Hmm, each day and its occurrences. The year 2017 went peacefully with its pluses and minuses. I have made a decision that I will no longer make fresh resolutions any new year for the rest of my life. Resolutions are like personal budgets; their attainments depend on the broader economic environments. If you decide to stop drinking mahogany bitters in the New Year and your mother dies in the first week of the year without informing you in advance, tell me whether you won’t take some sips of the bitters. Or during the Christmas you hooked a beautiful daughter of Eve, and instead of dining at ‘Don’t Mind Your Wife’ as you did throughout the year and this time you went to Western Best Atlantic Hotel, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Takoradi, just for her to tell you in January that ‘her ex’ has returned from Oyibo Obodo, as the Nigerian will say, I bet you, mahogany bitters will be your walking companion. That is why it is dangerous to have New Year Resolutions.
A lot of gains were made in the lives of individual citizens. New policies and programmes were laid out by the government of President Akufo-Addo. Very critical election promises were delivered to the surprise of the generality of Ghanaians in particular and the world generally. For example, the implementation of the free Senior High School education programme. The surprises did not come because they are impossible to be implemented. Their worry is the state of the economy the NPP administration inherited from the outgone NDC government.
The Teacher Training allowances by the Mahama administration was also restored in the year just gone by. I can tell you for a fact that when the allowances were withdrawn, many qualified applicants to the Colleges of Education who were offered admissions could not accept the offers because they did not have the monies to pay. Many such Colleges of Education had to re-open the admission to get the number of students they needed to begin the academic years.
Invariably, many people who had below the required grades but could afford the fees got admission into the Colleges. The situation in the Nursing and Midwifery Institutions were not different. We downplayed the difficulties these children went through. Nana Addo’s government put the smiles back on their lips.
These are social programmes that are very difficult to implement particularly when a nation’s finances are not too healthy. Many a government would want to shift such public expenditures onto the citizenry and save monies for other activities to improve the health of the economy. But the Akufo-Addo government believes that the best health of a nation is the social health that offers more education and opportunities for the poor and the vulnerable.
These and many more interventions have attracted the attention of majority of the populace. The Food for Jobs programme, its earlier setbacks in respect of the army worm invasion which destroyed cereals, has been largely successful. Travel through the Accra –Takoradi road, and the bunches of fresh plantains lined up on the sides of the road is a testimony of the success of the programme. Normally, in the agriculture calendar of the country, the first quarter of the year is considered as the lean season when foodstuffs become scarce and expensive. I can say without contradiction that there is more than enough food in the country to avert this perennial ‘lean season phenomenon’ of high cost of foodstuffs. So many good things have happened within the first year of the NPP government even though it is admitted that there are still more challenges that confront this country.
These challenges did not spring up the day President Akufo-Addo was sworn in. They are the outcomes of eight years of visionless leadership that characterized the Mills- Mahama administration. The new government has braced itself to deal with the challenges and move the country unto the path of growth and prosperity. It will not be distracted by the myriad of unproven allegations from the party which superintended over the massive corruption this nation had ever witnessed in its history. The government of the NDC from 2009-2016 presided over open destruction of the nation’s river bodies as if there was no tomorrow. Today, sanity has prevailed and efforts are being made to restore the river bodies to their natural state. These are the areas we should focus on.
I have had the opportunity to humbly caution appointees of the President that our politics has become more perception-driven than the actual occurrences. That the biggest relief such appointees will offer the President is, as much as possible, avoiding scandals, perceived or real, which will needlessly distract government and the President in particular from his core functions and programmes to move this country out of the near economic abyss it was drowned in before January 7, 2017.
The President, since last year, has had cause to refer some cases of allegations to the CID for investigations. Even though there were no truths in the allegations hatched on by the opposition, it was a distraction. The Ministry of Trade and Industry issue is still under investigation by Parliament as I write. Before then, the President had had cause to write to the Minister of Trade and Industry to respond to the allegations. Another distraction.
Then within the Christmas season, the DVLA comes out with a policy which in my view is purely commercial and generated a major furore, in fact anxiety and anger towards the government. I am talking about the First Aid kits that the DVLA was selling to motorists at criminally exorbitant prices before they get their vehicles registered. This was in the Christmas mood and people were angry. In the long run, it was withdrawn. Why this needless behavior by the management of the DVLA?
To let Ghanaians know about other commercial acts of the DVLA, let me share my experiences. Somewhere in 2016, I had gone to the Takoradi office of the DVLA to transact business in respect of my vehicle. Even though I had the required triangle, fire extinguisher and related items, I was given a bill to pay for these items from the DVLA. The usual ‘too know Kwesi Biney’ questioned which part of the DVLA law empowers them to trade in those items. The gentleman could not quote any portion of their law but was insistent that if I did not buy those items from them, I was not going to be issued with the documents I was applying for.
I must concede that I do not have a copy of the Act of DVLA, but I am sure that the functions of the Authority do not include selling fire extinguishers or First Aid kits as conditions for registering vehicles. It is sickening that in this country when people are put in public places, they either front for their wives, friends and relations to engage in commercial activities for their benefit to the detriment of the public.
The silence on this matter from officialdom beyond the suspension or withdrawal of the sale of those items is not enough. The authority is gaining unexpurgated notoriety for criminality in the performance of its functions. Do you remember the fraudulent over pricing of a procurement which was priced at GH¢9.3 million when the actual price was GH¢3.6 million. When the Boss appeared before a Parliamentary Committee, he said ‘to err is human’ and was left off the hook. In a civilized jurisdiction, he would have been told that ‘to be jailed is divine’. But this is Ghana; all of us can do anything and go scot free. We can kill and plead ‘to err is human’.
The DVLA must not be allowed to be agents for any commercial entity or individual no matter how powerful that individual is to exploit the motoring public. It is criminal and must not be countenanced in any form or shape. We have struggled to take power from the NDC. We can’t allow any group of people to make this government unpopular before even our second year in office.
Daavi, please give me three tots of the bitters.