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Opinions Fri, 2 Oct 2020

Election 2020 and the freestyle of promises

A Wikipedia excerpt defines Freestyle as: “a style of improvisation with or without instrumental beats, in which lyrics are recited with no particular subject or structure.

While my motivation for this piece is unconnected with music and its minutiae, a snip of the excerpt which reads ‘with no particular subject or structure’ will be instructive as I share my thoughts on what I consider a freestyle of political promises currently pervading the political landscape.

Promises of milk and honey to electorates in an attempt to earn votes is as old as Ghana’s first democratic elections. it’s been with us and will endure; so of course, politicians always adopt it as their most potent tool ahead of major polls like the imminent 2020 general elections.

The current New Patriotic Party (NPP) government came to power on the back of generous promises that it concedes have not been achieved in its entirety. The government is however quick to point to policies like the Free Senior High School Education, Planting for Food and Jobs, One District One Factory and others that are evidently impacting lives.

The erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government also wooed Ghanaians with promises of their own in their recent electoral triumphs in 2008 and 2012-some of which they genuinely kept while in office.

Admittedly, neither of the of the NPP and NDC has been able to exhaustively fulfil manifesto promises, but as many would agree, it is important to ensure that a significant portion of the usually tall list of promises are kept when a party is given the mandate to serve.

Often when parties have failed to fulfil their promises, it is because too much was promised with no particular focus or structure of how their lofty pledges will be implemented.

Because opposition parties are often slightly disadvantaged heading into major polls, they are more likely to ensnare themselves into making tasty promises that they will assuredly struggle to fulfil when granted their wish to manage the country.

As with musical ‘freestyle’, most political promises in an election year are nothing but a spontaneous recitation of ‘unrehearsed rhythmically organized words’ of hope. Sometimes this means that political actors make unrealistic promises to the electorate-promises that are made-up only they go along.

The forgoing is corroborated by no less a person than the flagbearer of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama –who is undoubtedly the best person to allude to the superfluous promises by politicians ahead of elections- having himself been a former sitting president and now a flagbearer.

The former president is recently seen in a viral video during an address to party faithful’s asserting that ahead of elections, it is commonplace for political to make superfluous promises.

He notes in the video that political parties make unrealistic promises just to ensure that they gain goodwill of the electorate –with an equal mix of truth and untruths.

While his much publicized speech was projected by his adversaries as his own reflection and that of the party he represents, any discerning observer of the local political scene will tell you that the comments are a reasonably accurate account of what most politicians express on a political podium during electoral campaigns. Let us assume his comments are a rare truth in an otherwise untruthful season’; but must we go on knowing that every politician that shows up to solicit for your vote is there to lie to you? I believe we still have honest politicians who would prefer to make measured and practical promises that they can genuinely implement if they are elected to serve the good people of Ghana.

We must not accept that politics and lies are substitute words. There are honest people with pristine-reputations that will shy away from politics if we allow palpable lies to gain foothold-indeed, today the lies bare down on us like a cloud –but it is possible to alter that narrative-simply make reasonable promises, explain your policies the best way you can and allow the discerning public to judge on election day. simple!

Already there is an avalanche of promises-from the ludicrous to the thoughtful –I will however deliberately stop short of comparing promises to avoid inadvertently bruising either of the two main political parties, the NPP and the NDC.

I believe that a greater percentage of the electorate have made up their mind already on who would have their votes come December 7. lies or no lies. For the politician who is hopeful therefore, an honest promise backed by a clear explanation is the only way. The only way to earn the trust of the rest of the electorate who may still be indecisive on who to vote for is to present reasonable promises that are both appealing and doable in the event that such a candidate wins. Wild and controversial promises may resonate well with party faithful’s but could be a big turn-off for floating voters-who have a remarkable influence on where victory will swing eventually.

With less than 70 days until Ghana heads to the polls, the freestyle of promises is blasting at optimum volume. let it be known however that sincerity and honesty of purpose are the only mix that will convince Ghanaians to vote for candidate A or B. The four-year ritual of a freestyle of promises doesn’t mean that Ghanaians are hexed not to see through nicely packaged lies.

When I peer into the future, I see with great clarity that someone will be rewarded handsomely with a four-year mandate on December 7-and so will someone suffer comprehensive rejection. Though not an augur, I dare to prophesy that whoever gets rejected would have met his fate partly as a consequence of freestyling promises that the Ghanaian electorate found untrue and untenable. A word to the wise I hope would be enough.
Columnist: Samuel Owusu-Aduomi
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