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Give democracy a chance in Ghana

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Thu, 25 Jun 2020 Source: Jonathan Mensah

The current political situation in the country is a hindrance to our fragile democracy.

Politicians are behaving badly without foresight and their opinions do not have evidence and facts which undermines decision making and in the end our development of democracy will suffer.

The compilation of new voters register by the Electoral Commission being opposed by the opposition NDC is rather sad and undemocratic.

Politicians are behaving like thugs following the movements of the EC to stop them fulfilling their civic duty.

One of the elements of democracy is holding of periodic free and fair elections by universal suffrage as the expression of the will of the people. The EC needs to compile a new voters register to prevent election fraud and anyone who criticises the EC is ignorant of democracy.

People in opposition should not oppose for the sake of being in opposition but rather oppose constructively.

The recent opposition to the government’s referendum is a cause for concern. The constitution needs to be altered to allow partisan politics in local government but opinions from the opposition claim that parliament can do it without a referendum which is undemocratic.

The concept of democracy states that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government. The people have a say in decisions and can hold decision makers to account.It is for this reason that a referendum is essential to find out from the people whether they agree to the change to partisan politics. The people’s agreement will allow parliament to implement the change.Politics is about decision making and making agreements in the interest of the people.Democracy provides fundamental freedoms in which the freely expressed will of the people is exercised.It is therefore wrong to oppose the referendum.

We have come a long way in our attempt to establish democracy.Widespread corruption has been persistent challenges due to bad governance.Tensions in the Fomena and Kumawu in the Adansi North District and the Sekyere Kumawu District respectively in the Ashanti Region over uncompleted hospitals in these areas was said to be due to mismanagement of funds by the NDC administration.It was claimed that the amounts spent on the projects appear not to commensurate with work done so far.This means that transparency and accountability remains a deficit in our public administration.Action should be taken against anyone found guilty of mismanagement to disallow them from any public duties.Komla Agbeli Gbedemah was disqualified as opposition leader during Busia’s premiership because of his involvement in Nkrumah’s corrupt government.

We can look back in the past and use that as a guide to the present and the future in the interest of democracy.We have encountered many difficulties on our democratic journey.When Ghana became independent from British colonial rule on March 6 1957,the then British prime minister Harold Macmillan stated that “The government and people of Ghana have set their hands on a great task.We are confident what ever may be the difficulties which will face them they will maintain and develop the principles of tolerance and freedom which are inherent in our parliamentary system.We shall give them all the help we can “.Dr Kwame Nkrumah became the first prime minister and Ghana became a republic in 1960 making Kwame Nkrumah president.In 1964 Ghana became a one party state and Nkrumah declared himself life president.

The difficulties that followed were unimaginable. The rights of individual citizens were disregarded.Political parties that oppose the government were prohibited,forcing the opposition leader into exile.Widespread corruption and brutality were the order of the day. The Preventive Detention Act was used to imprison people without trials. The government failed to maintain and develop the principles of tolerance and freedom which are inherent in a parliamentary system.In 1966 Kwame Nkrumah was deposed by a military coup.

Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia,an academic became the second prime minister in 1969.His aliens compliance order in 1969 led to the expulsion of many foreign nationals.He devalued the cedi by 44%in 1971 which met with resistance from the public and in 1972 he was deposed by the military.His determination to establish democracy and human dignity failed.Ignatius Kutu Acheampong who took over in 1972 was also toppled by a palace coup and general Akuffo who took over was toppled by junior officers led by flight lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings who handed over power to a civilian government headed by Dr Hilla Liman from 1979 to 1981.He was the third president who was deposed by flight lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings because of corruption.

In 1982 Rawlings began Economic Recovery Programme (ERP)suggested by the World Bank and the IMF.He concentrated on improving economic stability and transparency.He faced persistent challenges due to weak institutions and poor governance.Eventually a referendum on a multi party system was held in 1992 which paved the way for holding free and fair elections by universal suffrage.Flight lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings was elected president and he served a second term in office.

Jerry Rawlings achieved a successful transition to multi party democracy. Rawlings set an example by serving his country and leaving with dignity.

He will always be remembered for stabilising a turbulent political scene and for establishing democracy.

John Kofi Agyekum Kuffuor succeeded Rawlings in 2001 and it was the first time in the history of Ghana that an incumbent government peacefully handed power to the opposition. Kuffuor’s administration was aimed at good governance, modernisation of agriculture for rural development, private sector participation, enhanced social services and vigorous infrastructure development. He started the National Insurance Scheme.

In education, Kuffuor started the national school feeding programme. He changed the senior secondary school curriculum from three years to four years and renamed it senior high school. Kuffuor launched the microfinance and small loans Programme and introduced the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme which provides direct cash transfers to poor households in the country who could not support themselves.

John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills served as president from January 7th 2009 and made Ghana’s stable economy experienced sustained reduced inflation which has been one of the lowest inflation rates Ghana had attained in 42 years. The cedi was also stabilised due to his policies.

The budget deficit was reduced to 2%of Gross Domestic Product compared to 14.5%of GDP in 2008. Ghana’s gross international reserves and foreign direct investment (FDI) was hugely improved highlighting exceptional macroeconomic performance..He introduced the provision of free school uniforms.During his tenure,two universities were established.

The University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta region and the University of Energy and Natural Resources in the Brong Ahafo region. In 2011 his government established the Ghana Heritage Fund as financial security for future Ghanaian generations. Atta Mills was posthumously awarded the highest prize as the 2012 Lifetime Africa Achievement Prize Laureate on Democratic Governance and Development in Africa. The award was in recognition of his disposition, virtues, devotion and commitment to the enhancement of good democratic governance and development.

John Dramani Mahama succeeded Atta Mills and his tenure was marred by allegations of corruption.In 2014 massive corruption was discovered at Ghana’s Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). The authority had misappropriated millions of dollars allocated to it.SADA paid GHC32,498,000 to ACICL, a business owned by Roland Agambire, who is Mahama’s close confidante to plant five million trees in the Savannah zone but could only account for about 700,000 trees.

It was also discovered that SADA spent GHC15million on guinea fowl, but could only account for a few birds. The contract for the rebranding of 116 Metro Mass Transit at a cost of GHC3,600,000 was awarded to a company named Smarttys owned by a member of the ruling NDC activist Selassie Ibrahim.It was revealed that the rebranding of the buses cost the government GHC3,600,000 which at the time was more than the cost of the 116 buses.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo became president on the 7th January 2017 and launched the free High School Education policy in September 2017.In 2018 he introduced the seven-year Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies to revitalise the economy,transform agriculture and industry, revamp economic and social infrastructure, strengthen social protection and inclusion, and reform delivery system of public services institutions. In 2018 he appointed a special prosecutor to tackle the longstanding issue of corruption.

This corruption has caused the loss of wealth and lives to Ghana yet it is still a big issue in the country.It has been weakening the rate of our economic growth and therefore vigorous attempt is needed to eliminate it.

Corruption is strongly negatively associated with the share of private investment and therefore it lowers the rate of economic growth.It reduces the returns of productive activities.If the returns to production fall faster than the returns to corruption and rent-seeking activities, resources will flow from productive activities to corruption activities over time.

This will result in a lower stock of producible inputs like human capital in our corrupted country. Corruption creates the opportunity for inequality, reduces the return of productive activities and therefore makes rent-seeking and corruption activities more attractive.This opportunity for increased inequality not only generates psychological frustration to the underprivileged but also reduces productivity growth, investment and job opportunities.Hence it is essential that we fight corruption irrespective of party allegiance and not only by appointing a special prosecutor but by putting in place measures that can prevent corruption.

According to the amended Kligaard equation,limitation of monopoly and regulator discretion of individuals and a high degree of transparency through independent oversight by non-governmental organisations (NGOs)and the media plus public access to reliable information could reduce the problem.Djankov and other researchers have independently addressed the role information plays in fighting corruption with evidence from both developing and developed countries.Disclosing financial information of government officials to the public is associated with improving institutional accountability and eliminating misbehaviour such as vote-buying.

The effect is specifically remarkable when the disclosures concern politicians income sources, liabilities and asset level instead of just income level.Any extrinsic aspects that might reduce morality should be eliminated. Additionally, the country should establish a culture of ethical conduct in society with the government setting a good example in order to enhance the intrinsic morality.

The bottom-up mechanism should be created to promote citizens participation and to encourage the values of integrity, transparency and accountability which are crucial components needed to fight corruption. The implementation of the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs)in Europe since 2012 had led to a significant increase in the number of citizens complaints against acts of corruption received and documented and also to the development of strategies for good governance by involving citizens willing to fight against corruption.

Our problems are not that of senility but of ever-increasing knowledge of social and economic impact in our society caused by our political past and present.If our politics created these unexpected challenges, it is this same politics that will get us out of them. We have dreams. We have natural resources.

We have rich savannah forests.Do we not have the realisation that we can succeed in building a democratic, prosperous nation comparable to any developed country in the world, going on from strength to strength? The blood of our forefathers can inspire us so that we can establish democracy and human dignity and our children and their children will be proud of their heritage. YES WE CAN.

Columnist: Jonathan Mensah