I have read and reread Mr Sam Jonah’s presentation to the rotary club as titled above and I can’t but agree with most of his arguments though I do have some different views on certain aspects of his presentation. I must say the unwarranted attacks on his person though unnecessary, were anticipated by him in the same presentation. He alludes to similar attacks rained on him in the 90’s during the Rawlings era when he expressed similar views. It is therefore not peculiar to this generation, the attacks on him. It is a Ghanaian thing to insult and attack you if you have a different opinion.
The conclusion I draw from his presentation, however, is a self-criticism of his stewardship as well as of governance in Ghana over the years especially since the start of the 4th Republic and to some extent some self-indictment of his role or the lack of it in this governance process. It is therefore unfortunate that his speech has since taken partisan lines and depending on which side of the divide you are on, he is either vilified or praised. You can be partisan and yet sensible to realize that neither the NDC nor NPP wins or loses in speech. He indicts all governments and to some extent himself, which I will come to soon in this write up.
I dove my hat to Mr Jonah for his self-deprecation even though he may not have done so consciously. the accomplished statesman takes us down memory lane to the 90’s where South Africa was the worlds leading gold producer with over 25% of the market share of some 80million ounces of gold produced annually and Ghana was nowhere to be found per his own account. The fact remains that Mr. Jonah was one of the leading players in the industry in the world and he played a major role in South Africa attaining that feat. If my memory serves me right, it was when Mr. Jonah oversaw the take over of Obuasi goldfields by Anglo-gold which became Anglo-gold Ashanti, a merger which made it the second largest mining company in the world, that South Africa cemented its place as the number one producer of gold in the world.
Whilst contributing to the dominance of South Africa in the gold industry in the 90’s, Mr. Jonah fails to indicate the role he has played in the reverse dominance of Ghana as the world leading gold producer today. Note that the same Obuasi gold fields which he sold off and which collapsed within ten years of the merger has since been revived by the current government contributing to the number one status of Ghana in gold production today. The fact however remains that Ghana’s mining industry has become more destructive than constructive in the past decade due to ‘’Gallamsey’’ and the earlier we found solutions to it, the better for us and our children’s children. The efforts of government in tackling the problem though commendable, more can be done to bring it to fruition and it is heart warming to note the President doubling down on his quest to resolve gallamsey before he leaves office. Mr. Jonah will do well to bring up some useful proposals to aid the government in this fight considering his enormous experience and knowledge in the sector and whilst at it, he will serve Ghana well as a leading investor to court investors into value addition of our beloved gold.
Further to his speech, he makes the point succinctly on our over reliance on natural resources. Gold, oil, cocoa and how the Chinese have helped us destroy our cocoa industry through gallamsey while they venture into cocoa production with their first export to Belgium recently. There has to be a paradigm shift from the resource curse to a more sustainable development path which he rightly identifies as industrialization. Mr. Jonah notes the positive impact of the one district one factory to Ghana’s industrialization drive though he points out that it is inadequate.
The reason for this conclusion of inadequacy is based on some estimated 100 import substitution industries Dr. Kwame Nkrumah implemented across Ghana over the period of his presidency. In the last four years President Akufo-Addo has established an estimated 232 industries of various kinds at various stages of completion with some 76 in full operation, 107 under construction with a further 49 ready for construction in 2021. If every government since 1992 was putting up industries at this rate, Ghana should have over 1,000 industries by now and this problem of industrialization would not have been a problem in the first place for Mr. Jonah to refer to.
On the matter of the culture of silence, I find it difficult to associate with Mr. Jonah that it is a new phenomenon that has suddenly creeped upon us. The media, the clergy, civil society organizations and well-meaning Ghanaians without guns put to their heads all of a sudden cannot speak their minds? I beg to differ. Two examples will suffice in making this point. AGYAPA and PDS are two major policies if not the two most important policies of this government that have not seen the light of day because civil society, media and Ghanaians in general opposed them. In the case of PDS, I played no mean a role in shooting it down on the grounds of principle as my agitations against it started during the previous administration into the current administration and I have correspondence from the previous energy minister, Boakye Agyarko as prove. This government is tolerant of divergent views even internal opposition and it is unfair to say otherwise.
The situation where people out of the own eagerness and misinformed loyalty, attack, insult and denigrate people with opposing views must stop but this did not start with this government. The attempt to assign political intolerance to Akufo-Addo and his government is a mispresentation of history. Every government has fringe elements, hawks, attack dogs, social media armies. These are mostly unemployed idle youth with time to burn trying to catch the eye of the powers that be for positions or favors and it is incumbent on us to engage them in meaningful work if this is to stop. I have personally suffered this based on my anti-corruption crusade and a few examples will help here.
When I brought my cases against Muntaka Mubarak, Mahama Ayariga, Dr Stephen Opuni and Lorretta Lampety, the then CHRAJ boss on corruption, I was variously attacked physically and issued threats via phone calls and text messages and I did in two instances report to the Nima and airport police stations. I sincerely do not believe that those who were threatening me did so with the knowledge of the people I was having investigated but it did happen. In the case of GYEEDA, when I first released the details and embarked on a media campaign, the threats ironically came from the ruling government of the NDC and members of my own party who were in opposition with me and their claim was that I was destroying the
business of a Godfearing man who contributes to the party as well. This phenomenon continues and you are on the wrong side of it depending on which government is in power.
We as a people are generally intolerant and we need to work at it. The media landscape is a reflection of us as a people. The media are holding the mirror to us and if we don’t like what we see, we have to change it. It is unrealistic to expect neutral media. A polarized, partisan media is a biproduct of our system of democracy. To expect any different is myopic. The foremost media in the United States of America, FOX and CNN belong to Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, republican and democrat respectively. There is hardly a neutral media out there today anywhere in the world.
These media houses take turns in spitting fire and brimstone on the government of the day depending on which party is in government and we should expect nothing different in Ghana. However, we should entreat our media houses to be decorous, patriotic and professional in their line of duty. Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) the Media Commission and National Communication Authority should however have a serious conversation on professionalizing journalism in Ghana whilst setting up guidelines for content shown on our media including pornography, telenovelas, adverts, religious programs among others.
My divergent opinions to Mr. Jonah end at this point. I totally agree to an overhaul of our 1992 constitution. Our constitution has all the hallmarks of a military authoritarian, paternal overload handing out goodies to his faithful subjects. If we are not being hypocritical and pretentious, we all know how this came about and it is time to shed this negative character of our constitution.
A hybrid between the British parliamentary system and the American executive Presidency with the later carrying the day is only symptomatic of our hypocrisy and pretense as a people. We want to be seen to be practicing separation of powers but in reality, the executive is in full charge of the three arms of government. Whose idea was it that over 50% of ministers should come from parliament? If this is not a control tool of parliament, I don’t know what else is. If I am in such a parliament, I would naturally want to catch the eye of the President and be part of his government, which means I cannot be critical of the government and the President. The true intention of most members of parliament, I dare say is to become a minister.
Changing this law will achieve two things. The independence of parliament will be guaranteed and secondly it will reduce the monetization of our politics as only people interested in representing their people will show up to be elected thereby reducing numbers and competition. However, the statues quo benefits every government that comes to power therefore the disinterest in changing this entrenched provision. It is my prayer CSO’s, the media, the clergy and well-meaning Ghanaians will forcefully make a case for an overhaul of our constitution which has outlived its usefulness in many aspects.
A strong case is made against our rising debt stock and permit me to say at this juncture I do not pretend to have much knowledge in the sector and should be pardoned for my views if they come across as pedestrian. Mr. Jonah makes the point that most of the economic indicators took a nose dive in 2020 and this will continue for many years to come, a fact not lost on anyone least
of all the President and finance minister as it is indicated in the current budget. What the speech however does not allude to, is the force majeure i.e. COVID-19 that brought about this nose dive, which is not peculiar to Ghana but a global phenomenon brought about by the pandemic. Countries across the globe have been preoccupied with surviving the pandemic than economic growth. As President Akufo-Addo put it into perspective ‘’we know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life’’. We have been busy trying to stay alive and to this effect, Ghana has not only been a black star to Africa but to the world looking at the numbers and how Ghana has dealt with this pandemic.
Though the storm is not over, we will have to start looking at how to bring the economy back to life. I stand corrected. Is there any country in the world that saw steady growth in 2020 whiles reducing its debt levels? Even the most developed countries have run into debt overruns and this reminds me of an adage I heard on CNN by a Dr on the pandemic to the effect that when you are dying by the pandemic and a car is brought to transport you, it will not be wise to talk of how rickety the car is at that point.
Let’s get ourselves out of the pandemic and put the economy back on track. I side with Mr. Jonah that it is not sustainable to have over 50% of our budget allocated to emoluments and debt servicing. There has to be a paradigm shift to having over 50% of our budget going to infrastructure, job creation and other sustainable development interventions as a way of servicing our debts and paying emoluments. In effect, we should create jobs and grow the economy as a way to pay off our debts, and the earlier this conversation is had, the better for us and our children’s children.
Last but not least, on the matter of educational reforms Mr. Jonah is on point and it is high time we took another look at educational reforms. Fortunately for us, the President identified education as the future when all our resources have run out, however, the solution has largely been on access. Free senior secondary education has made it possible for hundreds of thousands to gain higher education reducing the illiteracy rate drastically. It is time to give similar attention to the quality side of our education. To this effect, the licensing of teachers is a major step towards that but not the only one.
There is the need to overhaul our educational curriculum to meet the needs of industry and technological advancement. The over emphasis on passing exam must give way to critical thinking and problem-solving approaches to education. In Ghana, the teacher is the center of every lesson and the student is reduced to asking and answering questions if they get lucky. Elsewhere, the student is the center of attention and the teacher comes in to provide guidance, advise and help shape ideas.
It is my considered opinion that our teachers need to go back to the class room to be reoriented and given the right methodology to bring the best out of our kids. Whiles at it, let us consider improving teacher salaries to make it an attractive sector. Some of else quit teaching because it did not satisfy our ambitions materially enough to stay. Let the average teacher feel it is worth his or her while to be a teacher.
In conclusion, I think Mr. Sam Jonah has given us food for thought and we should encourage such statesmen to share their experience and knowledge with us while they can. Our elders on the other hand should bear with our intolerance as we are a product of their upbringing and they cannot extricate themselves of our inadequacies whiles helping to shape and reshape our attitudes and thoughts.
The writer, Richard Nyamah is the Deputy Communication Director of the New Patriotic Party (NPP)
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