29.11.2004 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Killing them softly

Letter From The President:  Killing them softly
29.11.2004 LISTEN

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, These are exciting times in Sikaman. With less than two weeks to go to the polls I am convinced that there is something fishy going on somewhere in my party. It's about the amount of media space – airtime and columns – we have acquired for our campaign. We have been too ostentatious and flamboyant with out adverts and many Sikaman citizens, including myself, cannot help but wonder where we got all the money from.

The bad thing is that the opposition does not seem able to match our media buying space. I have lost track of the number of my party's television ads. But I know that the NDC only has three – well, I am not so good at counting and I stand to be corrected. In the average news bulletin, my party's ads are played about four times and the NDC's ad only appears once. In the newspapers, there are so many adverts for my party – frontpage strips and full-page pullouts in almost all the daily newspapers. Well, the NDC has so been able to only a manage a few frontpage strips and I am yet to come across a fullpage pullout in any newspaper – except for the sleazy Ghana Palaver and the misnamed National Democrat.

There is nothing to be said about the other parties. The Grand Coalition cannot even afford to fuel the vehicle of its presidential candidate and his running mate. The CPP seems to have no media plan. Both the Coalition and the CPP are depending on word of mouth to propagate their messages, hoping that their mouths will not tire before election day.

All this brings to my mind the oft-brushed-aside issue of abuse of incumbency. Just consider this – why is it that the governing party is always so rich – with lots of advertising money whiles, on the other hand, the opposition tends to be so impoverished that they need to organize fund-raising durbars to raise money to buy a mere megaphone.

I suppose that it is too late now for me to be raising the issue of party funding. But immediately after the December elections, we should take this issue up. I expect the opposition parties to initiate the necessary moves to pressurize government, mine, hopefully, to pass a law on party funding. Such a law will decide once and for all whether the state should fund political parties. But most importantly, it should spell out the parameters within which parties can raise funds for their campaigns. You know I didn't take my law seriously – I used it to build a brick factory, which collapsed and missed my head by a few millimeters. So I will not dabble in the nitty-gritty of the laws on party funding. But one thing is clear in my mind. I insist that such a law should spell out how the parties raise their money for their campaigns. People cannot just go to a dinner dance and donate 2 billion cedis to a party without any paperwork. Every donation from every quarter should be clearly indicated on paper and sent to a central database to be managed and run by a properly constituted commission. The “kululu” donations must stop. The era of coercing people to donate to party campaigns or risk losing business is not doing this country any good. It is rather breeding corruption and killing the out-of-government parties slowly.

I believe that my party has used its position at the helm of governance to amass wealth for the current campaign. The NDC did it when they were in government and we are doing it too. What is happening now is not in any way different from what happened in 1996 and 2000 when the NDC was in power.

Currently, the NDC is campaigning in some 'okulampi' pickups whiles my candidates and I campaigning in bulletproof four-wheel-drives and the latest SUVs and salon cars. My party's advertising machinery is in full gear – pasting posters in all street corners, raising banners on bridges, erecting gigantic and colourful billboards and extravagantly spending on print and broadcast adverts. The NDC's adverting machinery and that of the other opposition parties, on the other hand, seems to have run out of fuel to make it run and run efficiently. So already, it's not a level playing field. But, as they say, “what has happened has happened” – we can't cry over spilt milk. I would have won the elections anyway without having to spend so much on advertising.

But I will entreat the minority parties to stand up and scream, protest, complain and whine for as long as it takes for the government to decide on a comprehensive law for party funding. I remember I called for a debate on the issue sometime ago. Well, now that you know I am not so enthusiastic about debates, you should realize that I will not schedule any debate. In fact, I think there isn't any need for a debate on party funding. We just have to get down to it and do what is right – increase funding opportunities for all parties, to ensure that they have more than enough to campaign almost equally. If the parties are left to die from financial starvation, I am sorry, we have no democracy.

Democratically yours,

J. A. Fukuor

[email protected]

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