Time’s ticking in Africa, Ghana must sit up

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The last few months have presented interesting political gymnastics on the continent. We crowned a legend of the continent as president while his predecessor, despite losing local favour earned global glory.

Like many political watchers on the continent, I also look forward to George Oppong Weah translating his unyielding energy, fortitude, resilience and tenacity of purpose, into tactful thinking, research-based analysis and constructive decision making to bring back smiles to Liberians. Hopefully, the International Monetary Fund won’t fault the rice subsidies.

As is often said in our local parlance, when a man rushes outside his compound to blow his nose, it’s either the result of choking phlegms of a dirty slap or the settling of a tasty spicy meal. In the case of many Liberians, through no fault of theirs, everyone of these was the trigger for the former.

I had many childhood friends who were either returnees or shelter-seeking families or individuals, who made a second home in Ghana. As one’s trips from Central Region to Accra increased, every new one saw the traffic at Gomoa Buduburam easing. It only pointed to many of them running back home. Like that old soap opera on GBC often said in the days of yore, ‘there is no place like home’.

We must all be happy for Weah. I have never met him in person but I look forward to meeting him some day. When I do, I hope not to ask him why he let his people down but rather, how he managed to achieve success beyond all expectation.

Yes, he’s not a politician, but isn’t that what Africa needs? Who are the politicians? What did they do? Passionate individuals, desirous of making real change, will leave footprints, whether politicians or not.

History took nearly a decade to vindicate Thabo Mbeki. But for Sirleaf, it was within months. Her party dismissed her in virtually the same month that the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee ennobled her.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Mary Robinson’s person, knows she wouldn’t lie on the crucible for a woman in a small country on a near-forgotten continent. But she was emphatic. She had been president before, but the stuff Ellen dealt with the times she visited her (Ellen) overwhelmed her as an ex president.

No amount of money can pay for that. Such is the tribute everyone in public service must desire.

Ibrahim himself was very convinced that the economist and post-war leader of Liberia had discharged herself well. For me as a supporter of women’s advancement, this becomes enough basis to push for more women at the top.

She played her part, made her mistakes, lost favour with her party, but earned the coveted award that one of Ghana’s most successful leaders of the current dispensation looked forward to, but was denied.

So don’t tell me party first, country later. The world has become so small and events travel at a speed faster than light now. I believe President Kufuor would have done everything in his power to earn a spot in that enviable club, but alas, he had to contend with a government that wasn’t keen on paying his entitlement.

Weah, I believe knows what to do. I have said among friends that if governance was just about developing infrastructure, all we needed at the seat of government would be road contractors. But if you know the state of infrastructure as at now in the Northern Region and consider that there have been Northern contractors close to the very top, you realise there is more to turning our circumstances around than mere bricks and mortar.

The continent’s sickness is both innate and acquired. It’s people, the most useful assets, unfortunately, constitute its biggest problem.

Dare me, but whichever way this pans, Africa’s slow growth, disease, underdevelopment, poverty and squalor cannot be transmitted like contagious diseases. They are created, propped and harvested by elites, whose only interest is in profiting from the status quo.

Who administed Ghana’s Savanna Accelerated Development Authority? What was it supposed to achieve? Again, how do you feel hearing Ghana’s minister for Inner Cities and Zongo Development suggests that modern turfs are what Zongos need to be better?

It’s interesting how some very politically awake individuals have now resorted to discussing domestic affairs in a manner suggesting that the politics bit is sorted – that’s Africa’s bane.

Events in southern Africa since last November and just the past week, in Ethiopia, must tell the people the power they wield.

When Jacob Zuma was urging old Mugabe not to bow to pressure, it wasn’t because he loved his northern neighbour. It was simply because Zimbabwe’s loss, is South Africa’s gain. The Zimbabwean economy, once the second largest economy of southern African, was at the time struggling to make a fraction of Durban’s revenue base.

But as analysts said at the time, many of Zimbabwe’s prospective investors pitched camp in a more stable South Africa, which was also not under sanctions. Middles class Zimbabweans continued to trek to South Africa for confectionaries and other needs simply unavailable back home.

Sanctions and uncertainties in Zimbabwe rendered it impotent, with many of its trained citizens without employment. With the U.S. maintaining its stranglehold over the Mnangagwa regime, it cannot afford to leave the upcoming elections to chance.

Zuma’s support for Mugabe, as leader of the regional body, could also mean that allowing that processes to run its full course, exposed him to people’s power. The thought of being forced out of office, tried for 800 corruption cases, hoping that none of them pushes him into confinement, could have been the real motive. Shortsighted and selfish, as it may seem.

When Ghanaians demanded that Mahama be voted out, did they have a plan? When we demanded that the NDC must go, we had expectations. When we said enough of the babies with sharp teeth, Montie three and Mahama paper, we set ourselves a higher agenda and demanded that the bar of political discourse and debate will not sink further.

We didn’t expect the elites to collude with the political class and fill their potbellies as the poor are deprived their due. Graduate unemployment remains the biggest threat as the masses contend with unbearable economic conditions.

Maybe you had no vision of the Ghana that beckoned, but I did. I had great expectations. I didn’t expect Ghana to transform in thirteen months, but I wanted to see shifts in the way our governance is done.

I hoped elected and appointed leaders will tone down on the rhetorics and set us on the path to real change.

I didn’t expect more promises and a constant reminder of how dire our circumstances are, because like the now Vice President often said, the money is right here. And the evidence is revealing.

The presidency spent over $6 million dollars on its fleet of vehicles. The money is right here. Our problem is priorities – what to spend the money on and that hasn’t changed much. In fact the government insists that it can survive without aid, so no need to quibble over what development partners are spending their money on.

The government can point to Free SHS, restoration of allowances, job through planting for food and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. The most crucial of all, the youth bulge, remains palpable.

The irony is that the Mahama government which penned its signature to the over $9 million dollar cars agreement for the presidency, failed to end the maternal and infant mortality at the Komfo Anokye Teaching. And the Nana Addo government, which claims to have done the public a favour through further value for money audit, could build nearly three more of that facility to end the needless loss of lives.

Such has become our state. And like the Mugabe boys, they don’t hide the unconscionable acquisition of wealth but splash it in people’s faces. The same people who can’t get jobs because times are hard. The same people who are paying more for transportation. The same people whose utility prices keep rising, as their earnings stay still, reduce or diminish altogether.

You need to see our kith and kin at our missions abroad and elsewhere in the Gulf states, waiting for ‘manna from heaven’ so they can return home. Many have already died on the Mediterranean because they sought to better their situation in excess of their forbearers’. Many are locked in sexual servitude and slave-like domestic work, just to put body and soul together.

When our leaders go begging from the the west, do they hear their leaders spending funds enough to end needless deaths of infants and their life-givers on over 30 vehicles?

Will they engage in any such profligacy, if their healthcare and education both lack the needed investment? Do they invest in such frivolities, when emergency services only show up after disasters have swept the people with them to oblivion, due to lack of logistics?

The media will tear them into shreds with their bare hands.

The people won’t remain docile forever. It took thirty eight years for Zimbabweans to say never again, pushing the country’s founder out, after his own military held him hostage.

Jacob Zuma never dreamt that his ten years in office would be truncated. Even in the dying hours of his misrule, he pleaded injury time. Probably, to cement his nuclear deal with Russia and shred as much documents to prevent conclusive legal determination.

If Ghana’s economy fails to respond to the people’s needs, that day will come when the people will demand that even the first four years are too many for an elected leader.

The people may rise, and as we see opportunism taking the place of opportunities, many will see that as their way in and join a process that makes nonsense of the current experiment we are yet to perfect.

Ghana must not get there. Those in leadership must show direction not just in words. They must identify avenues for the youth to earn, rather than chasing them for alms.

They must shirk the cloak of gluttony and see their positions as avenues for improving the people’s lot. That way, there will be no need to hunt any Guptas.

I rest my case

Source: Kobby Gomez-Mensah

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