The Troubling NDC and NPP Politics and the Failure of Political Leadership in Ghana
It is generally recognised that ideas, speeches, statements, ideologies and other public acts of politicians whether good or bad, have serious impact. In pointing to this fact John Maynard Keynes (one of the most respected economists of the Twentieth Century) wrote in 1936 that 'the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood'.
Rintaro Katsu (1823-1899) was a Japanese politician and a naval strategist better known as the father of modern navy of Japan. He was among the first Japanese politicians to visit the United States. When he returned to Japan after his visit to the U.S. he was asked by an official what was the most significant difference between Japan and the United States. His answer was: 'Well, people in leadership positions generally speak more wisely than common people in the US. That is probably the biggest difference.'
During his State of the Union speech in 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to the wise leadership of his predecessors whose decisions transformed the U.S. into the world's sole superpower. He said: 'Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn't even there yet. NASA didn't exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs'.
Many experts on Ghanaian Affairs especially those within the academic, diplomatic and strategic community hold the view that Ghana has lost her position as the Black Star of Africa as recently expressed by Prof Steven Adei who opined that 56 years after independence Ghana's GDP should have been $6000 rather than the current $1600. William Jefferson, a former member of U.S. Congress commenting on Ghana's lost position in 2002 noted that 'When I was in Africa in 1961 in Ghana, Ghana and Korea were exactly in the same place [economically]. Today Korea has risen to the 11th largest economy in the world, and Ghana is down from where they were in 1961'.
In 2007 Prof Joseph Stiglitz, a leading U.S. Economist observed that at independence, Ghana was far ahead of Malaysia in terms of economic development. He noted that Malaysia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was about 5 per cent below that of Ghana. Today Malaysia is in the top tier with China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
Ghana is no longer considered a strategic country where world powers could engage with to solve many of the problems in West Africa, Africa and the world. Despite having had successive democratic elections for more than 20 years, Ghana has little to show for it on the world stage in terms of economic, political, diplomatic and military power. Despite being the first country in Sub-Sahara Africa to gain independence, the United States for example considers Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa the most important countries in the region worthy of U.S. Strategic Partnership.
The underlying cause of this stunted global standing is the failure of strategic leadership particularly among power holders within the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). The low, disjointed and policy deficient politics being practiced by both parties (as exemplified by the public pronouncements of their General Secretaries: Asiedu Nketiah [General Mosquito] and Kwaku Owusu Afriyie [Sir John] during the just ended Election petition trial at the Supreme Court) explain why resource-rich Ghana still has not solved any of the problems facing her and is several decades behind its Asia contemporaries.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention and his record is available for all to see. When Nkrumah transitioned from General Secretary to founder of Convention People's Party (CPP) and later Prime Minister and President he made Ghana the centre of gravity of African politics and development. Ghana was seriously involved in the global struggle against colonialism and imperialism. The country was repeatedly consulted on major global issues including Africa, Middle East, and Asia Affairs. For example Ghana's support was keenly sought by Israel and the Arabs during the heated Arab-Israeli conflict. During the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. each lobbied hard to have Nkrumah as an ally.
In contrast the NDC and NPP politicians who came after Nkrumah have done very little to develop the country or aggressively market or position Ghana even as a major regional player. In the heat of the 2011 post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, the late President Mills was asked about Ghana's position on the matter. His answer was: Ghana would like to mind her own business. President Mills' answer which is typical of the mindset of Ghanaian politicians reflects the lack of understanding of even the most basic foreign policy and security issue.
In short today Ghana is a caricature of her former self. Her voice is conspicuously missing in key regional, continental and global issues. The 24 million people in Ghana make the same impact on the world stage just like the 1.5 million people living in Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea Bissau and The Gambia.
All because of the kwashiorkor politics, lack of visionary, effective political leadership and lack of strategic thinking among the politicians. Insults have come to replace critical, analytic, intelligent and strategic thinking and debate about nation building courtesy NDC and NPP politicians. No critical issue in terms of policy, innovation and competitive ideas is found in their utterances. Many of politicians show little understanding of what Ghana's strategic interests, foreign policy, her defence doctrine, cyber security capabilities and economic policy should be. In fact they appear to be completely unaware about what constitutes state-crafting.
Ghanaian politicians are constantly locked up in the endless Stone Age politics of propaganda, insults, tribalism, and ethnicity. They have failed to live above their narrow political and economic interests and care more about their own selfish interest than the overall well-being of Ghana and its people. Not only that, they do not have a long term strategic vision for Ghana. They have constantly failed to see and address the numerous problems facing the country. Their politics is characterised by policy deficiency and the fierce competition often seen in their attempt to capture power is not to develop the country but to use the power to acquire state resources for their own comfort. Their politics of gluttony and elite enrichment without development (i.e. steal what you can while you are in power) are the reasons for the poverty and low quality of life many Ghanaians find themselves in.
In fact anyone who visits Ghana will not believe that the nation has been exporting cocoa, gold, diamond and other minerals for more than half a century as there is nothing to show for it in terms of improved quality of life. In a recent documentary about the crumbling healthcare system in Ghana (which was shown on the Russia based television Russia Today), NDC's Fiifi Kwetey admitted the poor quality of life Ghanaians find themselves in. He also acknowledged that he and his cohorts have mismanaged Ghana's resources and said 'oil is our last hope'. It is not surprising that after squandering the revenue that cocoa and gold have generated the politicians would turn their attention to the oil. The truth is that even if Ghana becomes the only exporter of all the oil in the world the quality of life of the ordinary Ghanaian will not improve because of the elite capture politics of the NDC and NPP and the lack of discussion about how best to use the proceeds to develop the country.
In fact when it comes to things that matter to most Ghanaians (employment, electricity, healthcare, education, housing, and roads) there is little reflection on the part of the NDC and NPP over these issues. The futile arguments both parties and their agents engage in with the support of the media, is suffocating Ghana. The result is that there is a big black hole in the economy. For example the manufacturing sector which should drive the growth of Ghana' economy has been in coma for decades. The current labour crisis is only part of the vicious cycle of endless crises and postponed development the country has been forced into by the NDC and NPP politicians. The electricity crisis which has slowed down productivity by 20% for informal economic operators and 5% for large firms, the perennial water crisis in Accra and parts of the country, the crumbling infrastructure, the huge unemployment, escalating public debt, persistent budget deficit, stagnating industrial and agricultural output, and the endless corruption in the country all bear direct relation to the catastrophic leadership failures and the small-mind politics of the NDC and the NPP.
I do not think politics must be reduced to a concert party. It is therefore important to remind the politicians that politics is more serious than just waking up to insult your opponent.
Politics is about the now and future of Ghana, its interest and position in the world. It is about having strategic vision and implementing it to move the country and its people to a place where they have never been before. It is about transforming the country's resources into useful commodities to improve the living standards of the people. It is about finding lasting solution to the perennial energy, food, water, health and the huge unemployment facing the people and the nation. Politics is about building the 21st Century infrastructures and institutions that will make Ghana economic and military power. In short it is about crafting and implementing financial, economic, social, foreign, defence, and security policies and cultural practices that will enable Ghana to contribute to and also benefit from the global system, including working with regional neighbours to increase trade, improve security and reduce the harmful effect of climate change, pandemic diseases, maritime piracy, weapons proliferation, terrorism, narcotics and human trafficking that dominate Ghana and West Africa.