The nonsense of manifestos in Ghanaian political culture (1)

M Anif File photo

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

“When you think is peace and safety: a sudden destruction…Oh, it’s a disgrace to see the human race in a rat-race…You got the horse-race; you got the dog-race; you got the human-race; but this is a rat-race!” (Bob Marley, “Rat Race”).

Political manifestos and our political dilemma

A political manifesto is not a grimoire.

In simple terms a manifesto is a document that captures a layout of programmatic policy aspirations, views, intentions or motives of an entity, most often derived from or based upon the accepted authority of public consensus within that defined entity, whether it is a religious body (“creed”), a government, an individual, a group, scientific and artistic organizations, or a political party.

In particular a political manifesto is in many ways diagnostic and prescriptive in that, respectively, it seeks to identify potential and real deficits in developmental strategies and to make up for those deficits according to a defined or proposed strategy implementation of a regimen of carefully planned aims, goals, policies and objectives.

Or, for better or for worse, a political manifesto is merely a convenient theory of declared intentions with purported practical outcomes in mediating developmental challenges and conundrums. It is more like a micro-planned economy at the level of political partisanship.

In other words it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Unfortunately, it is not a legally binding document or contract with the electorate. Not even are political parties expected to be legally bound by them.

It would, however, have been far more than interesting if the Ghanaian national constitution were to empower electors to sue politicians (and political parties) who successfully manage to convince them [the electors] to, as a matter of fact, trade their prized franchise for official dereliction of honoring the contents of political manifestoes, because, somehow, those politicians in question go back on their word insofar as honoring their party’s manifestoes is concerned.

The point here is not to discredit a political manifesto in its entirety—far from it. Of course, a political manifesto has its existential uses as part of the overall praxis of political expression, a point already conceded in a generality of defined contexts, though it is also a remarkable fact that its functional specificity no doubt implies a meeting point of active engagement between the policy aims and objectives of a political platform and citizens of a supposedly certain political consciousness or maturity.

The ultimate impetus for this purported active engagement revolves around the central idea of elevating or waking the consciousness of citizens to a level where the practical philosophy of issues-based politicking and electioneering moves past reified pretensions and takes on the concrete form of pamphysicism, supposedly leading to a destination of national development.

In other words, the strategic logic of this concrete form of political pamphysicism which underlies the policy formulation of political manifestoes generally tends to embody the spirit and body of national aspiration, in a progressive sense as well as in the practical sense of underwriting the political-intellectual articulation of the theoretical minds of political institutions and the body politic.

Thus, the mandates of political institutions derive from this simple laundry of stated goals, aims, objectives, and intentions as enshrined in a manifesto and cautiously interpreted by an assortment of technocrats, policy strategists, economists, operations researchers and management scientists, politicians, mathematicians, engineers, architects, lawyers, statisticians, computer scientists, urban planners (urban studies specialists), scientists and so on.

But these processes should involve inputs from the general population as well.

For instance in Ghanaian politics, however, manifestos and issues-based planks are absolutely absonant to the dialectical logic of political consciousness, critical pedagogy or conscientization.

More so we do not think voters or electors care much about the content of political manifestos.

While this is usually the case in the Ghanaian context particularly and possibly across Africa in general, politicians are able to buy the consciences and franchises of electors via outright bribery and “gifts,” the latter as a formulaic instantiation of libertarian paternalism.

Rigging elections is part and parcel of the scheme and all the parties, especially the major ones, the NDC and the NPP, do it.

Yet those in the major political parties who should know better, namely put the nation first in all they do, rather choose to point accusing fingers at those they fear or suspect will steal their manifesto ideas.

What is original about these manifestoes that has not been heard or seen before?

These are the kinds of leaders who are yet to be funeralized in a foreboding coffin of sarcastic pariahdom.

Is Ghana a paedocracy or an infantocracy that nothing seems to get done?

Both the NPP and the NDC are so disgraceful that their social-political behaviors do not fit what the great Bob Marley called “human-race” and “dog-race” and “horse-race.”

Rather, their muroid-inspired tom-and-jerry behaviors and governance track records appropriately bespeak the label “rat-race.”

While we think what he referred to as “peace and safety” may be too farfetched, Marley’s “sudden destruction” comfortably awaits us in the cracks if these parties do not do right by their people.

We shall surely return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis