By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I shall be making several, albeit terse and succinct, critical comments on the Mahama government-sponsored National Economic Forum (NEF), which aims to rally a cross-party and cross-section of the Ghanaian citizenry to a conference- and town-hall meeting-style discourse on the raging economic crisis plaguing the country (See “NPP Shocks Osafo-Maafo With Economic Forum Boycott” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 5/12/14).
The daylong forum is highly unlikely to generate any meaningful solutions to the largely managerial problems facing the country. For one, the conference appears to be too diffuse in composition to be constructively and effectively focused on the salient issues at stake, that have yet to be clearly and publicly articulated by the Government in the form of a coherent discursive agenda.
Secondly, it well appears to me that it is Parliament that ought to be hosting such a forum, since it is wholly composed of the legitimately elected representatives of the people. More grassroots-oriented versions of this forum could also be organized at the regional and district assembly levels, either simultaneously or at staggered schedules across the country. Then also, the duration of the forum is rather too limited to allow for an exhaustive national conversation on pressing quality-of-life issues besieging the country.
He is, therefore, dead-on accurate, when the National Chairman of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. Paul Afoko, pointedly observes that the entire exercise smacks of a patently cynical public relations gimmick. For the hosting of the forum is likely to be cheaply and facilely used as a general election campaign chip by President John Mahama and his minions to indicate their willingness to be inclusive in their grossly incompetent governance of the country, almost as if the inexcusable failure on the part of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) to effectively manage the affairs of the country were equally blameable on all the leaders of the various political parties, including those with little or absolutely no representation in our National Assembly.
The ideal duration of the forum ought to have been at least one week, with different topics scheduled for each of the seven days of the conference. To be certain, the ideal location of such a conference ought to have been one of the campuses of the three leading public academies in the country, namely, the University of Ghana, Cape Coast and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Better yet, it could have been held at one of the three or four campuses of the University of Development Studies which, by the way, needs to expand its architectural and curricular reaches beyond the three northern regions, if the UDS is to become as nationally relevant and reputable as the three oldest southern-based flagship public academies.
As of this writing, Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, the former Finance Minister under the Kufuor-led government of the New Patriotic Party, was reported to have bitterly complained about the fact that as a scheduled speaker and presenter at the so-called National Economic Forum, he had not been consulted by the National Executive Committee of the NPP about the latter’s radical decision to massively boycott the forum. The pertinent question to ask here, though, regards whether Mr. Osafo-Maafo, upon receiving his NDC invitation to present at the NEF, at Akosombo, had promptly communicated about the same with the leaders and administrators of the NPP.
Doubtless, Mr. Osafo-Maafo may envisage the privilege granted him to speak at the NEF to be his one prime moment to rekindle his well-respected but currently dormant expertise in the economic sphere of our national life, as well as burnish his credentials as a trans-partisan statesman; but if he were a very careful and thoughtful man, he would promptly shelf any qualms that he may have with the NPP’s NEC by promptly lining up behind the party’s leadership. For, the fifteen or twenty minutes of his resurgent fame is highly unlikely to redound to the benefit of his party in the long term.
If, indeed, his opinions and expertise really mattered to the Mahama government, Mr. Osafo-Maafo’s advice would have since long been directly and more privately solicited by the NDC before this time. The President and his deputies are well aware of the sort of wanton electioneering waste of the hard-earned monetary resources of the Ghanaian taxpayer that got us into this Stygian mess. At best, a National Economic Forum is a mere psychological band-aid of momentary assuagement. And then, of course, a day or two later, the migraine resurges with nonesuch vengeance.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
Board Member, The Nassau Review