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Feature Article of Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.

Winning the Battle but Losing the War: Lessons for Election 2012

Presidential elections mean different things to different people. For some, their very lives depend on the outcome of an election – that is, all of their resources may have been expended in a political game that would have given them only a second-place finish. Just not good enough for them – especially when the next opportunity for an electoral battle is a whopping four years away! (Yes, in election terms, four years is a very long time to wait for another opportunity.) Thus, disingenuous politicians sometimes cheat their way to the ultimate diadem – the presidency. Sadly, however, they may win the battle but lose the war. In other words, they may foist themselves on a fearful voting public, but their fraudulent rise to power may lead to armed resistance from those on the other side of the political divide, thereby making the country ungovernable.

Into the mayhem the military hops. Like hyenas, they wait for the battle-scarred sides to wear themselves out, and then they “step in” to “restore law and order” – or so they tell the voting public. Suddenly, their illegitimate foray into governance becomes lawful, and an attempt by fellow soldiers to dislodge them becomes treasonable. The kettle calling the pot black – or is it rather the pot calling the kettle black? I will let the reader decide! Either way, the future becomes as unsettled as a tempest. Life becomes the proverbial one step forward, two steps backward. Ghanaians had, once upon a time, been forced to trudge through this vestibule of torment, and they now want to be free. As free as the Almighty has made them! As free as the air that they breathe!

Always the “saviors” of the masses, military leaders might step in to “quell” post-election violence, real or perceived, and then hang on to power like leeches. When citizens demand a return to democratic rule, they are brutalized with Kalashnikovs and Molotov cocktails that their own tax dollars have paid for! This is Africa’s story. This is Africa’s post-election story.

Africa has many electoral sharks. They are typically greedy politicians. But they sometimes are a combination of civilians and military leaders. Their pride unable to accept electoral defeat, they cut down their own people like grass. From Ivory Coast to Kenya, from Zimbabwe to Togo, we have seen the mystifying manacles of political oppression. Brother against brother, sister against sister, friend against friend, ally against ally.

In all of this mystifying darkness, Ghana has remained a bonfire of hope. Hope for the sub-region and beyond. Hope for the politically oppressed. Hope for those determined to embark on self-rule.

As a prophet is without honor in his own nation, so is Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. A man given to Ghana by Providence, Afari-Gyan has superintended five (yes, five!) successful presidential elections in Ghana. In 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008. His success is unmatched on our dark continent. He is fearless. He refuses to bend to calls to cook the numbers. He takes his job seriously. He refuses to allow mayhem to take place under his watch. He is God’s gift to Ghana – and Africa. Indeed, Dr. Afari-Gyan is a national asset!

The Afari-Gyan-superintended Ghana Electoral Commission’s (EC) duties involve frenetic spurts of activity interspersed with protracted periods of idleness, which means that members of Africa’s most reliable electoral commission have adequate time to organize and supervise Election 2012, the nation’s most pivotal. Many of us are certain that Afari-Gyan and his lieutenants will make Ghana proud once more during the Election 2012 contest.

So long as the various political parties obey the laws of the land, Ghanaians will come through this election unscathed. We have no other choice. We ought to prove our enemies and the naysayers wrong. Yes, our democratic dispensation is still an experiment (twenty years are like the footsteps of a toddler, in terms of a nation’s democratic credentials), but we can, with honesty and fortitude, crystallize this experiment and make it a permanent fixture in the coming decades.

I now turn to the political parties contesting Election 2012. The battle will likely be won by either Nana Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party or John Mahama’s National Democratic Congress party. Both men ought to remember that the presidency is not a birthright. In other words, the loser of a free and fair Election 2012 must concede defeat graciously. Ghanaians do not expect less. Ghanaians do not want any shenanigans. The political imbroglios on our continent should push us harder to remain a positive example to others. Perhaps we are God’s chosen ones on the continent. We are a society that espouses peace and harmony and understanding. Let us keep it that way.

To all members of Good Governance in Ghana, a pressure group that I started on Facebook.com a few years ago, please invite your friends to become members as well. It is an open group that every Ghanaian can join. We need to start writing letters to our presidential candidates to force them to commit to a peaceful Election 2012. Additionally, we ought to start making calls to the various radio and television stations in the country to plead with our presidential candidates and security agencies to abide by the Constitution and conduct free and fair elections.

Finally, we need to let our leaders know that those who would attempt to cause mayhem after Election 2012 would be exposed and prosecuted, no matter the lofty positions they occupy. Power that is used to bully citizens is no power at all, and those who engage in the abuse of citizens must face the full rigors of the law.

I reiterate my call to Ghanaians to be brave and demand that Election 2012 be free of violence, and that all losing candidates accept the results of a free and fair election. Let us hold our leaders accountable, folks! To Nana Akufo-Addo and John Mahama, I say this: It is better to lose the battle than to lose the war. Posterity will judge Nana Akufo-Addo and John Mahama for their conduct during Election 2012, and Ghanaians hope that both men will display true statesmanship throughout this very important period.

© The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is a doctoral student and an Adjunct Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in the U.S.A. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

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