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Remember to wash your hands with soap.

By James Harry Obeng

The past week has been exciting, following the successful launch of the manifesto of the National Democratic Congress [NDC]. Whereas some have touted the launch as much late in coming, considering the lead that the party took in electing its presidential candidate, the bigwigs in the party have also been in their elements, counteracting claims by their arch-opponents about their manifesto.

In fact, their colleagues in the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), led by the National chairman, Peter Mac Manu, are doubting the originality of the policy document and have accused the NDC of a more serious and dishonest form of “stealing”, known as plagiarism, without acknowledging or crediting the original source, that is, the NPP manifesto.

So the NDC would also prove beyond every recognizable doubt that Nana Akufo−Addo’s cosseted slogan “Moving Ghana forward” was rather plagiarized from the NDC as the cover page of the party’s 1996 manifesto attests to.

Interesting indeed! The million-dollar question now remains who is actually “stealing” whose ideas. That is politics as defined in Ghana for you. Anyway, it all adds to the beauty of democracy of which the country has become a model on the continent of Africa, and around the globe.

Now, join me in dissecting the importance of last Wednesday, October 15, to every Ghanaian. It was the Global Handwashing Day (GHD). But before I fully set in gear to write on this day, let me inquire from my readers if any have ever ate his feces or that of someone before. Excuse me for being impish today, but the fact remains that you may be eating something more than food.

This is because our hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact (like handshakes) or indirectly via surfaces. When not washed properly with soap, these hands that have been in contact with human or animal feces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions, and contaminated foods or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to unwitting hosts. Already, medical research shows that a tiny gram of feces contain over thousand viruses and about ten thousand bacteria.

Washing hands with water alone is therefore not enough in dealing with disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Rather using soap works by breaking down the grease and dirt that carry most germs, facilitating the rubbing and friction that dislodge them and leaving hands smelling pleasant. The clean smell and feeling that soap creates are incentives for its use.

This however informs the relevance of the GHD which challenge is to transform hand-washing with soap from an abstract good idea into an automatic behaviour performed in homes, schools, and communities worldwide. Turning hand-washing with soap before eating and after using the lavatory into an ingrained habit among Ghanaians could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one quarter, according to Ms Theodora Adomako Agyei, of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA).

Hand-washing with soap would also make a significant contribution to meeting the Millenium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two thirds by 2015. Already, more than 3.5 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhea and pneumonia. Research also shows that with proper use, soaps are effective at rinsing away disease-causing germs, preventing skin and eye infections, intestinal worms, SARS and Avian Flu as well as preventing the spread of diseases in overcrowded, highly contaminated slum environments.

In Ghana, the GHD aimed to raise awareness of the link between proper hand-washing with soap and the prevention of diarrheal and respiratory infections, focusing on school children as change initiators who would take messages back to their communities, though the involvement of everybody is required to make this objective materialize.

So as you go on with your routine daily activities, always remember the importance of washing your hands with soap by reflecting on these words of Ms Theodora; “Hand-washing with soap is the single most cost effective health intervention when compared with other frequently funded health intervention. A $3.35 investment in hand-washing brings the same health benefits as an $11.00 investment in latrine construction, a 200.00 investment in household water supply and an investment of thousands of dollars in immunization.”

Always, remember to wash your hands with soap before and after eating, and after visiting the toilet and encourage others, especially kids, to follow suit. Let us make a habit because it saves life!

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Features | 1 Comment

AU must act on Zimbabwe!

DEAR Sir,

 

It was very timely that you devoted the editorial column of your two weeks ago issue of the Spectator to raising concerns about the disputed Zimbabwean presidential election. In fact there are no two ways about your standpoint that “Zimbabwe’s electoral process is palpably flawed in the sense that election results that should be announced to set minds at rest have taken too long for comfort”

 

Permit me a space, however, to add my voice to the editorial by saying that change, for now, remains the sole panacea to redeem the restive country from her current woes and restore her to normalcy. There are very pressing issues, predominantly emanating from the country’s political leadership, which are directly responsible for the calamitous situation faced by Zimbabwe. In truth the primary cause is found in the government’s gross disrespect for democracy.

 

The reality of life in the country today is that of gloom and despair. The truth is that democratic transition via a free and fair universal suffrage is increasingly becoming a distant reality, according to recent media reports about President Mugabe’s call for a second round of voting.

 

But just as Martin Luther king jnr said that “we will have to repent in this generation not merely because for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”, the international community, especially the African Union, should stage a swift intervention to ensure a timely declaration of the election results to set minds at ease. Let us not put on our usual ‘I don’t care’ spectacles until the country plunges into the unexpected scenario characteristic of most disputed elections on the continent.

 

 According to William James, “the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook” and this is not an issue to overlook. African leaders should rise up to forestall yet another ‘war’ after the Kibaki-Odinga issue because when two elephants fight….

 

jmsobeng@yahoo.com

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Features, Opinions | Leave a comment

HIV/AIDS resurrects African showmaster

Review by: James Harry Obeng

 

GHANA’s success in chalking headway in her drive to slash the scary statistics and thus minimize the spread of the deadly HIV/AIDS has become a predictable cliché. The eccentric statistics that put about 300,000 compatriots as living with the HIV epidemic coupled with the national prevalence of 1.9 per cent drum home the exigency for an effective all-embracing national sensitization tool to curb the epidemic since there is currently no scientifically tested cure except for the use of anti-retrovirals which, aside its cost, guarantees no other assurance than ameliorating the epidemic; not curing it.

 

The anti-HIV/AIDS drive that recognizes the epidemic as a socio-economic developmental challenge has awakened the creativity and ingenuity of sociologists, dramatists, writers and musicians. The challenge is so serious that the once-upon-a-time Showmaster of Africa, Bob Pinodo has had to come out of retirement.

 

The multiple award-winning Showmaster who has not seen active gigs since the late 1980s, after rocking Ghana with his Sonobete dance and music creations, decided from his Winneba base in the Central Region that the world hasn’t heard the last on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

 

His latest work, released on both cassette tape and CD, is titled “Get involved HIV/AIDS Campaign” and is sponsored by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC). The album combines the dual elements of education and entertainment in raising awareness about the epidemic; that is edutainment.

The four-track album encompasses such tracks as “Enka ekyir se yebeben Yehowa”, “HIV/AIDS is real” and “Joe Boy” in addition to the lead track, “Get involved, HIV/AIDS campaign”.

 

In a blunt but  humane approach, Pinodo in track two (HIV/AIDS Is Real) takes a swipe at attempts from certain quarters, especially a cross-section of the youths, to adamantly mythodologize the menacing disease, elucidating his standpoint with the argument that present-day scientific authentications sourced via doctors and scientists were ample evidences to break the myth surrounding the menace.

 

Additionally, couched in a corrupt typical Nigeria – like Pidgin English, Track Three tells the story of an incorrigible young man named Joe Boy whose numerous extra-marital sexual engagements put his innocent wife at the risk of the infection. The development subsequently provokes Pinodo, brother to Joe Boy’s wife, to become very vocal in the marital affairs of the couple as a way of restoring to normalcy the frequent beatings visited upon the wife whenever the voices concern over the husband’s amorous flirtations with other women.

 

As he puts it “you dey beat am, you dey cheat am oo! AIDS  dey oo! It dey kill people,” Pinodo offers an exegesis on the causes of the epidemic, dissecting into factors like blood transfusion, needle and blade cuts, etc, but with emphasis on sexual intercourse, especially unprotected extra-marital sexual escapades, which is a common characteristic of Joe Boy.

 

But in track four which he sang in Fante, Pinodo turns attention to the gospel as a way of reaching people with his message against HIV/AIDS. He contends that the advent of HIV/AIDS was partly a result of the sheer disregard for the word of God by humanity, giving the assurance that it was never late to draw closer to God, to wit, “Enka ekyir se yebeben Yehowa.”

 

Meanwhile, the title track of the album, “Get involved HIV/AIDS Campaign” comes with no less a description than a power-packed exhortation that commensurate its name. In a jazz-like instrumentation, Bob Pinodo re-emphasises the fact that AIDS was claiming million lives globally and prevails an all Ghanaians to stage the bold and decisive step aboard the campaign to halt the spread of the disease in the country.

 

Without a shred of doubt, the album should find itself into every home in the country to aid in materializing the worthwhile campaign of curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ghana.

 

    

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Features, Reviews | Leave a comment

Let’s also see to the garbage!

By James Harry Obeng

News of a renewed political clash between followers of the ruling New Patriotic Party [NPP] and the minority National Democratic Congress [NDC], as per a Ghanaian Times report front-paged September 2, 2008, has at least six compatriots killed and many others, notably women and children, sustain various degrees of injuries at Kpatinga in the Gushiegu district of the Northern region, the unimaginable worth of properties and buildings set ablaze into irretrievable obliteration notwithstanding. Families too are said to have been displaced whilst others fled to nearby communities to escape death.

This ill-development, especially occurring three months to general elections, no doubt gives room to the national worry amply evident and corroborated in the way media agenda and attention have been set in the past few weeks towards calming frayed tempers. The situation is undeniably devastating to warrant the media spotlight and government interventions it is currently enjoying, albeit the blame game and over-politicization of the issue seem to prolong putting the situation to rest.

 Last two week, September 4, the Minister of Interior, Hon Kwame Addo Kufuor, also ordered the arrest and immediate prosecution of any individual or party who will be found in connection with disturbances, all in attempts to finding an effective prophylactic to the spillover. 

But just as the government is tirelessly seen to be working out an antidote to arrest the situation embattling our brothers and sisters at Gushiegu, I would also at this juncture wish to alert Ghanaians, especially government and the media, to an ever-abandoned disaster which consequences remain equally devastating, if not overwhelming, than the excesses of political violence.

This phenomenon is not only claiming precious lives by the turn of the clock, especially that of innocent children, but also continue to make a complete phantom of the international goodwill the country and its leadership enjoy globally. In fact, and in straightforward simple language, it paints no other picture of the country than “Ghanaians are dirty people”. I am talking about the status quo of sanitation in the country.

Just as one approaches Makola [immediately after the traffic lights at Rawlings Park] in the Central Business District [CBD] of Accra, the nation’s capiltal and the seat of government, the sideway of that section of the road heading towards the Kwame Nkrumah Circle is always buried in waste composed of plastics, feaces and rotten foodstuffs heaped over there by officials of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly [AMA]. The reek in that part of the city is outrageously inhuman and unbearable to passers-by and passengers, although market women and itinerant sellers who conduct brisk businesses there seem unperturbed by the mind-blowing stench that stair at them daily. They are simply the makers of the mess over there.

In fact, this sordid picture captured here represents only a modicum of the city’s insanitary condition compared to other suburbs like the Kanehie and Agbogbloshie markets, just to mention a few. There are also worse snapshots in other parts of the country with an estimated 3,200 tonnes of solid waste generated daily in the five largest cities in the country [Kumasi, Sekondi Takoradi, Accra, Tamale and Tema], alone.

Addressing journalists at a workshop on sanitation organized by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development [MLGRD] in collaboration with the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] in Water and Sanitation [CONIWAS], last month, the Director of Environmental Health and Sanitation at MLGRD, Mr Naa Lenarson Demedeme, indicated that on estimation, every Ghanaian individual contributes half a kilogram of waste to the sanitation situation per day. The country, he noted, is able to manage only 30 per cent of the waste generated daily, the remaining deficit of 70 per cent accounting for the incremental heaps of rubbish enveloping the country.

Again, a snapshot of sanitation issued by a UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Team in February has ranked Ghana as the 48th country in Africa with the worst progress in sanitation. The report which assessed 51 countries in Africa also ranked the country the 14th out of 15 countries in West Africa with poor sanitation record, only managing to upstage Niger to the last spot. This development, according to Mr Demedeme, means that “the country is off track in achieving the Millenium Development Goals [MDSs] on sanitation,” targeting the reduction by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

By this, I have long wondered the miracle that will eventually set the country to meet the much touted MDGs, especially the Goal Seven, which is central to meeting all the MDGs, but yet remains the one towards which very little progress has been made in our country. The hypocrisy of politicians and the over-concentration on politics by the media in this regard is therefore absolutely unpardonable and detestable.

Another unbearable spectacle in our cities nowadays that, aside its far-reaching health consequences, have rendered the country to global ridicule is the issue of open defecation by some Ghanaians at everywhere imaginable. Prominently engendered by the inadequacy of toilet facilities in households or public latrines due to poor country planning, it is estimated that more than four million people in the country defecate in the bush, water bodies, or fields and more shamelessly at open drains and gutters. The culprits of this shameful practice often cite such implausible reasons that those places are more airy, convenient and economical to back their dastard acts.

There are also Ghanaians who do not want to add their shit to those of others in one pit for several superstitious and cultural reasons. Visitors and tourists who, for the country’s enviable democratic credentials and investment prospects, swamp the country by the passage of the day therefore end up by laughing at the country as they always see so-called ‘peace-loving’ Ghanaians dotted along the drains and gutters defecating.

According to the Ghana Statistical Service Multiple Indicator Survey [MICS] Report for 2006, open defecation is prevalent in all the ten regions of Ghana. While the national average as per the report is 20 per cent [an improvement from 24 per cent recorded in 1990], the practice is most widespread in the Upper East Region with about 82 per cent of the people without any form of latrine, followed by the Upper West Region with 79 percent and the Northern Region with about 73 per cent.

The human excreta left in the open fields, bushes or drains generate millions of viruses, bacteria and parasites. The situation invariably necessitates houseflies which fly between the feaces and the food [including fruits] we eat, and contaminate them in the process. We, thus, inadvertently eat our own or other peoples’ feaces, and open ourselves up for ailments that can lead to disastrous consequences.

Rains also wash away most of these human excreta left in the open into rivers, ponds, open wells, lagoons and beaches. The MICS report again indicates about 19 per cent of the population [nearly 4.2 million people] still rely on untreated water from dams, streams, pond, rivers and open wells for water for drinking and cooking. These people may therefore have been drinking their own or other people’s faeces and unknowingly injecting themselves with germs and diseases. It is therefore no wonder that sanitation-related diseases like malaria, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis top cases at the out-patient-departments [OPD] of hospitals in the country, accounting for 80 per cent of the cases reported at these facilities. Most children patients often do not make it out of these ailments.

With this, my Nigerian friend Bebe has always had genuine cause to deride the claim often made by our national leadership, that “Ghana is the gateway to Africa”. And she has always told me in the face that “if this is which that makes Ghana the gateway, then Nigeria has long surpassed been the destination”. Bebe could not be far from the reality.

But with the saying that “the only thing that government cannot do is changing a man into a woman” and vice versa, I still sense all is not lost; not at all.  The minutest political will is all it patently entails to ignite a turnaround towards an unprecedented magic. I am therefore patiently waiting for the day that any of the presidential candidates to the December polls will graciously roll out his agenda on salvaging mother Ghana from the grips of stinking filth. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables quips that “the history of men is reflected in the history of sewers…..the sewer is the conscience of a city”. 

I also challenge my colleagues in the media to capitalize on this year which has been declared the International Year of Sanitation by the UN General Assembly to mark a departure from the ever-infectious “he said” or “has said” style of reporting speeches to more comprehensive forms that bring to the fore the necessity for us all to have better sanitation. Nothing can exponentially cause attitudinal change in people and put ‘big men’ on their toes than the might of the media. Let’s not equate our responsibility to society and humankind to dancing to the tunes of “solidarity fees.”

In all our approaches as Ghanaians to ensuring improved sanitation for all, we should always remember Mahatma Ghandi for one thing – “Sanitation is more important than independence”. Please, don’t litter!

But before I bow out, let me entreat my brothers and sisters in the north, especially at Kpatinga, to see themselves one people with common problems to fight against, but definitely not killing themselves because of politics and the influences of disgruntled, self-seeking politicians. A word to the wise is ……….

website; adwoamanu.wordpress.com

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Features | Leave a comment

Goodies Everywhere!

An octogenarian’s reason for smashing the senses out of his son’s head via an award-winning cheek-slap strained credulity.

“Why should you waste away your future and entire into perpetual destruction,” screamed the father at his tween-ager son. Apparently, the father has caught up with the son watching goodies in the secluded abode of his bedroom. The father, also a minister of the gospel, could not fathom out why a gentlemen created in his own image would engage in such a silly conduct.

But to the layman who may be wondering about what goodies really are or mean, it is only a more ‘technological’ way of referring to sexual imageries, including the still and motion nude pictures of people, especially women (or better still girls.)

Today, there appears be several ways in accessing real pornographic materials. Unlike the pastor’s beloved son who preferred to stay indoors to visualize the nudity of other women, contrary to what has probably been abhorred by the father’s religious dogma, others prefer the no- subscription way to fascinate their eyes with the beauty of God’s hidden artistic potential. A friend of mine, for instance, only has to sojourn the Kwame Nkruma Circle in Accra to satisfy his terrorizing urge, and even the libido.

In the classroom where, like me, most people have had no other option than to sit behind female colleagues in order to partake in lectures to actually acquire knowledge, the results have brazenly been devastating. The shameful outcomes have been the bombardment of all the classes and types;  the fat and big, the  thin and slim,  the  beautiful  and  the  ugly,  and indeed accentuated  with all the romantic names you  could think of  in terms  of lingerie; the G-string, thong, and not forgetting  the indisputable champion of all generations, the around the globe.  And  when it happens like  this , it only takes divine intervention to forestall or guard against lapses in concentration.

This development of reckless exposure of the breasts, and other parts of the genetalia in the name of vogue and modernity is not only an indictment on womanhood, but also a shame to all that practice it. Let all, especially women, whose mode of dressing make a hoax of our culture and upbringing as Ghanaians (and not Westerners) bow in shame.
Going nude in the name of fashion, modernity and technology cannot mean anything than insanity. Stop it!

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Features | Leave a comment

kojo Yankah’s headache!

There is, by now, no doubt that Mr Kojo Yankah, President of the African University College of Communications (AUCC) and a former director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), is suffering from a headache. In fact, the ex-editor of the country’s Daily Graphic could not have enacted anything to hide this man-made but terminal headache when he, at the grand dedication of the AUCC’s permanent city campus at Adabraka, named the Discovery House, expressed sentiments about falling standards in journalism as practiced in the country.

Paramount among these sentiments were the mushrooming of journalism training institutions across the country and the issue of political debates which are “so charged on our radio stations that you sometimes get the impression that we do not even appreciate our own collective achievements as a people”,

He also made genuine observations about the low quality of radio programming in the country due to the lack of trained journalists, a development which needs not to be overlooked, but exhausted towards reaching lasting antidotes.

In the first place, I write this article without any grudge to article 21 clause 1(a) of the 1992 constitution which grants “freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media”. I also do not harbor any opposition or contradiction to article 162 of the same constitution which guarantees, inter alia, freedom and independence of the media, regarded as the fourth estate of the realm.

Nonetheless the foregoing, I have, just as Kojo Yankah, very grave concerns to make in so far as the conduct of political debates and talk-shows, including newspaper reviews, on our radio stations are concerned. The cacophony and exchange of insults that have gradually become the trademarks by which such programs are identified leave much to be desired, and I am convinced it may assume unprecedented heights in the next few months to the December polls, if concrete measures are not mapped out National Media Commission and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to regulate them.

Among the catalogue of decorum-defying conducts often put up these self-styled social commentators when the appear on air are the trade in insults, unnecessary interruptions of dissenting panelists, the utterly display of ignorance on topical issues, among many others, all of which emanate from their (commentators) dogmatic beliefs in their respective political party policies, arrogance and the unbridled reluctance to learn by failing to engage in research as a reliable tool to acquiring knowledge.

The most worrying angle to this development is that these social commentators often turn out to be professionally trained journalists and communications experts who know anything and everything about the profession, especially as regards to ethics, but deliberately let go off them.

It is therefore time for the GJA, NMC as well as owners and management of various frequency modulations (FMs) in the country to institute measures to regulate the conduct of political debates to render better meaning to our fledgling democracy which has, for the past years, been reduced and misinterpreted to the exchange of insults, regardless of the personalities and issues at stake.

I think by such measures, Kojo Yankah will be delivered of his menacing headache.

Again, it also remains an unfortunate spectacle to observe with disproof the unprecedented springing up of educational institutions, often housed in hired buildings, that profess to be journalism training schools, but which have not secured the accreditation of the National Accreditation Board (NAB) to operate. Consequently, such institutions are, by each year, churning out half-baked journalists, who, at the end of their course, are unable to practice journalism the professional way on the simple grounds of lacking basic knowledge on the rudiments of the profession.

As has been the requirement of the NAB for diploma programs to run on a period of two years training, such schools often take the delight in securing affiliations with mysterious institutions abroad that award diploma certificate after only six months or less.

As a phenomenon emanating from the foregoing has been the sordid development of what has now become known as solidarity fee, better known to journalists as ‘soli’. It is repugnant to observe reporters defy the ethics governing their profession to boisterously clamor for ‘soli’ which is not only humiliating to the profession and their consciences, but also despicable to watch flourish in the system without any authoritative rebuttal from the country’s media watchdog, the National Media Commission.

Other journalists also choose to scramble for food and drinks at events to the extent of stashing some (take away) for the kids at home. In face of these challenges confronting journalism in the country, let the GJA and NMC stand up and be counted.  But  in  mean time ,  kojo’s  headache  remains  untreated.

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Features | Leave a comment

The aftermath of the ‘Breaking News’

Breaking News!

 

What becomes your immediate response when TV3 suddenly truncates, without any prior notification, the rolling or telecasting of your favourite African movie that showcases the crème-de-la-crème of film stars on the continent, especially including the ever-hilarious comedian of all time, Agya Koo?

 

Your guess may be just as right as mine; disappointment and extreme ire amplified in those scornful facial and oral expressions of yours. “Mo koraa mo kyere moho dodo”, the typical Akan man from Kumasi will say. At this particular juncture, viewers forget about the unrivalled fact that TV3 is never synonymous with DSTV (Multichoice Africa) which is accessed strictly via subscription.

 

But to Adwoamanu, a very unpredictable character tagged by many, especially foes, as a political maverick (or better still gymnast or acrobat), the response was rather the opposite; an ignited curiosity to fish out the ‘news’ behind that conspicuous display of unprofessionalism which is a rare characteristic of the Kanda-based television powerhouse that pride itself as the “first in news, best in entertainment”.

 

Breaking News!, the TV screen shows for the second time, and (paraphrasingly) the silky-voiced, beautiful anchor appears to deliver the hot news (that probably can’t wait till the late news bulletin)

 

“The president, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, has just red-carded from his government Hon. Kwamena Bartels who, until this very minute, served in the capacity as the Minster of Police Affairs.

 

In addition, President Kufuor has recycled into the same government (which is only about six months from public scrutiny) Messrs Kwame Addo Kufuor and Papa Owusu Ankomah, both of whom abandoned the ship in pursuit of their individual presidential ambitions, only to concede defeat to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the NPP”.

 

“But this is no news at all, let alone befits the qualification as breaking news”, exclaims Adwoamanu, who had on several occasions prognosticated the development at hand. Her reasons are not far fetched.

 

In fact, the missing pellets of coke from the police custody and the haphazard manner in which policemen are handing over their AK47 ammunitions to warring factions to fuel the age-long Northern conflicts may even be enough to inform the president’s axe, despite the numerous allegations of corruption leveled against the big man and pursued with vigour by the local media, especially ‘The Enquirer’.

 

 Remember also the flamboyance, the extravagance, the pomp and pageantry, and overall the goodies that were reportedly alleged by the media to have characterized (or actually hallmarked) the daughter’s birthday celebration. In fact, these acts of omission and commission on the part of uncle Kwamena brought the image of the government, and that of the old man, into irreparable disrepute, raising a whole lot of questions centering on corruption in the government.

 

With such conducts, perceived corruption may eventually be taken as real corruption, if not properly handled by the party’s propaganda machinery, and may eventually affect the electoral fortunes of the great elephant party. Or could it be that Uncle kwamena was only working perfectly to put the policy of property-owning democracy into materialization? That is, leadership by example.

 

 But to ‘sub-professor’ Stephen Adei of GIMPA, there is nothing like perceived or real corruption, but corruption.  

 

And so (still paraphrasing) the anchor continues with her delivery, whether ‘breaking news’ or just ‘news’.

 

“The following people have been short listed by the President to receive highest awards in this year’s President’s State Awards. They are the Asantehene, Otumfuo Dr Osei Tutu Ababio II,………and Prof Evans John Atta Mills, the presidential candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).”

 

Yes!, this the real ‘breaking news’ and not the previous items, says Adwoamanu, these gentlemen really deserve national awards.

 

 And just as the next morning dawned, the breaking news was no more news, because virtually all the newspapers, notably those set along political lines, had them front-paged, accompanied by all forms of expert exegesis, somehow superfluous. As for Uncle Kwamena’s own, it was no more newsworthy to be captured on the front pages because doom sayers had over-predicted its occurrence.

 

So for now, the multi-million question that started making the rounds was simple, only that it presented a subtle misconstruction of the primary objective underlying the institution of the President’s State Awards. This simple question has been; Does Prof Mills deserve to be recognized with a national award in an election year like this?

 

Undoubtedly, proponents of this particular question share a common denominator, just like Adwoamanu. They are mostly of the NPP blood. But Adwoamanu is quite different here, because of her entrenched abhorrence for the phrase ‘kokofu’ ballgame.

 

She argues to put the minds of her fellow party men and women at ease that, the decision to bestow a national award on Prof Mills never means an apparent endorsement of President Kufuor, but only a reflection of what democracy should be made to have.

 

But don’t stop reading yet as Adwoamanu pours out detailed arguments to buttress and further consolidate her standpoint in her editorial titled ‘Prof Mills deserves it!’. Check it out from nowhere than the same site – adwoamanu.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

June 13, 2008 Posted by | Features | Leave a comment

Prof Mills deserves it!

The development of every country is undoubtedly dependent on the output of her citizens. Ghana, having realized the foregoing, instituted the President’s State Awards, the primarily objective of which is to reward hard work and exemplarily leadership.

                                        

The beauty of such a national measure, if not safeguarded against the myopic sectional interest of certain citizens, promises to be muddied in the not-too-distant future, especially in the face of the country’s unrivalled credential as a success story of democracy on the restive continent of Africa.

 

About three weeks ago, the President, H.E. J.A Kufuor, in consultation with the Council of State, short listed certain hardworking compatriots to be honoured with awards for their meritorious services towards national development. Among the recipients of the president’s prerogative included the Asantehene, Otumfuo (Dr) Osei Tutu II, and Prof John Evans Atta Mills, the presidential candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

 

Like most of the nominated recipients for the awards, Prof Mills’ nomination could not have been informed by any other (unknown) reason than the conspicuous fact that he has selflessly dedicated his entire life to public service, having lectured at the Ghana Law School for 25 years and ultimately ascending to the number two highest position on the land, that is, as the country’s Vice President between 1996-2000.

 

In fact, his shortfalls as a human being made up of flesh and blood can also not be overlooked.

 

But it was not shortly after the Castle’s publicity machinery had announced the president’s nominees for this year’s award than this ignited opposition and harsh criticisms from within the top-notch circles of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) to Prof Mills’ nomination.

 

According to this anti-Mills school of thought, composed by the NPP triumvirate of Prof Michael Oquaye, the NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Dome-Kwabeya, Hon P.C. Appiah-Ofori, the NPP MP for Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, and John Boadu, the NPP National Youth Organiser, President Kufuor’s nomination of the learned law professor is synonymous to an endorsement of the NDC’s presidential bid, most especially when the country gears towards December 7.

 

Consequently, the aforementioned triumvirate are wishing and actually working towards the exclusion of Prof Mills’ name from the list of nominees for the year’s award, according to credible information available to us.

 

As much as we hold no grudge to any citizen’s legitimate right to freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Adwoamanu wishes to put on record, and for the knowledge of Ghanaians, particularly political operatives, that the arguments advanced by the aforementioned triumvirate are shallow and superficial to deny the learned law Professor state award.

 

Contrary to the views of three ruling party members, the President’s decision does not in any way equal an endorsement of Prof Mills’ presidential candidature, but only a reflection of good leadership and fairness which should be a sine qua non of every democratic dispensation.

 

adwoamanu therefore states that the nomination of people for national awards and honours must never in anyway be dictated or influenced by any sectional considerations (known locally as ‘kokofu’ ballgame), but purely on merit!

 

It is time that fellow compatriots shelve their individual and parochial corporate/sectional interests to allow our common agenda as a country with a common destiny reign supreme.

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Editorial, Features | Leave a comment

STATE FUNDING OF POLITICAL PARTIES IS NECESSARY FOR GHANA’S DEMOCRACY.

By James Harry Obeng

Arguably, the debate vis-à-vis state funding of political parties has calmed down following months of critical and analytical exegesis volunteered by experts, and subsequently the unanimous adoption of the Proposed Draft Bill by the four major political parties in the country, viz the New Patriotic Party, National Democratic Congress, Convention Peoples’ Party and the Peoples’ National Convention. Invariably, media outfits in the country, especially the print, have demonstrated unbridled interest in the issue, dedicating pages to publicising the views of experts and reporting extensively on the issue, all of which have considerably whipped up public interest and informed discourse.

In its issue of April 8, 2008, Daily Graphic front-paged a seeming revival of the debate as envisaged in concerns raised by one of the country’s finest legal luminaries, Professor Michael Oquaye. In his submission, the political scientist cum legislator who has also authored various books on politics (and probably on the issue) prognosticates the proliferation of political parties in the country should the issue be rushed through. He argues that the country should not open the Pandora’s Box because it would have a snowballing effect that might be difficult to deal with. He contents that, ‘the impression should not be created that people can form political parties for personal gains, otherwise everybody will leave his/her job to form a political party for personal gains’, adding further that, ‘it is dangerous; it brings about political instability and also blurs the choices people make.’

Earlier, the paper has carried, in its issue of March 11, similar sentiments expressed by the Executive Officer of the Centre for Democratic Development [CDD], Prof Gyimah Boadi, who believes a carefully thought through considerations must precede the take-off of the funding, should the bill becomes a law. Though he accepts the fact that such a national move was essential for sustained multi-party democracy, Prof Boadi implores the country to exercise caution not to set up a chain reaction in which a percentage of tax revenue would be specifically attached to a long list of equally important public goods, citing the School Feeding Programme, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty [LEAP] and the Northern Development Fund as examples of such public goods.

All these expert counsels converge to drum home the exigency and caution that must be taken in dealing with the situation. This therefore calls for a comprehensive education on the issue of funding political parties, hence this article. But as much as I hold no grudge to the views expressed by the nice gentlemen and the million like-minded people replete with the country and article 21[1a] of the 1992 constitution [which guarantees freedom of speech and expression], I also beg to differ from the standpoint of the aforementioned experts, especially in the face of the arguments and or requirements advanced by the Proposed Draft Public Funding of Political Parties Bill, 2008.

There is no doubt that political parties are quintessential to the political and constitutional development of every country in the world; not excluding Ghana. They perform key roles in the formation of governments, grooming leaders at national and sub-national levels and holding governments accountable when in opposition. Their importance is much corroborated by articles 21(3) and 55(3) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana. Whereas the former enjoins all citizens to “have the right and freedom to form or join political parties and to participate in political activities subjected to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a free and democratic society and are consistent with this constitution”, the latter imposes, inter alia, heavy responsibilities on political parties to “shape the political will of the people, disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character, and sponsor candidates for elections to any public office other than the district assembly or lower government unit.”. Yet in the face of all these responsibilities, parties in the country are among the most neglected of the political institutions of the state left to operate as if they are purely private organisations with no modicum of state interest in its establishment, maintenance, well being and extinction.

Unlike Ghana, in many countries around the globe, recognition of political parties is concretised by the provision of state financial support for the operation of these political parties. In Africa, mention could be made of countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mali. It is therefore sad to notice that the only sources of public financial support for political parties in the country come in two forms – indirect support by not subjecting the incomes of political parties to task and the direct support by the allocation of a few vehicles in election years to parties participating in the election through the Electoral Commission – which are below par. There is however the general feeling that the state should do more, especially in the face of the stringent financial reporting regime established by the Political Parties Act ,2008(Act 574),which creates cost for political parties and bars non-citizens from making financial contributions towards political parties in the country.

At the end if care is not taken, political parties might be taken as exclusive machines for achieving electoral victories without looking at the other angle that, poorly established and poorly maintained political parties produce poor quality leadership, both at the party level and at the government level. Parties must therefore be helped financially to function effectively as not only electoral machines but also vehicles for public education, national integration and skills acquisition during inter election years.

Again, it is worth re-echoing that the tendency of political parties springing up in the country with the funding of political parties is a near-impossibility. This is because of the procedures and principles governing the allocation of monies to political parties are documented. For instance, clause 6 of the Proposed Draft Public Funding of Political Parties Bill, 2008, operates on the principle of equality of all political parties registered under the appropriate law. The principles also specify conditions to be satisfied by a political party before it can access the fund as well as the purposes for which the monies may or may not be put.

Here, two main categories of financial assistance are provided, namely, reimbursement of electoral expenses and general administration. General administration is to account for 20% of the money available to the fund in any financial year (January 1 to December 31). This is to be allocated equally to all political parties provided they satisfy other requirements in the bill or any other law (including the Political Parties Act), for example, the obligation to file financial statements with the Electoral Commission and to maintain a certain measure of physical presence throughout the country. Section 9(c) of the Political Parties Act requires political parties to have branches in all the regions and is, in addition, organised in not less than two –thirds of the district in each region.

The electoral reimbursement accounts for the remainder 80%, broken into Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Provision is also made here for those contesting elections as independent candidates.

The clause contains two principles worth highlighting. Firstly, the threshold for being eligible for reimbursement of electoral expenses. The clause pegs this at 2% of the votes cast in the election which is being used as the basis for the allocation to the political parties .In other words, a political party must obtain at least 2% of the total votes actually cast (not of registered voters). From comparative data, the eligibility threshold ranges from 1% to 5%. The 2 % provided in clause 6 is therefore based on the result of 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections and also on the belief that the threshold should not be fixed based on the registered voters only but should also take into consideration the total national population represented by electoral officials.

The regulation of bye-elections is left to the Electoral Commission. Provision is made for candidates elected unopposed, because it is assumed they will have no electoral expenses. For this reason it must be understood that the philosophy underline the bill assumes that the election commences with the filing of nomination papers.

Currently the draft bill awaits a submission to the Attorney General with a request for him to sponsor it to Cabinet and Parliament. It is therefore my hope that the bill materialises into law to help strengthen political parties play their proper roles in growing the country’s multi-party democratic dispensation. Again, state funding of political parties is very necessary.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Features, Uncategorized | Leave a comment