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Opinions of Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Columnist: Amankwa, Kwame

If the political horse goes mad does it mean.......

Amanfuo, I decided several years ago not to participate in the Ghanaian political discovery for the simple reason that that enterprise was filled with most of the things civility would not allow us to do. The insults, tribalism, political cannibalism, political prostitution, lack of respect etc. I was proven right when I read last week that a politician who was asked to return his campaign vehicle had in response wrote a nice letter, then went to the toilet under the pretext of collecting stool sample to send to the laboratory to check if he had politicalosis, rather parcelled the faeces plus the letter to his bosses. I cannot stand faeces smeared on a letter. Then the other day it was another politician banning an elected officer of a local assembly from participating in all activities of the Local government ministry because he had refused to sign a very important contract paper at a different function and also insulted the MCE. Absolute power!! These are some of the nasty things I am talking about. I have always thought of going into politics but unless you have political prominence or inheritance in you no one will take you seriously. Unless of course your name is Baako, Chuck, Pratt, Ablakwa, Madam Tumi, rapper Kolati or Prophet Zion. I am not a political scientist or politician so I write this piece from the viewpoint of a political novice. This time round I cannot resist contributing to the discussion because I sense my time of opportunity is around the corner. I can smell it in the air. Others have done it through political coups, assassinations, associations and name sakes (John I mean) but I would do mine through fasting and prayers. Why the emphasis on the issues of democracy and presidency? A friend once remarked that in Ghana there is always a strong clamour for that office because after the post of regional minister, the only next available high office is president.

Something strange is happening or has just happened on Ghana’s political scene which only Nollywood directors can dream of; the arguments for a “Unity” or I would say “coalition government”. Unigov for short. There is a man that once lived on the soil of Ghana and his name was General IK Acheampong. Yes Gen Acheampong!. In 1979 he advocated the concept of Union government and held elections to that effect on the 30th March 1979. Then the “thinkably unthinkable” happened! Somebody exchanged their 10 pesewas with Gen Acheampong’s 50 cedis!. This was a time when I was getting ready to enter form one secondary school in Tamale after completing my form four middle school education. The good old days! Actually I was at the main Kaladan park when articulator trucks arrived one afternoon to distribute T shirts and bicycles to a cheering crowd and supporters of Unigov. Of course that system of government was never to be as VIPs like Gen. Afrifa opposed it. The rest they say is history. But I am reviving this sacred topic because of the very fact that prominent people are now asking for it. I am sure the late Gen Afrifa if he was alive today will buy into it seeing the damage “winner winner ” has done to us. If one of the prophets or political scientists had “prophesised” that instead of trouble after the SC outcome, Ghanaians would rather opt for a Unity government they would have been shit bombed.

I mentioned Gen Acheampong because I believe as much as some people loathe him; his very ideas are unashamedly being gradually stolen and implemented on the quiet. Take for instance his 13th January Man (a giant poster of a man exalting Ghanaians to eschew corruption, nepotism, tribalism etc versus the daily talk against corruption in Ghana. The posters were made available in all classrooms. Then there was the National pledge, Operation feed yourself and brilliantly his policy of making regional ministers serve in regions where there have no tribal association. Indeed some of the best regional ministers the Northern region had were the ones who were never natives of Tamale or its environs. Fast forward that period to the Mahama led administration and it is pleasing to note that the Acheampong concept of placing regional ministers has been sensibly adopted and it appears to be working.

The biggest Acheampong idea, Unigov is the new political spice in town. Unigov as explained by Ebo Quansah in a recent edition of “The Chronicle” (thanks uncle Ebo for that piece, brought back many memories)was meant to be a shared system of governance between the armed forces and its civilian counterparts in ways that spits out partisan politics, a kind of third way. Tell me which politician has never dreamt of a third way – Bill Clinton, Tony Blair to name a few. The idea according to those who were matured then was to emphasise Ghanaian traditional values but I would question whether such a path was proper and sustainable given the fact that our traditional institutions are not well known for being inclusive, democratic or representative. Indeed there is nothing more democratic about many of our traditions or where it is practised be it in markets, offices, educational institutions, farms, villages etc and this may explain why we are hugely averse to the tune and practice called democracy or shared governance. To some extent Ghanaians and much of Africa believe in the game of monopoly, winner takes all, big this big that, honourable this and honourable that. We cannot it seems be questioned, probed or held to account. A prominent Nigerian politician was recently interviewed on BBC Hard talk and when asked to confirm whether his party or office had links to the group Bokram he kept asking the interviewer “where?” “Where? Showing signs of great impatience and intolerance. Alternatively, this may not be a bad thing if it is exercised or shared responsibly for the general good of society. Some places I believe may be immune or inappropriate to the political concept of “winner takes all” or “first past the post” and I make reference to Iraq and Libya. Ghana may not be an exception?

We are very good at copying stuff from the west; in entertainment there is Big brother, X Factor, who wants to be a millionaire, then institutions like DVLA in the UK. Politically we have the Westminster parliamentary system of governance. There is even an Obama and Michelle restaurants opposite each other of the main road at Abaca near Kumasi. But we appear to copy everything wholesale without adjusting for local requirements and that is why we are where we are. The only one thing I can applaud our politicians for is the indigenous crafting of the names of the political parties for they are neither Republicans, American or British democrats or conservatives or eastern socialists or are they?

Unity government be it a coalition (as in the UK), proportional representation (PR) as introduced by t he Scots in 2002 or in Israel will and can work but a lot will ride on it in a place like Ghana, where we have the proverbial hungry political siamese twin with one belly but with each one trying hard to satisfy their individual appetite all the time. Will it be a case of ye be dibi versus ye be hwe hwe bi (we dey chop some v we dey come look for some) or a genuine attempt at moving Ghana forward? The UK had a unity government in 1978 and in 2010 to date for different reasons, the key being national crisis or need, but do we in Ghana have a national crisis? Such governments can foster consensus politics, reduce the excesses associated with majority government such as the stopping of undemocratic laws, abuse of power. It allows for an art of compromising which can ultimately lead to greater scrutiny of policies and increased political maturity. The dangers are that it can be undemocratic as policies outside the mandate are pursued, problems with proportionality and distortion of the political alignment of political parties. The issue of proportionality is real. For instance in the UK the conservatives worn 306 seats at the last election or 36.2% of the general votes (the minimum seats required to form a government is 326). That is 67.8% of the voters never voted for it and this does affect the political arrangements and mandate. That is currently not the case in Ghana (that is before the SC verdict). This will therefore take some sense of purpose, genuineness and maturity. But judging by the political history (Acheampong, Akuffo, and JJ), behaviours and insatiable appetite for “winner takes all”, will it work with the best of intensions and wishes in the world? I would say let’s take a cue from the UK and other systems (certainly not Zimbabwe), let’s have a proper national debate. For once let’s fashion out a system that is traditional, indigenous, original and progressive. Obama did something after the contest with Hilary Clinton and although not currently applicable to the Ghanaian situation may nevertheless be relevant. He recognised that she had spent a lot of money during the campaign for democratic presidential nominee (because these things cost money). So he agreed to work and help pay you for all your costs. Then he gave her the post of secretary of state. The lady went quiet. He also appointed republicans into important jobs and currently has a republican as secretary for defence because he recognises the immediacy of the challenges facing the nation. That is unity government in disguise for you. Hope that our politicians especially President Mahama will take note.

At least if that happens I may yet realise my dream of becoming a political somebody someday in a Unity government. After all we are all for Unity or Unitygov, a government for civilians run by civilians for everyone. The political horse may be mad right now but its owner is certainly not following it into the bushes. God bless.

Kwame Amankwa, UK.