Ghanaian Elections, West African Elections

Sat, 13 Nov 2004 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong says democracy and stability hungry West Africa has a stake in the impending Ghanaian general elections as not only a tranquilizer in the sub-region but also to radiate as the region?s oasis of democratic growth

With Accra saying it has foiled a coup plot and military officers of Guinea Bissau demanding pay arrears beating their army chief of staff, General Verissimo Correia Seab, to death and Cote d?Ivoire descending into all out conflict with French peacekeepers engaged in fight with the Ivorien military and religious riots in Monrovia and armed rebels of Nigeria?s Delta region in a war of attrition with Abuja and the world largest United Nations peacekeeping troops stationed in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d?Ivoire and coup trial just ended in Burkina Faso and coup trial going on in Mauritania, Ghana?s December 7 general elections and her on-going attempts for democratic entrenchment, described as an oasis of West Africa?s democratic growth, has implications for a West Africa that leads Africa in instability and is the poorest in the world. A successful December 7 Ghanaian general elections will, therefore, send positive democratic signal to the rest of West Africa with the message that if ?Ghanaians can do it we can, too.?

With most of her almost 50 years existence ruled by the brutal military and autocratic on-party regimes (The only exception where there was civilian administrations are the years 1957-1966, 1969-72, 1979-81, and 1993 to present), Ghanaians have come to the conclusion that democracy is better than one-party system of the first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the long-running military juntas that have dominated the their country?s hot political landscape. A reminder: straddling the Gen. Joseph Ankrah military regime (that overthrew the President Nkrumah administration in 1966. The coup was actually done by Generals Emmanual Kotoka and Akwesi Amankwah Afrifa and Gen. Ankrah picked as head of state) to Gen. Akwesi Afrifa military junta (that toppled the Ankrah regime in 1969) to Gen. Kutu Acheampong military regime (which overthrew the Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia/President Edward Akuffo-Addo administration in 1972) to Gen. F.W.K Akuffo military junta (that overthrew the Acheampong regime 1978) to the long-running Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings military regimes (that overthrew the Akuffo and Dr. Hilla Liman regimes in 1979 and 1981 respectively).

That such negative Ghana coup-infested attitude was copied by other West Africa states (Jerry Rawlings coups inspired coup making in other West African states such as Liberia and Sierra Leone) give the hope that an equally logically positive Ghana democratic attitude will be copied by other West African states. Ever since its birth some 50 years ago, Ghana, under her first president, Dr. Nkrumah, has prided itself as the ?Black Star? of Africa, radiating ideals and hope. The December 7 elections will be the fourth multi-party polls held in the country since it embarked on its present democratic path. In some metaphysical exploit, other West Africans today see the Ghanaian December 7 general elections as good omen, in a region of many bad omen, that will massage them positively and awaken their democratic values which for long have been buried in the heap sand of instabilities, poverty, dark spiritual practices, intolerance, hatred, civil wars, chronic lies, tribalism, political insanity and stupidity.

As democratic institutions of various kind are constantly being hatched to nurture democratic growth, not only is freedom and choices increasingly opening up but also mass media of various political and social suasions, from the Accra Daily Mail and Public Agenda which lean toward the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) to the Palavar and The Lens that tilt toward the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDC), are painstakingly driving the democratic process in a country which democratic roots are shallow, prophets/spiritualists swinging in the political arena that blur the highly superstitious electorate from thinking about issues clearly, politicians not properly connected with the electorate, insults and threats dominating campaigns instead of issues (a sign of weak civic virtues), and illiteracy and tribalism inhibiting democratic growth. On the other hand, some political party leaning mass media houses work have been so irresponsible and undemocratically charged to the health of Ghana?s toddler democratic growth that there are fears that journalists are not learning from other parts of West Africa such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d?Ivoire where unprofessionally mindless mass media houses helped send their countries into flames.

To prick the conscience of Ghanaian journalists and drive them into their pure professional values because of the way some have been operating threaten the very democracy they fought for and promised to nourish, in a workshop entitled ?Ensuring Mutual Tolerance and Amity? organized by the Accra-based Media Foundation of West Africa, two Liberia journalists working in Ghana, Jos Garneo Cephas and Wellington Heevon-Smith, told the workshop that Ghanaian journalists have to appreciate the ?peace and stability that had ensured a safe haven for the over 42,000 Liberians refugees?We are coming from a war-torn country and we are careful when we are reporting on ethnic issues." Ghanaian journalists, despite financial and other problems they face, are advised to be responsible as demanded in a democracy, of which most of them fought with their lives during the various military regimes that have visited Ghana.

As the challenges of democratic growth dawn on Ghanaians, some undemocratic behaviour of yesteryears crops up now and then by the very people who are expected to help nurture stability and democratic growth. Internal Affairs Minister Hackman Owusu Agyemang?s ordering of his police bodyguard to beat his domestic maid for allegedly stealing a diamond ring, his taking long time before responding to newspaper reports about the issue, and his going to the police station that he ordered detain the maid to ensure that she is detained sent a wrong signal to Ghanaians. Hackman?s position is expected to demonstrate a high sense of law and order in a country which police service is mistrusted. Hackman?s conduct was also a throw back to the late Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia?s arrogance-ridden administration of which Hackman?s NPP came from. Former president (for eight years) and military head of state (for almost twelve years), Jerry Rawlings near-seditious statements, a throw back to events that have sparked coup detats in the last, have been of concerned to Ghanaians with senior citizens such as thinker-social scientist, Prof. George Ayittey, of Africa in Chaos fame, advising Rawlings to behaviour like a statesman and desist from low remarks unbefitting a former president and baby democracy.

By being realistic of her tortuous political history and West Africa?s unpleasant existence of instabilities, wide spread poverty, prophets/spiritualists having sway over politicians, weak issues undermining political discourse, massive juju-marabou culture and its implications in the region?s growth, the December 7 Ghanaian general elections is as Ghanaian as it is West African, with the region and its peoples not ducking the hard choices at the heart of Ghana?s sound democratic growth ? how to balance competing values for democratic growth and help inspire and spread democracy to other West African states.

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

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi