When one reads headlines like NPP Wins 'Scent No', 'Mehuri so, (Ghanaweb 20 July 2004) or hear NPP parading so-called defectors from the NDC and the NDC doing the same by parading defectors from the NPP you quickly realise that elections in Ghana are not far away. You also get an idea of how elections are conducted in Ghana.
Campaigns during elections are central elements in many political systems but they should be seen as means to an end, that is electing leaders and Members of Parliament who can effectively make policy and govern. In Ghana the situation is slightly different, it appears that politics is an end in itself it is more about getting your backside on important seats or trying to win another election or just about trying to get into Parliament by what ever means possible. How can a sitting MP who is seeking re-election ask for a journalist to be removed from an area because he is the only one who will report the utter disregard of the law by supporters of the said MP (see following news headline: Christine Churcher supporters on the rampage THUGGERY DESCENDS ON CAPE COAST. Ghanaweb 17 September 2004) Communities across the country are in jeopardy-with growing crime rates, environmental pollution, homelessness, poverty, poor transportation system, high accident rates, illiteracy and we have a health care in crisis yet what the two major political parties are concerned with is a campaign song and defections.
We hardly know of the principles and values of the parties, meaning that very little detailed statements are issued to the people, which will be put into effect if the party or a candidate were to be entrusted with a role in government. How can Dan Lartey, Presidential candidate of the Great Consolidated Popular Party, (GCPP) say he will not disclose to the electorates how he intends to implement his policies to develop the country should he win the polls in December. (Ghanaweb 21 September 2004).
The press coverage of election pronouncements that I have been reading does not promote a focus on issues of governance or require candidates to provide their governing approaches and to use the buzz phrase “road map” or visions to address the myriad of problems the country faces. This sort of politics is not going do very much to change the country or give hope to anyone.
In my view all aspiring candidates for elections must provide costed concrete policies on how they intend to alleviate poverty, increase investment in education and the productive sectors of the economy, strengthen the judicial system and how to make the nation more responsive to the demands of all, rich and poor and how they intend to tackle the problems of health, lack of adequate infrastructural facilities (eg good roads and rail networks) and the massive problem of corruption. These are essential ingredients for a sustainable modern economy and civil society.
It is important that Ghanaians realise that sustainable growth, economic strength, and social welfare can no longer be separated from solid democratic foundations. The future of our democracy and institutions of governance depends largely on the quality of political leadership in the country, adherence to the rule of law and rooting out rampant corruption, waste and impunity from Ghana's body politic.
In this election year, many politicians have promised to "lead us to the promised land”. They are making promises they know they are not capable of fulfilling and they claim to have the nation at heart yet many of them are self centred, put their interest ahead of the state and would seize on the least opportunity to amass wealth for themselves and their hangers on. Some of the current crops of politicians have been accused of wrongdoing, misuse/abuse of office and flouting of the laws of the country. In some cases these allegations have been proven yet these persons are still making noises that they will be running for political office, something that will hardly happen in many developed countries. No wonder, politics has increasingly become synonymous, in the popular perception, with self-serving interest of the individual rather than the propagation of values or seeking the best interest of the country. Ghana is one of the places in the world where people go into politics with the sole aim of making money for themselves, their families and cronies. In the developed world election promises are costed and the electorate told where the money is coming from. This costing is subjected to intense scrutiny. Where the elections are too close to call this costing could be the making or undoing of a party. I am yet to read of the costing of election promises in the current political campaign.
Ghana has potential as a nation but it is not realising its potential. Until politicians in Ghana become accountable to the people and the judiciary becomes detached from politics we will not achieve that economic sustainability that the country desperately needs. This, however, depends on responsible citizens. The whole issue of moral integrity, political responsibility, accountability and competence has not been at the centre of how people have been selected in the primaries to contest elections. On the contrary indications are that the concept of "pay to play" has had enormous impact on the selection process. If you have money to give away you stand a good chance of being selected. With this in mind, many aspiring MPs including some from the “Diaspora” (they are more likely to have more resources) are showering people in their constituencies with huge sums of money and gifts. In fact in some constituencies the candidates are in a bidding war, each candidate trying to out do the other.
The level aspiring MPs will go in this “pay to play” attitude to politics is reflected in the statement by the NPP candidate for Builsa South constituency in the Upper East Region, Mr. Theodore Ayaric, that “he will provide free lunch and training for all teachers if elected” (Ghanaweb 29 August 2004). I understand that in another constituency the aspiring MP is setting up a fund to help students in that constituency. These are laudable initiatives but has anybody asked where the money is coming from? Furthermore, do they need to be candidates for an election before making such offers? Is it possible to be outward looking and therefore go outside one's constituency to help those who are needy in the society? It may be argued that these people are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts and that they need to look after their own first before branching out for after all charity is said to begin at home. However one can also legitimately ask what is in it for them or one may see it as a vote buying exercise especially as the plight of teachers and children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Ghana has been a topic of discussion for many years.
Ghanaians should realise that the people showering them with gifts and money at this time would once elected find ways of recouping what they have invested in the exercise. Even the most honest and well-intended politician may be prepared to compromise their ethics and give a contract to that company or person who financed their campaign even though it might not be in the best interest of the country.
I hope Ghanaians are going to vote and elect a class of politicians who are committed to good governance, able to provide leadership and who are going to move the country ahead by creating a better tomorrow. Ghanaians should vote to bring in people who will leave behind some of the things that have suffocated our growth and put at risk our collective future prosperity: corruption-bribes, nepotism, embezzlement, kickbacks, financial mismanagement-wasteful spending, conspicuous consumption and appointments based on grounds of tribal/ethnic affiliation. We must not vote for corrupt, incompetent and inept persons just because they have given us money or belong to our party or are of the same religious persuasion or tribe. Think more of the future of the country for a sustainable economy is inextricably linked to the political leadership and the institutions of governance of the country.
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