Democracy and accountability under attack in today’s Ghana
We have got to be better than this. By 2008 we had the distinction of being a country with one of the highest indices of press freedom in the world. Today, we are discussing the possibility of social media being blocked for the upcoming elections. Is this real? We are falling into the embrace of Uganda, Congo Brazzaville and God forsaken Chad? Do we have a constitution that guarantees universal freedom of expression or don't we?
This "discussion" has no standing. This is what happens when lawlessness is nurtured unfettered in the land. This is what happens when a president receives the auditor-general's report detailing grand theft from all levels of government and simply admonishes the perpetrators instead of leading them to the gallows. And worse, no one sees anything wrong with it.
Begging the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) not to shut down social media? No! Don’t beg. Tell him, he must enforce the law as it is laid down in the constitution. His office has no authority to write laws of convenience or even to contemplate such things.
This is what happens when parliament dawdles forever in passing the Right to Information Bill so that citizens continue to be stonewalled by an executive branch that has not strengthened the institutions needed for the maintenance of civil order. As such, all investigations into major corruption scandals have faded into the fog that is the prosecutorial arm of the state. There are many more such cases that need to be exposed like the blatant over invoicing for personal and political gain typified by the Smartty's bus branding scandal. Crimes have been committed and prosecutions should follow. No branch of government seems to have the political will to champion the rule of law.
The law on the requirements for political parties have been on the books since 1992. The Electoral Commission (EC) finally chooses to enforce the law and what do the political parties do? There is talk of begging the EC. Why do we always want to beg? Personal responsibility is accountability before the law. Political parties not meeting the legal requirements should comply with the law. Yes. The law. You cannot drive on the wrong side of the road, kill innocent citizens and beg after you have consciously broken the law. Yes. The law.
We are at a point in our evolution as a democracy where Mr. Mahama's transactional presidency is not measuring up to the needs of the nation. This is not a political evaluation. It is an evaluation based on the fact that the president has failed to lead the change needed to transform the society. If there is a vision guiding his presidency, it is still at the end of an artist's brush, yet to be framed for public view.
In the last few months something unprecedented has happened. The British High Commissioner his Canadian counterpart and the American ambassador have all expressed their concern about the level of corruption in the country and the negative impact it is having on our ability to attract foreign investment partners. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has revealed that 63 assemblies misappropriated a total of GH¢ 6.1 million between 2010-2012.However, no clear action is being taken against these thieving public servants. The president though still refers to corruption as a perception. It is real and is so pervasive that it is costing lives daily in Ghana. Additionally, so many companies have simply given up but according to the president, not one company has left the country.
When a problem occurs, the knee jerk utterances of government appointees, who seek to convince the public that every action of the government is correct, insult our collective intelligence.
The absence of critical thinking and transparency in addressing problems is clearly undermining our democracy. It is time for members of professional and other organizations to speak up against the unprofessional manner in which the nation’s affairs are being managed across the board. We are becoming a veritable banana republic.
Every issue seems to be politicized to no end. Everything from Supreme Court rulings to the supposed software problems of Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) meters. One wonders whether after the new system was installed, a pilot study was conducted before the full roll out. It seems the government operates on an ad hoc basis and even large parastatals entities like the ECG similarly operate with their paying customers as an afterthought. Just as citizens are seemingly an afterthought for this government.
The president exhorts young graduates to become entrepreneurs without attention to the poor quality of education our current graduates have received and without any financial and training programs to achieve this goal. Yet, with all this, poorly resourced polytechnics are being converted to universities. How will we ever train skilled technicians to build our national infrastructure instead of importing Brazilians. Education in Ghana is now no better than "Bantu education" of the apartheid era in South Africa. It's nothing less than pathetic.
The twin terrors of impunity and inertia have been the core characteristics of Mr. Mahama's tenure. Lawlessness has risen largely because even though the 4th estate and the statutory reporting agencies provide data on large scale theft of public monies, nothing is done. Our journalists report on events or better still they cover what politicians say at events, irrespective of the nature of the utterances. They hardly ever seek the truth. They do not doggedly follow stories after they leave the headlines. For example no journalist has given us a count of how many community day schools have really been built. How hard can this be?
How can a government claim it is fighting corruption when it fails to properly fund and support the Accountant - General and Attorney-General's departments? This is a cynical regime whose final days should be upon them soon. Ghanaians have options and they should exercise them.
Beware, for in 2017 our first Eurobonds come due. Brace yourselves for more economic storms. The current offering has not attracted a flood of investors and the interest rate if subscribed, will be in the double digits. Enter the new HIPC with a vengeance. T. P. Manus Ulzen is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the University of Alabama and Author of” Java Hill: An African Journey” – A historiography of Ghana javahillelmina.wordpress.com Twitter: @thaddeusulzen www.javahillelmina.com
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