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Opinions of Friday, 14 September 2007

Columnist: Kpuusuu, Amadu

Watch out for unscrupulous politicians


Our nation was returned from Big Man rule to Big Man democracy in 1992, which implied that the ordinary Ghanaian who is qualified to vote can determine who rules him or her. Democracy, as defined by Abraham Lincoln, is government of the people, by the people and for the people. Ideally, real power resides in the electorate in every true democratic state. The 1992 constitution of Ghana requires a duly elected politician to exercise power for four years then go back to the voters to renew his or her mandate if they wish to remain in power. The National Patriotic Party (NPP) is approaching the end of its second term in office and next year – 2008 the political pendulum will swing from the politicians to the voters.

The usual practice in Ghana is that the politician becomes too remote, a Big Man, and unapproachable as soon as he or she gets the power from the electorate. The politician is obliged to contact his or her electorate when the balance of power moves from the politician to the voter. The 2008 election year will bring the opportunity for every voter to elect who they think is qualified to rule them for another four years. As voters, what should we do with that power? Are we going to fall into the same portmanteau trap by going in for the leader who cares for himself, his immediate family, friends, supporters and cronies? Or will we sit back and say, “Well, all politicians are the same. There is no need bothering ourselves in searching for a better one.”

It is time to sit up as wise citizens to reassess, redefine and analyse the issue of who bears the qualities or is fit enough to lead Ghanaians. From 1957 to the present day, the minds and thinking faculties of the Ghanaian voter have been impaired by bogus and empty promises. Politicians step forward from all angles with energy and enthusiasm, promising to tackle development and nation building; they put before the voter over ambitious plans and policies which are impossible to achieve given the politicians’ outlook, intentions and previous performances; they raise the sense of euphoria by lavishly promising to create for us a veritable paradise of abundance and satisfaction where poverty, ignorance, disease, greed and corruption would be things of the past.

We have always been assured by the politicians that we are destined for unprecedented progress if a particular bunch is elected into office. Right from the days of nationalism, politicians have kept our expectations very high, but little worthwhile has come out of the taxes we pay. Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, pledged that he had the solutions to our educational, social and healthcare concerns, as well as issues of unemployment and land for all. To achieve this, we Ghanaians must seek first the political Kingdom, and all things shall be added unto us. The incumbent President also made these promises, together with zero tolerance for corruption, which we can all testify now was a vague, unrealistic and romantic idea.

I know many Ghanaian voters have reached a stage where they really don’t mind who comes to rule them. For fifty years, deceit and lies have governed the political arena and the hopes of the people have turned into absolute despair. Many politicians have become professional liars, greedy and egotistical personalities. Some of them I believe have acquired degrees in lies and corrupt practices, hence the Ghanaian mentality that politics is a dirty game. Politics, I believe, is not a dirty game. It is the personalities involved who are abusing it. Greed and corruption have become commonplace features of Ghanaian society. Many people in Ghana view politics as an opportunity or a vehicle for self enrichment. The politicians spend our money on prestigious projects with the motive of obtaining a good kickback, popularly known as 10% in Ghana. Most politicians feather their own nests, acquiring a fortune for themselves and their political parties. In numerous cases, politicians loot the state treasury more than they actually need. Today, bribery and corruption have become a way of life, accepted as a means of getting by, earning a living, obtaining a service or avoiding hassle. It has become evident that many prominent politicians obtain car loans without the intention of paying them back. The practice of bribery and embezzlement spreads from the top politicians to the bottom ones. Of course, there are some honest, hard-working politicians in the country. These men and women bring credit to the political scene and deserve to be re-elected.

I was in Wa, the regional capital of Upper West, in June 2007 and observed that the regional library lacks any good reading material. Most of the shelves were empty, dry and dusty, the building itself urgently requires refurbishment as it looks very shabby. Meanwhile, politicians, their great supporters and cronies who benefit from project kickbacks maintain that they are committed to providing quality and affordable education to the citizenry. Free, compulsory, universal basic education has become a myth. The nature of the towns and cities as I observed during my stay in Wa and Accra, has exposed the ordinary people to endemic diseases like malaria and other diseases stemming from poor sanitation and poverty. I noticed that the out patient department at the Wa Regional Hospital was crowded with ailing children and women who needed medical care seriously. There is no doubt that the facilities of the Wa Regional Hospital are over stretched by the number of patients attending it day in and day out. Hardworking doctors and nurses struggle to cope with the demands as conditions are not very favourable. Due to some of these appalling living conditions, the ordinary Ghanaian faces the risk of low life expectancy despite the fact that some effort have been made in the health care delivery. Far more could be done to improve upon health care delivery and environmental health management if the politicians were patriotic and committed to what they promise. Most of the rural population are engaged in subsistence agriculture and the politicians do very little in some areas to assist these poor farmers to produce enough food stuff to take them through the year. Politicians are satisfied that the disadvantaged farmer is kept in ignorance of the real responsibilities of the rulers.
The saddest thing is that most voters believe that nothing can be done to reverse this trend of political hypocrisy. Therefore, voters tend to be content with the tokens offered to them by politicians. Those few voters such as the opinion leaders, who know better and could educate their fellow electorate to vote wisely, can be bribed to distort the message. When the electorate complains of neglect, the usual response of the politician is that the resources are not available to tackle the issues as they had promised. I would want to believe that our problem is not only about lack of resources, but it is greed and corruption which keep the development agenda of Ghana stagnant. As voters we need to reconsider who merits our mandate. As the 2008 election approaches, we have to watch out for the characteristics which distinguish genuine contenders from those who seek power to satisfy their whims and caprices. The question then is, what specific features should we look out for? This writer suggests the following: * Contenders with a successful track record, by which I mean people with a clear record of effective leadership. People who have used their talents, resources and time towards the development of the society. * Contenders with high moral standards. We have to be wary of people with questionable wealth or success. The political nature of Ghana can only be changed by leaders who are honest, blameless and above board in conduct. Leaders who say no to greed and other corrupt practices. Leaders who show strong determination and self-sacrifice to ensure that ignorance, disease and poverty are things of the past.

* Contenders with vision. Ghana needs leaders who are truly not satisfied with the current status quo of the country. Leaders with realistic dreams of leading the people into new and better ways of living. Leaders who can visualise the end of our predicaments and develop strategies and the relevant tactics which will lead us into the better future.

* Contenders who know and understand our problems. Those we can look at and see our true images. In other words people we as voters can identify ourselves with. * Contenders who would not come to us with bribes concealed in their cloaks.

As a nation, we have had an unhelpful dose of remote and unconcerned politicians. Many a time we have been let down by contenders who stood out and shouted that we should follow them to be led into the Promised Land. We can redefine the political and social system of our country by voting for credible and responsible politicians who have great respect for the concerns of fellow countrymen and women; and those who would use their power and authority for the benefit of all.

AUTHOR: Kpuusuu Amadu

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