Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What The Papers Say

The Standard, Ghana

The "Provisional" present

In the last four issues, the Standard has been looking into the future discussing what needs to be taken into account in fashioning yet another constitution. But the future is far away; the processes to be followed take time, which means that the new scheme of things are not coming into effect tomorrow or the next day, not this year or the next either. Meanwhile, we have the present to live with. We might as well look at where we are to see the extent to which our situation reflects declared intentions.

First, the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), whose membership is supposed to be a minimum of seven and a maximum of eleven. What could be the significance of seven or eleven? Noting that the present membership of six includes a soldier (Chairman), a retired judge, a professional banker, a labour organiser and two women, various commentators have sought to conclude that the military, women, organised labour and professionals are represented. If indeed any such groups are represented, what about the other identifiable groups? And if the idea was to give representation to any group why is the choice not left to the groups themselves? There are other questions: If the minimum is seven, what precisely is the status of actions taken by a Council of six? Is there some difficulty in finding a seventh member?

The position of the "Special Adviser" also needs to be clarified. Initially we thought he was Special Adviser to the Chairman of the PNDC. Later it appeared he was Adviser to the entire PNDC. At various times we have been led to think he was concerned only with security. On the other hand, we have seen him lead high-powered government delegations abroad, indicating clearly he is bigger than a security chief. On March 6 this year there was a parade by school children and voluntary organisations at the Independence Square. The programme for the occasion, printed by the Ghana Publishing Corporation, now lists the Special Adviser as a PNDC Secretary!

The same programme for the parade makes other interesting disclosures. Apparently Col. J.M. Ewa (rtd.) is also a PNDC Secretary: he used to be regarded as only a bureaucrat (chief of staff) at the PNDC office. Lt-Col. J.Y. Assasie (rtd.) is another PNDC Secretary: until this publication we knew he held office, one connected with the political education of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs), but little did we realise his formal status was that of a PNDC Secretary. Nor is that all: Kwamina Ahwoi (not Ato) is also a PNDC Secretary and there are as many as thirty-one PNDC Secretaries altogether, not counting Regional Secretaries!

We had heard of P.V. Obeng, informally referred to as the Prime Minister of the country. Given his portfolio there is a real sense in which P.V. Obeng is first among PNDC Co-ordinating Secretaries, but we thought his formal title to be "PNDC Co-ordinating Secretary". And yet a supplement to the December 1984 issue of the Magazine Africa (page 70, obviously a release by the Government of Ghana) refers to P.V. Obeng as Prime Minister! Now, we may be in a "provisional" phase, but that should not be the reason for labelling or listing people in Government anyhow. It does not make for orderliness to proceed this way. The demands of protocol alone make it necessary that we are told who is what or who belongs where.

Among declared intentions, the original idea was to bring government to our doorstep. Yet the participation of o people in government is more illusory than ever. And the country is not any more decentralized than it was three years ago: heads of government departments in the regions a forever travelling to the capital for consultations; business with the Bank of Ghana may be transacted only in the capital; Passports are available only in the capital; tickets for air travel may also be purchased only in the capital.

It may be that we expect results too soon, but by now, should be obvious to all that we are an impatient people. Whatever our goals, would it be any help at all to have enlarged forum to provide for as many viewpoints possible in affairs of the state? In any case, it should useful, to use the expression popular in this era, to restructure the PNDC itself, possibly even make it a little more democratic: not an entirely appointed Council, but one that includes the people's own ELECTED representatives.

In addition to having elected representatives, it may recalled that under the Constitution of the Third Republic anyone seeking office was required to appear in public to be questioned about his claims, competence or experience. People have been appointed to the PNDC who have since left in circumstances that are, to say the least, embarrassing to the nation no less than the PNDC. Appointments have been made to PNDC Secretaryship that should never have been made. There must be wisdom after all in requiring people seeking responsible office to give public testimony their suitability to hold such office.

To sum up, the Standard holds that the system and processes by which the nation is governed are unclear and unrepresentative. We therefore urge the following: clarification of who is what and how that comes about, rationalization of the composition of the PNDC, and speedy democratization of the decision making process.

National Concord, Nigeria

Comic show in Sudan?

We rejoice with the people of Sudan over Marshal Gaafa E Nimieri's inevitable comeuppance in spite of his illusion that he was the best thing that ever happened to Sudan. Such joy is heightened when one considers that apart from hos short-lived settlement of the war between the blacl Christian south and the muslim Arabs from the north, his policies for most of his 16-year rule were mostly to the detriment of the masses. His acceptance and implementation of the IMF and World Bank conditions on devaluation (four times in four years) and withdrawal of all subsidies, especially on food, were the last straw. But it is doubtful that the last has been heard even as the Marshal is dethroned.

This much-expected inglorious end should serve as an example to all Third World tyrannical regimes whether military or civilian, on the dangers of self perpetuity in power. For leadership, especially in our country, should not be considered as the exclusive divine right of any specific class or constituency. They should also bear in mind the dangers posed by repressive policies, whether religious, political or otherwise even when they issue from the muzzle of the gun.

Moreover, the fact that food riots led to Nimeiri's final exit is a pointer that there is a definite inelastic limit to the sacrifices people can be asked to make and hardships to bear

talking drums 1985-04-22 doe's ride to the presidency - general hannnaniya - gifex 1985