With less than two months to go for the 2008 elections, four major political parties have launched their manifestos, setting the political scene for what looks like a war of ideas.
This phenomenal step, taken by the People's National Convention (PNC), Convention People's Party (CPP), New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in that order, constitute their show of readiness to do battle for the hearts and minds of Ghanaians in the quest to win the December 7 polls.
Though it is a shame the manifestos did not come out early, it is refreshing they are finally out with barely 53 days to the elections.
Already, the NPP and the NDC are accusing each other over who owns the original ideas espoused in the manifestos.
The truth of the matter is that manifestos basically have similar characteristics, in that it envisions how a party aspires to shape society socially, culturally and economically, while endeavouring to indicate the direction of law and justice, as well as security, and how they intend to place the country within the global community.
A fundamental difference could lie in the arena of implementation, and priority.
Within this context, it is equally true that no political party is really going to reinvent the wheel, and as such they must rather desist from making propaganda out of what they have launched and concentrate their efforts at telling Ghanaiains what their manifestos contain, and how applicable they are to the well-being of the Ghanaian.
It is incumbent on political parties to concentrate their efforts on how their intentions contained in their various manifestos are going to be implemented.
Manifestos seek to point out societal challenges and how to overcome them.
It is important the electorate examine all the pledges that have come out so far, as well as those yet to come, and decide which of them best meet their aspirations.
This is because manifestos are not merely an outline of what a political party intends to do for the nation when given the mandate to govern but a social contract for the period during which they are mandated to run the affairs of the nation in consonance with the constitution.
Some have argued that manifestos in the past have largely remained empty platitudes and so they were not going to place any value or premium on them.
This view is not healthy if democratic accountability is to be strengthened.
Rather, how each political party is going to develop the country in the area of good governance, education, health, job creation, energy, industry, affordable housing, among other needs, is what is important and should engage the attention of all.
For this to be the norm, it is imperative the ordinary person is able to obtain enough information to analyse them in order to make valued judgement and be able to hold leaders accountable.
How to bring on board the critical mass of the people to be part of the national policy process is what needs to be significantly improved.
Now that the manifestos are out, Ghanaians must show to the global community that the country has come a long way in her political discourse.
As a nation, Ghana is at a new junction in her political history, where it has reached a consensus on how to choose her political leaders, as well as govern themselves.
Ghanaians have accepted democracy and elections as the way forward to govern themselves.
It will therefore be a crucial first step for Ghana to move from nurturing to deepening or consolidation of democracy.
This growth process is the herculean challenge before Ghanaians, and involves the analysis of the manifestos to demand their implementation.
This should form a critical part of what happens in between elections, and is key to any country's accelerated development growth.
Going through the various manifestos, it is clear the parties have endeavoured to spell out their vision for a prosperous nation with the central feature of fighting corruption and ensuring economic stabilityy.
However, there were difficulties appreciating the aspects of implementation, and how the political parties would achieve set objectives.
It is important for Ghanaians to hold the parties accountable and demand that whoever wins the 2008 elections will fulfil the pledges contained in the manifesto.
For instance, are the pledges relevant to the needs and aspiration of the Ghanaian, and can the political parties be relied upon to deliver the pledges.
The NDC's manifesto charts the path for building a better Ghana. It contains major points of action for an NDC Government to get Ghana back on track.
Highlights of the NDC's manifesto developed on the theme, “Building a Better Ghana”, elaborates four key themes of investing in people, jobs and the economy and ensuring a transparent and accountable government.
The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto has been described as a document that would move Ghana into the first world.
The 64-page manifesto titled, "Moving Ghana Forward — Building a Modern Ghana”, is broken into five chapters.
Chapter one is on "achievements — a promise delivered", while chapter two focuses on "strengthening our democracy".
Chapter three is based on structural transformation of the economy with chapter four being, “modernising our society”; and chapter five, “regional and continental integration”.
The goal, according to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the party's flag bearer, is not middle-income status but to get to the first world so that Ghana can join the comity of advanced nations with dignity and pride.
He argues that the nation cannot continue to be a raw material economy in the 21st century, "We have to industrialise our nation and move away from being dependent on foreign finished products.".
In all this, he noted that education held the key, that was why he had promised free compulsory senior high school education when elected.
The PNC's 83-page manifesto, a concept on the theme, “Economic Prosperity Now, Youth Empowerment and Economic Independence Soonest,” places commitment on healing the nation and reconciling the people, as well as restoring public and investor confidence in the Ghanaian economy.
It also places emphasis on health and agriculture as the pillar to national reconstruction efforts.
The CPP manifesto, “New Dawn, New Vision” has a foreword broadcast to the nation by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, which states that the party shall measure the country's progress by the improvement in the health of the people; by the number of children in school, and electricity in towns and villages and by the happiness that the people take in being able to manage their own affairs.
It further states that the welfare of the people is the party's chief pride and “it is by this that my governement will ask to be judged.”
The CPP's policy document reflects views and intentions on issues of domestic and international importance covering four broad areas on Social, Economic, Responnsive Governance and International Relations.
It also identifies Public safety, Essential Social Services and Job Creation as short-term priority agenda with an overall development policies informed by the party's ideology of Nkrumaism whose three main principles underpin on Self-Determination, Social Justice and Pan Africanism.
The various manifestos, no doubt, set clear visions on how to grow a modern, prosperous nation with reliable infrastructure such as roads, railways, cities, communications networks and water and energy supplies to propel agricultural, industrial and economic development.
The manifestos not only represent the interest of the party but that of the nation.
It is now important that Ghanaians subject these manifestos to critical analysis and demand how the various political parties are going to actualise these pledges.
The four political parties have now taken the centre stage in articulating their vision and ideas.
But since governance is a continuous process, the country will also need manifestos that would tie into a national policy agenda to ensure development is sustainable.
As the nation prepares for the December 7 elections, there is need for peace in a free and fair election. Ghana has earned international respect under President Kufuor and the next president must be ready to add to the good fortunes.
Manifestos, definetely, must not be empty platitudes designed to influence the electorate for votes but promises made real instead of a mirage.
Article by Kobby Asmah