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Opinions of Monday, 4 July 2016

Columnist: Kwadwo Agyapong Antwi

Election 2016: Time to oust weak leaders and elect a better one?

It’s political season here in Ghana; that time of the year when politicians of all grades and classes are expected to render an account of their stewardship to the people and make a justification for retention of power or elevation into political office.

I am not a politician but I can reasonably guess that elections are just about every politician’s worst nightmare. Consider campaign season as the political classes’ own version of occupational hazard.

Members of this class would go to unimaginable lengths just to justify the superiority of their vision and strategies in attempting to seek the mandate of the people; sometimes making outrageous promises they themselves find difficult to believe.

If you are a student of logic, some of their words and actions might not make sense but remember that this is politics and not everything is expected to make sense really. In moments of quiet desperation some have commissioned unfinished projects under the “political logic” that since no project gets commissioned twice he who started it better puts his stamp on it and score some good points.

Some have used public funds in quasi public sensitization drives to highlight their “THEN and NOW” achievements and brought out last minute policies that contravened all the principles of economics known to mankind. (If you are reading this article with big political lenses, I hope these two examples eliminate all feelings of party bias on my side)

In the spirit of canvassing for votes, politicians would do things they would rather never be associated with. Some have literally descended into gutters under the tag of clean up exercises just to add some decency to the whole thing - in politics the choice of a word is as crucial as its meaning- whether it’s an offensive word or defensive word largely depends on where you stand.

Fact is all of the available space on the internet will not be enough to write the history of “political romance” – that uncomfortable union of the desire for power and campaigning for it.

For those interested in that kind of history, you are probably aware of the French revolution and it’s far reaching impact on our modern social and political establishment. What happened in France in 1789 marked a major shift in the balance of power and to a larger extent the concept of accountability.

Overnight, the entire monarchical establishment of the last era was toppled and thus began our experiment with democracy, beginning with Europe and spilling into the entire fabric of human societies across the globe. The statue of liberty presented to the American’s by the French is a lasting monument to this historical legacy.

Hitherto, the monarchs who were selected on the basis of the genetic accident of birth largely reigned without first requiring the ‘mandate’ of their people. They governed by decree, had almost absolute authority and acted by the dictates of their minds and the advice of their cronies- the kind of situation the modern politician operating in a democracy can only imagine in a daydream.

You notice that the French Revolution ushering in democracy did not entirely eliminate the concept of accountability- it merely shifted the balance in favour of the people - and for over two centuries, politicians have been subjected to all sorts of outrageous scrutiny, ridicule, character assassination etc by the people in the spirit of accountability; a situation which has only gotten worse with the creation of social media.

Today, If you have any doubts about the level of political engagement by the people, a quick look at any politician's page on Facebook would remove all that. Lurking behind the veil of anonymity, politicians are bombarded on a daily basis by some of the most diabolical and meanest comments since the invention of language-the kind of comments that would make the proponents of free speech shudder in their graves!

So isn’t it only fair that for once, politicians are allowed to demand accountability and some form of introspection from the citizens as well? Perhaps in defense of the politician let me ask you some simple questions: If you were on a ballot box, would you deserve to be elected? As citizens, how would you rate your own contribution towards the socio-economic development of this our motherland. Is it time to oust you and elect better citizens?

A wise man once said, ’Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Democracy is not only a government of the people for the people but also by the people. For decades, we have been living under the illusion that-somehow a group of people wielding a certain combination of colours is all it takes to create a perfect society for us and alter our destiny forever- an illusion that has so persisted that it’s almost indistinguishable from reality!

What’s my point exactly? Simply this: As citizens we have a right and an obligation to hold our political office holders to a higher standard of expectation and accountability but it’s equally important to understand that our nation can only develop if we apply those same standards to ourselves and contribute our quota to her development because the idea of behaving like sheep whilst expecting a lion to lead us can only end in disaster. Isn’t it suicidal to work like ants and expect a lion’s reward?

I may not know who is getting your vote and what factors will influence that decision come November 7th , but I do hope you remember that your secret ballot is not only to elect better people to lead the country, but it’s also your secret pledge to be a better and more productive citizen.

The only way the country can have an agenda for transformation or arise for change- depending on where you stand and the dictionary you use- is when we as citizens employ our God-given potential, revive our sense of patriotism, have love for our fellow citizens and support the government of the day to create a society we can all be proud of.

Kwadwo Agyapong Antwi is the President of Be the Change Foundation