By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
December 25, 2010
To the ordinary Ghanaian who still continues to wallow in abject poverty, disease, and want, any attempt by a politician to come across as a problem-solver manifests as a futile exercise in deception. The Ghanaian knows that regardless of their various political inclinations and manouevres, these politicians are not problem solvers. Regardless of which political camp they belong to, they are the same in every way, especially in their mad race to live fat on the national coffers.
These politicians have common traits that are too obvious to ignore—insatiable greed, arrogance, insensitivity to the plight of those who elected them into office, and the desire to remain in office by hook or crook to continue taking undue advantage of the weaknesses in the body politic. That’s the portrait of the Ghanaian politician, especially those in Parliament, who don’t hesitate to confer on themselves all manner of monetary privileges and other perks even when their drivers and other public or private-sector workers can barely survive on the pittance paid them at the end of the month.
Under all the governments that we’ve had since 1992, the politicians haven’t given any firm indication that they are in office to serve the interests of the people. They are known for sinking their political differences and working in tandem only if it will help them achieve their narrow and selfish ends—to grab (even if with blackmail) whatever they think is due them. They find it convenient to work in concert just to appropriate privileges that they adroitly determine for themselves. And like the proverbial Oliver Twist, they are eager to ask for more.
I have in mind the quantum of car loans, money for hotel accommodation, allocation of estate houses, and many more that these politicians have had since the installation of this 4th Republic without any commensurate performance to justify those privileges. These are the people who engage in fruitless name-calling in Parliament and boycott of Parliamentary proceedings to fight for their parochial political causes, mindless of the adverse effects on national life. Yet, they go off tangent whenever serious national problems emerge. They look the other way as if by so doing, those problems will vanish.
Some of t hem have even lost their bearing as they criss-cross the political landscape, shifting their political persuasions from one camp to the other, depending on how the political wheel of fortune turns. We have ample evidence of some pro-Nkrumahists turning coat to join the camp of the “Mate Me Ho” reactionary politicians and others snuggling to the military regimes that had overthrown civilian governments even though they would be the first to glibly condemn military adventurism in Ghanaian politics.
They still would choose to dine with the military governments to serve their own interests. By this chameleonic posture, these fickle-minded and shifty politicians create only one incontrovertible impression—that they have no conscience to defend and that they are in politics purposely to get their bread buttered. They enter politics slim but leave it bloated.
Why do all these people rush into politics? Certainly, not because they are altruistic or because they have any solution for the country’s problems. They do so, having failed in their chosen careers, and would use politics as the means to redeem themselves materially. They shouldn’t try to throw dust into our eyes.
Take, for instance, all the leaders that Ghana has had since independence. Osagyefo Dr. Nkrumah didn’t establish himself in any professional career nor did he do anything else apart from politics. The soldiers who have ruled this country might claim to be professional soldiers but nothing from their military career is worth anybody’s bother. Dr. Limann was a diplomat who entered politics per chance.
John Agyekum Kufuor claimed to have prepared himself for legal practice but never practised law. Even as a businessman, he couldn’t achieve anything for himself or society. In politics, all these people (except Dr. Nkrumah) came out materially fulfilled. President Mills hasn’t yet given us any concrete insight into whether he is also self-acquisitive, and we are waiting to see by the end of his tenure whether he will be better off than what his academic work fetched him.
Regardless of the high-sounding slogans against bribery and corruption or the senselessly drastic “unprecedented revolutionary action” that Rawlings took against people perceived as corrupt, evidence confirms that those who did politics in the Rawlings era were not angels. Today, it appears that the floodgates have been blown apart for all those in politics to have a field day.
By their conduct in politics, they raise disturbing questions: What concrete accomplishments can they boast of using politics to achieve apart from cushioning themselves and their families and friends? Why are they not satisfied with what they think they have achieved in their chosen career fields for the country’s good but will want to use politics to trumpet? Or are their capabilities for nation-building useful only when realized through politics? Why do they want to hide behind politics to fulfill themselves?
The truth is that they are tricksters who can’t have self-fulfillment outside partisan politics because without their involvement in politics, they will remain hollow and unaccomplished materially. They shouldn’t boast of initiating development projects because such projects are not constructed with their resources but the sweat and toil of Ghanaians whose hard work generates revenue for the country.
In other systems, where politics is built on principled conduct, most of those who do politics are often already distinguished in their careers by making the name and creating conditions for good living. They don’t hide behind politics to do so. They already have an enhanced public image. Thus, when they enter politics, it is not to look for material gains but to work assiduously for national growth and leave behind lasting footprints. Recognizing their worth, the society doesn’t flinch to name important monuments and national landmarks after them. They are celebrated as such without question. Their names are dotted on streets and buildings or projects all over the country.
Unfortunately for us, it is the exact opposite. Our politicians enter politics mostly because they want to bend the system to satisfy their selfish interests. They shouldn’t deceive us that they are in politics to sacrifice their lot for the common weal because that is not what they demonstrate. We are quick to see through the smokescreen to know their real motivation.
A stronger urge for being in politics is driven by their greed and mischief. The wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing that they are, they use partisan politics to achieve such ulterior motives to the blind side of the good people of Ghana. The danger is that they know how to do ethnic politics, which further polarizes our citizenry and creates conditions conducive for social unrests. Because they adroitly play on the people’s intelligence, they succeed in establishing pockets of support all over the country, setting up time-bombs.
In office, they manipulate the various state institutions to serve their interests. They starve them of the funds and resources they need to do public education that would raise the people’s political awareness and empower them to confront wrong-doing. They browbeat political opponents and unleash on them the evil forces that have monopoly over the instruments of violence. So intimidated, the people become docile and look on while the plundering breaks bounds.
In numerous instances, these people in politics hide behind such institutions as the police and Judiciary to torment their opponents. We are aware of this kind of negative politicking and will caution them not to overstep bounds. The irony is that the very people who are voted into office to solve problems end up being the very forces that either create new problems or compound existing ones. That is the danger we face. In one way or the other—and whether by accident or design—we have put into office people who will end up tormenting us for sadistic benefits.
Until they use politics for better purposes than satisfying their wrong-headed objectives and self-interests, some of us will continue to lambast them. The time has come for the people to begin efforts that will endanger the political lives of these charlatans. As the 2012 election period approaches, they are already up in arms, fouling our air with the rhetoric that drives their empty boasts and hidden agenda. We should cut them to size before they lay their land mines to endanger our lives.
One way to do so is to continuously monitor their utterances and performances with the view to keeping the bad ones away from the corridors of power, especially after they’ve exhausted their resources seeking to buy votes. More concretely, the electorate in the various constituencies should be more involved in political developments than they’ve been doing so far. The Constitution allows citizens to take action against their non-performing MPs. I urge all to use that constitutional provision to put pressure on their MPs and to ensure that they remove from office any of them who does what is detrimental to their interests.
They have the power to initiate legal action to withdraw from Parliament any MP whose performance falls far short of expectation. I am waiting for the day when some constituents will do just that to prove to these politicians that they (and not the politicians) are the actual wielders of ultimate political power. Such an action should spur further developments to make these people in politics serve the electorate, not what currently exists that gives them a false sense of superiority and invincibility.
Let’s begin a concerted effort to teach these people doing politics the lesson they will never forget. Let’s not endorse their waywardness while they remain as people doing politics, not the “politicians” that we need to work with to solve our country’s dire problems. If we do otherwise, we do so at our own risk.