RE: Corruption, Politics, and Tribalism killing Ghana

Fri, 15 Mar 2013 Source: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana

Nana Akenten Appiah-Menkah has described corruption, partisanship, and tribalism as the triplets killing Ghana’s democracy. Several voices including that of this author have been wailing about these ‘beasts’ destroying our country but our voices have been drowned in the cacophony of partisan politics and silly insults. Let’s hope Appiah-Menkah can make this his hobby horse and with the support of others, start a movement to bring about the necessary changes our country needs. In my writings, I have appealed to the Peace Council- the body of clergy and prominent statesmen, to adopt this as their new campaign post the election.

I would like to reduce all three beasts to the second evil listed above-Partisanship! In another article on Ghanaweb on March 13, 2013, Chairman Rawlings was quoted in Nigeria as suggesting that we introduce elements of our traditional system into our political systems to tone down the political bickering. This is all because the Western style of democracy that we have embraced without adapting it to our traditional system is hurting us. Why we Africans, fail to adapt but rather choose to imitate everything Western, smacks of inferiority complex. The West adapts things from us but we think we have to copy everything “ditto ditto” as we say in Ghana. The concept of an elected president is alien to our culture. The former speaker, Peter Ala Adjetey, suggested that the powers of the Presidency must be reformed to enhance development. Members of his own NPP did not even take kindly to his suggestions. While we are quick as Africans to distinguish ourselves from other ethnic groups i.e. “I am Akan, you are Ewe”, there are a lot of similarities in our cultures that lends credence to someone describing what may be referred to as “African culture”. Even the North African Berbers, share in our cultural similarities and that distinguishes them from other Middle Eastern Arabs.

I am talking about our chief’s court or council of elders system-the African Parliament. Our Kings or Chiefs were not lords over us; they are custodians of our culture and symbolize everything about our norms, values, and history. To address social issues, each clan was represented at the chief’s court-every clan! Larger clans enjoyed more seniority and therefore more responsibilities but at the end of the day, at the chief’s court, everyone can (I am using present tense because this is still going on in our villages) contribute to the debate and the chief issues verdicts after consultation of all. We are ruled by consensus, consultation, and respectful dissent. At the end of the day, if someone was not happy, there was always a new hearing or appeal as long as the grounds of appeal are acceptable according to norms and values of society. The chief’s court prides itself in respectful dissent and not acrimony.

Western democracy introduced the concept of the opposition. Ideally, the opposition is to foster competition, keep the party in power on its toes, and give the population choices to choose from. Unfortunately, in Africa, this is opening ethnic wounds, dividing ethnic groups held together artificially by colonial boundaries, and promoting graft (serious corruption) to ensure that each party has the financial resources to perpetuate itself in power. This is what is killing us!

Let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater. The parliamentary system is very much akin to our traditional system-each constituency must be represented in national parliament. Let each community elect and sponsor its parliamentarian. I am advocating the parliamentary system of government. Once in parliament, let parliament elect a speaker based on merit. Let the politicians do their thing and finally settle on the leadership of parliament and parliamentary committees to have oversight over different sectors of the economy. In the process, parliament must elect a prime minister who can be fired by parliament at any set time if he is found to be incompetent or violates the laws of the land. The prime minister should assist parliament in appointing eminent citizens to serve as cabinet ministers and sectorial ministers. These ministers can also be fired if parliament finds them wanting. The only thing to be eliminated is the acrimonious and expensive presidential system. Ghana and Africa can save billions by doing so. Away with party politics, expensive presidential elections, and ethnocentrism! Prime Ministers or Heads of Government business and ministers can be fired by parliament (the people’s representatives) anytime they prove incompetent or fall short of the higher standards expected of them. Power will belong to the people. Each parliament should be dissolved every 4 years as it is now. The National House of Chiefs will be an upper house to parliament and the presidency will be rotated from region to region. The president of the National House of Chiefs at any point in time will hold the title of ceremonial president. A strong National House of Chiefs will foster national unity and tribal harmony.

This stuff is not rocket science, our academics and politicians know this but are waiting for the IMF,EU, Washington, or China to suggest it to them. Our leaders do not inspire. Unlike our founding fathers- J.B. Danquah and Kwame Nkrumah, who knew what they wanted and projected a vision, our leaders today defer to global power brokers to tell them what to do. Well, these foreign leaders have their societies to care about.

Ghana, arise! Provide the African leadership that has become your role among your African siblings. Like King David in the Bible who though young was anointed to be a leader, so are you Ghana. You’ve been anointed to provide your African siblings with the leadership and guidance that the continent needs. Don’t fail in your responsibility. All hands on deck. Politicians, let’s recreate the traditional set up (chief’s court culture) in which everyone has a voice even if it may sound foolish. Let us build consensus and tolerate dissent. Let us put an end to the acrimony that characterizes our current democratic/kleptocratic/monecratic system and recreate an African system that works. Show me some leadership people!

Right now, it is very disappointing when the president wants to meddle in local democracy by appropriating the role to nominate those who should contest for district and local government chief executive positions. When, o-when, will we finally seize the bull by the horn and move our continent forward?

Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa

Columnist: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana