Ghana yesterday opened its doors to nationals of other African countries when the country’s visa-on-arrival policy came into effect.
The policy allows citizens of African Union (AU) member states to enter Ghana and obtain visas on arrival, with the option to stay for up to 30 days.
President John Dramani Mahama, at a luncheon for senior citizens at the State Banquet Hall to mark Senior Citizens Day, said Ghana was proud to take a lead in the implementation of the all-important policy.
The Senior Citizens Day coincides with Republic Day.
A resolution adopted at the AU Executive Council meeting held earlier this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, stipulated that AU member states should review their internal and external security realities in an attempt to implement mechanisms allowing for the issuance of visas on arrival for citizens of member states.
Ghana thus becomes the first AU member state to issue visa-on-arrival for African nationals.
President Mahama said with the policy, the country had reaffirmed its Pan-African credentials and also taken another step at stimulating economic growth especially in the areas of investment and tourism.
The Senior Citizens Day was marked with merrymaking. There was plenty to eat and drink, while the elderly danced to live band music.
President Mahama mixed freely with the senior citizens and also took to the dancing floor to dance with some of them.
Learning from the elderly
The President said the world was becoming more youth-oriented, adding that the youth needed to learn from the experience of the elderly.
That, he explained, was the reason the government attached importance to the Senior Citizens Day, which offered opportunity to celebrate older citizens.
"Each year, I stand before you to praise you for the services you have rendered to the nation. It is a praise you well deserve,” the President told them.
President Mahama stated that the senior citizens were a tremendous asset to the nation because of their knowledge and wisdom.
The President mentioned some of the initiatives that the government had undertaken to advance the development of the country and said they were telling positively on the economy.
On power generation for instance, he said the government’s objective to make Ghana a net exporter of power was on course.
President Mahama said the country had emerged from its recent struggles and international institutions were predicting a bright future for the country beginning 2017.
In spite of the successes achieved, he said, there was still some amount of work to be done and, therefore, urged Ghanaians to bear with the government when some tough decisions were taken.
A Spokesman for the senior citizens, Mr Kojo Yankah, deplored the destructive politics in the country.
"Today, we are tearing ourselves apart because of politics.
"We are so partisan that some of us have made up our minds to shoot down any bright initiatives that come from our political rivals. All our lenses have turned politics. This is a shame to the country,” he said.
Equally regrettable, he said, was the fact that some Ghanaians, in the name of politics, were bent on destroying what their rivals had done.
He further stated that the nation’s rich cultural heritage was under attack, as indecency had become the order of the day.
He urged the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to consider establishing senior citizens centres in their areas to serve as meeting grounds for the old people to interact.
Mr Yankah also spoke bitterly about cynicism in the country.
“We are cynical about our own country and about ourselves because we choose to define ourselves only through the lenses of others. We fail to acknowledge that no particular group of Ghanaians have answers to all our problems,” he said.
He deplored the “intemperate and noisy language, insults and indecent verbal assault” unleased on present and past leaders of the country on radio.
He said with this year’s Senior Citizens Day falling on an election year, the celebration should be a period of soul-searching for all Ghanaians.
"By all means let us disagree on principles, but I propose we seriously think of the consequences of our public pronouncements and actions,” Mr Yankah said.
Taking a look at the street naming programme going on in the country, he said it was a commendable exercise but urged the authorities to cast their nets wider in the exercise.
“I recommend to our city and town authorities to name our major streets and monuments after creative minds, inventors, innovators, award-winning farmers, teachers, scientists and male and female achievers to replace some of the names that have no relevance to our communities,” Mr Yankah suggested to the authorities.