Opinions Wed, 22 Aug 2007

Democracy and Challenge of Change: The case of Ghana

Since the “miracle years” Ghana has chosen a part of liberal democracy, free market economics and sustainable development.

In developed countries, liberal democracies had taken years to evolve, and despite their inefficiencies, they had better record in satisfying the aspirations of their citizens. Although there are no application models of democracies, however institutional arrangements differ substantially in many countries without ceasing to be democratic. Since the beginning of the 21st century the criteria for democracy in Africa has gone further than in the past.

For example, during the Structural Adjustment policies in Africa, the IMF and the World Bank programmes dismantled the health care facilities. In Ghana, under the structural requirements, the health budget was limited to the order of under $1 per person per year. Under this new philosophy of health care provision which was adopted by the PNDC/NDC administration, the population were made to depend on largely untrained lay people to provide their care, because majority of the health professionals, perhaps the best trained health personnel in Africa, took their skills abroad (see tenets of International division of Labour).

In an ideal world, we would expect a democracy to give equal rights to all regardless of social category. In 2000, Ghanaians were able to exercise this fundamental right to change their leader without violence. The underlying consensus for the Ghanaian peaceful change of government was the “rule of law” put in place which all the parties consented. Free electoral system, a free flow of information, a system of checks and balances to curb abuse of power, and protection for the losers in the political battle as well as for other minorities were important elements that were enshrined in the constitution to ensure past injustices does not happened again.

The 1992 constitution also guarantee access to national wealth, property, education and health to enable the citizens to participate effectively in democratic politics. The essence is to make a direct connection between democracy and liberal market economics, thus providing a choice to the consumer (electorates).

Applying the above mentioned “rights” created a number of problems in Ghana. First, the excessive display of wealth by politicians has diminished respect for them and political institutions. The voters believed that politicians are using office to enrich themselves and their cronies and/or were incapable of delivering what they the voters wanted.

Then there is the problem with the media, which seemed more concerned with personalities and private issues than policies. The increasing power of money in the political process has also created a problem that is seriously undermining any positive policies that the government has introduced, such as the recent demonetisation.

As the saying goes, solutions, were as always, more difficult than analysis. Some commentators, including this writer argued that there must be greater delegation of decisions and their implementation, without losing overall democratic control. Thus pressing issues such as poverty, HIV-AIDS and ignorance are more likely to be addressed effectively when accompanied by political and social reform.

Improvements needed to be made to the political, social, physical and business infrastructure, with an accent on education and primary health care which could produce benefits for the many and not just the few, as is the case now. It is in the interest of all stakeholders that change should come and thereby reduce hostility that threatens Ghana’s democracy directly.

Throughout the presidential campaign only two candidates have discussed the most important issues that far more outweighs all the bickering going on in Ghana. Arthur Kobina Kennedy of NPP (and the current front runner) was the first to publish his manifesto. Kennedy’s policy goes beyond rhetoric and addresses the real issues confronting the country. In his “Mission” crusade, Kennedy acknowledges that the proportion of Ghanaians living in absolute poverty has increased since 2000 and the depth of poverty is greater. Speaking to the Diaspora in Chicago, Illinois, Kennedy identified corruption and lack of motivation as some of the drawbacks to Ghana’s development.

Agyeman Badu Akosa, a CPP presidential candidate, during an interview with this writer in London recently, stated that the Bretton Woods structural adjustment policies have resulted in widening the gap between rich and poor and shrinking government health and education programs. Quoting directly from Professor Noam Chomsky, Akosa said, “Freedom without opportunity is a devil’s gift, and the refusal to provide such opportunities is criminal”. At times emotional, Akosa said, “Peter, while I am answering your questions, over 50 children will die in my homeland from easily preventable disease”.

Agyeman Badu Akosa and Arthur Kobina Kennedy are the only presidential candidates to openly acknowledge the advantages of the current technological breakthroughs in Ghana’s development.

Akosa said one cannot divulge democracy from economic growth, and explained that the current inventions in biological sciences has a great potential to improve agricultural production at the small-holder level, thus giving the farmer more control of his healthy produce.

In his mission crusade in Chicago, Illinois, Kennedy promised to critically consider the establishment of Stem cell research in Korle Bu and Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals, Accra and Kumasi respectively.

Theorists of democracy cannot ignore the economic context within which democracy is nestled. Democracy must have real benefits to the citizens. Such benefits are well known to all, such as the right to criticise without fear of persecution by the state or its agents in the “security services” or the “press”. The other rights relate to the following:

1) Jobs

2) Food

3) Health

4) Education

5) Old age

6) Incomes.

In 2000 Ghanaian voters rejected the rule of tyranny and corruption in favour of John Kufuor’s moderate brand of democracy, where rule of law, economic prosperity and free speech prevailed.

In 2008, Ghanaian voters have the opportunity to reject greed, arrogance and corruption in favour of selfless rule, opportunity, accountability, transparency, development and real free speech.

The above analysis does not necessary mean the rejection of any one party, but a guide to how people must vote, based on past, present and future events.

Within the 2 parties (CPP, NPP) there are candidates, though not been tested, but have shown, through speeches and track record that given the opportunity they can take forward Ghana’s development to the take off phase.

With the nomination of Professor Mills as the NDC flag bearer, the remaining 2 candidates’ (CPP and NPP) faith, and to some degree the faith of Ghana, are in the hands of CPP and NPP delegates. Their choice will determine which of the candidate is elected the next president of Ghana.

To make wise choice, this writer wants to directly appeal to the CPP and NPP delegates to let the lyrics of the Ghana national anthem (below) and “Hen ara asase ni” be their shining light. They must reject “bribe” and promise of “riches” and vote based on the plight of the jobless youth, poor farmers, poor market women, workers, children who go to bed hungry, because their parents cannot afford to buy food for them.

“God bless our homeland Ghana, And make our nation great and strong, Bold to defend for ever, The cause of Freedom and of Right. Hail to thy name, O Ghana, To thee we make our solemn vow; Steadfast to build together, A nation strong in Unity; With our gifts of mind and strength of arm, Whether night or day, in the midst of storm, In every need what ever the call may be, To serve thee, Ghana, now and ever more. Rise high the flag of Ghana, And one with Africa advance; BLACK STAR of hope and honour; To all who thirst for Liberty;Where the banner of Ghana freely flies,May the way to freedom truly lie; Arise, arise, O sons of Ghanaland, And under God march on for evermore!”

This writer wants to remind CPP and NPP delegates that they are voting for a potential President of Ghana and not just party leader. The CPP and NPP delegates have the whole of Ghana in their hands, as everyone now recognises that the potential President of Ghana will emerge from one of the two parties.

The delegates must be bold to defend our infant democracy by electing the best candidate. They must reject any inference of corruption and let the plight of the poor guide them at the congress. The delegates must scrutinise the candidates and reject those whose hands are soiled. As a Christian nation, this writer and Ghanaian people pray that the good Lord gives the CPP and NPP delegates’ wisdom and foresight to elect the best candidate, their decision based on integrity, ability, honesty, fear of God, selfless devotion to duty and someone who is beyond reproach.

The “beyond reproach” underpins Agymang Badu Akosa’s presidential bid in Accra recently and Kobina Kennedy’s call to serve. The future of Ghana is in your hands, DELEGATES! Vote wisely, vote for the future prosperity of our motherland. God Bless CPP and NPP delegates as the whole nation pray for them to vote for a God fearing and HONEST candidate.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter