Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 2, 2009
I have been discussing the danger that Ghanaian politicians pose to the country’s democracy because of how they handle their tasks and their shortcomings. So far, public perception about them, especially in terms of their seeking self-interest to the detriment of the electorate, is not good. They are giving “politics” a bad name.
Public expectation that an in-coming government will perform better than its predecessor to breathe some life and hope into the system of governance turns out to be a never-ending series of agonizing nightmarish experiences.
Since independence, Ghanaian politicians have not ceased urging the people to tighten their belts because the economy isn’t strong enough to satisfy every demand; and the people have grudgingly done so in the vain hope that things will improve to give them the relief that their voting power entails. But these politicians treat the people with cold contempt and behave like the proverbial Kwaku Ananse, using their cunning to personal advantage.
The zeal with which these political office holders look for all available means to enrich themselves and to enhance their lifestyles is nauseating, to say the least. Our democracy cannot grow if its fruits don’t trickle down the line for the benefit of the citizens.
Ghanaians see everyday how these politicians live their lives in disgusting opulence. By their conduct, these politicians are teaching the electorate a bitter lesson and gradually pushing our vehicle of democracy to a crunching halt.
To the chagrin of the unfortunate people who put them in office, their desire for more benefits appears to be boundless. The dejected electorate hardly enjoy the benefits of their participation in the political process. So woefully neglected, they are gradually being pushed toward a dead-end in the political alley: Should they continue participating in the electoral process or refrain from it?
If participating in the electoral process means simply putting people in political office for their own personal comfort, then, abstaining from political activities should be the best option, right? Making that firm decision will not be difficult for the people. But it has its down side. Non-participation means apathy, which will not redound well to our efforts to strengthen democracy in the country.
On the other hand, if their continued participation in the electoral process means continued support for the self-acquisitiveness of the clique in power (the Executive and Legislature, especially), the people will continue to harbour ill-feelings, which are likely to erupt into social disquiet if they can’t any more be bottled up. Then, our democracy becomes doomed.
Our politicians shouldn’t continue to misconstrue their barometric reading of the Ghanaian electorate’s sentiments. Additionally, they shouldn’t deceive themselves into believing that their vile desire for comfort at the expense of the electorate cannot be curtailed when the people are pushed far to the wall. The Ghanaian electorate may be patient but could be dangerously resilient.
The desire of Ghanaians for a viable democracy that will ensure national development at all levels is genuine and admirable. This desire, in the present state of the world, is imperative and must be encouraged. But this desire, if attained on a deceptive basis by emotional trickeries that shift the people’s plight from the accurate locus of their socio-economic and political troubles, is no credit at all. For, even if we are among those who happen to be acknowledged for practicing democracy, we solve no problems even for ourselves by such solutions, since the factors pressing toward calamity still remain.
Thus, in Ghana, after all the upheavals unleashed by military intervention in national politics, we appear not to see anything beyond a drive for ever more and more upheaval, precisely because the ‘new way of life’ (rhetorically defined as “Positive Change” or “Yere sesa mu”) is, after all, no new way of doing national politics. It is nothing but the dismally oldest way of sheer deception. Hence, after all the clamour for ‘change,’ the factors driving us toward failure are left intact, and even strengthened.
Indeed, these self-seeking politicians who zealously push such a mantra of ‘change’ usually find refuge in an ideological fog that enables them to comfortably manipulate the system to personal advantage. Electioneering campaigns and fulsome promises, coupled with a high-sounding agenda as captured in the parties’ manifestoes, create conditions that end up locking the citizens into a chain of oppressive and dehumanizing circumstances which invariably guarantee their perpetual misery.
Considering the dismal performance of the other political parties since the return to constitutional democratic governance in 1992, it is clear that the NDC and NPP will remain as the dominant political parties whose public posture, activities, and performance in government will shape the future direction of politics in the country. It is clear also that the minority political parties risk being swallowed up by the two dominant parties, as is already obvious in the fate of some of them. In effect, these minority parties may exist more in name than in reality.
What we should avoid is this possible cycle of agonizing musical chairs: the NPP failed to satisfy the aspirations of Ghanaians and they went for the NDC only for it to fail too, leaving the electorate no other option but to return to the failed NPP, which fails again and is replaced by the NDC, which also fails again….
Of course, the freedom to make such political choices is the spice of democracy. It is what makes democracy attractive. But in a situation which the electorate are taken through this narrow path of having to choose between two different forms of failures, I daresay that the spice of democracy will lose its attraction. Our democracy will, then, become endangered. Is that what we want? I don’t think so.
As these politicians overstretch themselves to tighten their grip on the national cake, public anger mounts. One expects that the public will take a unanimous position on the matter to ensure that the right thing is done. Unfortunately, it is not so. Partisan politics has already beclouded people’s instincts. Civil society groups that should spearhead the demand for propriety and good governance are failing to do so.
They cannot perform their watchdog role as expected because their members have themselves become blunted by partisan political interests. They have no credibility as such and cannot persuade the public that any noise they make is genuine. Take, for instance, the Committee for Joint Action (which is regarded as pro-NDC and good at taking on the NPP government) and the new Alliance for Accountable Governance (pro-NPP, good at baring its teeth at the NDC government). Already partisan and tainted, these institutions have no bite.
Don’t talk about the media, especially the private-owned ones, because they are in bed with the politicians of their own choice. Their mischief in misreporting events or being selective in their choice of what to report adds up to the mess that the politicians create.
What our politicians need to understand is that they cannot isolate their personal interests from factors of national development and the plight of the electorate—which ultimately shape our constitutional democratic process—and hope to grow our democracy. They shouldn’t be mistaken into believing that disconnecting themselves from the fate of the people who put them in office will sustain our democracy. The people’s rope of patience has a limit to its elasticity.
Because these politicians have so little comprehension of the people’s past political interest, they have no appreciation of its meaningful interrelation with the present. It’s a dangerous point to reach. Our democracy must endure. That’s why our politicians must rein in their desire for personal comfort at the expense of the people. They must be reminded of where we’ve come from as a nation to be where we are today. Again, they are encouraged to lead us toward what we should do to move into the future with hope.