Your Excellency, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr John Mahama, Members of the Council of State, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Togbe Agokoli IV, Togbewo, Mamawo, Distinguished Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish first of all to welcome you to Ho, and to thank you all for coming to celebrate with us. I want to thank especially our Vice President, our brothers and sisters from Togo, and the chiefs who have come from other regions of Ghana.
I would also like to thank those whose efforts and various forms of support have made it possible for us to be gathered here. In this respect, I wish to acknowledge the Yam Festival Planning Committee and the various institutions and individuals who supported us with cash and other donations.
I finally would like to thank distinguished citizens and chiefs of Asogli, especially Mamaga Akua Dei, whose support and sacrifices have been tremendous inspiration over the past seven years.
But the gods of the land will not forgive me if I fail to acknowledge the special place of our ancestors in all that we have been doing.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as we celebrate today, it is important that we remember why our fore fathers celebrated the yam festival since their arrival from Notse some three hundred years ago.
They celebrated for entertainment, as a way of giving thanks to God, and for reflection and stock taking, seizing the opportunity to set new development and other agendas.
The development objective needs particular emphasis today because that is what our youths are craving for. They want development that brings jobs, income and enhancement of living standards.
Development, particularly equitable development, is also important for promoting peace and unity. Most conflicts are simply fights over limited resources. Incidentally, without peace and unity, we cannot have development. So development, peace and unity are important bedfellows.
I recall that when I was in Notse earlier this month, one of the speakers lamented the retrogression in Eweland. That is a matter of fact. But the reality is that this is the lot of the entire black race. As I have said before, from Haiti in Central America, to Kenya in East Africa, poverty has remained our lot.
So the question that should occupy our minds today is why are we retrogressing? That should provide us with answers to the question, how do we get out of our mess?
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, these are not questions for our political leaders only. We should always remember that development is a shared responsibility. The traditional leaders, ordinary citizens, and even students, have a role to play - hence our theme for this celebration.
The lessons I have learned through my travels and interactions with people of various races, have led me to narrow down the causes of our problems to, among others:
Selfishness and greed: Most of us especially our leaders, politicians, chiefs and corporate leaders alike, want everything for themselves.
As chiefs, we have to constantly remind ourselves about why our people and their kingmakers have chosen us to lead them. Certainly, they did not make us their chiefs so that we would convert their lands into jewelry or other ornaments.
Similarly, our political leaders must remember that the people did not place their destinies into their hands only for them to develop predatory tendencies on assumption of power, and through that, deprive the people of the development that they yearn for.
Someone recently described corrupt officials as carrion-feeding hyenas. I see them as termites at the woodwork, eating at the very foundations of our progress. Our leaders must eschew selfishness and pursue the best interests of their people. That is our mandate!
Short-term orientation and limited ambition: As a people, we seem to focus only on the things we can get now. We appear to say â€œthe future will take care of itselfâ€. So we are thinking about today, when others are planning for tomorrow. We spend all the money we make on worthless things while others save for the future.
Preoccupation with trivialities: We are concerned too much about things which don't matter Whose idea is it? Where does he or she come from? It is important that our leaders pursue the best interests of all of us, not a select few.
Inability to accept responsibility for our situation: We are unable to accept that our actions determine what we become, and so we blame our failures on others. It is about time we appreciate that while prayers are important, they will not guarantee success. We have to work hard!
General apathy: Apathy is rife in our communities. Too many apathetic observers mean less development. Once again, let's remember that development is a shared responsibility. That is why, for example, we cannot leave the fight against corruption to the political leadership alone.
But the preeminence of our leaders, political and traditional, in our development efforts cannot be overemphasized. This is why I would like to commend the government for the multi-billion dollar development package they just negotiated with the Chinese to tackle the infrastructural bottleneck, itself the product of greed.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we need, for example, to plan and implement an inter-regional highway system that will link our regional and district capitals. A similar programme to ensure the availability and uninterrupted supply of electricity throughout the country will help the cause of development.
And I believe it makes sense to leverage our natural resource endowments to provide the funds for these infrastructural programmes now, rather than from piecemeal budgetary allocations. I have been a long time advocate of this.
By and large the most important impediment to our development is selfishness and greed. They explain why the landscape is dotted with so many uncompleted projects.
So more important than securing these funds is their proper utilization. In this regard, I will urge that work on the passage of the Right to Information Bill is expedited so that we can all play a role in ensuring the proper utilization of these funds.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to seize the opportunity to emphasize the importance of the sub-region in our development efforts.
Today, the countries that are performing 'miracles' are the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China. They all have at least one thing in common - size! Their local companies have large domestic markets that enable them to enjoy economies of scale and competitive advantage.
When I think about why Africa is still fragmented economically, I again see selfishness and greed as the main culprits.
Many of our leaders will cite a thousand and one reasons why Africa is not ready for economic integration let alone unity. But the truth is that many of them are not interested because they want to remain presidents of their individual small countries.
We have heard time and time again about the need to transform or diversify our economy and add value to exports, develop our manufacturing sector, etc. But the reality is that given the size of our markets in today's globalized world, these are not easy tasks. If we can pull together, our markets will become more viable and allow us to develop competitive strength.
So we need to start preaching a new economic development model that emphasizes regional integration. After all, the people who divided us - the English, the French, the Germans, etc - have themselves found the need to come together in an economic union.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like suggest that Ghana takes up its leadership mantle again and show Africa the way. If we can negotiate and conclude an open border agreement with Togo, and then Benin and the Ivory Coast, we will be starting a process that may lead the rapid integration of Africa, to create one of the biggest markets in the world.
If we don't plan quickly an orderly integration of our economies, I can foresee the youth of our countries seizing the initiative, taking a few lessons from history, to declare our borders opened, sooner than later!
In closing, I want to thank the government for its support of Sunon Asogli power project. I also want to thank the chiefs and people of Ga Mashie and Osu for agreeing to partner with me in the implementation of the Gold Coast City Project. We all indeed have to share the burden of developing our country.
THANK YOU ALL FOR COMING.
Theme: The Changing Face of the Financial Services Sector
The Provost of the College of Agriculture, the Dean of UGBS, former deans of UGBS, the Managing Director of Barclays Bank of Ghana, professors and lecturers of UGBS, students of UGBS, Distinguished Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: