26.08.2002 Feature Article

Politics of distraction and Shame

Politics of distraction and Shame
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If a doomsday prophet defines politics as a mean-spirited enterprise motivated by greed, opposition to new democratic principles, hypocrisy, misuse of freedom of speech, and intermittent outbursts propelled by a desire to stage a come-back to power, it can be accepted and used to describe a new African political paradigm as seen through the eyes of opposition parties in Ghana. Like a boxer who wants to hang his gloves, I have been trying very hard not to write again, only to resurface when Ghana’s effort at strengthening democratic structures appears threatened. I break my silence for the good of the homeland - a land of peace and security. “Damn Fool, you still find the time to write?”- that was what a Ghanaian journalist living in Boston jokingly wrote as a response to my last piece- “Irresponsible Journalism Vs. Patience”, posted on on May 7th.2002. Ms.Juliana Antwi, a smart journalism student at Rutgers University, New-Jersey, also wrote: “You hit it right on top of the nail, and I am glad I read your article”. In all, I received 210 response e-mails to that article – a mix bag of insults, congratulations, intelligent analysis- which the authors said would serve as a resource base for future writings, government bashing, and personal attacks. I selected responses from each category, and thanked the writers for taking the time to read. The absence of opposition in any political environment makes a farce of democracy, suppresses useful ideas, which can be carefully digested to facilitate social and economic progress. Lack of opposition kills democracy; it creates a vacuum which a government in power can exploit to its advantage, a free ride, risky in any civilized environment. In a reverse fashion , the presence of irresponsible opposition, constantly and consciously sticking a knife into the activities of a government in power derails democratic progression. When opposition parties fail to provide alternative answers to nagging national issues, and decide not to contribute to meaningful course of change and development, their status is reduced to mere observers of events. When they capitalize on the least opportunity to criticize, lead a country into hysteria , and send wrong indicators to potential investors desperately needed in the country, they become disgraceful partners in the pursuit for true democracy and development. Sadly, opposition parties in Ghana are gradually moving toward this path of shame. The condemnation of price increases on water and electricity by the opposition, should have been followed by an alternative arrangement that would equally help reduce the burden, and ensure efficiency in the delivery of such services. If a party in the opposition occupies itself with the need to get 1 per cent extra votes to win the next presidential elections without even considering its strength in terms of how many “honorables” it has in parliament, it further reduces democracy to one big joke. In the United States,when Jesse Ventura, a once-upon-a-time wrestler turned “independent” politician, became the governor of Minnesota, I told my friends that this man’s political life is short. Who would represent his interest in both the United States congress and senate? Yes, I do understand the situation, a friend remarked, adding “the republicans and democrats can screw him up, he can be frustrated in the Minnesota House of representatives, and that would spell his doom.” He has no political base to fall on. Recently, Ventura said , he would not seek re-election, explaining, “Look, I am not a politician, and I do not care about re-election.” That was a game Ventura could not play to the end, his political strength, weakened by lack of representation at the legislature. Is Ghana's PNC and CPP learning from this? The opposition landscape in Ghana is fast eroding, further worsened by bad talk of a latter-day “Messiah”- Jerry Rawlings, who in the midst of all these "crap and bullshit" (thanks to Kofi Wayo), has managed to send his four children to expensive schools abroad, and yet,acting as a self-appointed spokesperson for the “suffering” masses. The bigger picture of past economic mismanagement and huge debt, poses lingering questions that have all not been explained to Ghanaians. In its place , a dirty political game awaits. Indeed, it is a shame to see former government functionaries still parading as “Moses coming to the rescue”; fully aware of the mess they left behind, in what is fast rising as a low background canker leaning against the louder workings of the present government. “They” are trying, without disgrace, to divert public attention from the numerous problems facing the country, knowing very well that “they” are the architects."These, Them" - I still remember the inscription on the "bone-shaker" truck which plies between Takoradi and Adum-Banso. Gracious admission of defeat at the 2000 election was not enough, the rot they left behind, quickly locked in a closet, hence a “blame game”, inspired through self-righteous indignations, propagated by an army of "desparados" ,disguised revolutionary cadres who metamorphosed into stomach-politicians, and established a presence 19 years ago, in fake democracy , characterized by “caudello worshipping”, and military nonsense. Thanks to the magnanimity of the kufour administration, a new window of hope has been opened, a two-year old government , determined to nurture a new path to good governance and discipline, a new Ghanaian, improve health care, women’s rights, child survival and education, elderly care, and agro-independence. But having to deal with incessant opposition thrashing, a media fast losing its national identity, national debt, poverty alleviation, job creation, and to increase per capita income,the government needs help, which must come from all Ghanaians.The Ghana Cyber Group (GCG), for instance, represents one of the channels, through which Ghanaians abroad can invent their hard-earned money to impact the economy. For now, the government finds itself grappling with the difficulty of satisfying one of the most capricious, complicated, and impatient people on earth – Ghanaians, their hospitality, sense of humor, and craving for higher education notwithstanding.

The author, an alumni of Rutgers University, was a former assistant at the features desk, Daily Graphic, in Accra, Ghana. He now lives in Massachusetts.

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