For the last few years, our media landscape has been inundated by a cacophony of noises with regards to various infrastructural projects and who is supposed to be the rightful claimant for such projects. I have attempted to toss the matter up in my mind on a number of occasions and I have almost always wondered why our political actors along with their apparatchiks do this.
Intrigued by the phenomenon, I tasked myself to undertake some checks on the matter. I noticed that one of the key factors that led to the situation was the perception of the citizens with regards to the credit that was expected to be given for these projects. In doing so, I noticed that in the immediate post-independence era, references to our government was simply, ‘the government’. Upon the overthrow of the Nkrumah government, the military government that took over made references to itself as the ‘NLC government’ or ‘government of the NLC’. From the post-independence era into 1972 when the Acheampong assumed the reins of government, all through to 1992 except for the brief era of the Limann government, references to our governments were the ‘NRC government’, the ‘SMC government’, the ‘government of the PNDC’, etc. I am not quite sure if those qualifications brought about by the military governments were meant to ingrain the legitimacy of those governments.
Having become an obvious tradition over thirty years, our political actors and the media appear to have carried over the tradition into the Fourth Republic and continued through all the government. Whether it was because the face of the government remained same or due to the longevity of the practice, was difficult to decipher.
In the advanced democracies that we so much admire, they have never subsumed their governments in individuals. It’s simply ‘the government’.
Interestingly as we moved into the democratic era, the qualification of the various governments with the names of their political parties was further enhanced with the personification of the respective governments. Now we had, ‘the NPP government of Nana Akufo-Addo’, ‘the John Mahama administration’, etc. One thing, however, remains certain. For obvious reasons, the references of the heads of governments to their respective political administrations further ingrained and created a certain subtle impression as though governance was at the behest of the Presidents that led it.
A few months ago, in an interaction with a colleague at a function, I was shocked that a person of his calibre could live and perpetuate a mistaken belief that infrastructural projects ought to be ascribed to the respective governments. I was shocked to my bone. From my appreciation of our political antecedents, I have come to the realization that it is that personalization of rule and deification of political leaders that feed into the mindset of new governments abandoning projects and initiatives of successor governments.
In the heat of the fight against COVID-19, for very obvious reasons, we had NPP apparatchiks loudly trumpeting the eighty-eight (88) District Hospitals and six (6) RegionalHospitals for the newly-created regional capitals. Just when the government began to receive applause for the initiative, the main political opposition (NDC) not wanting to be
done in, jumped into the fray.
Their angle to the narrative was that if it had not been the construction of the many hospitals by the John Mahama-led government, there’s no way President Akufo-Addo could have managed this COVID-19 pandemic in this manner. Essentially, their argument was two-pronged – What Nana Addo was seeking to do was not new to NDC and secondly that by the
utilization of the new hospitals constructed during their era, they also had a role in the
successful management process of COVID-19.
As I watched these political party people draw their swords, I wondered whether these were not some of the reasons for new governments continue to abandon projects inherited from their predecessor governments.
When the Kufuor government took over and began the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange in 2001, the NDC was quick to indicate that they secured the funding for it. In 2007, the government of John Kufuor began the John Walker Bush Jr. Highway but couldn’t complete. When the government led by Prof. John Atta Mills took it over and completed it and both parties were all over the place shouting for glory.
Upon assuming office in 2017, this current government led by Nana Akufo-Addo adopted an initial attitude of laissez-faire towards uncompleted projects by the government of John Mahama. Placed under heavy doses of pressure by Citi FM and other civil society organizations, the government began to execute the projects in lots. Immediately they were
completed and commissioning of them began, both the government and former NDC officials who had served in the previous government were head over heels to claim glory for these achievements. The list is endless and cuts across all our 4th Republican governments in equal measure.
When President Akufo-Addo commissioned the Ga East Hospital many months ago, the NDC was quick to ask him to go undertake its own hospitals rather than take glory in what was began by others.
As I write currently, the huge housing estate in Saglemi began by the government in 2011 thereabouts has been left to rot in the Accra plains most probably because the President who initiated it is of a different political party from the one now in office.
As at January 2017, about 1,500 out of the total 5,000 units had been built except that most of the building services were yet to be undertaken. The new Works Minister used a forensic audit being undertaken as the reason for not continuing, a reason he held onto till 2019 when he promised that the entire project will be completed by December 2020. As I write in mid-November, 2020, not a single brick has been added to the project.
But you see, why any government will be motivated to go complete a project if we will use it to taunt it in the end! Sometimes, as seemingly harmless as such comments on these projects and actions are, they tend to play into the psychology of governments who then ends up abandoning existing projects they came to meet and rather initiate new ones which they can claim full rights to.
Eventually, it is the ordinary Ghanaian people who end up suffering for this as we keep paying much more in terms of project cost while still being deprived the utilization of such facilities. The government seemingly does not care. They will rationalize the situation and move on and no one will be taken on for causing financial losses to us the people.
When a governing party changes hands (whenever), some token trials and imprisonments (if we are fortunate) may then be made to prove government’s commitment and placate us so it can keep its goodwill. How long shall this continue in this land of our birth, my dear friend? So what will be the motivation of a government to finish uncompleted projects if that government is going to be taunted in the end by the predecessor government for only completing projects instead of initiating its own? Secondly, when are we are citizens going to rise up and tell these political actors that the monies they use for all these projects are ours and that they have no business attributing it to party A or party B. As I watch these with seething irritation, I begin to ask myself whether apparatchiks of these two parties are fully aware that the monies they use for the projects are actually monies owned by the ordinary Ghanaian people. If so, why would they think that they have the right to use our money (or loans that we the people will pay through our taxes) and come back to us flaunting it in our faces as projects and infrastructural development that we should applaud them for?
I have always told my friends and associates that, those people who continue to waste our time with the attribution of infrastructural additions to the governments formed by Nana Akufo-Addo presidency and that of John Mahama have something to appreciate. The hard truth is that the average Ghanaian who continues to suffer the brunt of the slow pace of development in this country is not interested in who sourced for money or who built or is building what infrastructure. Ghanaians always get excited when after enduring years of untold hardship through traffic, they are given various infrastructural projects in the form of roads, bridges, interchanges, school facilities, medical facilities, sports facilities, etc.
It must be stressed that all these facilities are funded with our own money, be it taxes we have paid or loans we will pay in the future. Those monies do not come from any President's pocket or bank account for us to banter about who that President is. As a people, it is important we are spared such unnecessary rhetoric by our political apparatchiks.
In the United States of America which has become a model of democratic governance, no one ascribes anything to a ‘Trump government’ or an ‘Obama administration’ but simply to the ‘government of the United States of America’. Same happens in the Federal Republic of Germany, United Kingdom, and all such progressively advancing democratic countries.
It is important for our political actors to remember at all times that they are to use politics as a vehicle to serve and not the reverse. It is only when we as a people begin to decouple the political parties that form governments from the governments that result, that we will be able to experience real continuity and orderliness in our developmental trajectory as a country. It is about time Ghanaians begin to rise above the pettiness of governance for the
good of the country.
As our current President always reminds us at the end of every speech, ‘May God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong’. That will certainly happen, but it will require a certain collective resolve backed by definitive actionable steps to make it happen.
Fellow Ghanaians, shall we grow up so we can move on, please!
My dear friend,