Ghana has, since 1992, successfully organised five
democratic elections, during which period we have seen the transfer of
political power from an incumbent government to an opposition party on two
Ghanaians last Saturday woke up to the gory news of an
accident on the Tamale–Bolgatanga highway in which 31 people perished.
Twenty-nine of the passengers died on the spot, while two others passed away at
the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH).
Reports indicate that some educational institutions, particularly the universities, have banned requests for change of names after students have been admitted.
The University for Development Studies (UDS) is the latest to join the fray, with the reason that the practice arouses great suspicion about the authenticity of results or certificates and gives cause to believe that cases of impersonation may be involved.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor of the UDS, Professor David Millar, who gave the warning, however, explained that female students who married during the period of their studies who wanted to change their names would be considered on their own merit.
We do not begrudge the university authorities for coming up with this directive to the students, but if the reasons assigned above are the rationale for the action, then we dare say that it is unfair.
Every student who gains admission to any tertiary institution in the country is supposed to have gone through basic and secondary education. The least that the universities can do in the event that certificates presented by students raise suspicion is to check with the institutions that awarded those certificates or liaise with thesecondary schools applicants attended to authenticate their names and certificates.
Fortunately, in our case, examinations for basic and senior high schools are conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). There are, however, other examination bodies, locally and abroad, that conduct technical and professional examinations.
The Daily Graphic is aware that in every society there are deviants, for which reason institutions must put in place measures to prevent such characters from cutting corners or cheating the system.
Many Ghanaians and institutions operating here appreciate the cultural and traditional milieu in which we live. There are occasions when some fathers renege on their responsibilities to their charges, only to surface when the children start maturing into adults.
When that happens, processes are gone through, after which the children are given to their biological fathers.
If this happens to a student already in the university, he or she may change his or her name to reflect his or her new ‘status’.
All that we are saying is that any university that is suspicious of the credentials of its students must use the established institutions to unravel any fraud. Also, majority of the people who change their names do so by swearing affidavits, and affidavits, by our understanding, are legal documents.
The Daily Graphic thinks that the universities find the ban on name changing the easiest way to deal with their frustration over fraud, forgetting that by doing so they discriminate against students who may have genuine reasons to change their names.
We are not fighting the battle on behalf of students who intend to cheat; we are only demanding fairness and equity in the enforcement of any regulation, so that no single individual is disadvantaged.
We shall always support moves by communities, institutions and individuals to instill discipline in the youth for them to respect laid down regulations in order to avoid the state of nature.
The Daily Graphic, therefore, appeals to the UDS authorities to look at this policy again and find the most appropriate way of dealing with the use of fake certificates and results slips to gain admission to the university.
This way, we are sure that the student community and the university authorities can come together to instill discipline on the campus.
Article 26 of our Constitution guarantees every person the right to enjoy, practise, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion of his or her choice “subject to the provisions of this Constitution”.
This means there is freedom of worship, and that is why Ghana is a secular state where every citizen has the right to profess any faith.
Years ago, when the schools we had in this country were mainly those established by the religious bodies, especially Christian groups, there was a directive to teachers and their students to attend church service every Sunday, even if they had no belief in the Christian faith, and those who flouted that directive were punished.
Some teachers lost their jobs because they refused to profess the faith of the religious bodies that established the schools where they were posted.
Presently, the situation has changed, with the government establishing many schools, the Muslim group also have the Moslem Education Unit, while individuals have established schools for business.
We think the Constitution recognises this diversity and that is why it has impressed on the managers of the state not to ever force people to go by religious beliefs that are alien to their character.
It appears to the Daily Graphic, however, that some Christian education units compel adherents of the Islamic faith and traditionalists in their schools to attend their churches.
It is unfortunate that this unacceptable situation is gaining ground at a time when the religious leaders themselves are working hard to foster inter-faith dialogue.
From where we sit, we see danger signals ahead if this development is not brought under control pretty soon because we have had some violent reactions against the enforcement of religious worship in our Christian schools on everybody, regardless of one’s beliefs.
The good thing, however, is that President John Mahama has directed the Minister of Education to put an immediate stop to Muslims being compelled to observe the Christian faith in some senior high schools.
The President hit the nail on the head when he said the practice was quiet worrisome and infringed on the affected students’ rights to freedom of worship, as enshrined in the Constitution.
Although there have been pockets of religious intolerance, leading to intra and inter-faith clashes in the country, we have, luckily, been out of danger so far.
But for how long can we pretend that we live in normal times when vulnerable groups, the excluded and those discriminated against have raised their voices without response from the managers of the state?
Now that the President has directed the Minister of Education to act, it is the hope of the Daily Graphic that swift action will be taken to assure aggrieved students that henceforth they will not be forced to observe faiths they do not believe in.
During character formation, we expect some strict regulations that will instil discipline in our young people, but that does not mean that such a move should trample on the rights of the students. Our Constitution is the supreme law of the land and, in growing our democracy, there is no provisions that can be said to be so insignificant that it can be breached to the detriment of the individual.
Forcing students to observe other people’s creed can only be counter-productive and unconstitutional.
Yesterday, our Muslim confraternity celebrated Eid-ul-Adha, a festival which reminds them and all of us that sacrifices and difficulties are a test of one’s faith and principles.
It also reinforces the need for us to remain steadfast, even in times of very serious challenges and complexities of life, with the hope that Allah will surely remain with us and lead us out of the difficulties to better times because of the faith we have in His goodness.
Eid-ul-Adha comes on the heels of Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of the Ramadan in August this year, and we believe these two religious rites will impart to all Muslims the lessons of courage and acceptance of Allah’s will, not only in their personal lives but also in the affairs of the state.
We believe Allah has blessed Muslims abundantly for their commitment, prayers and sacrifices.
The Daily Graphic, therefore, hopes that the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha will bring to all Muslims and the nation serenity, fellow feeling and generosity and unite the nation as we approach the general election.
With barely 40 days to the elections, the country requires the atmosphere of fellow feeling to douse the tension and acrimony surrounding the December 7 polls.
We have always maintained that going into the sixth poll, since 1992, should not cause anxiety among the electorate. Instead, this year’s elections and subsequent ones should generate fun and not create tension, panic, fear and alarm among the populace.
Elections offer the electorate the opportunity to make choices of the personalities making themselves available to be elected. That is why our elections should be issue-based and not about personality attacks, vituperative language and hate speech. After all, we are one people with a common destiny.
It is our expectation that those who lose out will have the opportunity to offer themselves to be elected after four years. Therefore, losing out on the ballot day should not give room for supporters of any contestant to take to violence.
The fact that even on the African continent some independent candidates have won against political party representatives demonstrates that the electorate, if given the free will and peaceful environment, will make their own choices. It does not, therefore, make sense for anyone to resort to violence to win elections.
Unfortunately, some of our Muslim brothers and sisters have been wrongly painted as violent and troublemakers. But we know that Islam is a religion of peace, with a sense of fellow feeling and generosity, and no one with this sense of feeling will take to violence to disrupt the peace and stability of the country.
That has been so because there is the perception that politicians, chiefs and landowners often go to Muslim-dominated communities to mobilise the youth to unleash pain and torture on their opponents.
And, as the elections draw near, we urge our Muslim brothers and sisters to resolve never to be agents of violence and destruction but promoters of peace. The Muslim community must join hands with the rest of Ghanaians to reject politicians who peach violence during the electioneering.
The Daily Graphic wishes all Muslims a happy celebration. For those on the sacred Hajj pilgrimage in the Holy Land, we wish them a safe return journey home.
The power of the media to shape behaviour and public opinion has never been in doubt. It is said that the media have the power to do good in society, but it has equal power to wreak havoc on the people.
That is why, in many autocratic societies, governments initiate legislation to muzzle the media, while in constitutional democracies, governments put in place regulatory mechanisms to direct the actions of media practitioners.
In the 55-year-history of Ghana, the media have passed through many phases. In some regimes, draconian laws were enacted to gag the media.
There have been periods in our history when the governments introduced newspaper licensing laws to regulate the operations of newspapers. The electronic media, especially radio and television, were no-go areas for private operators, since they were a strict monopoly for the state.
The very courageous people, including some politicians, who dared to challenge the status quo had their fingers burnt.
The country has also gone through periods when the media were insulated against governmental control, although politicians of those periods made attempts to dictate the way the media were operated.
There was also a period in our history when chief executives and editors of state-owned media had no security of tenure. They could be sacked at the whims and caprices of the government, sometimes for the reason that they had the courage to criticise government policies and programmes.
Enter the Fourth Republican Constitution and the various constitutional bodies put in place have been trying to curb the excesses of governmental power.
The policy of separation of powers that defines the role of the Executive that has the power to maintain law and order and the management of our resources, the Legislature that holds the purse string of the government and the Judiciary that serves as the bulwark against dictatorship and abuse of power has helped to set the parameters for the conduct of public affairs in the country.
The media, also referred to as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, have the authority to hold all these arms of government accountable to the people of Ghana, as entrusted to them by our Constitution.
It, therefore, requires that media practitioners exercise freedom of the press and expression on behalf of the people with a sense of responsibility.
It is against this backdrop that the Daily Graphic supports the launch of a project by the National Media Commission (NMC), with support from the European Union, to monitor the role and responsibility of the media in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections.
The media have a crucial role to play in maintaining the peace and stability of the country in the run-up to the elections and after. Many people are concerned about the role of the media because, in other jurisdictions, they have been used to cause mayhem in society.
The Daily Graphic appeals to media practitioners to strive to abide by their code of ethics which, among other things, enjoin them to be fair, accurate and balanced in the discharge of their duties. Media practitioners ought to know that there is no absolute freedom and that the freedom and independence of the media is moderated by other regulations in society in the interest of public order and morality, national security and for the purpose of protecting the reputation, rights and freedoms of other persons.
We commend the NMC and the EU for this laudable initiative to bring sanity into the expanding media landscape, so that the media will play their role to serve the public good.
Ghana has been touted as a lower middle-income country since 2007. Unfortunately, however, its people do not live that accolade, as every conceivable item is imported, from tooth pick to used clothing, used cars, used lorry tyres and used cooking utensils, compelling some social commentators to refer to Ghanaians as people clothed in other people’s rags.
This is a sad commentary, but that is the reality on our streets, in our markets, offices, communities and homes. The paradox of our situation today is that about four decades ago, Ghana used to be a net exporter of many items that it imports today, such as rice, maize, palm oil and electricity.
Our first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, as part of his government’s import substitution policy, established many factories throughout the country to process raw materials into finished products for local consumption and for export. His government also encouraged the private sector to establish many businesses, although it was considered a socialist regime.
The Accra North Industrial Area, which today boasts warehouses for imported rice and other items, used to be home to many factories that employed thousands of skilled and unskilled labour.
The Ghana Industrial Holding Company (GIHOC) was established by President Nkrumah to produce many items for local consumption and for export, as well as give employment to many people.
During the National Redemption Council (NRC) regime of Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, the government introduced many interventionist policies to address the economic challenges facing the country. Notable among those policies was the Operation Feed Yourself programme in which every available space was cultivated for the production of all kinds of food crops. That programme was so popular with the people that some students even abandoned the lecture halls to work on sugar cane and other plantations.
Also in the 1970s, all kinds of motor assembling plants were established to assemble all types of cars. Some local companies were able to put together vehicles such as Boafo to help traders and other business operators to carry their goods to and from the marketing centres.
Along the line, however, the unbridled liberalisation in the 1980s led to the neglect of all these productive processes for the importation of items that, ordinarily, we could produce locally.
It is against this background that we welcome the collaboration between the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organisation (SMIDO) and its external partners, the Aaardschap Foundation of The Netherlands, to assemble cars at the Suame Magazine in Kumasi.
The Daily Graphic is aware of the capacity of the Suame Magazine and the skills of the artisans there to fabricate all kinds of engine parts to assemble vehicles. All that they need is encouragement and motivation by banks and the government with credit and other forms of support to realise their full potential.
Ghana abounds in human and material resources which, if well tapped by the government and its development partners, can move the country to a middle-income status in no time, at which point the resources could be used to create wealth, employment and prosperity for all.
The Daily Graphic calls on the government and the banks to identify potential growth poles in the country and nurture them for the development of the country.
The time to act is now and the latest collaboration between SMIDO and The Netherlands firm should be encouraged for the mutual benefit of the partners and Ghanaians.
For some time now, the media landscape has been inundated with the activities of foreigners abusing their welcome.
In the retail trade sector, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has had to form a task force to flush out foreigners who were engaged in retail activities, which were not permissible by our laws. We have also several cases in which some foreigners have abused their Ghanaian workers and gone scot free.
Currently, we seem to be at the crossroads with the activities of foreigners who have taken over the small-scale mining sector. What is worrying is the fact that these foreigners are engaged in illegal mining although they do not have the requisite entry and work permits and also the licences to engage in the activities they find themselves in.
Sadly, it is such persons who take the typical Ghanaian hospitality for granted and begin to abuse indigenes for welcoming them into their homes and communities.
Ghana will continue to open its doors to people who want to share in its glory and challenges, as well as contribute to the development of the country. But we shall not allow them to overstay their welcome and abuse the hospitality of the Ghanaian.
That is why we agree with the admonition of the Interior Minister, Mr William Kwasi Aboah, to personnel of the Ghana Immigration Service against facilitating the illegal entry of foreigners into the country.
There is a perception out there that personnel of the GIS at the entry points collect peanuts from some of these foreigners and allow them to enter the country without the requisite visas. Under such circumstances, it becomes very difficult for any institution to monitor such persons the moment they enter the country.
Once they find themselves in the country, these illegal foreigners can be found working for institutions without the requisite resident and work permits. Some of these illegal foreigners also find places in our cities, towns and villages indulging in all kinds of illegitimate activities to the detriment of our society.
We wonder how often personnel of the GIS conduct regular inspection at industrial establishments, factories, and in the hospitality industry to find out how many of the expatriate staff possess resident and work permits.
With all the brouhaha over the involvement of foreigners in illegal mining across the country, we dare ask the GIS what action it has taken against these immigrants. Whatever action that has been initiated was as a result of police action to arrest those engaged in illegal mining.
The DAILY GRAPHIC thinks that personnel of the GIS have a Herculean task in helping the nation to deal with the cases of illegal migrants in the country. The personnel must, therefore, work hard toensure that migrants in the country comply with and respect the laws of the country.
We acknowledge that there are few bad lots in the Ghanaian society who will always drag the image of law-abiding citizens into the mud. The security agencies must deal with deviant Ghanaians who collaborate with foreigners to breach our laws.
The DAILY GRAPHIC enjoins those who enjoy our hospitality to expose the deviants among them. Visitors should not take our hospitality for granted and try to trample on the friendly character of their hosts.
That will be resisted because there are laws for every citizen and even extra regulations for foreigners and those who flout them will find it difficult to co-exist peacefully with Ghanaians.