The President has to call all his men and women to order
Ebo Quansah in Accra
I was on my way to the Holy Trinity Hospital in Accra yesterday, when the phone rang. When I picked it up, the voice at the other end sounded hysterical. He would have none of my suggestions to call later. I was forced to pull the old banger to the shoulder of the road, apply the brakes and brought the car to a stop, in order to engage the caller in a meaningful conversation.
On the line was Paul Ekow Botwe, Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) branch at Wawase, a village originally established by my late father some six decades ago, and seven-and-a-half miles from Assin Akropong tucked away in the tropical rain forest.
When some of us were schooling, it was obligatory to spend the vacation in the village. It was the only means of getting your school fees paid. The seven-and-a-half mile journey was on foot. The night was always pitch dark.
Now, two road networks link Wawase to Akropong and Assin Akomfudi. The village is now hooked on to the national electricity grid. The last time I paid a visit to Wawase last December, I was served iced water. The afternoon heat was moderated by a stand fan. The village now has a school with teachers’ quarters. Modernity has come to the village that was once pitch-dark at night.
What prompted Mr. Botwe’s early morning call had absolutely nothing to do with the development module of the village though.
The hysterical call was prompted by what Mr. Botwe said was militating against the government’s mass spraying exercise, aimed at increasing cocoa yield in the country.
“For more than five months they have not paid any of us spraying the farms. There is general discontent, and most of the boys are threatening to quit,” Botwe complained.
He said the news in the grapevine was that the authorities in Accra had long paid for their services, but their supervisors at Assin Fosu were holding on to the money. “We have not been paid all this while. There is general discontent here.
“Most of the boys are threatening to walk away from the job,” he said.
Ekow added that the news from the grapevine was that their supervisors had received the money long ago, and that they had lodged their wages into their individual bank accounts waiting for the cash to yield interest before the workers would be paid.
Mr. Botwe added that the failure to pay them for their labour was causing disaffection for the Akufo-Addo regime. “We campaigned for Nana Addo in the 2016 presidential elections, but now most our people have decided to have nothing to do with the NPP,” Ekow said, querying, “Why would they not pay us for our labour?”
He said the mass spraying exercise was a dangerous venture. “The chemicals get into our system… Nobody foots our medical bills, so if they would not pay us, it means the government that commissioned the project is not interested in our welfare,” he complained bitterly before cutting off.
Similar lamentations are coming from government flagship programmes like the Nation Builders Corps, Planting for Food and Export, and Youth in Afforestation programmes.
What promised so much is delivering little because some selfish individuals are exploiting the volunteers for their own benefits.
Unfortunately, the experience with lack of payment for jobs done is not only confined to cocoa spraying. There are ugly noises from the School Feeding Programme, where allegations of strife about Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives picking their cronies to be in charge, and frustrating caterers who do not toe their line.
When the Free Senior High School concept was inaugurated, it was sold as one interventionist policies that would make access to education free and universal. Since its inception in September 2017, it has created the avenue for thousands of brilliant but needy students to access quality education.
The other day, a taxi driver gave a moving testimony of how free second cycle education is helping to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. “I come from a very rural background. In the whole of my clan, nobody has had access to second cycle education. Thanks to Nana Akufo-Add, my son is now at Achimota,” he told me with pride when I hiked a ride to the office, after the old banger broke down.
“When I was told that my son had been placed at the Achimota School, I panicked… In spite of all the talk about free SHS, I was scared that Achimota might charge something. When I took my son to the school and completed admission formalities, I was asked to go home without paying a cedi. This could only happen under Nana Addo’s watch,” he said, thanking the government profusely.
Unfortunately, the early enthusiasm appears to be waning as a result of various infractions being visited on the computer placement system and many other services connected to the programme. Stories are doing the rounds that young men and women exploiting the system to enrich themselves.
Disaffection is gradually building up against the central government. Where there was praise and affection, disillusionment and hatred are building up.
As you read this piece, there is gnashing of teeth in the gaming industry of this Republic. It owes its genesis to insinuations that that the Chief Executive of the National Lotteries Authority demanded and received various sums of monies from some illegal lotto operators, with the view to regularising their activities.
The registration, according to the NLA, was to ensure transparency, accountability and credibility, in line with acceptable standards in the game. We are told that 24 operators paid GH¢1million each in order to legalise their illegality. According to the story doing the rounds, a number of lotto writers throughout the county also paid GH¢18,000 each, while lotto agents were made to fork out GH¢5,000 each. However, nearly two years after the monies were collected the registration exercise had not been done.
The other day, the Ghana Lotto Operators Association raised hell over the issue. Together with its surrogates, the Concerned Lotto Agents and Writers Association, complained bitterly about what they considered as unfair treatment of their members. The lotto front is boiling.
Lotto in Ghana is big business. In an economy that is struggling to deliver the hard-up
Ghanaian from years of hardship, infractions like these put the operators of the state economy in a bad light.
It is worrying enough for something to give as the President tours the world wooing investors to bring their resources to the centre of the world to help alleviate poverty.
It is against this background that I agonise so much about information doing the rounds in political circles that some officials at Jubilee House may have a lot to do with the circumstances leading to the departure of Mr. George Okley, Managing Director of Bulk Oil Storage and Transport.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has invested his entire life into his Presidency. It is the duty of the men and women around him to help him to succeed. At the moment, it appears a number of men and women chosen by the President to help him develop this county are rather pulling him down.
The President has a duty to call all his men and women to order.
I shall return!