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Opinions of Friday, 2 December 2016

Columnist: Kwadwo Agyapong Antwi

Who am I voting for on December 7? Just check my Surname

It's pathetic that a few days to elections, the most important discussion dominating our airwaves is not about the capacity of the contenders to make this country a better place but about something as trivial as an ethnic group.

A word whose western inspired origin and very connotation speaks to servitude and backwardness. A word that should struggle to find a befitting place in any civilized dictionary. A word that should have been confined to the history books by now and should have no place 16 years into the second millennium.

As a country our hypocrisy blinds us from admitting that several decades into practicing democracy in this town, tribalism still plays an important role in our body politics.

It remains the ultimate elephant in the room that we fail to acknowledge because of political correctness (on the side of those who don't care about politics) and greed (on the side of those who do).

It's degenerated to a point where one can almost perfectly predict a person's views, posts and comments from their surnames alone.

I believe a well-defined problem is a half solved problem so it's important that we remove the scales from our eyes and see tribal politics for what it is.

The hard fact is, the two major political parties have always attempted to deepen this irrelevant fault line towards their selfish ends with democracy, stability and progress of the nation as the ultimate victim.

Politics by nature thrives on populism and the African politician sees tribalism as an easier means of generating this populism because they usually fail to perform on relevant key indicators that allow them to have a better message.

A more ideologically based campaign - building a robust economy with positive incentives for all, enhancing social services that promote the general health and well-being of the citizenry, governing in a fair and transparent environment by putting the interests of the nation above individual selfish interests etc.

The African politician plays this tribal card because they consistently undermine the intellectual capacity of the majority of the electorates.
They know this because of the weak foundation they have laid by failing to invest in education in order to develop a more enlightened society capable of evaluating policies and plans in an objective manner.

Of course I've seen some of the most educated people (schooled is actually a better word) who are even more opinionated and I do know there's always a certain level of bias in any political dispensation - the danger is when that bias becomes the major foundation for electing our leaders, since it erodes their incentives to perform. A great Economist once said, “People respond to incentives. The rest is commentary"

The framers of the United States constitution, knowing fully well the impact polarization could have in undermining their quest to building a more perfect union instituted the Electoral College system.

They knew it wasn't a perfect system but they would rather have an imperfect system that allows them to perfect their union than have a perfect system that could jeopardize the great American experiment.

I hope this perspective helps to appreciate the fear they had for polarization even though the fault lines in America were along state boundaries and certainly as contentious as ethnicity.

In a globalized world where ideas and knowledge are taking center stage, and people are being judged based on the "content of their character and not their creed or colour of their skin", any Ghanaian still interested in a geographical identity should better identify as African since many of those identities we cherish so much are unrecognizable beyond Kotoka International Airport.

Of the myriad of issues that should influence your vote on 7th December, your surname and that of the candidates should be the least significant.

Let's have better dialogue about how to make our nation great and strong, especially in this election season. Let’s Vote Peace. God bless our motherland.