Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, Running Mate

On Monday, I saw a clear shift from the political journey that was embarked on for years which has proven unprofitable and unproductive to the challenges of the Ghanaian people. A political system which had praised political jabs over deliverables. A political system which fed largely on soundbites and slogans other than the key and core issues that confront the people of Ghana.

We saw for the first time, political statements delivered which were focused on the needful, which focused on the issues that threaten our very existence. Statements that are incontrovertible and factual. Statements that are seen to be sincere and thought-provoking. Statements that provide a clear understanding of the path we seek to pursue as a people (click to read full statement noa-maiden-speech-final.docx)

Before her maiden public speech since her selection, the Flagbearer and Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), H.E. John Dramani Mahama had had to address the gathering and the people of Ghana. He was clear in his mind whom he chose and why he made that choice. He used the opportunity to extol the virtues and achievements of the Professor, Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang. He endorsed her contributions to his government as Minister of Education. The educational sector of the Mahama administration of 2012 to 2016, is one of the sectors that can boast of massive developments.

The sector saw for the first time, a government intervention that was aimed at building over 50% of Senior High Schools that existed since the inception of our 1st Republic. As a result of that pursuit, an initial plan to provide 200 Senior High Schools across the country, designed and built afresh, was in force. This led to the commencement of 123 of such projects across the country with about 50 completed before the Mahama administration exited power on January 7th 2017.

The numerous interventions in the areas of classroom blocks, dormitories, dining halls, among others, in existing schools across the country, is evident. Under her term as Minister of Education, she oversaw the conversion of most of our Polytechnics into Technical Universities. She also oversaw the conversion of teacher training colleges or colleges of education into diploma awarding institutions which automatically improves on placement and salaries.

She also spearheaded over the abolishing of the quota system in our colleges of education and nursing training institutions. This particular policy came with its political disadvantage. However, it is important to note that the implementation of that policy increased enrolment at Teacher Training Institutions from 9,000 to 15,400 in its first year. While it can be argued that the intervention affected a category of students, it is also important to stress that it resulted in some 6,400 additional teacher trainees having the opportunity to realize their dreams.

Today, while political capital was made out of that decision, it must be stated that even though the allowances were announced to have been restored with their attendant arrears, the quota system has been restored painfully. This means that instead of schools admitting to full capacity, they admit only those government is able to pay allowances. This comes with its resultant corruption as heads of institutions may be tempted to make demands before admitting desperate students who would be paid allowances after all.

To her record, many administration blocks as well as educational offices have been built across the country. I provide an attachment here for perusal of her records in infrastructure among other things, in the education sector (find document attached acheivement-in-images.pdf). An attempt to delve into the details, would prolong this otherwise short piece of work intended.

So her boss, the former President John Dramani Mahama, had a duty to project the choice he has made. He took the stage to provide information and to appeal to the conscience of the electorates. Particularly, he appealed to the women, those who make up majority of Ghana’s population, to see hope in her. He sends a signal of his commitment to provide empowerment to more women. He pledges a minimum of 30% appointments to women in his next administration.

While at that he took the platform to deal with issues of national interest that bothers on the handling of important issues by the current administration. He notes the handling of the financial sector on how a decision could have been made to save the sector at a cost of Ghc9 billion instead of a clean-up that cost the nation Ghc22 billion.

He also notes the spate of nepotism being witnessed where he believes state’s resources are in the hands of a clique. He believes the populating of state institutions with family members, does not build national cohesion. He also touched on how the nation is being divided with consistent and relentless efforts by the ruling government to determine who is and who is not a Ghanaian. He assures of a government that would hold Ghanaians together as one and would work for their common interest.

Former President John Mahama, assures the nation of slashing drastically, the current ministerial list from its current 125 by at least 40. He commits, that, the proceeds with regards the salaries and emoluments that would have been paid these appointees, would be channeled towards engaging and remunerating Assembly Members in the collection of data to feed into the National Births and Deaths registry.

 

In his presentation, you see the genuineness of a man who has learnt lessons from mistakes made in the past. His running mate, Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, made the point that her engagements with her boss, reveals a renewed commitment towards righting the wrongs in the past. She assures the nation of her confidence in the man she is partnering into the 2020 elections.

In the delivery of the running mate Professor Naana Opoku-Agyemang, you see a woman who is warming up clearly into the political mood. You see a woman who knows her job is cut out for her. She knows she has a whole constituency of women she needs to appeal to. However, she is conscious of not drifting into the dirty political arena. She dealt with issues that revealed the wrongful handling of important matters of state. She touched on the unfortunate incidents that have greeted our electoral processes so far. The mere presence at registration centers for the purpose of registering to vote, had seen violent incidents recorded. As a mother, she expressed concerns and condemned those. She then took her audience to the North where she condemned the murder of a 90 year old accused of witchcraft. She believes old age should not be synonymous to witchcraft. Unfortunately, it’s only the poor old women who are vulnerable by virtue of their state, that suffer these ordeals.

She particularly, used herself to motivate women. She narrated her journey to the heights she has attained, and rallied support for her nomination and selection as a message of possibility for women. She sees her selection at that level, as a breakthrough for her fellow women.

She commands respect and has shown that command in her delivery. You see a woman who believes political office and campaign towards attaining that office, is to be based on how well the challenges of the suffering masses especially women, can be addressed. She notes the frustrations that the youth are subjected to when their dreams are on the verge of extinction. She showed a solid understanding of the challenges of the youth based on her several years of engaging them as Vice Chancellor, Minister and long before then.

You see a genuine candidate, who wasn’t interested in making headlines for merely scoring political points on the basis of attacks she is able to record in her speech. You see a speech that was well crafted and well delivered without the mention of her political opponents.

Her message could easily be associated to those it goes for. She believes using a platform offered her to concentrate on an opponent, automatically results in campaigning for the opponent. As those in media and communication would say, bad publicity, remains publicity. She was perfect in her choice of words and command over the language. Her professional acumen was brought to the fore with her interwoven skills in delivering a statement that had all the human, sentiments and seriousness required to reach her target audience.

The stage is thus set for the 2020 campaign leading to the elections of 7th December. It is important to be guided by the fact that it is not the speed of attacks, it is not the flowery speeches, it is not the slogans, neither is it insults that would serve the Ghanaian people with food on their tables. Rather, policies and interventions of government, would provide them that food.

I see in her, a humble intellectual who has defined a path of her political engagement leading to the elections. The National Democratic Congress (NDC), must take advantage of her credibility, sincerity and maturity and market her to the people of Ghana.

Whatever her records are, their general benefits are more relevant to the Ghanaian people than the few who are taking such opportunities thereby denying the many the opportunity of participating in the opportunities the state has to offer them.

 

ASK

 

THERE IS ALWAYS A BETTER WAY: INCLUDE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISMS IN DECISIONS

Author (Stephen Kwabena Attuh – ASK)

I chose to start this article with some lessons picked in an encounter with the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Her Excellency Claudia Turbay Quintero who also doubles as the Colombian Ambassador to Ghana. She said something that was striking when myself, Elikem Kotoko and Daniels Hollie met her to present a position paper on how best we thought the Electoral Commission (EC) could have acted on the register that was set aside by the Supreme Court of Ghana. We sought the opportunity to meet her long before the judgement of the courts were delivered, but as late as it was, it gave us the opportunity to recount how some of the decisions following the ruling especially by the government and the Electoral Commission, are contributing to the infections of innocent Ghanaians by the novel coronavirus.

In our encounter, the Diplomat made key statements which are worthy of note. In her statements, she opined that there is always a better way in the eye of the public when a government makes a decision. She states that leadership at top levels is just like a building with many floors. According to her, the next person on the upper floor at all instances, sees clearer than the one on the floor under him or her. She particularly states that an opposition to government’s decisions, is always done from the point that there is the belief that everything government does, it could be done in another way.

These two statements are indeed, indisputable. They reflect the essence of opposition to government actions and inactions. However, it is always important to read between the lines when you have a government whose actions are too glaring.

This article would deal mainly with the COVID-19 situation in Ghana and how school children have been risked and placed in harm’s way where there appears to be no turning back. The rising figures which so far, at the time of putting this piece together, has crossed the 25,000 mark, depicts a situation of community spread which we have failed to contain from the beginning.

The law has spoken, and as law abiding citizens, there is the need to immediately follow the dictates of the law. Having regarded the supremacy of the law, it does not set aside the value of reasonableness which informed positions for the need to reduce the number of people to appear at registration centers ahead of the December 2020 elections. Unfortunately, you have people asking if the December 2020 elections should be canceled if registrations between June and August should not be carried out.

The weakness in such arguments remain that those asking for the registration to have been limited to a limited registration exercise, are aware that the EC at a point, upheld the credibility of the register they have since set aside. They have also drawn attention to the risks COVID-19 poses to the masses. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) protocols include the fact that the coronavirus finds a fertile ground to spread when people are in close proximity. This stands a reasoning along the line that engaging in a mass registration, has a greater propensity to record more COVID-19 cases as compared to a limited registration. In any case, December remain some five (5) months away. If we were to be cautious to uphold the old register, and proceed to focus attention mainly in containing the virus, December would come with minimal risk if we could win over the spread, making elections easy to carry out. In effect, the situation of registration between June and August, and conducting elections in December, have nothing in common if we had focused attention on fighting the virus.

There are examples of other countries which have placed greater priority on the fight against the coronavirus. We can mention without effort, Mauritius which, as far back May 2020, has made strides in defeating the virus, (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.africanews.com/amp/2020/05/14/virus-free-mauritius-says-covid-19-battle-won-but-war-still-on/). Unfortunately in our case in Ghana, it appears the government was concerned over two issues at the same time without placing the most deadly as its top priority. The two issues that battled government’s attention were elections and coronavirus. The ruling government losing the upcoming elections, would not end the lives of the Ghanaian people if it so happen. On the other hand, the government losing the fight against COVID-19, has the potential of wiping out the Ghanaian population including those ruling, thereby, leaving us with no country to govern.

Two statements stands out for scrutiny. Even though one of the statements has been establish as having been plagiarized by Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo moments after they were made, Ghanaians need to place a lot of emphasis on interpreting government’s actions in relation to the claims the president made especially that these statements have gained space (one on the profile photo on the President’s Facebook Page to the effect that he is mindful of the next generation and not the next election https://www.facebook.com/nakufoaddo/photos/a.10150633519809836/10157032838614836?type=3&sfns=mo ) and (the other on billboards situated across the capital city of Accra and elsewhere, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/We-ve-what-it-takes-to-bring-our-economy-back-to-life-after-coronavirus-Nana-Addo-907105).

To deal with the first statement, “I am mindful of the next generation and not the next election”. This statement was made in or about 2016 the very year President Akufo-Addo was leading the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to wrestle power from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). This statement was applauded and presents a certain genuine statement that was forward-looking and presents a leader who was seeking power to build for the next generation.

Faced with the reality in 2020 to prove his commitment to his words some four (4) years on, it appears the reverse of the said statement is the case. Government’s calculated efforts presents it and the President as suddenly placing the next elections over the next generation. Today, we have a generation of Senior High students who stands a risk of being wiped away by coronavirus. Instead of being mindful of their future, a future they cannot participate in if they are dead, we are using them to satisfy the future political desires of the ruling government.

We cannot say we expect schools to remain closed forever. Indeed, schools cannot close forever. But, a momentary closure to ensure our school children are safe to return to school finally, is needed under the circumstance. Nigeria has set some example by withdrawing from this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/international/nigerian-students-wont-write-2020-waec-federal-government). It must be stated that this move is not without criticism from the Nigerian public. A read from the internet would inform readers of the scale of disagreement and criticisms that the government’s announcement by the Nigeria Minister for Education Mr. Adamu Adamu has received. The narrative would change if the situation we face in Ghana begins to show in Nigeria should schools reopen.

Kenya has, based on their assessment of the devastating threats of the virus, cancelled all academic activities until 2021, (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-africa-53325741). Education Minister George Magoha said students would repeat a year as schools had closed in mid-March, three months after the school calendar had begun, the BBC has reported. This is an example that seeks to protect young lives and for that matter, a whole generation for the future that is being built for them.

I revert to the second statement by the president in one of his national addresses to the people of Ghana while announcing measures put in place to fight the novel coronavirus. He re-emphasized the statement that we know how to bring back the economy to life but that what we do not know is how to bring back the dead to life. This statement was applauded and once again, exudes a certain genuine interest to the lives of the ordinary Ghanaian in the midst of the threat coronavirus poses to the population.

Soon after that statement, announcement upon announcement by the government were subjected to how it supports his stated claim. For instance, when it came out that schools are to be opened, the point was raised that this poses a risk. It stands a greater risk of getting school children infected. In an attempt to allay the fears of Ghanaians, the President announced certain measures that he believed would ensure the safety of these school children. Key among these announcements, are the provision of 3 nose masks to each school child, provision of hand washing buckets, sanitizers, soap among others. Unfortunately, some schools remain without these protective equipment weeks after they were opened.

Delays in the provision of these protective gears means risking the lives of these young children. Today, some schools have begun recording COVID-19 positive cases. The Accra Girls Senior High School in the capital city of Accra, has recoded 55 coronavirus cases as of 13th July 2020, (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/education/accra-girls-records-55-covid-19-cases.html). Similarly, other infections have been reported from Ola Girls in Ho, Bishop Herman in Kpando all in the Volta Region, Odorgonno Senior High School in Accra, Wesley Senior High School in Konongo in the Ashanti Region, Mpraeso Senior High School in the Eastern Region, and many other schools across the country.

Government, prior to the reopening of schools, through the President, announced that schools would run in such a way that boarding schools would make provision to accommodate day students in those schools. But, the reality today is that you still see school children board public transport every day to and from school. You meet school children to and from school, observing little or none of the safety protocols. This presents a clear case that the pictures we see from schools, is not the same as we see of these same students outside of their school premises. Like the Nigerian Minster for Education Adamu Adamu stated during his brief where he announced the withdrawal from this year’s WASCE, people have two separate behaviours towards the virus. According to him, people behave differently when a camera is watching them and behave differently when the camera is not watching them. For him, because of the impact of what people do when the camera is not watching them, they wound rather take precaution than risk the lives of their students.

Some important suggestions were made ahead of the reopening of schools. The potent of all, was to ensure that these students were tested before they are returned to school. That was the most responsive call at a time that COVID-19 cases were on the rise, which directs us to wide community spread. Unfortunately, such calls were dismissed as not practicable. Indeed, it was not practicable to test all these students, but, the risk of not testing them in a country where the community spread has been established to be massive, there is no alternative. If there was any alternative, it was to keep the schools closed until such a time that we are able to contain the community spread, lowering the risk, then we can open the schools for our children without need to test them.

Parents are suddenly getting agitated. Teacher unions are getting agitated. There are rising calls for schools to be closed and for these school children to return home. Indeed, the Minority of Ghana’s Parliament, have made similar calls for schools to be closed, (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/education/sick-or-dead-students-cannot-write-exams-minority-calls-for-schools-to-be-closed-again/). These calls are yet to be heeded.

An event clearly mapped out the government’s agenda for the reopening of schools. Just last weekend, the Electoral Commission moved into Senior High Schools across the country to register school children who have turned 18 and above. These schools, although we must admit some serve as polling stations, were not gazetted for registration. The Electoral Commission was expected to have published in a gazette, its registration centers 21 clear days ahead of registration. But that was not the case. Political parties were met only a day ahead of the deployment by the EC for registration across the various Senior High Schools.

The move drew criticisms which were rightly grounded. When the announcement for the reopening of schools were made, the government was clear to parents of these wards that they are not allowed to visit their own children in their schools. Government made this announcement with the hope that it help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as one could not tell whose parent(s) may get infected thereby transferring same during such visits. It came as a surprise that officials of the Electoral Commission and party agents whose statuses are not known, are allowed into the premises of these schools to engage in a registration exercise at a time that some of the schools began recording positive cases. Let’s even assume these EC officials and party agents have been tested and pose no threat, who knows which student is infected as of the time of registration when schools have already began recording infections?

It clearly exposed the political motivation that led to the reopening of these schools. The president perhaps, is of the view that these school children, having been given Free Senior High School under his government, would vote for him. What is missing here is that all of these students are not under any obligation to vote. Even when they would vote, they are not bound to vote for him for using the taxes of their parents to take care of them in school. He forgets that these students would not end their education at the Senior High level. Some would proceed to other institutions that were not built by the President. Those who would proceed to the University for Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), would eventually understand that someone built it. Those who would proceed to UDS, the University of Environment and Sustainable Development, among others, would also cherish the one who created such opportunities for them in public universities to afford education. He also forgets that these children, some have parents who hold political ideologies that are different from his and would pass same to their children. He also forgets that there are those who do not just vote for the sake of it, but would do so based on their assessment of who can do better for the country.

Today, even as calls for the closure of schools intensify, is that the appropriate solution? Could these school children be released back to their homes? Take for instance, when the Accra Girls issue broke, only 6 initial cases were reported. Soon after, 600 or so students were isolated and tested. Out of the test, their cases rose from 6 to 55 which is some 49 additions from the 600 tested. Before these results, parents thronged the institution to demand the release of their children. If these children were released at the time their parents demanded for them, what would have been the situation by now? Where would the 49 new cases have taken us? And how many people would they not have infected?

It is not possible again at this moment to release these kids back to their houses if they cannot be tested. Those who are undertaking voluntary testing on their own, are bearing costs of close to Ghc500. How many families can afford this amount just to ensure their kids are safe to return home if government decides to close these schools? The situation is dire and requires some deep thinking.

For government to maintain the position that these kids could be infected even if they were home, is to say the least, coming from an uninformed position. It is also the case that some of these students would not have been infected as their infections were purely as a result of coming in contact with their colleagues who were infected. In any case, after they are done writing their WASSCE exams, is government proceeding to camp them in a palace where they can all be monitored and released after 14 days without showing signs, or would they be tested and kept until their results are out? This measure is not clear to us as we speak, and we need to understand what government’s position would be after WASSCE.

We have seen state institutions including cabinet of 19 members, closing over fears of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, school children some of whom are as young as 13, are being kept in schools outside the reach of their parents. Aren’t the lives of these young ones important to us? Could their lives be brought back when they lose their lives to this virus? After the WASSCE exams, if we lose our children to the virus thereby wiping out completely the next generation, of what benefit would that be for Ghana?

I am of the view that we could have handled this matter better if we had not prioritized political interest above the lives of our own citizens. Governments and presidents would come and go, but citizens of our nation would remain here. Their very livelihoods and welfare, must be our ultimate focus.

 

ASK

THE TRICK OF THE “SOCIAL” IN SOCIAL MEDIA

It requires a different set of attitude! Otherwise, you have a WALL at HOME where you could write on a piece of paper and STICK it on your wall at home where no one sees, and cannot therefore comment

Author (Stephen Kwabena Attuh-ASK)

There is one basic understanding that one needs to have before making a choice to join the new media space and particularly social media.

If people wanted to remain with the situation where their communication was just one way, there wouldn’t really be an influx on social media platforms. The data shows that consistently, year-on-year, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of people who join social media.

Because people want to be heard as well, and because of the instant nature of social media and new media, it has attracted interest.

When Radio and TV were introduced, the communication was mainly one way. The changing and ever adapting definition of communication, gives a clear meaning of the dynamism and the non-static nature of communicating with one another.

At all times, means to make communication easy, are being explored. Today, as a result of realizing the need for feedback which is key in ensuring the intended message was delivered, Radio stations and TV stations have began creating social media handles and broadcasting live on same. This has made it possible for them to pick views from their listeners and viewers.

On a personal level, when people do not have the assurances of receiving feedback from you, engagement from you on the comments they make on your posts, it’s just a matter of time that they would stop commenting on things you post.

You update your status, definitely, you do so for people to see and possibly express some comments. So why would there be no response when they do pass comments? You make posts to engender conversations, the reason for which there is always a comment option until you decide to close it. So why not come back to your own posts to engage those who chose to spend their time, data and energy to create conversation under your post?

New media has created a shift in the traditional media as we knew it. Today, Graphic, the almighty Daily Graphic, publishes on social media and it’s interesting how people engage including myself, on their platform. Was that possible in the past? I was able to get my opinions published in a number of their papers through the use of social media.

Gone were the days when you may have to mail your opinions, keep buying the papers to see if one day your mail arrives and your story gets published. I remember in 2004, I used to write some opinions to an entertainment newspaper (name I cannot remember). I got 2 or 3 of my articles published, and all, I got to know because I had to keep buying the papers until I chance upon my articles.

Today, I run a blog (askattuh.wordpress.com) where I have the full space to publish my opinions. In the past, I needed hard prints in a newspaper. Back then, whatever opinions anyone had, wouldn’t have been known to me.

Today, even though I have personal means of publishing my views, it comes with its demands. Key of such demands is to remain active on my platforms to ensure to appreciate efforts made to comment, share, or engage so that opinions of others can be taken and incorporated in my subsequent work.

So, it is important to understand that this new media space, and its dominant form, social media, is well understood, well handled, and well operated to ensure that yes, as many people as possible who make time to come to your posts to comments, have over 90% chance of your response or reaction to what they come to say.

It requires a different set of attitude! Otherwise, you have a WALL at HOME where you could write on a piece of paper and STICK it on your wall at home where no one sees, and cannot therefore comment.

There are options and I give a few here:

1. If you are the type who only enjoy posting pictures and don’t really have time to comment except to enjoy the likes, use Instagram.

2. If you are the type who wants to engage so much but unable to type so much text, use Twitter.

3. If you are the type who is okay with both text and graphics and who likes to write a bit longer and express yourself, use Facebook.

4. If you are the type who enjoy writing articles and opinions to stimulate discussions, use Blogs and Facebook because these two platforms allows for heavy texting and unlimited space for comments.

It is even allowed now to link accounts. For instance, you can link your Facebook to your Twitter account. Whatever you post on Facebook, automatically publishes the allowed text limit on Twitter while an automatic link is generated for anyone who wants to read the rest of the text. If you choose this strategy, the trick then is to ensure shorter texts because you may just get to realize that many people do not have that interest in that extra effort to click on a link, wait for a browser to open to redirect them to Facebook.

It is also possible now to connect your Instagram account to Facebook where every image you post, automatically appears on Facebook.

It is also possible now to connect your blog(s) to Facebook and Twitter which allows automatic generation of links immediately you are done publishing your article. It makes room for one to equally clink on the link to read the story. Blogs are known for what they are. Readers are aware contents on blogs are a bit long, and those who enjoy reading long texts and especially those who enjoy reading from you, would make time to go read your publications.

BUT, ensure that your followers do not get the idea that you don’t visit those platforms except that you chose to populate them while you are found consistent on the linked account.

For instance, you would be losing interest and followership when your fans on Twitter gets to know that you only connected your Facebook account to your Twitter account and that you do not spend time on Twitter but only end up bombarding them with a traffic from Facebook. In order to create that real feel, do engage in comments that comes on your Twitter linked account. Generate fresh contents that can be seen on Twitter which may not be found on Facebook. That makes your followers feel they are following a human being and not a “robot”.

Linked accounts are good because they help us use “one stone to kill more than one bird”. But when we make it obvious that we don’t value the second, third, fourth bird, no one would take us serious.

I believe with this little knowledge, one can find where best to spend time on social media, and how best one can achieve results.

ASK

MEDIA OWNERSHIP AND PROFESSIONALISM: HOW THE POLITICIAN IS WINNING

Author

The independence of the media is so crucial in every democracy anywhere in the world. The media’s role in all democracies, is to dig and reveal all actions that threaten the survival of all democracies.

Democratic powers are exercised on behalf of the people. Unfortunate, the wrongs that rose during the various forms of rules that preceded the invention and aspiration of democracy as the best form of rule, still have the tendencies of being perpetuated by power wilders. Corruption remain an important subject in all democracies. In addition, the abuse of human rights among others, remain subjects that the media had kept highlighting over the years.

These functions were effectively played because it was agreed so to be. The politician, having realized the role of the media, has decided to position himself in that important “arm”. What could be the aim apart from having knowledge of what the media intends to do and having the influence to interfere in it?

Societies have had cause over the years to speak up and to condemn actions of political actors because the media brought those actions up for the information of the public. Unfortunately, this very important and sacred role is under threat.

There are those who have questioned the interest of any state controlling a media house. In Ghana for instance, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, has remained the property of the Government of Ghana. The British Broadcasting Corporation has remained a property of the British Government among a host of other media houses owned by various states. Some of the arguments for state owned media houses remained that at every given time, there must be a media that can enable the government reach out to its people if all other media houses should fail to honour such calls.

In order to lessen that control, many have suggested that sources of funding for such media houses are diversified just so they do not fall at the whimsical ends of operatives of government who have an interest in the government and what the media does to the image of that government.

The media which is regarded the fourth estate of the realm, which plays a role that is to immensely benefit the generality of the public, is under threat. The independence and professionalism expected, is being chipped away through careful investments in the area by those who are to be checked.

The 4th estate of the realm can only be independent if the various outlets that make that realm are owned by independent people. The situation we have in Ghana is that those who are supposed to be checked with regards to their conduct in public and how they use the taxes of the public, are those setting up media houses and eventually providing direct working opportunities for these media men.

It makes it completely difficult then to stand in the middle when the interest of your employer is at stake. Can you imagine how a journalist working for Chairman Antwi Bosiako (Wontumi), the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) can report on anything negative about him on his radio and TV channels? That would mean losing his or her job in a country where landing a job can take forever.

In a similar fashion, how possible is it for a journalist working for a media house owned by the Chairman of the National Democratic Congress be able to raise any issues that are considered negative to his image, discuss them and make recommendations that they know would jeopardize his interest?

The media is expected to stimulate discussions through their engagements. They are expected to provide a balanced discussion and to allow all affected parties the opportunity to state their cases before the public without prejudices.

Unfortunately, this has come under severe threat. You openly see journalists who are more actors in politics than the politician. Such a journalist is mindful of the source of his daily bread. Failing to stand on the side of the politician who is up for public scrutiny would mean the possibility of losing his or her livelihood.

For instance, the owner of a media house who is a politician, comes under public scrutiny for engaging in corruption which if allowed to stand, may result in protracted litigation and possible imprisonment. The journalist working for such a man is aware that an imprisonment means the station closing down as there would be no other source of funding. Your guess is as good as mine should such a journalist have an opportunity to write or speak on that matter.

It is such a challenge that the fourth estate of the realm has become dominated and being allowed to function by functionaries and operatives of the first and second Arms of Government (Executive Members and Legislative Members).

Until our various media houses are outside of the control of political actors, this phenomenon would worsen. It has gotten to a point where truth is sacrificed for political interests. The media has no position on matters that affect their owners and the general public. The implications are such that in the end, the facts and truths are lost on the people.

Today, it has become the task of citizens to rather engage in discovering information in an attempt to differentiate between the truth and the lie. They have been left to their fate because the media actors have no interest in uncovering and speaking on the issues. Even when they do obtain the information, it is no longer about balancing the public interest, but balancing their personal interests along those of their “masters” and where they feel releasing such information would cause personal harm, they abandon it.

Some have equally joined in the concealment and distortion of the facts. Today, journalists are those who lead in the spirit to equalize instead of asking if what was done was to be done at all no matter who was involved.

This challenge promises to stay with us for ages. As stated earlier in the text, the politician is a cunning character if allowed to dance at every platform. The politician wishes to create the news and be at where the news is processed so he can tell what is sent out, and wishes to be at where the news is discussed so that he can equally shape the public opinion. Here, the politician is making the news (he must be discussed), he owns the media house that processes the news, and is a panelist on the platforms where the news is discussed. What else could you expect out of a system like this other than what we see today?

There is no longer any surprise element in the operations of the media to the politician. This has led to the develop of comfort for the politician, and in the end, society and democracy would continue to pay for the crimes of journalists who have decided to safeguard their political employers over the interest of the public which they ought to advance. Integrity and professionalism is what we require to win this fight.

The question I leave you with is, is the Ghanaian journalist who is employed by a media house owned by a politician willing to place integrity and professionalism over the interest of his employer with his job in mind?

ASK

FREE WATER: EXAMINING HOW IT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

The choice to praise, and the choice to be critical of government’s interventions, are left to us the citizens. I chose to be among the critical population who would rather examine the impact of improved government efforts in doing what it ought to have done before proceeding to offer same for free. If it exists for everyone without a struggle, I would join in sinking the praises of the government that made it easily accessible by all.

The President Nana Akufo-Addo announces free water to the people of Ghana for the next 3 months. We must all know that one cannot offer for free what he doesn’t have. In the same way, one cannot enjoy a thing for free when it doesn’t exist. Indeed, from 2009, there was a conscious effort to ensure that water supply reaches the very people government serves wherever they are.

As a result, it was targeted that by 2025, which is just 5 years away, Ghana should be obtaining universal access to water. The speed with which the NDC administration between 2009 and 2016 embarked on water supply across the country, if we had maintained the same speed between 2017 and now, we would be reaching not less than 90% of our population, which would have given meaning to the offer of free water as many people would have access to potable water.

I would present some statistics here for the purposes of laying out the records. Do not be bored, but try and understand how these came about.

In the year 2001, when the Kufour administration took over, Ghana had an Urban Water Coverage of 56%. By the year 2008, the exit year of the Kufour and NPP administration, Urban Water Coverage was taken from 56% to 58.5% which means that for the entire 8 years of the Kufour and NPP administration, we have an increase in urban water supply by just 2.5%.

In the same period in 2001, Rural Water Coverage inherited by the Kufour administration stood at 41%. By close of 2008 when the NPP administration was leaving power, it stood at 56.8% indicating an increase of 15.8%. That was some effort. And I am a witness as my village was connected as part of this Rural Water Projects.

Between 2009 and 2015, I would present to you the figures and some projects that brought about the change we experienced. I am unable to obtain the figures by end of 2016 as that would have given a complete 8 year assessment.

However, I must present that the target of the NDC government between 2009 and 2016 was to supply some 109.7 million gallons of water per day by close of 2016. As of 2014, a total of 77.5 million gallons of water was added to the nation’s supply through projects completed. The target was to ensure that by close of 2016, some 85% of both Rural and Urban dwellers have access to potable water.

Between 2010 and 2015, some USD1 billion worth of investment was made into the water sector. The results are as follows:

Between 2009 and 2015, Urban Water Coverage was taken from 58.5% to 76%. This gives an indication of an increase in supply by 17.5% as compared to the 2.5% the NPP under Kufour did.

Rural Water Coverage by 2015, stood at another 76%, indicating an increase of 19%.

Some of the water projects undertaken under the NDC between 2009 and 2015 include:

Kpong Water Supply Expansion Project Phase 1. The first phase of the Kpong Water Supply Expansion Project supplies some 40 million gallons of water per day to 700,000 of our inhabitants in communities such as Adenta, Madina, Kwabenya, Ashongman, North, East and West Legon, Ashaley Botwe, Haatso, Boi, Asofaa, Dome, University of Ghana, Valley View University, University of Professional Studies-Accra, PRESEC- Legon, Bawaleshie, Adjirigano and Pantang.

Kpong Intake Rehabilitation Project supplies water to communities such as Dodowa, Ahwerase, Aburi, Gyankama, Peduase, Kitase, Berekuso, Akwamufie, Mangoase, New Senchi, Akrade, Senchi, Domeabra, Lolonyo, Agomanya, Manya Kpongunor, Odumasi, Menekpo, Sra, Sawe and Ogome (all in the Eastern Region).

Teshie-Nungua Desalination Water Project the first ever project of its kind in West Africa which has turned sea water into usable household water, supplies some 13.2 million gallons of water per day to about half a million people in the following areas – Teshie, Nungua, the Teshie Military barracks, Batsoona, Sakumono and parts of LaDadekotopon.

Five Towns Water Supply Projects in Kyebi, Osenase, Anyinam, Apedwa and Kwabeng were completed which adds about 1.5 million gallons of water for use in the communities mentioned.

The NDC Government also added a total of 14 million gallons of water per day to the national water stock through the following projects:

• Kwahu Ridge Water Supply project

• Kumawu Water Supply Project

• Konongo Water Supply Project

• Kumasi Water Supply Project (Barekese Expansion)

• Asante Mampong Water Supply Project

As at 2015, work was ongoing to improve and extend water in these areas:

• Nsawam Water Supply Project

• Essakyir Water Supply Project

Other projects included:

• Akim-Oda-Akwatia-Winneba Water Supply Project – 10.4 million gallons per day

• Wa Water Supply Project – 3.3 million gallons per day

• North Tongu and Adaklu Anyigbe Water Supply Scheme – 1.1 million gallons per day

• Interconnection of Sekyere-Hemang Water Treatment Plant to the Sekondi-Takoradi Water Supply System and the Aboadze Thermal Plant

• Additional Works For Kumasi Water Supply Expansion Project

• US$ 170 million Urban Water Project to rehabilitate 20 water supply systems in 8 Regions

There were several other peri-urban, rural and small town water and sanitation projects which were being undertaken as at 2015 across the country, which were expected to improve on water supply to our people.

These include:

• Government of Ghana 5-year 20,000 Borehole Programme.

• Peri-urban, Rural and Small town water and sanitation project in the Brong Ahafo Region

• Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Project (SRWSP) – this project covers the Upper West, Upper East, Northern, Brong-Ahafo, Central and Western Regions.

• Koica-Krachi East and West Water and Sanitation Project

• Northern Region Small Towns Water and Sanitation Project

• Akrokeri Piped Water Supply Project

With the speed at which the NDC administration was expanding access to potable water, it would be important to ask the percentage increase added by the Akufo-Addo NPP administration and to ascertain whether the vision to ensure universal access to potable water by 2025 is in place or abandoned.

Today, as government tells us that it has decided to provide free water to Ghanaians for the next 3 months, inasmuch as we are expected to applaud the government, could we not be more proud if government had ensured that access to water is provided to every Ghanaian and that access to this basis service is without struggle?

Today, we still have many communities, and households in both Urban and Rural areas without access to water. Some have not been connected at all while others are consistently visited with water rationing without announcements.

The choice to praise, and the choice to be critical of government’s interventions, are left to us the citizens. I chose to be among the critical population who would rather examine the impact of improved government efforts in doing what it ought to have done before proceeding to offer same for free. If it exists for everyone without a struggle, I would join in sinking the praises of the government that made it easily accessible by all.

ASK

WHY MRS. JEAN MENSA AND HER DEPUTIES MUST ESTABLISH THEIR CREDIBILITY WITH THE EXISTING ELECTORAL REGISTER

Mrs. Jean Mensa, Chairperson, EC

The discussions on the need to compile or not to compile a new voters’ register has rather unfortunately, received an intransigent position from the arbiters who are expected to take and evaluate the opinions of stakeholders and which is expected to feature prominently in their decisions. It is clearly understood that the 1992 Constitution, under Article 46, guarantees the independence of the Electoral Commission. While that is indisputable, it must be pointed out that engaging stakeholders and involving them in decision making, doesn’t connote interference in the work of an independent state institution. Indeed, decisions reaches on the basis of consensus and broad consultations, rather strengthens the position of such institutions, not the least, an Electoral Commission whose work must at all times, engender trust.

Committee of Eminent Advisors to EC

Unfortunately, even in the face of an intervention by the Committee of Eminent Advisors to the Electoral Commission to the effect that the Commission was advised to convene a meeting to engage political parties and other stakeholders further to make good their case, the Commission has proceeded to set a date for the compilation of a new voters’ register without any effort at calling for the meeting as advised by its own Committee constituted for the purpose of advising it to ensure effective administration of its mandate. It must be noted here that the date, 18th April 2020 earmarked for the registration exercise the Commission intended to begin, was first announced on a local radio station Asempa FM on a program dubbed “Ekosisen” by the General Secretary of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. John Boadu almost a week before the Commission made this date public from its outfit.

Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, Fmr. Chairman, EC

In Ghana, the single personality who acted as an arbiter at the Electoral Commission and had established credibility for himself both locally and internationally, is Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan. It came as a surprise that when the Electoral Commissioner was looking for eminent men and women to constitute a committee to advise it on election matters and the administration of their mandate, they never found the experienced Dr. Afari Gyan eminent and competent enough to be on that committee. With due respect to the men and women assembled by the Commissioner for the purpose of advising it, which of them has had experience in matters of election than Dr. Afari Gyan? But that is the reality. This is where we are as a nation.

Day after day, it became clear that the Electoral Commission had embarked on some earlier actions and are only using the public discourse to establish reasons for their actions and to seek legitimacy for same. Just last week, it emerged that the Electoral Commission had since last year, awarded a contract for construction of a data center. That being the case, the questions that arise are, so why are we discussing issues today when a decision was taken in the past and a contract already awarded? Should the Commission abandon the move to compile a new register, who pays for the cost incurred already? These are some of the things we must begin to think about. And by thinking about these, we can come to some conclusion which reveals the reasons for the intransigent position by the Commission and the unwillingness to entertain arguments that seek to adduce reasons for which the move to compile a new voters’ register must be abandoned.

In the debate that had ensued since the Commission intensified its public clamor for a new voters’ register, several other experts have spoken and punched holes in the claims made by the Commission to validate their decision. Some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), have organized public fora to advance their arguments against the compilation of a new register. While some are of the view that the existing machines, which according to the EC, had proven to be effective at a success rate of 99.4% at the recently held District Assembly and Unit Committee elections could function for the elections of 2020, others are of the view that the huge sums of monies allocated for this exercise, could be channeled into dealing with challenges in the areas of road, water, schools, hospitals, among others. To the EC, they have fear that the existing machines may fail during the 2020 elections. The Commission made claims that there was some expert report that advised on the need for a complete change in the system currently at the Commission for the purpose of the 2020 elections. What is more curious here is that the Commission is unable to make public that report for the perusal of the general public whose endorsement they are seeking to validate their decisions already taken.

It is important to establish that elections consist of several processes and not an event. That being the case, for the final results of an election to be accepted as a true reflection of the representation of the people, the processes leading to the elections, must be fair and trustworthy. If already, there are concealment of vital information, which information the EC alludes to in public to justify their actions and decisions, but the said report is kept from the view of the public, it leaves people to speculate including doubting the existence of any such report.

Dr. Bossman Asare, Deputy Chair, EC

It is important for integrity to be established in the processes leading up to the elections. Quite surprisingly, some key actors in this election process, have acted in a manner that jeopardizes the trust required in the 2020 elections. How possible could it be that an arbiter, a Deputy Commissioner of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Bossman Asare, describes one of the contesting political parties in the 2020 elections as a danger to Ghana’s democracy? By every stretch of logic, can one not simply deduce that given the chance for the Deputy Commissioner to choose between the ruling party and that opposition party that is a threat to Ghana’s democracy according to his own words, he would choose the party that does not pose a threat to our democracy?

Again, if you have a Commission whose Deputy Commissioner cannot think twice and remind himself of his current role as an independent arbiter, but can jump into a campaign and campaign for a position on a proposed referendum in line with the position of the government in power, that Commission is doing more damage to its credibility which is one reason there is a problem of trust between the Commission and some political parties especially those in opposition.

Mr. Joe Anokye, Head, NCA

One other matter that got swept under the carpet, but which is of great significance was the presence of Mr. Joe Anokye, the current head of the National Communication Authority (NCA) at an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting with the Electoral Commission. In December last year, the Electoral Commission called a meeting with political parties and their representatives to observe the exhibition for the new systems the Commission intended to procure ahead of the 2020 elections.

At that meeting, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) was represented by Mr. Joe Anokye, the head of NCA and a man believed to have been ‘instrumental’ in the victory of the NPP through the use of technology. With his current position, he is the state and for that matter, government’s controller of telecommunication services. He is to determine which network has the power to undertake one activity or the other. This is the man who attends the IPAC meeting on behalf of the ruling party. He was not there as a government representative, but as the representative of the New Patriotic Party. Is this a move to observe how his ‘skills’ can be employed for a similar victory as was in the 2016 elections?

The conduct of Mr. Anokye, and his representation on that platform, exposes his biases, dents his credibility to be fair, and ought to have been shown the exit. Indeed, Mr. Ankoye and Dr. Bossman Asare, by now, ought to have been pushed aside for some credibility to be restored at the Commission and the processes leading to the 2020 elections. You correct a system like this and build confidence by sacking people whose actions have raised credibility issues for the institutions they represent, and not by keeping them and hoping they would repent. Their continuous stay in their offices damages further, the image of the institutions they represent and act for.

Mrs. Sylvia Annor, Ag. Dir. Public Relations, EC

In a statement issued on the 19th of January and signed by Mrs. Sylvia Annoh, acting Director of Public Relations for the Electoral Commission under the heading EC clears air on ownership of Persol Systems Limited, one paragraph, paragraph 4, positions the Commission as being on a collision course with “sections of the society”. The paragraph reads “In the lead up to the General Elections in December, the EC is mindful of the fact that there will be attempts by sections of the society to malign the integrity and credibility of the Chairperson, her Deputies and the Commission”. I found this statement on this paragraph worrying and needless from an institution that is struggling to gain trust. Already, it appears the Commissioner (Chairperson), and her Deputies are mindful they are political actors and who are mindful that their ‘opponents’ would adopt strategies to outwit them in this political space. Statements like these simply suggest that the Commissioner and her Deputies are aware that their terms in office are tied to a certain government’s tenure. Meanwhile, until evidence is adduced through processes to show they must be exited, the 1992 Constitution they so make reference for their independence, assures them the security of tenure.

Quite amazingly, some section of the public are unable to detect that processes towards an election can be skewed to favour one political party over the other. To them, once there are claims to the effect that elections are won at the polling stations, that is cast in iron, and nothing could change that illusion. It remains a fact that elections are won at the polling station. On election day, one out of the many contestants, would be declared winner. But, when the processes are skewed towards the winner, the fact that he is declared at the polling station to have won doesn’t mean the elections were fair.

For instance, if, during the registration process, there were massive breakdowns at the strongholds of one party while they function perfectly at the strongholds of another party, the elections have already been compromised so long as no fair playing field was offered the parties to have equal opportunity of winning.

Again, let us even assume that the registration process was done fairly, providing the maximum opportunity for registrants to register, and on election day, they are unable to verify themselves to have the opportunity to vote from the strongholds of one party while those of another party’s stronghold runs smoothly, the outcome of that election cannot be said to have been credible.

Again, let us assume that the registration process was perfectly done, and on election day, someone was able to manipulate the records from the strongholds of a political party because he or she has control of the most vital information of voters of the strongholds of a political party, that election results could not be said to have been credible. It takes a lot to establish credibility.

We were told by the Commissioner of the Electoral Commission, Mrs. Jean Mensa that the EC had had to rely on foreign vendors to establish and operate its systems in the past years, the reason for which she is seeking to make changes that would allow her administration the needed control of the systems. However, the vendors shortlisted in her recent procurement efforts, are all foreign companies. As an individual, I would prefer leaving the control of systems in the hands of individuals be they foreign, who have proven neutral and without interest in the outcome of Ghana’s elections to placing such a system completely under the control of individuals who have proven to be bias towards a political party in an election they are to be arbitrators over.

Mrs. Charlotte Osei, Fmr. Chairperson, EC

The Mrs. Jean Mensa led Commission is suffering from credibility crisis following the ousting of the former Chairperson, Mrs. Charlotte Osei. One is free to cite the law and to allude to a said petition that led to her removal. In the same light, one can also refer to a petition by some youth to the Office of the President for the removal of the then Chief Justice over what they believed were sufficient grounds for her removal. That petition, unlike the swift nature the Charlotte Osei’s was undertaken, never moved from the Office of the President for action to be taken. That should settle the issue of interest in these two issues.

Flowing from this credibility crisis of the Jean Mensa led Commission, there are conspiracy theorists who are of the view that the compilation of a new voters’ register remains one of the reasons for her appointment. Such people are of the view that her task is to ensure the compilation of a new register and the procurement of a new systems that she can have full control of and place at the manipulative discretion of the ruling government. It is against these conspiracy theorists that I hold the view that Mrs. Jean Mensa and her Commission, must take steps to regain some confidence and trust from a cross section of Ghanaians by managing and allowing the existing systems to determine who next becomes president of Ghana. I am of the view that she should not have a problem with the NPP winning if that even is her wish. This is because, the NPP won elections with some 1 million difference in the 2016 elections. In addition, the government and party says it is achieving unprecedented records. And knowing that Ghanaians would definitely elect a working and performing government, the NPP must proudly win the 2020 elections on the current register.

I believe that the Commission can shift gear and begin deliberating on the procurement and compilation of a new register after the 2020 elections. Two things would make their case for a new register post 2020 more acceptable. In the first instance, the Housing and Population Census (HPC) would have been concluded and the data tested for use for such an exercise. The Commission would have had the proper targets and the proper statistical basis for their projections. In the second instance, the Ghana Card registration exercise would have advanced if not completed. Once that data is tested and certified, it then can become a viable platform for the Electoral Commission to extract a voters’ register at a more reduced cost to the taxpayer.

The current Commission under its current leadership must defy the political pressure from the appointing authority if there is/are any, and stand on the side of the taxpayer and the ordinary Ghanaian. Their preoccupation must be on how to build trust for themselves when the scars of the removal of Mrs. Osei are still fresh. No matter what, their actions today, would be read within the context of their appointments. If they can recoil and reconsider their posturing and rather take steps to build some level of confidence in themselves and the system, they can survive the many years they have ahead of them. As it stands, the current system they are seeking to introduce is being met with suspicion and should the outcome of the elections go in favour of the ruling government, using this new system they are burnt on procuring, they would have confirmed the suspicions of a cross sections of the Ghanaian public which automatically secures their jobs only when the ruling party NPP remain in power. Mrs. Charlotte Osei nonetheless, was removed from office even though she did not establish any system and never acted in a manner that sought to retain in power the party under which she was appointed.

 

ASK

 

 

 

SO FAR, NO REASON COMPELLING ENOUGH TO WARRANT A NEW VOTERS’ REGISTER

The compilation of a national data through a national census, provides the nation a solid statistical base for projections for its development. This automatically provides all state institutions that use public data and population for their activities, the baseline for their projections. A new census data, would provide the EC with the base target for registrants onto its register. As we speak, that data is yet to be collated, yet, the EC is determined to run ahead. What is the motive? Is there anything the public is yet to know?

Author

Ghana once again, is back to the discussion on the need or otherwise for a new voters’ register, heading into the 2020 December 7th general elections. Again, the discussion has taken political twists, with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) kicking against the drive by the Electoral Commission (EC) for a new register while the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is for the decision by the EC to compile a new register.

 

On the part of the taxpayer, how does this serve his or her interest when basic social services are missing in the Ghanaian society? When people are constantly demonstration over bad roads? When the total amount of Ghc444 million, the equivalent of USD72 million could be used to fix and asphalt some 70 kilometres of roads that are in bad state?

 

From a neutral point of view, there is need to have, at all times, a credible voters register that guarantees that the people’s choice at public elections, are what the system produces. In effect, when the people say it is this person or that person they want as their president or Member of Parliament, the processes that lead to their decision, must produce the exact decision they have made. For this reason, it is imperious to ensure that at all times, the voters register is a credible one that reflects the general consensus of the people.

 

What must engineer the induction of a new register, must be some defects detected in the existing register. As we speak, that point has not been sufficiently pushed to convince anyone on the need for the current register to be set aside for a whopping USD72 million to be spent in compiling a new register to perform the function the existing register can perform.

 

Dr. Bossman Asare, Deputy EC Chair

Indeed, the Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Bossman Asare was reported severally to have alluded to the credibility of the current register. However, he made claims that a new register would be “more” credible, (https://www.theghanareport.com/2020-polls-ndc-describes-ecs-justification-for-new-voter-register-as-ridiculous/). The degree of an extended credibility, remains a subjective matter, a matter of semantics. It is too technical to prefix the word credible with “more”, a measurement that we cannot determine.

 

This article would handle the issue of a new register on two fronts; the path of the Electoral Commission and the path of the New Patriotic Party in order to interrogate their reasons for support of a new register. This article would raise some critical questions that would be further interrogated to provide a perspective to readers.

 

While we must admit that the Electoral Commission is an independent state institution whose independence is guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution under Article 46, we are guaranteed the right to freely subject their reasons to strict and logical examination as their functions have a bearing on us and especially that our taxes is what goes in to execute their programs and activities.

 

EC Chairperson

As far back 2018, there were hints of a new register. The nation in December 2018, proceeded with the same register to engage in an important exercise of a referendum to create six additional administrative regions increasing its regional capitals from 10 to 16. After the creation of these additional regions, the Commission applauded the process and endorsed the outcome as being credible and valid. Indeed, ahead of the referendum of 2018, the EC through its Chairperson, Mrs. Jean Mensah, declared that all was set for a successful referendum. We must be mindful that all those processes that were “set”, included the provision of a voters register that makes credible, that important exercise, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/All-is-set-for-December-27-referendum-710845).

 

Subsequent to that the Electoral Commission, in June 2019, opened the existing register for a limited registration exercise that allowed citizens who attained the age of 18 to apply to make entry into the voters register as well as for those who for one reason or the other, were more than 18 but could not registered into the system, (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2019/06/17/ec-begins-nationwide-limited-voter-registration-exercise/amp/). This exercise was carried out and classified as successful. This meant that we were building up on a credible exercise that feeds into the EC debatable for credible future elections.

 

As a point of information, it must be recalled that somewhere March 2019, there was a release by the EC which is said to contain minutes of a meeting held with the political parties under the banner of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) where the meeting was supposed to have reached a consensus on the compilation of a new register. Following from that, the media had severally reported same, (https://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2019/March-27th/ec-to-compile-new-voters-register-for-2020-elections.php). Soon after that, the opposition NDC issued a letter distancing itself from the said minutes and hinted that no such discussions were held and no decision was reached on same, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/IPAC-Meeting-EC-lied-We-did-not-discuss-compilation-of-new-voters-register-NDC-734008). The People’s National Convention (PNC) followed after and affirmed the position of the NDC that no such discussions were held for the EC to seek to inform the public that any such a decision was reached, (https://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2019/march-28th/pnc-affirms-ndc-claim-new-voter-register-wasnt-discussed-at-ipac.php).

 

Since then, it was obvious the intentions to introduce a new register for the 2020 elections has been on the chest of the Commission. However, it was difficult for the EC to introduce the defective claim to justify their proposal. That appears the only convincing argument that can logically warrant a new register. This happened for some reasons.

 

The first reason under that is, the EC would have used the same register to conduct a national referendum to amend Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution, an entrenched provision that could only be amended through a serious process. Secondly, using the same register, the Electoral Commission, was to use (and has used) the same register, for the election of District Assembly members as well as Unit Committee members. If the EC had gone to embrace the defect argument, its own effort at using the defective register to elect Assembly and Unit Committee members, would have been questionable. Hence, the EC was forced to admit the credibility of the register. Indeed, when Dr. Bossman Asare was queried, he admits that the current register is credible, except that a new register would be “more” credible. What is more curious is how a system we are yet to use has already produced a “more” credible database than what we have.

 

Mr. Samuel Tetteh, Deputy EC Chair

In an addendum, in the position of the EC, from one of its Deputy Commissioners in Charge of Operations, Mr Samuel Tettey, the Commission explains that the machine is unable to detect the fingerprints of some voters, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/EC-to-compile-new-register-for-2020-elections-817777). He admits however, that, they rely on manual verification at certain times. He never said at no point were people unable to be verified to vote. If it is some of the machines that have gone defective, would the cost of changing those defective machines exceed the total cost of procuring new machines in its entirety and compiling a totally new register?

 

In the referendum held in December 2018 and the just ended Assembly and Unit Committee elections of 17 December, 2019, all voters who went to participate in the voting exercise were verified and certified to vote. Indeed, in the referendum of 2018, these were some of the turnouts:

▪ Salaga South recorded 96%

▪ Nkoranza North recorded 97%

▪ Jasikan recorded 97%

▪ Krachi West recorded 98.5%

 

Indeed, many other constituencies recorded over 90% turnout. As a matter of fact, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), has had cause to express concern over the high turnout during the 2018 referendum, (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/ghana-news-extremely-high-turnout-at-referendum-raise-serious-integrity-questions-codeo.html). But the turnout and results were accepted and declared by the EC, (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/confirmed-results-of-the-2018-referendum-on-new-regions.html).

 

In all of these, it must be emphasized that all who showed up, and in some cases the 98.5% were verified. Is it a case of assumption that the 1.5% who didn’t show up to vote in this constituency, are those likely to be affected using the same register for the 2020 elections? If that is what the EC wants us to believe, that, on a balance of probability, the 1.5% of electorates at the Krachi West Constituency, stands a greater chance of losing their fingerprints and perhaps names from the register. That is even insignificant though their rights are guaranteed equally, as compared to the 98.5% who showed up and were able to partake in the referendum that created the Oti Region.

 

As an individual, I personally think the reasons adduced so far, have not convinced me, and as a taxpayer, I think it is needless to spend my taxes in this manner. One other claim was that, the current register, though credible, is overstretched, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Voters-register-credible-but-overstretched-EC-816961). I would have loved to hear commitment to safeguard the taxpayer who has been rather overstretched with nothing really tangible to show for the consistent payment of taxes. Is this argument to say that pumping Ghc444 million into the compilation of a new register is not a drain on the taxpayer? For me, if the current register was able to create new regions, elected Assembly and Unit Committee members, and would have been able to amend an entrenched clause of Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution but for its withdrawal, then the register must be credible and fit for purpose for the election of a president and members of parliament.

 

The nation has embarked on national census every 10 years. In recent times, one was carried out in the years 2000, 2010 and another expected in 2020. The compilation of a national data through a national census, provides the nation a solid statistical base for projections for its development. This automatically provides all state institutions that use public data and population for their activities, the baseline for their projections. A new census data, would provide the EC with the base target for registrants onto its register. As we speak, that data is yet to be collated, yet, the EC is determined to run ahead. What is the motive? Is there anything the public is yet to know?

 

The second perspective of the argument, would raise some very critical questions for the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Indeed, the NPP supported the EC in every activity it proposed to undertake since assuming power and especially since Mrs. Jean Mensa and her other deputies were appointed in 2018 by the President His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo.

 

Indeed, since taking office by this new Commissioner and her other Deputies, their first major assignment was to oversee the conduct of the 2018 referendum that created the six new regions to help the president fulfil his campaign promise of 2016. Indeed, the President Akufo-Addo lauded the EC for having passed its first assignment, expressing his satisfaction, (https://mobile.ghanaguardian.com/akufo-addo-praises-jean-mensa-led-ec-for-passing-first-test).

 

Again, from the entrenched perspective of the NPP, the 2012 elections were won by Nana Akufo-Addo except he was not declared. At the time, it was the current register that was used for that 2012 elections. Following from their defeat in the protracted elections petition case that lasted 8 months, they ventured into the 2016 elections with the same register, and emerged with a 1 million gap victory. Till today, they tell the people of Ghana how that never occurred before that a sitting president was defeated with 1 million votes and assures the opposition NDC of another defeat since it is the same candidate the NPP defeated in 2016 that the NDC is repeating. So one would ask what has become fundamentally wrong with the said register that produce that resounding and unprecedented victory for the NPP?

 

Again, following from the 2018 referendum, the New Patriotic Party, successfully cites the creation of the new regions as a fulfilled campaign promise of the NPP ahead of the 2016 elections, an indication that they endorse fully the outcome. That automatically means an endorsement of the register used for the process. At what point did that register become defective for use in 2020?

 

Again, of more critical demand is that, we have been told severally of how the Akufo-Addo administration has delivered beyond any other government in Ghana’s history. Indeed, at some point, he was said to have performed better than the 8 years of the previous NDC administration. Indeed, the current Vice President Dr. Bawumia, has led that claim, (https://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2019/December-9th/the-records-show-npp-govt-has-performed-better-bawumia.php).

 

Since Ghanaians definitely want to see into power a very performing person as their president, and having been graced with a president who has performed in less than 3 years than what his predecessors did in 8 years, should the same register that produced him the overwhelming victory in 2016, not be comforting enough to guarantee him another term? Must he throw away what provided him the victory and embrace a new system which may rather erode his fortunes since he hasn’t stood elections on its account?

 

Indeed, president Akufo-Addo himself has indicated how he is cruising to victory and how it would be a bad decision for Ghanaians to return John Dramani Mahama to power, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Ghanaians-willl-reject-sleeping-ideas-brankrupt-Mahama-Akufo-Addo-796491). The president and the New Patriotic Party must have very assuring future in the register in its current form with their superior achievements that Ghanaians are only seeing under Nana Akufo-Addo as president.

 

From the above, unless there is/are some other reasons other than those presented which have been assessed, I am not convinced for the need to expend Ghc444 million hard currency into producing a new register when that can go into fixing some social needs of our people. Today, we have communities whose indigenes are unable to have access to potable drinking water, we have communities where people have their children sitting under trees or dilapidated structures to learn. Those people all have the rights to enjoy the social amenities that anyone sitting at the Seat of Government, the Electoral Commission, Parliament, is enjoying.

 

I think we can put our resources to some good use since there isn’t any compelling reason so far to justify this huge expenditure in the name of creating a “more” credible register for the 2020 elections.

 

A Merry Christmas to you all, and an anticipated Happy New Year.

 

ASK

Twitter: @askattuh

wordpress.askattuh.com

 

AS TERMINAL 3 INFRASTRUCTURE WINS AWARD DOES IT SETTLE DEBATE ON INFRASTRUCTURAL NEEDS?

Indeed, in no part of the world do people eat roads, but they need those roads to attend to their everyday projects that provide them food. No part in this world do people eat schools, but they all need those schools in their perfect forms to equip their citizens with the knowledge they require to gain professional careers that would later provide them food.

For everyone who has a clear appreciation of the country Ghana, the nation remains a developing country located in West Africa. Even though the country has produced prominent citizens who held high the flag of the nation giving it a name internationally, there are basic challenges that the nation continue to face. The Osagyefor Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, whose works brought several attention to the nation, understood from the beginning, after independence, that, the nation must tackle issues of development comprehensively.

I must present that the subject of development remain a relative issue interpreted by many, depending on their individual assessment of what the concept development must mean to them. The general focus in this article assesses development in the manner many see it on the face. Development in the sense that the nation’s infrastructure must be at a certain level, which means good roads, potable water, access to power, education and health, must constitute the very basic of our everyday life. A nation whose transportation system is marked clearly, that allows private vehicle users the opportunity to do so, while assuring the traveling public who prefer public transport the opportunity to do same without unnecessarily spending productive hours in traffic.

On the basis of this, governments have been elected to spearhead the affairs of the nation since its independence. Under the fourth (4th) Republican Constitution, the Ghanaian is aware of the challenges that confront this nation. Several years after independence, access to good roads remain a challenge, access to potable drinking water remains a challenge, access to quality healthcare remains a challenge, good and quality educational facilities remain inaccessible to many of our population. Indeed, there is close to 20 percent, if not more, of the nation’s population who are without electricity even though we are told to have excess power which we do not need.

Indeed, before the recent elections, these were clear to us, as have been in the past. We were clear that the people of Ghana continue to endure the slow pace of development they were receiving. Again, many are those who have demonstrated one time or the other over what they thought should be basic in their lives. Coupled with expansions in our settlements, development and the provision of infrastructure and basic social amenities, must remain focal and continuous on every government’s agenda.

Before the exit of the John Dramani Mahama administration, several efforts were undertaken to ensure the raising of access to some infrastructure across the country. It would be appropriate for one to present that hardly was there any district in this country that was without one project or the other.

While at that, his critics were all over the place, pontificating how Ghanaians do not eat roads, schools and hospitals. Indeed, in no part of the world do people eat roads, but they need those roads to attend to their everyday projects that provide them food. No part in this world do people eat schools, but they all need those schools in their perfect forms to equip their citizens with the knowledge they require to gain professional careers that would later provide them food.

No part of the world indeed, do people eat hospitals, but they must attend to these hospitals if in their pursuit to obtain the food they eat, they fall sick. Such lame was the argument that it made nonsense of every effort being made at the time to change the face of Ghana with the massive infrastructure development that were ongoing under the John Dramani Mahama’s administration.

I chanced upon a video (posted below) in which the president, His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo lamented over bad roads in Ghana. He was heard saying that it was disgraceful for Ghana to have these type of roads. The question that arises then is, having been president for almost three (3) years, what has been his contribution as a president towards uplifting the road infrastructure of the country?

Indeed, some major roads would have been constructed and completed by now if not for the directive from the government he preside over to the effect that all roads under the Cocoa Roads Project be halted for audit. The Minority in Ghana’s Parliament have had cause to accuse the government of wasting some $10 million on audit of these roads without establishing any wrongdoing in any of the contracts awarded (https://ghananewsfeed.com/10m-illegally-spent-on-cocoa-roads-audit-minority-alleges), (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Gov-t-illegally-spent-10m-on-cocoa-roads-audit-Minority-alleges-766748). Recently, there was a directive for work to resume on some of these roads in the Central Region of Ghana (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2019/September-28th/cr-ten-cocoa-road-contractors-asked-to-resume-work-immediately.php). As it stands, the citizens are not aware of the outcome of the audit that resulted in the delays in these projects.

What we need to understand is that, it would cost the nation more than it would have spent in the past if the contracts had gone through as were awarded. Cost of materials have gone up, and at least, on the face of it, we all are aware that a gallon of petrol has moved from the Ghc14 a gallon, the equivalent of $2.60 dollars in 2016, to Ghc24 a gallon, the equivalent of $4.44 in 2019. This automatically should inform us that the cost of acquiring fuel for these constructions in 2016 would affect the contract sum in 2019.

Infrastructure plays an important role that we cannot downplay its importance. Especially when such structures are so huge to cause significant impact in the lives of our citizens. For years, people in the Shai Osudoku District and specifically Dodowa and its environs, have cried over good hospital facility. It informed the Mahama administration’s decision to locate one of four uniquely designed hospitals in the area. Not long ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, was reported to have recommended the Dodowa hospital as a benchmark hospital for Africa. I found this on the Facebook wall of WHO, attributed to their Regional Director (https://www.facebook.com/347511042067117/posts/1018945278257020?sfns=mo). There were several other reports and images on social media which showed pregnant women who were cheerful over the facility while present to receive medical care.

While these were happening, three other such facilities have been left to rot in other parts of the country. Specifically, a similar designed hospital in Fomena in the Ashanti Region, has been left to rot after the change of government in 2017. At the time, it was over 80 percent complete, but since assumption of office of the Akufo-Addo government, no single work has been seen on that project resulting in the chiefs and people complaining bitterly over government’s neglect of the facility that was meant to provide world-class health care to them and those around their catchment area, (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Fomena-boils-over-abandoned-hospital-project-755977). The Minority members on the Committee of Health of Parliament have recently toured some abandoned health facilities across the country. You can read some of their work here and appreciate what this nation is losing as a result (https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/minority-bemoans-abandoned-health-facilities.html).

 

The recent facility to have received international recognition is the Terminal 3 of the Kotoka International Airport. In a story on myjoyonline sourced from Daily Graphic in June 2018, the story outlined how the Terminal 3 build under the Mahama Administration, measures as a world class facility (https://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2018/August-6th/kias-terminal-3-compares-with-best-in-the-world.php). It outlines how travelers in the past had had to endure the poor conditions with hopes that the situation would change some day.

That change had occurred following the completion of the project and the opening of same for the traveling public in September of 2018, ending the 3 years long wait of a project that began in 2015 (https://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2018/September-15th/kotoka-international-airport-terminal-3-opens-to-passenger-traffic.php). One year on, Terminal 3 wins award as the top airport in West Africa and the 4th best in Africa (https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Kotoka-best-in-West-Africa-789658). Meanwhile, since assumption of office, there were several reports from government officials of how the contract cost of the said Terminal 3 project was bloated. No one would be against investigating such claims, but to the extent that the claims were left as mere allegations, it would be unfortunate to keep them standing.

Again, appointees of the Akufo-Addo government have jumped over themselves to report how defective the Terminal 3 project was, and how money was wasted on same. Indeed, in this report, as much as 513 defects were reported to have been spotted on this project by the current Aviation Minister Mr. Joseph Kofi Ada under whose authority this airport operate (https://starrfm.com.gh/2019/10/terminal-3-has-513-defects-kofi-ada/). That notwithstanding, those it takes to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of an airport were able to adjudge the facility as the best in West Africa settling our minds finally on the beauty and quality of work executed on that facility. We have seen many times on social media, foreign nationals taking videos and pictures from Terminal 3 and appreciating the vision that went into such a project by the John Mahama administration.

What has emerged over these few years following the exit of the Mahama administration is that there were some notable huge infrastructure projects that are yet to be seen since assuming power by the Akufo-Addo government.

A few days ago, the Wa airstrip was opened to the general public and for commercial flights to the Upper West Region (https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2019/october-17th/wa-airport-opens-for-commercial-flight-operations.php). In the Aviation Minister’s presentation at the inauguration, he was said to have indicated that the Wa Airport was meant to open up the country. In that same spirit, there is a completed airport in Ho, the capital of the Volta Region. Since assuming power, several operatives of the government took turns to chastise the project and classified it as unnecessary. If the Wa airstrip is meant to open up the country, how come that of Ho doesn’t contribute to opening up the same country especially when it was built by the same vision of the John Mahama administration?

The state must demand consistency and responsibility from its leaders. The taxpayers’ monies were invested in projects of these nature and must be put to use. It must not lie in the whims and caprices of individuals to deny the people their rights to enjoy facilities built by their taxes.

Before assuming power, the Akufo-Addo administration was aware that the country they were seeking to govern is in dire need of roads, water, electricity, schools, hospitals, and what have you. The people, aside any fantasies that people in government hold over GDP, Inflation rate, Interest rate, require to see these reflect in their lives. On the face, GDP cannot deploy to fix roads, Inflation cannot deploy to build hospitals. All these are meaningless if on daily basis, people have to rise to demonstrate over basic social services that they lack.

It has been three years, and when you attempt ascertaining any meaningful governance impact, the easiest response you get is that the president is doing well when these are not reflective in our societies. Indeed, if he was doing well, the video attached above, where he was heard lamenting over bad roads, would have been fixed by him.

Sometime in May this year, the stretch between Jasikan and Hohoe of the Eastern Corridor Road which now connects the northern part of the Volta Region to the southern part of the Oti Region, received the convoy of the President and his Minister for Roads. He promised fixing that section between July and September. As we speak, not a single grader has been deployed on that stretch to “fix” the road five months since that promise was made.

In a developing country like ours, government cannot keep running from fixing the nation’s infrastructure. If it is ideology that is denying the people the right to see development, they must change those who hold ideological positions that government should not focus attention on such sectors of the economy. Anyone who followed the Donald Trump campaign in America, a highly capital ideological nation, he was heard promising to rebuilt Americas infrastructure. This simply sends a signal that, nations that look up to the likes of America as its benchmark for development, could not do so without focusing on infrastructure, and not the least, governments of developing nations like Ghana.

ASK

AS 2020 APPROACHES FASTER THAN ANTICIPATED

This article would begin with a couple of questions that would lead the discussion in my subsequent paragraphs. It’s quite inherent on us, to ensure we ask some hard questions of the current administration and its leader with a clear mind that we want direction to shift and to deal with the very core issues affective the lives of the people of Ghana.

1. So does our President, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo think parents were not outraged about the conditions of their children when the implementation of Free SHS started in 2017?

2. Does he think that when images of senior high students sitting on stones at La Presec came to light, parents were so happy?

3. Does he think that when images emerged of school children sitting under trees to take their lunch, parents were happy?

4. Does he think that parents were happy when they saw their children mounting beds and tents under trees in the name of Free SHS?

5. Does he think when parents became aware of their children receiving tuition under trees and sleeping on corridors in the open with others laying their student mattresses on the open floors, they were happy with his policy implementation?

6. Does he think that parents were happy when they saw their children on open parks dishing out food to eat for lack of dining facilities?

7. Does he think that parents were happy that some of the completed E-Blocks, for the lack of commitment by his government to furnish them, they saw their children sitting on the floors and some in plastic chairs taken tuition without desks?

8. Does he think that the subsequent Double Track that was introduced, parents are not aware that this is simply meant to conceal the true picture of the hardships and torture their children have been subjected to because of the haphazard nature the policy of Free SHS was implemented?

9. Does he think that parents are not aware that nothing had he done in the area of infrastructure and furniture to contain the matter, but was merely treated like a plaster on a wound?

10. Does he think that by what he is doing, parents would not hold him to his words on the whereabouts of the 350 brand new Senior High Schools he promised?

I can then proceed with these few questions on what our President must averse his mind to, and be considerate and promising on the future we all anticipate for this country which can only come by dent of hard work and not rhetorics and intolerance to critics who think a policy of this nature being implemented in this manner and form could be better done in a different form and manner.

1. Does he think parents would not be happy to see their children housed in decent classrooms for tuition?

2. Does he think that parents would not be happy to see their children sitting in decent dining halls to receive their meals?

3. Does he think that parents would not be glad to see their children sitting behind computers in decent libraries than seeing them sit on blocks to write their exams?

4. Does he think that parents won’t be happy to see that the E-Blocks are completed and more added to provide adequate, decent, and conducive environments for their children to receive lessons that would shape their lives?

5. Does our president not think that parents would be happy if as a result of improved infrastructure at a speed required, they would save the huge sums of monies being spent to pay for accommodation for their children as well as feeding them even though they are told to appreciate the fact that their children are being educated freely? Even in the face of such expenses, we are still pretending to be doing favours to the parents of these children.

6. Does our president not think that parents would be happy if they can save the huge sums being spent on extra classes to keep their children up to speed because of the gap they anticipated has been established by the new duration spent on campus?

Perhaps, knowing his failures in these areas, and knowing the records that his opponent, John Dramani Mahama brings to the table, if a levelled ground is provided and elections contested on same, he would be humiliated in his arrogance. It could simply be this hard truth that he is faced with, laced with cluelessness on what to do in these few months ahead of the 2020 elections, that has caused him to abandon his next generation thinking to now focus on the next elections.

The reality appears too glaring, and facing the people with a single policy popularity, he risks being injured further, and would rather instil fear as against facing reality, for the purposes of winning the 2020 elections.

As it stands, no other policy has been successful. Mention Planting for Food and Jobs, and the question on its success then is, if this was successful, how then do we owe ECOWAS thousands of tonnes of maize, millet, white rice, beans and sorghum that we went to borrow?

If his One Village One Dam policy had succeeded, have we not seen the nature of dams across three or now five northern regions? Did we not see indigenes of these areas including chiefs expressing anger and disgust at the nature of work purported to have been done? Has not his own minister in charge of these initiatives admit that these are not “meaningful dams”?

If his One District One Factory had succeeded, would we have seen the hijacking of existing factories such as Kasapreko and others which existed long before the NPP birthed the idea of a factory per district, with the embossment of a supposed logo and declared as a promise fulfilled?

If his One Million Dollar per constituency had succeeded, would we be in arrears for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, making the government so far to owe each of the 275 constituencies $3 million each, resulting in a total of $825 million (equivalent of Ghc4.45 billion)?

The hard truth president Akufo-Addo faces which he would not be candid enough to admit, but which is inherent in his blood is that he has not the luxury anymore of lofty promises and sloganeering. He is in a position of responsibility and would have to account for the loans secured (which stands at Ghc84 billion in monitory terms, and 1,000 tonnes of maize, 750 tonnes of white rice, 500 tonnes of millet, 500 tonnes of sorghum owed to ECOWAS).

He is no more an aspirant who has not had the benefit of being in power. Faced with the failures registered so far which have so far been concealed in slogans, the reality would be too difficult to massage as the hardships of the people aggravates each passing day.

Today, in just a single year, Ghanaians are bearing increases in water tariffs, electricity tariffs, increase in cost of making a phone call, browsing the internet, sending SMS, staying on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat, etc., increase in cost of fuel, and on top of that, cannot fall sick in peace, but have to bear another hike in medical services rendered them by doctors effective September, 2019.

He is too aware, that, if any Ghanaian who voted for him expected that the cost at which they bought a gallon of fuel under Mahama, they would pay anything above it, they would have maintained Mahama. He knows too well also that if the Ghanaian had any idea that he would buy a bag of rice, maize, pay electricity or water bill and board their ‘Trotro’ above what they were paying under Mahama, they would prefer to maintain Mahama in power.

These are the hard truths Nana Addo must confront and show respect to the sensibilities of the ordinary Ghanaian. What does Mahama lose as a former president? He would continue to enjoy his emoluments till he dies.

His come back which was a response to calls from many, is to put Ghana back on tract where he left it which many can see going off track. He has proven himself to the people. He has proven capable to work, proven truthful, proven to have enormous respect for the ordinary man on the streets. He did not pride himself that every decision went to the joy of the people, but he prides himself that he was building a country beyond today. He was solving generational problems.

This foresight tells greatly in his policies. The nature of hospitals he built, was to solve a gap of infrastructure left behind and to propel us into a future that would provide better healthcare to the people. His hospitals, built with the taxes of the people are expected to serve us for hundreds of years to come when maintained well.

The nature of road infrastructure he built, was to last us ages. He did his work in the sector with tactfulness. Look for instance, when Kufour had a change to address the problem of traffic at Circle, he opted for a footbridge. Mahama provided a multi-modal solution in that spot that would serve a purpose for years to come. His intervention in Kasoa has solved the traffic situation in that particular area. These can be seen in many places across the country.

His intervention in education, coupled with the increased structures in the Senior High level, he anticipated a surge in the numbers at the tertiary levels. So he took to the establishment of public universities that would provide access and affordable tertiary education to the people. He was trans-generational and was building for a future he would not even live to see. He was solving problems by preparing ahead of them and not create problems that he could not solve.

With the current leadership and the leader realising that he has fallen short when measured with these parameters, nothing else could be expected than insinuations, insults and fear mongering. I know the Ghanaian has lived it, and can discern between lies and truth.

The 2020 elections must be forced to focus on how President Akufo-Addo governed to improve the lives of the people, and compared with what his predecessor who faces him into the 2020 elections did. Anything short of this, I can only assume that the incumbent president perhaps, may be relying on the systems he has put in place and intends to put in place to afford him a second term (systems president) as against the true mandate of the people. If he cherishes the votes of the people and wish to obtain their mandate, he may wish to stay on the issues and deal with them as and when they come, rather than this current approach of vilification and instilling fear against a man who has proven so much love for his people.

ASK

BEDROCKS OF DEMOCRACY: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION, HOW IS FAIR IS GHANA FAIRING TODAY?

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression, are the very core of any thriving democracy in any part of the world. Democracy watchers over the world, have had to take the pain to measure the extent to which in every practicing democracy from across the world, the freedoms and liberties of citizens in the expression of their thoughts and dissent, are allowed in a state. Ghana, a nation that has come to accept democracy and had returned to constitutional rule since 1993, has made a commitment to uphold the tenets of democracy and had affirmed its commitment to upholding the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

 

Over the years, efforts have been made to ensure that we improve on the freedoms citizens are expected to enjoy. The press, has been given the space to operate. This resulted in the proliferation of media houses – print and electronic, producing information for the masses. Deservedly, the media has been unofficially named the 4th estate of the real, playing a role significant after the three arms of government – Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary in that order to ensure that the principles of accountability does not get compromised where any or all of the arms of government decide to collaborate to deprive the state of its resources.

 

Ghana has made significant progress on the freedom the media had been guaranteed to operate without interference in its work. We consistently made progress and eventually became the first in Africa to have guaranteed the most freedom to the media. Unfortunately, in the 2018 Press Freedom Index ranking, Ghana slipped 4 points to 27 down from 23 in 2018 following what is regarded as attack on media men. This slip also dropped Ghana from its enviable 1st spot to 4th in Africa. In a report published by Reporters Without Boards in 2019 it states, “Ghana has lost its status as Africa’s best-ranked country in the World Press Freedom Index. A group of investigative journalists had to spend part of 2018 in hiding after producing a documentary about Ghanaian soccer corruption. A ruling party parliamentarian who had been named in the documentary publicly threatened one of the journalists without ever being sanctioned. The journalist was shot dead in the street a few months later” (follow link to read full publication https://rsf.org/en/ghana).

 

Since assumption of power in 2017 by the current government, there have been activities of government and its party officials that have consistently brought about fear in the discharge of duties of journalists whose work were considered detrimental to the regime. It must be emphasized, that, democracy does not connote a system of government in which the ruler must be pleased with pleasant speeches. It is a room for dissent, an avenue for individuals to participate freely and easily in voicing their contrary opinions to those in power. It includes the revelations of ills in society, which requires the attention of those who have the power to make the needed change.

 

Since the airing of #12, an investigative piece by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye PI group, there have been many efforts at bastardizing their work. There have been many attempts to clamp down on their activities because their documentary sought to uncover corruption that took them close to the seat of government. Since that expose, government officials, some of whom stood behind the said Tiger Eye in the past over their investigative pieces, have called into question, the credibility of the team. These individuals have soon forgotten that corruption uncovered using same means in the past, have had their full endorsements.

 

This resulted to a Member of Parliament, and a leading member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. Kennedy Agyarpong, unveiling on live television, the identity of an undercover journalist with the Tiger Eye PI group, Ahmed Sualey, and encouraged the public to beat him. This young man was subsequently beaten and killed by men we are yet to prosecute to serve justice to the family of the late Ahmed. Whether the gruesome murder is related to the conduct of the Member of Parliament or not, his actions preceded the killing. A reckless and unguarded conduct of revealing the identity of a journalist whose work posed very high risk to his life, led to his eventual identity and murder. The nation is yet to witness an invitation to the said Member of Parliament in this regard.

 

Men were sent after the lead journalist in this whole business, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. For him, he escapes perhaps because his real identity has not been bandied about as done with his colleague. Readers would recall that some images were released into the public with a similar attempt to uncover his real identity, except that it failed because the actors were completely not aware who is and who is not Anas. His story would also have been different had efforts to uncover him succeeded.

 

Again, since the publication and broadcasting of a documentary exposing government’s use of state facilities to train party militia groups at the Osu Castle, Mr. Manasseh Azure, another investigative journalist, has been on the run for his life. Indeed, on the platform that assessed the performance of Ghana on the Press Freedom Index, Professor Kwame Karikari revealed how resources have had to be mobilized to whisk Mr. Azure out of the country over attempts to kill him. Mr. Azure, before his rescue, had, on numerous occasions, reported threats to his personal life since airing that documentary that exposed government’s complacency in the fight against vigilantism and the actual release of a state security facility like the Osu Castle for the training of party militia groups whose leaders were enthused about the president’s applaud to their work.

 

It must also be established, that, Mr. Azure has been an avowed critic of the erstwhile John Mahama administration. Indeed, Mr. Manasseh Azure was the one who reported a supposed bribe claimed to have been received by the then president John Dramani Mahama. That supposed bribe is a vehicle that remains part of the fleet of the current government headed by Mr. Akufo-Addo. In the heat of this, Mr. Azure launched a book and invited President Mahama who honoured the invitation and bought the book for Ghc13,000.00 (equivalent of $3,400.00 then) in the midst of vile allegations against him by the same Azure.

 

Further, recently, there was an audio leak of a Minister of State at the Presidency, Mr. Rockson Bukari in which he was allegedly heard negotiating with a journalist with Starr FM, Edward Adeti to cover up a story he obtained bothering on activities of galamsey which the minister is said to have been deeply involved in. Since releasing that audio recording and the subsequent resignation of Mr. Bukari, Mr. Adeti has been on the run over threats against his life. He was merely discharging his duty by safeguarding the good of the state against miscreants who use state power for their personal gains.

 

In the past few weeks, the media has come under state attack in the name of enforcing a supposed law. Let’s even grant that even though against concerns raised by Hon. Okudzeto Ablakwah who actually reviewed the ruling of the Electronic Communications Tribunal (ECT) on Pan African TV to the effect that the National Communications Authority (NCA) lost the case and quashed all fines imposed on the media houses that were involved in the case, let’s grant that the law and was being enforced.

 

Before the closure of the two radio stations, Radio Gold and Radio XYZ on the same day, 9th May, 2019, there was an application letter for renewal of license before the NCA. Per the NCAs own correspondence, on item number 19 (attached to this publication), it indicated that on 12 January 2018, following previous declines, Radio Gold submitted a fresh application to NCA for renewal of its license and paid the fees required. According to the NCA, because of a case pending before the ECT, it was unable to process the request for renewal.      

 

One may ask, since the ruling quashed all outstanding obligations of Radio Gold, was it not prudent that the NCA proceeded to process the application for renewal of authorization with it and conclude on whether or not they are granting the application before acting in the manner they did? Must the regulator not be seen to be ensuring that it helps build and sustain as many outlets as possible instead of being in a hurry to collapse media outlets it oversees?

 

Again, the question that remain unanswered is that, why shut down two opposition media houses simultaneously only at a time they were both broadcasting live, paid for press conference by the Council of Elders of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the matter of ‘harassment’ of its party Chairman, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo? Was the right thing not to have been evidence of letter issued to the effect for the said radio station to meet its obligation failure of which we would have seen what we saw?

 

There have been several efforts, needless as they appear, to insulate the government from this conduct that projects Ghana in a bad light when issues of press freedom is discussed. Who heads the National Communications Authority? Is he not an appointee of the president? In this very case, is he not a member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP)? And, does not the decisions of NCA start and stop with him?

 

In all of these, it would be appropriate to evaluate the freedom the press is expected to enjoy since 2017. Observing the decline this year, it simply tells us that we are not doing something right as a people. Having in place a president who was said to have been involved in the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, we would have expected that the media would have a more free space to operate without hindrances. Unfortunately, the reality is different from expectations.

 

Investigative journalists are assets to any state that is interested in the fight against corruption. Corruption does not happen in the open. It always takes place in the dark. Nations that are concerned and committed to the fight against corruption, would applaud any individual(s) who go undercover to shine light on dark activities of people in positions of responsibility. Unfortunately, it appears this government is rather after such individuals, and where it doesn’t want to be seen to be after them, is quiet and watching individual agents and assigns of government, going after these people. The state must show commitment, and here, the president must be at the center of this discussion. Fighting corruption is not a matter of rhetoric. The words must be backed by actions.

 

A president, with the ‘goodwill’ he enjoyed based on his past acclaimed credentials towards press freedom, would be mindful of the effects actions of government officials would have on his image in this regard. But it appears our president doesn’t care. Was it not possible, looking at the implications it would have on him by closing opposition radio stations simultaneously at a time they were carrying press conference by its Council of Elders, to halt their activities? Was it even out of his command to order their operations and to direct that a more amicable means is found in resolving these? Would it not have given him a better name and image?

 

From the happenings in our media space today, Ghana may perform even worse in its next index. We have brought objective and fair-minded journalists and especially investigative journalists into fear. A democratic state cannot keep on like this. The president must take responsibility and ensure that sanity is restored. He must do more to assure journalists of their freedoms. He must call to order, his party supporters who feel attacking the media and its freedom, is protecting his interest as president. We cannot develop this state without the assurances the media needs. More so when the nation is under the governance of an ascribed human rights lawyer under whose reign human rights are being abused with impunity.

To the extent that just yesterday the president assented the Right To Information Act (RTI Act) into law committing the government and state to making accessible information to the public, the media shall remain a vital element in this process. Information dissemination remains a cardinal duty of the media. To the extent that these media houses that have been closed down also have a specific reach and communicate to a certain aspect of society who have equal rights as others, the president must be seen to be committed fully and not partly to making information available to the general public who require to know of what their taxes are being used for and how people in positions of responsibility are discharging their duties in their general interest. The right to information so granted by law, is meaningless unless the state provides the freedom required by all media houses irrespective of their leaning, to operate without intimidation in all its forms.

 

ASK

 

THE CATHEDRAL: A BRIBE TO HEAVEN?

Having endured series of military interventions since the 1966 coup that overthrew Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaians, after failed attempts to return to democratic and civilian rule, adopted the 4th Republican Constitution in 1992, ushering the troubled nation into a democratic rule that remained uninterrupted over the past twenty seven (27) years. The constitution, has in it, the qualification and the stated procedures for one to become a president of the republic. In addition, the Constitution has stipulated clearly, how the institutions of state are to be constituted and operated. The security sector, also has it express definition and composition in the constitution. The same constitution, frowns on certain conducts which it describes as criminal.

For one to take hold of the institutions of state and to have control over the exercise of executive authority, the democratic document enjoins citizens to engage in democratic, free and fair elections, and only upon winning, that one can be sworn in to office to exercise executive power and to command the nation’s security forces. It was in this spirit that the 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections were conducted. It is in the same spirit that we expect the 2020 elections to be conducted for the legitimate winner to be declared.

The battles into these elections have not been easy between the two largest political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). The stakes have kept rising, pushing some of the elections to the brink. Indeed, the 2000 elections have been closely contested, pushing the eventual decision into a run-off between the NDC and the NPP. Again, in the 2008 elections, Ghanaians witnessed, yet again, another keenly contested elections which was also decided in a run-off.

Then came the 2012 elections which, though were not decided on a run-off, ended up in the nation’s Supreme Court which took 8 solid months of protracted litigation to resolve. The election petition was mainly composed on the back of allegations of irregularities which the NPP wanted resolved with some votes annulled to pave way for then candidate Akufo-Addo to be declared winner by the courts. The courts eventually upheld the declarations as were made by the Electoral Commission (EC), legitimizing the authority of then President John Mahama as the duly elected president of the Republic of Ghana.

While one would admit that political vigilante activities have been with us for some time before the 2016 elections, we openly saw their mobilization ahead of the 2016 elections. Long before the 2012 elections, the current president, His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, issued a threat to then President John Evans Atta Mills, and in his words, “…militants on our side, convinced that the state cannot or will not protect them, may take measures to protect their interests, themselves and their loved ones”, a move which could drive the process towards a point of no return.”

It is also important to clearly establish that activities that had threats and potential to mar our elections, have been witnessed across the divide. However, these were individuals outside the authority of the state, who were operating with the state security apparatus to conceal their real identity and motive.

Before the 2016 elections, there were reports of various vigilante activities across the country, linked to the NPP which was then under the leadership of candidate Akufo-Addo, the leader and flag bearer of the NPP. Indeed, as a result of ensuring the equipping and resourcing of these vigilante members, the government of John Mahama, had had to apprehend and deport some three (3) South African mercenaries who were rounded up training some thugs believed to be vigilante members for the NPP in weapon handling, VVIP operations among others. The Ghanaian public, to some extent, pretended to speak about the phenomenon, but not with the full force of condemnation from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

Whatever the length of discussions we had on the subject, and how ever one would wish to lay blames on the previous administration for not dealing with the phenomenon of vigilantism as required, the New Patriotic Party, a party that apparently hosted openly the activities of these vigilante groups and actually benefited from them, emerged winners of the 2016 elections, and had had to deal with a monster of their own creation.

Faced with public uproar and opprobrium arising from the brutalities that were captured on video from the Awayaso West Wuogon by-elections over the elections of a replacement Member of Parliament (MP) of constituents in the area following the death of their MP, the government and especially the president, were seen in a pretentious move to have a total commitment towards dealing with the issue of rising acts of party militia, a phenomenon our society had found voice in recent times to condemn, be it a little too late.

With revelations coming from the Justice Emile Short Commission of Enquiry, constituted to look into the Ayawaso West Wuogon phenomenon, the nation felt embarrassed, to the extent that security officials who were expected to act in a professional manner, seem to have thrown away their professional standards and operated as individuals who have no formal training in crowd control in a civilized society. From the revelations, even though government officials have made efforts to legitimise their operations, it was too glaring to see the motive when security officers who were on the field and had command over the operations on the said day, appeared shocked and ignorant of the operations engaged in by forces other than those directly under their control and command. Perhaps, the Ayawaso West Wuogon issue had come rather too early, but timely for the world to see what this nation was to witness in the 2020 elections.

Having regard to the manner operations of the nature engaged in by militia groups linked to the NPP in the past especially from the declaration of Nana Akufo-Addo as president to today, it would be foolhardy for anyone to think that the president and his government are interested at any point in ensuring the end of the activities of party boys whose activities had been to his benefit intra party, ahead of the 2016 elections especially at the party headquarters which was a few yards away from his residence, but which he never spoke against.

Indeed, the conduct of the Delta Forces in Kumasi where they went into the offices of the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator, appointed by President Akufo-Addo, beat him up, and dragged him out of his office which eventually marked his last day in office without any reprimand, except to pat them on the wrist for a job well done when the party was alleged to have mobilized the needed resources to pay the eventual court fine that was slapped on them after previously storming the court to free their members standing trial in Rambo-style. In addition, the abuse and assault of ASP Nanka Bruce at the Jubilee House, captured on video, which went unpunished, are all instances to give as an idea of how serious the Akufo-Addo government is in dealing with issues of political thuggery.

Considering the abrasive and brave Akufo-Addo, the man who declared “all die be die” all of a sudden, showing some sobriety towards calls to end political thuggery, it was refreshing, but was a matter that should easily draw suspicions from all peace-loving citizens. There have not been any prior conducts from himself and government to show any commitment towards ensuring the end of such conducts in government. He has failed to punish even when the opportunity was so glaring with the perpetrators easy to round up. As a result, some were suspicious of his calls to the NDC to meet with his political party, the NPP, to begin discussions towards ending political vigilantism.

What was even shocking was the tone and language used in responding to the letter written to his office by the NDC to outline some modalities towards the discussions. The president, in his response, virtually denied claims by the NDC that he has infiltrated the security services with his party thugs.

Meanwhile, moments before his response was delivered to the party, his known party activist, believed to be a member of a vigilante group, seen in several pictures at NPP functions providing security and other activities to the party, Double, who admitted before the Emile Short Commission as having no formal qualification except vending mobile phones and subsequently acquiring a three week training at Asutware military training camp, a testimony that corroborated the statement to that effect by former President Mahama that party thugs were trained at the said facility and enrolled into the national security set-up, had made revelations that appeared to heighten the fears of many.

While the presidency was at the verge of denial of hosting party militia, Manasseh Azure of Joy FM, was yet to expose the double standards of the president. His revelations, have established the core operations of militia groups with state support, in state security facilities, at no mean a place, than the Osu Castle which not long ago, functioned as Ghana’s seat of government through the colonial administration to Kwame Nkrumah, Mills until John Mahama. We saw on the screens, how the president was said to have enquired if those were the members being hosted at the Castle, an indication that he knows of their existence, and the existence of other militia groups at other places.

What informed the choice of topic to this article, is the drive by a president who appears to want to please God, but who doesn’t appear to believe that the same God, answers to all things in His own time and will. I do not wish to proclaim superior knowledge of the Word of God more than the pastors who are seen globetrotting with the president in search of funds to build a cathedral.

Our God is a peaceful God, that, we know. Our God, admonishes us to live peacefully with our neighbours. He also teaches us to have faith and hope in Him. We should understand that, if our president, chooses to build a cathedral “to the glory of God” based on his personal promise to Him, then, we have every reason to believe that he believes wholly in the God he is building a cathedral to please. He cannot be serving two masters; building a cathedral to the glory of God, while building a private militia to his own glory.

I am at a loss, having watched the Manasseh video, how the president can claim no knowledge over the existence of these groups in his government, and their use of state security facilities for his parochial party interest, following the tone of response in his letter to the NDC on his own request.

The call appears a pretentious one, and a cunning way to play a clean political card before the international community in the open, while lacking the political will needed to fully and wholly deal with the threat of vigilantism.

Having paraded influential members of the clergy behind him in his quest and drive to build a national cathedral, we are afraid that these same individuals who are expected to hold high the moral fibre of our society, have lost their gravitas in calling on the president to live by his words and promise and to hold a higher moral standard if he really meant to serve the interest of God. This issue has the potential of derailing the gains we have made politically and would dent our enviable record of achievement as the beacon of democracy in Africa.

Our resolve must be to reprobate and to approbate when the need arises. We cannot be seen to be weak in our conviction and in dealing with issues that threatens our collective good. Our political environment must be safe, and be done in a democratic manner that allows citizens the right to choose their leaders without any threats of intimidation. The president must be clearly seen to be committed to what he preaches. If he is building a cathedral for God to dwell in, it simply means he loves God and loves His children. Building a militia that would intimidate and harm God’s children cannot be in tune with that commitment and promise to build a cathedral. Our president must not see the cathedral as a bribe to heaven, since indeed, our God looks into our hearts more than what we exhibit to the world.

 

ASK