Voice from Afar - Should the president take advice from all the talents?

BY: Abigail Bonsu

The answer is NO.  We elected him for what he said he would do.  He should do them.  He should be mindful of the party’s objectives and execute his plans as far as local and international circumstances will allow. 

The President should see to it that competent people are put on specific tasks.  This is not the time to be confused by Ghanaians who know so much and talk so much. 

The parties presented their policies in their campaigns and manifestoes during the elections.  Blueprints for comfortable living in Ghana were spelt out at election rallies.  The people were expected to vote for the party whose programme they prefer.  The President is honour-bound to follow the preference of the people.

But a sizeable portion of the population does not agree with the majority and did not vote for the President.  But the President is the leader of the whole nation.  Therefore he cannot ignore the views of the many people represented by the major opposition parties. 

Fortunately the aims of these parties in major areas are similar to the majority view and it is possible to adopt polices which those in these parties can live with. 

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It may be asked, “Why should the President then not take advice from the considerable number of talented people of different persuasion in Ghana?”

The simple reason is that he may over-crowd his mind and time and he is unlikely to come across something profound.  There is evidence that clarity of policies, intentions and directives from the seat of government often suffers from the plethora of advisers around the presidency. 

Even in the vital areas of finance and economic development expert advice can sometimes confuse decision.  As Sir Winston Churchill of Britain said, if you ask opinion from 10 economists you would get eleven views, two from the great economist, Maynard Keynes. 

The President should act after taking advice from those who have to deal with the implications of the advice.  The Ministers, together with the Heads of Ministries, Departments and institutions should be his main advisers and collaborators.  They are responsible for the execution of policies and their effects.  Advice without responsibility is often not fruitful.

In giving advice these “government” or establishment organisations should be mindful of what has happened before, what is happening now and what is likely to happen. 
For example, if it is desired to lengthen the Senior Secondary School period from three to four years, it should be recalled that some secondary schools have in the not-too-distant past experimented with three instead of the four years for the Cambridge School Certificate examination. 

It was felt that Gold Coast students entered university rather late in life and this was not particularly good especially for mathematics and science students.  In any case, if it is considered necessary to change the duration of senior secondary schooling from three to four years, this should be the subject of consultation with the major political parties, since constant changing of duration is expensive and not in the national interest.

In this particular example of senior secondary schooling, the President may need expert advice from outside the established system. This advice may stem from a commission which may advise on the larger issue of duration of formal education and academic excellence as opposed to merely passing examinations.

This example shows that even though the President has the mandate to do certain things it is necessary to consult the opposition on certain specific issues in the national interest.
Generally, the President should certainly be mindful of the public view, consider advice flowing from new developments and be accessible. 

There are institutions for making this possible.  These should be used otherwise we tire the President and he does not get the time to consider issues and problems and reflect on them adequately.

Too many people, Ghanaians and foreigners, see the President.  Ours is not a ceremonial President and we should not worry the Head of State with trivialities.  He should have time to remove the irritations which make life unnecessarily unpleasant for many. 

I would like to see the President within one week of installation requesting his appropriate Ministers to take action on simple matters which make life difficult to bear and which keep us backward such as indiscipline and non-compliance with the law and regulations. 

In this regard, the Local Government Minister and Metropolitan Chief Executives should be made to see to it that the rules about sanitation are enforced.

Special wardens and police should see to it that those who urinate in public are arrested and prosecuted speedily.  The authorities should ensure that all houses have toilets. 

In Accra and major towns there should be public toilets, and pending the construction of permanent structures, temporary ones should be installed immediately at vantage points. 

Life would be more agreeable and our plans for tourism more meaningful if laws and regulations on sanitation are enforced.

Laws and regulations on noise should also be enforced.  Traffic rules are another.  Right now many motorists do not obey the rules.  The congestion on the roads is partly because of this indiscipline.  Motor bicycles weave through traffic as if the rules do not apply to them.  They pass through red lights and overtake anyhow. 

Motorists park anywhere and join the traffic when they wish without regard to moving traffic.  Instead of being keen that the President listens to our advice we should assist him with organisations which work and press for freedom under the law. 

Incidentally, should we allow heavy, third-hand, badly-maintained, wobbly trucks from Europe on our roads? And should these trucks park anywhere at night – even on small roads in residential areas?
Should heavy trucks be allowed to discharge goods in the centre of cities especially Accra at rush hours, that is between 7 and 9 a.m.? Some businessmen would not like the idea.  But we should consider the huge man-hours wasted in traffic because of unsuitable and heavy vehicles on our roads at peak periods.

Streets should be for motorists and pedestrians and not for selling stalls.  Accra streets should be decongested immediately.  It is not advice that the President needs but support for him and his aides when they enforce the laws, rules and regulations. 

We should let the President know that his party would not lose the next elections because sellers are removed from the streets.  On the contrary the silent majority will support the administration which clears our major roads of selling malls and unnecessary congestion.

Unfortunately our governments are often frightened off the right path by interested parties.  Those without shops who bring in quantities of cheap bargain goods would like to engage young men and women to sell their wares on the streets.  They try to get the government into panic about enforcing the law and municipal authorities are then instructed to stop enforcing the law. 

The same is true about other measures.  We cannot for instance, give reasonable support to our poultry farmers because those who import chicken frighten government off appropriate action.  The examples are many. 

Those who have the advantage of high education should join others to see to it that laws are enforced instead of moaning about their advice not being considered.

Life in Ghana is not good enough.  It could be far better.   There is a lot the President can do.  But he cannot do much if we the people are not disciplined and are lawless.  We should ignore selfish advice and work for freedom under the law.  This should be our New Year resolution.

We should certainly wish each other a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  We deserve it.  But we should realise that we cannot be happy when plagued by disease.  Special mosquito nets may help against malaria.  But the rules on sanitation if kept will stop the spread of malaria at its roots. 

There is a lot we can do to make life better for ourselves and our neighbours.  I know we will do it.  It is therefore with great expectation that I wish all readers of this column a happy, healthy and better life in the year 2013!

Article by K. B. Asante