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Opinions of Thursday, 13 October 2016

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

The king, an emperor and 15 Arabian Knights presidential aspirants

Is this Democracy or Democrazy?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK October 11, 2016

At the close of nominations on Friday, September 30, 2016, seventeen aspirants filed their nominations forms in readiness to contest the December 7 presidential election (fifteen representing political parties and two independent aspirants). This article analyses the crave to be president of Ghana.

I sometimes find it difficult to understand some politicians across the globe but particularly, those from the developing world. In the developed democracies, hardly do presidential or prime ministerial elections generate that high number of aspirants. Of course, where there are primaries there is always higher numbers contesting but by the end of the primary contests, many would have fallen on the wayside and disappeared as was in the case of the 2016 US Republican Party’s primaries.

Sadly, this is not the case in the developing world, especially in Africa including Ghana. More often than not, the total number of aspirants/candidates are in double digits. Even in cases where the opposition parties join hands together to fight against a dictator for the right to participate in multi-party elections, once the opportunity is secured, they split into numerous groups instead of fielding one candidate to defeat the common opponent. In doing so, they give room to the dictator to win the election either by fair or foul means.

What has been happening in Ghana since the reintroduction of multiparty elections under the Fourth Republican Constitution is no different. However, what is strange and disturbing under the current circumstance is, why are fifteen individuals willing to waste money on a contest that they have no chance of meeting the minimum requirement to retain their deposits?

According to the Electoral Commission the deposit or filing fee for presidential aspirants is Ghc 50,000 per aspirant. A candidate must receive at least, 25% of the valid votes cast at the elections in order for his or her deposit to be returned. This, in effect, is a mathematical impossibility bearing in mind that seventeen aspired to contest. That is only possible if there were a maximum of four candidates and all perform equally. That again, is a statistical anomaly.

With the political landscape in Ghana and from past experience, it is abundantly clear that only two candidates (the King or President Mahama representing NDC and the uncrowned Emperor or Nana Akufo-Addo, representing the NPP) are capable of passing the 25 percent margin and securing their deposits. So what makes the other fifteen matured and sane men and women to deliberately decide to go into a contest that they know would lose them Ghc 50,000 in midst of poverty of their constituents?

Would it not have been more beneficial for the fifteen politicians to have used their deposits to improve educational facilities in rural Ghana such as renovating a dilapidated school building in a village in their home region? Why do they do it knowing very well that they would lose their deposits? Is it just to have the title, presidential or former presidential candidate? If that is the case, then why do some of the aspirants contest time and time again? Are they irrational? Let me examine a few of them and their motives. Others are not worth considering.

Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings knows very well that she would be humiliated at the polls but her reasons for contesting is vindictive first and foremost. She will never forgive the NDC for disgracing her at the 2012 primaries. Her candidacy has two main objectives. The first, is short-term and that is, to deny President Mahama a second term and that is why she concentrating her efforts in the Volta Region to reduce President Mahama’s votes from the region. That way, the main opposition party’s candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo will capture the presidency. The second is more strategic and that is, for the Rawlingsses to take back their party NDC when it goes into opposition. Part of the plan is making their daughter (Zanetor) a future (2020) NDC presidential candidate, especially should she get elected as an MP on December 7.

Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom is another interesting political animal. He has contested at least twice and on both occasions he did not come near even a quarter of the 25 percent. So what makes him think that he will reach that mark this time round? Perhaps, for him he takes joy in being a presidential candidate or hopes against hope that he could be the King Maker in the event of a second round between President Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo.

Hassan Ayariga is a political enigma for me. I just do not get why he contests and it is not worth spending time to analyse his motives, if any. With all due respect, Madam Akua Donkor is a political anathema for me, so the less I say the better. The rest, equally do not merit any critical examination of their motives. With the exception of NDC and NPP the other political parties do not even qualify to be registered parties under Article 55(7)(b) of the 1992 Constitution.

Being a leader is about service and sacrifice to country in order improve the quality of life of the people one serves and not about titles. For most of the seventeen aspirants, it’s not about leadership, neither service nor sacrifice but rather access to power and resources of the nation. These are what motivate and drive them, nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise, what would make rational human beings to just decide to throw away Ghc 50,000?

The office of the president of a sovereign state such as the Republic of Ghana is a very serious one. However, the calibre of most of the aspirants were such that for some of us it’s like irresponsible adults joining their friends in a stolen car for a joy ride. To me this devalues the presidency and it’s a joke.

Others may say that this is democracy and therefore anyone and everyone that meet the minimum requirement should be free to contest. If so, why does the same not happen in the advanced democracies? Remember, this was not the primaries but the real contest. Do Ghanaians understand democracy better than the advanced democracies or do Ghanaians not take the presidency serious? Of course, with the ascend of Donald Trump in the US, other could say anything goes.

I beg to differ and that what is happening in Ghana is not democracy but rather democrazy. It is convoluted democracy coupled with disorder and sometimes fraud perpetrated on the people in the name misguided right to representation. With this form of democracy, is it strange that the Ghana is far behind in development, there is indiscipline and corruption everywhere?

National development is a serious enterprise that must not be left in the hands of jokers such as the fifteen Arabian Knights. Presidential elections are not popularity contest that every tom dick and harry wakes up with a bad dream and decides to participate. Ghana and Ghanaians should be serious. Let’s have a real contest between the King and the uncrowned Emperor that will give the voters real choice.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK