Welcome to 2020, folks.
I know it’s one month late but this is my first piece in 2020, so yeah welcome. One of my goals was to write more in 2019 but the news made me breathless and too tired to think. Truth is, as the Akufo-Addo government showed it was corrupt and incompetent as the former government, it felt like I had said everything I could say before. What new thing can I say about the enormous filth that had engulfed Accra after three articles. How many more ways could I draw attention to the pervasive corruption in society? But I have recently been reminded that one of our jobs as journalists and writers is to bear constant witness. So I decided to start with a list of simple things we can do to make life better while we deal with the incompetence and corruption of our governments and political elite.
- Political parties, particularly the NDC and NPP should spare us empty slogans and ill-conceived promises during the election campaign. We want coherent promises with clear implementation strategies. We’re not interested in having the same debates we have had with the NPP. For instance, to many, the NPP’s One District, One Factory promise meant the government was going to set up factories. But after the elections, both the president and his officials have been redefining this promise. First, they said they didn’t say they were going to build factories but rather, facilitate the building of factories. Then they started commissioning factories that had been in existence for decades under the scheme. In this upcoming 2020 campaign, the parties should endeavour to say exactly what they mean, how they intend to achieve it and when they expect to be done. We will no longer accept meaningless slogans like “people matter, you matter.” Parties should tell us exactly how they intend to show that Ghanaians matter.
- People should stop harassing us to vote for them to win awards – This one makes me cringe all the time, particularly when it comes from people who know better. It makes sense to campaign for votes via texts in competition but there is nothing more crass than begging for votes in order to win an award. If you are worthy as they say, why don’t they just reward you for your hard work? The organisers of the award scheme should do what all organisers for proper awards do: define the terms and hire people to do the selection of the finalists. I know many people are asked, harassed even, by the organisers to take part in these award schemes but people, the begging reeks of desperation.
- Politicians need to stop rehashing our problems every time a challenge comes up. They were elected or appointed to solve specific problems. For example, we do not care if people keep stealing dustbins on the streets, we want to hear what the AMA is doing to keep the streets clean. We do not care for a theorization of why the cedi depreciates when it does. We need the government to tell us their plans to minimize the problem. We did not elect a president and into power only for Osaafo Marfo to come and whine to us about corruption. Where is the damned plan?
- Ghanaian media outlets need to stop compiling rich lists made up of people whose taxes and income sources are not known or stated. Blanket statements such as “he made his money in the hotel business” will no longer suffice. Where are the hotels? When did he build them? How is the industry doing and what has he done to set his apart? In fact, this kind of inquiry should be applied to all the stories we do in 2020. We are journalists, not PR people. Our duty is to look beneath the gloss and tell people the truth about the state of things. The lack of fact-checking is one of the reasons the Menzgold fraudster thrived among us for so long. Heck, we’re still describing his company as a gold dealership as if we have evidence of this. Business journalists are the most guilty of this, but we all need to do better.
- Ghanaian religious leaders need to stop obsessing over women’s bodies and the sexuality of consenting adults. There are so many problems that should concern the religious community in the country. The alarming levels of corruption, unemployment, poverty, etc, – make it impossible for members of their congregations to live in dignity and peace. But instead of engaging the state over these issues, Ghanaian religious leaders spend all their time enforcing sexist and harmful norms. This year, they should do better by engaging the government over the issues that affect the lives of their congregations. They should rage over needless deaths caused by road accidents, the lack of blood in hospitals, and other ills of the dysfunctional state.
- News analysis shows must stop centering the voices of men. In fact, this should read: Ghanaian media needs to stop centering the perspectives of men on national issues. The Media Foundation for West Africa found that “men consistently dominated all programs between June and November 2014.” It doesn’t matter the issue, it is almost always men talking to men. But able-bodied, older Ghanaian men are not the only ones with wisdom in the country. Women, young people, and persons with disabilities, all have a stake in the nation. It is important the media reflects their views and perspectives too. And frankly, the current state of the nation which is the result of Ghanaian men’s imagination shows that they don’t know it all. As a journalist, I know how difficult it is to get women to come on shows. But lots of studies exist with suggestions on how the media can ensure inclusion with gender-balanced and gender-sensitive journalism.
- The unquestioning loyalty for top pastors needs to die. The response of the Ghanaian Christian community, particularly the charismatic strand, to the excesses and bad behavior of their pastors is often fierce defense or loud silence. But Pastors are human like the rest of us, and therefore flawed and fallible. They make mistakes. As leaked sermons have shown, not everything they say is divine, kind or even useful. The Bible is replete with verses about the importance of accountability, not just the accountability of believers but of the teachers too.
- Ghanaian men on Twitter need to stop attacking people who question the status quo. It is astonishing how dedicated young Ghanaian men are to the powerful people whose actions and inactions show that they do not care about them or Ghana. Of course there are some women who come for people who criticize the deplorable state of the nation. But a quick reading of the bios of the people who delight in attacking feminists and anyone who criticizes the status quo shows a specific group of people are more adept at this type of violence. They are men who usually have their favorite football teams and God in their bios. It is baffling that to see folks proudly display their love for God and are still be callous, unthinking people. I suspect some of them believe their fierce defense of the foolishness of the ruling class will get you close enough to the stolen wealth. But here’s the truth guys: As long as Ghana remains deeply unequal, many of you are never going to get close to power. Not when the well-educated children and relatives of the politicians you protect are around. Your best chance of living a dignified life is to side with the feminists and critics who are fighting for a country in which you do not need to know anyone to access quality healthcare.
- Journalists must stop reporting comments as the news – There are so many reasons why this is the favoured format of journalists and media companies in Ghana. There is always too much happening which puts journalists under pressure to beat the competition and move onto other stories. Media companies often lack the financial capacity to fund in-depth and investigative journalism. But reporting Asiedu Nketiah’s criticism of the vice president as the main story is not enough. Journalism requires context, analysis and nuance, without which our audiences cannot make informed decisions, which partially explains why they make the choices that undermine our work. So instead of merely reporting the NDC’s comments on the new voters register, we should explain the never-ending tussle over the register and the electoral commission, provide examples of how other countries have maintained, non-politicised commissions. It’s only when we provide more than comments of newsmakers that we are doing our jobs. And while we are at it, can we stop reporting police statements as the gospel truth? In fact, can we treat all official statements with an enormous dose of skepticism? If there is anything we know for sure, it’s that officials lie. It is our duty to go beyond official speech and establish the truth.
- An end to investigative commissions and committees. Seriously. There is no need to explain this because if there is one thing we know, it’s that committees and commissions are an utter waste of our time. The reports and recommendations are seldom published and implemented. Therefore, they do not result in changes in policy or accountability where necessary. This is why our markets continue to burn despite numerous committees and commissions on market fires. Also why despite a committee on hospital beds, people continue to be turned away from health facilities over the lack of beds. If anything, committees and commissions serve to neutralize public anger. It’s easy for our governments to set up committees without addressing the underlying problem. And oh, they also benefit the members of such committees because there will always be sitting allowances, tea and lunch. All at a cost to the taxpayer for no work done. No offence to the Short Commission.