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So you have gone to school,completed your tertiary education or you are acquiring a higher qualification.Or maybe you are working for some...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ghana @ 60: Time to retire and live on the beach...or not

Happy 60th birthday! As today is your last day at work, here's your retirement cheque. Expect your monthly benefits to be automatically deposited in your account. It has been a pleasure worki...what's that? You're NOT retiring? Wait, you're 60 right? In this part of the world after 60 you retire.What do you mean you're not retiring? Can't afford to?  You've been working for more that 40 years. Why don't we review your choices and see if we can determine why you're still broke and in debt after all these years.
Your parents left you money, like, a ton of money. Enough money to invest and be wealthy. What happened to it? Ahh, your first executive person didn't manage it well and put you into debt? It was just a $ 1 billion debt though and that was over 50 years ago. You couldn't pay off a billion dollars despite all the billions you've since been making and receiving?

I'm not surprised. You see, in order to get out of debt, you should have tightened your belt and cut your spending. Instead, all I saw you doing was spending almost all your income on the public sector. You ended up  having to borrow and keep borrowing just to finance the much-needed developmental projects that you needed to perform. Year after year, your public sector budget just got bigger. It never reduced. The people supposed to make sure it isn't as high were too busy enjoying that money and didn't want to lose it. They enjoy all kinds of benefits to serve us, but work from 11am to noon, and 2pm to 4pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays. They find ways of over-budgeting everything so they can take some of the money. They pass laws that pay them ridiculously high amounts of money not based on merit or work output, but simply on the fact that they got elected into power. They get fuel and power subsidies, and so do not really care when the fuel prices are increased. They get interest free car loans guaranteed by you, car loans we're not even certain are ever paid back by them. Yet, you never evaluate their performance. You just keep paying them, and even allow them to take end of service bonuses home with no inquiry from you as to what they did in their time working for you to deserve that bonus.

How were you expecting to get out of debt when you're watching as they fill the car park and garages of our State House to the brim with cars all for the chief servant? When they buy however many new cars every single opportunity they get and sell off the old ones to their cronies for peanuts?
You shouldn't be surprised at all. Instead of investing in the things that bring you money, you're too busy investing in consumables. As a company, you're a terrible investment decision. I would not invest in you knowing you'll take almost 50% of my investment and spend it on areas that give no returns on investment. Agriculture, Natural Resources, Human capital, Scientific and technological advancements get less investments from you than the salaries of your executives. You don't invest in education or in research capacity. You want to be industrialised, but won't support the research needed to get there. You want industrialisation and development to materialise from the thousands of sons and daughters you've lost to other countries.

But first, please convince these children to return home.
Since you're still working instead of retiring, show these children a budget that doesn't spend close to 50% of our income on just the public sector. Show us a parliament that will be paid more realistic salaries. Show us leaders who will stop over-budgeting and over-spending. Give us a climate free of the 'old boys' club' way of thinking to be able to actually effect change. Give us enough power and resources to make the changes we want to see. Stop giving power to your old friends who still insist on doing things using inefficient methods because 'that's how we've always done it'. Let us in, so we can be 'citizens and not spectators', as our President has said.
We won't go on retirement now. Maybe 60 years from now, we can go lie on a beach somewhere with fresh coconuts, great grand children that are educated in a  country with health and infrastructural excellence, and some sun-glasses. Maybe... or maybe not..

Friday, December 16, 2016

To His Excellency John Mahama: On his departure from the highest office in the land

Dear President Mahama,
Permit me to write you this letter on the occasion of your loss of Ghana's presidential ticket. From the beginning of your government up until 2014, I had paid less attention than I normally would to my government. That changed very quickly when Ghana was publicly and internationally humiliated by the World Cup scandal and by citizens sent to support the team in Brazil refusing to return to Ghana. I was appalled and dismayed, like many Ghanaians, by your actions (and inaction). From then on, I watched more closely, and the more I watched, the more disappointed I was by your leadership. Corruption and a lack of leadership in economic policy were the marks of your government. Citizens of Ghana in the US couldn't get new passports without some kind of connection to someone in the Ghana embassy in the US. People took millions of dollars of our money for doing no work. You made jokes out of serious issues such as you received perceived  bribes. You trivialised what was important, disrespected and insulted your opposition and former leaders of Ghana and gave your followers free rein to behave in despicable ways.

As a leader, I did not like you. You failed and disappointed me on too many occasions. People are justifying your loss, saying you were a good president who did not surround himself with competent and wise team members.
I'm sorry to say I disagree. You were not a good leader, otherwise you would have built and grown a better team.

While I may never have been president of Ghana, my study of leadership and the practice of it has shown me that the selection, maintenance and growth of a good team is 75% of your job as a leader. In this you failed. You appointed many people whose only skills and competencies were being stalwart NDC party faithfuls and the ability to engage in dirty, non-issue based politics. If you failed because of your team, then you failed as a leader. By not making an example of those who were incompetent, by not reiniing in those who were running their mouths and insulting the people of Ghana, by not realizing that your team playing dirty meant you were dirty, you failed. While you may say you never accepted a bribe, while you may present yourself as an affable, humble man, your team were behaving in the opposite way and so you failed.

Your failure has proven to many Ghanaians that the NDC indeed has very few skilled members. When we compare you to the incoming president, in this he has already exceled in his campaign. He brought in the best IT personnel to run his campaign's technical end, and selected a prolific economist to be his vice-president. You can already see that these two key people played a big role in his victory. He's got that one hands down, and if he's able to continue in the same vein, Ghana will grow better.

As you have already learned quite painfully, it isn't those who hail you and praise you all the time that you should keep close to you. It is those who tell you the truth to your face regardless of how you respond, and those who are able to help you to become better, that you keep on your team. Those who hailed you years ago are the same ones who rejected you on the ballot this year, showing you that they didn't hail you because of your looks or gentility, but because they thought you would make Ghana better. When you failed, you were voted out quite dramatically.

As you begin the transition process, I hope you pass on these lessons to our incoming president, and I hope you help him to succeed where you failed. That is the true mark of a leader. You said you did your best, and we appreciate the infrastructure and your acceptance of the loss of power gracefully.

As you leave office, I hope you decide to become a great contributor to our democracy and development. Don't hold press conferences when you notice the new government failing somewhere. Call the president directly and let him know. Don't look for faults just to prove to Ghanaians you were better. Hope and pray that they do succeed, even if that means your party never comes back to power.Encourage members of your party who want to be leaders to go and study and prepare themselves.

Winning the elections is only the beginning of the journey, as you have realized. If you are not prepared to perform in your role you will be fired. Preparation and study will ensure that there are members of the NDC who actually have ideas and real practical solutions, not just big grammatical insults and propaganda. Encourage your NDC leaders to recruit talent that is skilled and equipped. Use the next few years judiciously, not sitting on radio and tv insulting the ruling party, but actually learning and showing real intellectual strength. That is the only way you can contribute your bit to making Ghana strong, prosperous and developed. And that, Mr. President, is what every Ghanaian wants.
Yours sincerely,
Ghana President for a Day

Sunday, December 11, 2016

To 'The Good People of Ghana': Was Ghana on the Ballot Paper?

Dear 'Good' People of Ghana,
I must begin my post today by saying my next planned letter was to the outgoing president, not you. However, I saw the need for a short grammar (and patriotic) lesson, so here goes! The adjective used to describe you in my heading and greeting will be the focus of our discussion.Please allow the dictionary to explain to you what 'good' means and then decide for yourselves if the word is being used properly above:

  1. 1.
    to be desired or approved of.
    "we live at peace with each other, which is good"

Let us observe a moment of silence. Have you decided if 'good' is the right adjective yet? No? You need some help? Ohhh, you'd like for me to help you decide? It would be my sad duty to do so. 

We just elected a new president by majority vote last week. However, according to the numbers, it was really the swing voters who won this election for our incoming leaders. 45% of us always vote for the NPP, 45% always for the NDC, and 10% of us actually look at the evidence before us and then select a leader. This 10% decided to vote for the NPP this year after considering the evidence before them, but you would never know the way stalwart NPP faithfuls are carrying on.
According to you NPP faithfuls, you're the ones who won this election and not the rest of us. Allow me to present anecdotal evidence from Facebook:

"Hypocrisy is when u knw u didn't vote for Nana Addo yet u take to ur Facebook handle to say Ghana won... Did Ghana contest an election? Mtchewwwwwwwwwwwee."

"To those NDC commentators who have all of a sudden become so patriotic and are shouting Ghana has won, ..... if it is because you are afraid you will be trolled then you have missed the shot paa. You shall be trolled and trolled well paaaa."

These posts are all over Facebook. I have seen them shared by many people, and worse, there are posts that are insulting anyone who supported the outgoing government, if they even post congratulatory messages to the incoming government. The terrible spelling and short-hand aren't the only things making me wince when I read these posts.

This brings us back to our discussion of 'good': are the above posts to be desired or approved of? When the outgoing NDC's supporters did this in 2012, we all condemned their behavior. When people were throwing about insults and involving themselves in dirty politics, NPP supporters were the first to say they were different. Are you really different? When members of the 10% who helped your candidate win this election, but were not known supporters are happy at the outcome and saying Ghana won, you ask " was Ghana on the ballot paper?". 

Really? Is that the most patriotic response you could come up with, young patriot? Our president elect won this election because the majority of Ghanaians voted for him. This means the majority of Ghanaians won this election, regardless of their party affiliations. He won because a majority of us believed he was the most qualified to lead. If you truly hold this to be true, then you will accept that it is Ghana that has won by getting a great leader. Even if the person did not vote for your candidate, the nation getting new leadership has won. Our elections proceeded peacefully and the incumbent government conceded in humility. That, my dear young patriot, is Ghana winning. If you don't believe me, go visit Gambia and then come back and let's talk.

This post is for the 80-90% partisan population of Ghana. I'm sorry to break it to you, but you have NOT displayed behaviour that is to be desired or approved of. You are NOT the 'good' people of Ghana (and I haven't even started on the fact that 99% of you claim to be christians or muslims with at least a univesity degree, and yet behave in completely uncharacteristic ways!).

 Re-think your auto-support system for your parties. Re-think your attitude that makes an enemy out of anyone who shares a different political leaning to you. Re-think your divisive behaviour that has pitted our people against one another for all these years and left us with little to show for it. Re-think your bad work ethic, your own moral compass that allows you to accept and give bribes, your inability to make decisions based on facts and not your emotions. Re-think your misplaced passion that our nation, and not your party, desperately needs.

Speaking of facts, re-think your lack of desire to find them, read them, watch them, listen to them or evaluate them objectively because of your party-colored sunglasses that clouds your vision. When you, who call yourself a party supporter, can't even read the abridged version of your own party manifesto but attacks the one who did and voted based on what they read, how can Ghana go anywhere? When you're happily and proudly bullying people online because their party lost, boasting of trolling them because you were just waiting for the opportunity, you should pause and re-consider. 

Consider that you have now sunk to the very same level that you once
abhorred, and are now 'a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very UGLY appearance'
Those were the dictionary's word for a troll, not mine. Don't like that definition much? How about 'Being a terrible human being on the internet because you can'? That's a dictionary definition for trolling too.

We are here at a turning point in our nation's history. It is time for everyone, regardless of party affiliation, to be hopeful, pray and support the new government. It is critical that we do so. That support isn't just going to be in the form of letting them know they're doing well, it will be to work hard, clean up our own individual corrupt habits and hold them accountable. It is the age of information. Read and educate yourself on what has been promised, and become someone who engages in useful dialogue that will help us grow. Instead of focusing on political affiliations, focus on ideas and vision and accountability. And if someone asks for the government to be accountable for promises made, don't use your auto-partisan-ness to attack them. They love Ghana too.

Our outgoing president His Excellency John Mahama refers to you as 'good'. Our President Elect Akufo-Addo addresses you in a similar fashion. If 'good' was a person with a lawyer, it would probably drag you off to court on Monday for character assassination, misrepresentation and false advertising. Let's make sure that changes.
Ghana President for a Day

Saturday, December 10, 2016

To Nana: On his election as President of the Republic of Ghana

Dear President Elect Akufo-Addo,
I didn't like you. I never did, and I still have mixed feelings about you. Please allow me to clarify. As the self appointed President for a day of Ghana, I disliked you because of some things you'd said in public that were not things to be said even in private.I didn't like you because through out the time I knew of you, it seemed to me you wanted to be president like it was a family inheritance of sorts. You reeked of arrogance and an inability to connect with the struggles of the common Ghanaian, and so your attempts to appear as someone who could just made you seem hypocritical to me. I didn't see how you, who come from the lineage of the man who reportedly used real golden spoons in his wedding reception, could understand and know the struggles that my mom, who had to give up her food and 'fast' for days sometimes just so we could eat, was facing.  Whenever I saw your 2016 campaign team finally going into the rural areas and speaking with members of the electorate that you'd ignored in previous elections, I'd think to myself that you were being falsely humble just to get the votes you needed to get into power. It made me happy that you seemed to have realized that the ordinary citizen of Ghana is who would vote for you, but I was still skeptical about you.

Speaking of my mom, I didn't like you because she didn't like you. She said there was no way you could ever be president and the NPP needed to find a more likable candidate. And when you have a mom as smart and wise as mine is, you tend to just agree with her and adopt her stance.
If you're still reading this by now, I promise I didn't write this letter to you just to explain why I didn't like you. I'm writing this so you know this: you need to prove us wrong. You have already started off well, winning this election in such grand fashion. I've never been a fan of either the NDC or NPP, but I was hoping there would be a change and there is now.
However, my hopes for change were not just for change. They were for positive change, change in the right direction. This is where I'm going to need you to understand that the same hope and need for change that got you elected, will get you out of office if you don't prove your naysayers wrong.

Prove to me that you do understand the conditions of mothers who are in the position my mom was in once by enacting policies that make their lives better. Prove to my mom that you're not the same divisive arrogant man she knew but a man of peace, unity and development. Use the best talent in our nation regardless of their political affiliations. Keep the ship of government tight to save us money in all those costs. Celebrate, but only briefly, because you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

You've wanted,dreamed of, worked hard and sacrificed many things to be president. Now you are president. What are you going to do now? Who are you going to put on your team? Have you learned from the outgoing president's mistakes and already made a tentative list of only the best people to work with? Are you ready to spend only the shortest amount of time possible to look into all of the contracts that exist so the worthy and correctly contracted companies can finish their work and get paid?
Perhaps you need to consider outsourcing that investigation of contracts to a qualified company and give them a deadline to deliver their analysis. We can't afford to wait for you to appoint ministers and then select who is going to be in charge of this. I only say this, because we can't afford to halt payments for work done for so long, that the interest that builds on the original payment is more than what we owe. Worse, we can't afford to be sued for delayed payments for work done. This is what happens when you leave that task to ministers, who then proceed to drag it on for as long as possible in order to just collect per diem. We can't wait even a year for you to do this. Evaluate what needs to be finished quickly, prosecute if need be, and move on to new things.

Please don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. The fact that the outgoing government started something should not be your only reason for not finishing it. Assess our priorities and place projects in line with these priorities, and make sure they get done regardless of who started it.
Four years is a long time, long enough for people to get PhDs,  but it is a very short time when you're dealing with employees who work from 11am to 2pm instead of 8am to 5pm, and who are more interested in trying to spend as much of the nation's money as possible. That brings me back to point 1: bring in only the best. Keep a tight ship and make sure these people will actually work. Fire those who need to be fired, and reward hard work and transparency.

Many factors are against you. The world economy isn't doing very well. Oil prices are low, which means the projected expected oil revenue in the next year will be lower than we'd like. Our power situation needs fixing. Our population is exploding, with many more of us urbanized. The Ghana of yesterday is no longer the Ghana of today. Our needs are different. Look critically at these needs and prioritize them. Don't focus on re-election. Focus on real results and re-election will be a by-product. As the Bible says, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you. Seek first the prosperity of our nation and all other re-elections shall be added unto you. Keep the main thing the main thing.

I would love it if you made the main thing getting us out of debt and making us self-sufficient. I know you may think it is impossible, but I'd like to assure you that it definitely is. Just like a company that tries to make more profit and reduce spending, perhaps you should start with a tighter ship and benefits for our public sector based on merit and not as a condition of employment. For example,  if MPs would only receive free fuel or housing as a condition of performance, we'd save some money and see a huge improvement in their work ethic. Bring in consultants and let them tell you what you can do. If Ghana is a business, we're too far in the red to be trying to fix these things without expert advice. Be humble enough to let the experts tell you how to fix this, and be willing to tighten the belt to do it.
There's no time to celebrate your win, and I'm sorry for that. I understand this is your lifelong dream come true, but celebrate when you actually accomplish the dreams of the people who placed you in power. If you spend six months celebrating and another two years just getting the hang of the job because you're surrounded by inefficient people, re-election will come again very quickly. And this time, a third candidate may just break through and win. That's my personal hope, but I pray and entreat you for the sake of our nation: prove me wrong.

Ghana President for a Day

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rejoinder: The Work Culture of Ghanaian Students;Why Don't Most Ghanaian University Students Work?

This will be my very first rejoinder on this blog.  Its going to be long but well worth your time. I woke up to find a few of my friends on Facebook in an uproar over an article concerning work culture among Ghanaian students. I reposted it on my wall and of course had many more of my friends in a delicious discussion(you know how much I love debates and discussions!) so I decided I'd write a response to that article.
The article I am writing this rejoinder to can be found here: http://www.ghanacelebrities.com/2014/06/01/work-culture-ghanaian-students-dont-ghanaian-university-students-work/.

I will try my best to address a few issues raised by the article above as dispassionately and objectively as possible. I am quite qualified I think, since I went to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, and also had the opportunity to travel abroad for further studies. This rejoinder will not be a bashing or insulting post about the author. The author did bring up a very critical issue for debate and discussion, so here's my two cents on the matter.

The author began by stating his background and his experience quite clearly. From his standpoint, his friends were asking him for money and he had a problem with that. He then went ahead to attribute their asking him for money to the fact that most of them don't work in school and that's why they asked him for money. Right from this beginning, his argument was flawed. I have many friends with well paying jobs in Ghana who will still tell me to send them money when I'm outside the country. I used to do that myself to a couple of really close friends who travelled abroad! It has nothing to do with their working or not and everything to do with our culture and mindset that anyone overseas is better off than we are. Many Ghanaians assume that because someone lives in Europe or the Americas or elsewhere, they earn a lot of money, live in luxurious apartments and drive latest model cars! Contrast that with the reality that the author mentions briefly, which is most of those abroad work very hard just to keep a roof over their heads and phone lines active so home folks can call, text or Facebook message them to ask for money. That is the heart of the issue here, not a lack of gainful employment as the author wants to argue.

The rest of the article mentions very briefly the benefits of working as  a college student and talked about the fact that even students who do not need money work overseas because they would like to get some experience. Well isn't that just well and dandy for them! Its great to work for the experience and learning opportunity but is it feasible in Ghana? The author makes another flawed argument here, one that is based almost entirely on the premise that Ghana has the same economic and cultural system as all other countries in the US, Europe and Asia. Again, this is just typical of many Ghanaians, drawing non-existent and unrealistic comparisons between our country and other nations. Let's get one thing straight: Ghana is NOT the US or the UK. Here are just a few differences that I can think of out the many many many to infinity differences that exist.

1.We do not pay employees by the hour. As in, we do NOT pay by the hour. There is a fixed rate of pay for employees MONTHLY, not even weekly. If you happen to find an employer who is kind enough to split the pay into weekly stubs, then hurray! However, that is the exception and not the rule.

2. Ghanaian employers do not pick part time or seasonal employees for many of the jobs you're proposing are available to students. If you are not willing to work FULL-TIME for many employers, then you're out.

3.Just as a follow-up from 2, the jobs you THINK are available to students are actually not available period. Many of these jobs are offered to uneducated or less educated individuals who are willing to work whenever they're needed, not to students whose time tables are fixed and unchangeable.

4.Which leads me to another follow-up off of 3: Ghanaian students do not get to decide when they want to go to class or which classes to take. There are no multiple sections of a lab, neither are there multiple times available for one class. In fact, there is no such thing as I will declare my major later and so I'll take classes in History and Anatomy. You are admitted to your major and from your first year, you are required to take a fixed list of courses every semester. Those courses will not have several sections. You either show up at the designated time on your fixed time table, or you fail the class. Your choice. How exactly is a student supposed to hold a full time job( since part time is impossible) in this case?

5. One of the most important differences is this: the culture in Ghana is different from that in other parts of the world. In Ghana, your parents are obligated by our values to take care of you through-out your education up until college level (and in my case beyond). In fact, those of our colleagues who did not have parents taking care of them were considered less fortunate. That is not to say that because your parents will pay the bills you shouldn't work. It means that culturally, it reflects poorly on your parents if you work as a student. As an example, a university student from a single parent home wanted to work during her summer break. She wanted to find work as a sales rep because her mom was a teacher and times were tough. She wanted to get some money to help out. She told her mom, who promptly forbid her from doing so. That was no false story, because that student was me. My mom did not want anyone telling her she wasn't capable of caring for her daughter so she said no. While some of you may think this is a bad thing, its actually one of the greatest things about our culture, because it means my mom maintained control over me and I dared NOT disrespect her. Whenever she told me to do something, I did it because she wasn't just my mom, she was taking care of me. Contrast that with many American college students who live on their own and pay their own way. Many of them have no respect for authority because they think they are their own bosses. And who can really blame them? In our culture, taking care of you is the way your parents make sure you're living by cultural norms that will benefit you in future.

6.Which leads me up to another point: many of such jobs are looked down upon in Ghana because historically, they have been held by uneducated individuals and in some cases, people considered to have a bad character. Some of these jobs are culturally frowned upon for young people because they are thought to corrupt them. As an example, bar-tending is a popular part-time employment for many college students in the US. Let's try Ghana. I can just imagine the scene where Jojo or Akua is seen by their parent's friend working in a bar. Ummm....what?!!!! Do I really need to paint to you the picture of what happens next? The perceived disgrace? The negative perception by those people? And who can blame them? Even though there are many decent bars, many bars are simply not a place I'd want my daughter to hang out in the name of work experience, not unless the work experience was learning how to stay unaffected by shady characters. Enough said.

Finally, the author fails to mention the fact that many students do seek seasonal employment in the form of internships or attachments. These internships are usually unpaid. When I did my internship, I had to wake up at 4am every day in order to get public transportation (which I paid for by the way), just so I could arrive at 8am sharp where I worked. Then I'd have to feed myself throughout the day and then repeat the 1.5 hour transit home in choked traffic, sometimes waiting for hours just to get a ride home, not to mention risk being robbed or kidnapped by miscreants in the evening and get home exhausted to repeat the cycle the next day. I did in fact get kidnapped and robbed in one these public transports once, and robbed another time, just so you know I'm not making it up. So, would you say that it was worth it for me to go through such a permanently scarring situation to gain work experience and not be paid even a cent for it? I'm not sure. The jury's still out on that one.

While my case may be extreme, I'm not sure the pay is worth the time, pain and exhaustion a student would have to endure to work part time in Ghana. Just in case the author forgot, minimum wage in the West is still like decades removed from minimum wage in Ghana. I'm not saying that the wages should be the same, but even if we consider the economic situation, minimum wage from a part time job in Ghana is not sufficient to even cover the cost of transportation to and from the job. That is simply not the case for students in the west, who can access public transport or their own cars on better roads or rail systems. Let's not forget, the pay can at the very least cover the transport fare.

I'm not saying by this rejoinder that Ghanaian students shouldn't work. I am saying that it is not feasible. Its not because we are lazy or proud. As I have pointed out, the reasons for looking down on certain jobs are based on cultural factors and not just the 'ick' factor. Aside from that, many students travel outside the country and take up these very same jobs because they're available to them and the culture is different. Some students are engaged in some of these jobs in Ghana when they can find them. As an example, a friend of mine owned a taxi while in the university and drove it himself at night or over the weekends. He's an exception because many of the above mentioned factors make it difficult for the majority of students to do the same or similar jobs.
When our country  gets to the point where one day many of the wage, security and transportation issues are dealt with then maybe working while in school would become more popular .
Till then, perhaps it is more beneficial for Ghanaian students to engage in entrepreneurial activities like starting their own small businesses or work online with Odesk and other legitimate websites. That's already happening, since the owners of many successful companies such as Pistis started while they were in university. Let's hope that this continues, but perhaps the author is better off just saying No to those who request for money from him rather than making arguments based on fiction.
Alright. I think I've said enough.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ghana's Independence day: 57 and Held For Ransom

Ransom,noun: a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity. (Webster's dictionary)
Ghana marks 57 years since Independence from British colonial rule today. Every year, I try to write something reflective of our challenges on our birthday, in the hopes that we can be clear-sighted and improve by the time our next birthday rolls around.
Ghana has been kidnapped. Our whole developmental process is being held for ransom in the sum of millions of dollars annually. It's a sad state of affairs, and we are all aware of it. We are all upset and angry at being held for ransom, just like every victim of a kidnapping feels. Who is holding us for ransom? We are.
We claim to love our country and complain about things going wrong. Yet, we are the people holding our own development captive. Whenever we pay a bribe to an official, whenever we demand a bribe, whenever we spend our working time on Facebook, whenever we do not attend to customers or patients because we can't be bothered, every time we increase the cost of a good or service without due cause, every time we refuse to pay our taxes, we are holding our 'beloved' country for ransom.
Notice that beloved is in quotes above, because nothing we do indicates that we love our country. The politician at the top is only concerned about lining his pockets with our money, and unfortunately so are we. We refuse to sacrifice even the smallest of comforts for our development, but we complain endlessly. Our leaders are short-sighted because many of us are short-sighted.
Our health-care professionals hold us for ransom everyday, and unfortunately the ransom is usually our lives. The training of nurses and doctors in Ghana is HEAVILY subsidized with tax-payer's money, just to make sure that people who cannot afford to pay full fees can go into these professions. We even go to the extent of paying nurses in training an allowance every month (GASP!) just for being in nursing school. Yet, after graduation, they refuse to serve the same tax-payers whose money trained them. Doctors refuse to attend to patients routinely in order to demand for more pay. I personally have nothing against fighting for better conditions of service, but in order to even the playing field, perhaps medical students should pay the full fees for their medical education. Since our health proffessionals want to be paid similar amounts as what those outside the country are paid, why don't we save our hard-earned tax-payer's money so you can pay for your own medical education? Who cares if you have to take loans to pay those fees? That's what doctors in many other countries had to do in school. Besides, why should we care if you don't care enough to take care of the lives you pledged to save, and were trained with OUR money to save? What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
The hospitals some of you work in don't even have stand-by generators for emergencies. Basic facilities are absent in many health care facilities.You're going on strike and refusing to attend to patients because you're earning 1000% more than the average Ghanaian instead of 9000% more. Why don't you actually FIGHT for some of these basic things?
I do not mean to turn this post into a lambasting, but frankly, enough is enough! Why don't we stop our endless griping and complaining and ACTUALLY do something for a change? Something that is actually UNSELFISH and truly PATRIOTIC? Like finding the missing baby from KATH so we can all move on. How that happened is still beyond me, but unfortunately, a baby is missing from one of the largest hospitals in Ghana(GASP! again).
And just in case you're still looking for some leaders to blame for our      issues, don't bother. They're too busy fighting to be paid 10000% more  than the average Ghanaian, you know, just like you. They're also  fighting for important things like appearing on videos to sing Tweaa!
I think we all need to take a cue from the many inspiring people I know making a difference. Kwabena Danso. Ato Ulzen-Appiah. Ekow Mensah. Many many more of such names that I cannot mention due to time and space giving up their comforts to help develop young people and our nation. Thank you for making a difference. I take my cue from you, and I hope others will too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Legal Action in Ghana

In Ghana, we have a very frustrating attitude when things go wrong.For example, when a company promises a service (such as water) and you pay for it, it is only reasonable to expect that you have water consistently.If water is not readily available when you need it, the company has not fulfilled their part of the agreement and they need to face the consequences of breaking that promise.Unfortunately in Ghana, we simple accept the bad service from the company, complaining about it constantly.We complain because a lot of us are not aware of our rights as consumers, or we just can't be bothered to do anything about it.
Even when we know that we have the right to take legal action against such companies, we refrain from doing so with the excuse that the legal system is too corrupt to allow 'poor ol' us' go up against a big rich company.
This same mindset shows up when criminal offenses are committed against us.In November 2012, a big shopping complex collapsed killing 18 people in Achimota, Accra.This was a well publicized disaster, with all the name-calling,finger-pointing and vague promises that such events typically warrant from our leaders.Yet, one year on, nobody has been held accountable for those lost lives.To make matters worse, the families of the victims have not been compensated adequately.They received a paltry amount of money  from the company to cover funeral expenses.
The question that begs asking is since criminal charges have yet to be brought against anyone for this, what happened to civil charges?At the very least, the company running the shopping center, the building management and the city itself should be held liable in civil court and made to pay punitory damages to the victims' families.The cause of the building's collapse has been reported to be the use of poor building materials, and the lack of a building permit.Yet, a big company was able to lease this building for use as a shopping complex and nobody is being held accountable.Clearly, the city, the company and the owner/manager of the property are all liable here.I would hold the city officials  most liable, because they are the ones charged with protecting us from incidents like these, but they  are too busy collecting bribes and lining their own pockets to ensure the safety of such a building and 18 people end up dead. If any punitive damages were to be paid, they should pay at least 50% of it.A young man who had just graduated from the University and was highly admired by his colleagues was killed in this accident.At the prime of his life, when he was just beginning to live his life and support his family for the investments they made in his education, he died.And yet, his family and that of seventeen other victims have not been able to come forward and file a civil suit.

Sadly, such a case is yet to be filed and is unlikely to be filed in court, because the families will take the paltry sum of money they've been given, assume its impossible to fight in court, and say to themselves'Let it go.Its ok.They're dead and gone.Let's move on with our lives'.The problem with such thinking is that it perpetuates injustice in the society.If there are no consequences for negligent actions like these, why would they do the right thing in the future?They will build another mall with bad material, pay bribes to corrupt city officials to get out of a permit, and rent it out to an irresponsible company looking for ways to make more money and not caring about the safety of their space.So next time, it will be 25 people dead, and the cycle will continue.
When we go to the hospital and are treated unprofessionally, we have a choice to keep quiet or to sue.Healthcare professionals elsewhere in the world carry out their duties with some degree of decency, because they know the cost of a malpractice suit.However, we allow anesthologists to show up to work drunk and give us the wrong drugs during critical surgery, and yet we do not take action against the hospital and the person in question.Students die from treatable illnesses in Ghana because they are misdiagnosed consistently in the same healthcare facility, and we do not sue because we are told to 'leave everything to God'.When will enough be enough?Until we learn to make people accountable, injustice will continue, and increase in our society.So the next time you are wronged and consider sweeping the issue under the rug, ask yourself if this is the kind of treatment you want your children and grandchildren to receive.After you answer that question, the choice is yours.Enough said.