I am still struggling to understand what went into creating a constitution that allows the winner of an election to take everything to himself. The winner-takes-all mistake is part of the violence that sometimes greets our elections. It is part of the wanton corruption that has become epidemic. It is part of the reason why voters are bombarded with unrealistic election promises and programmes.
Most of the real programmes that aid societal transformation are usually not promised during elections. Our politicians know that those real transformative programmes are not ‘sexy’ enough to win votes. The ‘One This, One That’ sham is what attracts the votes. That is why the weight of some of the promises is watering down, resulting in the struggling path we find ourselves.
I believe in any governmental intervention that holds universal appeal. That is why the Capitation Grant, which was introduced somewhere in 2005, was my best governmental programme prior to the introduction of the Free SHS. Last week, President Akufo-Addo was reported to have said that using part of the oil revenue to fund Free SHS is the most equitable and transparent thing to do with our oil resources.
I agree with him one hundred per cent. The Free SHS, regardless of its sources of funding and challenges, is the most sensible leadership fortitude in transforming our society, away from the self-inflicted economic segregation in this country. As someone who actively supported the cause of change, I have lived in self-fulfillment in knowing that our young persons, regardless of their economic circumstances, can access secondary school education, and have the same chance as the rich, in their quest to achieve future prosperity.
The 2020 elections are some two years away from now, yet I am already sure that my vote is for Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo. I want to see the Free SHS succeed, and I think he needs another term to stabilize what he has begun. At least for the first time in fifteen years, I never paid any fees for any first year secondary school student. That was what I voted for, and that is what I have got.
As a country engulfed in corruption, I do not believe that we have gotten to a stage where needs-based-selective interventions will be free from parochial political corrupt interests.
LEAP, selective secondary school scholarships and laptop distributions are all well-intentioned programmes which have been susceptible to greed and politics, and have ended up benefitting the rich more than the targeted poor. And some of those jaundiced programmes became avenues for some contractors to fly guinea fowls across our borders.
I am sure you are asking me to state my position on NABCO? It is laudable, wise and empowering. It removes our young tertiary graduates from the indignity that is often associated with adult dependency. It removes our young people from certain critical vulnerabilities. While creating job experience, it also improves the search for further and better opportunities, providing some three years of recycling beneficiaries.
I am not certain if the Invisible and Delta Forces will allow the programme to survive the structures put in place to ensure fair and equitable enrolment. Will the son or daughter of a typical fisherman from Winneba be able to, without seeing any MP, Minister or other influential people, go into the system, log on, enter his or her details, and go back to sleep, assuming she has the same chance to be selected as all others who are from the corridors of power?
What about ghost names? How are we sure that our men and women in ‘powerful clothes’ are not going to create their own certificates to flood the system with ghost names, so as to get the GHC700 monthly allowances poured into their pockets like the way we scammed the National Service scheme?
So the NABCO is good. It provides equal opportunities in terms of reducing youth poverty. But it must not be seen as one of the spoils of war, as though the only humans in this country are those who voted for Nana Akufo-Addo. Those who win elections are not the only hungry people in Ghana.
Voting is an expression of opinion. I voted for President Akufo-Addo. The fact that my friend, Kwesi Kwame, did not agree with me and therefore voted for President John Mahama, does not have to necessarily deprive him (Kwesi Kwame) of the benefits of citizenship.
In the last couple of days, I have seen two appointments. They are not major appointments, but they raise sufficient questions that are enough to get us worried more than we were in our socio-political practices.
Vincent Ekow Assafuah has been appointed as the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Education, while David Prah has been appointed as the Public Relations Officer for the National Service Secretariat.
While congratulating my two brothers on their appointments, I have wondered if they did not have concrete technical CVs, apart from the partisan achievements that accompanied their appointments. I have wondered how long they have been in the public sector, for which reason they suddenly rose to become key figures in those establishments, and whether or not their length of service is sufficient to get them into their present seats?
It is sufficient to appoint ministers and deputy ministers from the political class. But I am still struggling to accept the fact that we are appointing politicians into technocratic roles – a departure from what we need for our development. The Public Relations outfit of any of the government agencies should never be filled with individuals having political colours.
A week ago the leadership of Civil and Local Government Workers Association (CLOSAG) accused the government functionaries of taking on special aides who are taking over the work of civil and public servants. They held a press conference to protest, arguing that the practice is denying government machinery the due process that needs to be followed.
How did those who were holding the press conference get themselves recruited into the civil service? Most of them are perpetrators and beneficiaries of these same backdoor recruitment rots that deprive ordinary people the equal chance of gaining employment into the civil service. Press aides, constituency activists turn into public servants at once when their party is in power. I recall some NDC communicators taking over the running of commentaries on GTV at the independent parade when the party won power in 2009.
As soon as a political party wins power, nearly all party chairmen, secretaries, and appointees suddenly turn into contractors for roads buildings and medicine. The roads and buildings which were constructed by such stained shovels during the previous administration are now in a state of shock with manholes. It is now the turn of the NPP government cohorts to begin to construct roads with two weeks warranty – the winner takes all, one party at a time.
Ibrahim Mahama, for instance, has suddenly begun to have problems. His Nyinahin bauxite concession has been cancelled under questionable discriminatory circumstances. This certainly would not happen if he were part of the present government. There are reports of several concessions in the same categories as Ibrahim Mahama – whether right or wrong. Yet it is him alone whose business is being collapsed.
His brother, John Mahama, has lost power so he seems to have become a vindictive target. If Ibrahim’s concession is wrong, then, like I have said in the past, you will have to cancel all those other concessions in the same wrong category as that of him (Ibrahim) – that is justice and equality before the law.
These are exactly the reasons why I cried for change. A change not only in the economic fortunes of political office holders; a change not only in the broader wellbeing of the followers of the winning political parties; but also a change in how we carry ourselves in the sharing of our resources. A change that will demonstrate inclusion, regardless of political patronage and opinion. That would have meant more to me than the repetition of vindictive allocation of our collective resources.
By James Kofi Annan