The President of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama has embarked on a nationwide tour, ostensibly to account for his stewardship of the last four years and to ask for a fresh mandate on November 7, 2011. The account has consisted largely of inauguration of infrastructure projects ie roads, schools, hospitals, as well as cutting sods for the start of new projects, albeit more infrastructure.
The President’s tour has generated a lot of heat from the chattering classes. Unfortunately, all the hot air has been directed at whether there has been an abuse of incumbency by the President, when the chatter should be about the impact of the President’s efforts on the welfare of the people.
Impressive as the infrastructure projects are, they are being rolled out in an environment of deteriorating and deleterious effects on the people of Ghana. It is rather unfortunate to build shining new hospitals and watch trained nurses going on strike to be employed. What use is a well equipped hospital which turns away desperate patients because the Government has failed to reimburse the cost of treatment supposedly covered by the NHIS?
It is an utter disgrace when doctors have to abandon their patients to come to Accra to chase their unpaid salaries when we have a bloated public service. There is no rhyme or reason for teachers to teach for more than three years without being paid and expect them to deliver instruction to very high quality on empty stomachs.
Don’t get me wrong. Infrastructure development is good and constitutes a very important component of the development of a nation. However, it is only a means to an end, which end being to improve the welfare of the people. So without connecting the dots to demonstrate without equivocation, how the infrastructure will lead to improvements in the welfare of the people, it becomes a mere sholw.
As I write, the government has put out a tall litany of jobs that have been created since 2013. It apparently adds up to a gargantuan total of about eight hundred thousand in just about every sector of our economy and in every corner of our country. Unless of course, this ‘impressive achievement’ is completely cancelled out by the number of jobs lost from closures of manufacturing companies and other challenges to the private sector.
Given that the President won the last election by just about 500,000, if this job creation figure were to be real and net, the President might as well abandon his accounting tour now and simply wait for all of these beneficiaries to show their appreciation and love on Election Day.
The fact that the President has to embark on a nationwide tour to account for his stewardship is a clear indication that there is a real gulf between the figures on paper and those whose welfare has been improved.
But the shortcomings of the incumbency’s message should not be construed to mean that we are bound for an inevitable change of baton on November 7, 2016; far from it. The case for replacing the ‘Change that is happening’ with the ‘Change that is to come’ still has to be made convincingly to the people of Ghana.
It is not good enough to exhort the people of Ghana to give you a chance without making a convincing case as to how giving you a chance will lead to an improvement in their welfare. Simply invoking the achievements of a predecessor from the same political tradition is not enough to convince the people that you will deliver to the same or better levels; especially when you are unable to maintain order within your own ranks.
The notion that the” business of the opposition is to oppose and offer no alternatives” is no longer tenable.
In the dispensations that are well practiced in democratic politicking and elections, it is required, nay demanded, that those who are offering themselves as offering better governance, present policies and programmes demonstrating the happy days yet to come. These are then subjected to scrutiny for deliverability and fitness of purpose.
So the people of Ghana deserve something more from Nana Akufo-Addo than ‘just trust me to do better than this’. Promising to build more SHS schools than NDC’s 200 without addressing the related issues of what else you will do to ensure that more teachers are not only trained, but employed to produce quality education to our children, will not do.
The opening article of the 4th constitution of the first Republic is very clear and unambiguous about why we elect governments: “The Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution”
Governance should be in our name and more importantly for the betterment of our welfare, rather than the betterment and welfare of the governors, which is what happens when it’s all about putting up infrastructure without squaring the circle of how that infrastructure would actually work with other factors to improve the welfare of the people.
Our Constitution also reminds us that choosing our governors is based on the principle of universal adult suffrage, or ‘one person, one vote’. Therefore those who are competing for us to give them the powers of government should know that whatever it is they do or want to do in our name must ultimately be for our welfare.
Whether Change will continue to happen or Change is now coming will be based on the principle that all powers of government springs from the sovereign will of the people. Will the ‘grateful’ 800, 000 overcome the as yet uncounted thousands of unemployed nurses, unpaid teachers, unemployed graduates and the now redundant private sector workers? It is the perception of improved welfare by these people that will decide whether Change will go on Happening or Change will come.
The writer is the Chief Policy Analyst, GIPPO