Acquiring the mandate for political power must be a means of public service not an end for personal financial self aggrandisement. At this critical period of political posturing and incredulous sound bites in an attempt to win the reins of governance by competing political parties, a closer look at political and socio-economic realities would be instructive for us to gain a thorough grasp of the serious problems facing Ghana today
The electorate in Ghana must be enlightened and fully informed about real issues affecting their lives and not be deluded by the undeliverable promises of the political parties.
‘The winner takes all’ model of political power in the nation fails to take serious account of the socio-cultural context of our society.
To exclude a large section of eminent, intelligent and able Ghanaians from the levers of political and bureaucratic power for not being a member of the winning political party is absolutely irrational and totally disregards the national interest.
The constitution must be amended to provide for the inclusion of individuals who can make a significant contribution to our national development to be appointed to ministerial positions and other influential roles in the society.
There is also a crucial necessity to limit the constitutional powers of the President. Currently the Ghanaian Constitution makes the office of the President a de facto ‘democratic dictatorship’.
The occupant of the presidency appoints the Cabinet , senior political appointees at the national, regional and district levels, members of the judiciary, the Council of State etc. Historically, the 1992 fourth Republican Constitution was framed against the backdrop of a military dictatorship. It is reasonable to presume that the extraordinary powers given to the first President Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings was to placate him to accept the democratic tradition- But that was 14 years ago.
Appointments to the Judiciary could be fundamentally depoliticised when eminent members of the Ghana Bar Association are endowed with the constitutional authority-to appoint judges at all the levels of the judiciary.
Such an amendment could strengthen the judicial autonomy of the Judiciary. Members of the Judicial Council could also equally be appointed by a constitutionally empowered Bar Association.
Another important amendment could be the appointment of the members of the Council of State. The members of this Council could be appointed from an electoral college constituted from a cross section of key stakeholders and interest groups. It is farcical and absurd to think or believe that the President can or will genuinely consult with bodies he has appointed.
These appointed bodies to a large extent will rubber stamp the decisions of the incumbent President to avert incurring his wrath.
Ghana has a subsistence economy largely based on primary products. The mainstay of the economy is agriculture which accounts for substantial government revenue and foreign exchange.
There has been little substantive effort by different governments to implement a radical agricultural revolution.
Inspite of continuing and sustained efforts by governments of different shades and colours to increase the price paid for primary products, agricultural labourers and workers who live mainly in the rural areas are deeply impoverished and have had little significant improvement in their life chances and economic expectations.
Any incoming government must have a bold and dynamic youth employment policy to offer decent and sustainable employment for the most invaluable asset of our nation-the youth.
The National Youth employment and National Service programmes are useful initiatives but barely scratch the surface of reducing youth employment.
The real test of true democratic governance is the extent to which the material well being of citizens are markedly and significantly improved. The nation falls far below this important yardstick.
The Dumsor saga has had a major negative impact and constraint on Ghana’s national development . The power shortages and load shedding have had an astronomical financial cost on the economy.
A lot of businesses have been forced to close down because of the uncertainty of power supply and the spiralling cost of electricity. It is totally absurd to play politics with the energy crisis in Ghana. It is clear that the energy crisis is the result of the collective failure of political leadership in Ghana.
Our beloved country is endowed with a diverse range of solid and reliable energy sources i.e. solar, wind and hydro to mention a few.
The real challenge is to find a unified and concerted policy on energy devoid of party politics. The blame game must stop. It is imperative that a favourable climate is created to attract foreign and private investors to develop a reliable power supply as a means of fuelling our national economic development.
Affordable housing is a huge problem for low income groups in Ghana. The increasing and alarming growth in urban centres which has been caused by rural-urban migration of people with the unrealistic hope of enhancing their illusory economic prospects.
This rural /urban drift has created a massive housing deficit and deplorable living conditions for these rural migrants and the underclass in the cities.
A majority of these urban poor live in unhygienic environs in slums. They mostly work in the informal sector earning extremely low wages.
Low income earners also face dismal conditions in their living circumstances, confronted with exorbitant unregulated rental costs. There is a need for a well thought out co-ordinated policy to provide low cost housing at affordable rental costs for citizens facing a housing crisis. The draconian and heartless policy implemented by successive governments of slum clearance is hardly reasonable or just.
Rural dwellers form about 80 per cent of the population in Ghana. To a large degree they are virtually forgotten in the development plans of the nation.
Water and sanitation is a problem in Ghana but the rural folk are at the extreme end of this social deprivation. Potable water is virtually nonexistent as these rural folk depend on rivers and streams for their water source.
A news item on Joy News recently televised a young boy aged eight years digging for water with his bare hands.
He was so petrified at the thought of going to school without a bath that he was seriously considering dropping out from school. What a terrible indictment on our political leaders after nearly 60 years of independence.
The water problem has been recently exacerbated by reckless and mindless ‘Galamsey’ operators who in collusion with egocentric traditional rulers have destroyed our eco system.
Every village in Ghana must have good potable drinking water through the provision of boreholes. A key policy of any incoming government must be the banning of all ‘Galamsey’ operators who are destroying our countryside.
Poor sanitation poses serious health hazards both in rural and urban conurbations. Governments must be committed to provide basic public latrine and toilet facilities.
It is mind numbing that successive governments have failed to deliver in the provision of this basic facility for the nation.
A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Whilst it is important to recognise that a number of hospitals and polyclinics have been constructed along the length and breadth of the nation the provision of good health facilities is still woefully inadequate.
Any socially just society must adequately provide active practical support for the disabled, infirm and elderly citizens who need the state’s subsidy for their daily existence.
Successive governments have implemented the LEAP programme which endeavours to cater for individual citizens who have a critical need but the net has to be cast to a lot more underprivileged people. There are far too many people in Ghana today who are hopelessly helpless.
Corruption remains public enemy number one. All the challenges outlined above could easily be resolved if the trustees of political power, custodians of traditional authority, holders of public office and other individuals claiming to represent the peoples interests will truly conscientiously meet the needs of the people and not their own.
At this key moment in the life of the nation, when electing a new government is imminent, let those who are competing for political power ask themselves: Why am I seeking for political office?
If you honestly ask this question and your answer is motivated by self-interest then let me humbly counsel and urge you to quit the race to be elected into any political position.
At this critical juncture in Ghana’s political history we need leaders whose overriding interest in seeking for power is guided by a noble spirit of public service and accountability and not public over lordship and the looting of state coffers.
God bless Ghana!
The writer is a Political Scientist, Senior Pastor and Chief Executive of Changing Minds GH(Ltd) an international NGO based IN Manchester, England