Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster, Founder and Leader National Interest Movement (NIM) and Chairman of the Ghana First Platform speaks with the Ghanaian Times on the National Interest Movement agenda 2020 and Beyond christened “A people’s charter to bring prosperity for the all, not a few” that seeks constitutional change and introduction of key policies to ensure a profoundly different system of governance, economic structure and social fabric of the Ghanaian society. We reproduce below excerpts of the interview:
Ques: Dr. Sakara, what accounts for your switch from partisan politics to pursue the National Interest Movement as a national agenda?
Ans: The reasons for my resignation from the Convention People’s Party was put in the public domain a long time ago (2016) and I don’t want political party partisanship to be confused in any way with the National Interest Movement (NIM) and its independent reform agenda that has nothing to do with any particular political party. So NIM’s mantra is Ghana First!, Nation above Party, Ghana before self!
The two dominant political parties (NDC, NPP) have allowed the intensity of their competition for power, to drive them to extremes of partisanship that are rarely seen outside Africa.
The late former President Professor J.E.A. Mills commissioned a Constitutional review that signaled many issues needed to change. Since then the constitutional review document has been gathering dust on shelves. To be fair, President Nana Akufo-Addo has held a successful referendum to create new regions in response to demands by the affected people. However the real deal, which was to permit District and Municipal Chief Executives to be elected by the people on non-partisan lines failed because it was distorted to allow their election along partisan lines
We have combined some key issues people are dissatisfied with the broad elements of the constitutional review output to propose key changes in NIM’s People’s Charter.
We have a democratic system that has become too polarized by blind partisanship. The patriotic pursuit of a vision that unites the nation and builds for the future has been put on the “back burner” of the nation’s agenda, only to be given lip service. Populism and playing to the gallery are the order of the day. What was bad yesterday is good today, if it helps to win elections at any cost. Examples of such contradictions include the ‘Okada’ saga, hawking on the streets, sole sourcing in procurement, ‘galamsey’ etc. the list is endless, so where lies the good governance?
As a people, we have lost the ability to see what inures or injures the national interest
Ques: Could you share with us some of the key policies in your People’s charter?
Ans: Ghana is not yet sufficiently inclusive; it operates a winner takes all system. To correct this NIM proposes a constitutional amendment of the electoral law to permit formation of coalition governments without resorting to second round voting, when there is no clear majority of 50% plus 1 vote. The presidential candidate with the highest votes has the first opportunity to form a coalition government that will have a clear majority of combined votes for the Presidency.
NIM also proposes a restructured Council of State in which leadership of prescribed stakeholders institutions and groups will elect representatives to the council of state.
NIM also proposes a Civil Service Committee that recruits and promotes public officials strictly according to meritocracy. NIM proposes a change of the constitution to lengthen the term of office to 6 years instead of four, to increase opportunity for continuity and bring more focus to development.
On the economic front, NIM proposes adoption of the long term National Development Plan that will form a regulatory framework for deriving political party manifestos. This will restrict the manifesto of parties to defined segments according to steps in the ladder of our evolving national economic transformation.
NIM proposes a shift of local government from district to regional level to enable a concentration of human resources in the regional hub. More regions will need to be created but they should not exceed thirty regions, otherwise the economy of scale needed for effective local government will be lost once again.
On the economy, the financial system shall be influenced to redirect investment into productive sector of the economy in conformity with the declared objective of enhancing productivity in the production and manufacturing sectors. Interest rates for commercial lending shall be capped and a special window created for agriculture lending at a maximum of eight (8%) interest rate per annum. We have to guide and use the free market in a way in which it will benefit more of our people and grow more of your economy. We need to intervene in an emerging economy to force it go in a certain way to create prosperity for all. We should and take more pragmatic approach to the economy.
NIM demands discipline, honesty and patriotism. We can’t buy these virtues in super markets. So, NIM proposes that youth of ages 16 to 25 years must undergo 2 years of compulsory military training to create a new sense of identity for a new generation of Ghanaians. Embedded in that are opportunities for education with a more Afrocentric curriculum that will give emphasis to developing artisanal and technical skills.
Ques: How are you going to achieve the issues in the people’s charter?
Ans: We are mobilising to influence the political discourse. We have written to all stakeholders to insist that politicians talk about the things that matter to effectiveness of our system, instead of only material things. The next step is to mobilize for a mandate in a referendum in 2022. By 2024 there should be a level playing field for the election with opportunity to form a coalition government.
NIM will mobilise around independent candidates that campaign on an agenda for reform, first at parliamentary level and eventually at the presidential level.
NIM wants to reduce inequities to promote equity. We are trying to build a system and the reason we call it ‘People’s Charter is that it will lead to a path of prosperity for all, and not for a few. We must educate people to understand why we need the reform agenda and what it means to them in their ordinary lives.
Ques: Do you have a presidential ambition?
Ans: I knew that was the question you came to ask me (laugh). If I have contested for presidency before, does that not tell you that I have presidential ambition? But my presidential ambition is not what is driving this agenda. For that reason and to avoid confusion, you will not see Abu Sakara in the 2020 Presidential race. We are calling on all Ghanaians from all walks of life to make the reform agenda their own and to see what is right for the nation and not only what favours their party and ambitions. Ghana needs a systems change now and a referendum must be held in 2022 to table a comprehensive reform agenda that will create a new more equitable Ghana for political, economic and social pursuits.
Ques: Are you still an Nkrumahist?
Ans: I subscribe to Nkrumah’s Pan-African philosophy. Nkrumahism has gone across Africa and across the diaspora from where the pan-African dream began with the likes of Marcus Garvey. We have political parties outside of Africa continent that subscribe to the Nkrumah agenda and philosophy and practice it. Nkrumahism is a dynamic philosophy that we can embrace and re-interpret it to suit our times, it is not cast in stone. What I see in this country is that some people use Nkrumah as a crutch to promote their political ambition. I have not stopped being an Nkrumahist, although I vehemently disagree with those that exploit it as a personality cult. It’s not meant as pedestal for anyone to sit on as a self appointed heir. You can practice Nkrumahism in all shades and forms in your life without necessarily declaring yourself for a particular political party.
I often tease my friends in NPP that in this fourth Republic they have become more Nkrumahist than the socialist political parties. As if to make up for their past recalcitrance, they have, in a frenzy, introduced many socialist interventions such NHIS, Free SHS, National Youth Employment, and School feeding programs etc. So to answer the question as to who is an Nkrumahist, my answer is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating; not the label, name or in the talking (laugh). I’m happy that gov’ts from different walks of life now find themselves competing to do the things that would have been good for an Nkrumahist government to do; that’s good! The power of a philosophy of self awareness can transcend ideological barriers. After all Kwame Nkrumah said that “The measure of our progress will be determined by the welfare of our people.”
By Salifu Abdul-RahamanRead Full Story