Development in Freedom: Empowering the People to Develop the Nation-- Speech by His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor – 2nd Liberty Lecture
Written by President John Agyekum Kufuor Thursday, 16 August 2012 16:41
Madam Chairman, Fellow Ghanaians, Ladies and Gentlemen. I want to start by expressing my sincere appreciation to the Danquah Institute for the kind invitation to speak at this year’s Liberty Lecture, which commemorates the significance of August 4 to our nation’s history.
The inaugural Liberty Lecture was delivered by the 2012 Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. I have known him for decades, he served in my government as Attorney General and as Minister of Foreign Affairs and, come January 7, 2013, God-willing, he will be the next President of the Republic of Ghana.
This year’s lecture has been delayed until after August 4th of course by momentous events, the death in office of the President of the Republic. May the soul of John Evans Atta Mills rest in perfect peace. In these past four weeks, we have witnessed a nation coming together to pay respects not just to the man but to the office of the Presidency and the importance of that office in our democracy. That expression of unity in support of democracy is commendable and it speaks directly to what I want to address today in this speech on Development in Freedom and how we must empower the people to develop the nation.
This topic, as you know is the NPP motto which it has inherited from its traditions’ founding father who enunciated it from as far back as 1947 at the launch of the UGCC, the first political party of our nation in the historic town of Saltpond in the Central Region of today.
Perhaps, a brief historical sketch will establish clearly the driving vision with which the founding fathers not only laid the lineage of our party but also of virtual foundations of the modern independent state of Ghana.
On the 4th of August 1947 a new era in the Gold Coast began. In Saltpond, paramount chiefs, clergymen, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, traders and men and women from all walks of life in the Gold Coast, gathered to inaugurate the United Gold Coast Convention, the first truly nationalist party of our country.
Our forbearers joined together to lay the groundwork for a free and brighter future for their children, and to bring about an independent and developed country free from foreign domination, internal oppression and bad governance.
There the man described as “the doyen” of Ghana politics, Dr. JB Danquah, in seconding the motion to launch the party stated: “We have come to take a decision whether our country and people are any longer to tolerate a system of government under which those who are in control of government are not under the control of those who are governed.”
He strongly exhorted the assembly of chiefs and people in these terms: “We must have, here and now, if we are to be well governed, a new kind of freedom, a Gold Coast freedom, a Gold Coast liberty.”
Then, in an implied rejection of the foreign-imposed name of Gold Coast on our country, he traced the historical and direct migration of our ancestors from the ancient Ghana Empire some 900 years earlier to our current homeland.
This was in order to preserve their liberties from the Arab onslaught from Northern Africa. Likewise, he urged the chiefs and people to reject British colonialism for its insecurity, injustice and exploitation.
Three years of the launch, Danquah further defined the abiding philosophy of the tradition as: “Our duty is to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property-owning democracy in this land, with a right to life, and freedom and justice as the principles to which the government and laws of the land should be dedicated to in order to specifically enrich the lives, property and liberty of each and every citizen.”
The Danquah-Dombo-Busia political tradition was born. We have been consistent and principled in what we stand for: multi-party democracy, democratic accountability, and respect for human rights, individual rights and free enterprise. Development in freedom is how we term the preferred way of moving Ghana forward.
Alas for Ghana, power eluded the tradition till 1969 when the Busia regime had a brief stint of 27 months of power to showcase the efficacy of democratic governance as compared with the uncountable and high-handed radicalism that subjugated the nation for more than 30 years of its independent existence to date.
After years of military interventions and national trauma, political upheavals and economic stagnation, we were rewarded when the Fourth Republican Constitution enshrined what our tradition stood for and struggled for all these years to bring about in Ghana.
Ladies and Gentlemen the topic of this lecture, ‘Development in Freedom: Empowering the People to Develop the Nation’ captures the NPP’s preferred path to success. Nations are not built on their natural resources, however valuable they are nations are built by people and the freedom and opportunities that those people have to express themselves, responsibly, creatively, entrepreneurially, socially and politically. People create societies, by joining together and working for the common good with the help of democratic institutions that support their rights and freedoms. It is the welfare and wellbeing of the people of Ghana that should drive the vision, programme and policies of government.
There are some that have argued that “command economy” is the short-cut to development and which must be foisted on the people, and that personal freedoms and collective liberties can be sacrificed in the process.
Ghana’s history is full of these adventurers and theorists, who only manage to divide the people and stagnate the economy, retard the social development process and destroy whatever “safety-net” that exist for the disadvantaged of society. We hope the lesson has now been learnt that never again should we allow our freedom to be sacrificed. We must insist on responsible governance that protects our collective liberty, our opportunities, and works to bring prosperity.
The truism of the foregoing is captured in the currently broadly touted pragmatic idea of Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) as the best way to develop the society. I believe this is the kernel of the vision as eloquently stated by the late JB Danquah in 1950.
This truism pervades globally now as even the formidable People’s Republic of China, the once citadel of communism shows by its adoption of liberal economic principles. Similarly, the United States of America, the bastion of capitalism, evinces this maxim in its adoption of the stimulus package to shore up the failing financial sector since 2008.
The point is that pragmatism to grow economies to sustain the quality of life of people has assumed centre stage in governance mechanism and this comes more readily to accountable and democratic governance which enshrines the citizenry as the sovereign authority to make and unmake governments regularly under the rule of law.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the citizenry can exercise their sovereignty responsibly only with due preparation for wise assessment. This is how to pick their representatives and make them accountable. This is the substance of empowering the people to help build a transformational nation.
The Busia Administration, our tradition’s first opportunity to govern the country in the 2nd Republic, beginning in 1969, had demonstrated what the NPP believes in and what we set out to do for the people whenever we are given the opportunity to serve.
Prof. Busia, my mentor, committed his government to providing jobs, security, a decent home, and a basic standard of living for every Ghanaian. The essentials of freedom of speech and expression; equal opportunity and social justice; of movement and association and of worship were heralded in the 2nd Republic.
In his inaugural address, in 1969, long before such ideas were popular around our continent, Busia said: “We think the yardstick by which our success or failure should be judged must be the condition of the human being himself. We must judge our progress by the quality of the individual, by his knowledge, his skills, his behaviour as a member of society, the standards of living he is able to enjoy and by the degree of co-operation, harmony and brotherliness in our community life as a nation ... our goal is to enable every man and woman in our country to live a life of dignity in freedom’.
Since the restoration of constitutional rule with the 1992 elections, a democratic and resource-rich Ghana has made lot of progress. The world has recognized our efforts and we have won a lot of accolades and we should all be proud of what we have achieved these past 20 years. All of us now accept that political power is changed through elections.
Our parties recognize election results and concede power when they lose. Key reforms have been delivered and sustained because of those changes in power and leadership.
Unfortunately the expected drive to economic lift-off on the solid platform that had been built by the end of 2008 has not happened. It is that drive that Ghana is crying out for now. The people are desperate to feel the practical effects of the statistically-touted improvement in the economy.
Last year our nation recorded economic growth of 14% and yet in the reality of our individual economies, it has been a damp squib. If ever there has been a vivid example of squandered opportunities, this has been it. We ought to be able to translate the many undoubted opportunities of bourgeoning natural resources such as oil, cocoa, minerals and international goodwill into improving upon the quality of life of our people. But this is not happening.
The cause can only be poor leadership, lacking the acumen, focus, discipline and dexterity to husband the natural and human resources for the needed success. We need transformational leadership that can deliver.
Unity is essential for our development. But unity cannot be achieved by force, or at the expense of freedom or by propaganda. Invariably such arrangements turn out to be non- sustainable and crumble at the least sign of pressure. The component parts of the whole should be equal shareholders and must feel they have a stake in the success of the nation. That is the view of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia people.
Ghanaians are united in their quest for greater opportunities, peace, liberty and prosperity. The competition between political parties is about the best way to achieve these goals, the most responsible way to use our national resources and which leader and party have the most credible proposition to move Ghana forward together.
The evidence shows that leadership has, by and large, come from the NPP, and its antecedent parties, the Progress Party, the United Party (UP) and the UGCC. In Ghana’s 55 years of independence, our political tradition has had just ten and a half (10.5) years in office, the NDC has had 12 years and CPP/PNP has had about 11 years, with the military having had 21 years, even though some would say the 11 years of the PNDC/military should be added to the NDC years. It is during the periods of our governments, the Progress Party and New Patriotic Party, that the nation had some of the strongest periods of growth and advancement in our history, the most progressive social welfare programmes in health and education and brought about a golden age for the private sector.
Another opportunity beckons. The NPP stands ready to act and to deliver freedom, development and opportunities for prosperity for every Ghanaian.
The NPP views civil liberties and human rights as fundamental to economic growth and intrinsic to the objective of development. We believe in empowering the individual to use his or her own initiative to create enterprise and legitimate wealth and to enjoy security of person and private property. We believe we can use freedom and opportunities as tools to promote the welfare and wellbeing of everyone in our society. That is why the party chose as its motto, ‘Development in Freedom’.
We believe that political, economic and social freedoms are absolutely essential and inter-woven. People are not free or at peace if they are hungry, illiterate, ignorant, unhealthy, homeless and in squalor. That is why my administration focused on investment in human capital and, at the same time, worked hard to empower the private sector to generate real growth of the economy.
In January 2001, when I was sworn into office as President of Ghana, the national economy was in a bad shape. We had to take the very difficult decision to sign up for the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. It was not an easy thing to do but we were guided by long term considerations and did what we had to do for the good of the country.
This led to increased inflows of domestic and foreign investments, more businesses opened, more banks opened, more Ghanaians gained employment, and the telecoms sector boomed. The stronger private sector economy enabled us to launch new social services, including a Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education programme and the first ever National Health Insurance Scheme.
We were able to make large investments in infrastructure in the energy, transportation and telecommunication sectors to drive the accelerated growth of the economy. And, we achieved all this, ladies and gentlemen, without a drop of oil, but with just sound economic management, which also under-pinned the redenomination of the cedi to achieve parity with the US Dollar.
Our 2012 Presidential Candidate is also committed to building a society of opportunities for every Ghanaian and industrialising the economy. He was the man who was the driving force behind the introduction to Ghana of mobile phones in the early 1990s, the instrument that has been responsible for the biggest socio-economic transformation of our country over the last two decades.
As a corporate lawyer in the early 90s, he managed to convince a group of foreign investors that Africa, specifically Ghana, was ready to embrace the mobile phone. That is how Millicom, operators of Mobitel ended up in Ghana. This is transformational leadership – the vision to see where things need to go and the ability to get us there.
Into this year’s elections, the main challenge facing the nation must be which of the contending leaders with their parties offers the likeliest efficient and effective government to tackle and overcome the socio-economic problems afflicting the people.
Our debate now should be about the quality of our democracy; how to strengthen institutions of governance, how to increase participatory democracy at the grassroots level, and how to ensure we get value for money on negotiations done on behalf of Ghana, whether it is for loan agreements, public procurements, allocation of oil blocks, building contracts, or the payment of judgment debts.
I have no doubt the NPP flagbearer, Nana Akufo Addo, is the most rounded and experienced in the field and also has the tried and tested team of would-be minister and government officials. Most of them worked with me in government and l vouch for them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, some have tried to bastardize the core philosophy of the NPP,: “building a property-owning democracy”. Ladies and gentlemen, I was in China last month, and even in China, home-ownership is being promoted as more and more Chinese people are being pulled from poverty into the growing middle class.
China, since embracing the concept of capitalism, has unleashed the energies of her billion people and taken over 500 million out of poverty. There are huge cities that have been transformed from slums because of the determination of its government.
The concept of a property-owning democracy is not elitist. It is about spreading wealth. It is about expanding and making more and more Ghanaians stakeholders in the wealth of the nation and giving every Ghanaian decent shelter.
The NPP promotes social mobility. Our belief is that we must give more and more Ghanaians the capacity and opportunities to capitalise on economic opportunities both in Ghana and abroad. We seek for the greatest wellbeing for the greatest number of Ghanaians.
That is why we want each and every Ghanaian to have education, so that they can develop their God-given talents and enhance their chances of making a decent living. When more people have access to jobs, they generate income and then more people can spend and more taxes can be earned and governments can spend more in building infrastructure, providing social services and improving our security and standard of living.
That is what the New Patriotic Party is all about. We put people at the centre of our development in both our thinking and our deeds. When the individual are the primary focus of the leadership, then society will progress.
There is no doubt that the NPP has the most formidable programme for moving Ghana forward.
This election is the verdict of Ghanaians on the last four years; it is a referendum on the future of this country; it is about the future of all Ghanaians. It is about which of the candidates has the best team and capacity, vision, programmes, competence and commitment to deliver for our nation and all of us individuals.
Look at the records; what has been achieved in the past; look at the promises; look at the leadership profiles and look at the value of the cedi and the cost of living of our people and vote wisely.
In 2000 the slogan of the NPP was ‘hwe w’asetena mu, na to aba pa.’ I believe that it was relevant then and is relevant today in 2012. I appeal to all Ghanaians to revisit the conditions of life today to decide on their vote for this year’s elections.