Politics is supposed to be about ideas that change and improve the lives of people. Now politics seems to be mostly about money. These have been very heady days in the political life of our 50 - year young nation as we approach yet another test of our chosen form of democratic governance.
We are fortunate if we can remember the names of all the members of the incumbent party offering themselves as candidates for the presidency. Somehow the contest appears to be for a prize rather than a competition of ideas which should lift us to greater heights as a nation. Many are disturbed by this phenomenon of double digit contestants but many more are dismayed that each of the “double-digiters” has found the required amount of funds to duly register. The registration fee is enough to feed a whole region for a month. It seems there is no requirement to disclose a candidate's source of funds.
This raises serious questions about how the structures of democracy should be funded in the country. A system without accountability is easily corrupted and will simply not serve the people of Ghana well over the long haul.
Others view this flood of candidates as a sign of a robust and vibrant democracy. That there are so many Ghanaians who not only feel but are indeed qualified to lead the nation for the next four years, is seen as an asset. Are these candidates moved by patriotism, a compelling desire for self-sacrifice at the service of the nation or merely the allure of power? Where would they lead us? Many have simply stated that they wish to be chosen to lead but have not yet declared the destination or the journey to the happy place to which we will be presumably led.
The leading opposition party has chosen its well worn candidate and seems to have avoided the “throng effect”. Is this good or bad? As the contest evolves we shall find out. The real dark horse is the CPP which appears to be experiencing a resurgence of sorts and may end up holding the balance of power if their current slate of declared candidates continues to excite the electorate. In addition to campaigning at home, a global road show in which their candidates debate their positions in Ghanaian population centres like London, NY, DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto and the like may generate nostalgic interest in the minds of sleeping CPPers and raise much needed funds for the party organization.
There is a general belief that the NDC would lose the most from a resurgent CPP but stranger things have happened in politics. The NPP have the cash, CPP has momentum and the NDC has a record to defend against the 8 year record of the NPP. The others like the PNC, DFP, GNP are yet to show us the extent their national reach.
What are the challenges ahead? The NPP have created a period of significant macro-economic progress, human rights stability but a weak mission against corruption. The NDC can arguably claim to have laid the foundation for some portion of the macroeconomic successes. They have a poor human rights legacy and their candidate has a long shadow that does not match his form. The current CPP is untested in the modern era but has a slew of candidates with the ability surprise if the party moves closer to the centre. Old time socialism is not going to cut it for 21st century Ghana.
Ghana continues to lumber along as a resource rich country which is poorer than it should be for numerous reasons some of which have bedeviled us for all our 50 years. We still live in a country where accountability is simply not part of our national ethos. How is it then that recently, an extremely high ranking police officer could proffer to the public that he forged his age on joining the Police Service and expect this revelation to help his cause? More disturbing is the silence on the fact that a crime may have been committed. Even worse is that no remedy to the offence is offered. Only in Ghanaian colloquial legalese have I heard the term “Guilty with explanation”.
The fact that a person explains why he or she has done wrong does not relieve them of their requirement to face legal consequences. This is an every day occurrence in our much loved native land. The country is crying for ethics, ethics and more ethics. This is the balm and catalyst for growth and this is what we seek in the next round of leadership.
We need a much strengthened parliamentary effort that goes beyond concerns about members' perks. The judiciary also remains staid, aloof and has not impressed the citizenry as an independent arm of government to be reckoned with.
The two E's of Education and Energy require real comprehensive long-term plans which provide creative solutions to serve the nation. The training of highly skilled citizens to provide the human resources needed for sustained transformation from an agrarian to a manufacturing and industrial modern society is at the center of the future. The new leadership should implement policies that do not sell our integrity as a nation short. The courage to examine all sources of energy including nuclear, solar, wind and renewable bio –fuels must all be on the table.
It seems that because of the Iran debacle, we are afraid to critically consider nuclear energy which we first visited in the early 60s. Critical scientific evidence strongly suggests that with newer safeguards to prevent another Chernobyl, many advanced countries are carefully re-considering increasing nuclear energy production for their long term energy needs.
A liberal education is at the heart of the birth of productive citizens but we have had more ministers of education than I care to count. The Education Ministry needs solid long –term leadership that results in changes that prepare our young citizens to serve in and enjoy a modern nation. Civic literacy at the outset of formal education is the greatest protection for our democracy. The Ministry of Education is not a throw away ministry. On the contrary, any discerning thoughtful individual knows that in this ministry lie the treasures of the future. Our very future depends on the creativity and seriousness with which we approach literacy and science & technology at all levels.
Finally, the need to improve significantly on internal revenue generation in a cultural rather than categorical sense is one of the greatest challenges awaiting the next leadership. This is married to the cancer of corruption which robs the nation of revenue daily on our roadways and at our gateways. Creative solutions must be found in as much as persons who abuse their uniforms or positions of authority must be held accountable. Ghanaians simply do not pay enough for the services they expect and strong leadership to drive this message home has been patently absent for years.
Users of toll bridges pay 5 Ghana pesewas per crossing as an example. The amounts collected barely cover the cost of collections at such points. The leader with the intestinal fortitude to lead an ethical revolution within a democratic framework will have heard the voice of the people.