Feature Article of Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Columnist: Sarbah, MacLean

Elections 2012 And The Plausibility Of The “Youth Axiom”

Gone were the days when wisdom was considered the exclusive province of older people. Even though I think the elderly should be revered for their experiences in life, it is not well to automatically associate competence with old age. In these changing times, there is a need, in my reckoning, for us to open windows of opportunities for some of the most positive aspects of change to bring in fresh air (competent youthful leadership, that is to say). In the United States and other developed countries, it is not uncommon for young people who have proven their mettle to accede to positions of responsibility. As was apparent when Professor John Evans Attah-Mills took office in 2008, there were a number of young people that were appointed to ministerial positions. Notable among them were Honourable Okudjeto Ablakwa, Honourable Adjenim-Boateng, to mention a few. We all bore witnesses to the growth of open and spirited debates about the efficacy of the president’s decisions. The president’s decision was received with reluctant criticism and dislike. My thoughts strike with yours that this decision by the president might have carried with it some degree of risk. Contrary to our divergent opinions, their great performances have provided that broad-spectrum antibiotics to our individual and collective voices that were raised against their appointments; frankly, some have not failed us. More pointedly, Honourable Okudjeto Ablakwa has, throughout his tenure, been very vocal and dynamic in his role as a Deputy Minister of Information. I will not necessarily argue for the fact that he is not without his own shortcomings and criticisms; notwithstanding, it is common knowledge that he took the Ghanaian political scene by storm and proved the skeptics wrong. It can be said that these youthful leaders bring to the table a new paradigm and a much more contemporary way of distilling issues. I am not, in any way, vouching for the fact that older people do not have a handle on contemporary issues. Ghana’s youth population is estimated to be around 40% and that is a very significant number. My hunch is that a marriage of these different frames of reference, will make for a much more most-people-are-represented decision-making body. We had better accept the plausibility of the “youth” axiom. But I urge caution in appointing only the ones that have proven beyond every reasonable doubt that they can live up to their heady predictions.

The foregoing discussion strikes at the heart of a similar matter. We saw during the recent parliamentary primaries that a few of the incumbents had been defeated by the so-called young politicians. For instance, in the North Tongu Constituency, where I hail from, Honorable Okudjeto Ablakwa defeated the incumbent Honorable Charles Hodogbey by a substantial margin. This no accident, I opine. It stands to reason that the people of Ghana have become very perceptive and cannot be fooled by vain promises and mere lip-services. This attests to the fact that, albeit the incumbent, Honorable Hodogbey, is a much older candidate, his inability to meet the needs of his constituents (real or perceived) was very much his undoing. Honorable Ablakwa’s youthful exuberance and sheer political grit swung the pendulum in his favor. Perhaps, there is a need for a new lease of energy in that parliamentary office.

What beats my imagination about the recent trend in Ghanaian politics is that, if you do not do your job effectively, you are shown the door by some, if not all, of the electorates, irrespective of your age and years of occupying political office. That being said, there are still a number of MPs that have been in office for far too long. Well, I do not know for sure if they are doing a tremendous job or there is a dire unavailability of more competent candidates to give them a run for their monies. It will be wise to let the electorates in those constituencies answer this. You can grease the palms of the delegates with your wealth, but some of them are no morons. They will probably take your money and show you the exit door. A worrisome fact, however, is that there is still the prevalence of delegates that are still mired in a myopic view of elections. They are satisfied with letting their decisions to be affected by bribes. They subscribe to a “learned helplessness” that turns a deaf ear to the welfare of the people they are representing; they, surely, have a tunnel vision. We say “Ayekoo” to those who do not let the pathologies of bribes influence their decisions. In sum, we should not be afraid to elect and nominate youthful leaders that have proven that they can grind out results, to political leadership positions. I will conclude with highlighting the challenges we face at the current historic juncture: we must let the proclivity for keeping incompetent MPs in power because of tribal and other reasons be relegated to the background. Our dear nation’s future is contingent upon on our collective decisions as a people. God bless our homeland Ghana!

The author, MacLean Sarbah, is a Ghanaian graduate student at Columbia University in the United States, studying for a Master of Arts in Social-Organizational Psychology. He is also studying for an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR), Columbia University.

All enquiries should be e-mailed to: mas2349@columbia.edu