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Opinions of Saturday, 6 September 2014

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Do our politicians ever know their bounds?

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Folks, I apologize for my absence from the forum over the past one week or so. I got caught up in many issues, all tumbling over each other for maximum attention. I just relocated in a more convenient area of New York City and immediately turned attention to academic issues at the start of the fall semester. Life is back to “normal” (call it normalcy, if you may); and I can now pick up the pieces. And many things happened within the period.
So, the government bent back to satisfy the demands of POTAG and UTAG, which has paved the way for the polytechnics and universities to re-open. Good news that academic work will begin soon while we wait for the dust raised over the book and research allowance conundrum to settle. I am not surprised at the government’s back-tracking, apparently because it lacks bite, after barking and baring its weak teeth.
The fact that nothing concrete is being done to establish the foundation for its proposed National Research and Innovation Fund says it all. So, what will become of it? A whiff of promise with ugly implications? By bending backwards, it has ceded the momentum to POTAG and UTAG and they will definitely dig in and oppose anything coming from government henceforth that they consider as inimical to their interests. The government has hamstrung itself on that score. Pitiable.
Now, to the NPP’s super delegates’ congress that favoured Akufo-Addo to create the impression in him that he is battle-ready to take on the NDC administration (as he immediately declared as soon as the results were declared). I laughed a lot when I read the news report on that declaration of intent, clearly because it is misplaced. It tells me that Akufo-Addo is really desperate and that he cannot differentiate the super delegates’ congress from what will be done on October 18 to choose the party’s flagbearer. He thinks that he is already endorsed. Again, he is thinking wrongly to focus his energy on the NDC administration as if that is the panacea for the country’s problems.
The NDC administration is not the problem tormenting Ghana and its citizens. Those problems are already known. So also are the NDC administration’s weaknesses and strengths as far as tackling those problems is concerned. What will Akufo-Addo do to make the difference? That is what he should be telling us, not wasting his energy on calumniating President Mahama and his administration. So far, it’s all about criticisms and no solutions being offered. Is Akufo-Addo ever going to tell us what he will do differently to warrant being voted into power? I am waiting to hear from him other than being bored stiff by his flogging of a long-dead horse!!
Then comes in the main issue piquing my curiosity. It’s about our stunted democracy. One major problem that I have noticed is the unbridled quest for power by the politicians in the various political parties without regard for morality, conscience, and political maturity. I will explain this point.
In democracies that are designed to solve problems and facilitate national growth, those seeking political power know their bounds. They know when to be in contention and when to bow out without creating the impression that they are the be-it-all-and-end-it-all without whom nothing can be accomplished. In the US, for instance, the jostling for power is clearly characterized by probity and respect for democratic norms. The choice of Presidential candidates is arduously done with interested parties emerging early and staking their luck in the process.
As is evident, when the primaries don’t favour contestants, they bow out. Whether they choose to support the winner or not is not at issue. What matters is that once they try and fail, they call it quits for life!! They don’t bide their time, manipulate unwitting followers or the party’s machinery to bounce back in future contests. Even within the political parties, once a candidate stakes his luck and fails the bid, he doesn’t come back to fight for any recognition. Thus, it is a once-in-a-lifetime endeavour.
That is where democracy thrives and where those entering and doing politics do so, not for personal gains but to leave a lasting impact on national development. They use politics to serve the country, not to acquire wealth. They do so to enhance their image, not to shore up their treasure through foul means. That explains why they are given maximum respect, especially by being immortalized, even when they die (Many monuments, streets, national assets, etc. are named after them in abject deference to their worth!).
We can move this issue a notch higher to the Presidential elections. In contemporary times, many unsuccessful candidates come to mind. Be it Al Gore, John McCain, Mitt Romney, or any preceding them on the ticket of the Democratic or Republican Party. Once counted out, they haven’t stuck their necks out to try their luck any time after their electoral defeat. They resign themselves to their sorry fate and allow the system to take care of itself, even if they look for new capacities in which to continue serving their country.
Snippets of rumours that Hillary Clinton is contemplating contesting the 2016 Presidential elections remain what they are. If she does try it, she will be setting an unenviable record that will cast doubts on the integrity of the centuries-old United States democracy. She has every right to stake her luck; but such endeavours are not part of the norm. We wait to see whether she will turn the table upside down with her ambitions.
Particularly for us in Ghana and other parts of the world where democracy is facing a stunted growth, the situation is different. There is no morality guiding our politics, which is why one particular defeated candidate cannot rein in his ambitions to become the country’s President even after being resoundingly rejected at more than one general election. You need examples? Former Presidents Kufuor and Atta Mills knew no bounds and persisted till Lady Luck smiled on them, even when some voices opposed their persistent clamour for the slot at the elections.
Dr. Edward Mahama of the People’s National Convention won’t listen to reason until he was effectively “emasculated” by powerful forces in the party and reduced to political rubble. The late Dan Lartey made his bid so comical as to warrant no elaboration because he used his Ghana Consolidated Popular Party as an avenue for experiments in political comedy. So also is Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom doing with his Progressive People’s Party, especially if he puts himself forward again for Election 2016.
I now turn attention to the grand master of political jingoism himself, the NPP’s Nana (William) Addo Dankwa (Danquah) Akufo-Addo. He lost his bid to lead the NPP to Election 2000 but stood his grounds, biting the bullet and succeeding in being chosen to bear the party’s flag at Elections 2008 and 2012, which he lost passsaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, despite his theatricals at the Supreme Court. The cataclysmic happenings might have created the impression that he would end his political career there and then. But no!! He has succeeded in using whatever he has up his sleeves to hold the NPP to ransom, readying himself for a third attempt at becoming Ghana’s President.
In what sort of democracy will this morbid desire be tolerated, especially considering the turbulence that his insistence is causing in his own party and threatening to engulf the country? We have begun hearing threats of violence if he loses Election 2016 (apparently because those making the threats think that the NDC and the Electoral Commission will rig the elections. Have we not heard from Akufo-Addo himself that he won’t allow himself to be cheated again? What sort of desperation is that?).
I can stick my neck out to say that for as long as politicians know no bounds in their quest for power—and for as long as they will continue to manipulate the situation as such—our democracy will teeter and totter. It won’t grow as expected to solve problems but rather stagnate to serve the purposes of those seeking to use it for self-aggrandizement and the looting of state assets. Prove me wrong, if you can.
A democracy that allows politicians to recycle themselves and cling on this way cannot grow!!
I shall return…
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