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Ghana’s political landscape is in a state of flux. No political party, as at today, can claim that the Election 2020 is a done deal for it; whether it is the ruling New patriotic party, NPP, or the largest opposition grouping the national Democratic congress, NDC, or the smaller ones like the Peoples’ National Congress, PNC or the Convention Peoples’ Party, CPP.
On paper however, the NPP seems to be in the lead as all its national officers are in place including a presidential candidate, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo. The rest seems to be lost as to who leads it in the crucial 2020 battle for the soul and spirit of the nation
One thing for sure: Ghanaians are yearning for a change as what they voted for in 2016 has become a nightmare, an aberration and an embarrassment. Hardly a day passes by without one allegation of corruption or the other all either emanating from the Jubilee House seat of government or closely linked to it.
Voters who barely two years ago were clamouring for change have realized that they made a wrong choice in electing Akuf0-Addo and are earnestly calling for a true change that will reflect in all aspects of their lives.
Unfortunately, names currently being bandied about as possible presidential candidates for 2020 do not inspire confidence among the general population. They are being seen as chips of the same old block, men who have been part of the previous administrations. This is why many are asking: what is the new thing they have to offer Ghanaians who clearly are in need for a revolutionary leadership?
This situation applies more to the NDC than the other political groupings when viewed against the backdrop of the fact that it has been in and out of government and therefore is experienced enough to know how to come back to power and use the power for the peoples’ benefit.
But who leads the party in the quest for a return to power? Who is radical enough in the party who when elected will not take national political leadership as business as usual but ready to think outside the box and use hands on experience to manouvre the ship of state out of the inclement weather in which it finds itself today.
It’s true the NDC has the men and women who can do the job, but can they deliver to satisfy the yearnings of the populace who have become despondent. Can they disabuse the minds of the voters that political promises are just what they are: promises!
For the NDC, this is déjà vu as it has been there before, fighting from the way up through the machinations, political chicanery and subterfuge from both friends and foes while the state political machinery, buoyed by a huge war chest at its disposal also deploys its own strategies to muddy the waters and confuse party members who otherwise would have remained focus.
A party that has survived for almost three decades must definitely have its own men and women that it has trained and worked with over the years and must therefore be in position to assume the apex of political party leadership.
The NDC has such a person in Augustus Goosie Obuadum Tanoh (born February 7, 1956) is an international businessman who has served in both public and private sectors in this country. Having traversed both aspects of Ghanaian life, he is placed in a better position to understand the dilemma in which the Ghanaian economy finds itself due to the inability of the political class to think through issues before aiming to put them into practice.
For example, in 2000, ‘Goosie’ as he is popularly known suggested that it will be possible to provide a cup of hot cocoa drink for every Ghanaian child enrolled in school. While many treated the idea with derision, subsequent events have proved him right but unfortunately at a cost to the national kitty.
Elucidating on this idea then, he surmised that Ghana was already growing and exporting the raw cocoa beans. It will therefore not cost much to have it ground at Cocoa Products and with the addition of sugar, hey presto, every child will have a hot drink.
According to him, that singular event will encourage the cocoa farmers to grow more while it will also lead to Ghana growing its own sugar cane leading to domestic production of sugar for both the school feeding programme and eventually export. Even if it could not be exported, the country would have been producing enough sugar for the domestic confectionery industry. Prophets are never accepted in their own home territory.
Eventually, Ghana had to rely on external funding for the school feeding programme which was introduced in 2001 thereabouts at a great cost to the nation with daily complaints of the caterers not being paid for services rendered years ago!
Long before democratization of the NDC became an issue, Goosie led a few of his colleagues – the young Turks – challenge one aspect of the NDC’s constitution which virtually made then President jerry Rawlings the primus inter pares in the party, his word was law and no-one dared challenge him. In effect there was no internal democracy in the party and this was the grounds of Goosie’s protest and the eventual breakaway to form the Reform Party. Time and history has proved him right. The NDC has widened its party delegates base allowing many more people have a say in who contests both the parliamentary and presidential polls!
These are examples of how fast and revolutionary his ideas can be.
Always a man of the people, he in his private agricultural venture years ago, singlehandedly sought to eliminate poverty or improve the living conditions of thousands of cassava farmers most especially in Brong Ahafo and northern parts of Volta Regions. That was when he set up his successful cassava chip exporting company. The company’s activities did not end with just the cassava chips: groundnut and cassava flour for the pharmaceutical industry were exported. Even almost three decades after he liquidated the business, residents in those areas remember with nostalgia the difference that his firm, Commodities General made in their lives.
His politics however is not the razzmatazz, all flash and dash, but that of a cold reality taking prevailing circumstances into consideration before taking those crucial decisions. This was on ample display in his days with the erstwhile National Reform Party, NRP. While political parties were holding jamborees in the name of political campaigning, the Reform Party preferred to hold meetings with the residents and parley with them as to what they want and how it can be achieved.
According to George Addo, one of the Reform Party activists, Goosie’s approach was different, he knew that every community has its peculiar problem so solutions must be specific to that community.
‘Goosie is a bottom to top approach politician; he believes the people must be involved in the decision making; decisions should not be taken above them and forced down their throat; it makes it difficult for implementation. That’s how many government projects and policies have failed.’
That was the original concept of the Peoples’/Workers’ Defense Committees and that was how the Reform Party was structured; the party was owned by the members.
His ideas are not limited to school feeding or party organization alone, he believes in consensus building and that was one of his passionate points when it came to media ownership in Ghana.
George Buamah, who was part of the media team explained that Goosie is so passionate about ensuring that the media plays a positive role in the life of the people of Ghana. His belief is firmly anchored on the fact that the country has not reached that level of development to just let the media do whatever it thinks right.
He believes, According to Buamah, that there must be state support for media training institutions to strengthen the professionalism of the media, preferential tax or tax holidays for media houses, greater insulation of the state-owned media from the governing party’s influence, in favour of a large role for Parliament and the transformation of Graphic Communications Limited, Ghanaian Times and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation into genuine public media institutions.
Same role he prescribed for the National Media Commission, NMC, which must be strengthened and resourced and insulated from executive influence. Ever the prophet, issues he raised almost two decades ago are beginning to appear and haunt all of us. No critical watcher of the media scene cannot but see that the media front is polarized with news organisations taking a clear political stance which ultimately will erode all credibility from the media.
Always a forward-looking patriotic Ghanaian, he has over the years sought to educate those who care to listen that Ghana’s economy can be made to work without the promptings of such multinational agencies such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO and the G8 countries. Goosie believes that ultimately solutions proffered by these institutions do not help the country, these prescriptions have rather deepened poverty and the dependency syndrome.
He included in the same category programmes such as HIPC, AGOA and the NEPAD, all of which seem to promote privatisation of the economy and social services and deregulation of foreign investment, are programmes that retard the nation’s development efforts he has been quoted saying at various fora where issues of why Ghana does not seem to be making any headway in forging a path towards socio-economic freedom.
For those who might not be aware, Mr. Tanoh has what it takes to forge out on his own in the political game: he has seen it all but not done all in the sense that he has not held any political appointment though he has worked closely with government over the years.
He showed his mettle and commitment to the affairs of the common people whend he was given the chance to be responsible for the Projects and Programs of a two million strong national, political and economic organization existing in all communities in Ghana responsible for primary health care, community shops and local infrastructure projects among the many developmental activities initiated during this period.
Those were the early days of Ghana’s transformation when all committed hands were needed on deck and Goosie acquitted himself with distinction. That may have compelled the authorities to raise his level of responsibility to the government Committee on Petroleum and Contract Negotiations responsible for restructuring the laws and structure of the Ghana Petroleum Industry and for the negotiation of Exploration and Production Sharing Agreements with International Oil Companies (IOCs).
All these he did to the admiration of all and eventually ended at the United Nations where he served in various roles either as an advisor or counsellor.
But most importantly has been his role in discovery of oil in Ghana. Many have forgotten that when Ghana got the idea to do everything possible to extract the crude oil and gas resources long suspected to be under our shores, there was no regulatory framework for the sector. It fell on men such as Tsatsu Tsikata and Goosie Tanoh among others to set up what today we call Ghana national petroleum Corporation, GNPC. That was the Committee on Petroleum and Contract Negotiations responsible for restructuring the laws and structure of the petroleum industry and for the negotiation of exploration and production sharing agreements with international oil companies (IOCs).
‘Many people do not know the history of Ghana’s oil industry, many believe finding oil was just like looking around the corner to find the commodity. If only Goosie and Tsatsu will one day decide to write the history of GNPC and the first oil pour, Ghanaians will value these two gentlemen; their sacrifices and dogged determination to find the elusive oil has yielded massive results.
‘Because these two gentlemen are too effacing to be blowing their horns on their individual roles in the oil find, we are not giving them the accolades they deserve. Many have forgotten that Mr. Tanoh was active in setting up of Ghana’s petroleum industry and acted as its North American representative in the early days of the GNPC and much of the work he did has culminated into Ghana’s off-shore becoming the hotbed of oil exploration and drilling.
“Most importantly Mr. Tanoh was also one of the principal authors of the Ghana Petroleum Income Tax Law and contributed to the drafting of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Law (PNDCL 84) and the GNPC Establishment Law (PNDCL 64) which has been the bedrock of all exploration agreements,” added a staff of GNPC who wants to remain anonymous.
Unfortunately, the PNDCL 84, which is the standard agreement used by all oil producing countries was jettisoned by the government of Kufuor in favour of a production sharing agreement which by its very nature has robbed Ghana of the oil cash which critics say amounts to almost a billion dollars in the past decade.
Unfortunately, Goosie is not the loudmouth, gregarious extroverted politician who wants to be heard and seen wherever he is so his achievements have been downplayed.
But having done so much for himself and the nation, is it not time that he steps out to tell us his contribution to the development of this country?
Maybe he is waiting for the ‘opportune time’ which no one knows yet. Maybe as it is being speculated he steps out to tell his story or when invited to be the running mate to a politician or when he decides to front for himself.
But as we have always said: Mr. Augustus ‘Goosie’ Tanoh is his own man: very erudite, sharp in thought and with the gift of the garb, he is one politician who will not make promises he cannot fulfil or deliver, he will always count the cost of everything and subject it to a SWOT analysis and Mr. Goosie Tanoh will always be his own man, sticking to the grassroots where he is well known.