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A letter to parliament - Reflecting on Ghana@50, government and the nation

Posted by abocco on Wed, 04/18/2007 - 06:05 GhanaThink Managing Executive

...Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins

A lot of people have discussed Ghana's golden jubilee celebrations with the discussion centering on the cost and amount of money being spent, the present state of the nation, how our age-mates are more industrialized than we are, etc. I doubt our voices were heard by the people in power but I know one person whose voice has been heard loud and clear. When the said person receives "death threats", you know that is some serious business. Kwame Asare Obeng aka A-Plus is serious about his song as well and he calls it A Letter to Parliament. A-Plus has been singing and rapping about politics in Ghana for a number of years now, but what is different about this song?

A-Plus entered the Ghanaian music scene with a bang on the back of his interesting song called "Mesuro mpo na merekeka yi o", which means I am afraid as I am saying this. The song, Freedom of Speech I, used Dr. Ephraim Amu's "Yen ara asase ni chorus" and talked about speaking out about the good and the bad that the government was doing. Since then, he has released various songs talking about the political terrain in Ghana, criticizing government, opposition parties, etc, etc. Freedom of Speech II - Yese hmm (2003) - spoke about corruption, injustice and hardships in the country and proclaimed that the people were waiting for elections to act accordingly. Some of his other songs are Agye gon (released after the 2004 election), Mirror Mirror, Zilo, etc.

I first heard A Letter to Parliament while listening to Joy FM's Super Morning show right around March 6th, the height of the Ghana@50 celebrations. Since then, it has received a good amount of airplay and I have heard it a number of times on Bernard Avle's CITI FM Breakfast Show. In the song, A-Plus writes a letter to parliament (Ghana's legislature) and specifically to his own member of parliament. He talks about how the MP came to his town to campaign and after he won the seat, has reneged on his election promises. His community warns him to come and fix the schools and roads or else he will lose the next parliamentary election. He criticizes the NPP government and the main opposition party (NDC), and has a special proposition for President John Agyekum Kuffour.

A-Plus' lyrics are serious and funny. He is probably the only "mainstream" musician in Ghana who has openly challenged our statesmen in recent times. We need more people like him. People are praising our fledging democracy for allowing A-Plus to make such songs but I believe this is normal and he does not commit treason with his music. It's unfortunate that he has received death threats while trying to keep the government on its toes and sensitizing the public about the nation's situation; he deserves praise instead.

The NPP spent way too much money on celebrating Ghana's golden jubilee and throwing festivities. I don't necessarily agree with A-Plus' assertion that we must organize a day of mourning but we definitely need to have days of reflection. Yes, because, like my brother said, we cannot even produce toothpicks in this country. We have the ability to do so, but why no one is doing so baffles me. Accra cannot enjoy uninterrupted power supply, but we are "chopping" our birthday. The road from Kumasi to Accra is in bad shape, but we are spending 20 million dollars to hospitalize tourists. The material used to make our Ghana@50 cloth was imported from China, but we are happily flaunting it all year. We should be happy about reaching 50 as a peaceful and stable nation, but we seriously need to sit down, reflect and question why we are acting like this.

Our politicians owe it to us to set up infrastructure to allow us to thrive, succeed and improve our nation's situation. We don't need their election promises, we need better managers, leaders who would serve the interest of the people, leaders who would earn the trust and respect of their people. Ghana cannot be built on remittances, election promises or the gifts politicians hand out when they are seeking power. The seat of government is in Accra but the voices from the rural areas and the votes of our 20 million people are almost as important.

Kwame Asare Obeng tells the politicians that they better come and fulfill their election promises or else they would lose their seats. We need to speak up and encourage our politicians and statesmen to do everything in their power to serve us. Let us not stop at criticizing or doing the propaganda (Kuffourganda) like the NDC is doing, let us give the government reason to invest in us and ideas on how to move our nation forward.

Full A Letter to Parliament lyrics.
Scroll down to listen to the song
Link to an article I wrote about Ghana@50.



Counting the blessings and progress and achievments together with the downsides is all part of the growing up process. That is what coming of age and growing to a ripe age of 50yrs is all about. Unfortunately too much emphasis is usually based on the problems and as a society we lose sight of all the good things going on around us as well.

I want to believe(not everyone will agree with me on this)that there is work in progress and that in recent years Ghana has taken a lot of big steps and strides and the rest of the world is taking notice.
True we have a few bad headaches that are taking too long to go away but i also believe we have a culture of always expecting things to change over-night and are very impatient with long-term projects and changes and always looking up to Central Govt.
Regarding Central govt and our tirades and anger towards it, i feel the problem stems from the lack of autonomy and independence at local govt level which means that rather than sort out local crisis across the districts at local level it is all piled up at the feet of Central governance. This creates stagnation and slow courses of implementation. We are not very good at empowering other factions of the government to be self sufficient and have right of implementation. All heads turn to the executive and that can cause problems.

As for A-PLUS and his lyrics, that is what democracy is all about. The fact that he uses the chanel of music to question without him having his album banned and recieving air play at radio stations shows a landmark in how open our political scenery is at the moment and how freedom of expression is not being withheld. In Akan there is an adage that; ''he who weeds a path does not know how crooked it is like the person standing behind him looking on'' and in this respect only an unwise leader will seek not to listen to the voice of all rank and file in the community, for that is the surest way of knowing how his people tick.

Some things are not very easy to see nor tell instantly but we all know that the economy is booming, improvements in educating the future generations have come on board, transport and communication is advanced, our national reserves have increased, income per capita is high (although more is better), advances in health care projects are happening and the almighty cedi is not to be sniffed at no more because it is now trading on the financial market, and Agriculture is getting a big boost. Infact there is a lot going on.

We are 50yrs old. True lets chastise and hound our leaders to deliver their services and promises but in so doing lets also give thanks and praise where it is due and use those positives to buoy us up and unite us towards the future as well. Its not all doom and gloom, there is work in progress.