The nonsense of manifestos in Ghanaian political culture (2)

M Anif File photo

Tue, 30 Aug 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

By Kwarteng Francis

“Like I said in my election manifesto—why don’t they legalise the whole thing and let people like me work?” (Cynthia Payne).

Food for thought

We have had one political manifesto after another, and yet the alleged benefits of these manifestos are nowhere to be found in post-Nkrumah Ghana, and yet Ghana still remains largely a wobbling paedocracy in terms of industrialization or technical/scientific advancement.

One party assumes political office and quickly abandons or puts on hold national projects undertaken by a previous regime, either because the said projects are in the stronghold of the previous regime, projects whose successful completion could potentially be used for partisan electioneering-pitch by the previous regime for initiating them, or because the new administration feels the said projects could not generate adequate “sidekick” windfalls to enrich a few.

Manifestos have been a means to personal enrichment through illegal disbursement of judgment debts and shady procurement arrangement deals between the state and the private sector. In other words manifestos have been part and parcel of the underdevelopment of the Ghanaian body politic.

It is painfully clear that manifestos in the Ghanaian political culture are reduced to politicization, documents that should rather be tailored to the demands of patriotic nationalism, comparative advantage, internal development, social unity, humanism, and happiness economics.

Partisan politics, democratic citizenship and legalizing manifestos

The sort of political manifesto we have in mind is not Nii Moi Thompson’s ambitious if chimerical National Development Planning Commissions (NDPC)’s 40-year Development Plan.

For Nii Moi Thompson’s is merely academic for the most part.

Others have already spoken to this and we shall not belabor it here.

Having said that, we also want to bring attention to the fact that the kinds of political manifestos produced in Ghana lack adequate preparation paradigms for absorbing the shocks of contingencies and market forces, such as unexpected slumps in prices of cash crops and oil/gas, etc., as well as of donor fatigue, large-scale public corruption, illegal judgment debts, pollution of the environment, overpopulation, and overpricing of national projects.

What is more, poor management of existing projects and lack of maintenance technocracy and political corruption in our culture tend to undermine the scientific and technological utility of political manifestos.

And, our leaders also sometimes forget that successfully executing election manifestos at the national level requires the instruments of patriotic technocracy, meritocratic dedication to nation-building, national will, science and technology, social justice, equitable distribution of the national pie, and a sound fiscal policy, as well as of accountability, transparency and probity.

We want to make a final submission that manifestos should be people-based, that is, they should empower the masses to take the direction of their collective national destiny into their own hands and not allow them [manifestos] to come under the discretionary cynosure of political morons.

Simply put, manifestos should be agents of scientific and technological manuduction as well as of change in the standard of living and quality of life of the general population.

Their benefits should inure to the physical development and health of the nation as well. Thus the masses should demand these hypothetical benefits.

Aldo the masses should also consider ceasing their support for political parties and politicians (and civil society organizations and development partners) who mere treat political manifestos as grimoires.

In this general context we shall also propose that political manifestos should be tied, somewhat, to the constitutional mandates of the executive presidency so that citizens can bring lawsuits against the executive presidency (and parliament) if it so much as reneges on their [manifestos] constitutional stipulations.

For far too long, citizens have allowed politicians to take them for granted. We shall submit that this approach to doing politics in our body politic must cease forthwith.

As a matter of fact this proposal may sound laughably impossible, even stupidly academic, but we need find efficient ways to radically reduce the bracket of liability, which the habitual dereliction of officialdom adds to the cornucopia of public corruption, thus in the process holding politicians’ feet to the fire and forcing them to do right by the people and the countries they preside over in accordance with the manifesto promises. This is not asking too much.

Anything less amounts to the nonsense of political manifestos in the Ghanaian political culture.


While we have hesitantly acknowledged manifestos as an important feature of political expression, we will also do well to acknowledge its existential shortcomings in terms of political inaction or lack of political will in their implementation on the part of the political leadership.

The limited capacity for generating internal funding to underwrite manifesto projects has also been a major problem for the political establishment. We do not have effective liberal tax policies in place to encourage private investment and to improve the private sector as a whole.

What is more, extreme partisan politics, public corruption, technocratic shortsightedness, lack of scientific and technical expertise among the ruling class, political centralization, bureaucracy, undue and due interferences from the IMF/World Bank and foreign-funded NGOs in our internal politics, and lack of strategic and tactical prioritization in the formulation and execution of national policies have all been part of the problem hindering successful implementation of manifesto projects.

Yet we have come far enough to have had a strong national economy based export-oriented industrialization and comparative advantage, and here we are with our selfish, incompetent and kleptomaniacal leaders going around the world with begging bowls.

Perhaps the richest continent in the world, Africa, in terms of mineral resources is reduced to a globe-trotting beggar as a result of its visionless leaders and their failed policies. Our healthcare systems, educational institutions, entertainment industries, the private sector, journalism, environment, public health, and gender relations all appear to be in shambles.

We need to wake up and take our political democracy to another step by forcing the ruling class to do right by their people! One way to achieve this is to make manifestos legally binding on political parties. Perhaps we need a plebiscite for the approval or otherwise of this controversial proposal.

Democratic citizenship, conscientization, an educated and principled electorate, improving the standard of living and quality of life of the masses, assessing the psychological or mental health of politicians, and issues-based politicking and electioneering are the other variables to look at.

We shall return…


For the Cynthia Payne quote, please go to http://www.azquotes.com/author/45575-Cynthia_Payne

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis