Good suggestions to improve our democracy

Sat, 12 Apr 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, April 11, 2014

The challenges facing our democracy are clear: governance has not improved to add value to the lives of the citizens. The status quo has been defended all these years, making it difficult for us to know whether this kind of democracy is really meant to serve the interests of the vast majority of Ghanaians or to perpetuate the ills that a warped political system entails.

Clearly, our kind of democracy has continued to serve the few privileged politicians walking the corridors of power while pushing the citizens further down the poverty line and provoking them to do acts that might eventually detract from the democracy itself.

It’s a serious matter to be confronted head-on and our politicians placed where they belong before they do anything to derail the democratic experiment. Undoubtedly, what will threaten our democracy won’t come from the quarters of the citizens but those of the politicians abusing the tolerance and patience of the citizens.

Our democracy is no democracy after all. There are clear inklings to confirm that it is a kind of “military buga-buga” disguised as democracy just because provision exists for the citizens to go through the quadrennial ritual of voting.

There is much of the “takashi” that can’t be neutralized because this kind of democracy is shorn of the ideals that a true democracy entails. That is why anybody with political connections or with some presence in the security set-up can invoke any power at all to do anything with impunity, damn the implications.

That is why the institutions of state continue to be weak—if not deteriorating altogether. Such institutions cannot carry the burden that a democracy imposes on them. And our leaders (politicians, generally) are happy with it because it helps them realize their ambitions to the disadvantage of the country.

A genuine democracy empowers the people; and it does so on the basis of due process and commitment. Ours is not so. I am not proud of it; so should you also not be.

In responding to concerns that I raised regarding the failings of our democracy as currently configured and operated, one Festus Kwadwo Lartey-Adjei offered some insightful thoughts that should be highlighted for further discussion.

He made it clear how we should do things in Ghana to realize the benefits of decentralization, which is an important ingredient of democracy. Here is his response, reproduced verbatim:

“Let’s start with electing our local govt. officials like our DCEs and a budget for every municipality to run its schools, hospitals, revenue service and infrastructure development. Every district collects its revenue and retains 40% and 30% to the regional office with the remaining 30% going to the state.

“Let people develop and invest in their own hometowns and compete with others who are also developing their own hometowns based on a national blueprint on the collection and use of funds as well as which projects to engage in. The regional offices be reduced to audit, accounting, legal and advisory organs only.

“Let’s add another factor which is crucial; every municipality should have its own newspaper, radio station and a university college and technical vocation institutes.

“Then the people have educated folks in their midst, a mouthpiece and a budget to create jobs where they live their lives and where they are very loyal and are keen to see success. They can draw new programs to attract investments or encourage companies to move in with tax holidays, etc.

“The municipal council can borrow from the bank to engage in a long-term project like water and sewage construction and will do fine or two municipalities can team up to construct a highway through their areas...

“.The thing is, more power to the locals will surely mean diminishing power to the Accra politicians which they won’t accept and which is also why we the people have been held hostage...”


I wholeheartedly support these suggestions and see them as relevant to efforts at improving our democracy. For far too long, all that this democracy has offered the country and its citizens is the opportunity to vote in general elections. They have no say in how governance is being done nor are they even respected by those they put in power.

If the decentralization programme is to add any value to our democracy at all, it must give the people more power and resources to manage their own affairs at the various levels while the central government supports them in doing so instead of superimposing its will on them as has been the case all these years.

Not until each district, municipality, and metropolitan area is able to stand on its feet to determine for itself how it should manage its affairs, all this talk of decentralization will remain a mere wrong-headed rhetorical nuisance.

That’s why the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission annoy some of us because they don’t offer anything to improve governance for the benefit of the people. They are mere window-dressings to perpetuate centralization.

At best, they build smokescreens for the politicians to hide behind and exploit the loopholes in the system. No more of such sophisticated mischief, lying, and thieving. Ghanaian politicians, beware!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.