Full text of Bernard Avle’s lecture on rethinking the national conversation

General News of Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Source: citinewsroom.com

2018-11-28

The 2017 Journalist of the Year and Host of the Citi Breakfast Show, Bernard Koku Avle on Tuesday, November 28, 2018, delivered a thought-provoking lecture at the Swiss Spirit Hotel & Alisa in Accra on the theme: Rethinking the national conversation.”

He touched on a number of issues retarding the growth of Ghana and hindering the progress of the country.

According to Mr. Avle, there needs to be a collective paradigm shift in the psyche of Ghanaians with a greater attention being given to how to create a better environment for citizens to thrive.

He believes there needs to be a shift from electoral politics to developmental politics. He among other things called on the media to play a central role in the transition.

The lecture was organised by Citi FM and Citi TV in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA).

Read below the full lecture delivered by Bernard Avle:

RETHINKING THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION:

AN EVENING WITH Bernard Avle

November 27, 2018, Alisa Hotel

Introduction: The Paradox of Our Time

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the show window but no showcase lives.”

This long introduction was to set our minds ready for some unique paradoxes in Ghana today.

Today I’ll expose 3 paradoxes in Ghanaian society, propose 5 shifts we must make and end with a call for balance.

PARADOX ONE

ACTIVITY WITHOUT PRODUCTIVITY

GHANA has a population of close to 30 million; our rebased GDP is less than GDP $50 billion.

Singapore has a population of 5million GDP & $300 billion.

Ghana with all its resources cannot generate 2300 MW consistently for her 30 m citizens.

Israel generates about 12000 MW for her less than 10 m citizens.

Today’s talk is not about the economy per se, but this comparison is an important way of showing how collectively as a society we produce one sixth less than a country we are 6 times larger than.

We need to recognize that motion doesn’t necessarily equal progress, and our activity has not resulted in the productivity we desire.

Drive across our cities and people are engaged in all kinds of activity, buying and selling, etc. the so-called kpakpakpa economy.

Our informal economy is bustling with activity, kantamanto, Abossey OKAI, Suame Magazine.

Yet collectively the whole of Kumasi, which has about two million economically active people, has on 47,000 registered taxpayers.

As a country we spent millions of dollars importing rice, Tomato paste, cooking oil and frozen chicken, all products we grow here but are unable to productively add value to.

In 2016 alone, Ghana spent $555 million on vegetable products, $592 million on foodstuffs, $643 million on plastics and rubber, $544 on animal products and $516 million on textiles.

Our economic model of exporting raw material and importing largely finished or value added products resulted in the country spending about a quarter of its GDP in 2016, a whooping 12.5 billion dollars on imports with a sizeable chunk of that amount spent on things we can produce here.

In 2011 Ghana’s economy was the fastest growing the world. Boosted by oil production we grew by 14%, yet the number of jobs created is still not known.

In fact the employment elasticity of the economic growth was very low, per some economists calculations.

Ghana suffers from Economic Growth, without structural transformation.

The country’s major exports are raw materials- Gold, Crude Oil, Cocoa, and Timber.

Already the mineral sector has become an enclave sector with limited participation of local companies. So apart from the tax revenues we get from this sector we hardly get other dividends from the sector.

We need to begin to have a conversation about value addition, productivity, and taking over the commanding heights of our economy.

These issues require deeper discussion than what pertains in parliament.

PARADOX TWO

RELIGION WITHOUT MORALITY

We have 70 % Christian and the rest all devout Muslims and traditionalists

We all claim to believe in God and our churches and mosques and shrines are full.

As a Christian I believe Christ came to impart life, and I believe that one evidence of fear of God, is the value we place on lies and truth, for as Christ himself said, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”

The church seems to have lost its way in being the conscience and guide of the nation:

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like [h] corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, [l]sexual immorality, wickedness, [m]covetousness, [n]maliciousness”

The church today seems to be imprisoned.

The message of prosperity has taken over and eclipsed the message of sufficiency and simplicity.

We are clapping our hands and shooting the devil, while our minds are still enslaved by the chains of greed and selfishness.

The gospel of Christ was meant to bring life, and bring it in great abundance.

But in the nation today, lives don’t really seem to matter to us.

Deaths are reported as statistics and the spate of loss of human life on our roads point to a nation, which seems to have lost its grip on what the true value of life is.

Money has been elevated over life, and there is no more truth in the land.

We no longer question the source of wealth and leaders who ought to be the conscience of the nation have become as guilty as the people they are meant to lead.

7 banks have collapsed in the space of one year, with 1000s of jobs lost, millions in invested funds disappeared into thin air, and no one has as of now been brought to book.

This is a society where people who steal dustbins are promptly jailed for 3 years, while those whose actions and inactions rob us of millions that could build schools and hospitals walk about in freedom and impunity.

Over 2000 lives perish on our roads in 2017, but for many it is business as usual.

A society that does not value life nor cherish truth is what we are fast becoming.

Over 190 had to be knocked down and killed on one main road before efforts were made to rectify the situation, and even then, winning the political argument is more important to our leaders than accepting responsibility and solving the problem.

7 hospitals could not find space to treat a sick and weak 72-year old man whose family moved him from one hospital to another in Accra, driving over 19 miles between 10 pm and 2 am.

The no bed syndrome has become a mantra for health workers, most of who go to church on Sunday or pray faithfully on Fridays.

Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 ‘These people [c] draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

The paradox of the religious Ghanaian who has overturned the prescriptions and priorities of the faith and replaced them with selfish personal ambition and greedy materialism, deceitfully called prosperity.

But woe to you Pharisees,

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

We have elevated the place of miracles, signs and wonders and neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, faith and mercy.

We have exalted the place of money and prosperity at the expense of morals and principles.

We have idolized and deified our general overseers and yet our members do not even appreciate the basic tenets of the faith.

We have built fanatical followers of church brands, but have failed in the role of growing Disciples of Christ.

We have elevated fancy suit wearing extravagant watch clad prophetic preachers, jostling for place on our airwaves, and out doing each other on prime time television.

We have become fixated with a national cathedral when Christ has clearly said that God does not dwell in temples made with hands.

And many Christians who know better will keep silent because for them, church membership and correctness is now like the fanatical support of their favorite football team.

But this is not surprising because it the era of the foot soldier. Everyone is whipped in line immediately they disagree with the views held by the unrelenting mass of party fanatics. And woe betide you if you cross them on social media, you could even lose your job if they make enough noise about your indiscretion.

And while these things go on, injustice & greed have created destruction for our young people.

The same youth we are promising miracles are leaving in droves via the Sahara desert and making a desperate dash for Europe.

A recent survey by the PEW Research Centre showed that 75% of Ghanaian respondents said they would live in another country if they had the means and opportunity to go.

This compared with 74% of Nigerian Respondents, 54% of Kenyans and 46% of Senegalese.

How did we get here?

A society with the right focus will make these a matter of important national conversation.

A society that has its values right will not make armchair jokes about defilement when teachers are having sexual affairs with their students. The proverbial stool meme become the toast of Ghanaians on social media.

Our modern day social media infused celebrity culture has produced half-baked superstars, many of whom are overexposed by underdevelopment.

We seem to have forgotten the biblical injunction of true religion-honesty, simplicity, fear of God, love and faith.

PARADOX 3

LOTS OF MEDIA, BUT LITTLE MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION

Generally the freer a media or openness in a country the more responsive duty bearers are to the needs of the people, and the more responsiveness we have, the more accountability and better quality of governance experienced.

Ghana is globally recognized for its relatively free media space, and whereas that freedom is supposed to lead to more effective governance, Ghana’s is a curious case with large amounts of media freedom but not the expected development that should accompany it.

As I have said elsewhere, to analyze the state of the media we need to assess the role of three important factors, Policy, which defines the rules, best practice, which tells us what’s happening elsewhere, and private sector participation, which explains who put their money into what is potentially profitable.

The Ghanaian media landscape today is therefore the combination of the efforts of government regulation through the national media commission and the national communication authority, as well as the daring ideas of the Kofi Badu’s The Kofi Koomsons, the Kwesi Twums, the Nik Amarteifios and the Osei Kwame Despites.

But effective media is not simply the existence of these institutions mentioned. It must have at its heart, competent, credible media practitioners who serve as the engine of that well-oiled machine.

Journalists have three basic functions in a society.

We are gatekeepers,e. we decide what is important by setting the agenda.

We are scorekeepers, we track what’s being done by public officials, elected and unelected.

We are watchdogs; we serve as a check on power by guarding the public interest.

As gatekeepers, we need to ask what kind of agenda the Ghanaian media has been collectively setting over the past 26 years of the 4th republic.

Which stories have we given prominence to? Who people have we dedicated the front pages and the morning shows to? And which issues have been flagged for the public to focus on?

Our scorekeeping role is no different. Performed creditably, it must measure the size and quality of the politician’s accomplishments against the grandiose nature of their promises.

It must not simply reduce the conversation to a comparison of mediocre records, but measure the delivery of services against the collective aspirations of the citizens.

On the watchdog role it must relentlessly expose wrongdoing and highlight the plight of the disadvantaged in society.

Evolution of Ghana’s media and Democracy

Ghana’s media has gone through an interesting evolution since the days of pre independence.

Our political leaders understood the importance of the media in shaping the national discourse, so Nkrumah edited the Evening News from around 1948/48, an important period and means of triggering positive action. So while Nii Kwabena Bonney was instigating the revolt, the evening news was sustaining and explaining it to the literate part of the population.

In the coup d’état years, the Acheampong government popularized the rediffusion box as a means of reaching the people.

I am told people would gather around the box, which was hung in the town centre at 1pm to listen to the news broadcast, and other kinds of information that was to follow.

The evolution of media has coincided with the kind of political system we have had over the past 63 years of independence.

GHANA’s democracy has gone through a number of evolutions, from the 1st to the 4th republic.

This constitution guaranteed media freedom and with it came the liberalization of the airwaves spawning stations like Joy FM, Radio Gold, Groove FM, and Sunshine Radio & Peace FM.

These stations came at a time the nation had been starved of the freedom of political discourse.

For many years prior to 1995, the only thing close to a political program we had on TV was Talking Point, which for most ordinary people was that boring one-hour wait before the real programme Akan Drama.

The rise of private radio stations was captivating because they introduced a format of political programming that the citizens had been starved of for years.

Radio Gold’s Wednesday programs, Ephson’s file, BB Menson, the virus, the verdict, Joy FM’s crossfire featuring the likes of Kakra Essamuah, Doe Adjaho, Tony Aidoo, Kwamena Bartels & Mawuko Zormelo.

Having opposing sides of a political argument empanel on a radio or TV show although not entirely new was such a refreshing feature of our new found media freedom.

This foundation became the template for the radio format that followed, which most political radio shows now mimic.

But 26 years into the 4th Republican democracy and over 400 radio stations later, where is the democratic dividend we were promised? Where is the national shaping we hoped for? Where are the coordinated ideas that media was to lead with this freedom?

THE S CURVE

Mathematics, Physics and Business have given us a framework for analyzing the relationship between things as they evolve over time.

The S curve shows four major stages in the development of an organization, a country or even a civilization.

It starts with introduction,rapid growth, and then the plateau, after which either steep decline or incremental growth ensues.

The 26 years of the 4th republic when put through the framework of the s-curve, can be said to have gone through at least 2 stages of development already.

Our democratic experiment begun and reached a very important stage in the year 2000, where we changed government for the first time in years.

It will be followed by his symbolic repealing of the criminal libel law and the entry into the scene of more media outlets like CITI FM, creating more space and providing further options for political discourse.

This was the beginning of the rapid growth.

In 2009 Ghana’s democratic credentials had risen so much that US President Barack Obama, appreciating the power of the moment and riding his wave of his even more unprecedented ascent as black man to the White House chose Ghana as his first country to visit on the continent.

But after 17 years of that experiment it looks like our media and politics has reached an interesting plateau where now, what used to send thrill down our ears now sends chills down our spines.

The plateau is where things begin to slow down and spirits begin to dampen.

Our politics today is dominated by fighting talk and brinkmanship by people whose main focus is how to capture power while in opposition, or retain it while in government.

The most important quality at the introduction stage is experimentation, the rapid growth stage is usually characterized by replication, but at the plateau stage, the skill most necessary for survival is reinvention.

We are at a stage where if our media and democracy don’t reinvent themselves, they will begin to stink because they will start annoying a lot of citizens who have been deprived of the national cake over the years.

Our democracy is also characterized by a constitution which has created a chief as a president.

We are hamstrung because this chief of a president (and I am not referring to Nana Akuffo Addo) has to appoint over 6000 individuals, many of whom he has may never met, including interestingly PROs of Ghana Gas Company.

The constitution in itself and the manner successive governments have interpreted it has led to a winner takes all situation which heightens political competition and tension.

The excessive powers of the presidency have created a situation where even within the same party; people jostle to be closest to the pot of soup.

The popular expression for what this has led to is “edidigya.”

Edidigya is now the biggest canker in town, which drives our political elite in creating a do-or-die situation for us every 4 years because the biggest fear among the political elite is that once you lose power or your connection to it, people will didi and gyaa you.

This situation has carried over into floor of parliament and the media studios of our media spaces.

The debates in parliament are rarely about the future of the country or about solving the problems faced by citizens.

Politicians are more interested in who wins the argument to gain political advantage, than in what needs to be done in the long-term interest of the people.

When was the last time the argument was about how many of our children are being defiled in our communities in parliament, or how many of our women are dying in childbirth or how the lack of jobs for our young people is leading to anger in the population?

When was the last time you heard a meaningful conversation about the increasing koisification and containerization of our urban spaces, where people sleep in containers near the motorway, defecate in polythene bags, and cross the road with vehicles driving over 100 kmph to get to school.

Even with all these issues, our politicians prefer comparing records in parliament.

In today’s headlines, one of them called for a comparison of records on which administration had more presidential staffers, and yesterday it was about which regime had a worse bout of dumsor and who created less unemployment?

Our political discourse is focused on winning the argument and the election than in solving the problems that we truly face.

And some have even created a forum for setting the records straight, which uses all the communication tools at its disposal to fill the airwaves with all kinds of claims that really don’t affect the lives of most people.

These days, the most coveted position in our politics is that of party communicator, with its added perks of a quick rise in the party and a possible deputy ministerial role if you bite hard enough and you punch higher than your weight.

Two full years before an election, all the talk is about 2020. It’s as if all we live and die for elections. We empanel party communicators and spokespersons to analyze issues that have no relation to their areas of expertise.

We have party communicators discussing everything from health insurance, free education and road safety and media producers gleefully watch on as these noise-makers clog the airwaves with their parochial election-aimed hot air.

Why should Ghanaians be constantly focused on politicking when other important issues are crying for attention?

What can we do to reverse this downhill slide of misplaced national priority leading to an over fixation with politics to the detriment of everything else?

If our democratic progress is not to suffer a sudden and catastrophic dip, we need to rethink our national conversation.

I now proceed to present 5 shifts in the national psyche we ought to have to reinvent our democracy and salvage society.

SHIFTS REQUIRED

FROM ELECTORAL POLITICS TO DEVELOPMENT POLITICS

Our electoral democracy is going through a phase that places a different set of responsibilities on leaders and citizens.

The predominant focus has been on electoral politics. We must move to developmental politics.

We have perfected the art of organizing foot soldiers, rallying delegates, preparing polling station executives, sensitizing serial callers into radio programs, these have been done at the behest of training the next generation to be value-driven, honest and patriotic citizens.

Countries that are ravaged by civil war, are urged to make a transition from bullets to ballots.

But in our case, while we hold on to the ballots, let’s shift our focus from votes to visions, let’s evolve from winning the next election to securing the next generation, let’s move from a comparison of records to a refinement of ideas, let’s transition from winning the argument to winning the fight against ignorance, poverty and disease.

Let’s evolve from Vigilante groups to becoming Citizen Vigilantes, from invisible forces to creating visible change, and Azorka boys to occupying the minds of Ghanaians.

Its time for change!

Politics in Ghana too often pretends to be a contest of ideas when it is indeed and in fact a parochial battle of interests.

The private press has given a large platform for politicians to sell their message to Ghanaians.

Enough!

That era has served its term.

We need to transition from political agenda setting to a national agenda framing.

Our national conversation must take us back to a candid look at the constitution as it is and boldly embrace the changes proposed in the now abandoned constitution review process.

But to lead this drive the media itself needs to do another shift.

The modern journalist needs a new set of skills to enable her perform the vital role of national agenda shaping.

We must move from knowledge to insight.

FROM KNOWLEDGE TO INSIGHT

We have to better appreciate the role of the citizen and duty bearers in this nation-building project.

We must begin to highlight the role and responsibilities of the various state actors in delivering development.

To do this effectively we must remember a few hard facts about Journalism.

Our obligation is to the truth. (Not NPP or NDC)

Our loyalty is to Citizens. (Not business interests or political parties)

Our profession in essence is a discipline of verification.

Beyond these, journalists need to develop a deep understanding of the subjects they cover, not just to allow them report the news intelligently and accurately, but to also question the basis of many assumptions that been uncontested for decades.

Economics journalists for instance ought to understand the flaws with the Neo-classical worldview, which underpins the economic models we have pursued for years.

Our work must evolve from news reporting to news analysis to cause advocacy when necessary.

In the words of Matt Winkle of Bloomberg news, “Journalists ought to understand the connections between economies, markets, companies, industries and governments.”

“They must not only understand but also appreciate the connections and relationships between these entities or information blocs because the public, our readers, listeners and viewers suffer the consequence of our ignorance.”

The third shift we must have is in the coverage of news.

FROM TOP DOWN TO BOTTOM UP

The world is at the cusp of the 4th industrial revolution, the center of that revolution is information and communication, and journalists and media entities are part of the crew steering that ship on the oceans of civilization.

We cannot afford to keep reporting, “he said” and “she said”forever. We cannot continue to keep quoting only the people at the top.

The people ofAdenta/Madina whose roads were killing then needed a voice.

The people of Ashaiman, Abelkuma Manhean and on the N1 need to be given the microphone as well.

If we don’t highlight the problems they face and tell their stories to the world, the force of their frustration and the angst of the many years of broken promises could spill over into waves of protests we cannot contain.

As storytellers we must allow the ordinary people to vent.

We must consciously make a shift from the Top-Down news agenda to bottom up reportage.

Journalists should stop chasing politicians after press conferences, for more sound bites.

Lets go to ordinary people and allow them to share their views about the issues.

The elected and unelected bureaucrats have had their say long enough, let’s go to the marketplaces, and the lorry stations, let’s go to the farms, let’s go to the streets and the slums, let’s hear from the ordinary people!

Enough of the pontification on structural rigidities and fiscal deficits and macroeconomic mambo jumbo. Let’s now humanize the budget and simplify the scripts.

We must be comprehensive and detailed in our stories, accurate and balanced in our reporting, cogent and convincing in our analysis, and rigorous and unrelenting in our questioning, but also bottom up in our focus.

We must be honest enough to admit our mistakes when we discover them and be diligent enough to correct them.

The fourth shift we must have as a country is a collective shift.

FROM INTENTIONS TO ACCOMPLISHMENTS

My team reviewed newspaper headlines on Friday November 23, 2018, and made an interesting discovery.

We found an uncanny similarity in the headlines for the 4 or so newspapers we reviewed.

“SEC Ghana to benefit from Africa Regulator Programme”; Claude Nyarko Adams, Ghanaian Times

“Upper East to curb teenage pregnancy”. Samuel Akapule Ghanaian Times

“Ablekuma North Assembly to Maximize Revenues”- GNA, Daily Graphic

“Gov’t to Create 5 new Assemblies- Daily Graphic

“Gov’t to award contracts to vulnerable groups”- Adwoa Sarfo. Emilia Enin Abbey, Daily Graphic.

“Project to reduce impact of climate change lauded”, Seth J. Bokpe, Daily Graphic

“NPA to begin cylinder recirculation model pilot in Kumasi”, – New Weekend Crusading Guide.

Govt to begin rearing for Food and Jobs in 2019- Ministry of Agric. – New Weekend Crusading Guide

Public Sector reforms to support private sector. – Goldstreet Business

Cocobod to supply weeding machines to farmers next year- Daily Statesman

Govt to build 200,000 affordable homes for Ghanaians-

These headlines are not a media conspiracy to abuse the future tense. They are a reflection of what has become too common in Ghanaian leaders’ speeches.

Promises, Intentions, Announcements and Declarations masquerading as concrete news that should make us happy.

If our national conversation ought to change, it must categorize news from the intentions of politicians to the actual accomplishments of leaders.

We must transition from the future tense of empty declarations to the past perfect tense of concrete deliverables.

We must move away from anecdotal evidence to accurate measurements.

FROM ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE TO ACCURATE MEASUREMENT

We are in data-driven era. we must understand data and how numbers work.

The data era requires one important yardstick- Measurement, i.e. deadlines, timelines, quantities, values, and rates that make sense to the ordinary reader or hearer.

Measurement and precision1 must be at the heart of our national discourse

How many people are getting access to good health care?

How long does it take the average citizen to get treatment at a hospital?

How much time does one have to spend at the passport office to secure a passport?

How long do we spend in traffic to get to work and back?

What percentage of our waste is recycled?

How much nutrition does the average school going child get?

How many of our pupils can actually read, and write?

How long does an average asphalt road last before potholes set in?

What is the average cost of a kilometer of road in Ghana?

How much does it cost to rent a chamber and hall in kasoa?

How many people live in our slums, where do they sleep? What do they eat? How they do “number two?”

Our national conversations must be driven by cold hard facts and numbers-not sentimental wishy-washy hot air.

Finally, in reporting the reality on the ground and telling the stories we tell, we need to learn as media to bring balance. Because in making these comparisons, one is tempted to be extreme. We need to

CONCLUSION

A BALANCING ACT

The journalist who sits at the heart of the media space as the engine is not just a reporter of news, or an interviewer of people, or a maker of features or documentaries, she is also a mirror, showing people who they really are and helping them define their self concept by relentlessly pursing the truth, using the various tools at his/her disposal.

Journalism at its best is light and heat, light to show people who they are and heat to comfort the afflicted. Heat to also burn the chaff of waste and chase those who mismanage our resources.

We need a new narrative on Ghana, yes we must highlight the problems but also show the success stories, give a voice to the voiceless and walk the tight balance between reminding our leaders of the big problems we face without failing to give hope to the many who listen and read us daily for inspiration.

This is an important balance we must strike, if we are to drag this nation to its next level.

The future of the country doesn’t depend on hard news alone, we must encourage creative movie makers who tell us stories about our history.

We must go back to our language and go back to the days of Akan Drama, By the Fireside and TV Theatre.

We do not only need “intellectual’ hard news we must also create content that will put smiles on people’s faces.

Because media at its best is about letting people know who they truly are.

So this also goes to the content creators on TV stations, to spend money and invest in culturally refined content. Lets spend money on the arts, lets not spend all the resources on news, and think that in that way we can shape minds.

We must go back to creative cultural content and repossess our colonized creative spaces.

We cannot end this session without underscoring the importance of revisiting our collective work ethic.

We have to go back to the values of hard work and exertion for “the heights of nations reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while others slept, toiled their way through the night.”

A FRAMEWORK FOR NEW NATIONAL DISCOURSE

To conclude, I want to leave you with a framework for national discourse. Topics I think the media ought to highlight in the days ahead.

Public Transport. Why should any civilized country allow the horrible trotro system to continue?We must insist on a working BRT system, whether in this government or the next. The trotros we sit in are not worth human lives, and the lorry stations are not fit for purpose. This has to change.

We need a civilized public transport system, and the media must lead that agenda.

Public Health. We sunk over a billion dollars into 16 hospitals and not one of them is working as we speak, we must change from focusing on concrete buildings to how many human lives are being saved in our hospitals.

We must shift the focus to patients and to preventive health.

Quality Education. We should move the reporting from whether Free SHS or not, to what is the content of the education we are giving to pupils and how we sustain the gains in the increased enrollment in the sector?

Not forgetting that over a third of our basic schools do not even have toilet facilities.

Growing Urbanization and its challenges

Our growing urbanization has led to expensive rent and lack of housing, increasing crime and social vice.

Let’s stop simply reporting promises of housing projects and actually discuss the best alternatives to housing our poor.

Power Sector

We don’t even know whether dumsor is back or not.

The increasing spate of defilement in our schools and communities

Open defecation and poor sanitation

Where are we in the quest to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa?

We need to insist on a working recycling program and underscore the fact that every house needs a toilet. It’s a national disgrace for 20% of the population to do open defecation and to be consistently performing poorly in global sanitation rankings.

The Cancer of corruption: Petty and Grand

As evidenced in overblown contracts and deliberate tactics to frustrate citizens in getting access to legitimate state services.

Why should citizens pay bribes to get access to their TINs? If it takes a bribe to get the right to pay a tax, is that not double taxation?

Enough of the corruption, we must start naming and shaming saboteurs who use public office to harass and extort from ordinary people.

We must highlight the evils of corruption on various levels and expose and punish people who steal our monies and walk about with impunity.

We must deliberately seek to highlight things that unite us and avoid over indulging in things that divide us as a nation.

We must remember that this nation was not handed to us on a silver platter. Men and women had to sacrifice their time, some lost their lives in the quest to get us independent. Now it’s our turn to move the nation to the next level. We cannot afford to fail the next generation. We cannot afford to be comfortable.

It is time for the new generation of the Ghanaian to arise;

Arise from the ashes of complacency, and move into the future of diligence

We must arise from the ashes of laziness and hypocrisy and move into a future of hard work and humility.

We must remember the words of the song composed by the great Ghanaian Ephraim Amu, but made popular in various languages:

1st Stanza

Y?n ara asaase ni

?y? abo?denden ma y?n

Mogya a nananom hwie gu, nya de too h? maa y?n

Aduru me ne wo nso so

S? y?b?y? bi atoa so

Nimde?-ntraso, nkotokrane ne ap?s?menkomenya

Adi y?n bra mu d?m

Ama y?n asaase ho d? at?m’ s?

1st Stanza

This is our (own) homeland

It is priceless to us

Our forefathers gained it for us at the peril of their lives

It is the turn of you and I

To continue the legacy

Know-it-all behavior, cheating and selfishness

Has maimed our character

And diminished our love for our land

Chorus (2x)

?man no s? ?b?y? yie oo!

?man no s? ?reny? yie oo!

?y? ns?nnah? s?, ?manfo bra na ?kyer?

Chorus (2x)

Whether this nation prospers!

Or it (the nation) doesn’t prosper!

Clearly depends on the character of the citizenry

We must rise up and insist on good citizenship, better leadership and a greater commitment to the national goo.Let’s rise up!

God bless our homeland Ghana, and make our nation great and strong.

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