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Opinions of Saturday, 15 March 2008

Columnist: Cobblah, Tete

What lessons can Ghanaians learn from the recent Kenyan elections?

With the Ghanaian elections just around the corner, I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to make a passionate appeal to Ghanaians from all walks of life to hold their horses, ponder why Kenya has been on its knees since the election results were announced and think of how we can have free,fair and incident-free elections.

There is very little doubt in my mind that the orgy of senseless killings and maiming of people following the recent Kenyan elections have sent shivers up and down the spine of Ghanaians and Africans at large.It therefore behoves every Tom, Dick and Harry who has the welfare of our Motherland at heart to stop and consider carefully the fate that would befall us and our Motherland if we trod a path similar to that currently being trodden by Kenya.It is a path that can best be described as one that leads to political and socio-economic perdition, a recipe for total chaos.

Who would have thought that Kenya,regarded as an African icon of development, the epitome of stability on our continent, would suddenly find itself almost at the bottom of a political cesspit and become an excrescence on the African political landscape?It seems that a little bit of political buffoonery is sufficient to ignite a political conflagration on our already lacerated continent.

Why do we jump at each other's throat with lightning speed as soon as election results are announced? Is it because the tenets of Democracy are too convoluted for us?To my mind, one of the reasons why chaos and announcement of election results walk hand-in-hand on our continent is that during the runup to elections our political parties are so engrossed in launching vitriolic attacks on each other that they have no time to sit down and agree on a mechanism that will govern the running of the elections.To wait till election results are artfully massaged and chaos rears its ugly head before we start gropping for solutions is definitely not the mark of people who know how to play the game of politics.Solving problems on ad hoc basis will lead us nowhere.We should not wait till we get to the river before we start thinking of constructing a bridge across it.The construction of the bridge should start now through public lectures,symposia etc.Special effort should be made not only to sensitize the citizenry to the problems a lot of African countries face after elections but also to spell out what we, as Ghanaians, should do to obviate the need to spend several months trying to convince sartorially resplendent political leaders to make peace with each other as Kofi Annan is trying to do in Nairobi.Instead of solving Africa's plethora of problems our leaders prefer to go at it hammer and tongs as soon as election results are announced.It is absolutely preposterous for our political leaders to be wasting precious time accusing each other of electoral fraud while millions of people sleep in pitch darkness and use rivers as their source of drinking water,as their washing machine and as their toilets.

It is imperative that we put in place a mechanism whereby those who win elections will be magnanimous in victory and those who lose will do so graciously, confident in the knowledge that the elections had been free and fair.We need to remain cognisant of the fact that elections are not the be all and end all.They are not a matter of life and death.On our continent,unfortunately,politics and wealth embrace each other so tenderly and make wonderful bedfellows.This explains why we can go to the extent of fighting tooth, nail and even feet ,maiming and killing each other, bludgeoning fellow Africans to death just to have a share of that dubious romance! Politics and wealth are,indeed,inextricably linked with each other on our continent.

Post- election tension can also be obviated if members of the Electoral Commission are chosen by consensus.It plays such an important role during elections that the choice of its members should not be left in the hands of people at the fulcrum of power.Such a choice, to my mind, would be comparable to a student being asked to mark his own examination papers or a cat being asked to look after a piece of well-seasoned meat.Our leaders owe it to the people to ensure that members of the Electoral Commission are not professional sycophants who will massage the ego of those in power.We should leave no stone unturned to ensure that membership of the Electoral Commission reflects the various political hues of the country.This will,indubitably,make the citizenry have confidence in the Electoral commission and go a long way towards ensuring that people do not start sharpening their knives and hatchets as soon as they hear that election results are about to be announced.This suggestion can be looked into in future as everybody seems to agree that the current Electoral Commission, under the chairmanship of Dr Afari Gyan, has been doing a good job over the years, even in trying circumstances.

In the runup to the Kenyan elections, frank and open discussions were totally lacking.This is what we have to guard against in our Motherland.Such discussions should be encouraged and should not be regarded as verging on treason.All candidates should be given equal airtime and it should be made clear to all and sundry that nobody has a divine right to monopolize the state media.It would be wishful thinking to expect harmony to prevail when the political playing field is totally skewed.We should learn to tone down our fiery rhetoric and vitriol during election campaign.Political opponents should not be gratuitously traduced and scurrilous remarks should be avoided.Name calling,baseless accusations and dragging of names in the gutter are seeds of chaos, not seeds of harmony.It is common knowledge that when we sow seeds of chaos we should not expect to reap gold and diamonds, but violence and mayhem which tear countries apart.

Those who happen to be in power at the time of elections should not interpret the slightest cough of political opponents as an attempted coup d'état.This is a ploy widely used by leaders on our continent to put opponents behind bars so that they can win elections hands down.It is like tying the hands of a boxer and asking him to fight for a world title.This is an attitude that should undergo a root-and-branch change and should be condemned with all the ferocity at our command.Candidates who demonstrate how adept they are at playing the organ of tribalism in perfect modulation should be told,in no uncertain terms, that our Motherland is not ready to go back into the political jungle.We were there for so long and to return there would be nothing short of chemically pure lunacy.Such candidates should be invited to join the beasts in the political jungle where their lifestyle would be in perfect harmony with that of beasts.

The Kenyan post-election chaos should be a lesson to Ghanaians,in particular,and to Africans, in general.I would like to ask again,how did Kenya, a tourist paradise,metamorphose overnight into a battlefield after what were supposed to have been democratic elections?Who should be blamed for the chaos?Should we blame the main political parties?Should we put the blame squarely at the doorstep of ordinary Kenyans?It must be said that ordinary Kenyans did what was expected of them in a democratic dispensation.They waited, with Job-like patience in very long queues in the infernal heat, for their turn to vote, only to see their hopes dashed by the greed and megalomania of their political leaders who seem to have a special penchant for whipping up ethnic sentiments.

It is against this background that I would like to ask my fellow Ghanaians to make a special effort, during the runup to the elections, to measure their words, so to speak,before uttering them.Let us always bear in mind that it is much better to think without talking than to talk without thinking.Let us move Heaven and Earth to ensure that after the elections we do not resort to the use of tear gas canisters,live ammunition and poisoned arrows against fellow Ghanaians.We should not forget that posterity will never forgive us if we allow what is happening in Kenya to gain a foothold in our Motherland after the elections.

During the runup to the elections,let us start sowing seeds of peace and harmony and let us do this pronto so that they will have time to germinate before election day.The foundations of a durable,sustainable peace are not built overnight.They are built gradually , with nurturing care over a period of time.Let our leaders stop pouring vitriol on each other and start thinking seriously about things like how the various political parties will be represented when the votes are being counted to ensure that the results are not doctored.Let our leaders start thinking seriouly about how ballot papers will be transported from one place to another and under whose supervision.We should look at these and other issues with all the seriousness at our command so that Mother Ghana does not slip into an abyss as soon as the winner of the elections is announced.These are the issues we should be concerned about.To pontificate eloquently about the ease with which a Presidential candidate unzips his trousers before any well-shaped body in skirt is neither here nor there.

It is my core belief that one of the reasons why so many Kenyans and one of the leaders of the two main political parties are at daggers drawn is that five years ago,during the runup to the Kenyan presidential elections,he gave his countrymen all the assurance in the world that reforming the constitution would be a top priority.No sooner had he been elected than he abandoned the whole idea of constitutional reform, much to the dismay of Kenyans and non-Kenyans.I strongly appeal to Ghanaian politicians not to give the electorate empty promises because Ghanaians are wide awake, politically.To promise the electorate that everything will be hunky-dory after the elections when we know very well that those promises cannot be fulfilled is something that borders on the sinful.Such promises,made just for the sake of winning votes,are tantamount to putting a huge plate with a drop of soup in front of a hungry child.

As we head towards elections,my fellow Ghanaians,let us do all in our power not only to ensure free and fair elections, but also peace and harmony after the announcement of the results.Let us refuse to provide oxygen to any incubated desire for chaos.I have no doubt that even the souls of Departed Ghanaians will shed copious tears should we cause our Motherland to be mired in violent anarchy before or after the elections.Let us refure to join countries that are hand in glove with chaos.We should not lose sight of the fact that peace and harmony are crucial to the whole matrix of development.Let us not make our Motherland one more paradigm of Africa's collapse into chaos or one more rusty nail in the coffin of African Democracy.Let us not convert our country into another nasty scar on the beautiful face of Mother Africa.Let us make Ghana one of the brightest,if not the brightest, star in the African Constellation.Let us comport ourselves so that our forebears like Dr Kwegyir Aggrey,Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah,Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia,Dr. J.B. Dankwah,Dr Hilla Limann,Dr Ephraim Amoo,Casely Hayford,Ako Adjei,Tetteh Quarshie,just to mention a few,will revolve in their graves with joy,not sadness, on their faces.

Tete Cobblah

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