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16.05.2006 Feature Article

Ghanaians must accept democratic rule

Democracy, as a form of government, is based on constitutional rule. It places limitations on the powers of government. In countries where democracy is well practised, office holders are made to act strictly within the limits of the law. Democracy therefore prevents arbitrary rule and dictatorship in a country.
In addition to the above, democracy protects people's basic rights. It is a form of government that creates a congenial atmosphere for people to exercise their freedom of speech. It also allows people to form political movements. The judiciary and human rights movements are protected in a democratic society. Democracy permits a peaceful and smooth change of one government to the other, periodically.

It allows the people to change a government that is not performing well, and it also renews their trust in the ruling government. A further advantage of these frequent elections is that it helps in achieving accountability on the part of the ruler to the ruled.

Democracy affords the populace the chance to take part in the affairs of their country. Voters participate indirectly in the process of decision-making through their elected Members of Parliament (MPs). Another way in which democracy affords involvement in public affairs is the free expression of constructive criticisms against government policies. Democratic governments also give qualified citizens the right to vote and to be voted for.

Demerits But in spite of the advantages, democracy has certain demerits. Democracy involves the observance of long procedures that are slow, time consuming, and a drag on a nation's ability to take quick decisions. In a democracy, there is a problem of arrival at compromises when decisions are being taken.

The opposition may also exploit its privileged position to delay decisions of government. This has disastrous consequences; it may affect the efficient administration of a country. Democracy is about choice. So, by all means, there is bound to be winners and losers. Losers, not in the sense that they are not good materials for Ghanaians, but that the nation can only have one president at a time.

Meanwhile, I say the aim of politics is the development and progress of the nation, the welfare and prosperity of the people, and “any political ideology which is contrary to this is contradiction in terms”. Politics itself is never dirty at all. It is greed and envy which have turned it into dirt. During the time of the Convention Peoples' Party (CPP) regime, parents in the opposition were afraid to even criticize the CPP in the presence of their own children!

And yet, any government in power and the opposition have a common goal to put meaningful economic structures in place to improve the living standards of their people.

It is naturally impossible for a country to have two governments of the winning party and an opposition government. But it is possible to have a parliament with members comprising politicians from both sides. When this happens, why can they not stay peacefully together to discuss issues that may lead to the improvement of the economy and the country as a whole? But we turn disagreement into hatred and wish even death for our opponents as if we shall fly. Individually, let us banish hatred from our system of government in favour of peaceful co-existence. We do not have to hate somebody, just because he is superior to us, or just because he wants us to do the correct thing. In the same vein, we do not have to harass somebody, just because, we have power to do so.

The law Harass him tomorrow, he will be no more; he will be blown up like a candle in the wind. How would you feel? Over here, let us learn from the past because there is a saying which goes, “however, explosive a situation may be, love is the greatest”. In certain cases, it originates from the wrong notion that democracy and constitutional government means one is free to do anything as long as one can cover his trial effectively and avoid arrest and sanction. Constitutional rule is not a political situation of lawlessness but a state of rule of law.

The constitution is the most powerful law in the land protecting every person and property. The law does not enforce itself; it is those who formulate the law because it is good for them who enforce the law. This means that the dos and don'ts in the constitution should be enforced by all the people in the country.

Law enforcement is therefore the responsibility of every citizen working in cooperation with people paid to ensure peace and order. In effect, we think that the habit of military rulers on the African continent stage-managing through fair or foul means to restore themselves into power under a constitutional rule must be the next evil to be dealt with. This is an acknowledgement of the fact that the West African sub-continent and may be the rest of Africa, are no longer prepared to accept military rule. This writer is of the view that this kind of political scheming to civilian rule undermines democracy. This is because all of them use their incumbency to remain in power. In most cases, it is as though it is better to rig the elections and earn international recognition and continue ruling than to allow oneself to be condemned on a daily basis.

Democracy in practise Meanwhile, I urge Ghanaians to be tolerant of opposing political views to advance the course of democracy in the country and also take a firm root to exercise tolerance in politics and recognize it. In this vein, this writer underscores the need for Ghanaians to make the practice of democracy realistic in the country.

It is high time the country moved out of the principles of democracy which is the established constitution because talking about democratic tenets, at least, the literate population in the country now have a fairly reasonable level of knowledge and understanding of it, for, they know their expectations. Nonetheless, I caution that it does not also mean that those principles of democracy must be thrown away without knowing what are embodied in them and their significance in the lives of the people. “The biggest problem confronting the people in this era of democracy is how to apply it in our lives”.

The practicability of it is what should be ensured since democracy by itself is no guarantee for peace and comfort in any society.

Democracy impliedly does not come by a decree but must grow from culture. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case instead in our society because people behave incapable of changes and consequently certain life styles, actions and thinking on the part of most people that are even against tenets that are so not flowing with them that people feel there must be no change. Meanwhile, I call on Ghanaian writers to write on economic trends, social changes, legal reforms, the operations and institutions for the general public to be informed and educated so that the people would know their rights, to know what and what not to do at a point in time and also in dealing with such establishments.

Rural dwellers Thus, democratic rule would be seen making positive and meaningful impact on the lives of the people. Without a change in these foundations, all attempts towards democratization would be in vain or zero.

Democratization, I say, also demands that heads of institutions, organizations and companies should go beyond their scope of the defined administrative schedules to acquaint themselves with the anti-social and corruptible tendencies in such outfits that tend to go against the very people in whose interest they exist to serve. In that case, the heads must first and foremost prevent themselves from those negative things and evil deeds that have engulfed their domains and ensure that the proper thing is done to avoid any intentional disservice to the people in the society.

However, this could only be achieved when I, in diverse ways, make public spectacle of them all in my write-ups.

In effect, I also note that very little is written about our rural dwellers. I lament that Ghanaian journalists are one-sided; we need the public to be informed about what is happening in the rural set- ups so as to help change the choice of select bodies that seem to be static in our society. In this direction, I bemoan the situation whereby public servants are reluctant to go to the rural areas because of lack of amenities, but I ask myself 'how do we decentralize if there are no competent and technically qualified personnel to man the agencies, institutions, and organizations in those areas, since decentralization is a major component of democracy?' I admit that even though democracy is a very long and difficult process, it can also work in the long run.

E-mail Address: [email protected]

LOVELACE OPOKU-AGYEMANG
LOVELACE OPOKU-AGYEMANG, © 2006

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: LOVELACEOPOKUAGYEMANG

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