Why are political leaders of third world countries not ‘duressed’ to provide public goods?

Coronavirus Africa  The pre-colonial era kept most of the countries in the

Wed, 21 Oct 2020 Source: Richard Osei Boateng

The term ‘Third world’ was originally coined in times of the cold war to distinguish those nations that were neither aligned with the West(NATO) nor with the East (Communist bloc).

Today, the term is often used to describe the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. Many poorer nations have adopted the terms to describe themselves.

Now, the question is, “Who is responsible for the above ‘losses’ in the third world countries?”. One disgraceful and uneducated position advanced by most political leaders and influential people in these countries, especially in Ghana has been to put the blame for their woes at the doorstep of their colonial leaders. They may not be too strayed from the path but I believe that there is one main issue that cannot be overlooked, relative to the above issues.

From the beginning of elections in the contemporary world in Europe and North America in the 17th century, most countries adopted the concept of elections in choosing their representatives. However, in Ghana and most third world African countries, it was only from the 1960s when the colonialists had handed over, that we began to vote to choose our real representatives, despite numerous previous elections under the watch of our colonial masters.

It was during this immediate post-colonialist era that deepened the woes of Africa and has thus kept most of the Countries in the ‘poverty’ bracket till today.

In his book titled, ‘Africa Betrayed’, Prof. B.N Ayittey describes the regimes in Africa right after the colonialist era as ‘Quasi apartheid’ regimes. This is because these African leaders messed up our colonial gains and even milked African Countries dry. Hence, the exodus of most coup d’états on the continent within this period.

What is actually responsible for Africa(Ghana’s) high levels of penury and sorry states of most citizens?

I will attempt the above from one main perspective. According to Thomas Hobbes’ ‘social contract theory’, the political leaders of countries receive their power from ordinary citizens and therefore have fiduciary right towards the citizens. This means that, there is real power in the thumb, relative to choosing leaders.

One main strategy by politicians in Africa has been to grab and play with the minds of the electorates. They intentionally do this by keeping them uneducated or uninformed on their rights and the real issues pertaining to their electoral relationship or duties towards the citizens. This is especially so with rural voters. They see the politicians as ‘gods’ who should be worshipped rather than the politicians serving these poor citizens.

Directly linked to the above is the high levels of poverty in third-world countries(Ghana) especially in the rural areas. Personally, I believe that the poverty of the masses has been one holding point for politicians for years.

This is because poor people usually have low self-esteem, lack personal confidence and less motivated to even confront these politicians even when they are not delivering. Also, politicians, knowing this state of the voters, are not in a hurry to provide the public goods. Rather, they wait for election day, go round sharing second hand clothing and money to these electorates.

Once these voters get the election day goodies, they have option but to vote these non-delivering Politicians again.

Furthermore, voters in Third world countries are usually uneducated or illiterates. Therefore, they do not appreciate the impact of making wrong political choices on the nation and their children. They, as a result, vote anyhow, not based on issues or records. Most of these people just vote based on tribal, religious and other non-important factors.

One may say that, the above is not only done by the illiterates or the uneducated. It is very true and I have no grounds to oppose such an argument. This is because, as a campus political fanatic, I encountered several ‘so called’ educated people who voted for their candidates based on the above mention factors, including beauty and handsomeness. It is indeed a pity but I will still pardon them because I think most of these educated class also lack either the knowledge on the ramifications of their electoral choices or are tired of not getting the public goods from the politicians. Hence they choose to vote anyhow, intentionally.

According to David Easton, politics is, “who gets what, when and how”. Therefore, it is clear from the definition that politics is meant to make people get something. It is worrying when the opposite happens.

How can we deal holistically with the above defects in voting, in third world countries(Ghana) to put pressure on the politician to provide the public goods?

I have always held the view that, whenever a person has a stake in something or business, he/she will naturally fight to protect or keep these properties. This principle will work best in the act of choosing leaders in third world countries. I’m all out for the system that was used in the gold coast even under our colonial masters. This was a limited form of a franchise where only people who met certain property requirements and the council of chiefs were allowed to vote. It will work best to serve the interest of the poor.

It has it’s numerous defects and I believe we have come far and one may even quote democracy to counter my point. Notwithstanding, I believe that most voters in third world countries do not really deserve that right.

How can a village pauper have the same franchise with a multi-million dollar company owner who employs thousands? The villager or such people certainly have nothing to lose in times of bad governance or leadership.

Secondly, I will call on institutions like the NCCE, CSOs and the media to step up their game. There is a real challenge. We need to continue to work on the minds of our people. Let us educate them on the power of the thumb and its sanctity.

This will help them to exercise great judgment or critical assessment of performance before voting.

Furthermore, we must make the voters aware of the contract they sign with their politicians whenever they vote, as postulated by Thomas Hobbes. They- should be made not to see the politicians as their bosses but rather servants who must be made to give an account of their stewardship from time to time.

In our part of the world, extreme tribal politics is gradually becoming the new trend. Therefore, we should also channel our education in this direction. The citizens must be taught to rather decide or give their mandates to politicians not based on their tribal affiliations but purely based on their performance.

They should know that resorting to tribalism in choosing, will rather make the politicians take advantage of them.

We have indeed come a long way and I know Ghana today, is not like the early post-independence era. We must make every effort to protect the electorates from being taken for a ride by politicians, especially in third world countries.

Columnist: Richard Osei Boateng