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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Spitting In The Face Of Our Teething Democracy: Trick Or Treat?

For a multi ethnic experiment like ours, democracy is the best way forward. Democracy, like marriage, needs constant attention and maintenance. Trust me, there are times when my tolerance wears thin, not with the ever pleasing concept of democracy but the people that run it for country Ghana. Yet, I still believe it is relatively the best way forward. We cannot put democracy on cruise control like a chief installed for life. It is for this reason that I worry a lot about the blatant electoral abuses and subsequent abuse of the rule of law in Ghana. We must clomp forward bearing in mind that there is so much work to do in shoring up our democracy. Make no mistake, not all who sing praises to democracy are committed to it. Most of these finaglers, certainly, do not want to be caught dirtying their hands as they go about genuflecting and propping up their hoity-toity careers and goals at the expense of our embryonic democracy. Even countries that have practiced democracy for centuries continue to nip and tuck and so must we. Without constant maintenance democracy will pass out and caput.

The recent news that the former dictator, Rawlings, was in Cuba soliciting funds to unseat the NPP did not sit well with me and I am sure many more Ghanaians. Yeah, unseat the NPP but not with funds from non-Ghanaians. I trust that Rawlings is one who has used and abused his past position as president in visiting heads of states of foreign countries seeking personal gain. Yes personal gain! After all, is Obed not telling us that NDC is owned and operated by Rawlings. Seeking funds for the NDC is a personal obligation and not a national one. Why should a former president use his past position for such gain? Is this morally right and legally acceptable? What if the NDC were competing against a party whose flag bearer did not have such extensive connections as a result of previous position(s) in government? Who will the latter go to and must they consider such? I think we should ban all heads of states and indeed high ranking government officials, previous and sitting, from using their position to solicit funds from any foreign government for political purposes. When I say political purpose, I mean any effort that is material to the running and electing of a political party. This includes campaigns and the administration of any political party in Ghana.

As if going out and begging for funds from a foreign country for political purposes is not enough, I find the NDC position on this practice rather unacceptable and repugnant. Can everyone say ROPAB or ROPAA? What was the NDC’s stand on this piece of legislation designed to enable bonafide Ghanaians to vote from wherever they are, just as the Black stars team is constituted by Ghanaians from wherever they are? The NDC fought tooth and nail to disrupt and subvert this legislation. They marched up and down, stomping with reckless abandon and claiming that Ghanaians outside the country should not be given a voice in the affairs of their country if they cannot fly home to vote! What kind of callousness is this, some of us thought? And now what do we see and hear?

So, if the NDC believes that Ghanaians outside the country should not vote, why the hell do they think that Cuba or Cubans for that matter, should have a say in the politics of Ghana? Why is the ex-dictator sniffing Hugo Chavez’s behind for some dough to politically unseat the NPP? Notice that I said political unseating not military boom boom unseating. Until the full case is made, I will give the serial coup plotter the benefit of doubt that he denied numerous Ghanaians under his ghoulish regime. Is it not downright condescension and disrespect for Ghanaians who live abroad to watch Rawlings beg for funds for political purposes in Ghana? After forcing a critical mass of Ghanaians outside their country, Rawlings is spearheading a party that is against the voting rights of Ghanaians living outside the country? They even told us that we are not bright enough to comment on contemporary Ghanaians issues since we don’t live there and now Cubans and Venezuelans are more fitting to do that? Is money not political speech? Why am I not surprised that such a self-serving egomaniac like Rawlings will make and champion such shameless moves?

To calm my nerves, I visited our constitution for some answers. Chapter 7, Article 55, clause 15 says, “Only a citizen of Ghana may make contributions or donation to a political party registered in Ghana.” No where in the constitution does it say that anyone is allowed to solicit funds from other countries for political purposes. Unless I am overlooking anything pertinent, it must be a crime then for anyone to solicit funds from a foreign country or any of its citizens. Did Rawlings therefore commit a crime by asking Cuba to provide funds to help unseat politically the current government? Which other countries is he planning on visiting? Folks, I am not interested in any palliative canard that will require these tainted politicians to show and tell about handouts that they get outside for political purposes. It is not ok to ask and receive money from outsiders aimed at influencing elections in Ghana. It is against the law and rightfully so. This is one law that we must keep or risk having non-Ghanaians run our affairs. This is not to say that we are not on puppet strings already. Perhaps we could lessen the gyrations and shock emanating from the reckless string pulls by cutting this practice out.

Why are these African leaders so shameless in their panhandling escapades? If Rawlings ruled Ghana for almost 20 bloody years and ruled it well, why is he seeking funds from outside the country to run his party? Shouldn’t he ask the people that he made so well and proud for funds? Did he really? Aha!! Sometimes, these wicked ones forget that the evil that men/women do, really lives after them. Liken this to a church! If the congregation is not doing well, the tithe and offering will be gaunt. This is why it is in the interest of churches to preach the gospel of economics. For if the congregation does well economically, so will the churches. If you think I am lying, visit any church in a rich area.

The constitution goes on to say in Article 55, clause 11, that, “ The state shall provide fair opportunity to all political parties to present their programmes to the public by ensuring equal access to the state owned media.” Clause 12 of the same article, further enunciates that, “ all presidential candidates shall be given the same amount of time and space on the state owned media to present their programmes to the people.” Is this not helpful enough? Why can’t the NDC or any political party just build on these warranties by drumming up funds within Ghana? I guess our democracy is now a chase for money wherever they can find it! They don’t care if it is cocaine or stolen money! Look at the fees required to contest for the flag bearer of the NPP and tell me why our toddler democracy should start on this note. I mean is this just for the rich? Shame I say!

Without the rule of law, our democratic experiment will wither on the vine. A country that is run by the rule of men is bound to fail. It is for this reason that all real and true lover of democracy must push partisanship aside and speak up on the blatant disrespect and indiscretions in relation to the rule of law. We cannot claim to be champions of the law when we sit idly and watch these so called poohbahs, violate our laws with radical impunity all the time. When are we going to be bold enough to prosecute some of these blatant violations? Raise the issues of corruption and some will say well the West also has corruption. Fine! Is the west begging from us? Have we not seen congressmen go to jail for electoral fraud in the west? Have we not seen fines? Why can’t we do the same in Ghana? In Ghana we rather applaud these scoff laws and turn them into celebrities.

Here we are, calling for an end to the antediluvian system of chieftaincy and some continue to toy shamelessly with our teething democracy? Where is leadership going to come from to address these issues? Ask any of the presidential candidates what they will do to investigate and possibly prosecute those who are alleged to have stolen from the people and most of them, if not all, will perhaps scurry away like cockroaches flooded by intense light. We need leaders who will draw a line in the sand and deal with those who continue to scoff at our laws and behave as if they are above the law. Until and unless we come to that calm yet firm understanding, that no one is above the law and move vigorously to actualize such, we stand on the precipice of failure.

Often, when one calls for the injection of promising ideas from outside the African realm to lift our people, a cache of hardcore traditional fundamentalists are quick to draw their serrated toxin laden arrows for maximum damage. They attack your message and person in their bid, at least that is what they think, to save this whole called Ghana. I wonder why these same traditional fundamentalist sit and watch the corruption of our local democracy by not saying a pip to those who seek huge financial assistance from outside to influence our politics. Where are those who shout Afropean? Where are those who shout Uncle Tom? As far as I am concerned, those who solicit for funds outside Ghanaian circles for political activity inside Ghana are the real Afropeans and Uncle Toms. These funds are not for free. They come with often unsaid or unpublished demands. There are no free lunches is a piece of message that beggars find hard to comprehend!! The sad part is that it always come back to bite them.

Lastly, let the Electoral commissioner be vigilant and enforce our electoral laws. For starters, I strongly recommend some kind of outreach and education on our electoral laws to all political parties in Ghana. After such is completed, we must switch into a vigorous enforcement mode. No modulation I say! Particularly, I will like to see clause 14 of Article 55 enforced vigorously. It states this, “Political parties shall be required by law, (a) to declare their revenues and assets and the source of those revenues and assets, and (b) to publish to the public annually their audited accounts.” Have all the parties in Ghana done this? If no, will the EC take immediate steps to make these parties comply? If yes, where can we find these publications? Can the EC publish a link on his website that will take us to these reports? The EC is a key piece of our democracy and we need some form of aggressiveness from him. He is too tamed for my liking. If we don’t get it right today, tomorrow brings us a political culture that will make democracy a full-blown circus.

Let me also take this opportunity to warn the NPP and all other political to cease and desist from seeking funds outside the Ghanaian circle. I don’t have a problem if they raise funds from Ghanaians overseas. It is constitutionally legitimate to raise funds from Ghanaians everywhere. It is my understanding that this is not against the law. Let all parties do so freely. At least the NPP has been consistent in fighting for Ghanaians abroad to vote. Let us work hard to shore up this democratic experiment. Like habits, if we allow these blatant unsavory practices to take hold, it will be as difficult as uprooting the now moribund chieftaincy system. We’ve got to nip this one in the bud!! Viva Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Alias Da Double—The double edge sword) Have you spoken up lately? Speak up!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.