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Opinions of Monday, 7 February 2011

Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Kofi Ali

Lessons From Egypt To Ghana

“My people perish simply for their lack of knowledge”

The term knowledge could be explained as an understanding of what to do about a challenge based on; the past, present or expected occurrence. In short, we learn to do things rightly as a result of learning from out own experience or from the experience of others, to allow us avoid or discontinue certain practices for a better future.

It is a common thing to hear our elders saying “it is the fool that only have to wait for things to happen to him personally before learning his lessons”. To the fool, others being the scape-goat of an unfortunate life reality are not enough to be a lesson to them until they become the victim.

The state of mental denial is all that sustain the elusion by which the fool dissociate themselves from the reality of an impending calamity. These people make all effort of avoiding the reality by employing all sorts of excuses to sustain their abysmal state until the inevitable happens.

How many of us are brave enough to remove this veil of ignorance from the face to could see how the Egyptian crisis could be related to the realities Ghana today? Now, for those that are sincerely willing to embark on this self assessment journey with me, we are to start by exposing exactly what the main problems of the Egyptians are said to be? The crisis started on the concerns of mass poverty believed to be caused by increasing level of unemployment due to official corruption. In short, it is due to the high degree of insensitivity by the government towards the plight of the majority of the Egyptian populace.

In solving this problem, the Egyptians population then decided to embark on two key reforms which are; to change the head of government, in this case Hosni Mubarak, and to introduce a new process of replacing this head of government.

So, there are two systems or institutions that the people of Egypt have understood need serious reforms in the intended change.

Change in the person of the Head of Government as an Institution

In government, the position of the head of state is an institution on its own. This institution on its own is capable of changing the destiny of a whole nation and therefore, changing the occupant of this institution plays a significant part in rectifying the state’s anomaly. Thus anytime a president is change from one person to another, a big leap in terms of change in the destiny of the nation is said to have taken place.

Hosni Mubarak is the head of the state of Egypt which automatically made him the head of government and that of the nation. In short, he is the law of Egypt. With or without a constitution, the head of state decides which law of the land is active or less active. In short, the bulk stops before him in what ever happens any where in Egypt, regardless to whether he made the decision for an action to be taken or not. He is expected to be aware of any action or decision made on the land of Egypt, which make him responsible to the people. In this capacity, the natural constitution of the state, expressed or not, allows him to do things himself or delegate anyone he trusts to be in charge of affairs of the state, on his behalf. He has power to pronounce death or pardon his fellow citizens if he thinks it is in the interest of the state to do so. The above natural function of a head of state therefore put the individual above the law in the performance of his duty. In addition to enjoying president immunity, his role as the commander in chief of the nation makes him the powerful man on the territorial confines of the Egyptian sovereignty. The person in this case is no more considered just a person but as an institution or a system. So what the Egyptians, in their demand to have Mubarak to go, is an effort to have a change in that person as an institution. In a nut shell, he is the state and the absence of any person to play this role could result in a vacuum and consequently, a national anarchy. The case of Somalia is a very fresh one in mind to confirm that it better to have the “devil” occupying the position and playing the role of the head of state than to have no one at all.

The challenge to the people of the state of Egypt at this point in time is to change the system or institution referred to as Hosni Mubarak. In other words, the people of Egypt believed strongly that the problem of poverty, unemployment, lack of development and increasing level of corruption is about the type of decision Hosni Mubarak is making as the head of state. Therefore, replacing Mubarak with another Egyptian will be resulting in an Egypt where there will be development, increase in the level of employment, less corruption and less poverty.

Going by the above challenge of the Egyptians who in past thirty years have only known no any other head of state except President Mubarak, we in Ghana can not be said to be in the same state. We have been having different persons to occupy the position of the head of state thereby allowing us to enjoy verity of persons and their characters where the decisions of the state are concern. The question that we then ask our self in Ghana is, are we free from the problem of poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment and corruption? Are these things less now or worse?

Change in the process of arriving at who become the head of Government

The next concerns the citizens of Egypt are having is to change system as a process of arriving at who become the head of Government. In doing this, they aim at evolving a system that disallows one person to sit in the position of the head of state unnecessarily for a very long time, like it happened with Mubarak’s thirty years. The system by which Mubarak got into his position is too coercive in nature. It involved the use of naked force and excludes the majority of the people from making any form of impute. In short, it is more of stealing or even hijacking the people’s mandate. It starve the people of any form of wilful expression on how they should be governed thereby giving them no choice. It takes away the key essence of any government which is “the government of the people” that almost all those that engage in hijacking the people’s government employ as a reason for taking over the government in the first place. It is also a common trend among all those that forcefully seized government to stay in government far more than it is necessary. In short more often than note, the approach does not leave the people that it claim to be there to serve better than a monarchy that only exist to serve the interest of a few.

What the people of Egypt are therefore out to actualize is a system that will be easing out the era of one head of state for replacement by another. They seek to actualize a system of peaceful transition that easily relieve them of a popularly unwanted head of government as and when the need arise. It therefore aim at getting the majority to be the factor of determining who the head of state will be for a reasonably short period.

The new system the Egyptians are desperately seeking for of course is a very noble one. What they want for themselves is to change from an autocratic system to a democratic system that allows for any one contending for the position of a head of state to approach the people with his/her manifesto on how he will be governing the people of Egypt, after which the majority will be making up their mind to indicate their acceptance or not.

A very important element of the system the Egyptians are struggling to put in place is that it seeks to cerate a form of harmonizing the law and the people. So bearing in mind that the people are to leave daily by the law, common sense do indicates that if the head of state is going to be the chief enforcer of the law, then such a law will be more acceptable and consistent with the will of the people if the people themselves by their majority choose such person. In this circumstance therefore, the law and the people become one, thus the interest of the law and that of the people assumed a single nature. On the contrary, if the people did not choose their president to be their head of the state’s law, then the resultant effect will be conflict between the interest of the law and that of the people. In this case, the system only last by oppression or result in an uprising.

The system that seek to answers to the two concern above is in today’s common expression is referred to as democracy. In Ghana, we have got the system in place. In other words, we have rectified our system of governance from an autocratic state of which one man forcefully get himself into power without first seeking the mandate of the majority of the people and as well getting of occupancy of our highest office to be by the determination and will of the majority of the people.

So we have solved both the problem of the person as an institution and that of the process as a system. The question that again confront the Ghanaian is, having got both the problem of the two most vital national institutions of our land solved, are we still experiencing the challenges of government insensitivity, unemployment, poverty, under development and corruption? Of course the answer is, yes! If these problems then still exist in Ghana, then how do we think the Egyptians changing their current systems into what we in Ghana are already doing is going to be the answer to their problem of unemployment, insensitivity of government to the people’s plight, poverty and corruption?

The core aim of democracy is to determine a government by the will of the majority of its people. Can one then say that the will of the majority of Ghanaians is a state in which the government is in expected to be sensitive to the will of the majority which includes higher level of gainful employment for the majority of Ghanaians? Does this include more affordable housing to the majority of Ghanaians, increase in the standard of living to the majority of Ghanaians, less corruption and higher transparency in public or national affairs as well as industrialization of the nation? If the will of the majority as stated above is absolutely different from what is practically happening on the land of Ghana, is this then not posing a challenge to us all to start retracing our steps over the systems we laboured day and night to change whether the changes were rightly done?

The reasons why we seek to change these two main systems are because they are inefficient enough to allow us meet up with the wills and aspirations of our people. What other choices do we have as Ghanaians in our effort of looking at the systems for what possibly could be wrong? Are we really exhausting this options? Are we even sincere with the way we are going about these options?

Now let us look a little bit more at what Egypt and Ghana consider in common as their shared value of the African Union. Both Ghana and Egypt are all members of the AU that are committed to creating “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”

A very good reflection of the vision of the Union exposes such vision as the same with that of Ghana as an entity of its own just as is the case with Egypt.

What the above is exposing is that the vision of Ghana, Egypt and the AU are all the same. The vision of Ghana is to create a harmonious Ghana, peaceful with itself, allowing her citizens to prosper into building a strong Ghana that is driven by Ghanaians to allow her play a key role in the global arena.

So in the effort of achieving these set objectives, Ghanaians then decided to review the way individual become the states of state of Ghana and the process by which such individuals assumes their role. What Ghanaians are doing is to create an easy mechanism of changing the president and secondly allowing more of the Ghanaian citizens to be part of the change.

This is exactly what the Egyptians are also out to be doing. However, the question both the Ghanaians who have already got the systems in place and the Egyptians who are struggling to get the system into place are not asking is, what about the AU system that is also not working since the shared values are also the same? Are we telling ourselves that everything that the AU Assembly is doing in regards to the election of the President of the Union’s authority is right while what is actually wrong are the systems of choosing who become the president of Egypt and how this is done?

If the Egyptians are not aware of these facts because they are not yet there, will the Ghanaian also continue to be pretending he/she is not there yet? Are we Ghanaians going to sit down until the Egyptians, the Zimbabwean, the Kenyans, the Somalis and the Libyans have all changed the local systems but still failing just as is the case of Ghana, before we realize that the newly christened AFRICAN UNION AUTHORITY’S PRESIDENT from its former name of AU Commission as headed by the Chairman of the Commission, is being isolated from our reforms. So while we are busy employing the principle of democracy to reflect itself practically in our lives as far as the Egyptian and the Ghanaian presidents are concern, we have left the AU to do as she please despite the fact that the shared values of all these key institutions are basically the same.

The questions that confront us therefore are; are we doing this democracy because we really understand what we want to achieve with it or we are doing it just because every one in the global community is saying it is the best for us? If the USA and her member states are practicing democracy at both the states and central levels because they share a common value among themselves that their democracy seek to promote, could one then say that the AU and her member states do not know what they are doing since the popular participation is only at the states level while at the Union level, the democracy is only about the shared values of the members of Union’s Assembly?

I will want to believe that most people will agree with me that shared value in the context of democracy is about what the majority of the people want and not about what the minority of the people want. In the AU, who are the majority? Is it the 53 members of the Assembly of the Union or the 986 million citizens of the 53 member states of the Union? If democracy based on universal adult suffrage understood shared value as a premises by which people individually express themselves through their action of casting their ballot in an election that result in who become their common champion in the promotion of their shared value, how can any modern AU member state citizen continue to be in harmony with the current practice that isolates the majority on this issue of our shared values?

Here we are complaining and writing long essays of why Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema is being chosen as the new Chairman of the AU despite his “human right record” that we perceive as inconsistent with our AU wide Shared Value, while out of ignorance, we are not even seeing ourselves as a bunch of empty headed maggots of disenfranchised modern people.

Yes, we want to change Egypt and Ghana so that we will be able to actualize our common shared value but how best could we have gone about this than getting the AU wide election for the “president of the Union’s Authority” to be also by popular participation of our people? How can we prove to the world that we are also of age and mature enough in our understanding of democracy, if all that we are doing is mimicking “democracy” than practicing and employing it as a means of unification for a prosperous Union?

Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin