Dear compatriots, here I go again. My desire to share my opinions with you and others about our dear Ghana is still going strong. Many of us have received 2004 with lots of expectations and hope for a better year. I take this opportunity of reaching you today to, personally, wish you and your loved-ones a blessed and prosperous 2004. Life may continue to be unkind to some of us both in abroad and at home, but this should not necessarily be translated to signify hopelessness or a life not worth-living. Your stay abroad has not been in vain, no matter the difficulties. Your remittances continue and will continue to be one of the most significant sources of national backbone and pride. Your efforts at home continue to keep the strongly nation going no matter the difficulties that prevail. Well, that was my way of adding to your already fantastic zeal to carry on. Keep up the Ghanaian spirit.
Individually, some of us might not be faring as we wish for but, collectively, I think as Ghanaians we have genuine reason to be proud and happy. Africa, West Africa in particular, is a turbulent region bedevilled with vicious civil wars, power struggle and massive destruction of life and property. This has never been the case for Ghana. From the way things are moving now, we have no significant reason that can lead us into such pathetic situations. There is no gainsaying that 2004 is going to be the year of history that would make us even more proud as people. December 2004 would be the first time that a civilian government (outside the Rawlings factor) is going to fulfil a full term. It is going to be the first time that Ghanaians are going to elect their leaders without the usual suspicion and controversy. I am aware others may disagree these points. And they have the right to do that but, at least, the points remain significant and reflect the feelings of many Ghanaians.
It is also a year where we can be proud of the armed forces. For the first time in the history of the country, they are living up to their constitutional obligations. It is not only the civil society that takes the credit for the history we are about to make. It is the expectation of Ghanaians that this condition is going to continue and political instability shall forever be history in the archives. After all, coup d’etats were more of a plague to the military than a blessing. It only sent many of our soldiers into exile and some to their graves, not mentioning the destruction of many families as a result. We are witnessing an increasing maturity and professionalism in our armed forces. It is our right as people to live and feel this way.
The 2004 election is also going to be historic for the Electoral Commission headed by Dr. Afari Gyan. The time has come for the commission to exhibit professionalism and credible neutrality. It is a duty to posterity and a key to a viable democracy. Without this, the efforts of the general electorate would only be unfruitful. I trust that the political scientist and his team know better than I do and would do everything to be as fair and impartial as they should be.
The most significant history makers and those to watch are the Ghanaian voters. In spite of all the suffering and living under extreme poverty, they continue to be significant part of the democratic process ongoing in the country. However, we have our expectations for them and they have obligations to fulfil. It is the expectation of all concerned Ghanaians and on-lookers that they will give their votes based on credible collective principles than on ethnic lines. It is about time we all are aware that no matter who is elected the president of Ghana, food on Ghanaian dinning tables would still have to come from individuals’ own efforts. It is therefore wiser for us to cast our votes for those whose ideals (not place of birth) appeal most to us or are likely to create conducive atmosphere that would be suitable for our individual as well as collective aspirations and betterment.
Election year means a lot. The things to watch are not the number of voters who would queue to cast their votes. What is most interesting are the events leading to the balloting day. It is interesting to see our political big shots in their very vulnerable and humble stage. Democratic power indeed lives up to one of its best characterisation – ’as the constrained use of social power’. It is a moral duty of every Ghanaian to contribute to the sustenance of this state of affair. Nothing can be better than this.
Clearly, this year’s scramble for mandate and power is going to be between the ruling NPP and the comeback-seeking NDC. NPP’s strongest advantage is its incumbency. African leaderships have not been good at handling this status. It is therefore not a surprise that there is scepticism about how fair and different the NPP stewardship is going to be from the Rawlings regimes. I personally have found consolation from President J.A. Kufuor’s repeated assurance (and perhaps determination) that his government is not going to risk the gains they have achieved so far just to win a second term. We are expecting that this is not a promise coming from an "African big-man" but one that would be fulfilled. Presidential spokesman, Mr. Kwabena Agyepong, is reported to have said, "…the president pledge to a peaceful, free and fair election and that the President would not place his political ambitions above national interest". Join me to say, hallelujah!!!
The NDC would be counting on the party's ardent faithfuls, especially, those who benefited under Rawlings’ regimes – AFRC, PNDC and NDC. There is no gainsaying that a significant percentage of Ghanaian electorate have sympathy and support for the party. Unlike the NPP, the NDC has no clear advantages that I can easily pinpoint without controversy. Instead they have crystal clear serious dilemmas and headaches.
The major dilemma is how to chip the ’Rawlings factor’ into the current political atmosphere of tolerance, peace and forgiveness. It is yet to be seen if Ghanaians will sweep everything under the carpet and give their votes to the NDC, led by the law professor and former vice president, John Attah-Mills. I do not doubt that the NDC can upset their sceptics by doing well in the elections. After all only few of us could openly predict a win for the NPP in Election 2000. Perhaps Ghanaians will decide to try a ’test case’ to see if Professor John A. Mills now know better as he and his sympathizers claim. No matter what, NDC and Mills still have the odds against them and arduous task ahead. The major reason, (among many others) being the ‘Rawlings factor’ and whether Ghanaians are prepared for a scenario where Mr. Rawlings would be playing the role of a "back-seat driver" in the nation’s affair should they mandate NDC.
Let us all make sure we are part of this history by doing everything both as individuals and citizens to uphold our democracy for a bright future for ourselves and posterity. It may be too early but, let me remind you, use your right to vote this year as well and, remember, VOTE WISELY. Peter Ohemeng (Norway) Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.