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Opinions of Thursday, 1 September 2011

Columnist: Agbenyo, Samuel Kofi

Re-are Ghanaians benefiting from THIS democracy?

I wish to comment on the article posted on your website by Dr. J.K. Bokor entitled ‘Are Ghanaians benefiting from this democracy?’ Much as this is the opinion of the writer which I respect his view for that I also wish to point to some facts and differ from the position he has taken. H e has been able to list various failed circumstances of government since 1993, but failed to identify and ignore the vital parts that make democracy what he sees it be.

To begin with, democracy is not a living thing that has her own specific way of doing things. It is the same Ghanaians that have to make democracy to function the way he thought it to be or what we all expect it to be. He only painted a picture that seems to suggest that it is only those in power that make democracy to function. Democracy as it is, is a shared responsibility. This means that it is both the ruled and the ruler who have to combine and make it work. This calls for the involvement of every body. These include the citizenry, the opposition parties, civil society groups and of course the government of the day. Really, as Abraham Lincolm put it, the ideal democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. To critically dilate on his saying, then democracy may mean a government that is formed through the will of the people, which include the involvement everybody in that society. This means that everybody is concerned in choosing whoever takes the mantle to lead that country. This is done in an election opened to a specific age group agreed upon by the very society who avails themselves to register for that purpose, and cast their ballot at an agreed time known to all in an open free and fair election. The government by the people means that the people who take the mantle do involve everybody in decision making. This calls for deliberation of issues that concern the welfare of the people by everybody to arrive at a consensus decision that is acceptable to all. For the fact that we do not have space and resources to bring everybody a common place for that decision to be taken, we have decided to split the country into constituencies to elect representatives each to do so on our behalves. So any decision taken by parliament is deemed as taken by the entire Ghanaian populace. The government for the people means, the government so formed should be responsible for the needs of the people. This particular aspect is based on the fact that everybody that makes the society has a responsibility towards the achievement of this particular goal, but not only the government of the day.

To add to that democracy is a corporate body that involves various actors with different important responsibilities to play to make democracy function well. I do not see why the writer should only single out the government and blamed it for the failures he identified. I do not also agree with him that there is noting for us to celebrate as an achievement as people practicing democracy. I am of the view that there is a lot for us to celebrate, be happy and be proud about. We have enjoyed peace and tranquility since, 1993. This is one vital ingredient of a democracy that has eluded many nations all over the world. Why can’t we be happy at least that we have that? If we cast our eyes around the globe, the troubles blowing in some countries is enough a sign for us to be proud. Even what a country like Greece, which is acclaimed as the origin of democracy is going through, is worth mention as a situation that we as a country, are not in. I have listened to a Greek saying he has sold all his properties to generate the amount for him to move to Australia to engage in farming there. Do we have such situations in our country?The situation in Ireland, Portugal and Spain in the heart of Europe is worth mentioning which we are not facing in our country. This is enough evidence that the picture of hopelessness that the writer is trying to paint is misplaced. Yes, I agree that things are not going as expected but an attempt to put the blame at the doorsteps of the government alone is also misplaced.

Furthermore, to make myself clear, let me point to the fact why government6 alone could not be blamed. Each and everyone of us has a responsibility towards the good of this country, thus, the government, the opposition parties, civil society organizations, workers and the general citizenry all have responsibilities to play. The failure of any of these bodies to function well will derail any gains made and stop the smooth movement of the growth chart upwards. Take for example, do we as Ghanaians play our roles well to provide the opportunity for government to meet our needs as expected? Do we dispose off the refuse that we generate in our homes in the appropriate place? Do we keep our streets clean? A responsible citizen should not indiscriminately liter our environment. We should not put solid waste into drains. We should take good care of facilities provided for us by government. We should obey the laws of the nation. We should only engage in sensible and environmental friendly economic ventures. Every year millions of Cedis are pumped into educating us on the dangers of bush burning. Do we mean to say that it is the government that comes to set the bushes on fire? Can we say that it is the failure of government that is compelling the chiefs to lease their lands to illegal gold miners? Aren’t these illegal miners living in the same towns and hiring rooms from the same members of these communities? Don’t they know that they will block their water bodies, divert the flow of the water and pollute them and make them unsafe to drink? Do we blame government for this? In many part of this country, it is the land owners that are in charge of land sale. The sell all the lands without the reservation of portions for refuse dump and places for construction of toilets. The people who buy these lands put up buildings without toilets, those who do, do not hesitate to turn them into living rooms and hire them. Can we all imagine the problem that will arise. Do we blame government for that? The government has over the years educated us to plan our families and give birth to children which resources available to us can cater for. Do we as a people take family planning serious? Are we really cautious about the rate at which our population is growing? Can we fault government for our own failure to exercise good sense of judgment and do what is right? Beside this, we have a failed opposition parties over the years. The opposition parties we have as a people only criticize for that sake and do not provide any alternative. Apart from that before certain important bills are passed, a bi-partisan committee of the house look at it before it comes to the floor of the house. Do the opposition members on the committee look at the bill critically and make their input before those bills come to the floor of the house? Is it a case that they are ignored at the committee level by the majority? If really they do take part in the discussion of the bill at committee level and agreed to recommend to the general house and come to behave at the floor of the house the way they do, then they do not worth going to parliament and are a total waste of the tax payers’ money. This naturally, will provide the opportunity to the incompetency of a government, since the opposition has failed to position itself as a competent government in waiting. Again, the media which are charged with the responsibility to provide the people with credible information of issues as it is, have turn to put their own twist on issues that they report. Thus, one same event, when you take the various media houses, there is a different angle to it. How a media worth it sort could report on an issue that was debated by parliament sufficiently, but one divide of the house abstained, as a bill passed by one sided parliament?

What such media houses forget is that, there are several UN resolutions binding which some member countries of the UN security organ abstained, but those resolutions still bind for the fact that the quorum required was attained. These are some of the beauties of democracy and the failure of informed persons like a journalist to see it that way and report the truth is a great disincentive to democracy. Thus, could not be blamed on the government. Another challenge to our democracy is the issue of a bias civil society groups. The issue of persons who belong to political parties masquerading as civil society organizations is posing a great deal of danger to our democracy. These persons quickly oppose the other party on issues they deem will not augur well for them as a group, but will benefit the totality of the general public, try to sway the masses to their side. But if they are cut in similar issues in another time, they turn to defend the position they rejected the other time all round. How will such civil society organizations positively impact on democracy to grow? Some of these civil society groups ostensibly oppose government program for the mere fact that it will benefit the people positively and generate the people’s confidence in the government and, thus, make the government popular. Therefore, for them it is better the project does not happen. This attitude is very bad and a disincentive to democracy and the failure of such projects could not be blamed on the government.

Finally, if the citizenry fails to grab numerous opportunities provided by government and turn their situation around, do we blame government? The financial institutions in this country has also failed to provide fund for people in gainful and profit yielding economic ventures like aquaculture. This single business is one that can turn the fortunes of this country but is not being realized. The Volta river which is a vast resource for that business lies untapped. We have also shunned indigenous products and develop taste for foreign products. Take for example; our taste for cheap Chinese products is killing most of our factories. Talk about the textile industry which hitherto employs thousands of Ghanaians has collapsed. We do not patronize rice produce in our country. Our people who go in for loan to invest in the production of rice go bankrupt and could not pay for the loans, thus they are completely taken out of business. We now import tooth pick from china. We have a lot of bamboo here which could be turn into tooth pick but we chose to import it from China. Even catapult, match stick and cotton bud for removing wax from our ears is imported from China. We are also quick to issue threat against government for vote any time we are called to order for doing the wrong thing. When, workers with the same qualification and job specification wanted to be treated differently. When workers of this country, at the least opportunity, will declare strike on issues that there were still avenues to explore to settle it amicably. When doctors will rush to declare strike for issues that they could have explored other means to solve and use the strike actions as the last resort. How can we have a responsible government if we put up such behaviors? I am afraid to say that even if God himself should descend to rule us and we fail to change for the better, we can not see the development we want. This definitely can not be blamed on government and can not be said that we have not achieved anything. Despite these challenges, I am of the view that there are a lot for us to celebrate as a people and disagree with the gloomy picture the writer tried to paint.

AGBENYO SAMUEL KOFI

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