By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
June 26, 2010
Many Ghanaians have often blamed military adventurism in our politics as the cause of our broken national development agenda. They have good justification for doing so. Our military governments had no consistent agenda to propel comprehensive national development efforts. They did things on impulse and stifled opposing voices. Beginning with the disruptive influence of the NLC and passing through the self-serving agenda of the NRC, SMC I and II, the tumultuous 100-day rule of the AFRC, and the dictatorial era of the PNDC, the military governments left their ugly imprint on the country. The area that suffered most from this military adventurism was the political sector of national life. By suppressing partisan politics, these military adventurists prevented its growth.
Despite criticisms against Nkrumah’s autocracy (for instance, stifling political dissension through the Preventive Detention Act, turning Ghana into a one-party state, and making himself Life President), his development programme for the country had substance. So were Busia’s (for instance, the laudable Rural Development Programme) and the Limann government’s agenda. Sadly, these civilian governments felt the wrath of the military, who entered office with no consistent agenda for national development to supplant what they had outlawed. Some implemented some ad hoc measures that couldn’t resuscitate the economy while others sought to entrench themselves in office through dubious political phantoms (e.g., Acheampong’s Unigov idea). Never again should we have these adventurists to toy with our fate.
By their very nature, military governments thrive on “force” and a “command-and-control mentality” that disregards the will of the ruled and tramples on their freedom. Disregarding the consent of the ruled, their approach toward governance depends on trial-and-error, which doesn’t lay the true foundations of a stable political system—conscience, reflection, faith, patience, and public spirit. That approach to governance doesn’t construct any consistent path to be charted for national growth and the enjoyment of freedom. Like a basket of pebbles held together by the enclosure that surrounds them, these military adventurists draw strength from nothing but the political offices that they hold. They rule with no systematic agenda but their own personal inclinations and reasons for which they overthrow the civilian government of the day.
They do more harm than good and have no business ruling. Governance is for those who are fit for it; the rest will abuse it or turn it to destruction and corruption as our military adventurists have demonstrated. It is, therefore, good for us to have taken the right decision to adopt constitutional democracy under the 4th Republic, based on partisan party politics. It also suggests that our partisan political parties will be the only instruments for choosing our leaders. Our political parties, then, are the bastion of our democracy and must be nurtured to support it. To do so, they must grow first. Indications are, however, clear that our political parties don’t seem to be growing. They are struggling with problems that have confronted them since their formation—financial constraints, lack of logistics and infrastructure, unsophisticated membership drive, in-fighting and loss of members, intimidation of members and opponents, and inertia. If these parties fail to grow, how can they help our democracy to grow?
We must be concerned because partisan politics has pervaded our entire national fabric. In the civil service, security services, identifiable public sector institutions, NGOs, and families, there is division among the people along political party lines. Even though the Constitution debars chiefs from partisan politics, they cannot keep away from it. Sent on an emotional rollercoaster by such partisan political inclinations, the relationship between party activists is often tense. There are political powder kegs all over the country waiting to explode at the least unconscionable touch. That’s the impact of party politics.
Yet, we know that we have to guard jealously our choice of “government of the people, for the people, by the people” against any disruption by forces opposed to this will of the people. Doing so does not lie in only discrediting the military but in ensuring that our political parties are enabled and fully nurtured to give us leaders, who must be committed to do what they are elected into office for; leaders who must use the people’s mandate to solve national problems and not compound them; leaders who must ensure that transparency in their handling of affairs leaves no room for suspicions, doubts, and apprehensions to be capitalized on by any military adventurist. That’s the lifeline of democracy.
By choosing to deepen our constitutional democracy this way, we have affirmed our resolve to grow our constitutional democracy as the only measure of our civilization. It suggests that our civilian politicians will continue to be our chosen leaders on whom we will rely to stabilize our country’s politics. These leaders are expected to invest their intellectual resources, moral values, and administrative acumen in shaping the future direction of national politics. Indications are that the 4th Republic has been on course since January 1993 and if we nurture it properly by smoothing its rough edges, it will help us keep off the military adventurists as it grows to shape the future destiny of our country. That’s everybody’s hope.
From hindsight, we know that some reasons why our politics has been deficient include the following:
• The unstable political climate as a result of the numerous military interventions and visionless civilian political administrations has not given the country what it needs to move forward;
• The caliber of people doing politics leaves room for much to be desired. Unlike the situation in other countries where people enter politics mostly to make a name, in Ghana, the majority of those who do national politics have only one aim: to make money. A cursory look at these elements suggests that most of them have not succeeded in their chosen careers and have turned to politics as the panacea to their personal economic woes. Such characters enter politics and use all means to fleece the system. These are the politicians involved in such vices as visa racketeering, dubious contract awards, etc., and will not inspire anybody.
• The political system itself has numerous loopholes that these elements exploit. The system appears to be a victim of its own inadequacies. The on-going consensus-gathering efforts of the Constitutional Review Commission should help us plug these loopholes for good;
• Our politics is still crude and full of victimization and bitterness. In most cases, politicians are intimidated by forces that hate them for being what they are and, therefore, manouevre to replace them with others of their liking. A case in point is the rumpus surrounding the choice of Presidential and Parliamentary Candidates by the various political parties. Such approaches will not help our democracy grow.
As we work to strengthen our democracy, we must concentrate attention on the political parties and raise our voices against happenings that threaten wellbeing in them. Of late, intra-party bickering, factionalism, and cliqueism have intensified and are destabilizing these parties. We are unhappy because unless these negative happenings are handled tactfully, they will weaken these parties and make it difficult for them to function effectivel. The problem is more alarming in the case of the party in government because of the national security threat that its internal crisis poses. Because that party is the source of nourishment for the government, anything that destabilizes it will invariably affect the government too.
I am tempted to opine that the weaknesses of our political parties are not being addressed. A democracy that cannot be nurtured by its political parties will crumble and give room to undesirables to trample on the will of the people. In our case, the crumbling of our democracy will mean only one thing—the return of the military. We don’t want to relapse into that mode of governance and must do all we can to build our political parties into formidable pillars to support other institutions of state in sustaining our democracy.
There are too many fault-lines in these parties, which are waiting to cause major “politicalquakes” unless they are capped. I won’t be very much concerned were our institutions of state, especially the Judiciary, strong enough to handle intra- or inter-party disputes without deepening the crisis. As it is now, the Judiciary itself is weak and cannot be trusted to function efficaciously. Our justice delivery mechanism is not far from a jukebox scenario.
The weaknesses of our political parties are noticeable at various levels—lack of logistics and infrastructure, unreliable house-keeping in terms of membership, and other human-factor problems. Of all these problems, the most worrisome is the human factor. Constant in-fighting for positions or for control of the finances in the parties, bickering over nominations to contest Presidential candidature or Parliamentary seats, unhealthy relationships between party activists and their colleagues in government are some of the human-factor problems. We can tell from what has happened in the NDC and NPP over the years that this problem sets off time-bombs that destabilize the party structures. Whenever such internal crisis persists, it endangers wellbeing and affects the parties’ political fortunes too. Whether in government or opposition, the political parties have a role to play in sustaining our democracy and must eschew rancor in their ranks so as to remain vibrant.
Current destabilizing events in the NDC are particularly disconcerting because the NDC is one party that has raised the stakes in our democratic experiment. Being the first to be in power under the 4th republic, losing power to the NPP for eight years, only to regain it after a grueling politicking, it appears that the NDC has moved from its Third Force status to a formidable frontline position on the country’s political landscape.
The NDC has dislodged the CPP and virtually absorbed its members to become the main worry of the Danquah-Busia political family. To this end, both the NDC and the NPP are mutual political rivals. Their uncompromising attitude to each other is legendary. Thus, each party is determined to defend its collective interest in seeking the mandate of the electorate. The bitterness that characterizes their relationship often threatens social coherence in many parts of the country. We are just lucky that so far, this bitterness has not degenerated into a major national crisis.
To be continued….