We’ve no excuse to be poor – Ghana’s President declares
by Kwabena Opong, Accra
Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, has told his people that their country has no excuse to re- main poor, not after sixty years of sovereignty. He pointed out “the purpose for which we successfully ousted colonial rule was to control our own destiny but as it turned out we became the poorer for it. We have run out of excuses for failing to provide a dignified life for the mass of our people. The economic dividend that was meant to accompany our free- dom has still not materialized.”
Addressing the 60th anniversary parade to mark Ghana’s independence, the President stressed that “it is time to set Ghana right and get our country to where it should be.”
After recounting the history of the independence struggles, the President condemned the level of poverty in Ghana as ‘unacceptable.’ The president paid tribute to Ghana’s founding fathers and emphasized the roles played by the other members of the Big Six that included Edward Akufo Addo, Ebenezer Ako Agyei, William Ofori Atta, Obetsebi Lamptey, Joseph Boakye Danquah, and Kwame Nkrumah.
Hitherto, the roles of the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) other than Kwame Nkrumah who quit the UGCC to found the CPP had been downplayed in the political landscape of previous governments in Ghana.
Others like John Mensah Sarbah, Joseph Casely Hayford, J. W, Sey and J. P. Brown were given a renewed mention and their contributions recognized as vital in the achievement of independence. In the pres- ence of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, President Akufo Addo took a swipe at the British colo- nial Crown Lands Bill in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia among others where lands were distributed to European settlers and left the indigenes with little to call their own. In the Gold Coast, Nana Addo said that local resistance against the bill discouraged the colonial administration from implementing a similar policy.
President Akufo-Addo paid homage to some historical figures in Ghana in several fields of endeavor which he said contributed to Ghana’s development as a nation. They included Ephraim Amu, the musician; J. A. Braima, the Gonja scholar and statesman and eulo- gized such market women as Dede Ashikisham and Akua Shorshorshor who fi- nanced Kwame Nkrumah and the nationalist movement. ‘I pay homage to Kofi Antubam, the artist who first put Ghanaian art on the map. I pay homage to Saka Acquaye, the poet, writer, sculptor and musician, who wrote the first African folk-lore, ‘The Lost Fisherman.’ “I pay homage to Yaa Asantewa, that woman of valor, who led the Ashanti resistance to British imperialism. I pay homage to Nana Ofori-Atta I, who saw the wisdom in investing in the education of the young.” According to ‘The Ghana Poverty and Inequality Report –2016’ authored by UNICEF, rural poverty is now almost 4 times as high as urban poverty compared to twice as high in the 1990s. The report notes that the wealthiest 10% con- sume around one third of all national consumption, whereas the poorest 10% consume just 1.72% con- cluding that income in- equalities are widening. Informed by such conditions, the President touched on the significance of the theme of the Diamond Jubilee celebration, ‘mobilizing for Ghana’s future’. “Let us mobilize for the happy and prosperous Ghana of tomorrow, in which all of us, including our youth, our women and the vulnerable in our society, will have equal opportunities to real- ize their potential, and build lives of dignity.”
The president bemoaned the devastation of his country’s environment owing to the indiscriminate exploitation of minerals. “…we are endangering the very survival of the beautiful and blessed land that our forefathers bequeathed to us.” He stated that there is nothing the present generation can do than to dedicate the celebration to our former leaders who fought and gained independence by protecting our environment.
The son of the president of the Second Republic con- tinued, ‘’the dense forests, that were home to varied trees, plants and fauna, have largely disappeared. Today, we import timber for our use, and the description of our land as a tropical forest no longer fits the reality.
Our rivers and lakes are disappearing, and those that still exist are all polluted. It bears repeating that we do not own the land, but hold it in trust for generations yet unborn. We have a right to exploit the bounties of the earth and extract the minerals and even redirect the path of the rivers, but we do not have the right to denude the land of the plants and fauna nor poison the rivers and lakes. There is nothing we can do better to pay homage to those who fought to free us from bondage than to dedicate this 60th independence an- niversary to protecting our environment and regenerat- ing the lands and water bodies.’’
In spite of the challenges, President Akufo Addo hoped that Ghana still has a great future ahead.
“We [citizens] can and will achieve the dreams of our forebears. I am hopeful and convinced that we will con- tinue to make ourselves worthy inheritors of this land. I know that we will wear the accolade of being a Ghanaian with pride. The Fourth Republic President ended his speech reiterating his call on Ghanaians to be patriotic.