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Opinions of Monday, 5 February 2007

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

The Role Of Ideas In Ghanaian Politics

“Ideas rule the world and its events. A revolution is a passage of an idea from theory to practice. Whatever men say, material interests, never have caused and never will cause a revolution” Mazzini.

I have been involved in the NPP since its inception and in the nomination contest over the last year. During this time I have learned a lot. A contest is affected by a many things including ideas, resources, communication, the mood of the electorate, a candidate’s constituency and who his or her opponents are.

I write this time, not in support of my candidacy but in concern about the fate of my country. An editor of a respected newspaper recently said to me.

“Arthur K, if this race were to be contested on the basis of ideas, you will win hands-down, but it is not.” Another person said “The process is rigged and the party has already made up its mind.” Another brilliant friend said “Do you see what happened to Spio? You will put great ideas on the table and the party will watch and smile, but in the end, the delegates will take their thirty pieces of silver and sell the nomination to the highest bidder. You mark my words, this is what will happen.”

Of course, some too have been encouraging. As a party elder said “This nomination will test the commitment of our party to the “NEW” in its name and you will be a formidable advocate for newness in our party”. While pondering these sobering remarks by these “insiders,” there have been developments that have re-enforced the pessimism of some of these quotes that I have reproduced. Just before the NPP congress, the President of the republic and the leader of the party told a group of party delegates to ignore the influence of money in choosing the party’s nominee for President. Then last week, a prominent group of NPP youth called for free constituency congresses to elect the six ordinary delegates that should represent each constituency and warned that the process must be fair. That same day, by co-incidence, a Ghanaian patriot and NPP member, Prof. Kwaku Asare urged the nation and the party to focus on making the process for selecting the nominee fair rather than the number of candidates. All three communications underline the widespread disquiet about our political processes that is carefully kept in the shadows. As these sentiments spread, they are sapping credibility out of our political process and thus, endangering it. We need to bring integrity, fairness and transparency to our political process in line with the calls made by the President, the NPP youth and Prof Asare. I fully endorse the President’s admonition to the party delegates and urge all aspirants to endorse the President’s statement. Furthermore, I urge party leaders to conduct a fair and transparent primary devoid of corruption that will enhance our party’s image.

All Ghanaians should be concerned that in the 21st century, our major parties will choose leaders without any reference to their ideas. Mazzini was right. Ideas matter and they should matter a great deal in politics. We cannot improve, from our current status to middle-income status, without bold and visionary ideas. They matter because good or bad, they have consequences that can affect our nation for decades and the fate of generations yet unborn. It is for this reason, that ideas should be the first questions we ask of our candidates and demand of our governments. We should be discussing ideas on technology instead of tribal origins. We should be discussing ideas on how to improve public housing instead of the horse-race. We should be discussing the merits and demerits of indigenous capitalism rather than the inherent right of “princes” in a democratic polity. The sad fact is that this determined focus on trivia and irrelevance is being aided and abetted by some in the press who should know better. The duty of the Press is not to line up blindly behind candidates, but to find and present to the public information about the candidates that will help them pick the best person.

It was the idea of independence that moved Danquah and Nkrumah to embark on the independence struggle whose anniversary we are about to celebrate. It was the idea of building in ten years what others had done in a century that led to great projects like Akosombo dam, Tema harbour and township, free education and health during Nkrumah’s time. If in those early days, we knew that ideas mattered, why would they not matter now? I believe that when we act as if ideas do not matter, we are giving comfort to those at home and abroad who believe that we are an inferior race and therefore hold us to a hypothetical and inferior standard.

I have no doubt that our people value ideas. That is why we took to cell phones and, why our brethren who went abroad in the slave-trade, help make so many technological break-throughs. In the era of the global village, we should build a society that will equip all of our citizens to compete with other nationals any where on earth. To do this, we must look to leaders whose vision is anchored in the middle of this new century rather than the middle of the last century.

Lestor Thureau once said “The role of government is to represent the future to the present.” He was right and his view is re-enforced by the book of Proverbs which states that without a vision, the people perish. He meant the future as our grandchildren will meet it. How can we have as leaders of our nation men and women whose claims to office are that they are rich, handsome or have been around? I believe that politics should be about men and women with great and different ideas, about the future, that are held with conviction and communicated with passion.

I know that ideas may be good or bad and that they are developed in the context of particular societies and history. My passion for our nation and her fate is total and I, like most Ghanaians, believe that our nation must be greater than the sum of its ethnic or religious parts. I am convinced that the great nation we aspire to build will not be realized, except with bold and visionary leaders.

The NPP candidates can help the party to pick the best candidate by joining me in a commitment to a campaign of ideas and a series of public debates that will help make the differences in our competing visions clear. I hope that my campaign and Presidency will restore to our country the idea that ideas matter.

In this campaign, I will take my bold and visionary ideas on how to make our government work better, job-creation, making our brethren in the Diaspora full citizens, improving health and harnessing appropriate technology for our development, to all corners of our great country. I will share with them ideas about fighting the triple evils of ethno-centrism, corruption and excessive partisanship; because I believe delegates chosen freely and fairly and voting freely, will vote for their children’s interests, rather than their own selfish interest, which will only be short-sighted. I believe they will not accept leaders whose face they know but whose minds and hearts are mysteries to them. I believe that in their hearts, every delegate knows that Ghana cannot afford for the next fifty years to be like the last fifty years. The NPP delegates will no doubt be aware of the historic choice that they face in picking a nominee. The NDC has already picked a candidate who will represent the past very well. Professor Mills will take us to a new version of “Rawlingsism” that will only retard our progress. The question is whether the NPP will give the nation a choice between the future and the past or confine Ghanaians to two choices which reflect the past. I pray that they will put the future on the ballot next year. If they vote their conscience, for the future and for a better country, then together, we can set an example that will help Africa make this new century, the first African century.

Yen ara yen asase ni! Yen abode dema yen……



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