Wed, 31 Dec 2008 Feature Article

Will there be any tears for Ananse?

Will there be any tears for Ananse?

Democracy has a few key components. Transparency and the acceptance of the peoples' verdict are key to its sustainability. The transparency of this election has been attested to by ECOWAS, the EU, AU and others. The NPP had a great opportunity to keep the trust of a majority of Ghanaians by continuing the hard work of their first term in office. In their second term, rather than building on their unprecedented strides in ensuring individual freedoms and correcting serious macroeconomic problems, their administration succumbed to an early complacency. They became perceived, rightly or wrongly as a government that had become increasingly regional in focus, rife with nepotism and imbued with impunity in how it related to the electorate. Corruption, which is the greatest enemy of the economic rights of the ordinary man, grew abundantly and the President who had declared “zero tolerance” against corruption never implemented a nation-wide campaign to wrestle the problem. In this atmosphere, drug trafficking found a reluctant host in Ghanaians but nonetheless, the government's response was less than forceful. A leadership race which flaunted unaccounted for wealth among the 18 or so candidates caused many Ghanaians to pause for thought because the ordinary hardworking Ghanaian could not digest the insensitivity involved.

Greed has become the emblem of public service in Ghana these days and the voters are using their inalienable rights to rid the nation of declining public accountability. It reminds me of the story of Ananse's simultaneous invitations to two feasts in two towns. He dispatched a son to each town and connected himself to each one by a web. Each son was instructed to tug on the web to alert Ananse when the feast begun in their town so he could attend. Unfortunately for him he was soon being tugged in both directions and unable to attend either feast. He lost out on both options. The moral of this story my grandmother told me when I was 7 years old is self-evident.

Today the NPP is being truly tested as a party which lays claim to being wedded to the principles of western democracy. It must be as thoughtful and magnanimous in what appears to be an impending defeat as it was jubilant in its recent electoral victories. There are lessons here for the NDC too. Ghanaians are in no mood to tolerate disrespect from those they have chosen to represent them. The electorate is mature and sophisticated in how it has handled the whole process. It is the politicians who have been found wanting in some respects. Ghana is not Zimbabwe or Kenya and the loser must go home peacefully and analyze their electoral loss. The winner must appreciate the closeness of the vote and plan to govern accordingly.

The NDC has improved its credentials as a truly national party with a foothold in almost every region. The NDC would have done even better if it had been able to shed its image as a party based on the strong personality of its founder Mr. Rawlings. What is the ideological ethos of this party? It has certainly occupied the political left to the exclusion of the other Nkrumahist parties like the PNC and CPP. The NPP on the other hand has taken on an increasingly worrisome regional character which was exemplified by its failure to simply acclaim its vice-president, Aliu Mahama as its candidate going forward. In retrospect, this was a costly political decision. The NPP must develop a clear national message which was missing in this campaign, especially during the run-off. They seemed complacent and appeared to be expecting a coronation. Their conduct of blatantly pandering for votes by any means necessary during the run off left a bad taste in the mouths of many and smacked more of desperation than the confidence that many expected from the incumbent party.

If George W Bush asked for the White House to be sold to him on his departure from office, would it make sense? So the proposal by a former minister to purchase a government bungalow is not worthy of comment. The cynical and sudden reduction of petrol prices after the Dec 7 poll did not help either. Neither did the release of duly convicted offenders, excuses from a yet to mature judiciary notwithstanding. One of Ghana's major challenges is integrating the rule of law in into the daily lives of the citizens, so reversing lawfully made decisions for political purposes goes against the tide of progressive thought in the country. Begging for forgiveness was simply not an issues - based approach to the polls. The NPP have a great deal of self examination ahead of them even if Mr. Akufo-Addo ekes out an unlikely victory.

Prof. Mills on the other hand missed a great opportunity to signal a new direction for the NDC, in not coming out forcefully in condemnation of the s**t – bombing of Samia Nkrumah's Office in Jomoro. These are the kinds of actions which turn decent people away from the NDC. In as much as President Kufuor's failure to deal with corruption may have been the instrument of the NPP's self-inflicted and possibly fatal wounds, the abuse of individuals' rights and personal freedoms under the NDC is not a distant memory in the minds of Ghanaians. If Mills does not build on the human rights gains of the NPP era, it could be the Achilles heel of his administration. Just as Mr. Clinton became a liability for Mrs. Clinton in the recent US presidential race, so could Mr. Rawlings become a problem for the incoming NDC administration if Prof. Mills does not manage this well. Ghanaians by a narrow margin are giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Politics should be called “servitics” to remind those elected that service to the nation is what the voters expect, not the show of power and the abuse of privilege. The economy requires serious attention as does the quality of education in Ghana right now. Our health system needs visionary and modern approaches and a great deal of attention still needs to be paid to how individual behavior and ethics eventually affect progress in our beloved country. The nation is ready for leadership to address corruption in a serious and believable manner. The results of this election are an indictment on the NPP's failure to tackle this central problem.

The parliamentary results and the emergence of 4 independents from the NPP ranks are a clear indication that the NPP has internal problems with enforcing its own rules. This does not give comfort to those who wish to see laws properly implemented at a national level. Even if Prof. Mills wins, the centre of power has clearly shifted to parliament. The voters have chosen to weaken the power of the presidency and are ready to hold the feet of lawmakers to the fire. Accepting defeat in a democracy requires more courage, patriotism and a sense of altruism than celebrating an electoral victory. The postponement of the announcement of the run-off results is an indication that the NPP is seeking a technical victory. They have suffered a moral defeat and should not presume to see themselves as victors. Every victory speech must be accompanied by a concession speech in case the voters demand it.

In the end, the incoming administration should build on the achievements of the last 8 years and chart a course to address problems of institutional inefficiency, lack of professionalism in many spheres and increase productivity and improve the livelihood of all citizens irrespective of their ethnic origins. With this we will become again, true leaders of Africa and a shining example to the world of what the African is capable of. The very image of our continent is at stake.

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924.

Prof. T.P. Manus Ulzen
[email protected]
December 30, 2008