20 February 2013

Ghana: My State of the Nation Address ( Part One)- Ghana Is a Divided Country


Accra — President John Dramani Mahama will appear before Parliament House tomorrow, Thursday February 21, 2013, to deliver his maiden State of the Nation's address, with the 123-Member New Patriotic Party, conspicuously absent.

The NPP membership, I understand, will address a press conference on the same day to tell Ghanaians what they consider to be the true state of the Nation.

The absence of the Minority is likely to present a divided nation to the international community. It is not the very best for a nation still struggling for a national identity.

But the opposition NPP believe it is a legitimate protest against a President they contend, was wrongly declared winner of an election, they consider was won by the NPP flagbearer.

Commenting on the decision to boycott the Presidential address, Nana Akomea, Communications Director of the party, told an Accra radio station thus: "It is a very good decision. It is part of our protest against the results. All of us are acting legally. We haven't stopped him from exercising his functions as President," the Communications Director explained.

"It is also within our right that it is legitimate to use the Parliamentary floor as protest," Akomea explained. I am told that the NPP in Parliament would hold a press conference after the Presidential presentation tomorrow, to deliver the party's own state of the nation.

I intend to use this column today and tomorrow to tell the President and his image makers the true state of the nation in the hope that it would rub off on the Presidential presentation.

Ghanaians are suffering and the President should not hide under technicalities and clouded ideological spectacles to try and paper the cracks in his administration.

Yesterday, just before I sat down to compose this piece, my attention was drawn to a report by Water Aid Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, which is symptomatic of the problems facing Ghana as a nation.

"The Government of Ghana is failing to keep its promises of funding sanitation," Water Aid has revealed. The report warns that unless investment is increased, the challenges of urbanization, inequality of access, climate change and population growth risk turning back the clock even further," states the report.

The report alleges that while population grew by 9.4 million between 1990 and 2011, only 2.3 million secured access to sanitation over the same period.

If this is a source of bother, read a report by Afia Zakiya, Water Aid's Country Representative in Ghana. "Every year, Ghanaians spend 850 million hours looking for somewhere to go to the toilet and you can add this to the costs of illness and medical bills of those contracting diseases due to the unhygienic conditions. Overall, the loss to Ghana is GH¢45o million per year. "

The report makes grim reading. But anybody who has gone nearer the landfill site near the Pantang Hospital in Accra and had an experience of its pervasive scent would have a fair idea about how this nation is failing its examination on sanitation.

The lack of toilet in many residential areas is even more alarming. In many plush neighbourhoods in the national capital, it is a common site to behold of small parcels in black polythene bags in gutters and some street corners being invaded by flies.

They are the products of what has come to be known in local parlance as flying saucers. I do not intend to spoil people's appetite in the morning. But the saucers are feaces packaged by people mainly living in kiosks, even in our plush neighbourhoods.

In inner cities, the situation is even more appalling, completing a story of a nation which the centre can still not hold.

Over the years, governments have taken the centre stage of national politics, promising to drain the Adaw River and the Korle Lagoon in Accra, as part of the beautification of the national capital. Invariably, action stops immediately after the ink on the various statements dry up.

Dealing with the political backlash of carrying out the court order on the removal of the illegal squatters of Sodom and Gomorrah has become an albatross around the necks of various administrations.

Tomorrow, President Mahama is likely to re-visit empty promises of providing facilities for facelifts of Accra and other cities and towns around the country.

While these assurances make for a good reading and listening pleasure in the print and electronic media, they remain mere paper guarantees of wishful thinking.

This society stinks, literally. From the city centre to town squares and village meeting places, rubbish dumps are bulging. The various MMDs - Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies spend virtually all their incomes on salaries, which means that in spite of all the good intentions of ridding the various communities of filth and provide basic amenities for the people, most efforts are unable to match the needs on the ground.

One region, though, is doing its very best. In Brong Ahafo Region, almost all towns and villages are kept clean, invariably by the public-spiritedness of the people. They mobilize themselves day in and day out to clean their neighbourhood without expecting much by way of reward.

One would like to offer the Brong Ahafo Region as an example, from which other regions could learn. This nation is falling apart. Unfortunately, there is not much motivation from the top for Ghanaians to mend their ways.

At a time when the economy is nose-diving and austerity has taken the centre stage, most Ghanaians are disappointed that leadership rather elected to increase their emoluments late last year, while many workers in the public sector struggle on a damaged single spine.

Last June, the executive rewarded aides to the President by moving the salaries of the likes of Nii Lante Vanderpuiye, Stanislav Xoexe Dogbe, Koku Anydoho and co from GH¢3000 a month to a whopping GH¢6,300 each.

There is no evidence that these aides to the President had discovered innovative means of doing things other than going round radio and television stations lying through their teeth about the achievements of an administration that has woefully failed to deliver.

In the case of loud-mouthed Dr. Tony Aidoo, he reportedly received GH¢7,119 per month.

Following the huge rise in incomes of these aides, the executive pegged the monthly salaries of Members of Parliament at GH¢7,200 a month. As you read this article, there are members in the House, whose abilities to deliver, may not go beyond the sycophantic 'Yeah Yeah' receiving GH¢7.200, when specialists in our medical profession, are struggling to make ends meet.

Tomorrow, I do not expect President Mahama to make any delivery that is likely to relieve the average Ghanaian of the pain of having to swallow the huge increases in petroleum prices, while enduring the 'dum-so' 'dum-so' of electricity and water supplied in tots.

This definitely, is a divided society. It is we versus them. The very fact that the President would deliver his Nation address to a half empty audience should register on his administration that a lot needs to be done to carry the nation along.

Self-congratulations and ego trips would do no good to President John Dramani Mahama and his moribund administration. I shall return tomorrow and look at the hardship facing the Ghanaian.

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