H.E. MR. LEE OCRAN’S PIGEON-HOLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
Lang T.K.A. Nubuor
A week before his presentation on ‘Developmental Challenges in Ghana’, there are speculations at the Freedom Centre as to what actuates H.E. Mr. Lee Ocran, Ghana’s High Commissioner to the Republic of South Africa, to request for an opportunity to present his paper the following week to the Freedom Centre audience. The received understanding is that he seeks attention, possibly. What turns out to be the content of the attention-arresting piece, presented on January 18, 2012, sets everybody laughing uproariously at the jittery High Commissioner whose nervousness is not helped by the mere entry into the Centre’s space by Hon. Samia Nkrumah who does not even attempt to make an input into the discussion.
At the end of the presentation, a young Assemblyman sitting near us pronounces that while people seek the replacement of what His Excellency describes as corrupt and inefficient state institutions he talks of ‘repairing’ them. The Assemblyman finds the ensuing discussion of the presentation uninteresting until the voices of Lawyer Yaw Opoku and Mr. Kyeretwie Opoku are heard. The explosive comments of Mr. Kwesi Pratt in rejection of conceptions of social democracy as socialism by an unnamed Professor of Political Science obliquely land on the nose of His Excellency’s preference for social democracy. Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr then worsens the case for H.E. with a contribution on appropriate methodology.
Beginning his presentation, H.E. Mr. Lee Ocran states that he speaks in a personal but not in his official capacity. With this clarification, he sets out to prescribe pigeon-hole solutions to Ghana’s developmental challenges. For purposes of clarity, a pigeon-hole solution is understood here as one conceived on the premise that an African country can solve its problems and overcome its challenges on its own outside the framework of a politically liberated and united continent under a People’s Republican State of Africa. The proffered solution does not, so to speak, assume the existence of the African Nation within whose context problems and challenges are met but rather assumes the unviable state as its context.
This is not as if he does not see the need for a united Africa. At page 15 of his presentation he states that ‘If Africa is to prosper, we must remove all barriers between our nations. We blame colonialists for the partition of Africa and for the creation of artificial boundaries on the continent. However several decades after the collapse of colonialism, we have not dismantled these barriers. We have rather reinforced borders and treated ourselves as if we were not kith and kin’. The problem is that in spite of this recognition he insists on the existence of the ‘nations’ of Africa but not their dissolution into the African Nation which expresses the fact of our being ‘kith and kin’. In this respect, he fails to see the continued existence of the supposedly collapsed colonialism in its neo-colonial transfiguration and, hence, its continued role in the retention of the borders.
In fact, H.E. Mr. Lee Ocran does not perceive the urgency of the liberation of the whole of Africa from neo-colonialism and its unification as the immediate pre-requisite for African prosperity even when his own projection is that without this unification Africa cannot prosper. Rather than addressing himself this-wise he relies on the same neo-colonially-controlled institutions like the ECOWAS and the unviable state institutions which, sheepishly bleating alongside Obama, he calls for their being strengthened instead of being destroyed and replaced. He sincerely and correctly believes that ‘more intra-African trade could be extremely beneficial’ but he restricts his horizons to discredited regionalism instead of the entire continent when he proffers that ‘we should enhance inter-ECOWAS trade and deal with all impediments to Sub-Regional trade’
We are anxiously pointing out that when H.E. Mr. Lee Ocran tells us that ‘We have paid lip service to African Unity and Regional integration and reduced African Union and Sub-Regional meetings into an annual ritual for loud proclamations and show of oratory among leaders’ he is telling us what he actually does in league with the neo-colonial elite. This is what he does at the Freedom Centre. The failure to recognize neo-colonialism, which he does not mention even once in his speech, as the immediate impediment in the path to African development is a strategic failure that misdirects attention and energy to a wild goose chase. It is that failure which conditions the African mind in fruitless policy choices within the neo-colonial system.
The shame and nervousness of the African neo-colonial elite are predicated on their knowing what to do but rather play the ostrich. That explains H.E.’s nervousness and confession of confusion upon Hon. Samia’s entry. In fact, it is not Hon. Samia that he sees but a hallucination of Nkrumah’s Spirit. When he ejaculates the statement that ‘Here is an opponent’ or something to that effect at Hon. Samia’s appearance, he announces his shame in the manner of Judas. And it is that Spirit that shall continually torment the traitorous African neo-colonial elite who continue to oppose and ignore Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s vision for African liberation and unification on the crushed backs of neo-colonialism and imperialism. And this serving High Commissioner is one of them. He concentrates his trade in Ghana where he addresses himself to a reform of the irredeemable.
H.E. Mr. Lee Ocran perceives a very corrupt Ghanaian society encouraged by a regime of impunity. ‘Corruption’, he says, ‘is present at all levels of State and Private Institutions. It is so widespread in Ghana and rather hard to reduce without a radical and robust response’. He then attributes this to impunity thus: ‘There is too much impunity…’ He blames this on the fact that ‘the policy of “zero tolerance for corruption” has not been vigorously pursued in Ghana’. His solution is one of developing a Code of Conduct spread to cover public officials and corporate leaders but not politicians alone. Meanwhile, during discussion time he insists that the depth of corruption is such that it is the victim who initiates the misdemeanour. So that he does not really blame the aggressor in the first place.
The High Commissioner to the Republic of South Africa does not locate corruption in the institutional set up. He does not see that colonialism, a system of plunder and stealing, encourages official corruption which the official justifies as a reaction to colonial denial and exploitation. He does not see that that colonial arrangement remains intact under neo-colonialism. It is for this reason that when he is asked how he will eradicate corruption he says that he will be firm against its practice, ensuring that culprits are punished. Everything depends on his personal will but not on an institutional mechanism. He forgets that when he calls for strong institutions he intimates that such ‘institutions will take away … the persistence of a culture of impunity…’ which he previously states as the cause of corruption. You see, that is what happens when you do not really mean what you say.
The attachment of the neo-colonial elite to neo-colonial institutions is the devil hidden in the wheel of attempts to fight corruption which is an institutional malaise that infests the constitution of the newly recruited and deadens his resistance to the disease which becomes malignant. The problem, my brother, is not in our spirit but in our being, the conditions of our existence. We are the victims of neo-colonialism. Its eradication paves the way for our freedom and the recovery of our African Nation to pave the way for continental planning of our resource utilization and effective defence.
And, once again, it is not as if H.E. Mr. Lee Ocran is ignorant of the benefits of planning. But when he says that ‘It is now the moral obligation of all persons in Leadership or Management position to engage in serious repair work and long-term planning to ensure that future generations can thrive without being burdened by our failures of today and yesteryears’ he does not only prescribe planning on the wrong conception of the task as a repair work, however serious it is said to be, but also places a misplaced trust on persons in leadership or management. This cast of mind precludes the mass of the people as the agency of change. It still conceives development in the spirit of paternalistic acts of benevolence dropped unto the people. No, the projected African Nation institutionally structures itself into a People’s State.
The People’s Republican State of Africa, built on the basis of egalitarian humanism brewed in the African pot, has the people organized in down-to-top political structures that have their eyes set on collective behaviour in production and distribution. This is where H.E.’s proclaimed social democracy ideology is called into question. He explains that as a member of the Manifesto Committee of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) he sees the need to box capitalism and socialism together. In his presentation proper, his social democracy projects that the ‘central government has to set the right policy framework and give right and positive policy signals that will allow growth to prosper and unlock private sector investment potentials’. That is, the state focuses on nurturing capitalism.
It is in this spirit that His Excellency states the need ‘to develop local entrepreneurs that will lead manufacturing and industrial sector, thereby encouraging foreign investors to come and partner with them for national development… This will also lead to job creation and more employment of our young people’. Added to this the government introduces ‘differentiated interest rate policies so that the cost of borrowing for industrial and agricultural purposes could be considerably lowered’. So that a small section of the population together with foreign collaborators are financially enabled by the state to create businesses that they control to their benefit. These few then employ the mass of the people to work for them. The state does not facilitate businesses set up and controlled by the people for the people. Social democracy, according to H.E., this is.
When Lawyer Yaw Opoku and Mr. Kyeretwie Opoku raise issue with this obviously backward idea, His Excellency offers to tell a story of his abandonment of socialism. As a young socialist firebrand he is cautioned by an elderly official of state about his socialist orientation which he is assured will change once he becomes a family man after the age of 35. His sojourn later on to study in the Soviet Union makes him see what is practised as socialism to be, in fact, state capitalism contrary to the prescriptions of socialism. His studies in the US likewise make him see things differently. Finally, he rejects state capitalism but does not apply the principles of socialism whose practical manifestation he is yet to find. So the baby and the bathwater are both dispensed with.
He then expects everybody to applaud this wonderful logic of an Excellency. In fact, his sheepish self-indulgent smiles send the decibels of the laughter at this kind of reasoning to levels never before heard at the Freedom Centre. Mr. Kwesi Pratt stands by the nearest wall gently laughing at the gross ignorance, subsisting even after reading four volumes of Karl Marx, exhibited by His Excellency Mr. Lee Ocran. On this author’s part, the laughter might break his ribs. Why so? He observes that Ghanaians, including himself, are capable of laughing when they can be expected to sink into tantrums over somebody who appears to make unflattering assumptions about their intelligence. But the practice of making such assumptions actually begins from the moment H. E. makes attempts at defining development.
Reacting against ‘the impression that development is more about figures than the enhancement of the totality of the human condition’, he sees that development with ‘a human face’. His conception of ‘development goes beyond mere economic indicators (figures), income generation and building of infrastructure’ and includes ‘income distribution, development of local capabilities, promotion of appropriate mindset, attitudes, institutional building, good governance, sound management/leadership practices and provision of total human security.’ He sees the people ‘at the centre of all development’ which for him is not seen as an event but a journey. At times, he says, ‘our people are overly impatient and want to see development now’.
Although he cautions us that he speaks in his personal capacity and not as a government official, his list of developmental advances includes quotation of figures from the 2012 Budget Statement and Economic Policy. The figures portray a progression of all the economic indicators under the present government. In fact, there is no illustration of local capabilities in terms of activities in educational development; nothing about sound leadership practices, etc. Rather what is said to be positive in terms of development shows a drive towards the stability of the neo-colonial system. In his comments, Mr. Kwesi Pratt wonders how only 5% of gains from the mines to the government with the rest ostensibly flying out of the country could be called development.
If social democracy means the application of a cocktail of capitalist and socialist principles, as His Excellency the High Commissioner tells us, he fails to tell us the manifestation of a single application of a socialist principle. As a presentation innocuously crafted to justify the current government’s neo-colonial policies directed at sustaining pigeon-hole existence for the gratification of imperialism, ‘Development Challenges in Ghana’ fails to convince an ant. It is an apology for the neo-colonial system that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah asks to be destroyed and replaced with a true people-centred system in which the people are the creators and controllers of production and distribution.
Such a system, Prof. Akilagpa Sawyerr explains, derives from the historical practice of the African; which practice, we understand, emanates from African egalitarian humanism – that principle which, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah says, socialism shares with communalism and communism.
January 19, 2012