Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Ghana to draw lessons from US Presidential Debate

The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates holds series of debates for US Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates ahead of each general election.

This year, the Commission plans to hold four debates, three for the Presidential Candidates and one for the Vice Candidates.

The first of such debates took place early this morning which saw the two leading candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump
clashed over jobs, terrorism and race.

The debate saw hot exchanges between the lawyer and the consummate salesman, with the host having tough time controlling them.

America is an advanced democracy where a good number of the citizens vote on critical issues that affect their lives and their country.

The debates also afford the candidates the opportunity to question the credibility, competence and capabilities of their opponents.

Such was the case when Mr. Trump indicated that his opponent, Mrs. Clinton lacks the temperament and stamina to be President.

As an astute lawyer, Mrs. Clinton was able to turn the heat on Trump, keeping him on the defensive for most part.

The New York showdown could be the most watched debate in TV history, with up to 100 million viewers.

Back home in Ghana, there are a lot of things to learn from the American experience.

The conduct of Presidential Debates prior to elections should be institutionalised on our political calendar.

As Dr. Ransford Gyampo onces put it, those who seek to govern must be prepared to subject themselves to probing questions from the citizenry to ensure that they understand the concerns of the masses and have the capacity to address them.

The argument that debates do not influence voters cannot wash.

Why should debates be looked at only in relation to electoral fortunes of political parties?

It will be self deceptive for anyone to even think that debates in our part of the world do not translate into tangible votes.

There is research to show that about 10 percent of Ghanaian voters are undecided and are likely to be influenced by factors such as performance at presidential debates.

Any party that intends to win the election must be interested in the floating voters who are the real election king makers.

The Institute of Economic Affairs, the National Commission for Civic Education and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, all of which have indicated their intentions to organize Presidential Debates must expedite action on their plans.

The political parties and their candidates must also avail themselves for such platforms and participate in the debates.

Where there are lingering issues, both sides; the organisers and the candidates must iron out their differences.

One major concern has to do with eligibility.

Which candidate qualifies to participate in the debate.

Looking at the current situation, where 23 aspirants have picked nomination forms to contest, one can only imagine how clamsy it will be lining up 23 candidates on a stage to debate each other.

It is suggested also that the debate be limited to only those who will have successfully filed their nominations.

Granted that about half of those who picked the nomination forms are unable to file, it will still be problematic organising debates involving all of them.

There is therefore the need to fashion out some sort of eligibility criteria.

Thankfully, the US has shown the way.

The Commission on Presidential Debates

stipulates three criteria for eligibility.

These are constitutional eligibility to be a president, appearance on enough ballots to potentially reach 270 electoral votes, and average at least 15 percent on five selected national polls.

Four of the candidates have achieved the first two criteria: Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Green nominee Jill Stein, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

However, only Clinton and Trump satisfy the third criterion of averaging 15 percent in five selected national polls and thus were the only two to appear in the first debate.

The IEA limits its debate to candidates of parties with representation in Parliament.

The defect of this principle is that it automatically precludes new parties and independent candidates.

As a compromise, there should be a scientific national survey to determine the popularity of each aspirant.

A treshold should be set and who ever meets that treshold should be made to participate in the debate.

As a beginning, the debate can feature the two largest parties, NDC and NPP.


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Impact Of Industrial Action On National Development


Industrial actions continue to be a challenge to the nation. One labour union after the other embarks on this destructive journey to demand one thing or the other. Though strikes date back to centuries across the globe, strikes today, defy common logic especially in our part of the world. Strikes are embarked upon by employees who feel dissatisfied with one thing or the other. It may be poor condition of service or dissatisfaction about pay. In the developed world, strikes are the last resort after all other options have been exhausted. In Ghana, strikes have become the first rather than the last resort for employees especially those in the public sector. The use of the English word "strike" first appeared in 1768, when sailors, in support of demonstrations in London "struck" or removed the topgallant sails of merchant ships at port, thus crippling the ships. In 1917, Mexico according to Wikipedia was the first nation that constitutionally guaranteed the right to strike. In 1937, there were 4,740 strikes in the United States. This was the greatest strike wave in US labour history. These strikes occurred during a period of great depression and massive unemployment. In 1967, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted and ensure the right to strike. Since then, there have been numerous labour agitations all over the world. There is no doubt that in advanced democracies, strike is a legitimate means of registering protest against one thing or the other especially on the labour front. The situation is not different in Ghana. Like Oliver Twist, workers would always want more, simply because human needs are insatiable.

However, the current situation in Ghana is worrisome. The rampant nature of strikes and threats of strikes beat imagination. Hardly a week ends without one labour union threatening to go on strike. Ghana Medical Association, University Teachers Association of Ghana, National Association of Graduate Teachers, Ghana National Association of Teachers, Teachers and Educational Workers Union, Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana, Civil and Local Government Service Staff Association of Ghana, Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association and Colleges of Education Teachers Association of Ghana have become household names in Ghana because of strikes.

The introduction of the Single Spine Salary Scheme has not helped matters. It has arguably worsened the case. The number of unions which have gone on strike over issues relating to their migration onto the new pay policy cannot be counted, neither can their impact on productivity be quantified. What is more worrying is the fact that in most instances, the unions flout the labour laws with impunity. It is equally troubling that state institutions and for that matter government appears to be condoning such illegal strikes. The fact is, workers who go on illegal strikes are not supposed to be paid but how many workers have been denied their salaries for embarking on an illegal strike? It is true that strikes become rampant in election years and governments fear losing some votes if they strictly apply the law. For how long should we allow these illegalities to go on? Strikes are necessary but not when they become persistent and hinder national development.

It is about time government took the bull by the horn and dealt decisively with this situation. Strikes, in some instances have irreversible consequences on people. For instance, a life lost during a strike by health workers cannot be brought back. Productive hours lost during industrial actions are lost forever. That is why workers have to first of all, consider the full implications of their actions before embarking on strike. Of course, workers deserve a good condition of service and it is their right to demand same. That is why institutions like the National Labour Commission has been set up. Ghana also has a good Labour Act, which clearly spells out the procedure for going on a legal strike. Let us follow the laid down procedures so that there will be industrial harmony. Every issue can be resolved at the negotiation table and as the saying goes, jaw jaw is always better than war war.

Government needs to be proactive. This firefighting approach to dealing with labour issues is not helping. Employers especially government, should not wait until workers go on strike before it strives to solve their concerns. It is time to say ‘No’ to strikes.


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Founder's Day

The declaration of 21st September, the birthday of Ghana's first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as Founder's Day, and making it a statutory public holiday continues to generate debate among Ghanaians. Apparently the decision is strongly opposed by some politicians, opinion leaders and well-meaning Ghanaians who are touted as anti-Nkrumaists. It is not certain if the National Founder’s Day can stand the test of time, especially in the event of change of government. It is no secret that NPP that traces its root to the UP tradition disputes the description of Nkrumah as the Founder of Ghana. It will not be far-fetched to think therefore that, if the NPP wins power, it will certainly review the Day, by probably dedicating it to all the members of the Big Six in Ghana's history. There is a point in arguing that one single individual cannot found a country. It is however true that in some instances, individuals play significant roles in the socio-political history of their countries. Dr. Nkrumah was one such individual whose contribution towards the attainment of Ghana's independence is unparalleled. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Edward Akuffo-Addo, Dr. J. B. Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, William Ofori Atta all played major roles in the independence struggle. But the achievements of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah distinguished him from them all. His ideology for pan-Africanism, Africa liberation, and self-governance earned him an enviable reputation on the globe. Little surprise he was adjudged Africa’s greatest “Man of the Millennium” in the year 2000. As a follow up, during the African Union's 13th Ordinary Summit in Libya, the heads of State unanimously agreed to celebrate Nkrumah’s centenary birthday. The event has since been added to the AU’s calendar of Special Events. The African Union has also erected a statue to his honour at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah demonstrated patriotism and eschewed parochialism as a visionary leader. He is credited for all the major infrastructure in the country. One can talk of roads, schools, hospitals, factories, the Akosombo Dam and the Tema Harbour and many others. Of course, he was not a perfect man for perfection is an impossible goal of a man. He had his shortcomings. He was accused of dictatorial tendencies and cracking down on dissent. There is no doubt that his good deeds far outweigh his negatives. As we mark another Founder's Day, it important for every citizen to exhibit a sense of patriotism and unity in all spheres of life. Let’s draw inspiration from the achievements, ideology, and vision of Kwame Nkrumah for the purpose of nation building.

As we embark on another journey to elect a President and 275 Members of Parliament, let us be guided by the life and times of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the unique man of valour, who led Ghana to independence, initiated and propelled Ghana on a path of socio-economic transformation and worked tirelessly to ensure freedom for the oppressed. Let the people who are seeking political power understand that it is a call for servitude. It is disheartening that, these days a lot of people go into politics, not to serve the nation but rather to amass wealth and enhance the living conditions of their family and friends. Is it surprising that there is so much tension associated with elections? If not for the personal benefits, why will anyone attempt to use force and other undesirable means to win an election? On this day, let the youth of this nation realize that there was once a man called Dr. Nkrumah, who despite all claims, really worked hard to put this country on a sound social, economic and political footing. All hope is not lost, Ghana can be great again. That journey towards greatness begins with you and I. Let us believe that Yes, we can, work towards it and sooner than later, Ghana will once again be the Black and rising star of Africa. 
Happy Founder's Day.


Women Empowerment

Not too long ago, The people of South Africa celebrated the 60th anniversary of the march of women against apartheid.

This is quite significant because it showed the contribution of women to the attainment of freedom for the people of South Africa.

The history of Ghana makes us understand how a brave woman; Yaa Asantewaa, the queen mother of Ejisu, led the people of the Ashanti kingdom in their resistance against the British colonisers, and the protection of what is important to their kingdom; The golden stool.

This reiterates the fact that women, directly or indirectly, have played and continue to play major roles in the success story of communities, countries and the world at large.

What is however baffling is why women are considered second fidel in society, particularly in our part of the world.

Women, when given the chance, can deliver just as men do. For example, in 2009, Ghana, for the first time, had a female speaker of Parliament, Mrs. Joyce Bamford-Addo.

It is without doubt that she performed as equally good as the male speakers, or even better than some of them.

It is regrettable that, a woman in a position of authority, whether in business or politics, is seen as having traded her way to the top.

Must that always be the assumption? The question is; what are our leaders doing to encourage and motivate women to take up sensitive positions to also contribute to the development of the nation? Women are capable of being at the helm of affairs.

Indeed, women are able and capable of leading big businesses, and even nations.

That is why the Progressive Peoples Party led by Dr. Papa Kwesi Ndoum needs commendation for his unflinching confidence in Ghanaian women.

On two successive occasions, the party appointed a female running mate. Many women have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that they have what it takes to deliver when given the opportunity.

This is evidenced in the works of Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong and EC Chairperson Charlotte Osei.

These are just a few examples among thousands of women who are working hard to contribute their quota to the development of the nation.

It is therefore in the right direction for a country like Ghana, which has more females than males to have an Affirmative Action policy.

It is refreshing to hear the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, expressed her confidence that an Affirmative Action Bill will be passed before the end of the year by Parliament.But what happens after its passage?

Ghana is known for having good laws, but in some cases, lacks the courage to implement them.

The Affirmative Action bill, when passed into law should not be treated like one of those laws which are hardly implemented, but rather be treated as a matter of priority.

Let us give our women the roles without exacting favours, whether in kind or cash, from them.

We must encourage them with our words and our resources Let us also provide them a conducive atmosphere to operate so that at the end we can produce our own Margaret Thatchers, Theresa Mary Mays and Hilary Clintons.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

NDC 2016 Manifesto

The ruling National Democratic Congress over the weekend launched its manifesto for the 2016 election in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region. The event was colourful, spotless and well attended. There is no empirical scientific study to show the extent to which manifestos influence Ghanaians in their voting. It is incontrovertible however that a chunk of Ghanaians vote primarily on party affiliations. A few others are influenced by factors such as tribe, religion, old school and physical appearance. In any case, manifestoes have become an integral part of Ghana's electoral process and every serious political party is expected to clearly spell out its vision for the nation. It should be so because elections must be issues driven. We cannot continue to allow mundane factors to determine people we elect to govern us. That is why it is appalling that the NDC manifesto is coming this late. The manifesto should have been outdoored months ago to afford Ghanaians enough time to scrutinize it. The case for the main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party is even worse. It is sad that the party intends to make public its manifesto on the 8th of next month, just two months before the election.

One may ask what useful purpose will it serve looking at the timing? It does not portray the NPP as hungry enough for power. As the largest opposition party with a real likelihood of winning the election, the NPP should be doing better than that. As for arguments that the ideas will be stolen when the party releases its manifesto earlier, the least said about it the better. The NDC manifesto is titled Changing Lives , Transforming Ghana. The President and Leader of the NDC, John Mahama indicated that the party's policies, programmes and projects have been directed at putting people first, building a strong and resilient economy, expanding infrastructure for accelerated growth and jobs, and advancing transparent and accountable governance.

In 2012, the party made a number of promises to the good of people. In the educational sector for instance, the party promised construction of 200 Community Day Senior High Schools, introduction of progressively free secondary education, construction of 10 new colleges of education, university in the Eastern Region and elimination of the remaining schools under trees. Similar mouthwatering promises were made in the areas of the economy, health, agriculture and infrastructure. Four years down the line, the records are there for Ghanaians to judge. They have to decide whether or not the party has delivered on its promises to their satisfaction, which should warrant a renewal of mandate. With the launch of the 2016 manifesto, the NDC is making fresh promises. The party undertakes to improve the quality of education and health and make them easily accessible and affordable, improve on the country's infrastructure in terms of road and rail network, sea and air transport, revamp old factories and build new ones, revamp agriculture and promote tourism, and tackle unemployment and corruption. These ideas are great, no doubt about that, but as Vice President and running mate to the party's flagbearer acknowledged, good manifestoes do not vote for themselves. It is up to the rank and file of the party to go out there and explain the programmes to the voters. In so doing, the party will have to convince Ghanaians about the feasibility of their ideas. They will also have to show that the party is capable of delivering on its manifesto.

As the incumbent, the NDC will have to demonstrate by its track record, how well it has delivered on its previous manifestos. This election should be fought on the basis of demonstrable competence and capability. While the Presidential Candidate of the NDC, being the incumbent President should be judged based on his performance over the last four years, the other candidates should also be judged based on how effectively they have led their parties so far. In fact, if one cannot be said to have ably led his or her party and kept it tact and vibrant, certainly one cannot be trusted with the destiny of a country as highly polarised as Ghana. It cannot go without mentioning, why the NDC chose to launch its manifesto in Sunyani.

According to history, Sunyani, originally called ‘Sun Dwae’, in the Bono language, used to be the place where hunters slaughter elephants. By extension, the NDC symbolically or coincidentally chose Sunyani to launch its manifesto with the hope of completely finishing its fiercest opponents, the NPP, which has elephant as its symbol, in the December election.

As to whether this will come to pass, time will tell.


Monday, 19 September 2016

Food Security In Ghana


Fish is recognized as the most important source of animal protein in all regions of the country. Estimates suggest that over 60 percent of animal protein in the Ghanaian diet comes from fish and the commodity makes it up to 22 point four per cent of food expenditure in all households and over 25 percent of food expenditure in poor households. Certainly, fish is extremely important to Ghanaians for food security, particularly among the poor. The fisheries sector plays a vital role in the national economy contributing approximately four percent of the GDP, provides employment to the labour force and adds to the foreign exchange of the country as well as assists in the alleviation of rural poverty. Regarding foreign exchange earnings, Ghana's fish exports are among the top three most important non-traditional exports. On employment, it is estimated that over 150,000 fishers are engaged in marine capture fisheries. It is also estimated about one point five to two million people rely on and or provide support to these fishers. It must be noted that thousands of artisanal fishers are losing out in the competition with industrial fishing for exports.

Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that their regular fishing activities have been affected due to the uncontrolled influx of trawlers into the country's coastal waters. Already, marine and fresh water fish stocks are showing signs of depletion. Ghana is a net importer of fish and can ill afford further decline in fisheries productivity due to unsustainable practices. The situation is made more troubling as experts are driving up domestic fish prices and nearly a quarter of children below five are undernourished according to the FAO. The demand for fish in the country exceeds the annual supply by about 360 thousand tons. This is nearly as much as domestic annual production which will need to increase significantly in the coming years to prevent food insecurity. This brings to the fore the need to address illegal fishing in the country through education and sensitization of stakeholders for sustainable fisheries management.

Government should as a matter of urgency enforce the fisheries law and strengthen the marine police, the Navy and the other security agencies to do their work effectively in order to deal with the miscreants putting the fishing industry at risk.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Journalists Role in Ghana's democracy

The Ghana Journalists Association recently held a glittering ceremony to award the country's best journalists.

All the winners were deserving and I congratulate them heartily.

Looking at the ceremony and the hoopla surrounding it, one may be tempted to describe it as our golden age of journalism.But it is not.

I brought to me the image of people celebrating on the deck of the Titanic as it headed for the ice-berg.
While for the most part, this is not the era of persecution of journalists and owners like Kugblenu, Thompson, Haruna, Baako, Pratt and Ephson, it is a dark era.

Mark my words.

This era will not be defined by the work of the great journalists.

It will be defined by the MUNTIE contemnors, the insults of women on air, the threatening of ethnic groups and judges, the muzzling of dissent and the cheering or deafening silence that accompanied these.
The debasement of our common standards of decency.

The bastardization of institutions and the silence or acquiescence of good men and women in all these. The Ghana Journalists Association, in existence since 1949, has a cardinal principle "to promote the attainment of high professional standards, integrity and media accountability ".

Can GJA promote high professional standards and be blind to accountability for shoddy journalism? The truth is that under this republic, the media has moved from an institution that needs to be protected to one that, all too frequently does harm or is used to do harm to our collective interest and to individuals.
As Radio Milles Colline in Rwanda and many other media outlets have demonstrated, the media, used the wrong way, can destroy societies.

Unfortunately, too many in our media have become weapons for attacking institutions or the enemies of big men or private interests. The 1992 constitution has adequate provisions to guarantee press freedom and accountability.

Articles 162 and 163 guarantee press freedom.
Then, article 164 states, " The provisions of 162 and 163 of this constitution are subject to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons".

Superb language! Then in article 166, it established the National Media Commission, to protect the media and to regulate it in the public interest.

Article 167 b lays out the role of the National Media Commission, requiring it " To take all appropriate measures to ensure the establishment and maintenance of the highest journalistic standards in the mass media, including the investigation, mediation and settlement of complaints made against or by the press or other mass media". These are impressive constitutional provisions.

Unfortunately, both Parliament and the National Media Commission has gone to sleep.

Parliament has passed no enlightened laws to promote the development of our media.

The NMC, which was envisaged by the constitution to be the big force for good in our media environment has shrunk.

Most people sent there go as agents of private interests instead of as guardians of the public interest. If Ghana was a private concern interested in return on investment, we would be demanding refunds from Parliament and the National Media Commision.

Let Parliament pass laws to protect good journalists and the public from those that will harm the innocent, protect the guilty and bully the timid.

We deserve better. Let the GJA find its voice against the mercenaries who are debasing the image of all journalists and let the NMC awake from its slumber and be the force it was meant to be.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter".

He never met the Ghanaian media. 1988 Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who knows about African journalism first hand, wrote, "Writing is for men who can think and feel; not mindless sensation seekers out of nightclubs and bars.

But these are bad times.

We are condemned to work with upstarts; clowns who no doubt got their training in a circus and then turned to journalism as the appropriate place to display their tricks". Let journalism and the good journalists keep out the clowns and the upstarts. Let us be free and just in our public space. God bless you all.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Recent Effusions Of Rt Rev Prof. Martey's claims

The outgoing Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, the Right Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey, will go down in history as one of the most controversial religious leaders of Ghana. Professor Martey was elected at the 10th General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana held in Takoradi between August 6 and 12, 2010 for a six year tenure which is expected to end in November this year. The Presbyterian Church without doubt has contributed enormously to the development of Ghana in all spheres of life. Indeed, the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School, Presec Legon, has been one of the best second cycle Institutions in Ghana since its establishment many decades ago. In areas of health and economic development, the contribution of the Presbyterian Church cannot be under-estimated. It is against this background that it is worth commenting on the recent effusions of the outgoing Moderator of the Church. Prof. Martey at a recent news conference alleged that some politicians had attempted to bribe him with a house with a swimming pool at the plush Trassaco Valley, in addition to a luxurious four wheel drive and a cash of one hundred thousand dollars.

Before the dust settled on that allegation, Prof Martey topped it up with yet another allegation to the effect that the Deputy Minister of the Interior with the blessing of the Interior Minister had offered to lobby for him to become the Chairman of the National Peace Council. In his view, all these were attempts to dissuade him from openly criticising the government. It is beyond argument, that these pronouncements have brought the Presbyterian Church of Ghana into some conflict with the ruling party. But more importantly, it has brought the integrity of the respected theologian into question. When he made the first allegation of attempts to bribe him, Prof. Martey, was challenged by many people including; his own former Public Relations Officer to name the so called politicians who offered him the bribe, but he has failed so far to disclose the identities of those people. The only excuse he gave was that he does not deal with personalities but rather with issues. But contrary of this position, Prof. Martey was able to name a Deputy Minister of the Interior as having contacted him to lobby for the National Peace Council Chairmanship for him.

The question is how come on this occasion Prof Martey was able to name someone but on the previous, and a more serious matter, failed to name the people. This boggles the mind and raises doubt about the sincerity of his claims. The Professor should be bold as he claims to be, and name the people who offered him the bribe. That is what every decent, patriotic and law abiding citizen should do. The laws of this country frown on bribery and corruption and it should be every body's business to contribute towards eradicating this canker which has been described as a mass murderer and the bane of Ghana's development.

In addition, Prof Martey must make public the text message which he claimed the Deputy Minister of the Interior sent to him in respect of the National Peace Council Chairmanship position. As a nation, we should not allow our leaders to make such claims and allegations without subjecting them to proof tests. It was this same Prof. who in the heat of the energy crisis questioned the competence of the President and his appointees. He virtually insulted everybody in the country when he made this statement and i quote" Nyansafoee mo wo hen?' unquote, to wit" Where are the knowledgeable people in this country'. He then stated that he could solve the problem within a very short period when given the chance. Asked how he was going to do that, he ridiculously stated, through prayers. No one can downplay the power of prayers but prayers must be backed by concrete action. Even so, if Prof Martey could solve Ghana's problems with prayers, what has he been waiting for? Does he need to be elected President or appointed a Minister in order to do so?

It is about time Prof Martey gave us a break. The nation is becoming sick and tired of his reckless or unsubstantiated claims. If he wants to be taken seriously, he needs to back his claims with evidence. No one is preventing him from criticising. In fact, he will be failing in his calling as a man of God, if he does not speak up against the ills in the society. But in so doing, he must be sincere, honest and unbiased. From the look of things, Prof. Martey seems to be persuaded by other considerations rather than the genuine desire for a better and prosperous Ghana.


This Year's Eid-Ul-Adha

Literally translating as the “festival of the sacrifice” and also known as the “Greater Eid”, Eid al-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by Muslims all over the world. It is distinct from Eid al-Fitr, the festival that comes immediately after Ramadan which was celebrated last month. During the Greater Eid, Muslims commemorate the day Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son but was told by God to kill an animal instead. The celebration symbolises Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah. It honours his willingness to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God's command.

The Eid sacrifice is a frank reminder of the great expression, not only of Abraham's love for God, but of God's great love for hell-bound sinners in giving his only Son to die for the sins of the world so that some, by forsaking their sin and by trusting in the Son, might be redeemed from the awful wrath of God and become instead, the heirs of his grace. The timing of the celebration is dictated by the lunar cycle, so the festival falls on a different date every year, just as Easter does. The day is set when a new moon is sighted – but there is no exact definition of what this means. There is little agreement within the faith about whether the moon must be spotted with the naked eye and whether it should be seen in the country where the celebrations are happening. The result of the varying interpretations of the rule is that Greater Eid falls on a different day depending on what sect, mosque or region you are in.

This year, the Eid was expected to have fallen on September 11, which was yesterday, which co-incidentally marked the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. Concerns arose that the holiday would be misunderstood to mean Muslims celebrating the atrocities. One cannot also rule out the possibility of some unscrupulous elements in the society taking advantage of the celebrations and the Day to launch attacks similar to those which took place in 2001. As soon as it became apparent that this year's Eid was likely to fall on 9/11, religious leaders in many parts of the world put their communities on high alert. Mosques which normally hold outdoor prayers on Eid are reportedly considering moving indoors amid worries about security. This is imperative due to the surge in suspected hate crimes after terrorist massacres in Paris and California. As Akbar Ahmed, a chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington DC said: “One act of violence could trigger another as there is heightened tension." It is therefore not surprising that the Eid has been shifted to today. In any case, these fears and concerns cannot take anything away from the significance of the Day. It is a joyous occasion. Men, women, and children dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer in large congregations in open fields or mosques.

The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid al-Adha by concerted efforts to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake in the sacrificial meal during these days. Affluent Muslims who can afford it sacrifice their best domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep, or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his only son. Even as Muslims and indeed all Ghanaians celebrate this very important festival, we must be reminded of the recent happenings at the Asawase Town Hall when some people lost their lives in a stampede during an Eid-ul-fitr night jam. In as much as these are joyous occasions, people must learn to celebrate in moderation. Reckless riding of motor bikes, alcoholism and the likes should not form part religious festivals. Even as the nation goes to the polls in December, let us use this occasion to pray for peaceful elections. But more importantly, let our conduct on this occasion demonstrate that we are have the fear of God in us and we love peace.

Eid Mubarak.


The Church In Politics

The Church is expected to champion the moral uprightness of the society. The Church is populated with individuals who have divergent political opinions as well as those who are apolitical. It is for these reasons that the Church must at all times, ensure that it balances the interests of its members before coming out on issues of politics. Any act that portrays the Church as standing for one political party, automatically divides the church. The cohesion the church is expected to have is lost. The leadership of the Church should understand that leading the church does not make them the only people who have views and opinions. In seeking spiritual purification, people do not consider the status of those who lead them in the church. This is why Professors would humble themselves before individuals who have not attained a quarter of their level of education. This is because, the anointed is a special person ordained by God. By succumbing to the leadership of the church, we have not subdued our intelligence and ability to think. We have equally not subsumed our opinions to those of our church leaders.

In view of this, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana must take steps to ensure that the type of leadership provided by Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey over the years is placed in its proper context in the Ghanaian society. It is easy to distinguish political comments from comments made at the pulpit that are aimed at checking the moral standing of leaders of the country. Governance and politics are not mutually exclusive. Politicians are not evil men. Any attempt by any man of God to project a group of individuals as evil because they do not stand for their political beliefs is most unfortunate. The Bible is not the operation manual for the practice of politics. Any man of God, who chooses to meddle in politics, cannot expect to be addressed with the Bible, but with politics. No one would attempt to take away the fact that aside being men and women of God, these individuals equally have their political beliefs. They have the rights and liberties to make political comments. Those parameters must be clearly defined. What is dangerous is for a man of God to assume neutrality while making damaging political comments. The difficulty it presents is that, one does not know when to take the God out of the man and to deal with him on political basis.

The Biblical cliché “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm”, appear to provide cover for political men of God. When the church and its leadership appear political, it becomes necessary to probe and ascertain their ideological leanings. There is no way a capitalist of a pastor would appreciate anything a socialist government would do. In the same light, there is no way a socialist man of God would appreciate anything done by a capitalist government. What the church is expected to do under all circumstances is to ensure that they hold the spiritual torch to show the way for God’s intervention in decisions taken by the leaders so as to get their flock to a safer destination.

That is why the recent pronouncements of the outgoing Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana are very disappointing. Of course, the church has a role to play in the fight against corruption and other negative acts. This does not call for making unsubstantiated allegations. Politicians are mostly fond of alleging without proof. The church must stay away from that. The Moderator must move a notch ahead of politicians and name the individuals who came to offer him bribe. We cannot continue behaving the same way where leadership of the church are not acting differently from politicians. It does not improve the society. The new Moderator must take steps to unite the church. There are silent cracks in the church which need to be addressed. He must ensure that he rebuilds confidence in the church with assurances that he is willing to work with everyone no matter their political affiliations.

The church must understand it has membership that cut across all political parties and must be in a position to lead their flock with unity and practical neutrality.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The 'Galamsey' Menace

The rate at which Ghana’s land is being degraded through mining leaves much to be desired. Informal or illegal mining also known as ‘galamsey’ in Ghana dates back decades before the arrival of the colonial masters. This has become a major source of livelihood for persons living in mining communities. Some of these illegal miners are of the view that, the benefit they derive from giving out their land to mining companies is nothing to write home about. Another school of thought has it that ‘galamsey’ provides guaranteed jobs for the youth and reduces crime in those communities. The earnings they make from the sale of their spoils cannot in anyway be comparable to the damage they cause to the environment especially our water bodies. The small scale mining act was passed to legalise small scale mining in a bid check ‘galamsey’.

However, the move appears to be yielding little or no dividend as ‘galamsey’ activities seem to be becoming brisk rather than waning as reported by the Ghana Chamber of Mines in 2008. One worrying aspect of this whole galamsey canker is the ‘tom brown feature’, how it has discoloured our water bodies. They say “water is life”, but in the current circumstance, water is to say the least poison and for that matter death. The Oda, Birim, Densu and Offin Rivers to mention just a few are heavily polluted. These rivers do not only serve as a source of raw water for the Ghana Water Company Limited but also major fishing and farming purposes. In the Daily Graphic of 3rd October, 2013, the Ghana Water Company Limited gave out a strong warning that, the rate at which these reckless mining expeditions are polluting our river bodies, it would not be long before the company would be unable to bear the increasing cost of water treatment caused by the heavy pollution. It is therefore not surprising that it has been reported that the GWCL’s water treatment plant at Kyebi in the Eastern Region has been shut down due to the abnormal turbidity of the Birim River.

The Water Resources Commission has also been monitoring the water quality of about 40 water bodies since 2005. The results as obtained between 2010 and 2011 are despicable. Most of the water bodies have predictably dropped from a quality of ‘good’ to ‘poor’ within two years. In the past few years, there was a renewed effort to halt illegal mining. An Inter-ministerial Task Force Against Illegal Mining was constituted in 2013 to clampdown on these illegal mining activities. It appears their activities which led to the confiscation of several mining equipment, the dismantling of hundreds of illegal mining sites and the kicking out of those miners, including Chinese from the sites was short-lived. The escalation of the ‘galamsey’ menace despite numerous calls for its termination is a manifestation of how indiscipline and lawless we have become as a people. It is even more terrible to such an extent that stakeholders such as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, Chiefs, Police and Military commanders who live in mineral rich communities are alleged to have become the backbone for these illegal miners and their sophisticated equipment. What is more disheartening is the ease with which foreign nationals especially, Chinese, who might even be illegal immigrants, also engage in this reckless activities.

Going forward, the foreign nationals who appear to be spearheading these illegal mining expeditions should be arrested and dealt with ruthlessly. Mere deportation does not seem to be working. The Small-Scale Gold Mining Act of 1989 has also been on the shelf for far too long. It needs to be used. When the government officially legalised the practice in the late 1980s, it brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted mining concessions to peasants. The process was cumbersome and slow and therefore forced many people to mine illicitly. This must also be taken care of immediately. Tours by stakeholders to ascertain the extent of damage should stop forthwith. The time has come for the law to take its course.

Besides enforcing the law, there is the need to create alternative source of livelihood for the inhabitants of the mining communities to keep them away from further inflicting havoc on the land. The youth and other members of these communities should be engaged in efforts to restore the environment.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Ensuring Efficient And Respectable Police Service

A couple of incidents that occurred recently paint a very unfortunate and disappointing picture of the Ghana Police Service. Two suspected armed robbers who attacked a bullion van in Donkorkrom in the Eastern Region were identified as Policemen. Two other Policemen were also involved in a six-member car-snatching syndicate in Accra. It may be recalled that in 2009, there was a proposed ‘Performance Re-engineering Policy’ by which policemen and women were moved to fit into the appropriate positions, on the merit of defensible criteria such as rank, qualification and competence. That was fair enough and the leadership of the Ghana Police Service was commended for the moral courage in taking the right steps, both big and small. The momentum was supposed to be maintained in the implementation of the policy in order to boost the morale of the men and women in the Ghana Police Service.

In the midst of all these initiatives, the nation was hit with the news of a recruitment scam in the service. Perhaps, it will be impulsive to suggest that the happenings in the Ghana Police Service are offshoots of the said scam, whereby certain undesirable characters had managed to enter the Service. It will not be surprising to learn that the suspects were among the batch connected with the botched recruitment exercise. The Ghana Police Service is the source for ascertaining the background of certain categories of workers. It is therefore very surprising that the very organization that is responsible for issuing ‘security clearance’ has shot itself in the foot, by not being all that diligent in its recruitment exercises, lately. Enlisting more hands should not give cause to water down the laid-down procedures and good practices in the selection process. Stiffer screening of new recruits should be one of the things that can be done to avoid enlisting people with dubious backgrounds. It takes time to handle such tasks but it is essential for future efficiency and integrity.

Again, in the spirit of ‘visibility’ and friendliness, all policemen and women are to wear name tags and numbers. The idea was a means of redeeming the image of the Service, especially to curb corruption. At the moment, it appears that it is an option to wear the tags. This is baffling because an order in a Security organization leaves no room for variance or doing as one pleases. The Police are supposed to be ‘friends’ and protectors of their fellow citizens and inhabitants of this nation. A friend is someone whom you can approach for help in times of difficulty. A friend is usually identified by the name or pet-name. A ‘friendly’ Police portrays a human face behind an official uniform and works openly. On the contrary, ‘nameless’ Police personnel are prone to bring dishonour to an organization whose motto is “Service with integrity”. A friendly Police will not take undue advantage of the weak and vulnerable and be trigger-happy. The public can co-operate better when they come upon delinquent Policemen and women.

The name or number can be quoted to support other concrete evidence by people complaining about, or witnessing cases of misconduct by the Police. The law-abiding Ghanaian should be prepared to assist the Ghana Police Service in fighting crime, corruption, and promoting law and order as well as delivering quality service in protecting lives and property. The Inspector-General of Police may be reminded, in humility, that small things cost very little, or even nothing, but enhance the beauty of the anticipated bigger achievements, in this case, of restoring the Ghana Police Service to its honourable pedestal. The bigger issues centre around stalled promotions, accommodation and others shall, hopefully, be tackled in a systematic manner, with the Strategic Directive Policy as a guide. The Ghana Police Service administration should stay focused to the vision and responsibilities entrusted to them.


Debate over disclosure of health status of Presidential hopefuls

Since the publication, by AFRICAWATCH, of health records purported to be those of the NPP Presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, there has been a renewed debate as to whether it is imperative for Presidential Candidates to disclose their health status. As a physician, one cannot comment on the health records of people because patient privacy is sacrosanct. It will therefore be unacceptable for one to encourage the practice of improperly obtaining and publishing medical records of people. To be fair to AFRICAWATCH, it must be said however that this is not the first time a newspaper or magazine is publishing the health records of someone. In 1972, US Democratic Vice-presidential candidate, Senator Eagleton, had his records, revealing treatment for Depression with electro-convulsive therapy 20 years earlier, published. This led to a discussion about fitness for office that finally forced him off the ticket.

There are two public policy or interest issues raised by the publication of the purported health records. The first, obviously, is privacy. When people step forward to be President, they do not forfeit their right to privacy. On the other hand, the public interest requires that Presidents can function effectively. The issue is how can, quote and unquote, a sick President run the affairs of the state effectively? That is probably why citizens must be assured that people running for the highest office of the land are truly healthy. America has been a victim of absence of Presidential candour about health numerous times. After Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in October, 1919, he limped through the last 18 months of his Presidency barely able to function. Also, President Franklin Roosevelt, popularly known as FDR never let on that he was in a wheel-chair and disabled. That may have been a factor in the passage of the infamous 25th amendment. As a nation which has suffered a Presidential death, Ghanaians need to ensure that while they trust Presidents when they claim to be in good health, they verify that in fact they are in good health.

This, must apply to Presidential candidates as well. For the avoidance of doubt, this does not imply that one needs to be in perfect health to be President. Each President should have an annual medical examination done jointly by his physician and another designated by the chief physician of 37 Military hospital. After this, the two shall issue a statement affirming that the President is in good health or otherwise. This same procedure can be modified for Presidential candidates. Within a month of filing their nomination papers, they must have an examination by a Ghanaian physician who shall affirm that the candidate is of sound physical, mental and social health and fit for the rigours of the Presidency. Neither of these should involve making the medical records public.

Finally, regardless of the rules, we must rely on the hope that those who seek the highest office have the highest ethics and will put the public interest above their ambitions and private interests. Then they can look at themselves and say, quote "If healthy, I will be a great President but in failing health, I must pass up the Presidency so that Ghana can have a President who will not be distracted by his health and infirmities" unquote. God bless Ghana.