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Fighting over manifestos is not the way forward (Part I)

Thu, 16 Jun 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, June 13, 2016

Folks, the pettiness in the handling of national affairs continues. But for how long must it? Having already locked horns over issues with ugly repercussions, the NDC and NPP are now fighting a wordy warfare on party manifestoes. So much energy and time is being wasted on this irritating manifesto warfare to our chagrin.

This manifesto head-butting is neither a battle of nerves nor wits but one of inanity. Why should anybody waste time contesting over whose manifesto is the best for Ghana instead of doing practically what will actualize the manifesto to improve living conditions for the people?

A manifesto is nothing but a “paper tiger”—just like a constitution—a set of rules, principles, conventions by which human beings bound together in a social contract hope to do things for the common weal. It lacks bite unless implemented. It aims at reflecting the political ideology of the party formulating it. The NPP claims to favour liberal democracy, verging on property-owning and competitiveness on the basis of abilities in a capitalistic mode. But from the spate of promises being gushed out by Akufo-Addo, one wonders whether “socialism” isn’t threatening this cause. Turning governance into a “Father Christmas” node for doling out gifts isn’t the norm in capitalism. Is Akufo-Addo aver-reaching himself just for political expediency?

On the other hand, the NDC upholds social democracy, hoping to create conditions for improved living standards through the intervention of the state. But we can tell that a lot is happening to undermine this ideal. For instance, implementing policies based on cost-recovery isn’t socially democratic. That explains the hue and cry over high utility bills under the current administration. The more the people feel pushed to the wall, the more unwilling they will become in endorsing the status quo. Anybody seeing things clearly?

That is why any over-emphasis on a manifesto is not only counter-productive but is also dicey. In and of itself, a manifesto is nothing to boast of. Thus, any political party claiming to have the best manifesto without being able to win general elections to implement that manifesto is worse than useless. Only when the manifesto is implemented to make the required impact on the system and the citizens’ lives will it be worth its while. There is, therefore, no need for any muscle-flexing about a mere manifesto. Originality in formulating a manifesto is even questionable, especially in Ghana’s case where the problems drawing the country back are systemic and human-related, known all these years but for which no pragmatic solutions have been found. It is all about recycling ideas for political expediency, even as new problems continue to be created and added to the backlog.

That is why I find the ongoing exchanges between the NPP and the NDC to be not only petty and childish but also needless. It is dangerous for Ghana’s democracy as well. Bickering over manifestoes dilutes serious national problems and characterizes our democracy as unproductive. Who will be willing to continue sustaining it? Yet, the manifesto warfare between the NPP and the NDC rages on.

Over the years, we have heard from the NPP camp taunts that its manifesto has been stolen or plagiarized by the NDC, which explains why it won’t launch the version for Election 2016. Peter Mac Manu (campaign manager for Akufo-Addo) was the first to say so. His stance has been reinforced by the Deputy General Secretary, Obiri Boahen.

On the other hand, the NDC has challenged the NPP to launch its manifesto if, indeed, it has anything worth calling as such. To it, the NPP lacks ideas for national development, which explains its running away. The party’s General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah has loudly condemned the NPP as bereft of ideas in that regard. Counteracting the NPP’s claim, President Mahama has said that the NDC isn’t bothered about the NPP’s claim and would go ahead to launch its manifesto, allowing other parties to copy it if they so wish. To that end, the party will launch its manifesto in July.

So, the stage is set for this NPP-NDC wordy warfare on manifestoes to continue. How absurd!! A manifesto is just a declaration of intents and purposes. It doesn’t automatically translate into the staples of life for Ghanaians to enjoy. Unless successfully implemented, it remains what it is—a whiff of bombastic ideas. And who cares about such high falutin ideas that don’t materialize to lessen the burden on the people?

Unfortunately for those bragging about their parties’ manifestoes, there is a hard fact. Unless a political party wins the general elections, it has no opportunity to implement that manifesto. Even then, it is not as if being voted into power means automatically implementing that manifesto in its letter and spirit. Circumstances determine what should be done and how. So, raising this phantom of a manifesto so high in the political rhetoric amounts to nothing but nauseating pettiness.

I chide the NPP camp for creating the negative impression that feeds this needless wordy warfare. So do I also condemn the NDC for playing into the NPP’s hands as if it can’t just neglect the taunt and do what it is in power to do.

The NPP people are behaving as if they hold the key to Ghana’s door of challenges. Their stance on this manifesto nonsense creates the impression that they will turn Ghana around in a shorter time than has happened so far. Keeping their manifesto under their armpit only raises the tempo of mockery. After all, a manifesto isn’t worth anything if it can’t be implemented. Locking it up only deepens credibility woes.

Here are a few questions to prove the NPP wrong, especially if it claims to have solutions for Ghana’s problems (as may be contained in its manifesto) but won’t offer them unless voted into office:

What would have happened if the inventors of gadgets/equipment had kept their ideas to themselves and died without making them available to society? Where would we have been without those inventive geniuses?

What would have happened to our civilization had the propounders of theories and methods for solving problems kept their ideas away from us just because they are not in power and won’t want anybody to actualize those ideas for the good of humanity? Or just because they would want to remain impregnated with those ideas just because they won’t want others to “steal” or “plagiarize” them?

Had the Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity secluded themselves from society and kept their ideas to themselves, would the world have been better? Talk about the major departments of life influenced by the ideas of these “ancients” whose ground-breaking discoveries set our world on the path of progress (or destruction, if we consider the role of the instruments of war developed from their ideas).

What would we have gained if Pythagoras, Aristotle, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare, Einstein, the Wright brothers, Stevenson, Edison, and all the renowned winners of the Nobel prize (in science, literature, peace, etc.) in our time had kept their ideas to themselves? Would society have been better off if those geniuses had behaved the way these NPP people are doing?

There are many reasons to ridicule the NPP for choosing to be so narrow-minded and unproductive in this sense. Saying that it doesn’t want its set of ideas stolen by the NDC is as lame as admitting that it has nothing new to offer Ghanaians apart from all the promises and tissue of criticisms and lies that have become its points of reference in its political rhetoric.

Worse still is the fact that the NPP claims it will implement those ideas only when voted into office. We know that if it remains in the opposition because of its unattractiveness to the electorate, it will have no opportunity to do so. That explains why it hasn’t registered anything concrete so far. Taking that position is itself wayward and unpatriotic. Does it really matter who implements a manifesto, provided doing so will solve Ghana’s problems?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.