July 23, 2017
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
Office of the President
The Flagstaff House
Dear President Akufo-Addo:
Re: AN OPEN LETTER-PROMOTING TRANSFORMATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN GHANA
We wish to congratulate you on your election as president and pray that you remain healthy and have the courage and the vision to lead Ghana on a path to real socio-economic transformation after 60 years of leadership failures at all levels of our society.
With high unemployment and the country still heavily dependent on the export of primary commodities and international aid, the economy is in bad shape and the outlook is obviously not promising. Indeed, the economy, for a host of reasons, has been careening downhill for a long time, unrelentingly condemning many Ghanaians to a life of overwhelming poverty and disease. Despite decades of self-government and the injection of billions of dollars into the Ghanaian economy, the mass of our people continues to suffer a lack of access to basic needs, services and opportunities. As if this situation of general want is not depressing enough, we have witnessed in the past several months many incidents of lawlessness and vigilantism that have resulted in the abuse of the rights of citizens and even deaths. These barbaric behaviours cannot be accepted or condoned in a civilized and democratic society governed by the rule of law.
Mr. President, more than ever before, there is the need for concerted action to steer Ghana through the years ahead to enable us to find enduring solutions to our challenges. Such efforts should unquestionably include curbing corruption which, in addition to political and economic ineptitude, has left our country dry and in a state of permanent adolescence, and we do not know when, if ever, we would reach adulthood and be able to stand on our own feet.
Mr. President, we believe after campaigning all across the country you are familiar with the realities of deprivation and general suffering that most Ghanaians needlessly endure daily. At present, many of our compatriots, including unemployed youth, adults and college graduates, as well as rural and urban dwellers, are not hopeful about the future of our country, which in years gone by held great promise, mainly because of limited opportunities. In their desperation, some are willing to take shortcuts to eke out a living. No wonder also that some among the youth even attempt extremely dangerous journeys across the Sahara and the Mediterranean in a desperate bid to reach Europe in search of better opportunities.
All this in the midst of pervasive corruption and cronyism, from which no institution or entity – public or private agencies, traditional authorities or pastors, politicians, public servants or private individuals – seems immune. The canker has so suffused all parts of our society that it has seemingly become a cancerous growth. Which is hardly new. We recall that in 1979 under the AFRC military dictatorship headed by Mr. Jerry Rawlings, three generals were executed and many other citizens were brutalized, allegedly for engaging in corrupt practices. If Ghanaians thought the killings and the brutalities were the surgical operation needed to, as it were, remove not just excess fat but more importantly heavily compromised tissues from our body politic, alas, we were wrong. Almost four decades on, everyone, including Mr. Rawlings, agrees corruption is far worse today. Together with economic mismanagement, it has effectively put our developmental efforts in a chokehold, and we are all gasping for breath. Sadly, instead of being seen as a national problem, the fight against corruption – to the degree that there is a fight against corruption – often devolves into inter-party – even intra-party – recriminations.
Mr President, you have spoken at length about the role corruption, cronyism and gross incompetence have played in undermining the socio-economic development of our country. In particular, we remind you of the speech you made on the topic “Corruption is a Raging Epidemic under NDC Government” at KNUST in 1212 when you warned that “nless we tackle [corruption], we run a real risk of cynicism overcoming our politics and thus of a catastrophic loss of confidence in our democracy.” More recently, we remember the outrage you expressed when it was revealed that some customs officers and their accomplices had stolen about two billion cedis from the public purse. Apparently, even the Supreme Court had seen enough; last month the top court ordered that the Auditor-General take action to recover over 40 billion cedis stolen from the state. That is not all. The National Petroleum Authority has revealed that Ghana loses about 850 million cedis annually in taxes because of the activities of fuel smugglers. Not to be left out, both the current US ambassador, Mr. Robert Jackson, and the outgoing British Ambassador, John Benjamin, have also spoken out about the open level of corruption and impunity in Ghana, cautioning that taxpayers in their respective countries would cut off aid to Ghana if corruption remained unchecked and looters are not prosecuted.
Ironically, while billions of public dollars are being stolen to enrich individuals and groups with connections to power, we have been going around the world, cup in hand, begging for a pittance. For instance, the Chinese Embassy in Accra recently gave a grant of $10,000 to the Attorney-General’s office. How disgraceful and humiliating! (We think such a donation should be directed or passed on to an orphanage, for example.) But perhaps that is unavoidable. The demoralizing, beggar-thy-country malady of corruption has, to no one’s surprise, led to deteriorating social and economic conditions, as well as limited prospects in especially rural Ghana, with the concomittant effect of the youth drifting from rural to urban areas. We have all seen the influx of young men and women in cities such as Kumasi, Accra and Tema and the crippling ramifications in terms of rise in urban poverty, crime, unemployment and homelessness.
As alluded to earlier, this distressing picture is a far cry from what obtained in the 1960s, when Ghana’s per capita income was higher than that of South Korea, for example, and there was much optimism in the air. Since then, on the one hand, Samsung, which actually started in the late 1930s as a trading company dealing in vegetables and dried fish – yes, vegetables and dried fish! – has been transformed into the juggernaut we all know today, exemplifying Korea’s emergence into (Asian) tigerhood. On the other, the Ghanaian economy has not made much headway, if at all, and, in the midst of plenty, we require considerable help to get by, reflecting the shameful dependency syndrome all too familiar across the African continent.
So, what must we do? Mr President, the country cannot afford one more day during which things are not done to advance the welfare of Ghanaians – all Ghanaians. We do not say this to sound hyperbolic but to stress that the “fierce urgency of now” requires that we renew the process to place our country on a fast, irreversible path to sustainable growth and development that will generate real and measurable improvements in the socio-economic conditions and well-being of our people. We must be bold, creative and innovative in our policies and programs. But we must also act decisively to contain all the “multiplying villainies” that have bedevilled all facets of our society and stalled the country’s progress, such as corruption, economic mismanagement, waste and patronage. For example, our government must, in rhetoric as in action, not only be transparent and inclusive but hold everybody accountable within the framework of the rule of law. So long as the system continues to reward the undergirding elite culture of entitlement with a too-big-to-jail nudge or wink, so long as we indulge malfeasance because of the perpetrator’s education or socio-economic status, there would be no incentive for anyone to refrain from stealing from the national kitty – with impunity. Zero tolerance must mean exactly what it says: no tolerance. We understand, of course, that that does not mean the absence of corruption. But it must mean that when corruption does occur, the full force of the law must be brought to bear. We submit that only the fear of going to jail can break our affinity for corruption.
Mr. President, we challenge you and your administration to demonstrate commitment to prudence, the rule of law, accountability and the common good and not use the public trust to shower wealth and power on a few at the expense of the impoverished majority. To that end, we commend your government’s initiative to end the galamsey menace, which has deprived the nation of billions of cedis in revenue and destroyed our lands, water bodies and farms of poor communities. It was long overdue. It is our hope that the law will be enforced to hold all offending parties (not just poor Ghanaians and foreigners) accountable. We also cheer the proposed Office of the Special Prosecutor and expect that it will not become a much-ado-about-nothing in the fight against corruption and impunity. It must have authority to investigate corruption wherever it occurs and regardless of the personalities involved.
We, however, find unacceptable – to cite but one example – your government’s handling of the disappearance of more than 200 government cars; it seemed so unbearably casual – even transparently indifferent – as to be breathtaking. While the Mahama administration contends it duly handed over these cars, your government claims you never received them. We even read reports that the task of retrieving the cars had been outsourced to certain private individuals and wondered what had happened to law enforcement. How do we lose track of 200 cars anyway? We are not talking about pins and pens; we are talking about objects that have an average weight of at least 4000 pounds. How do they vanish without trace? Why do we allow the perpetual fleecing of our country, while the road that leads to the village where Danfopa spent most of his school holidays several decades ago tending his grandfather’s and mother’s cocoa farms remains untarred and, worse, impassable during the rainy season? This does not make any sense and cannot continue. Otherwise, even properties of the Office of the Special Prosecutor may not be safe! All the cars must be retrieved, and those involved in their disappearance prosecuted.
In conclusion, Mr. President, it is imperative that you clearly articulate your vision for Ghana and how you expect to bring it into fruition, including in particular plans for draining the murky swamp of corruption and cronyism drowning our politics and public life (how about making public your salary, Mr. President, as well as those of your appointees and all MP’s, for a start?) We urge you to demonstrate in deed that Ghanaians are the centre of that vision – not just as participants but also as beneficiaries – so that we all can feel invested in the journey towards national prosperity. Let’s remember we ourselves – and no one else! – are the hope. Our only hope.
We dare not fail this time.
Mr. President, we thank you for your time and attention.
D. K. Okyere Darko & Danfopa K. Ampoma