Wikipedia states, ‘The Afrobarometer is a research project that measures public attitudes on economic, political, and social matters in sub-Saharan Africa’, as an independent, non-partisan research project.
Without doubt, I appreciate outcomes of Afrobarometer reports and I am not one cut in the know-it-all attitude of unduly criticizing results that seem critical of situations.
But the media landscape has been filled with discussions on the latest Afrobarometer survey report for 2019. I however have strong ill-filling about a particular question in the survey. This question that, ‘is Ghana moving in the wrong or right direction?’
Does the Afrobarometer Project know the right direction for Ghana? If it does, what is it? I do not know. I have asked many others as well, through my fifteen year research, but have had no conclusive answer.
During the 2008 and 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary campaign seasons, while the NPP slogan was, ‘We are moving forward’, the NDC counted, ‘We are moving forward in the right direction”, what is the right direction?
The NDC won power in both elections but by the close of 2016, while ‘moving forward in the right direction’, we had submitted ourselves to the IMF to seek credibility and had lost the GDP growth from 14.1% in 2011 to a miserable 3.6%.
So when Ghanaians are asked the question for the answer at a time the nation had shrugged off the IMF shackle and improved on its GDP growth and other indicators to say ‘we are moving in the wrong direction’, leaves more questions than answers and it is more intriguing to note that, the NDC through its General Secretary Asiedu Nketiah also agrees that he is one of the 59% Ghanaians who think we are in the ‘wrong direction’. And this is my beef, not at any individual, but the questioner, the Afrobarometer Project.
Now for one to ask the question about a ‘direction’, it is clear that questioner knows the respondent knows or likely to know of the ‘direction’ he is seeking the answer to. And in this particular situation, the question suggests a national journey that goes along with the totality of our lives, political, economic, cultural etc, that will determine if our journey as a wholesome enterprise is trending in the right or wrong direction.
If I want to go to a destination, I ought to know the direction and the vehicle that will carry me there. But if I do not know, but believe I know and get to a lorry station and board any vehicle to take me there, you can imagine what will happen.
So if the Afrobarometer Project knows the direction Ghana is supposed to go but does not make that privy to respondents, any answer or road could lead them anywhere respondents will call a ‘direction’. This is a call for total confusion. And it is confusion because it seems the ‘right direction’ is only in the mind of the Afrobarometer Project, and this is out of line of the indicators the project has surveyed since its inception, as far as I know.
That question of right or wrong direction could only be asked if we collectively knew where we wanted Ghana to be in a particular time, and relevant to ask respondents if they felt the vehicle we had boarded was likely to carry us there or not; then the question would have been relevant, in my candid opinion.
And the specific question number 3, from the questionnaire, as I downloaded from the website adds more to my concerns. It states, ‘Let’s start with your general view about the current direction of our country. Some people might think the country is going in the wrong direction. Others may feel it is going in the right direction. So let me ask YOU about the overall direction of the country. Would you say that the country is going in the wrong direction or going in the right direction?’
I was more dumbfounded when I realized that this question was the main opening question to the whole study, before the sectional questions followed. I think this would have been the summation question of the interview, or could have been repeated to assess the validity of the question and purpose. It is even more problematic when the question emphatically states, ‘So let me ask YOU about the overall direction of the country’.
‘..about the overall direction of the country’ suggests that respondents had been taken through all segments of the whole – political, economic, security, social etc, before being asked the ultimate and conclusive question. Definitely, the answers of respondents could not be reliable because a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer could therefore be subjective to the overall decision.
These assertions in no light mean I have deviated from my firm position; but affirm the question was not relevant as we do not know where we are going, until we had the ‘Ghana beyond Aid’ mantra which seems to suggest a ‘direction’. And the question is even not suggesting if Ghanaians thought the direction to ‘Ghana beyond Aid’ was right or wrong.
For what the project question has deduced as answers to the question is therefore akin to the question posed to sight challenged men (blind) about how an elephant looked like. The one who held the leg said it was like a pillar; the one who held the ear said it was like a cloth; the one who held the trunk said it was like a pipe etc. in such a situation, would they ever have known how an elephant looks like? But in my estimation, this was what that question achieved.
Was it a coincidence that it was this question that interested journalists and the populace most? No! It is the result of a people that have evolved into an OPAQUE BOX SYNDROME, with little knack for detail as a characteristic. And I was such not surprised that people from all walks of life and professions trying to make positive or negative meaning out of a question which is as irrelevant and inappropriate to the purpose it seeks to achieve. But it might have only succeeded for mischief or socio-political gymnastics.
From my fifteen year research into ‘why Ghana lacks sustainability in development’, it became obvious that we have no clear national vision that drives our development agenda. If you doubt it then give me a clear-cut vision for Ghana since independence. And for this lack, the educational system also has no clear-cut INTENT for education, to build and shape that human capital that will suit the attainment of that elusive vision. The reforms in Ghana’s education have been more concerned with structural issues other than intent and content; that includes the latest curriculum review. If the INTENT is not clear what do you have to do with curriculum? For this lack we have reduced education to paper work and theories without heart and hands.
Thus when we appreciate all manner of educational materials from various countries, premised on their peculiar visions with glee, we confirm that indeed, we do not know where we are going but everywhere is our direction, so anything and everything is welcome.
I believe it is with this same distortion that drove the question in the Afrobarometer questionnaire. The challenge is in all other spheres of our developmental life because our critical fundamentals for statehood from the onset were missed and have never been corrected.
This also drives CSO’s and Think –Tanks that sometimes act as if they are alternatives to governments, other than complements. In this case the Afrobarometer direction may be divergent from that of the government of Ghana at any point in time. Recipe for disaster.
CSOs must police government policies and find out if they are on course to achieve state objectives. I encountered a similar challenge with a CDD interviewer on the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) two years ago and I tried to hammer it home that, we must police governments along the routes they themselves have drawn and none other. Any other course will not help improve on what government wants to achieve and if that is happening, then it is out of place. It does also not help in demanding accountability and transparency.
Whiles raising these observations and concerns, it is not to say I do not support surveys; but I am bringing it up that, as a nation, we are yet to conceptualise our forward march and need to rationalize our acts to forge a decisive direction that inures to sustainable development. We ought to reverse to the drawing table as THE BACK TO ROOTS TOOL suggests and outlines.
The Afrobarometer question and answers for now are misleading and only provide fodder for mischief of various colours. They must come again on this and drive the debate out of the subjective ravine and place it on the objective keel.
Let us be inclusive other than exclusive.
Ho, Volta Region