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Opinions of Friday, 20 July 2018

Columnist: ghananewsagency.org

Let's adopt culture of civility in politics

Media commentaries on vote buying, the use of "juju" (black powers) and "communist inferior tactics" by politicians to win elections tend to make mockery of Ghana’s democracy.

Is it not intriguing that even by-election cannot take place without some people “going naked” at midnight to seek ‘spiritual powers’ just to win political power, while others keep vigil at polling stations and engage in all sorts of violent acts - smashing car windscreens and snatching ballot boxes. Is that democracy?

The recent internal elections conducted by the two leading political parties in Ghana, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to pick party officers revealed nauseating acts that defy all democratic values.

Political bigwigs, candidates and various campaign groups do not only sell their messages to the voters but go to every length to influence them with money, mobile phones, food and other items.

Vote buying is a dangerous phenomenon – something if allowed unchecked could undermine the quality of political leadership, we get as a nation. The rich in society, with no experience and competence in statecraft could very soon be running the political affairs of the country. Knowledgeable people, who do not have the financial resources, would find themselves pushed into the periphery.

Sadly, some Ghanaians appear not to see the harm being done to ourselves. They consider vote buying as a normal practice and simply continue to under-estimate the dire consequences of this crude and unfair conduct, on national development.

In countries where voting pattern is influenced by money, anarchy and chaos become the order of the day as the rich hijack the reins of government.
Recent public engagements by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) have shown that many Ghanaians do not know that vote buying is a corrupt practice and an offence punishable by law.

“Most electorates do not understand the concept of vote buying and are not aware that ‘vote buying or selling’ constitutes election fraud.”
Some of them are also willing to take money or other gifts from politicians with some believing that vote buying is a norm and view it as an open competitive market where the highest bidder (a politician who offers the highest gift) always wins.

The practice is illegal in Ghana and there are several laws that directly and indirectly prohibit vote buying. These include the Political Parties Law 2000, ACT 574, and the Representation of the People’s Law, 1992, PNDC Law 284 - all make engaging in, and buying and selling of votes in any way punishable by law.

Indeed, The Electoral Commission’s voter education brochure “What You Should Know” states clearly that vote buying or selling is an electoral offence.
It is pathetic that the two main political parties are very much guilty of the sordid practice and continue to blatantly engage in that.
A survey conducted by the CDD showed that 51 per cent of Ghanaians sampled believed that the NDC was engaged in vote buying while 32 per cent felt that the NPP used various ways to coerce people to vote for them.

Another issue of great concern is the unscrupulous and unbridled use of blatant propaganda combined with ‘spin doctors’’ - further muddying the waters of democracy, keeping it foul by the day.
Those who spew more garbage during political debates and discussions are considered more intelligent, courageous and are hailed, making them superstars, sometimes overnight. This provides the incentive to continue to insult and tell lies about their opponents.

Posterity and the next generation will not forgive us if we fail to address the ‘monetization of politics’ – a canker that is eating the very fabric of our society.
It is regrettable that after more than six decades of political independence, Ghana is becoming more polarized through the irresponsible actions and inactions of some greedy politicians. We need to work together to change things, to save the nation’s future.

Currently, many families are divided, marriages are breaking, friends are being turned into foes and brothers are up in arms against each other all because they belong to different political parties.
The poor, uneducated, the vulnerable and even some educated people are taken advantage of and left to ‘rot’ after politicians get their votes for political power. Sincerely, it is unfathomable, how people get into this deception, polls after polls.

Most politicians simply do not care about the welfare of the ordinary Ghanaian. Their overriding concern is how to win the next election and would go to every length to achieve just that.

The sad reality is that the media sometimes get entangled in this web - deliberately and consciously setting the political agenda in favour of their ‘preferred candidates. This mostly comes with screaming headlines that often do not correspond with the stories to provoke, demean, cause dissatisfaction, lie, denigrate, ridicule and divide the people, all in pursuit for political power.

This oils the grounds for politicians, political commentators and their followers across the political divide to use words that are often acidic to sometimes inflame ethnic, religious and political tension.
The focus of our political discourse should centre on enhancing human lives by exposing the ills of our society and the corruption that had left the economy struggling - impoverished many of us.

As a people, we should begin to ask questions about the opulent lifestyle of our politicians, payment of exorbitant judgment debts and the sale of productive national assets which together had reduced the nation’s capacity to invest in the manufacturing sector.

The time has come for our leaders to start processing our raw materials to add value to them to create more jobs and wealth.
Government must have a greater purpose - focus on lifting people out of poverty, bridging the yawning gap between the rich and the poor through equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) should support in educating the masses on the need to maintain high integrity, refuse to allow politicians to take them for a ride.
As peace loving people, it is incumbent on us to prove to the rest of the world that democracy has really evolved in Ghana by tolerating varied opinion to sustain the peace, harmony and stability of the country.
We need to overcome the obsession with money, stop thinking that money is everything and make concerted efforts to find lasting solution to the monetization of our democracy.

Ghanaians, especially political parties, must ensure that all their activities are carried out in the spirit and letter of the 1992 Constitution, to make our multi-party democracy attractive.
We owe it a duty to ourselves and posterity to uphold the rule of law, free and fair elections and freedom of expression, so that people can freely make decisions and choices to deepen our democracy.