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Opinions of Friday, 8 April 2016

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

We can do without party politics

A Chinese proverb counsels: “If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed for”.

Every election year, since 1992, reminds me of the wisdom in this proverb.
In every election month since 1992, Ghanaians, terrified by the sceptre of doom, go down on our knees. Either because of our many prayers or the sheer unmerited favour of God, Providence steps in and, thus, year after year, Ghana is saved from destruction.

For how long are we going to continue hoping that we are God’s favourite and that Ghana has been marked with the blood of a Passover lamb at the sight of which the angel of destruction will continue to pass over our land?

The climax was in 2008. That was the year when, from November, people started hoarding food, fearing a civil war. I am told that by election day, the embassies were left with only a skeleton staff, and that even those left behind had sent away their families.

In many churches the tone of prayer on the usual 31st December watchnight service changed. It was no more the usual New Year Resolutions and petitions for a prosperous new year. For the first time since 1957, the prayer request was the same throughout the country: “God, save this country from civil war”.

We prayed so hard, the intensity equalled that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the sweat on our faces looked like drops of blood.

Even as we prayed, however, the premises of the Electoral Commission were under siege by party soldiers because there had been a rumour that government party officials were massaging figures in the “strong room”. On some radio stations, a few influential personalities were describing political opponents as “cockroaches”.

The story is no different this year. I am told the expatriate community is beefing up their personal security.

It is for all of the above, and more, that I appeal to the conscience of Ghanaians. This country does not need political parties. Party politics has done no good to this country except as a mechanism for extending patronage and enriching a few who are close enough to power to win contracts.

Party politics has produced the worst in the Ghanaian. We have been at our greediest, our deadliest, our most corrupt and our most insulting. Placed behind the radio mic to comment on an issue, party people and others who we had hitherto thought were non-partisan, unbiased and objective in their analyses, have suddenly turned into idiotic sycophants. Their reward? In another month or two, their fortunes have changed. They have become “honourables”, presidential staffers or political CEOs of state institutions/para-statals, chauffeured around in air-conditioned SUVs. Delirious with power, they are greeted everywhere with much bowing and scraping.

It’s only in such a political system that the former NPP party chairman could make that disclosure about kick-backs from contractors to the Castle and go scot free. In another system, the statement would have been probed instantly by a non-partisan Independent Prosecutor.

I have still been unable to wrap my mind around the possibility that a Minister of Sports could order that only NDC members were to be selected to Brazil as Black Stars supporters. In Africa, it is only party politics that will ask Smartys to only refund money from inflated invoice and not face prosecution for the act of inflation.

In our dispensation, bills go before Parliament and you know how the arguments and voting pattern will be. That is the same voting pattern that turned this nation into a one-party state; that gave us a Preventive Detention Act.

The only “good” thing about politics by parties is that “boys” would get jobs when their party comes to power. In one political era in this country, Special Assistants at ministries, so-called experts were being paid in dollars! They were deemed to be experts though I knew of one of them who was a hotelier and tourism expert but was assigned to a sector that had no conversation with tourism.

When President Mahama appointed the CEO for Ghana Tourism Authority in 2013, it was hotly opposed by NDC elements who drew the President’s attention to “the fact” that the appointee was an NPP man! In their petition, there was not a single line that suggested that the man was not competent.

Why should someone be detained by the BNI because he took pictures of vehicles being rebranded in the house of an NDC security person? Would it have been an offence if the house had belonged to a CPP or PNC security operative? If the statement was a lie, would it have been a crime if it had been made by an NPP man about the GCPP?

That is why I ask for a change. If we won’t scrap the present political system, I propose a power sharing system in which nearly all political parties benefit from appointments, to each according to the number of seats in Parliament. That way, the greed will reduce; the bootlicking will cease; the impunity will be no more, and there will be no more insults. Mark it on the wall.

In place of party-driven politics, we can have a system where the President campaigns on his own merit. Same for Parliamentarians. They should be there in Parliament representing themselves. The wisdom that informed the present system of electing Assembly men and women should be replicated at the national level.

I can hear someone claim that this doesn’t exist anywhere. We don’t need to do things merely because it is done elsewhere. In Rwanda the Constitution has set aside at least 30 per cent representation for women in Parliament, making it, by far, the most female-friendly national legislature on the planet.