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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Columnist: Amuna, Paul

Why I Support Arthur Kennedy’s One-Nation Call

Dr Arthur Kennedy (Ghanaweb, Monday 9th December 2013), reflecting on the blunt and inconsiderate dismissal by Ghana’s two dominant political parties (the ruling NDC and the Opposition NPP), of Dr Kwasi Jonah’s call for a ‘sea change’ in our voting system to enhance our democracy, has provided some very good food for thought in how in his view we should ‘do politics in Ghana’ for the better, and move away from what is destroying us as a nation, a people and our national development. His call makes sense in many ways, and is something some of us have been calling for since the 1990s. The fact is, our overreliance on the "winner takes all" voting system has been tried long enough and been shown to mean that whoever is in power sees things ONLY their way, and NO OTHER WAY.

Here are some of the problems with the status quo:
1. In-coming government 'clears the desk' not only changing government ministers and appointees, but Civil Servants as well. In a TRUE and established democracy, the Civil Service is supposed to be NEUTRAL and to work for GOVERNMENT irrespective of political colour or persuasion. It appears in Ghana, even the Civil Service has become so politicised that some of them blatantly take sides or demonstrate their political affiliations in many ways. This is not helped by the fact that the way senior Civil Servants are appointed has become so partisan. That is not how the system and provisions of our new dispensation was supposed to be.

2. It is common knowledge that new government in new political colours often 'find faults' with EXISTING contracts, projects and programmes started by the previous government and depending on what stage the project (s) is (are) at, they are either 'terminated', 'suspended' or experience delays which cost money, time and frankly are counter-productive to our development. I am sure readers will be able to list examples of such waste in government expenditure. The argument is often that either 'dodgy deals' were done, there was corruption in choosing 'contractors and executing projects or 'bad deals' were done which merit 'recall'. The trouble is, because the party in power wields so much power over how to do government business, and is in fact in charge of 'ALL CONTRACTS' in the country by virtue of their rather 'little challenged powers', they end up doing whatever they please. In a dispensation where there is some amount of 'power0sharing' or where the opposition (even with the present arrangements) has a strong say (e.g. via parliamentary sub-committees) on projects, contracts, government policy and provide scrutiny and oversight in a proper non-partisan way and in the best interests of the nation, these things are less likely to hap[pen.

3. The government in power often enjoys special 'privileges' and there is 'patronage' from so-called 'party people' who somehow expect 'rewards' for their efforts in contributing to, or campaigning for the party to get into power. The danger of it is that some USELESS 'non-entities' who cannot even run their own 'family businesses' get appointed into very important and key positions, committees, onto Boards etc. where the not only lack the basic qualifications, knowledge and skills to perform, they MISUSE their positions to 'milk' the system and profit themselves, their families, wives and girlfriends (WAGS) etc.

Some use the opportunity to advance their own business interests (even at the expense of the State) and become so arrogant, the display of which HURTS many Ghanaians who in the end feel VOICELESS because even if they complain, no one will hear them!!!

4. The arrogance of the appointees (including ministers as was recently demonstrated by Victoria Hammah) is not limited only to those in ministerial position. Party members get in on the act and often tease and some even insult their opponents, become intolerant of others and embark upon corrupt practices and immoral acts for which they simply do not care and when the party leadership tries o discipline them, they resort to all sorts of silly acts including violence, as we have seen with some so-called NDC Youth Groups "burning vehicles and party property" just because things have not gone in their favour.

Now, if we had a ONE NATION approach with a focus on joint working in parliament and especially sub-committees in the national interests, and if we had a system where government plans have to be debated and a consensus arrived at, this demanded by the electorate; and culminating in e.g. 7 - 9 year development plans which are ring-fenced and for which contracts, appointments etc. are transparent and above board and well represented across the political divide, no matter which party is in "power", the projects and programmes because they enjoy multi-party and public support will still go ahead and we will have clear oversight and remove corrupt officials or those underperforming.

6. The added advantage of this approach is that when there are issues e.g. Judgment Debts, NO ONE can or will ever be able to blame it on one party or the other but will see it purely as a failure of officials within the system who MUST account for their performances and if the law allows, they are given the stiffest punishment for failing to do their duty.

I see a lot of sense in calling for a more collaborative, inclusive approach to our politics because it will (hopefully) help to diffuse some of the unnecessary tension and do away with a lot of the bad blood, all the name-calling, insults, partisan bigotry and tribal garbage that we see so rife in our system.

What is wrong with us? We are a people who have been freed for many a decade, and who have enjoyed the same treatment in our schools, in all our regions, made lifelong friends and lived and worked together, actually putting our nation above all other considerations and working together for the common good and for Mother Ghana and her development? It simply does not make sense to me at all that we still believe that somehow if we belong to different parties, we become 'ENEMIES'!!!

We have become consumed by the extremely partisan, useless, unwise, immature American party system and their style of politics which frankly is childish, costly and has not done much to enhance their economic position nor has it endeared them as a beacon on democracy globally.
Ghana is in danger of 'sleep-walking' into 'dys-development' (or retrograde development; my own coinage) by continuing in this negative partisan fashion which has not done us any good in the 20 odd years that we have enjoyed a stable civilian party political system in which we have witnessed a nearly smooth transfer of political power between parties. We deceive ourselves by thinking that just because we have a VOTING SYSTEM which allows for exercise of our Universal Franchise, therefore WE HAVE ARRIVED and that we have a thriving democracy. Our democracy will only thrive is we are truly focused on a ONE-NATION APPROACH IN WHICH THE NATION STATE IS FAR BIGGER and more important than party or individuals, groups and their surrogates.

I applaud the likes of Arthur Kennedy and Dr Kwasi Jonah for reasoning this way and for making such bold statements about how we should be moving forward as a nation. His call may not enjoy the support of both dominant parties in Ghana (i.e. NDC and NPP) but that is not because he is not making sense, but rather because our political parties lack proper leadership, and are being led largely by weak, immature, 'knee-jerk politicians' (again my own coinage) who have such thick scales on their cornea, they cannot see beyond their own noses.

Remember, those who bury their heads in the sand simply choke and suffocate themselves. Ghana is indeed choking and suffocating because of bad politics, weak and indecisive leadership and a simple lack of understanding of what patriotism and nation building really means. Call me names if you will, but that will not help you, and will certainly not heal our wounds. If anything it makes them worse. I hope some young ones are reading this and the many other decent calls from others and taking notice, and honing their leadership skills for the very near future of a truly ONE-NATION Ghana, well led, forward-looking and Under God.