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Opinions of Sunday, 16 December 2012

Columnist: Nyako, Stephen

The Winner Takes All Mentality of Ghana Politics

-Can the 50% Minus one of the electorate which did not vote for the Incumbents, thrive in a hostile environment?

Now the elections are over in Ghana, the winners declared, but the results are being disputed by the other side. Whilst we are all coming to terms with our subjective visions of what the future brings, very worrying incidents have been occurring throughout the country. The two parties are evenly divided and fiercely loyal to their machinery and to their leaders. When one party wins, the other side is completely excluded from the national cake, opportunities, and resources.

Whilst some in the winning party have died jubilating, other rival supporters have attacked and inflicted horrendous injuries on each other. Apparently a few from the losing side have even committed suicide. For a while in Ghana the basis of discrimination has been tribal and party affiliation which denies people of access to productive resources.

I can sense the reasons, the other 50% minus one, are so desperate not to be on the losing side. They would be marginalized and denied opportunities and resources for another four years. Their towns, and communities, would be denied the needed basic infrastructure, the roads, electricity, schools and water systems, just because they found themselves on the losing side. Their poor neighbours and their families, who voted for the winning party, would all of a sudden grow rich on government jobs and contracts skewed in their favour.

If those on the losing side are accomplished professionals, business men, investors, entrepreneurs , industrialists with success stories, the ruling government would ensure they either don’t get any more contracts or collapse their successful businesses. So the the gnashing of teeth is real, because that is the reality of Ghanaian politics and economics.

It does not matter whether the productive economic efforts of the losers also create jobs and add up to the economic numbers. They have got to be taught a lesson, how not to vote for the opposition. “we have the resources and opportunities to ourselves now, for another four years “you are on your own mate!”

So now you see why the losers are so desperate because of the supposedly bleak future ahead of them.

We did not invent democracy, but under normal circumstances in a democracy, when there has been an election, the losing party and their supporters, would not be so petrified of their uncertain futures, but in Ghana its legitimate to ask themselves the pertinent question, whether they can thrive for another four years, economically and socially in a hostile environment?.

All these scenarios quite often gets played up in Ghana politics because of our winner takes all system, and mentality to teach the other side a lesson. This sort of mentality has characterised Ghanaian political systems since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1992, when the losing side of the population are denied all kinds of opportunities and resources to develop and maximize their economic potential and contribute to national development.

Whenever the electoral dispute is settled, the newly elected government needs to understand that, shooting ourselves in the foot, like excluding close to 50% of the population from opportunities and resources is definitely a no brainer in this stern age. I am just hoping that the new political class in charge do not repeat the follies of the past no matter how they are seeking to revenge the evils of the past.

To deal with our myriad of challenges, lack of development, infrastructural deficit, exploding population growth, lack jobs, infrastructure deficit ( water, electricity and toilets), youth unemployment, rapid urbanization and environmental degradation, etc etc, the government needs to understand that Ghana needs to maximize every citizen productive economic potential .

The other side, the 50% minus one, are not only Ghanaians as well , but have various talents, entrepreneurial skills, investment means and abilities. They have innovative and creative ideas, as entrepreneurs, investors, professionals with business and educational success stories, that all need to be harnessed and harvested for the benefit of mother Ghana to create jobs and investments in the country.

Given the serious challenges; lack of development, infrastructural deficit, exploding population growth, lack jobs, infrastructure deficit( water, electricity and toilets), very little industry etc etc , our nations faces in the immediate and near future, is it really wise to marginalize these fellow Ghanaians, because they did not vote for the winning party?

Our democracy is probably more advanced than our level of development, but the truth is we need to lift so many people out of poverty and we don’t have time to waste.

As we all know Government jobs alone won’t solve the problems of youth unemployment. Anyway haven’t government jobs in Ghana reached a point of diminishing returns?

Is that how our competitors in the globalized world do it?

Whilst our competitors in the globalized market place are powering ahead, helping all their citizens to succeed, and making enviable strides in socio economic development, our government approach to politics and economic development in Ghana, is always, at any one point in time done for political expediency. Expediency which aims to dislocate, alienate and marginalize the economic and productive potential of close to 50% of the population at any one time. Most of our Governments, when in power rather wrongly gravitate towards rent seeking, patronage, and populism. The result is the increased exploitation of our natural resources extraction industries in mining and petroleum by foreign companies, has given us a little boost to our economy, but most people’s lives does not reflect this. Despite our huge natural resources, our citizens still remain very desperately poor without jobs.

Is marginalizing our indigenous entrepreneurs, businessmen, industrialists and professionals good for our future economic progress?

Our leaders keep telling us we are operating in a globalized world. Our competitors are from all over the world including from China and South East Asia, where they do things differently.

The South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore South Korea, share similar histories of economic development with Ghana. Those countries also share similar commodity export histories with us , including, similar per capita and gross domestic product (GNP) histories we had in the 1960’s. Infact it’s no secret that in some economic development indicators, Ghana was actually leading them. Now look how they have left us in the dust. The question is why are we still unable to learn from their experience and keep repeating the folly.

They have been able to do this because their approach to socio economic development is completely different from ours. Their policy is to support all their citizens to succeed. They don’t only put into place policies to create an enabling environment and encourage entrepreneurial development, they support, stimulate domestic industry, and ensure they maximize every citizens economic productivity for the benefit of their nations.

In the past, when some of our governments mistakenly ploughed down the marginalization route, they seemed to have forgotten that, in this globalized world we are operating in, as far as Ghana’s interests were concerned, it was important that every Ghanaian, no matter their party, religious or tribal affiliations, was encouraged and helped to flourish for the benefit of the country and society. If a citizen of Ghana succeeds, Ghana succeeds.

It doesn’t make sense,that our Governments rather tends to give all the opportunities to foreigners, who even import labour into the country to make money in our economy, whilst we all struggle for the few menial government jobs available.

Let’s get all hands on deck.

As, I heard a Ghanaian Entrepreneur, Herman Chinnery Hesse advise once, “No Country in the world was ever developed by Foreigners”

S. Nyako