Those who appear to seek to destroy faith in the political system also have a considerable power that demands attention…. It's the beginning of the New Year and it is the beginning of another 12 months of trying to get our lives together. The two major political parties in Ghana have elected their candidates and both are determined to give it their best shot for 2004. The other minority parties have started coming out of their closets and are convincing us that there is likelihood that they would lead the country come 2004! Stop laughing! This is serious! It is the time of the year for you to get off your backsides and actually do something rather than slog through people's mail, writing style of editors and columnists to guess which parties they fraternise, blaming your own apathy or other people's scheming for what may feel like lacklustre life. For instance, I bet most readers can hardly even remember their New Year's Resolutions. Just like most campaign promises, mine (lose 10 pounds in weight and be positive) don't seem to be sticking, but I am sure my failure so far at the first one has nothing to do with that enormous coffee-studded chocolate bar I ate which kept me up till 4 am last night, chattering like a squirrel. While they are a nice idea, resolutions and promises are ultimately lose-lose propositions. Unless the resolution you made concerned something vital or life threatening (“I will stop embezzling from my boss, The Godfather”), it doesn't really matter whether you keep to your resolutions or not. Failure is the expected result. Political promises on the contrary are made to assure people of their livelihood – they are vital. They become life threatening when things fall apart and the centre cannot hold. Campaign promises and party manifestos are those resolutions you do not make to yourself. You make it to people who are banking their hopes on you. If you make a resolution to stop smoking and come up soon afterwards to say that “Well, I stopped smoking for a few days”, we can shrug it off. Resolution failure makes you human, loveable and predictable. Once you fail you are no longer trying to put yourself into that class of people who can 'make it work'. You are back in the comfy world of the flawed, which is let's face it, is where most of our friends are. If you have no problems with achieving resolutions, like me, the situation isn't much different. However, you do have a problem if you choose to make political promises, which you find difficult to keep and you must be thankful when your critics point it out to you. The trouble with this? Power does not reside in the Government anymore. Democracy means listening to the people, analysing what they say and then devise a way to compromise. Information should be captured in such a way that it is consistent with, and can be audited by the people. What is probably wrong is the rather simplistic view of the whole process and it may not be the proper explanation for giving the Government a hard time. It is actually the only way to lead them back on track. As a Leader, it is not trying to show who is boss but also satisfying the millions who have suddenly decided that you are their saviour. Setting aside the World Bank, IFC (the real one!) the various networking trips around the globe. Your people will only remember one thing – not only what you promised to do but what you promised to do better. Create a great record of New Year resolution successes - set targets but not really low. Of course achievements are a tricky game. Most of us do not have the passion or the drive or the vision to actually achieve something of eternal admiration. Personally, I think it is an achievement to even decide to stand for election in the first place and even more so to earn your place in Ghana's history books! Fancy leading a developing country like Ghana in the twenty-first century when crime is up in almost every other Country including the advanced G7 countries. We will remember say Dan Lartey the way we remember all the other candidates at the last elections. They were all listed as candidates with no one greater than the other before the elections.
Perhaps then the real achievement in all our lives is to believe in something and do what we can for it. While politicians argue and commentators blame permissiveness/the consumer society/the breakdown in traditional morality/poverty and deprivation, according to taste, most of us are more concerned with survival. Even within one person, the power of money as a motivation is likely to change radically depending on what life and career stage the individual is at. Most Ghanaians are good at this – but we want to live our lives and protect our basics without being deprived. This could just mean listening to all our presidential candidates and giving in to the one who promises to deliver. The media will then regard it as a vital function to scrutinise power, question it and hold it accountable. The key message to anyone who wants to lead Ghana is “think globally, act locally”. For instance, I do not have to name my kids after plants to want to help the environment. The most important thing in all of our lives is to see where and how we are idiots, and try to fix that! That is exactly when you have to be v-e-r-y grateful to your critics for bringing them to your attention.