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13.10.2008 Feature Article

The Intelligent Ghanaians Guide To Democratic Choice

As in many democratic countries, election campaigns do not change the minds of many who vote according to party affiliation. But even some of these party stalwarts sometimes employ tactical voting to deny their party a comfortable majority.

This is done to register dissatisfaction with a policy they strongly oppose as happened to the British Labour party when it took the country to war against Iraq.


 I believe that election results in Ghana are of far greater importance than the outcome of voting in most developed countries.


Therefore, those who really understand the process and its import have a great responsibility to assist in the election of a party with the appropriate policies and resolve to act to realise the great potential of the country.

It is difficult to assess and compare the stated policies of the various parties, let alone persuade those with less understanding of the issues to vote appropriately.


All the parties honestly wish to meet the just demands of the people when they get into power.


They, however, find the task daunting. If not endowed with a dear vision and strong purpose, many in leadership positions succumb to the ways of the flesh.


Frustrated they make life enjoyable for themselves while ensuring support for the maintenance of their positions by advancing the interests of party bigwigs, ethnic collaborators, friends and the extended family.

A party needs a vision of the Ghana it wants to build. A party in Ghana must have an ideology. In the days of the cold war free-marketism and socialism were the two leading ideologies.


Parties were guided by these two philosophies. In today's unipolar world, however, it is believed that there is only one ideology.


But this is not true in practice. Socialism is not dead and free-market forces cannot be ignored.

Socialists may believe and work for the millennium of free education and health services, great happiness and prosperity.


Free marketers may deride this as utopian, but then proceed to establish a millennium development plan to help eradicate poverty and enhance the quality of life.


 What is important is that the lofty ideas and ideals should not be forgotten after the elections.

But before the elections, the intelligent Ghanaian has a duty to examine the proposals of the parties and to expose false promises to the voting public.


Education is of major concern to many Ghanaians and many promises are being made and will be made to make various sections of the education system free and accessible.


But is all that is promised feasible? Are we going to be taxed more directly or indirectly or is money going to be diverted from such other areas as the manufacturing, service sectors and housing?

We should not allow those who seek our votes to lure us into pointless discussion. For example, the other day I witnessed heated argument by two highly educated men discussing the necessity of senior secondary schools.


The debate centred on name change. We should refuse to be confused. Whether secondary schools are to be of four or five years duration, La Bonne Secondary School needs not become La Bonne Senior High School.

What is important is that there should be sufficient classrooms and teachers for the four or five years course.


What is important is that the school should be improved and its status enhanced in the eyes of the people, so that no one goes to worry some of our senior citizens to assist in getting their children to the Achimotas or Aburis.


So let us keep the names as they are and examine the content of senior high school education.

Health is another area of great concern. It is an emotive subject. It is painful to see loved ones die because of the absence of medical facilities.


All the parties will, therefore, make eye-catching proposals about the health service – how they would improve the National Health Insurance Scheme, the hospitals and so on.


The promises made in this and other areas require funds for implementation.

We should, therefore, quiz our politicians about the economy exhaustively. They should tell us what taxes they would raise to keep their promises.


 They should tell us how they would improve financial administration, so that the tax payers money is not wasted and is readily available to assist development.

Concerning waste, the other day it was reported that hundreds of ghost names had been discovered and expunged from a payroll, I was surprised that the media did not ask what happened to any monies paid to the ghosts.


So far as I know, ghosts do not collect pay and if human beings have been masquerading as ghosts and collecting money, they should refund the money.


Furthermore, they should be jailed if they were found criminally liable. A political party which promises to deal resolutely with such problems deserves favourable consideration by the voter.

A weakness in financial administration which impedes development is late payment for work done. For example, it takes ages to pay contractors for work done.


This, in effect, means that we pay more for the estimates will be inflated to take account of the delay. Further more prices will be inflated to cover bribes to induce early payment.

While we change the tone and content of discussion with those who seek our votes, we should take advantage of election time to air our peculiar concerns and demand appropriate action to secure our votes.

The parties should tell us how they are going to get rid of the filth (refuse and all that) in Accra and the big towns.


As evidence of good faith, they should make concrete proposals about enforcing the law regarding urinating in public and worse.


To assist in this regard, we want commitment to build places of convenience at vantage points.


 We do not want to attract tourists to Accra and our big towns to view our filth and inhale stench, while they sweat in dust and noise.


We should maintain our self-respect and image.

Talking about tourism reminds me of an incident the other Saturday when I was an hour late to a function in Cape Coast, because I was stuck for an hour at the police barrier at Kasoa.


When I got to the barrier. I realised that it was not the police who delayed me but grossly inefficient toll collectors.


And so the motor way which is supposed to move people quickly, rather wasted time, and I was forced to pay for this.


We should consider voting for the party that will undertake sacking those responsible for such gross incompetence. This is not the way to improve tourism on such a major tourist route.

The Cape Coast incident raises the major question of administration and the role and functions of the civil service.


The government administrative machinery is creaky because successive governments have seriously undermined the culture and efficiency of the civil service.

There is a tendency to appoint political aides to assist ministers. We may call them deputy members, ministerial assistants and the like, but many cause administrative confusion.


Generally, most are well educated, but many came to their office ignorant of their lack of appropriate knowledge and understanding of their functions. Institutional memory is destroyed and there is much ado about nothing.

This can be corrected if political parties will understand the role and importance of the civil service. They should demand the best and get rid of those who are not up to standard.


 To show their understanding of the situation parties should undertake to appoint Chief Directors of Ministries, if they must appoint new ones, not later than one month, after the assumption of office by the government.


It would naturally be better if experienced and competent Chief Directors were appointed from the service by way of promotion.


The search for loyal civil servants has been an ignorant preoccupation of politicians for too long.


 If the party has a well-defined policy the civil servant should perform or find himself or herself out.

We should not be shy of engaging our politicians in matters of parochial interest. Freedom and Justice know no boundaries.


President Kufuor has strengthened democracy in the country and this encourages us to further good governance by demanding candour from our representatives.


Those who wish to represent any part of Ga-Dangme should be aware of the burning issues of land and discrimination which worry the people.

The law of the land empowers government to acquire land compulsorily for a public purpose.


The same law states that the land should revert to the owner, if it were no longer needed for the purpose.


This provision was precisely to prevent what appears to be happening now. The original purpose is ignored and government agents then proceed to allocate the land to friends and cronies for huge profits.


Government has made a move in this direction in the past few days. But this is not sufficient.


Any party and vote seekers who do not categorically undertake to apply the law should find it difficult to secure Ga-Dangme votes.

We should constantly examine the vision and purpose of our parties. Our parties should have a realistic view of world politics.


They should not blindly follow the advice of our so-called development partners. Our partners do not know it all. They do not further understand all our problems and cannot solve them for us.


 The present world banking and financial crisis show that they do not know it all. We should not copy or follow them blindly.


We should have confidence in ourselves and tap the knowledge and expertise of Ghanaians irrespective of party affiliation and ethnicity.

The intelligent Ghanaian has a duty to help liberate our mind set so that we make good choices at election time for the advancement of the nation.


By K. B. Asante

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2008

This author has authored 236 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DailyGraphic

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