By Ghanaweb.com Columnist: Essuman, Kow A.As the year ends, people reflect on the happenings of the preceding 365 days and make resolutions for the coming year. New Year’s Eve also happens to be the day that people review and remember what happened in the country during the year. 2013 has been very eventful and would therefore be worth recounting.
The year begun with discussions regarding the presidential election petition filed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to challenge the legitimacy of the declaration of John Dramani Mahama as President of the Republic. This was the very first time such a petition had been lodged with the Supreme Court. Lawyers and students of the law were excited about the petition whilst the judges, empanelled to determine the petition, were clueless about how to go about it. The rules passed to guide them were abandoned in certain instances. For example, the strict adherence to time and insistence on electronic filing were completely ignored in the name of “justice”. They made their “own” rules as the case progressed.
For the first time, and after many calls for Ghana to be in tune with the rest of the world by allowing television cameras in the court room for such an important case, the presidential election petition was broadcast live on national television. Ghanaians in every corner watched closely and keenly as the evidence was presented, and as it became clear that the elections were conducted so badly and poorly that there was no way any of the two leading candidates could have been declared winner or loser.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Electoral Commission and the Mahama Administration was retained to steer the affairs of the nation until 2016. Recently, some members of the Mahama Administration have blamed the economic hardship in 2013 on the presidential election petition, which lasted for 8 months. One thing is clear from their position. They admit that there was economic hardship in 2013. With all the various corruption scandals that came to light during the year, and certain policy decisions taken by the Mahama Administration, it is difficult to see how any reasonable person can come to the conclusion that the Mahama Administration failed to deliver its promises in 2013 and rather made life so difficult because of the petition.
This is why I think the blame game from the Mahama Administration is completely illogical and without any basis. Firstly, John Dramani Mahama himself, who was the 1st Respondent in the petition, did not participate in the proceedings at all. He did not appear in court to witness the proceedings nor did he give testimony in the proceedings. In fact, as the matter was pending, he was busy working as President of the Republic. Secondly, no member of the Mahama Administration participated in the presidential election petition. It was the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketia, who gave evidence on behalf of John Dramani Mahama. Mr. Nketia was not part of the Mahama Administration during the petition and is not part of the Mahama Administration.
As the petition progressed, the Mahama Administration was working (or at least they gave the impression that they were). Indeed, President Mahama appointed Ministers of State, members of his Cabinet and persons to serve on the boards of public entities. The Mahama Administration presented a budget to Parliament, which was approved to enable them carry out their work. At the time the budget was prepared, presented, and approved by Parliament, the petition was pending. It will be absolutely negligent and ignorant on the part of the economic planners to disregard the effect of the petition on the economy in the preparation of the budget. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they factored the effect the petition would have on the economy in the preparation of the budget.
Thus, the Mahama Administration was working with a budget they could work with, in light of the circumstances at the time. Mahama’s government presented the budget to Parliament and Parliament, as always, “rubber stamped” the budget. Accordingly, it is very inaccurate to lay the blame of economic hardship on the petition when you were working with the money you had indicated will be sufficient to enable you deliver on your promises, regardless of the circumstances at the time.
In a poll conducted recently, 69.94% of the 1,860 responses showed that the Mahama Administration had not delivered on any of its campaign promises whilst 7.58% voted that the Administration had provided jobs and 18.6% voted that the Administration had provided quality healthcare. The polls sought the public’s position on the reasons underlying the difficult living conditions in the country. 53.94% of the 2,067 responses received showed that Ghanaians perceived the Mahama Administration as corrupt, 28.88% perceived the Administration as incompetent and 10.2% perceived the Administration as insensitive to the plight of Ghanaians. Overall, 72.23% of the responses received to the question “How satisfied are you with the Mahama Administration” showed that Ghanaians were not satisfied with the Mahama Administration.
In my opinion, when 93.02% of a cross-section of Ghanaians including market women, drivers, labourers, bankers, teachers, students, etc. are of the opinion that the underlying reason for the difficult living conditions is because the government is corrupt, incompetent and insensitive, and the government ignores their opinion but rather places the blame on the petition, it shows that the government has no agenda for the development of the country. My question is, why shift the blame when all fingers point in your direction?
In 2013, Ghanaians witnessed unprecedented strikes in the public sector. Primary and secondary school teachers went on strike, university lecturers went on strike, and even doctors and pharmacists went on strike. All these groups were demanding the payment of salary arrears and better working conditions from the government. During the strike by the doctors, lives were lost as they refused to attend to patients. The President of the Ghana Medical Association, Dr. Frank Serebour, in an interview with the Daily Graphic stated that the strike was “necessitated by the refusal of the government to pay current market premiums on 2012 basic salaries, contrary to the ruling of the National Labour Commission (NLC), to pay market premium arrears accrued from January 2012 to date, correct the reduced pension contributions of its members and pay doctors their conversion difference.”
The government lacked the moral basis to request the public sector workers on strike to return to work especially with all the corruption scandals that rocked the nation in 2013. The teachers, doctors and pharmacists had all witnessed how persons could be paid huge sums of money for not doing anything whilst they worked hard to earn a salary. Indeed, they needed to be paid what they were due. 2013’s corruption scandals included millions of Cedis supposedly invested in an akonfem (Guinea Fowl) project without a single akonfem to show for it and no accounts rendered for the monies. And there were the famous GYEEDA corruption scandal and the SUBAH corruption scandal. Interestingly, to date, the Mahama Administration has not taken any punitive step regarding these corruption scandals. No wonder a Minister of State can confidently say she wants to make a million dollars before getting out of politics.
President Mahama promised Ghanaians that the erratic power supply, which was crippling businesses, would cease by mid-November 2012. It did not. It carried on until July 2012. “Dumsor dumsor” as the erratic power supply was popularly referred to, had a serious effect on small businesses such as tailoring shops and hairdressing salons that could not afford generators. The businesses that could afford generators were hit with fuel price hikes. Fuel prices were increased at least three times in 2013 – in January, May, October and November. The fuel price increment led to an increase in prices of goods and services.
As if the increase in fuel prices was not enough, the Mahama Administration increased utility tariffs by more than 50% causing a public outrage. The trade unions threatened a strike, which never happened. Water prices went up, electricity prices went up, and then the government increased taxes to add to the economic hardship of the ordinary Ghanaian. The cost of living in Ghana increased enormously in 2013 whereas salaries remained the same. Life was hard.
In 2013, there were fire outbreaks everywhere. Property was destroyed during the fires and traders lost their regular source of income as some of the nation’s main public markets burned down. The superstitious Ghanaian linked the fire outbreaks to God punishing the nation for electing Mr. Mahama as President of the Republic. I disagree. But instead of investigating the cause of the fires, Mr. Mahama’s government decided to do what they do best – blame the NPP. I found their assertions ridiculous. Again, to date, Ghanaians do not know what caused the fires in their main public markets and how such disasters can be prevented.
Remember the single digit inflation propaganda that was run by the previous Administration and continued by the Mahama Administration. I do not recall the last time I heard of the single digit inflation achievement. In 2013, inflation rose consistently and as at November 2013, inflation was at 13.2%.
For Ghanaians, the year 2013 was a year of corruption scandals and economic hardship. Indeed, I do not see how else anyone can summarise the events of 2013. You may disagree with me and you are entitled to your opinion but we cannot change the fact that there were corruption scandals everywhere in 2013 and the economic hardship visited on the ordinary Ghanaian was unbearable.
On a lighter note, in 2013, Ghana qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil against all odds. Congratulations to the players, the coach, the fans and all those in government, who made it possible.
I will end by saying in 2013, Ghanaians enjoyed peace. Ghana could have been plunged into war before, during or after the petition but thankfully that did not happen. Nana Akufo-Addo proved to the whole world that he believed in the rule of law and the institutions of democracy. His single act of accepting the outcome of the petition even though he disagreed with it saved Ghana from war. This is a man who put the safety and interest of all Ghanaians above himself and any institution or party. In 2014, I urge all Ghanaians, especially those in government and public positions, to emulate this trait and put Ghana first in all their dealings.
Happy New Year!
Written by Kow A. Essuman, Esq.
LL.B. Hons (Westminster), PgDip (BPP), LL.M. (Cornell)
Barrister-at-Law (Lincoln’s Inn) (England and Wales)
Attorney and Counselor-at-Law (New York)
Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana
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