Kenya's Election: lessons for Ghana 2008

Kenya Arrest 070608

Wed, 9 Jan 2008 Source: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka


Belated happy new year to all!! I wish you all the best in year 2008. I want to start the New Year by inviting our so called leaders to consider running a clean election in 2008. If they do as advised, it will give our faltering democracy a leg up. My motivation stems from the latest fracas in Kenya about ballot rigging. I believe there are stark lessons to be learnt from this example and many more before it.

Ballot rigging is nothing new! It happens everywhere, yet, the studier political systems find a way to overcome it. This takes my mind to Bush v Gore. Many were disappointed with the supreme court ruling and the impasse in Florida. Yet, the system held up and Americans moved on. In addition, all kinds of investigations, inquest and write ups have followed that blight on American democracy. Today, steps are being taken to ensure that this terrible action does not repeat itself. And this does not mean that the American system in perfect by any stretch of imagination. It has its challenges and will continue to have them. Let me add that, another key reason for the success of any political system is the belief the people have in it. This belief is predicated on a level of trust that the system will either hold up or correct itself should challenges arise. Can we say the same of our democratic system?

Crane your neck in Africa to observe the political pollution and farts that continue to stymie our progress. Togo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and now Kenya! All these democracies are not sturdy and self correcting. All these democracies are newly minted. All these countries have experienced some kind of election malaise recently. Granted that no election is without problems, in all these cases, little or nothing happened to those who were alleged to have stolen. Instead, they were rewarded with a winning verdict. Besides rewarding the alleged perpetrators, the people who stood up for democracy were either vilified or told to shut up so that the collective may move ahead in a dysfunctional system. Is this the way forward? The nagging and destructive effect is that, most African leaders come to believe that they can do the same and get away with it. Here, I stand on the shoulders of B. F. Skinner, to say that, the behaviors that you reward are the behaviors that you see more of. The reinforcement theory is in full effect! If there is any theory that Africa should take heed of, it is the reinforcement theory. Its understanding and use, stands to cure majority of our ills. So, I am in full solidarity with Raila Odinga!

I believe Odinga and his coterie must not accept any compromise until we get to the bottom of this canard. Put in place a caretaker government and burrow till you find the truth. What breakdowns led to these misdeeds and how can it be corrected going forward? A unity government, as advocated by the west and readily accepted by the incumbent president, is not the answer. For once, African democracy must show some maturity. There was a winner here and we must find that winner. Recount if we have to! This same bull will happen over and over again if we continue with this unity government-path-of-least-resistance panacea from the west. If indeed, Kibaki stole the elections, he must go. If he won fair and square, then he deserves to stay. Enough of this nonsense and simplistic answers for Africa’s challenges and problems! President Bush did not accept nor call for unity government when the Florida fiasco occurred. So why are they calling for unity government for Kenya? A unity government rewards Kibaki for his alleged fraud, if he indeed committed it and that to me, is totally unacceptable. To weaken this behavior, thieves ought not to be rewarded. I say this knowing very well the attitude of most Africans. We tend to let go, forgive and forget, when we should seek accountability and responsibility. We vilify those who dig their heels in to uphold responsibility and accountability. For far too long, we’ve allowed the thugs amongst us to run roughshod and this has contributed to our current morass. We must reverse this forgive and forget culture!

I also want to remind readers that even in Ghana as we speak, I am told that the last election has not been gazetted. Yet, Kufour is in a hurry to go settle the ruckus in Kenya? Another despicable tactic used by the powers that be is to delay election challenges, only to come up with some outdated verdict once the occupant of the post has already served his term. These kinds of injustices only work to cripple democracies. For a toddler democracy like ours, we cannot allow such wicked shenanigans to take place. Justice is key to a vibrant democracy! We have to find speedy ways to resolve election challenges and problems, before anyone can take office. If this means allowing enough lag time to resolve conflicts, let’s do so. If it means setting up special election courts or mediation centers, let’s do so. To allow such deliberate criminal enterprise to take roots at this embryonic state of our democracy does not augur well. We have a great opportunity at this time and date, to build a viable democracy if we deliberately work to put in a fortified foundation for our democracy. We must not relent in our duty and purpose. Yes, it is that important! We risk losing it all if we don’t kill this culture of decadence at this infant stage!

Lastly, let me use this opportunity to call on the NPP to organize a clean election come 2008. Yes, the responsibility lies with the EC who is supposed to be independent. Yet we know the government can cripple the EC if it does not fund it adequately. The tendency of African politicians to meddle is also well known. The EC can cripple itself by putting square pegs in round holes in its offices. I hope we have checks in the system to address all such concerns. Ghana deserves peace to make progress. This means that the best party must win. This further means that the 2008 elections must be free and fair. Anything short of that could flare up latent tempers and dredge up old animosities. We have to realize that human endurance has its limits. We cannot continue to precariously test such limits only to turn around and tell the victims to put up with yet another botched election. The NDC is still fuming about the last election result that was declared prematurely. Even so, the NPP defiantly insist that it will call the 2008 results each and every way it deems fit. Folks, let’s resolve these differences before d-day. Ghana does not deserve any form of violence. The best and reliable way to prevent such is to have a free, fair, inclusive, responsible, accountable and participative election. The ball is in your court NPP. Lets all work to save mother Ghana! Now is the time to bring up foreseeable problems and address them roundly. Don’t say I did not warn you!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Also known as the double edge sword)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell—Harry Truman

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka
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