Thursday, 25 July 2013

Importance Of President Mills’ Peace Legacy

A year ago, the whole nation came to a standstill. The land was soaked with unadulterated tears of all well-meaning Ghanaians whose hearts were broken by the demise of a noble, humble and peace-loving President. Indeed the memory of his extra affection for peace turns the tap of tears on any time his name is mentioned. Former President J.A Kufour certainly did not mince words when he described him as one with air of peace around him. He did not only punctuate his speeches with his gospel of peace but his entire lifestyle demonstrated this noble virtue. If there is any time that Prof Mills' message of peace should be relevant for us as a nation, then it is now when Ghanaians are awaiting the Supreme Court verdict on the presidential election petition. Prof Mills' description of peace as a priceless commodity is an understatement. Peace is a sign of development and prosperity, it brings happiness among people. It helps to promotes human rights, democratic norms and values. Peace helps to create the feeling of love, trust, tolerance, and brotherhood among people. Peace is described as the mother of civilisation and war as the demon of destruction. It is a sad fact that for several years now, peace has eluded many nations especially in Africa who instead battle with a wide range of internal conflicts that eventually turn the clock of progress and development backwards. Ghana is not regarded world-wide as a conflict prone country; however, issues about access to land, use of natural resources and sometimes politics amongst others, have occasionally led to levels of conflicts that have tampered with our peace. As much as it is impossible to have a conflict-free society the repercussions of war and other forms of unrest in other parts of the continent should prompt us as a nation to resist any temptation of fuelling conflict into intense violence and brutality.

Prof Atta Mills has paid his dues so well, that any reference to the blood and toil of our fathers in the national pledge cannot exclude his sacrifice. For him, peace is the foundation of every development. If there is any priceless commodity that can be a reference point for paying glowing tribute to this statesman, then it is his message of peace. As we anxiously await the outcome of the Supreme Court verdict, it is very certain that not all of us will be totally satisfied with the outcome. However it is possible for the sake of peace to create an attitude to enable us embrace the verdict regardless of how it may turn out. No nation anywhere can make any meaningful progress in the midst of intense conflicts. Conflict impacts the well-being of a people, reducing quality of life, the capabilities of people to live the kinds of lives they value, and the real choices they have. Today, there are several refugees and internally displaced persons resulting from conflicts in Africa. To quote President Mills ‘when you watch the television and you see displaced people from war torn countries carrying their bags and leaving their countries, do we ponder to ask what are in their bags and where they are going?’. Indeed Prof Mills hit the nail right on the head when he said ‘violence never puts food on anybody’s table and in fact never constructs any road. As a people, we need to revive the Ghanaian spirit of brotherliness and peace loving and adopt the strategy of accommodating and negotiation when we simply cannot agree on any issue. The perfect tribute we can give to the memory of the late Prof John Evans Atta Mills is to endeavour to stay together in peace and unity after the Supreme Court verdict and beyond.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The National Peace Summit

The National Peace Summit held last Friday to educate Ghanaians on the need to use dialogue instead of violence to resolve conflicts indeed gives cause for hope, given the anxiety as Ghanaians await the verdict of the Supreme Court in the 2012 election petition. On the 31st of this month, counsel for both the petitioners and respondents will be delivering their addresses to enable the nine member panel of the Supreme Court to come out with their final judgement. The Summit organised by the National Peace Council, Manhyia Palace, Civic Forum Initiative and the Institute of Democratic Governance was indeed refreshing having brought together, people of high repute and influence to make peace overtures.

Dominating the speeches was the need for Ghanaians to ensure that the pronouncement of the verdict unite them instead of divide them. Both former President Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor reiterated the need for political dialogue to facilitate the management of issues relating to the verdict and those that affect national cohesion and stability. It is understandable why a lot of anxiety has generated over the judgement of the election petition. This is the first time in the annals of the nation's politics that an electoral challenge of this magnitude is being dealt with openly. The doors of the judicial system were opened to the media for the first time and for 47 days running, Ghanaians followed the arguments with rapt attention vis-a-vis all the twists and turns. The question therefore lingering in the minds of every Ghanaian is whether the Supreme Court will overturn the results of the last elections or confirm the sitting President as the legitimate President of Ghana. Ghana has been an oasis of peace in a region that has seen some of the worst display of human behaviour in the past two decades. This enviable record needs not be tainted in any way. Some people are nevertheless skeptical about the success of the National Peace Summit given the fact that, a similar one held under the auspices of the Asantehene in Kumasi prior to the general election during which all stakeholders appended their signatures to uphold the results never materialised. It is regrettable key personalities to the election dispute were not at the Peace Summit to reassure the nation as to their commitment to peace no matter which direction the verdict goes. At any rate, it is good the youth groups of almost all the political parties were in attendance and together sang a patriotic song indicating their readiness to accept the verdict.

We need to commend the Supreme Court Justices for the way they have handled the case so far. The clamp down on contemptuous language has brought tints of sanity on the airwaves which are likely to impact on the post-election verdict. As we await the landmark decision it behoves all social commentators, party supporters, youth groups and the media to be circumspect and exhibit the highest sense of civility in order not to inflame passion before and after the verdict. Ghanaians owe it a responsibility to reaffirm their respect for the rule of law and due process. The nation's interest must supersede any individual interest. We agree the stakes are high in the election petition but that should not be the harbinger to tear the nation apart. Already the political arena is so polarised we cannot gamble with the nation's security. The spirit and letter of the National Peace Summit was most commendable but the question is, are we prepared to go by its outcome which is reconciliation? The 2012 election petition must not be a basis to spill a drop of blood. We need peace to develop this nation which is at the heart of the International Community. It is good both President Mahama and Nana Akufo Addo have pledged to accept the Supreme Court verdict no matter the direction it goes. The case indeed has dragged for quite too long affecting the country's investment drive. Ghana is for all of us and nobody has the divine right to rule the country, simpliciter. The personal interest of individuals cannot and should not override the collective. The Nation Commission for Civic Education, Information Services Department, the Political Parties and other social groups must intensify campaign to sensitize people to the need to accept the Supreme Court verdict without any qualms. There must and should not be any political upheaval after the Supreme Court has rolled out its decision, Ghana must move forward nothing more, nothing less.


Friday, 19 July 2013

What Has Been Hindering Our Development?

53 years in the life of a person or a country is not a mere achievement that is why we have to rejoice and be glad the Lord has yet again added another year to the life of our country in freedom as a Republican State. More than five decades ago, our colonial masters handed over the baton of leadership to us so that we can make our own decisions and implement them. After many years of presiding over our own affairs, what we see clearly now is political freedom backed by partisanship, coupled with meaningless economic indices and to a large extent some level of social freedom. One wonders what actually might be contributing to our inability to develop our country as expected. It will indeed be out of place to say that God has not given us the right place as a people, because we have all that many a country does not have. Many of the developed and semi-developed countries started with Ghana and some even later and yet they are doing very well. So what then is wrong with us? Have we been cursed perpetually by our colonial masters and their affiliates? That will be too hard to believe because our colonial masters left 53 years ago and it would not be fair for us to continuously blame them for our woes. The problem has always been narrowed down to our attitudes and many other factors, so should the colonial master be held accountable for all the decisions we have made or have not made for the past 53 years? From the very day our first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, declared that the black man was capable of managing his own affairs, did we not decide to take our destinies into our own hands? Are we saying we have still not been able to find ways of dealing with our challenges as a country? Our dear country - Ghana is engulfed with a barrage of problems - from sanitation to leadership. All we do is to blame everybody except ourselves. From the media to the farm, no one is finding solutions, we are all looking for excuses. How then can we develop at the rate that we must? Sometimes people talk about the rubbish in our towns and cities as if when we were going to sleep the entire place was very clean and people came from some other planet to make it unclean. If we cannot take responsibility, how then can we proffer concrete solutions to our problems? Should we continue like this? Talk, talk, talk, talk, and talk the more? Why can’t we decide to stop sitting on the fence, why can’t we say it is time to rise and be counted? And why can’t we say never again will we blame anyone for our problems but ourselves?

Ghana is arguably one of the most blessed countries in the world, it is undoubtedly clear that we are not making good use of what God has divinely blessed us with. We have all or most of the resources that must make a country prosperous like gold, diamond, bauxite, and now oil. We also have all the sunshine and rainwater that many a country would have wished to have, we also have rivers, the sea, streams and lakes. Not to talk of the abundant arable land and green vegetation. What again do we need? It is about time we stopped criticizing, politicizing every issue and discussing problems without solutions. We should come to terms with the fact that it is only through our collective efforts that we can get to where we want to. Countries that are doing well would not have reached where they are if they were only interested in identifying problems, criticizing people and systems without suggesting the way forward. Even as we take a sober reflection over the above, let us resolve and say never again will we condemn without due cause, never again will we criticize without suggesting alternatives, never again are we going to allow politics to divide us as a people, never again are we going to renege on our sacred duties of building our country - Ghana. Let us look wider than we have probably been doing for the past 53 years. We must look at what we have and make proper use of it for the betterment of us all. We need an experienced older generation to guide the youth, we need a creative, volunteering, humble and patriotic, and solution-oriented younger generation who will work as a team, to steer this country forward. Our country needs people who will protect and respect its laws, we need people who will stand up and defend its sovereignty. We must consider and know that there is no government that can do better than all of us, no group of people or political activists can do even half of what we can do together. We are all in this together, we may all be sailing in different boats, but we are all going to the same destination. There is no better time than today. All we do is talk about history without making some ourselves. Those who read history are not remembered, it is those who make history that are remembered. We should not forget that. And we should also not forget that, we have had many forefathers, but not all of them can we boast of.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

GES To Punish Absentee Teachers

The Minister of Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman deserves a thunderous applause on her decision to sanction some staff of the Ghana Education Service for absenteeism. The Minister took the decision during an unannounced visit to some basic schools in the Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta Regions. Some teachers and Head teachers who were not at post during Professor Opoku Agyeman's visit are to be sanctioned by the Director-General of the GES who was part of the Minister's entourage. The Minister observed that supervision seems to have broken down in some schools. Prof. Opoku Agyeman took a decisive decision which most superiors fail to do because they fear to court the displeasure of their subordinates.

Teachers are a group of people seen as role models in society. Students learn largely from their teachers. In recent times however, it appears discipline is not receiving priority attention within the teaching fraternity. Some teachers engage in all manner of malfeasance unbecoming of their profession, some even smoke and drink openly in front of their students. Others impregnate children they are supposed to teach. Recently teachers went on strike refusing to teach for several days because they had problems with their salaries. They paraded placards with unsavory language. Gone were the days when we had supervisors visiting schools to check on the lesson notes of teachers and ensure that they did their work as required. These days, the opposite is the case. In the absence of proper supervision, wayward teachers tend to do their own thing engaging pupils in all sorts of menial jobs. Some trade openly in the schools without the Head-teachers reprimanding them. Others extort monies from their students and some fail to attend classes only to organize extra classes for which, they demand huge fees. These negative practices do not pertain to teachers alone; it is all over in the Public Service. Lateness to work, absent without permission , open trading at the workplace, malingering, working lotto at work, and other petty acts which affect productivity seem to be the order of the day. Superiors who try to check these acts are described in derogatory terms so they tread cautiously. Paradoxically, loafers are the first to go to the banks at the end of the month. Simply said, our work culture is not the best. As former President Kufuor once said workers pretend to work and government pretends to pay them. But should that be the case?

The Single Spine Pay Policy has drastically shot up the salary levels of almost every worker, so, government must demand that workers truly earn their salaries. Supervision at the workplace needs to be strengthened to enable the nation get value for money. In the developed world, they do not joke with their work ethics. That is why they are able to make it. Ministers and other government appointees must emulate Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman. As she frankly put it at a recent encounter with this writer, "she is not in to court cheap popularity". Late President Atta Mills paid surprise visits to a number of organisations and the revelations were scathing. Ministers and District Chief Executives must supervise projects they initiate to ensure they are done according to specification. It is unfortunate a lot of government funds are draining into individual pockets for either shoddy work or no work done. People are connecting electricity or water free of charge because, people at the helm of affairs of these utilities either do not care or are colluding with such people. When we talk about corruption, people think it is only limited to government appointees. What corruption simply means is that using state office for private gains. So until we act as checks on each other, the canker of corruption will never cease. We say ‘Ayekoo’ to Professor Naana Opoku Agyeman. She has indeed trodden where others failed to tread.


Friday, 5 July 2013

Prosecuting People For State Funds Misappropriation

President Mahama's directive to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to set up a Committee to start prosecuting people cited in the Auditor-General's report for misappropriating state funds scores him another plus. Speaking at the Senior Citizen's luncheon to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of Ghana's attainment of Republican status, President Mahama is reported as saying that the move is to send clear signals to people that they could not dip their hands into the state coffers and go scot-free. The 2011 Auditor General report indicates that the country lost more than two billion cedis to financial irregularities. These include cash embezzlement, payroll irregularities, uncovered debts, procurement and tax irregularities by over 80 public boards, Corporation and Institutions. According to the report out of the total figure, misapplication of funds, embezzlements, unverified payments and uncredited bank lodgements due to poor control environment and ineffective internal credit units at the various public boards, Corporation and Statutory Institutions resulted in nearly two billion cedis less in cash irregularities alone.

Leakages in the national kitty do not augur well for accelerated national development. The country needs funds to initiate development projects to enhance the living standards of the people. It is unfortunate we go with cup in hand to solicit for loans yet, we do not watch over these monies well making them leak into individual projects. Transparency and Accountability are integral parts of sustainable development. The District Assemblies Common Fund is one area government needs to keep eagle eyes on because it is very much prior to abuse. Utilisation guidelines are not adhered to and MMDAs do not use the monies received for the intended purpose, for instance section 87(2) of the Local Government Act 1993, (ACT 462) stipulates among other things that all monies received by MMDA from the Common Fund should be expanded only on projects that form part of the approved development plans of the Assemblies. Let’s ask over selves how many assemblies adhere to this directive? It is imperative that government strengthens the Internal Audit of the Assemblies because they act as gate keepers against misuse of funds. It is well known that most of the assemblies especially those in the North are unable to generate sufficient internal revenue for their recurrent expenditure. Under the District Assemblies Common Fund, the Assemblies are ordered seven and a half percent of the total revenue (generate) from within. The on-going judgement Debts Commission hearing is replete with reckless acts by some district assemblies resulting in the court awarding compensation of some victims. Another disturbing aspect of the Audit General's report were disclosure that management of the state -owned Ghana Railway Company could not account for about 800 million cedis revenue collected between 2005 and 2006. According to the report the Company collected out six point eight million cedis but only six million was lodged into the company's designated bank accounts leaving the whereabouts of the remaining eight million or so in a mystery.

As the Audit General recommended, it is pertinent to put in place adequate mechanisms towards debt recovery to ensure prompt recoveries on due dates to avoid the occurrence of bad debts. There is also the need to enhance supervision over accounting staff whiles prompts payment of imprest, authentication of all pay vouchers and early credit judgement are adhere to. President Mahama has within the short time that he has been in the office shown beyond deeds that he is committed to the anti-corruption crusade. This has been amplified by this later directive to the Attorney General. The state is for us all and not a few individuals. Many individuals find it difficult to make ends meet due to the corrupt practices venture to ensure a clean state.