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22.12.2007 Politics

The Mandate for 2008…..

By Dr. T.P. Manus Ulzen
In spite of a decidedly underwhelming level of debate in the pre-election political process within the incumbent party, Ghana can still call itself a stable democracy. Conflict, disagreements and debate are inherent in the democratic process. The race for leadership of the incumbent NPP truly typifies both what is great about our democracy and what is terribly wrong with. There is something wrong when 18 people mostly from the ministerial ranks of the incumbent government feel that they ought to compete for their party's leadership. It suggests that the job of the presidency is viewed as a prize rather than a solemn opportunity to serve the nation in the highest office available to citizens of Ghana. The proof of this thesis is typified by the run up to the NPP congress. First of all, candidates in this HIPC country had to pony up $25,000 just to enter the contest. There are serious ethical and moral questions which have simply not been part of the discourse. Our failure to put such questions under the proverbial microscope will only make matters worse for generations to come who will have to depend on the political structures and indeed the political culture that evolves from the early history of sustained multi –party democracy in Ghana.

There are already problems of the abuse of incumbency for all to see. The use of government vehicles from cars to planes and the use of state employees in private campaigns for a party position cannot and should not be tolerated or simply glossed over. We are great at identifying these problems and the press has been very much on the ball with sounding the alarm but precious little by way of intervention occurs. In a tangentially related story, a school bursar was found to have embezzled a large sum of money. He was simply offered a payment plan to refund the stolen funds. He was not charged for the crime and there was no criminal penalty. This is typical of our ethical infancy as a nation. The NPP government under President Kufuor has achieved many successes in many areas of governance. Its human rights record is globally hailed but its greatest failure has been the lack of political will to pursue ethical problems in the government itself, within the law enforcement community and within the judiciary. This failure has made it impossible for it to succeed in leading the charge against corruption which comes at great cost to the ordinary citizen, who must pay an illegal tax anytime services are sought. This illegal tax is a continued violation of the human rights of ordinary citizens. This problem of course predates this current republic but we are now at a point in our political and economic development where we can no longer bear this burden.

The choice of party leaders or flagbearers as we choose to call them should be based on matters of principle which have great bearing on the development agenda for the nation. Grand plans built on an ethically challenged foundation will eventually not yield the great harvest for the ordinary Ghanaian. We have to become a nation of laws; not just one with laws on the books but one that lives by the laws we have chosen to be governed by. The number of people who pay a bribe to obtain a service in African country ranges from 40-80% or more according to Transparency International's recent figures. This is not only a tax on the poor but lost revenue to governments and indeed an added cost which diminishes the value of goods and services.

In the '60s, simply having our own flag seemed a valuable national symbol but fifty years later, simply bearing a flag as a leader is not enough. Operational structures, procedures and ethical national mores need to be nurtured in the service of the society or the cost for future generations will be too great to bear. The political landscape is changing rapidly and the recent process involved in the election of Dr. Nduom as party leader for the CPP clearly places these issues on the front burner. The CPP's conduct of its national congress was not fraught with allegations of vote buying, tribalism and the like, which are sadly ethical issues which continue to plague the incumbent party after seven years in office. We are reminded of earlier NDC congresses in which supporters of some candidates were aggressively prevented from entering the congress to put it politely. Their most recent congress was an improvement on the previous one in large measure. The coming elections are for the NPP to win or lose and if the latter occurs it will be because the nation would have chosen to punish them for lacking the political will to tackle corruption openly and forthrightly.

We should not only look to “Asian tigers” for inspiration. Right on our continent, the legacy of the late Sir Seretse Khama lives on. He transformed a desert dominated colony of Bechuanaland into the prosperous Republic of Botswana rooted in firm democratic principles while his contemporaries were declaring one - party states and becoming life presidents.

The mandate in December 2008 will be one to deal with this central scar of corruption on our national ethos as a land of decent, productive and law abiding people. The leader, who identifies with this issue and proposes broad, well thought out solutions to this national cancer, would have healed and won the nation. The nation hungers for a leader with the political will to lead an ethical revolution in the beloved republic.

“Bitterness does not pay. Certain things have happened to all of us in the past and it is for us to forget those and look forward to the future. It is not for our own benefit, but it is for the benefit of our children and children's children that we ourselves should put this world right.” – Sir Seretse Khama (1967).

Thad Ulzen MD FRCP(C) FAPA
Program Director, EAUMF
Ph: 252-412-0415 (USA)
December 20, 2007

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