Today, I am seeking permission from the publishers of this paper and readers of my articles to wander through some random thoughts that have “arrested my attention over the past few weeks”
The first of these thoughts relate to the blatant lies that are being churned out in the effort to convince voters to sympathise with one party or the other. Some say it is part of the electioneering campaign but I find some of the submissions too atrocious to be published for the consumption of a populace that has been exposed to this kind of politicking for less than a century.
I find it even more problematic when intellectuals twist facts to score political points among a populace, most of whom find the printed word as equal to the gospel. In view of high illiteracy rates and sometimes blinded by political expedience, some care less about the source of information or data and would skew such as to make you wonder how they earned their Masters and PhD degrees.
Some also think rather, unfortunately, that merely seeing or hearing such from the radio, television or the internet makes some news authentic. They would rather leave their reasoning to radio and television commentators, some of whom need more education than even their listeners or watchers.
Last week, I was forced to hope against hope that the elections would be over the next day so that we could live our lives without the incessant insults and falsehoods and the tendency to appeal to tribal sentiments with the potential to imperil our peace. Some of the commentaries are simply too pedestrian to come from educated persons. Others have no bearing on our developmental aspirations beyond whipping petty tribal and parochial sentiments.
Democracy is expensive
That is another cliché that I find quite amusing. It is a cliché that is often sounded by the educated as if that is enough to silence everybody from contributing to discussions on our national lack of priorities.
Last night I listened with rapt attention to a television programme where a respected senior citizen succeeded in educating me thoroughly on the role the cocoa industry and the Ghana Cocobod have played in Ghana’s developmental efforts. He made me proud to be a cocoa farmer, just that I honestly think cocoa farming now is not as lucrative as I envisaged earlier.
My interest in the said television programme, however, waned when the respected senior citizen attempted to defend why Ghana should have a new parliamentary chamber, citing among other things, that the current parliament is only a tenant of the State Protocol Department! I respect his right to express his opinion unreservedly, just that I disagree with his submission.
Gasping for breath, I wondered whether the State Protocol Department is an entity owned by a private individual like Akua Donkor! Even if that were so, the state is clothed with the authority to take that property legally, subject to appropriate compensation. Are the two institutions not part of government machinery?
To compare our parliamentary chamber to the British parliament and emphasizing that democracy is expensive was like comparing apples to pawpaw. I have always been amused about the simplicity of the British parliament, the arrangement of seats and the seriousness with which the business in the house is conducted…..not the same as when adult parliamentarians without an iota of remorse taunt a widow just because she belongs to the other party.
In the British parliament are lawmakers, some of whom join trains to reach the chamber, because they have collectively and over time, ensured that the train services are conducive for everybody. Others ride inexpensive cars or even hail taxis and similar transport services because the road infrastructure is fit for purpose.
They do not make excuses for their lateness or absence to the chamber because of intense traffic, bumpy or pothole riddled roads. I am not aware that they ask for loans to buy expensive cars fit for use on rugged desert terrains and turn around to elicit sympathies from the electorate for these personal choices.
Yes, democracy can be or is expensive, but so is poverty, ignorance and disease, if any of the latter conditions are rife in a country and allowed to afflict the majority of the populace. Poverty breeds apathy, deprivation, hatred and disrespect for authority and even instability. The maintenance of democracy in whatever form or shape cannot, therefore, supersede any of the above conditions and by implication take most of our national resources.
It is important to stress that peace is not necessarily the absence of war. The degree of hopelessness or frustration ingrained in a citizenry which feels alienated or neglected by the power holders can ignite chaos of such proportions as to make discussions on the need for a parliamentary chamber such an irrelevant discourse in our current high national debt scenario.
A new parliamentary chamber in our current scheme of things is a want, not a need. It can wait! There certainly are more pressing needs in other sectors of the economy after servicing the huge public wage bills, interest on outstanding loans and amortization of prior national debt, the burden of which must be shared equitably.
Why compare our democracy to others who have practiced theirs for centuries and have largely leaped beyond basic needs? The supply of even common chalk here becomes a necessity in some schools and a needless political issue. Others study under trees and dilapidated classrooms, while some BECE students are examined on computers they have never seen or touched before! Efficient allocation of scarce resources will be seen differently by the majority who justifiably feels disconnected to mainstream governance.
Those of us with rural roots feel the extent of deprivation so much not to worry about the exotic conveniences of a select few who will do virtually anything to become members of parliament. The ship of state is not run only by parliamentarians but by all of us working in unison.
I would rather we prioritized our expenditures such that we would have good roads, educational institutions with talented, motivated teachers, well-equipped science laboratories and other learning essentials, less crowded classrooms, quality health care which induces such confidence that the president would not go overseas for medical treatment.
Our premier teaching hospital has less than forty dialysis machines when I am busy dreaming of Ghana becoming a medical tourism destination. Where is the technological infrastructure that envelopes everyone into the global community?
I wish leaders who control the national purse would appreciate how often commuters on exceptionally bad roads within the urban centres and other rural communities curse those charged with oversight of the national resources and momentarily ask if they are still part of the country.
If these do not resonate with those charged with the responsibility of overseeing how our resources are distributed, then we are unwittingly creating a deadly silence that can make a mockery of that over-hyped ideal political form of governance called democracy.
Renovated churches and mosques.
Growing up as a teenager in Kwamo in the 1970s, I used to be highly fascinated by the level of industrial and commercial activities in the Ahinsan and Daban enclaves of Kumasi. It was such a beehive of economic activities with workers running shifts almost all day long. I relocated to Accra to find even more enchanting scenes of economic vibrancy especially in the North and South Industrial areas of Accra.
It was as if I woke up in a trance to find the closure of most of these economic units. They closed one after the other, consumed by an economic malaise that we still grapple to find a solution to.
Before I could discern what was amiss, most of these structures had been turned into gigantic religious centres where congregants mass up almost the whole day in fervent expectation of miracles.
Suddenly, everywhere you go, you will find a church and other religious buildings, some so monstrous and ill-constructed only to fall and kill hapless congregants. I look around and can hardly find enough economic units processing anything worthwhile to help us compete in the global community, apart from consuming what other countries foist on us.
The irony is that this phenomenon is not limited to the cities which have taken in more residents than could be effectively accommodated. As I travel through the rural areas to inspect my farms, I cannot fail to notice that in almost every town or village, the nicest buildings one can see now are church buildings and mosques.
These are being expanded or renovated with touches of modernity, serviced by increasingly impoverished rural dwellers, most of whom are elderly. These have been intimidated to dutifully contribute their meagre earnings towards the renovation frenzy just so that they will get “decent” burials after their death. They close from these same renovated religious centres to enter their dilapidated residential houses hanging perilously from aggravated erosion.
I wonder why the salvation message and the love of neighbour have been conveniently jettisoned when the same members of these congregations will sell adulterated honey, palm oil, groundnut paste, pepper powder and even contaminated palm wine to unsuspecting buyers. Others willfully use substances they know to be toxic in preparing food and other products for their neighbours to consume, only to shout themselves hoarse in religious centres, ostensibly in worshipping God.
I just wish that as we renovate these brick and mortar structures, we shall be reminded to renew our minds and hearts to accommodate each other’s right to dignity, safety and peace. We need to remind ourselves of our common humanity and be conscious of the interest of others in our pursuit of wealth.
I fervently long for the day when we shall become more spiritual than religious and stop spending disproportionately long hours in churches and mosques, fasting and praying our way into avoidable laziness and chronic poverty, while self- acclaimed intercessors flourish from our collective fears.
Pardon me if these random thoughts have bruised any raw nerves. I just cannot help but descend into a reflective mood, sometimes, especially when I consider that Kwamo MA JHS building has not seen any major renovation over sixty years, save some burglar-proof which now adorn the headteacher’s office!
I fully acknowledge that these may not find favour with some interest groups. May be, I have more time on my hands now to engage in reflections as a pensioner and a farmer. Just allow me to hold my views, however unconventional they may appear.
The writer, Francis Owusu-Achampong, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, an adjunct lecturer at the National Banking College, a farmer and the author of “Risk Management in Banking” textbook.
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