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Feature Article of Saturday, 20 October 2012

Columnist: Dzikunoo, Setsoafia

We Need Definite Policies; Not Mere Promises

It has become a national ritual for political parties and their aspiring presidential candidates to make promises to Ghanaians with the hope that their promises may win the hearts of majority of Ghanaians. It is often said that politics is a “game” and therefore, anyone seeking to be elected into a political office must be willing to devise ways and means to get there. Difficult as it may be for me, I reckon that making ‘promises’ is part of the means to attaining political power. However, what baffles me as an individual is whether “lies” are also part of the means to getting into political office. I am sure you are wondering where this is heading? Sincerely, I believe, that the promises politicians make these days go beyond mere ‘promises’; they simply are a “bunch of stuff” (to quote Joe Biden). In this write up, my focus is on the two major political parties (NDC and NPP) who at least on two occasions each, had the mandate to better the lives of Ghanaians.
It is an obvious fact that a child whose elder brother promised him toys and candies at least twice in the past but failed to fulfill this promise will certainly not take his brother serious the next time he promises him bicycle or something much expensive. What am I saying? The crux of my argument is both the NDC and NPP have in the past made several promises that were not fulfilled when they were voted into power. The only excuse given was, they inherited broke state vaults and therefore could not execute close to 70% of their campaign promises. This excuse was most unfortunate and untenable. Any serious political party that is not only desirous of winning power but also poised to rule a nation should be diligent in its work. It must have the men and women who are able to collate facts and figures and not ‘cook them up’ in their own kitchens for political propaganda. If they didn’t know the state of affairs, what then informed their promises?
It is interesting to note that the NPP won the 2000 general elections largely based on the promises made to Ghanaians. The promise of reducing the fuel prices drastically and creating jobs for the teeming unemployed youth (with special emphasis on graduates). Soon after coming into office, the fuel price shot up astronomically and several reasons were given. Before the NPP left office in 2008, the unemployment rate also soared up. In the same vein, the NDC trumpeted reduction of fuel price and the one-time NHIS premium in 2008 and immediately after winning the elections increased the fuel price drastically. We are yet to know what has become of the one-time NHIS premium. Suffice to say, that these are just two of the many broken promises. Since the politicians are aware that Ghanaians have abundantly understood that no government will be able to reduce fuel prices, they have shifted focus to other areas ie. education, health and jobs. Oddly, when they are asked exactly HOW they intend to do these things, they go on a long-winding story telling journey.
Another significant fact about these politicians is the inconsistency in the principles they expound. For instance, it was ok for the EC to create constituencies using a particular formula when the NPP was in power and in another breadth it is now illegal for the same EC to use the same formula to create new constituencies as NPP would want everyone to believe and the NDC vice versa. The same could be said about corruption allegations and the need for the accuser to provide proof.
Observation
What you are about to read are my own opinions and observations but I believe they are reflective of the general feeling and thinking of the ordinary Ghanaian youth. Based on what I have seen and experienced in the political arena since the inception of fourth I believe it is high time we demanded clarity, honesty and diligence from people seeking political office regarding the things they tell us. We should no longer accept campaign messages filled with lies, mediocrity and populist appeal. The next time a political party or its apparatchik makes a promise, ask why they did not fulfill their previous promises to you or perhaps HOW they intend to deliver on their new promises? I bet they will become stammers instantaneouslyrepublican constitutional rule: it is convenient for one to conclude that;
Most political parties in Ghana and their leaders, only work towards winning elections but have no clue whatsoever as to how to govern the nation. Successive governments have had to react to situations in an ad hoc manner instead of being proactive. Because their focus is winning elections; they do not spend time to subject their proposed programmes to rigorous scrutiny and thereby have uncoordinated programmes which are mostly implemented in try-and-error fashion.
Again, many of the promises made by the politicians are not carefully thought through; they only look out for the things that will appeal to peoples’ ears. Since 1992, no government had ever been consistent with its own plans and promises. They undertake development projects in piecemeal. Apart from Nkrumah’s CPP, no political party has ever come up with an integrated development programme.
Unfortunately, the media, the fourth realm of the state has not been critical enough to demand the answers that many Ghanaians would want to hear. Rather, they become the conduit for these ‘unexamined promises’. Elsewhere, it is the media that leads the discussion on most of these issues, they ask the tough questions and do behind the scene fact finding. After, the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates in the U.S.A, the organisers quickly move to double-check claims and statement made by candidates on the platform in order to help the voters know the facts as they are. Why are our journalists cannot do same (at least ask the critical questions) is something I cannot explain. The only answer that comes to mind immediately is perhaps, the journalists are as naïve about the issues as much as the rest of us.
If you think I am being harsh, pause and ask yourself why it should take a BBC journalist to ask Nana Addo how much his “Free SHS” will cost, when this message has been preached for years in Ghana? Why didn’t anyone ask late Prof Mills how much it will cost the nation to implement a one-time NHIS? How do they intend to create jobs (will it be the NPP’s cocoa spraying jobs or the NDC pot-hole filling jobs)? What impart would the Free SHS and Free Healthcare for persons below 18 years have on population growth? How much does quality education cost? How do we intend to deal with the potential increase in population? (high cost of living; school fees and health care are major factors for family planning and once these become free, there will automatically be a rise in family size). How do we develop and align our national education policy to industrial policy? Have they engaged key stakeholders in the education sector to know what the real issues are? Why do political parties change their manifestos every four years even when they barely achieve 25%-30% of their promises? Could it be that they just have to say something and so they say things they don’t even understand?
It saddens me to say that Ghana’s situation is like a bride who must at all times be married. She cannot afford to live without a man in her life for very good reasons. Her headache however, is that there are only two “abled men” in her community whereas the other male members are up and coming. Interestingly, the two abled men are immature and selfish. All of them come to her every four years with all manner of promises and commitments but each time she gave one of them an opportunity, they plunder her inheritance and abuse her generosity. If you were her what would you do?
I believe it is high time we demanded clarity, honesty and diligence from people seeking political office regarding the things they tell us. We should no longer accept campaign messages filled with lies, mediocrity and populist appeal. The next time a political party or its apparatchik makes a promise, ask why they did not fulfill their previous promises to you or perhaps HOW they intend to deliver on their new promises? I bet they will become stammers instantaneously

It is my prayer that God opens our eyes as He did to Nehemiah so we can rise and rebuild our nation. Our future is in our hands not the politician.

God Bless Our Homeland Ghana!
Long Live Ghana!!!
Setsoafia Dzikunoo

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