BUSES or BUST!

Esther A. Armah

Koforidua. Site of this year’s NPP delegates conference. For me there is little more tedious than the internal shenanigans of any political party. The delegates were there to elect their National Chair. This year two issues made for interesting food for thought. Freddie Blay and his buses. And UK Conservative MP John Hayward and his call out of resource wasting on plentiful posters.

“I think I saw more posters than there are delegates here at this conference, and I wondered – is this really the best use of our resources?” said Mr. Hayward. There were 6,000 delegates.

John Hayward’s words of caution made national headlines. The opulence at the multitude of well-designed colour posters that adorned the route and were liberally sprinkled all over the conference attracted the ire and focus of commentators and citizens alike.

More outrage was directed at Freddie Blay and his buses. He is reported to have already paid $3 million out of the entire amount of $11 million for said buses. An exasperated Hon. Blay bemoaned his lack of understanding of public outrage post media focus of his decision to procure 275 crisp, clean, road worthy white buses. They will be used to fund raise for the constituencies, and apparently for commercial activities too.

This is about connecting the dots of the indulgence by national political parties, the anger of citizens and the neglect of issues. Those dots are about funding priorities and political insensitivity.

The NPP is not unique in having lavish delegates conferences with a multitude of posters and all manner of paraphernalia that elevates and celebrates the party, its people and its future. This is not unique to one party.

This indulgence must be placed squarely in context.

Freddie Blay procures 275 clean, crisp roadworthy buses and the NPP party has a plethora of colour posters; but in Ghana we don’t have enough ambulances to take the sick to hospital, we are dealing with something called ‘no bed syndrome’; and our health care routinely lands in the headlines due to treatment that prompts someone to prematurely meet their Maker. Public services lack public funding; citizens lack the basics required to elevate their living circumstances. This is the party whose president reminded – and reminds us – he will protect the private purse – what about the party political purse? What about that and its connection to citizens’ hardship where consistently we are told there isn’t funding to do X, Y or Z project that might help, change or even save a life?

It is not a conundrum. It is a hypocrisy that needs addressing.

The NPP has posters aplenty and can procure road worthy buses but roads unfit for buses exist in numbers. Why can political parties find money for their delegates’ conferences but not for critical public services?

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It is a rhetorical question.

We find money for what matters. We complete the projects that we prioritize. Political parties prioritize winning the next election; and so they find the money. In this case that means getting 275 road worthy white buses with that specific goal in mind. What kind of difference might 275 buses make for the thousands who travel by public transport and suffer due to the poor condition of those buses?  How many ambulances might the purported $11 million have bought? If Mr. Blay was able to procure these buses for the party, why has the cry for more ambulances or better public transport buses gone unheard?

Priorities, people.

It also matters that our politicians seem unable to recognize the public anger of watching confusion on their faces even as citizens bemoan the ability to buy buses to the tune of millions of dollars, while in the next breath said politicians explain ambulances cannot be bought due to lack of resources.

So, what do we do?

That is always the question. It is too often unanswered.

An accounting is a beginning. It appears that the Special Prosecutor is on the case. That matters.

My question about accounting is directed at all of us. Me, you, us – all of us who live, love and work here in Ghana.  We are the power that politicians serve. How often do we forget that politicians are not Ogas; but are public servants whose job is to do the public’s bidding? This may seem ironic since politicians are conferred a status that means they are not challenged enough within their constituencies.  A further argument for election of local MMDCEs.

I went to the Volta as part of a group working on a campaign to stop sexual abuse in schools. As we drove I was looking at the spaces in which people live, the different statuses, their homes, I was thinking about the ways they make their daily bread and their focus on keeping heads above water, families taken care of, businesses running – that is millions of people.  Each voice within those millions matters. In Ghana, we decide mattering depends on the size of your bank account, the extent of your influence and the expanse of your power.  We individualize this power; even though we say as Ghanaians – indeed as Africans – we are a communal people.  And yet we don’t approach political power as communities of citizens; we bow to the one rather than stand tall with the many.

We are the people. Our accounting matters too.

Let the Special Prosecutor do its work. Let us – me, you, we – do ours.

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THE EJISUMAN 4: prosecute!

Four teachers from the Ejisuman Senior High School have been sacked after a Ghana Education Service investigation.

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The four were part of a group of teachers who hit the headlines after a leaked video highlighted serial sexual abuse and sexual harassment by teachers of young women students at the Ejisuman SHS.  Eight students accused a number of teachers of sexually abusing them.

The four teachers are Isaac Amponsah, Moses Asmah, Andre Adu Asare and M. Osei. Amponsah ordered students to stroke his penis as punishment, abused his power and took advantage of the students; Moses Asmah was caught in the leaked video harassing the students; and Andrew Adu Asare was found guilty of professional misconduct after he was caught driving the students to nearby hostels where teachers would meet and sexually violate the students.

Ghana Education Service has deemed their conduct unfit, unprofessional and abusive. They are yet to move towards prosecution. They must.

Education is precious space where adults hold power over vulnerable minds and bodies. It is particularly egregious when that power is abused in the ways and to the extent that it has been according to the GES findings in this case.

Not prosecuting communicates a clear message to the thousands of teachers all over Ghana. Prosecute and the message that sexual abuse of students is both unprofessional and criminal and engaging in such action means you face both professional and legal consequence.

Each of these teachers behaviours’ fall foul of the laws in Ghana.  CASA (Coalition Against Sexual Abuse) – an advocacy group – is calling for the Attorney General to prosecute. Lawyer Nana Akwasi Awuah breaks down the law.

He explains the teachers could all be prosecuted under the Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (Act 732) for abusing their influence on the students unduly in order to sexually gratify themselves. They are also culpable under Act 732 for the harm they have caused the students, explains Nana Akwasi Awuah, Lawyer with CASA.

So, that is the law. The law has been broken. This is a Rule of Law president and nation.

Mr. Attorney General, what are you waiting for? Prosecute.

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Investigative Journalism in Ghana: fighting for a future?: ANAS speaks!

What does an Investigative Journalism in Ghana look like within a Media Communications industry?  How does Ghana’s ace investigative journalist and PI, Anas contribute to that?  What are the challenges and what changes must we make as media to elevate Investigative Journalism within our profession? On Thursday 19th July,  I will lead a discussion about these issues. The Special Guest is ANAS. It will take place at Webster University, East Legon. It is my annual media summit called: ‘#reImagineGH2018: stories, standards and struggle.’ Our focus this year is:- ‘Investigative Journalism in Ghana: Fighting for a future? Special Guest: ANAS AMERYAW ANAS.’

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