By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
December 25, 2010
One of Ghana’s main problems is that it doesn’t have politicians to redeem it, although it has people doing politics. From what has been happening so far, I am convinced that there’s a big difference between the “politician” that the country needs to serve it and those we have in Ghana doing politics. In its entirety, a “politician” is someone who knows the political terrain very well and devises effective means to make contributions that solve national problems, unlike those we have who use politics to serve their own interests and create needless tension in the body politic.
A “politician” serves his/her constituents and provides concrete input for solving pertinent problems to uplift living standards, contrary to the deeds (or misdeeds) of those we have who regard themselves as tin-gods and manipulate the situation to the disadvantage of their constituents. In other democracies, the “politicians” are friends of society and retain their seats for decades, even into senility, unlike those doing politics in Ghana who have become pariahs to their own constituents and don’t last in office.
“Politicians” worth their calling command respect wherever they are, unlike those in Ghana whose back people want to see as soon as they show up. Those doing politics in Ghana fail to use politics for better purposes and have lost credit. The persistent politics of insults, intimidation, denigration, and tribalism attests to the troubling caliber of those doing politics in Ghana.
By their (mis)deeds are they known. They aggressively look for material benefits and give the impression that they are motivated by nothing but self-interest and the unbridled penchant to take advantage of the weaknesses in the system to live their lives in comfort. They are quick to manipulate the system to advantage. It shouldn’t take us any long stretch of imagination to confirm that such people in politics in Ghana are thorns in our flesh.
I am amazed by the rate at which all manner of Ghanaian professionals and intellectuals are abandoning their careers and rushing into partisan politics. These professionals include those in foreign lands and those resident in the country. Ironically, some of them are already recognized and respected for what they do in their chosen career areas; yet, they seem to be motivated by some more powerful inclination to shift into partisan politics as if that is all they need to be able to achieve what their professions couldn’t give them. And they enter politics, claiming to have solutions to the country’s problems even when their penchant for self-seeking betrays them.
In making this shift, they behave as if doing politics is the only feasible possibility they have to serve the country—something to the effect that they can’t use their chosen careers to do so. Whether by accident or design, a lot of them soon hit the brick-wall and end up in disgrace. The lucky ones turn politics into a goldmine to exploit and run away to enjoy their booty.
Why is it that Ghanaian professionals and intellectuals cannot use their chosen careers to do for the country what they want to use partisan politics to do? More importantly, what is it about our national politics that makes it more attractive to these professionals and intellectuals than the very careers that they have spent time and energy preparing themselves for over the years?
Take all the lawyers, university lecturers/intellectuals, doctors, soldiers, and private businessmen who have dashed into politics to create the impression that they can best contribute their quota toward solving the country’s problems only when they do politics. And they are all over the place, expending all energies and resources to be recognized as such.
Of all, professional soldiers who somersaulted overnight to become politicians seemed to have raised the stakes higher. Some even went to the extent of laying down their lives to be in politics. Do you remember Jerry Rawlings’ dare-devil challenge to Ghanaians when he overthrew Limann on Thursday, December 31, 1981? Here it is:
“I am prepared to face the firing squad if Ghanaians don’t like what I have come to do for them for the second time.”
After almost two decades in office, he left the scene, solving some problems and creating new ones or compounding others that had prompted his military putsch. Yet, he is still roaming the political landscape, pointing accusing fingers at others, and sticking to his guns as a politician. Ghanaians know much about the mess created by the various military governments and won’t praise the soldier-turned-politicians for anything. They are better off as a good riddance.
The questions are: What was it about soldiering that restrained these professional soldiers from serving the country beside shooting their way into hardcore politics for that purpose? And why did they think that it was only through this hardcore politics that they could solve the country’s problems?
It’s not as if our kind of politics is free-wheeling. The currents of Ghanaian politics are turbulent, carrying along with them obvious risks, especially to the lives of those in authority—being surrounded with all manner of personal security operatives wielding dangerous weapons any of whom can become an assassin by a slight quirk of circumstance (Who has the art to know the mind’s construction on the face?). Doing partisan politics means making oneself the target of just anything.
Take, for instance, the tons of insults heaped daily on Rawlings, Kufuor, and Mills, for daring to be politicians. In their private capacities, these people didn’t attract that much open hostility. Who would openly insult Professor John Evans Atta Mills when he was a common law lecturer at the University of Ghana or as the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service?
When he entered politics, the situation changed. Today, he is the butt of all kinds of unsavoury utterances. A quick glance through comments posted online about him (and the other big shots of contemporary Ghanaian politics) reveals the stark reality. Why choose to do politics, knowing very well that one will be subjecting oneself to so much acrimony? Is it just for the sake of patriotism? Not really so, I beg to differ.
Others who left their careers for politics suffered serious consequences, including death. They paid the ultimate price for being in politics, either in the course of being overthrown by more powerful forces or being dragged to the firing squad and their lives snuffed out in a split second long after they had left office. Some fled into exile where they lived in very narrow circumstances but bounced back into politics whenever the tide changed. Again, some sacrificed their promising careers on the altar of partisan politics, rose to prominence, only to be kicked out in disgrace and never to recover from the shock.
Some dare-devil politicians went to the extent of risking their lives to fight the political leaders that they didn’t like and never ceased being hounded. Ask Alex Hammah and he will tell you. When convicted to face death by firing squad for attempting to overthrow the Acheampong regime, he shouted: “I am too young to die”; but the funny part of the episode was that he didn’t know that he was too young to be in politics.
So, what is the magnet in our kind of national politics that attracts all these Ghanaian intellectuals, professionals, etc.?
Your guess is as good as mine: Nothing but the search for the quickest means to make ill-gotten wealth and live in comfort. Right in front of our eyes, our national politics has become a goldmine for all manner of people to invade and loot. Politics has become the occasion for a mad gold rush.
We have just a handful of those in politics who set good examples. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah didn’t own a single personal property throughout the 15 years of his rule. In the 3rd Republic, Mr. Harry Sawyer, then Minister of Transport, refused to collect his salary even though Dr. Tackie Otoo of the Action Congress Party had accused him of benefiting from the contract for the supply of Tata buses from India. No proof confirmed that allegation. In our 4th republic, President Mills stands out as being selfless too. He has rejected the per diem allowances that Kufuor took a keen interest in and earned a bad name for. But that’s all for the good examples. The bad nuts take the front seat.
Most of us haven’t forgotten the likes of Krobo Edusei and his kind of “Verandah Boys” of the Nkrumah era who were complete social and economic wash-outs but entered politics and became notables because politics made them so. In fact, Krobo Edusei’s boasts of sleeping on a “Golden Bed” are still fresh in our minds. It’s not a mere boast. Politics gave him and all others like him the cushion to provide comfort for themselves and their dependants. Their huge buildings and other assets are still dotted across many parts of the country to inform us about what they harvested from politics.
This unbridled greed for wealth under the guise of national politics is evident in our 4th Republic too. From hindsight, one can confidently conclude that those who are doing politics in Ghana are motivated more by their own self-acquisitiveness than the patriotic urge to serve their country. I challenge them to prove me wrong.
To be continued…