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Opinions of Sunday, 8 May 2005

Columnist: Ofosu-Appiah, Ben

Elections 2008 And The Political Landscape In Ghana.

  • It was the summer when the price of a gallon of petrol topped fifty thousand cedis.
  • It was the summer when the minimum wage could hardly buy a loaf of bread and Makola women starting charging for their wares in US dollars instead of cedis
  • It was the summer when the cost of living shot through the roof and hyper inflation became the order of the day.
  • It was the summer when allegations of corruption in government spilled over and dog chain sellers and sachet water sellers went on demonstration demanding jobs.
  • It was the summer of 2008 and welcome to political satire; politics in Sikaman.
General Elections are a few months away and voters are already in a state of profound disillusionment with the two once heralded phrases trumpeted by the ruling government; ?zero tolerance for corruption? and ?positive change?. These phrases are now uttered with contempt. For many people in Sikaman, looking around at the all embracing corruption and pandemic crime, it had all been a big lie. All throughout the country things were getting worse. In the countryside, which should at the least have been producing enough food to feed itself and eke out a living, poverty was at its worst. Underfunded, undermanned, and their infrastructure collapsing, the farms stood idle, their rich soil producing weeds instead of food. Tro-tros and Wato-nkyene?s stopping at wayside halts were besieged by peasants, mainly elderly offering anything to the carriage windows for money or even better food but there were few takers.

In Nkran, the capital and the showcase of the nation, the destitute slept out on the roadside and in the back alleys. Many of them were reduced to begging for survival on the streets. The government tried to round them up for being an eye sore to foreign visitors but their numbers only increased day in and day out. More kept arriving from the countryside seeking work, food, shelter, and relief. The Police had virtually abandoned the struggle against crime and armed robbers reigned supreme and terrorized innocent people. The Bretton Woods institutions started considering giving up on pouring grants and loans into the bottomless pit unless government stamped out official corruption. And the few foreign investors started pulling out because of the security situation in the country. The President ill advised by his circle of sycophants didn?t take on the hard task of taking on corruption in his government. Wahala demonstrators were always on the streets. The President clung to office but was clearly not in control. The Sikaman economy, like a war refugee raped too many times, lay down by the roadside and dying of despair.

Yet among all this poverty and destitution there was also ostentatious wealth to make the eye blink. Those who had money had mountains of it, much of it in foreign currency. They swept through the streets in their Mercedes, Lexus?, BMW?s , Ferrari?s, German or American, or Japanese, often accompanied by motorcycles to clear a path and usually with a second car of bodyguards racing along behind. In the lobby of La beach hotel, in the bars of Novotel, in the banquet halls of Golden Tulip, they could be seen each evening, accompanied by their hookers trailing sable, the aroma of Parisian scent and glittering with gold and diamonds. These were the fat cats, fatter than ever because of official corruption.

.This was the gloomy prospect that all political parties seeking to wrestle power from the ruling party contemplated as the elections draw close. The by election results in a constituency in the Asante capital of Kumase a couple of years back is considered a precursor of things to come in Elections 2008. The new force on the political horizon was ironically enough the party that lost power eight years ago. After nearly twenty years of metarmophosing in various shapes and ruling Sikaman, the people of Sikaman began to look back with nostalgia to the old days. This group painted a rosy picture of the way things used to be: not too expensive cost of living, assured salaries, affordable food and fuel, and a good degree of law and order. No mention was made of the identification haircuts in the castle and the suppression of freedom of expression, and the cash and carry system they introduced.

The summer of 2008 also saw a lot of political infighting and jockeying for position among all the leading political parties in Sikaman. The main opposition party that lost power eight years ago saw as its best chance to regain power. The ubiquitous founder of the party insisted on putting forward a presidential candidate who had lost in two previous general elections for a third try but this was resisted fiercely by the party chairman and his faction and they threatened to split from the party if there?s any imposition of a particular candidate. Party unity was at its lowest ebb and things didn?t look pretty for them.

In the ruling party, all was not calm. There was political infighting, allegations and counter allegations, a few dirty linen were washed in public as political secrets were divulged to the press in order to tarnish the image of political opponents. The sitting vice president thought it was time to ascend the throne, and if not given the chance he and his Savannah group were prepared to go public with the complain that ?we told you so, this is an Asante or Akan party? and would threaten a split from the party. The foreign minister, considered a political heavyweight in the party is the leading candidate to replace the now lame duck president but it is rumored he is not the president?s preferred candidate. Rumour has it that the president?s preferred candidate is the tall, handsome looking moustached current minister for trade and industries and former minister of PSI (President?s Special Initiatives), so the political infighting continues.

In the midst of all this political push turning into a shove, came calls on the immediate past Secretary General of the World body (UN) to run for president. Draft Kofi movements sprang out all through Sikaman with his supporters thinking that he would bring a new dynamism into the body politic of Ghana and use his international experience to improve the image of Sikaman. He remained non committal.

Prying on the growing despair of the electorate, the campaign message throughout the elections remained the same especially for the opposition. They promised all things to all men. For the out of work there would be employment, a fair day?s wage for a good day?s work, with food on the table and dignity of labour again. For those who obliterated life savings there would be honest currency again and something to put for a comfortable old age. To the peasants and rural folks, there would be dignity and pride again to wipe out humiliations visited upon them by cowards and do nothings elevated to high office. And there would be justice ! They promised the electorate, the angel of justice would walk among the crooks and gangsters who had raped their beloved Sikaman. But the big question is: haven?t we heard all this before? Rewind back to Elections 2000. The lesson is politicians are a greedy specie, they seek power for their own sake and for enriching themselves.

The writer is a political and social analyst, and a corporate trainer based in Tokyo, Japan. He welcomes your comments, suggestions, and criticisms.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.