Why Ghana?s elections in 2008 must be decided on ....

Tue, 18 Apr 2006 Source: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

.... policies and not on empty promises and ideological dogma?

Corruption, poverty eradication and job creation are some of the issues that will dominate the elections.

Already the race to succeed John Kufuor as the President of the Republic of Ghana is getting hotter as candidates from all the major parties begin to test the ground (through their supporters and advisors) as to their chances of becoming the flag bearer for their respective parties.

Beginning this fall, the current President John Kufuor will become a lame duck president and those in his party, including many in his cabinet (already some, including the current minister for foreign affairs and the defence minister have started to set their policies and manifestos) that are harbouring presidential ambitions will start to jockey for positions.

What the 2004 election results (especially in the Western and Central regions) teaches us is, those who are planning to give large amount of money to voters to try and influence how people vote would be shocked the day after the 2008 elections. Increasingly Ghanaian voters are becoming smarter (mastering the voting patterns of the developed world voters) by voting purely on issues and policies that would make an impact in their lives such as their children?s education, job creation, the economy, health care, poverty eradication and crime and not voting on political ideology, dogma and/or which party or politician gives out most money to buy votes. Those politicians who use political office and the security forces to terrorise the electorates must and would be voted out. They belong to the dustbin of history and not modern day politics. They were voted to serve the people and be their voice in parliament and not voted to become lords over the voters.

After 8 years of NDC rule, from 1992 to 2000(discounting the period 1981 to 1992 of the PNDC military regime) and the NPP rule from 2000 to 2008, the Ghanaian voter can now make comparisons between the stewardship of the two main political parties (based on informed decision), plus CPP and vote as such. The voters would have by now gained an insight into the practices of the two parties since 1992. They should have by now witnessed the plundering of the state coffers by politicians whom they entrusted with the affairs of the nation. Come 2008 and the Ghanaian voter stands a better chance of telling the corrupt politicians that power is firmly in the hands of the voter. In 2008 every vote cast will be counted.

Voters can now compare corrupt practices and rent seeking, nepotism and mismanagement that occurred in the two regimes and thus make an informed choice based on their perceptions of whom they can trust to manage the economy of the nation.

The question of who will be the next president in Ghana would be based on which candidate can offer strong leadership, fight corruption in all sectors of the economy, banish rent seeking, nepotism and mismanagement to where they belong, in the trash. In 2004, the voters in my home region (Western Region) and Central region passed judgement on the previous 8 years of NDC rule (1992 to 2000) and voted for the continuality of the NPP government by giving them 4 more years. How has NPP fare since then? The voters have become wiser and in 2008 would make their decisions based on their economic and social conditions and the future of the motherland.

Since the inception of the democratic process in Ghana (after the interlude of the PNDC?s Bank/Fund Structural Adjustment programmes, when rogshog was driven through the economy irrespective of the causalities, and all dissent were crushed with brute force, again with tacit support of the Bretton Woods Institutions; ? mainly the rural and urban poor were the ones who suffered the most) the income disparity between the rich and the poor has widen. The disparity between the rural folks and the urban elite is even more frightening. In general sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where income disparity between the rich and the poor is widening. The poor in Africa, including Ghana, are now the poorest of the poor. In Accra, Kumasi, Tamale and the major metropolis, the sight of people sleeping in front of shop fronts at night, majority children, have become a common sight.

Education and health have bear the brunt of the Structural policies. The introduction of user fees in health and education caused intolerable hardships to the poor, people are dieing unnecessarily from opportunistic diseases which can be cured because they are too poor to pay for their care. In a related article this writer document the plight of young school children who had to abandoned school to fend for themselves because their parents could not afford their school fees. In most families right across the country the education of young girls, some as young as 10years old, are being sacrificed to save the family income on school fees. Although this is not a new phenomenon, the sad fact is these young girls are at greater risk of being exploited by unscrupulous individuals who lure them into slavery.

The rapid disinversiture of public companies during the NDC and NPP regimes and huge cuts in the number of civil service jobs has thrown a lot of workers into the unemployment scrap heap. Lack of investment and less opportunities for private companies has exacerbated the jobless situation. Those who can create jobs are leaving the country in droves. This writer?s hometown, Sekondi, once a thriving metropolis with its colourful characters, where seafarers come to tell local folks tales of far away places and boys listen in awe, is now a ghost town. Most able bodied young men, majority were seafarers (asasi seamen), have left town. Like most towns up and down the country the only inhabitants left are the old folks and children.

Despite the hardship and lack of opportunities, Ghana is still noted for her quality medical education, her medical professionals are highly rated across the globe. Still the brain drain goes on in more frightening manner. Ghana was the only country in sub-Saharan Africa that lost most of her skill labour in the 1980s (known in the literature as the ?lost decade?). The period was a real watershed in Ghana?s history. In addition to the massive skill loss that Ghana suffered in the 1980s, many of her nationals living in neighbouring countries were expelled, thus making the economic situation in Ghana worse. Welcoming his compatriots home, many were children and pregnant women with only a handful of their belongings, (majority were not allowed to collect their personal belongings by the host countries? security forces who expelled them, whilst most lost their lives on the voyage home) at the quay side at Tema Harbour, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, then the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), was moved to tears. By aligning himself with the common people, Rawlings became an instant hero, and thus was able to execute most of the policies which were being dictated by the Bretton Woods Institutions.

Although serious mismanagement and atrocities went on under that regime, however the fact that Rawlings was able to keep the country afloat is what will be his lasting legacy. Despite the tremendous hardship that Ghanaians have gone through, they still believe in the orderly change of regime. Ghanaians would never use violence to resolve dispute. They will argue fiercely among themselves but would never take up arms to settle differences. At the end of the day they will smoke the peace pipe to resolve their differences. Ghana is the only country in the sub-region not to have experienced civil war. The orderly hand over of government in 2000 and acceptance of the 2004 election results (without any lose of life) by the then opposition candidate Professor John Atta Mills was a case in point and shows the maturity of the country.

Under the guardianship of the current Finance Minister, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, Ghana is making steady progress. Though the pace is still slow and people are still causing financial loss to the state, the stewardship of the economy under Baah Wiredu cannot be faulted. Despite the hostile global conditions that he is operating under plus the country?s huge external debt, just like his illustrious predecessor Dr Kwesi Botchwey, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu is performing brilliantly by keeping inflation and interest rate low.

Thus 2008 elections, the 4th consecutive time that Ghana will elect a government not through the barrel of the gun or fraudulent means, but through the ballot box, would go down as the most memorable period in Ghana?s political history. Although there are still high incidence of poverty among the general population and massive unemployment in the country, yet this has not degenerated into instability as has been witnessed in neighbouring Ivory Coast. Despite the government?s effort in maintaining the road infrastructure and of building new feeder roads, the high level of accidents on the country?s roads is worrying and frightening. Among the causalities are high level government officials, including the 4 Urologists who were killed needlessly last year. These unnecessary deaths can be put down to bad vehicular maintenance, bad road maintenance, over speeding and overtaking on the part of careless drivers.

In a discussion with Osahene Kojo Boakye Djan, the aspiring Presidential candidate for the combined Nkrumaists parties, this writer noted that the issue of road deaths and poor maintenance of road vehicles are high on Osahene?s agenda. Osahene spoke candidly about his desire to see the number of road deaths halved within a year of his presidency.

Osahene emphasised that if the MOT system, as it is in the United Kingdom, is introduce in Ghana it will cut down on the number of bad maintenance vehicles on the roads plus reduce the number of road deaths. Overnight, the new system will create jobs for the numerous magazine fitters and mechanics that are jobless as well as eliminate bad vehicles from the roads. This writer noted that the number of deaths on Ghana?s roads was a great worry to Osahene and his advisers and indeed to all Diaspora Ghanaians.

Another candidate who has got the road policy high on his agenda is Dr Kobina Arthur Kennedy. Dr Arthur Kennedy has started detailing the policies (through his supporters and advisers, including my brother Bonna) that he wants to pursue when he becomes President. Like Osahene, Arthur Kennedy also wants to deal with corruption both in government and other sectors of the economy.

So far only 3 candidates have come out publicly with policies that they want to pursue when they become president and are already in the public domain. These candidates are the current Foreign Minister Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo, Dr Kobina Arthur Kennedy and Osahene Kojo Boakye Djan

Up to the run up to the 2008 elections this writer will team up with other commentators and Economists (including Bonna Okyere, Bawa, Atsu Amegashie, Ato Kwamena, Appiah Kusi Adomako, Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, Nana Amma Obenewaa, Kwabena Osei-Dadzie and others who contribute to Ghana web) to analyse the policies and manifestos of all the leading candidates (those that have got realistic chance of succeeding John Kufuor as President of the Republic of Ghana ? and not the mediocre politicians/candidates). The analyses will only look at candidates? manifestos and how they can help to solve the numerous problems that Ghana faces and not as endorsement of any one candidate. Although the writers may have their preferred candidates, but the analyses will only serve as guidelines for the readers of Ghana web, the Ghanaian voters and political commentators and thus not to influence anyone in the way they vote. Ghana is now at a crossroad. In 2007 Ghana will be 50 years old. At 50yrs old, Ghana is still classified as a poor 3rd world economy. Aid forms over 40% of her Gross Domestic Product which is about $390. Most families live on less than $1 a day. At independence Ghana was fairly rich. Ghana subsidised the education of over 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghanaian educational institutions, including University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and others became a haven for most of the freedom fighters from other African countries.

Yes Ghana?s population has doubled overtime, but surely Ghana should have been in a position to feed her citizens. Today most children in Ghana go to bed hungry. This is fact, not fiction. Today Ghana has to get approval from the Bretton Woods Institutions before she can present her budget. This is fact. Today in Ghana there is a permanent desk for the Bretton Woods Institutions at the finance ministry in Accra. This is fact. Malaysia and South Korea which emerged around the same period as Ghana are aid donors to Ghana. This is fact. Ghana, once the most promising pupil among the independence graduates and was deemed to achieve middle income status in the shortest possible time is on her knees. This is fact. Today NGOs can tell the government of Ghana what policies it can and cannot pursue. This is fact. In 2007 Ghanaians will have nothing to show after 50 years of political independence. This is fact. At independence every Ghanaian child was given the opportunity to go to school. Today in Ghana school children abandon school to fend for themselves. This is fact. Ghanaians have set themselves a vision of becoming an emerging economy in 2020. Can this dream be achieved or is it going to be another illusion? Will the 2008 elections be the final solution to Ghana?s problems?

Folks in 2007 Ghana will be 50 years old, yet the Black Star of Africa is still bleeding heavily!

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

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

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