Fast Forward To 2008

Tue, 25 Apr 2006 Source: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka


If there is a topic that calls for podgy prating and vigorous funambulism, it must be the upcoming salacious elections of 2008. I know, I know, some of you are saying it?s too early to start fooling with it. Some are so worried about it that they don?t even want to talk about it. Others dread it because our nascent democracy will be sorely tested in so many ways. Maybe a third party win is what will cool the political cauldron down. From my viewpoint, now is the time to start talking about 2008 because it is going to mark a watershed in our political history. The fight for the soul and direction of the country is at stake. Will it be another fours years of NPP abulia and corruption or will we see another face in that 30 million presidential mansion? If the NDC wins, will the new president reject the harebrained multi-million dollar mansion just like Kufour flatly rejected the presidential jet that JRJ bought? What will the political climate be given all the threats coming from the NDC? Orange jump suits for alleged NPP political crooks? Oh, what about the CPP and the Nkrumahists? Will they count or hold on to outmoded socialist sloganeering and laurels of yesteryear? Who is going to be the third force that we need sorely in 2008?

If the NPP wins 2008, will it be more of the same? Who is going to be its flag bearer? Will we see the old worrier Atta Mills again, or another minion of JRJ, picked by his collar and foisted on the NDC? Are we going to see a series of prosecutions bee lined toward the NPP should the NDC win? What really must the average Ghanaian look forward to in 2008 and beyond? Will the politics of petrol play a part in 2008? What about economic plans? Should it factor in? Are we going to see an attempt to put in place the real fundamentals of a sound economy as oppose to our fledging beg and spend policy? Will we eventually rope in the informal sector? What resources do we have and how can it instigate our economic take off? Will we have viable economic plans for each village, district, region and our country as a whole? What about the police? Will it be radically reformed to meet our needs? Will our school children be fed in school? Will our road network be enhanced and expended? Oh, will the government reduce the cost of shipping cars and others into the country? Will GIA still be in operation? Will our health system continue to be in flux and flummoxed like it is? Will we be self-sufficient given our poultry needs and concerns? Will land reform be in place by then? What about addressing, property registration and ID system?

As you can see, there are more questions than answers. Some of the candidates will take a stab at these questions and others will continue spouting off the same tried and failed policies as answer to these questions. Beware and do your homework!! Whatever happens, we must make sure that we demand satisfactory and sane answers to all the questions above and many more. Folks, we have for far too long allowed any average person, parading as a leader, to slip into power. This must stop at all cost. We have a duty, Ghanaians that is, to make sure that we elect both at the local and national level, leaders who go through a rigorous and wrenching process. Followership is as much a part of leadership than we care to admit. Why should any average person lead you? Don?t you want and deserve the best? Especially since you have a big say in who becomes president? How can we do this? Well, first and foremost, we must start the dialogue with our friends and foes alike. Start talking about what you will like to see for your village, town, district, region and country. Ask about what the vision is for Ghana and what it will take to get the job done. Talk about what you will like to see for your country. Most importantly, talk about what you want to do for your country. Talk about what the current government is doing or promised to do and has not done. If you start your conversation with a strident partisan tone, you won?t get far. Cast your question in objective terms and let the conversation focus on what is good for Ghana not your party. There is a proper way to carry on constructive conversations. Make no mistake, this war is about winning minds and souls. It is time to listen actively and be the paragon of constructive dialogue. We must engage our people at all cost.

The other day, a friend (Ed) called me and said, Nii, we must at all cost have mandatory presidential debates this time. There should never be a situation where credible candidates are allowed to opt out of such debates. A credible private non-partisan organization must be formed to organize these debates in Ghana. If the electoral commission can organize them, so be it. Indeed, I call for one debate per region with local folks in attendance and a barrage of questions in tow. We must allow local informed folks to ask direct unrehearsed questions. I have never been a fun of the kind of system that allows journalists to ask softball questions of politicians. The candidates must not be given questions upfront. We have to see for ourselves how candidates think on their feet and talk intelligently. We must assess behaviorally, who these candidates are without any filters whatsoever. I want to hear what the grand plan is and how it will be accomplished. I mean in detail not some inane generalities. The people that lead us speak a lot about who we are and it is time to lift the bar a lot higher than it has been. One story that comes to mind for me is why Kufour was not questioned on his involvement with the PNDC. Keep in mind that Kufour did not resign immediately after the three gallant judges were killed. He stayed on for almost six months if not more before leaving. I for example, would have liked to know why he stayed on that long and how that speaks to his judgment as a leader and commitment to democracy. Never mind his stint with the PNDC to start with. We must never allow such cases to slip by us again. Never! If Kufour had been a candidate in the west, he may not or wouldn?t have made it with such background. What does it say of us to let him get away with it? At least get him to explain his behavior and let the voters decide for themselves. Of course, given that the coup leader himself went on to be president, it will be hard to disqualify Kufour. You see how such a low bar gets all kinds of characters in power? This is also why the focus should be on what is good for Ghana not these parties who are beholden to mercantile elites and their riff raff commandoes or action troopers.

As one who believes in democracy, I cannot tell you how saddened and disappointed I am about the coarse and abusive partisanship that continue to unfold. If there is a part of democracy that troubles me, it is when partisanship supersedes the interest of the country. Are we at a point where party matters more than country? Whatever happened to country, duty and honor? How many of us are able to speak up in our party of choice? If and when you speak up within your party, what treatment do they get? Folks, charity begins at home. Political maturity must start from our political parties. You do your party a big disservice by not speaking up. You will strengthen your party by asking that processes be put in place to make it possible for those who cut against the grain or renegades, to not only be heard but also respected and honored for speaking up. We must reward such behaviors to the extent that it makes pro-democracy institutions better and stronger. In the past, we punished such efforts shamelessly. We must resist turning or addling these political parties into fiefdoms for egomaniacs, power hungry malignant narcissist and cognitive misers. If your party is vibrant and functioning democratically, chances are that the government that it forms will operate in the same way. The process also ensures that at least the flag bearer is carefully and democratically elected. Let the transparent process work seamlessly at all cost.

Folks, we have a very serious problem with tribe and our democracy. We see it in who get hired and who gets fired. We see it manifested in so many other ways. Some say that is our reality and there is not much we can do about it. So parties bank their hopes on their tribal electoral bases. Even if a party is not performing, it can still count on its tribal strongholds to win elections. When this happens, the country as a whole suffers immeasurably. It is like hiring and keeping in place an incompetent person even when the organization is bleeding and is about to belly up. If you owned a business, will you operate it that way? This is indeed pathetic and it should factor in our political debates. Often times, this situation is helped because there are no better options. Take two workers, different tribes and faced with the same economic challenges. Instead of uniting around a party that promises to at least tackle the problem, they both go off and vote along tribal lines. How does that help their situation? How does that really get the right people with the right idea into leadership positions? We have to prick our conscience about this tribe thing or live under its weight for a long time to come. What sickens me are the efforts by our slick elite to indeed maintain these fault lines or even make them more inveterate. We will not be able to cure tribalism with a magic wand. However, can we start from somewhere? Can you go to the poll and vote, knowing that, based on the objective facts, you did the right thing without coloring your vote with purely tribal concerns or gyrations? Ask yourself this, how did tribe get you where you are now? Did it really? If you are not where you are on merit but got help through tribe then you have some serious reflections to do.

Often, some of us operate out of mortified ignorance. Sometimes, lies, handed from generation to generation continue to be peddled, as if it were truth. Nkrumah has probably suffered most from such unsubstantiated lies and uncalled for profanity. Now is the time to read our history carefully and in context. Now is the time to inform ourselves of who did what and why. We have a grave responsibility to inform our elders in particular but friends and family as well, about the objective truth. We must unmask the myths, fibs and fabrications aimed at winning political sympathy at the expense of the opponent. This is why dialogue, debates, town hall meetings, and questioning of authority must be at the forefront. Our press, now more than ever, must act responsibly and lead the people to the facts. Interest groups and political parties must propagate the truth and stop the ugly canards. Stop it for once!! After clamoring for years, we have a measure of press freedom that ought to enable us to scratch at the facts. Without facts, we wont know the truth. Without the truth we cannot define the challenges and what action to take. Also, an informed citizenry is one that is able to act responsibly. We must fight ignorance in all its forms.

Even though ROPAA or ROPAB seems to be under the radar for now, the debate about its implementation is and must not, be over. Prospective candidates must be asked about their position on the issue and how they will or will not enforce that law that was passed. No candidate must run for the presidency without stating categorically their position on ROPAA or ROPAB and what they will do while in office. It is that important and a huge test of our political maturity and inclusiveness going forward.

Our electoral commission seems to disappear from the news screen once elections are over only to surface again at election time. I know most of the work they do in between elections is in the background. I will like to see a little more outreach from the electoral commission. There is a need to continue educating our people about how the process works. Also, the commission must correct past mistakes by updating electoral roles and aggressively registering those who become eligible to vote. The long and short of it is that we need a well-oiled electoral commission and electoral process to ensure that fairness prevails. The political tension or temperature is already high in the country and we must not do anything administratively or politically to add to the volatile situation. Planning ahead is always a good thing.

I am not a member of any party but will consider voting this time around. I know there are many more out there in similar situations. My preference at this point will be to vote for a third party. I am not convinced that the two leading parties are committed to doing the hard lifting that it takes to build a country like Ghana. I am also not convinced that the special interest within these parties are going to let go of their mercantile aspirations. The mercantile elite are prepared to asphyxiate their party into submission if that is what it takes to accomplish their selfish goals. So for people like us, what really are the options? Stay at home? Watch from the sidelines? Vote for the lesser of two evils? Join a minority party and work to morph it into a salubrious organization? For how long can my temper tolerate such a slow and torturous process while these batty behaviors persist in our country? What will I do come 2008? Time is my best friend. Hopefully something good will happen between now and 2008. I am not counting on it but will surely welcome it. I mean something as arousing as a woman presidential or vice presidential candidate. The bottom line for me is that we do the right thing by and for Ghana. Let get the talking going and also work assiduously to strengthen the tools of democracy, the most important of which is our own conscience. It all starts from your own mindset and what kind of nourishment you accord it. As is often said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste! God gave it to you for free and the least you can do is to use it.

Ask not what your country can do for you pal! Go out there and help. Get involved with a charity group!

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

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka