Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Towards Constitutional Government

Economic recovery under unitary government (part 1)

In this contribution to the debate, Dr. John K. Mumuni Braimah, attempts an overview of Ghana's social, politics and economic headaches since independence. He touches various dilemmas that have faced various governments af independence and states that they may be put down as teething problems of a developing country.
Reminiscing over Ghana's political history since 1844, our hopes and aspirations and what efforts had been put in toward their realization and our changing attitudes since the 1970s, I have sincerely attempted to identify the root causes of our socio-economic woes and search for feasible solutions to the problems, making sure not to sacrifice realism for sentimentalism. With a keen interest in the economic geography of West Africa, social trends in West African states I have been practising medicine since 1974 and being aware of a general obsession in the world for the politics of expediency, I am not yet completely disillusioned with the Ghanaian dilemma of political and economic instability. I therefore present this paper on an appropriate political system or form of government as the solution to Ghana's headaches.

If we can sincerely criticise ourselves and courageously accept criticisms with cheer instead of rancour, we could make this positive attitude precedence and our guide. We have no cause to resort to unchartered waters today. Ghana could be said to be more conversant with the Westminster Parliamentary system under a Unitary Form of Government than any African country because that was the system we operated during the period 1951-62 and during part of this period the electorate could vote for the candidates and political parties of its choice.

For instance, in 1950 Municipal Elections for the Legislative Council the CPP won, thereby compelling Sir Charles Arden-Clarke to release Dr. K. Nkrumah from prison to become the Leader of Government Business in 1951. Subsequently the CPP went on to win at the General Elections of June 1954 and July 1956, and even increased her majority because people studied very critically the manifestos of the various parties.

When Dr. Nkrumah decided to adopt the 1964 Constitution which declared the CPP as the only party in the country, Ghanaians still exercised enough patience to study the One Party System and finally rejected it and its 'Feuhrerprinzip' in February 1966. I am of the opinion, however, that lack of able leadership for a developing country like ours would be no less dangerous as it creates subsconsciously, a feeling of political vacuum in the minds of citizens.

Psychologically, many Ghanaians regarded Dr. K.A. Busia as an academician belonging to Legon and not a politician. I was very upset when I witnessed him and his wife travel through Western Europe negotiating for loans in 1971, to be ousted from power. office in less than six months in January 1972. Subconsciously, there existed a feeling of political vacuum in the country, which gave rise to a crisis of leadership or a feeling of a crisis of responsibility in the minds of people like the late General I.K. Acheampong, who effectively exploited the situation.

Political stability can only come about through a healthy national spirit of appreciation, reconciliation and a revitalised economy and not federalism as has been suggested in some quarters.

Dr. Hilla Limann had a political- god-father in the late Alhaji Imoru Egala then towering above him in the minds of Northerners and all in the PNP. When he died a conflict of interest suddenly arose in the PNP amongst aspirants for a post he held that was illegal and hence unconstitutional; efforts by the Ghanaian press at helping to improve Dr. Limann's image were noticeable, but Dr. Limann's performance was most surprising, to say the least.

While Northerners died in tribal conflicts in their hundreds, Dr. Limann rather flew out to Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the OAU Conference. Before the summer recess Parliament rejected his budget for 1981/82... within this very period his administration had solved the Korle-Bu hospital admission fee relative to the average daily wage C12 or the problem of school and college fee payment. Children, parents, teachers and education officers we left in the cold and Dr. Limann and administration caught in a lurch!

In West Africa magazine stories were rife, all directing their complaint to the Executive President. Those who served him as security officers I doubt developed subconsciously the feeling of political vacuum, he and his administration were pushed aside and Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings exploited the confusion by taking over the reins of power.

The Parliament, even if it was not given enough attention in the Third Republic, had constructive debates Besides the rejection of the budget i 1981, a parliamentary commission under Mr. E.D. Mahami, Deputy Speaker, PNP, found Dr. Jones Ofori Atta, PFP, innocent of any charges on the misuse of parliamentary privileges

The Constituent Assembly that drew the Third Republican constitution placed an extra burden on Ghana in the size of Dr. Limann's Administration plus a full parliament of 140 members. The administration as a result spent more money attempting to present a concept of government instead of providing development projects that were sure to sustain the country and prevent the creation of a lack of sense of priorities in the minds of critics and, in the case of the military, help win their understanding and support.

Dr. Limann, if he had been politically shrewd and not civil service- minded, should have pointed out this fact in 1979 to the populace during the election campaigns without seeking to change the constitution or making any amendments to it. The fault in each of the above cases for the ouster of government lay with the elected premier or president and the tradition of collective responsibility, and not with the Ghanaian tax-payer, who by any standard played his part electing a government and opposition to run the country.

The PNDC, no doubt, has made serious political blunders by summary execution of Ghanaians instead of detaining those found to be opponents of the regime as has been the tradition. Of course, I cannot fail to see the positive aspects of Dr. Kwesi Botchwey's economic policies when I say we must courageously state the facts if we seek to solve our national problems. It is interesting to note that Dr. Botchwey sincerely described the state of the economy and industrial activity in 1983 as being under 15%. Besides, the PNDC has fixed hospital and college fees and presented this and other policies to the IMF as a proof that the PNDC is not subsidising public expenditure and consequently has been given loans.

The re-introduction of school and hospital fees, which I recall we all paid even in the North until 1951, is realis- tic. When Dr. Busia broached a reduction in bursaries during his tenure of office (1969-1972) he became unpopular to many who still believed that Ghana should maintain her welfare state programme even when the world price of cocoa was fast falling under Dr. Busia and Dr. Nkrumah before him in the 60s. If General F.W.K. Akuffo had courageously ignored the advice not to accept the IMF's loan under the given conditions then in 1978, he would have probably saved his life and government in 1979.

We have to accept it today that Ghanaians are finally learning from their past experiences. Let's hope Ghana's industries and the economy will both pick up soon and that we shall both, sooner or later, have peace. Political stability can only come about through a healthy national spirit of appreciation and a revitalised economy not federalism as a contributor to the debate wrote recently. Traditions made under a charismatic ruler would always serve to haunt future rulers of the country because of their enslaving nature and have served in various parts of the world as the root causes of political instability.

The PNDC, irrespective of what one might think of it, has set the precedence of breaking a taboo that enslaved governments and made a mockery of Ghanaians, viz. that government could not borrow monies from the IMF without fear of repercus- sions from the army, and that govern- ment could not cut down on public spending when industrial production had fallen and thus affecting very adversely the national economy.

talking drums 1985-09-16 2nd anniversary issue - fall of kaduna mafia - rawlings enters world stage