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14.12.2010 Feature Article

Do The Incompetent Many Elect The Corrupt Few?

Do The Incompetent Many Elect The Corrupt Few?
14.12.2010 LISTEN

Bernard Shaw is one of my favourite authors. His writings can be outrageous. But he amuses and makes one think. In “Maxims for Revolutionists”, he suggests that “Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few”. 

When I read it I was amused.  But I also wondered whether we the electorate were that incompetent. 

It was in my student days and I was convinced that we could change the world by voting in the appropriate political party. I strongly held that governments should not be voted in solely for the negative business of preventing disorder so that the individual or groups of them could grab the means of production and distribution and live well while the majority of their compatriots just survive or starve. 

I believed and still believe that the aim of government is to ensure the well-being of the governed; that governments, especially in those countries then termed backward, should not leave the economy to market forces but should intervene to promote prosperity. 

I still take politics seriously and l am at a loss when highly educated Ghanaians ascribe to politics, the unthoughtful remarks of their compatriots. 

The other day I suggested that we should keep to the three-year senior secondary school system. One of my friends then asked, “Are you NDC?” I could not help being rude. I said “I do not discuss important issues with those who do not think” 

If he disagreed with me I expected him to argue that the fallen standards were due to the inadequate time spent in the secondary school. He could cite instances where longer duration had produced better results. 

We parted company as friends when I said that I knew that I talked nonsense sometimes. Most people do so now and again.  I concluded that what discussion or conversation should do was to arrive at a compromise or change of mind. 

To go back to Shaw’s maxim or statement, democracy does not mean the gaderine swine electing the few to meander their corrupt way through the maze with their cohorts. 

The practical aim of politics is to bring together a few people with definite views and ideas about producing social and economic progress and persuading many to join them in a party which helps to elect into office people who believe in the aims and objectives of the party.

Election is not a lotto with a winner who may distribute largesse to friends. I am, therefore, uneasy when people say that we should move away from the “winner takes all practice”. 

The suggestion is that the fruits of the win should be shared. “Power sharing” is another concept which is not far from the “winner takes all idea”. At the moment it is being suggested by some as a solution to the Ivory Coast problem. 

Naturally, if election is a lotto and if we want to live as brothers and sisters we should give part of the lotto winnings to our unfortunate brothers and sisters. Such notions will keep us backward as long as we entertain them. Elections are serious business for a country like Ghana. They should determine the path to economic and social progress. 

I am not suggesting that “national governments or coalition governments are not necessary now and again. In time of war and crisis, parties may come together to pursue the national interest. 

My main concern is that when we have no clear idea as to what to do to get the country out of unnecessary poverty then anything may go. Coming together to administer the country will then eventually legitimise rule by the corrupt or incompetent few. 

True democracy expressed through measures by government to implement thoughtful party political ideas is unlikely to lead to appointments by the corrupt few. 

If we, the many, take our responsibilities seriously, the few, whether corrupt or misguided, cannot appoint those bereft of ideas to mismanage our affairs. Shaw cannot then describe us as the incompetent many.


We should support governments when they move traders from the streets and railway lines and encourage the administration not to be frightened about threats of people not to vote for them. 

Laws should be enforced and the many are not all that “incompetent”. Most will support the rules governing unauthorised structures, bad driving, noise, squalor and the like.Often it is those who have vested interest who make noise or corrupt the corridors of power to stay or reverse action.


The worse any government can do to derail progress is to abandon good action because of fear of losing the next election.They should do their duty and believe in the adage “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name” 

Two years from now there will be elections and the people, the many, should be coming together in party groups to send ideas and suggestions to their party. There is a lot wrong and apart from the grand party strategy many simple decisions or measures should be considered. 

I asked of a few friends last week. They had gone to South Africa and Kenya for medical treatment. One had died and the body was being flown home. I was sad. I could imagine the trauma for the family.


I remembered the preparation of the manifesto of the Social Democratic Front which collapsed when political parties were banned in 1979. I had argued for a commitment that the party would not treat an ailing President outside Ghana with state funds.

He or she would be treated at home. I explained that he would then see to it that medical facilities were adequate for all. I was defeated even when I expounded a strategy for improving medical facilities. 

The strategy was to invite a named industrial power to build a first-class hospital in Accra. All modern gadgets would be available in this hospital and Ghanaian specialists working abroad would be invited to return home and work in this hospital. If a Ghanaian specialist was not available in a particular field a foreigner would be invited. 

Facilities would be arranged to enable foreigners to seek treatment at this hospital. I argued that the cost would be cheaper than treatment in Europe and America and other places. Patients would be encouraged to recuperate at appropriate places like Aburi and some health tourism would be promoted. I suggested that this was a project which merited a grant which could be obtained with the appropriate overtures.  

Ghanaians who go abroad for medical treatment could be attended to at this hospital. Our doctors, surgeons and the like will get to know the state of the art without going abroad. Above all, we can treat our Heads of State here in Ghana. 

The idea was thrown out and today, many of our people go to South Africa and Kenya for medical treatment at considerable expense and with considerable inconvenience to families.


There are issues similar to this which should engage the attention of the competent many. We should get some of these into the manifesto of our parties for the next election which is near. The winning party should have credible plans to turn our considerable natural resources into assets. 

If we do not exercise our democratic rights conscientiously we shall vote for the corrupt few to appoint the incompetent to mismanage the economy and thus condemn ourselves to live in misery as a third world country.

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