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Wafom - promises, politics, information and accountability

Posted by abocco on Tue, 05/29/2007 - 09:20 GhanaThink Managing Executive

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

You know I love Bernard Avle's CITI FM breakfast show. Guess what? It just won an award as the best talk show in the whole of Africa. So you've got to listen as often as I do, ;-) Anyway, Daasebre Dwamena was recently freed from prison and declared innocent in his London cocaine trial. A lot of people have welcomed this news and Daasebre arrived in Ghana to a hero's welcome. His latest hit, Wafom (you have wronged), has been played on CITI FM regularly and recently, Bernard passed a comment saying that the Electricity corporation of Ghana has wronged the Ghanaian populace for reneging on their promises to provide electricity to certain parts of the population as part of their load shedding exercise. They are not only ones failing to do deliver on their promises, politicians are equally at fault. Is there anything we can do as a populace to ensure better accountability? Are we too naive to get hooked onto promises?

Wafom is one of the hit songs from Daasebre's latest album, A friend in need. Wafom and other singles were released late last year, even when Daasebre was in custody in the UK for drug trafficking. Mr. Dwamena was making hit music even from jail! Other hit singles include Seetei, etc. Wafom talks about a lover failing to deliver on the promise he/she made to his/her partner. It is a danceable track, following the leads by Daasebre's hits like Obaa ben ni and Still I love you. Wafom technically means you have wronged, and interestingly, we can also say that Daasebre anfom (didn't wrong or break the law) in relation to his much-publicized cocaine trail.

Load shedding has become part of Ghanaian lives and sadly, it seems like it's going to continue for awhile in the wake of this energy crisis. The designated time for the end of the load shedding is September but that is a promise that some Ghanaians feel will be broken. The ECG cannot even stick to their guns and deliver on a daily basis. Residents of Adenta, for instance, are scheduled to have 'lights-off' (blackouts) for 12 hours on a certain day and then 24-hour 'lights-on' (electric power) the next day. In many instances, the 6am-6pm lights-out period extends to 9pm. There have been many
worse cases, as many radio listeners send in text-messages to various radio stations to lament the situation (Areeba, Tigo and One-touch are making huge sums of money for these SMS messages).

Can we allow the ECG to take us for a ride? Reliable electricity may not be a right but once schedules are drawn and promises made, they cannot afford to be broken. Take for instance, hopsitals in Ghana. Preferably, they should not be exempt from the load shedding exercise due to the services that they render but can you imagine doctors planning to have electricity at some point to run machines to save lives and a scenario where the hospital suffers a blackout unexpectedly?

When it comes to promises in our nation, it's not only about load shedding. The most popular time to make promises are during elections. Elections turn into promise-competitions, with little regard for who can deliver various services and who has the interest of the people at heart. I am not sure the present government made any promises to improve the energy situation in Ghana, so can we really fault them for the energy mess? Even if they did, in addition to many promises they made, what are the processes available for the voting citizens to hold them accountable? Basically, the only threats we make our, come 2008, we'll vote you out, etc - we all know many governments have under-performed and still found ways to stay in power. We've had many Wahala and Kume preko demonstrations to serve us wake-up calls to the governments in power but to what effect? A lot of these have been politically motivated and I feel in such cases, the real issues get drowned by tug of wars between opposition and incumbent parties while marginalizing those who are really bearing the brunt of these decisions to their own fate. Do you have any ideas on how to ensure accountability for failed promises? I don't know whether the laws of the land allow for that.

You may be thinking that sometimes some promises have to be broken or not delivered on time. When that happens, are we able to communicate these changes quickly enough? Do we even bother to communicate these changes? It's more like the problem we have with customer service in Ghana - communication. We need to start realistic targets as a nation and communicate these goals to every single citizen. It's mostly about information when you look at it - someone gives you some information and doesn't back it up or doesn't give you the information at all. Once there is an understanding, we can point to where people wrong and who commits the wrongs. It's pretty easy in the Wafom case where the understanding is between two people who wield the power on equal levels, but once there's a ruler and ruled relationship, it becomes a little tougher. We should be able to sift promises that can be delivered from lies and hold people accountable for their actions.

Full Wafom lyrics.
Scroll down at this link to listen to the song
Photo source - Castle- seat of government - Ghana


Comments

You cannot fool all the people all the time

[quote=abocco]Can we allow the ECG to take us for a ride? Reliable electricity may not be a right but once schedules are drawn and promises made, they cannot afford to be broken. Take for instance, hopsitals in Ghana. Preferably, they should not be exempt from the load shedding exercise due to the services that they render but can you imagine doctors planning to have electricity at some point to run machines to save lives and a scenario where the hospital suffers a blackout unexpectedly?[/quote]

Looks like some relief has been given to Korle-bu. Last week three generators were presented to the hospital. It wasn't so much the load shedding affecting them but a rickety old stand-by generator. Load shedding, black outs and emergencies or not, every sensitive place like Hospitals, Airports, Military bases, radio and TV statons must always have back-up and stand-by generators of good calibre 365 days a year. But having said that, i must admit that to lay all the blame at the feet of the current leadership would be an injustice. If anything, this is the first time we have seen some serious moves in the direction of a solution. We went through years of load shedding in the past and nothing was done about it.

[quote=abocco]When it comes to promises in our nation, it's not only about load shedding. The most popular time to make promises are during elections. Elections turn into promise-competitions, with little regard for who can deliver various services and who has the interest of the people at heart. I am not sure the present government made any promises to improve the energy situation in Ghana, so can we really fault them for the energy mess? Even if they did, in addition to many promises they made, what are the processes available for the voting citizens to hold them accountable? Basically, the only threats we make our, come 2008, we'll vote you out, etc - we all know many governments have under-performed and still found ways to stay in power. We've had many Wahala and Kume preko demonstrations to serve us wake-up calls to the governments in power but to what effect? A lot of these have been politically motivated and I feel in such cases, the real issues get drowned by tug of wars between opposition and incumbent parties while marginalizing those who are really bearing the brunt of these decisions to their own fate. Do you have any ideas on how to ensure accountability for failed promises? I don't know whether the laws of the land allow for that.[/quote]

If only we (the electorate) knew what our state coffers were capable of handling, then during Election Campaigns no Politician can take us for a ride. For we would be in a good position to see beyond the white lies and brain washing. For how can Politicians claim to be able to spend on things and pull rabbits out of hats when in reality we haven't got the money? Unfortunately we havent got that transparency and access to such information. Everything is statistically tabulated and graphed in order to create a hype of being bigger and better than we see.

I do have a lot of faith in people power though. It might seem that others have gotten away with staying in power even though they were not fit for that honour but in our current political environ with its openness that might not be that easy this time around. Voting time wasters out of power is one of the forces the electorate can unleash. If any Politician doesn't deliver the goods we see them off kwatakwata at the Polls. That will be the wake-up call for future ones.

As for the Kum-Prekos, they can only be effective if our mouth pieces in Parliament take the word from the street and fight our cause. In the absence of that, then citizens need to get into the habit of taking state organisations to the Ombudsman or Court. When the case is about the people versus an organisation or public service sector it gets prompt attention and shows the electorate mean business.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


We do have the money. Or

We do have the money. Or better still, we do have access to money. Remember we somehow found $20m to throw a party and yet another $20m to build a presidential palace.

"Citizens" also know as much as their powers-that-be are willing to reveal to them (to borrow another GhanaThinker's terminology--information asymmetry pure and simple). And "citizens" can't really take anyone to court. It's individuals (1 citizen or 2) who must do that. In theory anyone is allowed to try that in Ghana, but that person ought to make sure they earn their daily bread outside the jurisdiction of the powers that be since doing that is certain to bring harsh recrimination on the individual's business, connections, etc. There's plenty of evidence from history. But of course earning your daily bread outside the jurisdiction also tempts the individual to be irresponsible (because you know you can drag anyone/department to court and they can't get back at you). Again, this is all a choice we've made--to follow in the ways of democracy so we should be working at creating enough independence in the system to allow those who earn their daily bread within the system to be able to sue the system without fearing unjustified recrimination.

This undoubtedly involves calling out our own uncles, sisters, brothers, parents, family-friends who happen to be part of the powers-that-be clique to be more responsible, respect the rule of law, provide good leadership, etc. We can't just be critical when we don't know the current chief justice. Even when she's our own mom, we should be willing to call her out when it comes to the performance of her public duties.


Safety in numbers.

[quote=paa.kwesi]"Citizens" also know as much as their powers-that-be are willing to reveal to them (to borrow another GhanaThinker's terminology--information asymmetry pure and simple). And "citizens" can't really take anyone to court. It's individuals (1 citizen or 2) who must do that. In theory anyone is allowed to try that in Ghana, but that person ought to make sure they earn their daily bread outside the jurisdiction of the powers that be since doing that is certain to bring harsh recrimination on the individual's business, connections, etc. There's plenty of evidence from history. But of course earning your daily bread outside the jurisdiction also tempts the individual to be irresponsible (because you know you can drag anyone/department to court and they can't get back at you). Again, this is all a choice we've made--to follow in the ways of democracy so we should be working at creating enough independence in the system to allow those who earn their daily bread within the system to be able to sue the system without fearing unjustified recrimination.[/quote]

Well you know how the saying goes; ''There is safety in numbers''
I would rather a group of people took organisations to task as opposed to one or two individuals as you stated. A challenge from a group is more indicative of the feeling across the board and more representational. It also acts as a buffer...when it is the People versus an organisation, no individual can be singled out and victimised.
I agree with you on the need for Independence in the system. There is too much heirachy and inter-twining and too much dabbling from the Executive. Each organ of government from Executive to Legislature to Judiciary must be empowerd in their own rights and be Independent.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


GhanaThink Managing Executive

Pressure groups

I believe there are various pressure groups, concerned citizen groups, etc. Maybe the idea of "citizens" not taking someone to court is evident in the way most cases in Ghana are brought forward by individuals or the government or the media taking people to task (like Kojo Tsikata, Agyeman Rawlings, etc).
These pressure groups, paramount of which may be NUGS, only look out for their own interests (having accommodation on campus, free education) and are not on the war front fighting for reliable electricity for instance. Hence, the opposition parties have become the default pressure group for the citizens (there is strength in numbers) and we know that is not sustainable, because once this opposition party rides to election victories on the back of Kume-prekos, they repeat the same mistakes the previous government made.
na wire o!

I just hope we all do not become cogs in the system and discourage people we know from meting out injustices, making 'fake' promises and have no respect for the rule of law.

I still have a problem with communication though. I guess it goes back to information asymmetry but do our politicians keep the electorate ignorant so that they can deceive them time and time again? It seems only those in Accra and the educated few know that Ghana's macroeconomy is booming and interesting enough they are the same people who can handle the present costs of living.
We need to be educated on the present state of our economy and nation and what that bodes for the future. If the people in power would not do, then we owe our sisters, uncles, colleagues and family-friends a number of discussions.
it's time to move, :-)


On Pressure Groups, Unity and Information strategy

[quote=abocco]I believe there are various pressure groups, concerned citizen groups, etc. Maybe the idea of "citizens" not taking someone to court is evident in the way most cases in Ghana are brought forward by individuals or the government or the media taking people to task (like Kojo Tsikata, Agyeman Rawlings, etc).
These pressure groups, paramount of which may be NUGS, only look out for their own interests (having accommodation on campus, free education) and are not on the war front fighting for reliable electricity for instance. Hence, the opposition parties have become the default pressure group for the citizens (there is strength in numbers) and we know that is not sustainable, because once this opposition party rides to election victories on the back of Kume-prekos, they repeat the same mistakes the previous government made.
na wire o![/quote]

As you rightly noted, the communal spirit is non-existent. Each group looks to itself and only stamps its feet for its own creature comforts. Any group of people from Residents Association to PTA's should be able to stand as a pressure group but what is lacking is a unified front.
As for the opposition it serves their cause well to ride on the wave of people's apprehensions and unhappiness and hide behind a hypocritical facade that they can offer better, yet once in power it all goes to dust.
We also do not seem to have many referendums on National issues nor opinion polls (something that could be championed by the media and pressure groups). Its always been the Executive cracking the whip and all obeying whether disgruntled or not. Possibly because we have lived for many years in a climate of fear of being gagged or being picked upon and victimised by the powers that be.

[quote=abocco]I still have a problem with communication though. I guess it goes back to information asymmetry but do our politicians keep the electorate ignorant so that they can deceive them time and time again? It seems only those in Accra and the educated few know that Ghana's macroeconomy is booming and interesting enough they are the same people who can handle the present costs of living.
We need to be educated on the present state of our economy and nation and what that bodes for the future. If the people in power would not do, then we owe our sisters, uncles, colleagues and family-friends a number of discussions.it's time to move, :-)[/quote]

For a multi-lingual society like we have, you would have thought that State owned newspapers like DAILY GRAPHIC and GHANAIAN TIMES would print issues in all major dialects instead of just English, whiles their electronic counterpart GBC broadcasts the news in the same manner (The exception being Radio 1 and 2 who do that always on shortwave frequencies). The general assumption is that all villagers and farming communities for instance are illetrate and not that important in the equation. That is so wrong! There are a lot of literate traditional language readers and writers out there and having a simple thing like newspapers and televised news in traditional languages will help bridge the information divide and keep people interested and well informed about politics and current affairs. Only then can we have a true representation of electorate participation in governance. Blind-folding people and sealing their ears to information whiles leading them groggily to the ballot box with the bait of sweet smelling handouts and promises is not smart.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.