Opinions Mon, 1 May 2006

Mandate Presidential Debate Beginning 2008

What Ghana would be in the future depends on the choice(s) of leaders we make today. We need to influence government to work for the people. For the wheel of government to be well lubricated and have smooth running the Ghanaian electorate must force her leaders to plan ahead of time. One better way is to mandate Presidential debates.

In her speech and testimony delivered on February 10, 2003 in a Presidential Classroom Executive Branch Seminar Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remarked, ?Leaders aren?t just the people in charge but they?re anyone who steps forward to make a difference.? As a concerned citizen, are you following the crowd or trying to make a difference at where you are come 2008 general elections? The choices you are making now will mold the Ghana you will have tomorrow.

Robert Kastenbaum wrote, "I do feel an increased sense of responsibility to this future self and to all those who cross my path. What kind of old man will I be, given the chance? The answer to that question depends largely on the kind of person I am right now" (as cited in Zimmerman 2005). Can it be said of you tomorrow that you were a good and patriotic Ghanaian? It all starts from now- being a loving husband or wife, a kind father or mother, a respected workman or workwoman, and a delightful faithful and loyal citizen? Then it all begins today. The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15). So have Ghanaians learned their lessons yet in our choice of leaders? An enquiring mind needs to know.

Research shows that contented older people were more focused in their youthful days. I guess this is also true in government. Good and great leaders start planning earlier in life; they don?t wait until they are elected. For instance since a nation may need some type of loan in the future it would be important to make sure that leadership is educated about the wise use of credit so that Ghana would be able to make the wisest choice. You and I can help our government to make some wise decisions now by forcing them to plan ahead. These questions though may sound personal may also apply to a nation and we need to know our candidates stand on such matters. Let us ask our candidates several questions especially when taking financial risks like including:

? Does Ghana really need a loan?

? Will buying an item on credit make Ghana (or MPs) happy even if we don?t need it and can?t afford it?

? Will Ghana be able to pay for it tomorrow? How?

Posterity and leaders of tomorrow may become clouded with bitterness or despair if our current or the incumbent government doesn?t take the time to plan ahead today. As Kennedy has remarked, present leadership must not make it harder for future leaders. This includes debt payments. To minimize any such pains, we must make it our goal early in life to get the right INFORMATION and the right focus. This is the crust of the importance of a Presidential Debate prior to elections. I am not talking about a one time debate but series of them. At least five. Choose four regional venues plus a grand one in the capital a week or two before the d-day.

We cannot overemphasize that Ghanaians need to find the right honest politicians if Ghana would grow healthy. Mandating presidential debates would force the media to dig the background information of our prospective candidates and also offer the candidates an opportunity to set the records straight.

In pursuant to this I hereby strongly recommend Presidential debates both in the primaries and the general elections. Though this is very pertinent to our Presidential candidates it should also apply to regional and local government. In my view this can best be enforced if the media pick on this from here. In fact we expect the media to champion this as it is their business and role. The media should not only be criticizing and reporting what others have done and not done; it should also initiate and institutionalize such programs as Presidential Debates.

It is interesting to note that it was mainly the effort of one journalist, a TV anchor that brought the US government on its knees to withdraw from Vietnam. I am challenging the Press and the media houses to make sure there is presidential debates prior to 2008 general elections. The media would also have the task to use its good offices to inform and educate the people on how to size up a good candidate on the basis of their responses.

Unfortunately, the Ghanaian electorate (at least the majority back home) has no idea of the importance of policy. They are used to who attends the most funerals and who has the best physical stature not IDEAS and VISION for the nation per se. All they know is political feel-good speeches. So they vote on who makes the most promises. No. Politics is not about promises but policies; and policy is about the future. A good policy has ACTION PLAN. This is what the people need to know- that promises are far different from policy or plan of action.

When our politicians make the glamorous and flamboyant promises THE PEOPLE also need to know how they are going to effect that. Delivery here is the key. When our politicians criticize their opponents, we need to ask them, ?And what are the alternatives you can offer? It is time to hold all our leaders and potential leaders accountable. Let the Press help us and usher us into a purely democratic government in the fourth republic. Bring the 2008 Presidential Debates on.

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

Columnist: Okyere Bonna