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Opinions of Friday, 13 March 2009

Columnist: Blankson, P. K.

When Vote-Winning Becomes The Priority, Things May Fall Apart!

It does not matter how much one loves Ghana, and how much contribution one wants to make, one MUST win elections. This is the real implication of our political system. Therefore to the politician all ‘actions’ must lead to ‘winning elections’. Is it a bad thing to meet the needs of the voters for their votes? No! Not at all. In fact that is the intended idea.. Make life better for the majority and win their mandate. Perfect! This article is trying to highlight only one or two of the unintended ‘cancerous’ consequences of that good idea.

The Issue of Politicising Everything.

The kind of society we want, or how we want to be governed (not necessarily what we need) is stated in the constitution. The constitution states what appointments of the land should be political, and those non-political. I think that is for good reasons, not the least to promote the agenda of a political party (political appointments) and to ensure continuity (non-political appointments). What we see in the advent of the fourth republic is that the latter is being marginalized. Some well-known examples are the heads and key positions/ranks of our important non-political institutions such as the Armed Forces, The Police Service, CHRAJ, BNI, Bank of Ghana, etc. This ugly face of our politics also shows itself in the governmental departments. It is so shameless it even shows up in the running of public toilets. (Please share your examples and experiences with us all).

I don’t lay the blame on any of our politicians. They are only playing to the best of the ‘game’ set by the constitution, which is to win elections in a COMPETION. It allows the ruling party/government to ‘make changes’ as it sees fit. This in itself is not such a bad idea; but given the same constitution requiring rational politicians to contest or more like to ‘fight fiercely’ to win elections in our kind of society (before they prove their ‘love’ for Ghana), they are bound to lose all morality if need be to achieve this. The constitution makes the presidency too competitive. Hence that provision for the President to directly or indirectly appoint non-political public office holders become a luxury loophole; a tool for vote winning. Easier than providing safe drinking water, or public toilet facilities, or good drainage systems for good public health which will reduce our health expenditure, or simple but efficient public transport network, etc. After all what wins elections in our society is how big and expensive ones campaign is; or how loud a party’s insults are in a campaign; or how well the opponent is undermined, irrespective of the negative impact on the nation we are all supposedly rescuing. This is the rationale behind, for example, the replacing of key influential public positions with vote winners; or party fund contributors? In practice, which politician in his/her right mind would not do the same? Whom do you think the current IGP, or the Chief of Defence Staff want in power after 2012? There are very few things they wouldn’t do to help. What would you do in their shoes? There are very few jobs out there. If politicians get their way, these ‘golden’ opportunities will only go to ……. Guess who? Party members and sympathizers. Is this what we want?

What makes this politicisation of ‘everything’ cancerous is that it spreads and it is also 'conflict-bearing'. We are talking about peoples’ means of living here. If I were given one of these positions, I would be thinking of what happens to my dear family and me in the possible event of a change of government. The course of action is blatant: stash some money somewhere. But the pay itself is not enough. ‘Corruption the saviour’. Please don’t get me wrong. I love Ghana very much and hate corruption, but I am also a rational human being. If there aren’t adequate checks and balances, and people can get away with corruption, it will be irrational not to do things (by hook or crook) to ones advantage in a competition, and an uncertain environment such as ours. As this problem spreads at this alarming rate into our everyday experiences, it will affect our limited housing, contract awarding, state sponsored further education or scholarships abroad, etc. It will eventually show its face in health service provision and then even in food distribution. WAR! Hey! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean we should go to war. If it gets that far, civil conflict will be hard to avoid as our men in arms (the military) will clearly divided along party lines. That’s quite far off for now, but we are sleep walking into a political segregation. What the ‘cancer’ is now doing is encouraging serious corruption at most level of our public sector. It is also slowing down the pace of our growth.

The Better of Two Evils.

What we will prefer to come out of fair elections is probably ‘the better of two ELVIS’, rather than what we currently have; the slightly better of two EVILS. We seem to have only two parties now due to how elections are won; most expensive campaigns rule the day. Until the CPP also get some rich sponsors to ferry unemployed ‘supporters’ to their rallies to create the impression that they also have a large following, we are stuck with these two 'think-alikes'. The mentality of most Ghanaians is to be part of a winning party. Create the impression of a winner with mammoth rallies and you will be onto a winner. You will attract even more sponsors (or rather investors) who will hope to share the spoils of the winner; ex-gratis, per diem, BMW 7 series for peanuts, show offs at funerals, etc.

There are other areas of your lives that this problem might have visited that we probably don’t know. We will all appreciate to know from you. The long term lasting peace and accelerated development of Ghana will be much served if the system is completely overhauled. Some of those who will blame the government at the time of the drawing of the constitution should bow their heads in shame because they boycotted it, and when they had the chance in government, they did nothing. They also had to exploit the weaknesses in the system to pay off their mountain of election campaign debts. The cycle will continue.

This problem will not go away on its own. We need a new and more accountable, non-antagonistic, non-tribal/ethnic and very efficient system in place. A system that does not prioritise winning elections, but rather reward good governance and measures their performance according to the provision of social infrastructure and others. We need the ???Rotary/ Rotational System’. We need to act now.



By P. K. Blankson.