It is indeed said that, a nation that does not honour its heroes is certainly not worth dying for. But as to whether giving them huge ex- gratia is an honour or not needs to be considered. After every four years, discussions on the retirement benefits of Article 71 holders become heated and topical in Ghana.
Many Ghanaians continue to wonder, why the nation has to pay huge sums of money for political actors as their ex-gratia when a vast majority of the workforce who retire after over 25 years in public service do not earn even 10 percent of what politicians take every four years. This is indeed worrying. As a country, there is the need to a have a better look at end of service benefits for all the labour force and by extension make plans for those within the informal sector.
It is indeed an honour and a privilege to get over 50percent of the voting class endorsing one to serve as President of land. In our fourth Republican era, Ghana has had five heads of state with two joining their ancestors. These five gentlemen have contributed significantly and immensely towards the growth and development agenda of Ghana. It may not be out of place for the country to cater for all their needs after they have exited the highest office of the land.
One thing that surprises me the most about the end of service benefits of our former heads of state is the controversies that have always surrounded their accommodation component of their ex- gratia.
From President Rawlings’ Ridge residence, to the rejection of an accommodation by President Kufuor and the brouhaha over President Mahama’s residence.
Just as I already indicated, it makes sense to cater for our former Presidents, it is indeed an honour but as to whether this mode is a befitting honour or not needs careful consideration.
For an individual to rise to occupy the highest office of the land means such a person has excelled in a chosen field and is largely capable of providing for his or her basic needs including accommodation.
As a country, it is time we reconsider our way of honouring our former presidents.
We need to think of a way of preserving their legacies rather than spending so much on ex- gratia and giving them houses which they can comfortably afford.
Posterity needs to remember Chairman Rawlings for his charismatic style of leadership, his open outburst against corruption, his infrastructural drive, his extension of electricity to the rural villages and many others.
Posterity must always have a means of remembering the legacies of the gentle and soft spoken President Kufuor, his social intervention programs, economic transformation initiatives among others.
Generations yet unborn must appreciate that, there was once a humble president who always addressed Ghanaians as his brothers and sisters, a president who contributed significantly to improve wages and salaries of public sector workers, a leader who contributed significantly to our economic transformation. Posterity needs to know President Mills for his total advocacy for peace.
We need to realize that, we once had a leader who invested hugely in infrastructure and believed that, the best way for private sector growth was to ensure that, there was an enabling environment in terms of good roads, access to education by all, access to health care among others. Posterity must remember President Mahama.
Posterity must have a means of learning and remembering the ideals, philosophies and interventions of President Akuffo-Addo. Posterity must appreciate the social interventions such as Planting For food and jobs, Free Senior High School among others.
Instead of paying (fat) ex- gratia as a way of honouring them. We may as well consider putting up lasting monuments in their honour.
For me, the best way to honour our Leaders is to keep their legacies and memories with a Presidential Library or hub.
A presidential library or hub in the home regions of former Presidents will be a good step to honour and keep their legacies. These libraries should be stocked with all speeches, budgets, manifestoes, writings, philosophies, interventions, images, videos, biographies and initiatives of Presidents.
How many of the younger generation can confidently narrate the contributions of Dr. Busia, Kutu Acheampong, Afrifa, General Akuffo, Dr, Liman among others to national and global development? Probably a few can but if the country had built Presidential Hubs in their honour, younger generations could easily access the contributions, philosophies and ideals of these sons of the Land.
The libraries or hubs could as well serve as a training centre for the youth to nurture their entrepreneurial ideas. These hubs can be run in such a way that it will be self-sustaining and even provide scholarships and many other social interventions for the communities. This indeed could encourage tourist attraction in the humble villages of our Former Presidents and attract investments and donor support. Most importantly, these libraries or hubs will give hope and a reason for rural folks to dream high and believe in their aspirations and convictions if one of their own was able to rise to occupy such a high office.
Let us honour our leaders by keeping their memories and legacies with a Presidential Library or hub.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great.
A better Ghana,
A brighter Africa.
The writer holds a Master’s degree in Development Policy and Planning from KNUST, a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Ghana Business School, A YALI fellow and team member of the SOS-Children’s Villages “No Business as Usual Project” which is promoting local socio-economic development and training youth with employable and entrepreneurial skills in Kumasi