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Opinions of Monday, 8 August 2011

Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi

Mazal tov, Mr. President

Perhaps, it is a good thing that there are not as many women in politics as there are men. Give a woman a little bag of flour, and she turns it into bread. Give her a little thing in between the sheets, and she turns it into a baby. Give a politician the same amount of flour, and he promises you bread. And that is even because the flour is not coming from his wife’s kitchen. Even then, he would break the promise and explain the flour away. In the air, it is often difficult to grab the tiny particles that would have produced our bread.

That is politics. The poetry is often not any different from the prose. The drama is even worse because the players do not care mumbling soliloquies when the audience need to hear most. So, often, it is difficult to invest the faintest flicket of faith in the words of leaders and people in authority. And they have over time given us sufficient reason not to trust them anyway. It doesn’t bother them very much because they don’t also trust us.

Not Goodluck Jonathan, that lucky former governor who would become President in Africa’s most populous nation through the ‘fairest’ means history has known. He recently reiterated the call for long term governments in a BBC interview–with perhaps the most deserving urgency the subject has received so far. And for the first time, it was easy to see into the mind of a well-intentioned person who didn’t care if the practice did not start with his very term as president. The intention is clear. The intentionsity is even clearer.

Many African presidents have made the call in the past. Former Ghanaian presidents, J.J Rawlings and J.A Kufour, made similar suggestions when they were in power. Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo also added his voice to that all-important issue. Several democracy and government watchdogs have over the years analysed the necessity of the extension of the usual four year term, and examined the development and financial costs the measure would save these poor countries. It may be about time we listened to Jonathan.

Democracy is expensive everywhere, but in Africa, it is too expensive. Every four years, many democratic African nations re-enact chaotic dramas where fear, propagandas, and wasteful expenditures combine to produce melodramatic moments where development agendas are cut short, rushed through or abandoned altogether. There are destructions of various kinds, bloodshed and loss of human lives in a process that is usually conducted without incident in other jurisdictions. These are also the times that the poor nations sit on the edge of many things undesirable, with religious bodies praying away what could be untoward, and driving everybody into an unhealthy frenzy until the process is over.

We would be saving ourselves material and human energy if we did this every eight years. Governments would have time to plan for the long term and still have enough time to execute their developments. In eight years, they can afford to gauge the outcomes of projects, determine where to invest and still save some time to appraise themselves and the developments. In many bureaucracies, not many things are achieved in the first two years when manpower and resources are assembled and put to work. We are unfair to politicians and their governments when we evaluate their performance at the time they are still planning to perform. To get them to perform, let’s give them some time.

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin

Freelance writer, Ottawa, Canada