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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Columnist: Michael A. Horlorku, Contributor

Politics Politics Politics: Time to sanitise our political and democratic system

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It is General Election Season! The time to make that major decision about who governs Ghana for next four years. It is the time to gauge the confidence level in and endorsement of the performance of the incumbent leadership or party for the past four years and whether they deserve to be given the mandate to govern the country for another 4 years or whether it is time for a change.

It is also the time of great excitement, engagement with the masses (voters), ruthless verbal insults and physical attacks on rival party supporters. It is also a time to splash out money in efforts to ‘buy’ votes. Finally, it is the time to declare victory and defeat.

Electing leaders to rule over our nation is not in question. The question is whether these leaders are leading us to a desired destination and how effective and efficient they are in getting us to that destination in terms of infrastructural, economic, social, civic and judicial developments within the recognised framework of policy, procedure, process, accountability, responsibility, equality and humanity.

Politics and democracy around the world have been viewed through the ideological lens of Capitalist Democracy (practiced, mostly, by Western countries) or Socialist Democracy (practiced, mostly, in Eastern countries), respectively. Most countries are forced into choosing to fit in one box or the other. This does not have to be the case. Across the globe people, cultures, conditions, situations, climates, levels of infrastructural, educational technological developments, as well as endowed natural and human resources are different from one country, region or continent to the other.

Adopting a particular system of government without reference to such diversities is not always productive. There must be a real effective ‘Third Way’. We need leaders who are innovative, fearless, courageous, and driven by humanity to look for that illusive Third Way for the best interests of the citizens; not brainwashed slaves to some alien systems established somewhere else. There is nothing new about the ‘Third Way’ ideal. At independence, our leaders at the time floated the idea and importance of the ‘Non-Aligned Movement’ which means leaning neither towards USA (capitalist) or Soviet Union (socialist) or Chinese (communist) ideologies.

To demonstrate, look at a coin piece (currency). Most people are inclined to see the head or tail. But we all know the coin has a third side, the outside edge. This is what binds the head and tail together. To fail to notice this is not smart!

I cannot pretend to know what this ‘Third Way’ should look like in practice, but this is the time to call upon our accomplished experts, Professors, PhD holders, Political Scientists, Economists, Businessmen/Businesswomen, Socialists, Capitalists, Humanitarians, Engineers, IT Specialists, the Youth, the Older Citizens, Traditional Leaders and custodians of our culture, Religious Leaders to become citizens, come together and work to find that third system that is unique for our diverse needs.

Continuing with the current status is no longer tenable. And there are various reasons for this:

1, Our current politic system is fraught with waste. Election campaigns cost lots of money (payments for gifts, foot soldiers, communication leaflets, transports, etc).

2, The current 4-yearly elections system creates panic, anxiety and uncertainty among the incumbent politicians. The lack of guarantee of being re-elected (as evidenced in the recently conducted NPP Primaries), creates the tendency for some politicians to make as much ‘profit’ or divert as much resources as possible, especially, if they have not yet met their ‘investment and profit’ targets. Half the time in office is spent serving the people and the other half spent preparing for the next election.

3, It breeds corruption. Why would some politicians spend their hard-earned funds (in some cases, selling family landed properties) to be elected, unless they are certain of getting their ‘investment’ back with ‘profit’. The story of one particular politician who honestly asserted that she needed to make $1million before quitting politics, (which got her sacked, anyway) is well-known. How much do politicians genuinely earn to be able to make $1million in a term?

4, The best brains that should be engaged in the development of the country are unnecessarily wasted. Currently, the governing party appoint people to positions, not necessarily because these individuals are the best qualified for the roles, but simply because they belong to the party in government. Meanwhile, the best qualified persons are ignored simply for belonging to the opposition party or parties. At our current level of development, we need all expert hands on deck.

5, The winner takes all approach of the current system creates socio-economic uncertainties. Infrastructural projects and initiatives are abandoned on change of government. An affordable housing project aimed at constructing 5,000 houses near Tsopoli, the University of Ghana Medical Centre, road networks under construction had been abandoned or left unused for years after government changeover. And the list goes on and on. One reason could be the misconception of which governing party claims credit for the initiatives started under another governing party. Another reason may be the sheer arrogance of not considering the initiatives to fall within their priorities. Sadly, it is the nation’s resources that get wasted.

6, The socio-politico-economic awareness and maturity level of many voters do not actually convert into votes. Voting is mostly directed by sentiments, rather than policies. Some voters have no knowledge or understanding of what a political party stands for. Most people simply vote along ethno-tribal, nepotistic, ‘old-school network’ or popularity lines, and not on campaign ideals or objectives for the overall benefit of the society. This makes the current system of politics and democracy ineffective as perceived in more advanced countries.

7, The ‘your vote is your power’ mantra is not necessarily evident in our current system. Many voters (and foot soldiers) willingly, proudly and readily sell their ‘power’ cheaply. Assuming a politician offers you GHS1,000.00 (leaning on the high side) to influence your vote. This politician gets voted and becomes MP for 4 years during which time you might not see him or her again till the next voting season. This, basically, means that your vote is worth approximately GHS250.00 a year, or GHS20.83 a month, or GHC4.81 a week. That is how cheaply you have ‘disempowered’ yourself and ‘empowered’ a politician to enrich himself at your expense.

We need a new breed of politicians – those with a high sense and understanding of the principles and values of Selflessness, Leadership, Patriotism (Country First), Accountability, Commitment, Equality, Transparency and Respect for Structures, Institutions and Systems. These must be individuals driven to make a change that present and future generations can be proud of, while driving out the current breed of visionless politicians who are in it for their selfish needs, greed, popularity, pride, and, most importantly, for their immediate family members and friends. The older politicians must be encouraged to take backseat, giving way to younger ones, but guiding them with their knowledge, wisdom and experience in pursuit of better Ghana. After all, the average employed Ghanaian worker is expected to retire on reaching 60 years of age, why can’t our politicians?

It is no longer just enough to boast about what a party in government has achieved or how best to sabotage and discredit the efforts of a governing party to make them unelectable at the next general election.

Finland has shown the world what is possible. The new Finish government is female-led. The Prime Minister is 34, her coalition government was formed with all 5 opposition party leaders (all women) with the majority cabinet members being under 40 years of age.

It is time we brought reason and decency to politics and democracy in Ghana, in particular, and Africa, in general.