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26.03.2009 Feature Article

What At All Do They Mean By “Change”?

What At All Do They Mean By “Change”?

“I believe that if we really want human brotherhood to spread and increase until it makes life safe and sane, we must also be certain that there is no one true faith or path by which it may spread” Adlai E. Stevenson.

The Ghanaian politicians in their quest for political power, like their counterparts in other parts of the world have always 'coined' terms and jargons with which they turn, twist and whip their political opponents. One can not talk about the Government and Politics of Ghana without making any reference to the politics of the early Ghanaian political gurus of the 1940s and 50s.

What quickly comes to your mind when the politics of the 40s is mentioned? I know quite well that so many issues will roll in one's mind but as far as 'mottos' (jargons and terms) are concerned, 'self government now' and 'self government within the shortest possible time' can not be easily forgotten. In the fourth republican political arena of the country, a myriad of political terms, jargons and even jingles, or better yet, songs have surfaced: the 'two directs', 'domestication', 'change(yesesem)' and the 'positive change', been the widely 'sold'.

My focus however is going to be on the last two I mentioned above: “Change (yesesem)” and “Positive Change” not because they have been used to win power but because they hammered on the word “change” about which I intend to comment. The word 'change' can be looked at in so many different ways as it can be used in varying ways to mean different things. But for the purpose of my interest, I will define it as “to make or become different; give, or begin to have, a different form, nature, or character”. The “Positive Change” of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was able to bring the party from opposition to power in 2000 when the NPP won an overwhelmingly landslide victory. The NPP was by virtue of an impressively good performance in the first term, was again accorded a second term by the good people of Ghana to open “Positive Change Chapter Two”.

The New Patriotic Party's dream to extend its term in furtherance of Positive Change in what was then referred to as “Moving Forward”; was made an impossibility after torrential campaigns around the country and a fiercely contested presidential battle.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) that was pushed down into opposition for eight years, resurfaced with the term “yesesem”(Change),which has miraculously propelled it into power. On a funny note, I feel that if the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) was spared the term it coined, the party would probable have won power in the 2008 elections. Anyway, let's get back to the issue of the word 'Change'. We can not run away from the fact that politicians in pursuit of political power often promise to build bridges where there are no rivers and in our case, the NPP promised a Positive Change In the year 2000 and won our mandate for a four-year term. Even though the NPP had to a reasonably large extent, delivered the positive change they promised in 2000: the National Health Insurance Scheme, the National Youth Employment Programme, the School Feeding Progranmme, the Capitation Grant, the massive infrastructure development among others. On the other hand, there are still so many things which require the attention of subsequent governments.

Notwithstanding the meritorious achievements of the NPP Government, the positive change with which they won the people's mandate was not the complete change that was delivered to the electorate as the party had faulted on so many issues only to turn back and spit on the term 'positive change'. The ones which easily come to mind are the zeal and fortitude with which state owned enterprises were being privatized. Most associations and individuals who openly opposed those moves were only reminded that the erstwhile NDC government privatized more enterprises; some of these statements of the NPP failed to appreciate the fact that they had promised the good people of Ghana 'positive change' and likewise forgot that mistakes akin to such lead to the NDCs loss in 2000.

When again, eyebrows were being raised about the then president J.A. Kufuor frequent foreign trips during which he was suspected to have carried so many people; the excuses again were that Mr. Rawlings in his days traveled much more frequently and so no story should be made about the president's trips. This again was a departure from 'positive change' to the older ways of getting things done. Apart from privatization, other issues like the passing of Bills in the floor of Parliament like those of ROPAL, NHIS, among others were done in the same manner as the NDC was said to have had their way with their majority in the legislature on similar issues. In fact a number of policies and the way they were pursued by the NPP were in complete insubordination of the 'Positive Change' they preached and some of them to a large extent were inimical to the positive change chapter three (dubbed; moving forward with a united Ghana).

Yes, now there is a dawn for yet another change, Change for a Better Ghana, a refined form of yeresesamu, a term that was either snatched or pirated from the Convention Peoples Party. Another change is here with Ghanaians yet to assess the extent to which it is going to deliver the 'goods' by creating employment ,making education a right to all, fighting poverty and crime, creating an enabling environment for businesses to flourish; all of which will help build prosperity in a better Ghana for all. It is at this moment, very early to tell whether or not the NDC government is going to live up to its campaign promises or it is also going to give the electorate the same references as was sometimes done by the NPP government whenever an action was seen by Ghanaians not to be in the interest of the country. On the contrary, what we are witnessing now after only about two to three months of the Mills' government looks like the usual betrayal of the word 'change' by Ghanaian politicians. The issues about the 'Proceed on Leave Syndrome (POL)' quickly comes to mind, this in my opinion is not the change for a better Ghana that the citizenry expect, it rather looks more like a perpetuation of the mistakes of the preceding government for which they probable loss the trust of the Ghanaian people.

I personally do not understand what exactly the Ghanaian politicians mean when they say they are bringing a change- whether positive change or change for a better Ghana. Do they mean change of government per se or a change in the policies and programmes? Must we expect a new way of doing things or we have to always wait for a mere change in government for the sake of 'change'? Whilst it is a better democratic practice to continue with sound policies and programmes initiated by predecessor of a government, it is wiser to avoid the needless mistakes of the predecessor. Ghanaian political definition of the word 'change' has to be made clearer for some of us who might find it pretty cumbersome to fathom what exactly they mean. Lest I forget, propaganda was ripe in the air during the political campaigns that a vote for the NDC was but a call for former President J.J. Rawlings to have his third term of office, current pronouncements by the former president seem to suggest that he really has interest in serving his third term in the shadow.

I wish to appeal to H.E. President Mills that it will be an absolute betrayal of his promise of a change for a better Ghana, if he fails to make use of the brainy youth of the NDC and goes back to fetch the PNDC and the old NDC stalwarts into his government, because the good people of Ghana voted him into office because of the change for a better Ghana he promised them.

God bless you.
God bless Ghana.

Credit: Doobia Mahama Kasuli [Email: [email protected]]

Doobia Mahama Kasuli
Doobia Mahama Kasuli, © 2009

This author has authored 5 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DoobiaMahamaKasuli

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