Visit of Nana Akuffo-Addo; We need real positive change

Our distinguished visitor: On behalf of the chiefs and people of Asogli, I want to welcome you to Ho and to wish you a pleasant visit. I also want to congratulate you for winning your party's nomination, and to thank you for the honour of your visit. I also want to seize this opportunity to congratulate the people of Ghana for the relative peace that has become the defining character of our nation.

The year 2008 is a very important one in our history because of the forthcoming elections. I would like to seize the opportunity to also share some thoughts with you, make public some concerns and react to certain emerging trends that have implications for the maintenance of peace and unity.


Firstly, let me state the obvious: Development that brings enhanced standards of living and happiness is what every Ghanaian desires. Development, and particularly economic development, that brings hope for the future underpins peaceful societies.  It is no coincidence then that the most developed countries are the most peaceful.


This implies that for us to sustain the peace and unity of our country, we must quicken the pace of growth, but I must emphasize equitable growth.


Recently and thankfully, support has been coming from various multilateral and bilateral sources.  But these are not the panacea for our inability to emulate our Malaysian, South Korean and Chinese counterparts. Our most important development challenges are not external; neither is foreign aid the solution to our problems.

Secondly, let me add that poverty is not God's desire for any race.  So we need to ask ourselves: Why is it that no country that is completely controlled by black people has been able to lift itself from poverty to a developed country status?

Take the examples of Haiti, a country of majority black people, and the Dominican Republic, which is majority white. Both share the island of Hispaniola, but while the Dominican Republic is prosperous, Haiti's poverty is similar to what one finds in Africa.

It probably is no wonder therefore that Africans appear to be the most undesirable immigrants everywhere, and the Swiss government and the EU are reportedly funding TV adverts against African migrants. The ads depict Africans begging and being arrested in Europe and are aimed at deterring would-be immigrants.

If over the years our goals have proved illusive, then it is time for change. Ghana's future prosperity depends on the choices we make today.  It requires good leadership, lest we continue to hope against hope.

The prevalence of conflict is one reason why Africa is the only continent that has grown poorer over the past 25 years. So the importance of peace and unity cannot be overemphasized.

I think our nation is blessed. We have our fair share of natural resources and a peace-loving people. But peace, unity and therefore development will prove illusive unless we insist on the right kind of leadership.  The speed of the leader, they say, determines the rate of the pack.

Essential for peace and development are all the essentials of good governance, which ensures sustainable human development.  Such governance is participatory, accountable, transparent, responsive, equitable, inclusive, and follows the rule of law. Ghanaians need a leader who would uphold its ideals and ensure, among other things, that corruption is minimized, development is depoliticized and detribalized, and that the views of the minority and the most vulnerable are heard and taken into account.

We need a humble and honest leader who inspires the citizenry, and instills in them the virtues of hard work, discipline, ambition, honesty, altruism, independence, tolerance, respect for one another, and love for Ghana.  In our country, the ideals of good governance are undermined by, among others, greed, selfishness, nepotism and tribalism.

Wherever there is greed, there is lack of transparency which provides a breeding ground for suspicion. The prevalence of rumors is symptomatic of the lack of transparency.

Greedy, selfish leaders cannot lead the desired change. Excessive greed and materialism have become part of our culture, and they are distorting our priorities. Our leaders must set the examples by recognizing the difference between their wants and their needs.

As I have said before, corrupt officials are like termites at the woodwork. They eat at the very foundations of our future prosperity.

We need leaders who would work towards minimizing the vices of greed and aspire to make Africa as beautiful as Europe, not those who would aim to enrich themselves. I would urge all who aspire to lead us to publicly declare their assets.  Excessive greed leads nepotism, tribalism and reckless impunity. No excuses! Those who do not want the public to know what they have don't qualify to lead us.

Wherever there is greed, you are likely to see nepotism and tribalism because close relations tend to be more reliable partners.  Tribalists denigrate others. Their objectives and methods are not conducive to our shared aspirations for peace.

And wherever tribalism has crept into politics, we see politicization and tribalization of development. The circumstances that led to the relocation of the Kofi Anan Centre from the original project site in Asogli to Accra are still unclear to us in Asogli. We need to appreciate the fact that at the heart of every conflict is the struggle for limited resources and opportunities.

We cannot preserve the peace unless we show respect for one another.  It requires leadership that has the humility to appreciate that we owe everything to the will of God and it is only by His will that one is born an Ashanti, a Dagomba, an Ewe, or a Ga.

Nepotism, tribalism, intolerance and excessive politicization of governance are the main  causes of poverty, and therefore conflict in Africa. Many of us need to be reminded of the consequences of war and hatred so we can appreciate the need to work towards the preservation of the peace we are enjoying.

Our unitary system of government requires a leader who would work towards strengthening loyalty to the state while reducing the appeal of tribal ethnicity. We need a leader who would steer us away from the brand of politics which pitches our various tribes against one another.

Tribal considerations appear to feature in too many things: the appointment to public office, the award of government contracts, etc. It is about time we place emphasis on demonstrated capability and honesty in the appointment of public office holders, subject to abiding by the overriding constitutional requirement of regional balance.

It is about time we have a transparent formula for the allocation of state resources. If this assures a reasonable amount of fairness, there will be less suspicion and anxiety, and people would care less about where the president or his vice comes from.

Our various tribes should not be in competition with one another. We should emphasize collaboration and cooperation because our fortunes are inextricably linked. Together, we can achieve more!

It is about time we appreciate and focus on the things that matter.  For example, the important thing is not where the prospective employee or contractor comes from, but whether he can do the job; and not whose idea it is, but whether it is good idea.

Behind our current problems therefore are issues, not only of poverty, but also inequity.  Only when there is a semblance of fairness and equity would there be less suspicion. Only then would the citizens not worry about where the leader comes from. Why, for example, would a Ghanaian chief on an investment promotion trip not be welcome at a Ghana embassy?

Development in freedom requires that every citizen has the right to participate in the development process. We need to strengthen the peace by working for a more equal and fair society, and remove the perception of inequality and unfairness. The right to own property must not be the preserve of a few.

We need to demonstrate greater sensitivity to the views of the most vulnerable and political and ethnic minorities. Diversity suggests that our decisions or actions would not always be received by a consensus. It is therefore important for the preservation of peace that our leaders have the humility to recognize the inevitability, and indeed, the desirability of opposition.

Not only do our opponents help to keep us closer to the right path, they also add colour and excitement to the governance process. Indeed, humanity owes a lot of its progress to the diversity of ideas and opinions. To desire that we all think alike is to wish away an essential fact of life. Our leaders should also remember that many of the times, those who profess support for us constitute greater threats than those who oppose us.

Our experience so far has shown that our constitution is not in tune with our ethnic realities and needs a critical look. For a country whose politics has become dominated by sometimes bitter ethnic rivalry, our constitution has become outmoded by the excessive powers given to the executive branch of government.  The Executive's powers of appointment, the powers granted our unicameral legislature and the Executive over the creation of electoral constituencies, and their powers over the creation and functioning of our district assemblies, for example, require some checks.

To improve upon governance, we should look at the possibility of a non-partisan second legislative chamber, (or the restructuring and strengthening of the Council of State) with equal representation of the regions. This would serve as an antidote against the exclusionary, winner-takes-all kind of politics which has made our democracy acrimonious.

Our national elections are only months away, and given what I have said so far, our politicians should probably give more thought to their conduct and ensure that their actions do not disturb the peace that has made our nation stand out in a chaotic sub-region.

While our politicians pursue power, they should also remember that those who they aspire to lead also have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their lives.  True democrats recognize that the desire to lead is not a matter of life-and-death.

A good government can only result from fairly conducted elections. Let us all endeavour to play it fair, especially on Election Day.  If everybody tries to cheat, we shall surely be pursuing the path towards self-destruction.

Compatriots, let us reject politics that play on the forces that divide us, that play on sentiments, that make us uncomfortable, and instead, forge the kind of alliances that will enhance our strengths. We have a responsibility to bequeath to our children a united nation that guarantees freedom from fear of all forms of discrimination and prejudice.  None of our citizens must feel excluded from the opportunities offered by our nation.

We must work to ensure that national unity and loyalty once again replace tribal and ethnic loyalties.  Between the peace our nation has enjoyed over the years and the chaos that has engulfed some of our unfortunate neighbours, the choice is clear: Embracing peace and every behaviour and action that promotes peace is the prudent option.

All of us must rise to the challenge because the adverse effects of conflict do not discriminate among tribes or groups. I want us to unite to confront the urgent developmental challenges and needs of our people. These are needs of our time and they must be met during our time. History has taught us that God has given each one of us a short time to make a difference. It is our time to make the difference.  We should rise to the challenge Let us seize the opportunity.   We must not allow our hopes to expire.

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