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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Columnist: Asante Fordjour

Prisoners Of Ancient Frontiers -The New Ghana Leadership

Thinking of Ghana at night gives most of us a terrible fright. But still a few of us take the shrieking call [work and happiness] from the Osagyefo seriously: the New Ghana needs domestication of its politics devoid of troubled foreign concepts. As writer Patricia Adams point out, no farmer dreams of leaving his children ramshackle farm topsoil swept away. Environmentally sound world is part of the moral code of all cultures? And that the United Nations condemns debts passed on to future generations as form of debt bondage that future leadership might be brave and would not shirk?

On 6 March 1957, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah proclaimed: ?at long last, the battle is ended, our beloved country Ghana, is free forever.? Several years on till today, as to what constitutes freedom, for many of us, is misery. All forms of regimes- military cum civilian, parliamentary and presidential system and what have you, have come and gone with their victims. Yet, we have no shred of suspicion about the political and economic future of our nation. Enduring educational and agricultural policies that would have been the twin-pillar of our national development, and of course the prerequisite for a healthy nation, have been left obsolete. But both regular and seasonal politicians appear not to have been alive to decide between domestic and foreign policies, a key to nation building. So we continue to sink deeper into poverty?

True thinking of democratic government, by virtue of a party system, political parties are influential and vivacious elements in the operation of government which most often than not, they directly subordinate and control our human factor in society, if democracy were to be construed as government by the people for the people. But, do you think that we all- the entire Ghanaian population, can participate actively in the conduct of the State?s government? This could be impossible. Therefore, the conduct of government is left to the representative of the people. There could be chaos if all of us were to contest elections on the might of our own personal democratic rights. Even if we were to be elected on individual programmes, could it not be right that there would be no guarantee that we would be able to summon an effective government?

So, the fundamental advantage of a political party is that it provides a framework for placing the conduct of the government in the hands of well-organized political few supported by our consent through elections. Absence of political parties such as the Convention Peoples Party, the National Democratic Congress or the New Patriotic Party, for example, could mean that the process of governance would fall into the hands of people chosen for their own personal worth and owing no allegiance to any other representative. Not only there would be constant conflicts between inconsistent policies, but there would also be no co-operation between all the people mandated to run the government. Therefore, we are tempted to assume that the election of a political party presupposes the acceptance of its programmes or election manifesto?

The eighteenth century political philosopher Edmund Burke defined a party as a body of men [women] united for promoting, by their joint endeavours, the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed. Okon Eminue of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, defined political party as an organization of people, most of whom have similar ideas about government, pursue the same ideology and organize themselves to obtain political power and to control governmental machinery with all its advantages and tasks, and the overall interest of the state (Daily Times of Nigeria, 29 September 1970.) Admittedly, it could be said that not all the members of a political party will concur on all issues as prudent human beings aspire to be masters of their brains and also because unanimity of opinion is a rare attribute of any group?

Whatever may be its essence, per Chief Justice Cockburn, in Banks v Goodfellow, ?we must be conscious that the faculties and functions of the mind are various and distinct, as are the powers and functions of our physical organisation.? Thus the senses, instincts, the affections, the passions, the moral qualities, the will, perception, imagination, thought, reason and memory, are so many distinct faculties or functions of the mind. So if any of its parts of functions is affected by local disease, it may be said to be unsound, though all its other members may be healthy and their powers or functions unimpaired? The great storehouse of our political science, appears to be vague and general on the subject self-reliance as once echoed by Gen. Acheampong.

It is suggested that a look at the United States system, for example, reveals that behind even the facade of the known two-party system there could be in reality, a fifty-party system. Because each state section of the Democratic or Republican Party, for example, pursues policies which are often divergent from the ones associated with the national party. However, it cannot be estimated that party system encourages efficient and common platform for elections? If all candidates were to be elected on personality basis; it would be awfully hard to gauge every candidate. Nor would there be any fitting device to scan potential candidates to be elected. Party patronage and financial support make elections less tricky. Membership of a party is a reliable root of electing an aspirant than the evaluation of his or her personal intrinsic worth.

Do you agree with Andrew Heywood that democracy is a contested concept without no agreed or settled definition of the term as derived from the Greek word kratos, meaning power or rule by the demos or the people, as was originally taken to imply ?the poor? or the many? A modern version of democratic principle is that of Abraham Lincoln?s Gettysburg address of 1863, which extolled the virtues of ?government of the people and for the people?. (Heywood, A., Political Ideologies, An Introduction, 2003, p.43) So democracy should be designed to suit local consumption?

Thus besides this central liberal concern, yes, the concept can be enemy of individual liberty where ?the people?, according to Heywood, are not a single entity but rather a collection of individuals and groups, possessing different opinions and contrasting interests ?The ?democratic solution? to conflict, is a recourse to numbers and the claim of majority rule, the standard that the will of the greatest number should prevail over that of the minority,? he says (Ibid p.44) A misfortune that we must learn to live with. The American civil rights movement in the 1960s, where ethnic minorities struggled to be enfranchised, is worth mentioning. Democracy could therefore, be nothing more than what we may admit as the rule of 51 per cent, a viewpoint that French social pundit, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) described as ?the tyranny of the majority?.

Having been in a situation where we are made to believe or sense that our ethnic background makes us different personality than the other Ghanaian, logically, the Ga and Adangbwe Advisory Council, would perfectly prefer Quarshie to Djan when it comes to the question of honouring national heroes or heroines? And in what one may misconstrued as our ignorance, probably, occasioned by defective education or sheer ethnic political misjudgments, which we also seem to entrench ourselves in an extent that we are speciously seen as almost prisoners of conscience, we may also prefer Afrifa to Bawa? But could these not be unsafe for our continued existence as a nation as individual liberty and minority rights are crushed in the name of the people? The answers might be diverse because we have the free choice of political affiliation?

This could be implicit, in that when people sharing a common political philosophy and advocating a distinct style of rule organize themselves into a group or union for the purpose of promoting that beliefs and helping to determine how we should be led, as illustrate above, then could it not be said that they have formed a political party to foster the cause of the nation and of course, the masses? Nana Dankwa challenges us that the new found indigenous concept erected on the pillars of liberal thinkers is the only or probably, way forward for Ghana?s socio-economic and political development. Our areas of concern- poverty, unstable authoritarian rule, either of the one-party or military dictatorship. But who are liberals at all? You may puzzling.

Liberalism is not one simple, undifferentiated doctrine, there are varieties of liberalism. As with other doctrines or ideologies, we all know or presume that all liberals agree on the primacy of individual freedom and individual choice, which distinguishes itself from, for example, socialism. But some argue in favour of these core values by means of highly abstract reasoning. Natural law doctrine is central to the oeuvre of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and the philosophies of the French Enlightenment. They remind our ears that individual freedom is "God-given" or corresponds to "law of human nature", from which concrete action can be derived by purely logical reasoning. John Stuart Mill contends that liberalism is the wave of the present and the future, conforming to the inexorable "laws of history and progress".

Locke and, more recently, John Rawls argue that liberal principles of government and society are founded on an original social contract. That is, we surrender our very valuable existence by voting a particular thought or party, say NPP, to install a regime with the hope that it will champion our aspirations. Another breed of liberals cleaves to the doctrine of utility, undertaking a cost-benefit calculation of individual utilities geared to "maximising" social welfare. This thinking, inspired by Jeremy Bentham, is at the heart of neo-classical welfare economics and the work of Robert Nozick.

Dr Razeen Sally, lecturer in International Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science, finds these liberal theories rather sceptical on the grounds that they are too abstract and oversimplified to be of relevance to concrete practice. In their desperate search for simple, universal principles applicable everywhere and in all ages, he argues that they neglect the complexities of history and circumstance, overlooking differences of time and place. ?The assumption of extreme individualism - the isolated Crusoe who acts egoistically and rationally, integral to the homo oeconomicus of neo-classical economics - is bloodless and unrealistic, unable to account for the embeddedness of the individual in families and wider social communities,? he says.

Having expressed these reservation, classical liberalism, worth mentioning. Dr Sally finds this version that has its wellsprings in the moral philosophy and political economy of the Scottish Enlightenment, in the thought of Adam Smith and David Hume, and in the twentieth century works of Frank Knight, Jacob Viner, Walter Eucken, Wilhelm Rpke and, not least, F.A. Hayek, more "realistic" and policy relevant. For them, individual liberty has positive and negative aspects - two sides of the same liberal coin. Thus liberty is construed negatively and secured by law: binding rules proscribe certain actions which interfere with the individual's delimited private sphere, chiefly his property, in order to prevent him from being arbitrarily coerced. This leaves the individual free to act in any way not specifically forbidden?

This latitude of action dovetails with the individual's positive freedoms for, as long as we stay within the limits of the law, we are wholly free to "pursue our own interest in our own way", according to Adam Smith. Acting in our own interests, or that of our family, friends or acquaintances, we discover an enormous vast range of present and future actions, allowing for the powerful expression of our uniqueness in all departments of life. Thus individual freedom, negative and positive, is the bedrock of free market economy. For example, the freedom to produce and consume engender a division of labour and increasing occupational and geographical specialisation, which facilitates improved employment and allocation of existing resources.

However, the division of labour is only one aspect of the free market economy; it is complemented by the existence of a "division of knowledge". A major component of individual freedom is the ability to use "own knowledge for own purposes", in the language of Hayek. Knowledge in a complex society is localised and embedded in a myriad of skills and traditions, and is highly fragmented and dispersed. No person or group of persons is fully aware of relevant facts to make "correct" decisions; everyone is partially and perpetually ignorant. The genius of the market economy, argues Dr Sally, is that it allows individuals to freely use what partial knowledge they have in everyday activities of production and consumption. He explains that countless individual decisions, based on partial and highly fragmented knowledge, are coordinated through the "signals" of the price mechanism and within the rules of law.

So only such a decentralised mechanism of co-ordinating existing knowledge and generating new knowledge is effectively capable of catering for the wants and needs of millions of individuals in complex societies, he adds. This could imply that indigenous capitalism is not a message reserved solely for academic consumption. But also a mass grass-root mobilization of our people, who by virtue of being born not with not feeding-bottle on mouth but rather calabash, could put their modest services, for example, at the disposal of waste management firms or agriculture industries? So that they too can have sufficient resources to meet socially recognised needs and participate in wider society where they can have enough to eat and live without getting into debts? (Hills, John, 2001) And to escape vulnerability..? (Langmoore, 2000: 37)

Sen defines poverty in terms of ?functioning and capabilities. ?Functioning refers to what a person actually manages to do or be; which ranges from basic nourishment to more supplicated levels such as participation in life of the community and the achievement of self-respect. ?Capabilities denote what we can do or be, the range of choices open to us to choose between what we have reason to value (Sen, 1990:114). Investment in the health and education of poor people can reduce vulnerabilities and expand opportunities. Good health, mental and physical, is an important determinant of employment, productivity, and income. While all these are vital on their own sake, according to Oxfam, it can play a critical role in facilitating the broad-based, equitable economic environment which is vital to poverty eradication (OXFAM UK, 2004, p23)

Ghana has reached a critical stage of its socio-economic ailments of which dynamic political leadership is sought, come 2008. The right prescription lies on us all. Almost half-a-century ago, yes, our founding fathers struggled for political freedom. Ours is more of economic and ?ethnic political redemption?. In recent times, we have been reading from Professor Fiifi Atta Mills that social democracy ideology, is the best route for our nation. The CPP group thinks of Nkrumahism- an egalitarian variant, an ideological concept that is not far from that of the Professor?s NDC? Nana Akufo-Addo also dreams of an indigenous capitalism, where our monarchies shall be at the forefront in shaping our almost eroding Town and Country Planning tradition?

We should be reminded that liberals regard society not as an entity in its own right but as a collection of individuals. To the extent that society exists, it is fashioned out of voluntary and contractual agreements made by self-interested human beings. They see the state as a neutral arbiter amongst the competing interests and groups in society. Thus capitalism?s quest for profit through the extraction of ?surplus value? from its workers, by paying them less than the value their labour generates. Economic exploitation is therefore an essential feature of capitalist mode of production, and it is said to operate regardless of the meanness or generosity of particular employers?

Per Heywood, socialists have traditionally understood society in terms of unequal class power, economic and property divisions being deeper and more genuine than any broader social bonds. As a result social democracy was taken to refer to democratic socialism, in contrast to revolutionary socialism it has been most clearly associated with reformist socialism and has also been embraced by others, notably modern liberals and paternalist conservatives. Social democrats now endorses liberal-democratic values and accept that political change can and should be brought about peacefully and constitutionally. Capitalism is accepted as the only reliable means of generating wealth; socialism, therefore, is not qualitatively different from capitalism.

This exonerates postmodernism feminists argument that the meaning of ?something? isn?t fixed, but waiting to be discovered? Thus we all have multiple identities and the possibility of a single grand theory objectivity and truth are impossible? So the New Leadership hunt, must be freed from ancient frontiers and misconceptions? This seems to be irritating, pretentious, irrelevant and dangerous. But, could we not unite on OXFAM UK?s report that during the drought that swept southern Africa, villagers in Zambia and Zimbabwe drew upon local knowledge of roots, leaves, and other products, and without that local knowledge, that has been passed down over centuries from generation, the human cost of the drought would have been higher? (Ibid)

Asante Fordjour
Student
Department of Law, Governance and International Relations
London Metropolitan University, London, UK


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