#FixTheCountryNow: Where is Ghana heading?

The honeymoon is over, so soon. For a man who was touted as the icon of democracy, free speech, accountable governance and human rights – the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

He has barely enjoyed four months after winning elections for a second term and a section of his citizens are already disappointed, disillusioned and angry. The causes, increased taxes, growing social malaise, impunity, abuse of office and power with impunity.

With the increase in and introduction of new taxes leading to high cost of living with unemployment and nepotism lurking around, a growing number of unhappy Ghanaians have embarked on virtual protests on social media calling on the government to fix the country.

While Sir Sam Jonah, a businessman, feels the culture of silence must be broken where citizens have the freedom to state their opinion without fear of intimidation, a former BBC editor who wants a change in status and referred to as a politician, Elizabeth Ohene, in a recent article titled ‘Culture of noise’, thinks it’s a culture of noise when people vent their opinion against the government’s non-performance, especially in the media.

Ghana Business News is asking: where is Ghana’s democracy heading? What then is democracy when citizens are cowed into silence?

Ghanaian youth have adopted the use of the hashtag #FixTheCountry which has become a growing campaign to register their displeasure about economic hardship and the high cost of living. But most importantly, to hold the government accountable to the citizenry at the back of flowery campaign promises in the lead-up to the 2020 general elections. Most Ghanaians are disappointed and many have had their hopes dashed.

Although the government of Ghana says it is making efforts to grow human capital through its various interventions, the youth believe that the government is not up and doing. Additionally, on hindsight, most Ghanaians believe this government lied its way into power and cannot be trusted.

Among the concerns raised by the campaigners are the rising youth unemployment, soaring rent, poor road networks, higher taxes, power outages, bribery and corruption, water shortage, among others.

Meanwhile, according to the IMF, Ghana’s debt stock is expected to continue on an elevated path reaching 81.5 per cent this year, 83.2 per cent in 2022, and further to 84.8 per cent, 86.0 per cent, and 86.6 per cent in 2023, 2024, and 2025 respectively.

The government’s ambitious plan to build over 88 hospitals in districts, remains in limbo.

For example, fuel prices have increased about four times consistently in a matter of six months. Fuel prices hit one of the highest after pump prices reached GH¢6.1 ($1.07) per litre or more depending on the Oil Marketing Company (OMC) you choose. The latest prices sparked outrage among petroleum consumers who have express disappointment using the social media hashtag #FixTheCountry. The average price of fuel per litre is GH¢6.1 per litre.

“This is the right time for us to stand up and come together as one people to speak and let them [government] know that we are tired,” Joshua Boye-Doe, a social media user and initiator of the campaign said.

Many celebrities have joined the ‘#FixTheCountry’ campaign especially on Twitter with millions of tweets posted. The movement soon planned a street protest but the police went to court to get an ex-parte injunction to stop it. The High Court decision to grant the police request has been described as unconstitutional, as the courts are expected to uphold the rights of citizens to free expression including protests.

The protestors have launched an online petition to champion the cause and more than 11,000 people have signed it.

“The youth in Ghana are suffering. No water, no electricity, no jobs. Corruption and bribery in the country. Increment of taxes with no increase in salary. We need change. We need to fix the country. The country is in a bad state. Members of Parliament and Ministers don’t care about citizens. We need help. We are the youth. We are voicing out, please come to our aid, please. Please help us. We need your help. Bad governance, no jobs. Please sign this petition for us. Speak to our president for us,” the petition reads.

No matter what anyone believes, or where they stand, there are obvious indicators that Ghana needs fixing.

The recent tax burdens, intermittent power cuts, erratic water supply, illegal mining, polluted water bodies, corruption, youth unemployment, and most worryingly, the take-home pay that doesn’t take people home at the end of the month.

With genuine concern on what started and continues to be a social media drive to whip sleeping leaders to wake up and fix what has rotten from the head since independence, no amount of government-sponsored communication strategy is potent enough to douse the zeal in the youth.

It took just a tweet to generate a national debate and a topic that is causing sleepless nights in the highest echelons of power. The buy-in of citizens from perceived neutrals and opposition political parties taking advantage has shown a wave of certain deep anger in the hearts of many especially the youth.

All they are asking is fix the country, so they can find equal opportunities to thrive.

The Saglemi affordable housing project that cost the taxpayer over $280 million remains a white elephant while the streets of major cities remain flooded with homeless people sleeping like prisoners deprived of their right to dignity.

The state keeps wasting resources on useless ventures such as paying ex-gratia of politicians after every four years of service. The country that has succeeded in borrowing to spend on consumables has seen outright misuse of millions of cedis on the political class.

The covid-19 pandemic has further exposed the existing inequality gap and widened the margin between the rich and the poor. The government’s attempt to offer relief has fallen in the deep ocean as more and more people continue to grieve over what they consider harsh living conditions compared to the tax being paid.

After securing a high court injunction on the intended May 9 protest at the independence square, the Ghana police showed up to enforce the court order. The protest took a social media twist where many posted their grievances on placards causing the government through the conservative finance minister to address the press. His assurance fell flat in the face of the campaigners who described the outlined solutions as professed by the minister as unconvincing.

The fixing of the country must certainly start from somewhere. It can’t be left on the laps of just one individual. The involvement of the youth in nation-building is as critical as never before. Obeying the president, Akufo Addo’s profound inaugural speech statement as citizens and not spectators will only mean that no citizen is quiet on issues of national concern.

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