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[Opinion] In present-day Ghana, it is dangerous to assume that nobody knows what’s going on – Cameron Duodu Writes

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I strongly wish that at the beginning of each new administration (and on a six-monthly basis thereafter, the top members of Government machinery (including the Presidency) would find a way to open government up for a serious dialogue with the public.

You see, the system of government we have been running is entirely alien to our way of life. In our culture, we don’t normally wait for a formal sitting of the entire complement of mature people in our families before reacting to something that has happened – especially in the family – that is troubling our minds.

We strongly believe that when a matter is openly discussed, it would be relatively easy to settle it. On the other hand, if it is hidden and open discussion of it is suppressed, it will pop up into the public domain unexpectedly and embarrass those who wanted to suppress it. Our sages captured this social reality beautifully when they coined a proverb that says, “If you swear an oath into a hole, it comes out by itself! (There is, in fact, a folk tale that illustrates this proverb, but I’m afraid it is a rather long story!)

That’s why when something is worrying us, we look for an opportunity and then, when we have witnesses, we corner the person who is the cause of our discontent thus “They say you said this or that about me, when I wasn’t present! Is it true?”

“Me? I Spoke against you?”

“Yes! Have you forgotten? Didn’t you say, m when they were going to bury our departed Uncle Kwasi and I couldn’t be present, that I had gone to tend my palm-wine business and that the business was more important to me than taking part in the burial ceremony?”

“Who told you it was you I spoke against? I just made a general remark that these days, when a task that should be undertaken by our entire family arises, only a few of us turn up to do it. I never mentioned your name!”

“But you knew I wasn’t there and if you had asked, someone would have told you that I needed to fulfil my obligation to take some palm-wine to the relatives of the late Madam Abenaa Wusuaa, whose funeral was, unfortunately, being held at the same time and whose family would have been badly disgraced if they had not been able to serve palm-wine to – especially – their guests from other villages?””

”But was I in any state to make investigations at a time like that? In any case, am I a policeman to make investigations before I speak about what is troubling my mind? I saw what I saw and I said what I needed to say. I didn’t mention your name. And in fact, I also noticed that Kwaa’ Mensah was also not present. But he had informed the elders that he was taking his sick daughter to the hospital”.

(ONE ELDER IN THE HOUSE NOW INTERVENES): “AH, but you two, is this a matter that should cause a squabble? Especially when the tears in our eyes haven’t yet dried up, after we have wept so much for our dear departed? Stop this childish behaviour at once!!”

(CROWD RESPONDS): Opanin has spoken Let the matter rest there! And the matter would END there! Maybe the antagonists would be asked to shake hands. And they would resume their previous relationship,or face the wrath of the entire family.

A Government set up after elections, is just too big to be able to quickly short-circuiting rumour `(for instance) that can bring misunderstanding between its own members and potentially, the public at large. Where local assemblies are up to the task, they can discuss contentious issues that have arisen and then pass on their findings to

Members of Parliament, then on to the Cabinet and finally, the President’s. But this may not necessarily happen, because politicians tend, primarily, to look after their own immediate interests, before caring about matters concerning their Party, or the Nation. You’ve probably heard that some senior members of the British Conservative Party have been accused of using “insider knowledge” to place bets on the date of the coming British general election. Well, they are not the only politicians in the world to try and make a bob or two out of information gleaned from secret official sources!

In Ghana here, a major debate has arisen which was reflected in a TV programme I saw recently, in which a member of the Government and an Opposition MP took each other on, about the alleged sale of the shares of SSNIT in some hotels, to a company owned by a member of the ruling Government. SSNIT’s case (apparently) is that the hotels in question were not making enough profit to justify SSNIT’s investment in them. The member of the Government put up a strong case to support this argument and approved the sale of the shares. The Opposition MP brought out quite a few documents to disprove the Government member’s case.

I must say that for once, a highly-charged political TV debate was conducted in a well-mannered and mature way (which was a great credit to the moderator, Dr Randy Abbey. He allowed each side to make its case quite coherently.)

My personal view was that the case for the sale of the SSNIT shares does not take enough account of the toxic atmosphere that surrounds the use and (especially) the sale of public property in Ghana. You see, there are many people who have been in office before, but are now in Opposition, who know all the tricks about such sales and cannot conceive of such transactions not being carried out for the benefit of individuals, as against the interests of the State of Ghana. Those who want to seek to buy such properties ought therefore to be prepared to be SUSPECTED of sleights of hand and that sort of thing. If they want such properties, they should source them from the private sector, not the public sector. If they insist on sourcing them from the public sector, then they should ENSURE that, as was said of the wife of Caesar, they must “be above suspicion”!

I think it is unrealistic to expect the Ghanaian public to accept that any properties owned by the state can be bought by ANYONE without an attempt being made to cheat the State about the value and conditionalities of such a sale. After all, this is the country in which Alfred Agbesi Woyome was able to operate successfully, is it not?

So far as the NPP Government is concerned, I would like to remind it that its parent body, the PROGRESS PARTY (PP) gained immense popularity in 1967 when one of its founders, Dr Jones Ofori Atta of blesseds memory, led an eloquent assault against the sale to an American company, Abbott Laboratories, of the Pharmaceutical Division of the Ghana Industrial Holdings Corporation, (GIHOC).

It would be an irony of historical proportions were the NPP to throw to the winds, a concern for the sanctity of publicly-owned property in Ghana, despite the example set for the NPP by by the PP in 1967!

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