The Member of Parliament for the North Tongu Constituency Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has delivered an address as special guest of the celebrated and prestigious Lions Club during the Charter Presentation and Fundraising event of Lions Club.
The MP who shared the full statement on his social media handles has beseeched the public to engage in healthy constructive conversations on the future of our country.
The address Intercepted by Coverghana.com.gh read;
KEY NOTE ADDRESS BY SAMUEL OKUDZETO ABLAKWA, HONOURABLE MP FOR NORTH TONGU AT THE CHARTER PRESENTATION AND FUNDRAISING EVENT OF THE LIONS CLUBS INTERNATIONAL
Former District Governor,
Distinguished Members of the Ubuntu Lions Club.
May I begin by expressing my profound gratitude to you all, particularly on two counts – first, in this era of #FixTheCountry agitation where Ghanaian politicians have become quite akin to endangered species, I must consider myself very lucky to have been found worthy by your prestigious organization to be invited as both a special guest and a speaker at tonight’s Charter Presentation and Fundraising event. I must confess though that my initial reaction to your invitation was some hesitancy as I wasn’t sure if this was a summons into the proverbial lion’s den – no pun intended, so I be made to stand in judgment for the litany of atrocities Ghanaian politicians have been accused of in recent times. That said, I must in all sincerity thank you for this great honour done me, tonight.
The second reason for my profuse appreciation is an obvious one. As Member of Parliament for my beloved North Tongu Constituency, it gives me great joy indeed that of the 275 Constituencies in Ghana, you on your own volition without any lobbying from me chose my dear constituency for this noble project to restore and convert 4 dysfunctional hand pump boreholes to functional mechanized systems at 3 holy villages in the Battor Traditional Area. This as has been indicated is your contribution towards the attainment of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 which relates to clean water and sanitation for all.
On behalf of the Chiefs and people of North Tongu, I offer our deepest appreciation for your kind thoughts and generous hearts. We in North Tongu can also attest to the fact that Lions are indisputably changing the world one community at a time. We shall always be in your debt.
Before proceeding further, I shall like to pay tribute to the International Association of Lions Clubs for the tremendous charity and sacrifice that you and your more than 1.4 million colleague Lions and Leos have rendered to the world since 1917. The world is a much better place because of your contributions. Serving as Ranking Member of Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, I am well apprised of your iconic footprints – from helping draft the Charter of the United Nations to raising millions of dollars to rescue the afflicted and champion causes the world may have neglected, Lions have gone many lengths way beyond their comfort zones during natural disasters and humanitarian crisis to support victims and save lives.
The story of the recoveries from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan and the current COVID-19 pandemic would always be told with Lions covered in glory. For voluntary service that epitomizes what is good about humankind, you remain the conscience of the world.
We come together this evening at a time of considerable cyberspace agitation and national soul searching about the state of our country and its future. Thousands of young Ghanaians who were hitherto criticized for being quite docile and rather detached are questioning the quality of leadership and why the hope of the Fourth Republican experiment appears to so painfully evaporate.
Respectfully, do permit me to share my thoughts on these vexed matters of great national interest. It is worth reminding that I do this in the spirit of 2 of your 8 cardinal aims which are:
I) To promote the principles of good government and good citizenship;
II) To take an active interest in the civic, cultural, social and moral welfare of the community.
Now on the much talked about second wave of the culture of silence, I respectfully differ in its description and characteristics. First, for the avoidance of doubt, the first wave of the culture of silence refers to the period of military rule which ends during the tenure of Flt. Lft. Jerry John Rawlings (God bless his soul) as Chairman of the PNDC. This second wave is that which is being talked about under the presidency of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
It is my contention that this second wave of the culture of silence has two variants. One variant is the category that has opted for voluntary silence perhaps because as our elders have warned, you do not talk when you are eating – our customs strictly demand that we comply with good table manners. The other variant are those who are being shut down by force or compulsion. The dichotomy must not be lost on us.
It would therefore be most unfair particularly to those whose voices are being deliberately muzzled and who are suffering all forms of intimidation and harassment to be compared with those in the other category who are observing good table manners. This distinction is absolutely crucial.
As we analyse the features of the second wave of the culture of silence, we must not lose sight of what this has led to. The space which was occupied by very vociferous organisations and prominent individuals in the recent past has been taken over by a new crop of dynamic young voices who are adept at using the tools of the digital age to achieve maximum penetration and impact. We are now seeing and hearing many authentic and organic voices who do not have to go through the filters of the hitherto vociferous speakers.
Call it a blessing in disguise – the #FixGhanaNow campaign in all its variations has consistently for some three weeks made the top trends and thus far attracted over 500,000 engagements on Twitter alone. This kind of impact in terms of reach and domination was not seen when the ‘traditional spokespersons’ held the mic. Clearly, in the absence of an organized group to speak on behalf of the masses, the masses are finding their own voices and are mobilizing in addition.
These authentic voices cannot be ignored, in the interest of sustaining our democracy, the stability of our nation and securing a transformed future, they must be listened to and more importantly there must be a concrete leadership response that restores confidence in political leadership and ignites new hope in our country’s prospects. That is the only way to avoid an Arab Spring-like revolt or another June 4, 1979 uprising.
Let’s be brutally honest, all around us is an unmistaken evidence of deterioration, decay and despair.
Only last night, I was left devasted and absolutely outraged by a series of events which can only buttress this climate of deterioration, decay and despair. I received a frantic call from my colleague in Parliament, the Hon. Sam Nertey George (MP for Ningo Prampram) at 9:33pm about a constituent of his (An Assembly Man) who had reached out to him from the Battor Catholic Hospital located in my constituency. Hon. Sam George informed me the distress call he received from his constituency related to an urgent need for his constituent’s son – a 12-year-old to be transferred to a tertiary facility in Accra. Apparently since afternoon, the Battor Catholic Hospital Staff and workers of the National Ambulance Service were unsuccessful in securing approval from a tertiary facility to bring in the child. Korle Bu had no bed and calls to the 37 Military Hospital were not being picked. After more than 5 hours they reached out to their MP for help and he in turn called me since the incident was in my jurisdiction so to speak. I immediately placed a call to the Medical Superintendent of the Battor Catholic Hospital, the affable Dr. Hayford Atuguba who confirmed their struggles with securing the green light from a tertiary facility to send over the child. I had to then call another medical doctor who is a constituent and works at the 37 Military Hospital for his urgent assistance. He immediately made arrangements and asked that the child could now be brought in to the Medical and Emergency Unit. When I finally called Dr. Atuguba at 10:10pm to convey the update from 37, I was hit with the terrible news that the 12-year-old had just passed. Back on the phone with Sam George, we agreed that we have failed the little boy. The system let him down.
Since last night, I have been sleepless and reflecting: Why do you need to have your MP’s number before you can find a hospital bed at a tertiary facility? Why were some of the phone numbers at 37 not working as I discovered? How long have they not been working? Whose duty is it to fix those lines? Couldn’t the National Ambulance Service have taken a precautionary step to just begin the less than 2-hour journey from Battor to Accra while their colleagues work the phones? Why don’t we have a networked dashboard or a simple app that can guide medical practitioners as to where there is bed availability for smooth and quick referrals? With the continuous no-bed-syndrome, why are there so many abandoned hospital projects all over the country and why are others like the UGMC being underutilized? If that 12-year-old was my child or Hon. Sam George’s child, was that the kind of care he would have been accorded since afternoon of yesterday when it was clear he needed to be referred? Why can’t we have a health system that works for all regardless of status, size of pocket, who you know or who knows you?
This cannot be normal and we cannot accept this.
The challenges in our broken healthcare system must not be allowed to fester. Some of the challenges are so basic that we have absolutely no excuse. I recall my surprise when I discovered some 6 years ago that the Battor Catholic Hospital had no incubators at its paediatric ward – I immediately provided 2. I recently donated another incubator to the Akuse Government Hospital in the Eastern Region when I found out they had none for over 7 decades. Some 4 years ago I similarly had to donate an ambulance to the Juapong Health Centre on my birthday, the point however is that our health sector must not be left to the benevolence of the kind such as your club and some of us – it needs a bold radical fix that continues from where the Mahama era heavy investment left off.
The plight of the 12-year-old and how our healthcare system failed him is epitomized in many other sectors from the mass killings on our roads due to reckless accidents, the destruction of our water bodies and the environment from galamsey, the unemployment epidemic, the scourge of corruption, the mismanagement of national resources, an erratic and outmoded education, the public debt crisis, the growing intolerance for minorities and dissenting voices, official impunity and the politics of deception and propaganda.
Our country is at the crossroads. The hope of the return to multiparty democracy in 1992 is fast eroding and if we do not adopt a new paradigm, Ghana risks becoming a failed state.
Our democracy must not be all about sharing ballot papers for every eligible Ghanaian in four-year cycles; it must be more about consistently creating and sharing equal opportunities for all Ghanaians and not a privileged few.
We shall be doing our dear nation much disservice if we end on the page of lamentations. We ought to engage in a restless search for solutions and must be honest to admit that we all have a role to play in the national reconstruction effort. I therefore wish to submit for the consideration of not only the political elite but the entire nation the following policy proposals. I have grouped the recommendations under two subsets: those that can be quickly fixed once we find the political will and those requiring medium term fixes. Let me state ab initio that I avoid so-called long-term suggestions because I agree with John Maynard Keynes that in the long run, we are all dead. The younger generation put it even better: ‘Time No Dey.’
Quick Fix Proposals
1. Government should boldly confront the unemployment epidemic by abolishing the unproductive pseudo stop gap measures whether they are called NABCO, GYEDA, YEA or whatever and rather aim at aggressively filling real employment vacancies particularly in the public sector. The Ghanaian youth are demanding permanent, decent and secure jobs. An HR Gap Analysis we carried out last year revealed some 311,741 employment vacancies in just 10 public sectors. The Ghana Police Service needs 35,020 more recruits to meet the UN standard police-civilian ratio of 1:500. The Ghana Education Service needs 98,650 more trained teachers at all levels to meet the required teacher-pupil ratio; The Ghana Health Service needs 85,980 more personnel across the country to operate at optimal levels; Ghana Fire Service needs 30,136 more personnel; The Ghana Immigration Service needs 3,522 more staff; The Ghana Prison Service needs 7,925 more uniformed personnel; Local Government Service 11,208 more workers; Forestry Commission/ Forest rangers 11,208 more hands are needed; Environmental Health Inspection will require a colossal 25, 400 and Non-Formal Education Unit will need some additional 12,700 staff to fulfill its mandate.
The projected cost per annum required to meet financial obligations of these 311,741 additional public sector workers is GHS6,114,320,000 (less than 10% of GDP). This amount of money cannot be more than the cost of the national security time bomb which is fast ticking.
Savings can be made from abolishing NABCO, cutting out waste, and increased national revenues from the productivity of these additional labour force.
2. Government must urgently consider freezing new/promised projects and commit to completing existing projects after it has created and published a database of all existing and abandoned projects across all sectors.
3. Ghana must adopt a new budgeting model. A model that focuses on big ticket items based on national priorities for proper and effective execution. The current model of spreading ourselves thin in a political attempt to please all sectors within one budget cycle has been our nemesis and must be halted. Better to do one thing well than to do so many things poorly. (Imagine the impact GHS98billion which is the 2020 MDA allocation for all sectors could have had in a few carefully selected sectors)
4. Announce and implement a policy of No Medical Treatment Abroad for members of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary with immediate effect. This appears to me to be the best way to address the numerous challenges in the health sector. This will force us to get things right and do right to avoid the needless death of the 12-year-old which continues to traumatize me.
5. Abolish all protocol recruitments and admissions as a way of establishing a meritocratic society and creating an even playing field for all young people regardless of background. We say NO to secret recruitments without public advertisements and competitive processes of selection.
6. We must be bold to open up on conditions of service of Article 71 office holders which by the way contrary to pubic perception goes beyond Ministers of State and Members of Parliament. A national debate on what model to adopt, whether ex-gratia should remain or not, should there be rationalization of public sector wages so that no CEO earns more than the President etc. Time for an open and honest discussion on this vexed issue.
7. The need for an urgent coherent policy on inclusive education to cater for minority rights. All threats to our ‘one people with a common destiny’ mantra must be eliminated. There must be no room for exclusion.
8. Government must immediately review taxes and levies including the recently imposed ones with the objective of carrying out drastic cuts and abolishing others. The current economic crisis, COVID-19 induced massive job losses and excruciating hardship demands that the draconian tax burden is lifted. Government expenditure can be realigned in this regard (National Cathedral, OGM ballooning demands etc.)
9. Time to bring back President Kufuor’s People’s Assembly. The people say their leaders are not listening. They are unhappy with the official responses thus far. There is clearly a communication gap which must be addressed and addressed by no other but by President Akufo-Addo directly.
10. Corruption and impunity must be ruthlessly punished without bias particularly as soon as it occurs, not defended by the administration only to be investigated and sanctioned when another government comes to power.
11. Government officials must respectfully switch from the Talking/Promises Mode to a Delivery Mode. The youth want to see what has been done for them lately. They are simply not interested in the highfalutin rhetoric. Politicians in Ghana must avoid what the Mexicans say of their politicians – that they are like air conditioners, they make more noise than they work. It is time for real work and not noise.
Medium Term Fixing Proposals
1. Major Constitutional Reforms
Key elements of this reform should include:
a) I will argue that Ghana needs a 6- or 7-year single presidential term. Impeachment provisions can be improved to deal with a visionless scandal-prone president who decides to waste the nation’s time.
b) Non-Partisan election of MMDCEs to drive decentralized development.
c) Review provisions making majority of Ministers MPs and build an independent formidable Parliament which is not beholding to the Executive as we now have.
d) Place a cap on the number of Ministers to be appointed.
e) Adopt a different consensus approach on the nomination of Commissioners and Chairperson of the Electoral Commission. This is the main source of election related tensions and suspicions which threaten the sustainability and stability of our electoral process.
f) Build a new constitutional architecture that tames the overbearing power of the President.
2. A total overhaul of our education that switches to and invests in the Four Cs: Critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
3. Pass Ghana’s first Lobbying legislation and totally outlaw the practice where sponsors of bills financially facilitate the process in Parliament.
I do not consider my list exhaustive save to say that by these reflections we can all be sufficiently stimulated intellectually and patriotically to come to the table with what we feel strongly about our country which must change and give way to a progressive society of opportunity.
No Ghanaian child deserves to be hawking on the streets, no Ghanaian graduate deserves to be home more than three years after graduation, no Ghanaian journalist deserves to be brutalized in the pursuit of stories in the national interest, no Ghanaian woman deserves to deliver a new born baby on the bare floor and no 12-year-old deserves to die because the health system failed.
It’s all about leadership. Visionary, selfless and sincere leadership.
Our forbears rose to the occasion and delivered political independence as the first African nation sub of the Sahara to defeat the colonialists, may this generation also rise to the occasion and defeat economic neocolonialism.
God bless all Lions,
God bless Ghana.