I would be glad for Ghanaian and African Journalists to take a sip from this cup of tea, with the hope that they would not serve the public less.
I know you want to count yourself out. The truth is inasmuch as we have some journalists doing the right things and asking the right questions without fear or favor, most also serve the public less. The media being the fourth arm of government is not a privilege but a necessary arm to serve as a check on government. Great scholars like Jean Bodin, Lord Acton and John Locke believe that the concentration of power in men has the tendency of turning them into a necessary evil for our society. The media has a responsibility to serve as “watch dog” to making the President and his Cabinet, Parliamentarians and members of the Judiciary become efficacious in serving the good citizenry.
Franz Oppenheimer, a German sociologist pointed two ways of acquiring wealth, economic means and political means, the latter has given politicians leverage to become demigods in our society. In recent times politicians have succeeded in using the media to drive home their propaganda. This ranges from misleading reportage to sword cutting ceremonies on projects that is not completed.
As for the misleading reportage, the truth comes to bear with time. Sometimes I become perplexed and astonished seeing the way our media hype projects that is said to commence. For God’s sake the sod-cutting events for roads, hospitals, clinics, schools to mention but few are not near completion. However, the attention Journalists and media houses give to such projects are amazing.
These acts confuse a significant number of the public. The Ghana Living Standard Survey (2013) reveals a literacy rate of 56.3 percent, therefore Ghana has about 43.7 percent of the population to be illiterates. Once a significant number of persons are unable to read or write a simple sentence in English and any Ghanaian language with understanding, hear such reportage on government projects, it drives home politicians’ propaganda and makes everything look as if the projects are done. This is because it will be very rear for the fellow to verify the completion of the reported projects, making grassroot campaign so easy for political party.
Few months down the line, the jamboree of hyped project ceremonies resurface becoming a matter of politicization, then we all come back to business as usual. At one end, the Left will say our government did a lot on building and transformational projects. On the other hand, the Right will say, you didn’t carry out those project, our government is now doing the action. This goes on and on, even reputable many political talk shows, where problems are discussed with no solutions. What is more tragic is the politics of equalization, where politicians battle to the glory of who is the Bigger Thief. Alas, both thus opposition and government agree that they are THIEVES. A thief is a thief, whether you stole something huge or little, it does not make you less of a thief and everyone in the society is affected by the political plunder irrespective of which political colours you belong.
The media and journalists determine what is news and who is news worthy thus making them possess a powerful instrument that can be used for good or bad. Therefore, journalists should cherish their platform and the trust citizenry uphold in them to provide quality information with no ulterior motive or quest to do the biding of any politician. In serious countries, political parties have their media house and they make that known to the public without operating as if they have no agenda for their political parties.
The Journalists have allowed for their platforms to be used to trumpet projects and poverty reduction initiatives in the commencement stages. Let’s consider the view of Franklin Cudjoe on this subject as he captions it in an article, Rock-Star Economics are not helping poor Africa;
“Development charities loathe international agencies such as IMF and World Bank – many people would agree though that dealing with these agencies is like a loaded dice. They have empowered our politicians to engage in shady liberalization deals, where international contracts are rigged to favour their cohorts with fat kickbacks”.
Also, Prof. George Ayittey’s analysis on Banana and Coconut Republic, you realize that in both Republics, it is either the funds for a project is used to satisfy cronies completely or the amount used to carry out the project is far less as compared to the total amount allocated for the project.
In all these though, it is known that these aids have achieved little towards improving the life of an average Ghanaian, especially for healthcare, the least said the better. On the contrary, these aids have solved the poverty of our politicians, enabling them and their cronies to cruise in V8.
Most donors do not live with us on the continent. Media reportage on commencement of projects, adding huge publicity for a sod-cutting ceremony becomes to some extent, a reliable channel for most donors to monitor how well their aids are being used. Therefore, I’d rather have the media platform to be used to highlight on ceremonies for completion of project, progress report, impact of poverty reduction initiatives and employment programs, to a large extent the, say 100th citizens who utilized or benefited from the project, than the mere commencement of such project.
Some media houses and journalists in contemporary times, have followed up or given air space on some of the uncompleted project and you would be amazed how rich the economy of uncompleted projects is in Ghana and other African Countries. Research findings from Isaac Sakyi Damoah and Cynthia Akwe on Government Project Failure in Ghana, confirms to a large extend. Martin J Williams in his research on the ‘Political Economy of Unfinished Development Projects’ concluded that one out of three projects that commence are never completed in a total of 14000 small project in Ghana.
In conclusion, I am sorry if you cannot sip from the cup i have served with passion, care and love. However, it is about time Journalists put the media platform to a use that will not drive home political propaganda. Let’s assess our politicians on the progress they make rather than the intentions they have.
Article by: Nathaniel Dwamena
Programs Manager, Young Africans for Opportunities (YAFO)
Researcher, Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI)
CENTER FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE