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The electorate and governance in the Ghanaian political system, By Michael Akeno

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Abraham Lincoln, a one-time great President of America, made the follow­ing landmark statement: “Government of The People, By The People, For The People”

This is the popular definition of democracy, championed and propagated by America all over the world, to countries that practice this system of governance at the present time.

Ghana, a developing country in the modern world today, practises this system of governance at the present time.

In order to ensure an effective and efficient practice of democracy in the Ghanaian situation to be on the same level as prevails in other countries and America, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth today, there is the need for a thor­ough and elaborate education for the Ghanaian electorate as to what entails in the practice of this democratic system of governance.

This is so and very necessary because there had been deep ignorance among some of the Ghanaian electorate pertaining to a democratic system of governance.

Since Ghana embarked on the democratic system of governance, it can be observed that the majority of the electorate in Ghana does display ignorance in the choosing of leaders and other political office holders of the government of the country.

There are a number of nega­tive factors for this unfortunate situation that this article seeks to identify and address as a way of minimising this situation, if not eradicating it completely from the body system of Ghanaian politics.

The first factor that one can identify is that of low educa­tion and illiteracy. The second is ethnicism and sectionalism. The third is selfishness and avarice. The fourth is over-ambition. The fifth is corruption.

I shall attempt in the following to offer some suggestions for the minimising and eradication of this persistent and problematic situa­tion in the body politics of Ghana.

Although the ratio of litera­cy and illiteracy rate in Ghana is higher as compared to other Afri­can countries, there is an urgent need to step up the literacy rate in Ghana so that a great number of Ghanaians will be able to read and write.

This will facilitate easy communi­cation, interaction, and understand­ing among Ghanaians; and this in turn will bring about a good under­standing of national issues and aspirations of the developmental process of the country.

To this end, there is the need therefore for successive govern­ments to pay priority attention to the formal education of every school going age Ghanaian child; and also to organise a country-wide, mass illiteracy education cam­paign programmes with the aim of eradicating illiteracy in the country among Ghanaians who cannot read and write.

Ethnicism and sectionalism constitute a major obstacle in Gha­naian politics; and efforts must be made by all Ghanaians, both high and low stature to eliminate this unpleasant situation in the country.

Ghanaians must therefore learn to live in unity, peace, and tolerance; seeing each other as brother and sister with one common destiny in the developmental process of the country. Ghana belongs to all Gha­naians irrespective of where one comes from. And with this mental­ity and consciousness, Ghanaians can move together as one people with a common destiny.

Avarice and selfishness must be shunned and uprooted among Ghanaians to enable Ghanaians to show much love to each other. This will enhance the speedy development of the country.

The inordinate desire to get ac­cess to political rule and authority to amass wealth, no matter what is involved must be eschewed by all Ghanaians. This will ensure peace, unity, and justice in Ghanaian society so that Ghana will move healthily to experience speedy economic growth, development, and prosperity.

Self-centeredness and over-ambi­tion had been the bane and setback of any realistic and meaningful development to many a nation in Africa, and Ghana should not fall a victim to these militating and negative factors for political control and rule.

Corruption and immoralities had contributed to the fall of great nations in the past and in modern times.

All forms of corruptible prac­tices must be uprooted from Ghanaian society so that virtues and moralities will prevail.

When Ghanaians are guided by morality and upright living styles, the country will speedily experi­ence optimum economic growth, development, and prosperity.

Ghanaians must therefore learn to become disciplined in their lifestyles, so that they can work together in faith and honesty with each other to bring about a speedy development of the country.

In the matter of choosing candidates for the various po­litical offices and leaders of the country, the electorate by virtue of good education, clear men­tality, and consciousness must endeavour at all times to choose the right and honest people to occupy political offices.

The electorate must not choose people for political offic­es by virtue of where these peo­ple come from in the country; but strictly by their capabilities and abilities to deliver to the best interests of the country.

This is what prevails in the most advanced and most pro­gressive nations of the world such as America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, etc. The electorates are highly educated and well-informed, and they exercise their franchise by carefully choosing the right and capable candidates to occupy the various political offices of gov­ernance to ensure the progress and advancement of their countries. To this end, the electorates of these countries choose their candidates for governor, not on the basis of ethnicism, sectionalism, or political organization; but strictly on desir­able qualities and the needs and interests of their countries.

In fact, this simplistic, naïve, and ill-informed way of voting practice is popular in African countries including Ghana, of course, the star of Africa!

This is most unfortunate and unacceptable for the smooth and healthy developmental process of African countries in their continual efforts to experience economic growth, development, and prosper­ity.

It is uncivilised, barbaric, and ret­rogressive as it is the root cause of conflicts and dissatisfaction, which often plunge African countries into civil wars and genocides that had besieged African countries in contemporary times.

When this occurs, it impedes stability, progress, and development; and introduces chaos in African countries.

Ghana is the star of African liberation and aspirations; and so she must strive hard to reverse and change this unpleasant situation in order to bring about sanity, justice, and a healthy developmental process in the life of African countries for the benefit of posterity.

Compared to other African countries situations, Ghana appears to have a long, somewhat peaceful, and sustaining democratic system of governance.

This is commendable and must be further sustained for Ghana to experience healthy economic growth, development, and pros­perity, which will become a shining example for the rest of African countries to follow.

The Ghanaian experience up to date needs to be improved upon as it is fraught with the anomalies and shortcomings that had been highlighted in this article.

The Ghanaian experience has therefore not reached the stage of perfection. To this end, it is highly imperative for the Ghanaian elec­torate to become more enlightened and well-informed in the choice of political leaders and represen­tation so that Ghana can become more peaceful and strongly united to experience economic growth, development, and prosperity.

Ghanaian political leaders must also try to become more sincere and honest in the devising of their political manifestos for the development and prosperity of the country.

They must also try to refrain in their campaigns for political power and leadership, the fanning of sentiments, of ethnicism, and divisiveness in their utterances; as this will generate and reinforce the conditions for divisiveness and sectionalism in the rule of the country; which are at variance in the smooth and healthy develop­ment of the country.

Ghana must rise above all the unhealthy conditions that had been mentioned in this article in order to pave a healthy and enlightened way of co-existence of the rulers and the ruled of the country to promote economic growth, devel­opment, and prosperity.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the electorate and governance con­ditions must undergo a rigorous transformation and change by the suggestions that had been advanced in this article for a new good chapter to be opened in the democratic system of gover­nance of the country which at the moment appear to be shaky and vulnerable from a critical point of view.

A healthy and well-informed democratic system of governance must prevail in the present Ghana­ian political situation for the rest of African countries to follow.

This is a big challenge and test to Ghanaian democracy practice.

A citizen casting his vote with the help of an electoral official

BY MICHAEL AKENOO: THEATRE CRITIC

Strictly Personal

If I were put in charge of a $15m African kitty, I’d first deworm children, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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One of my favourite stories on pan-African action (or in this case inaction), one I will never tire of repeating, comes from 2002, when the discredited Organisation of African Unity, was rebranded into an ambitious, new African Union (AU).

There were many big hitters in African statehouses then. Talking of those who have had the grace to step down or leave honourably after electoral or political defeat, or have departed, in Nigeria we had Olusegun Obasanjo, a force of nature. Cerebral and studious Thabo Mbeki was chief in South Africa. In Ethiopia, the brass-knuckled and searingly intellectual Meles Zenawi ruled the roost.

In Tanzania, there was the personable and thoughtful Ben Mkapa. In Botswana, there was Festus Mogae, a leader who had a way of bringing out the best in people. In Senegal, we had Abdoulaye Wade, fresh in office, and years before he went rogue.

And those are just a few.

This club of men (there were no women at the high table) brought forth the AU. At that time, there was a lot of frustration about the portrayal of Africa in international media, we decided we must “tell our own story” to the world. The AU, therefore, decided to boost the struggling Pan-African New Agency (Pana) network.

The members were asked to write cheques or pledges for it. There were millions of dollars offered by the South Africans and Nigerians of our continent. Then, as at every party, a disruptive guest made a play. Rwanda, then still roiled by the genocide against the Tutsi of 1994, offered the least money; a few tens of thousand dollars.

There were embarrassed looks all around. Some probably thought it should just have kept is mouth shut, and not made a fool of itself with its ka-money. Kigali sat unflustered. Maybe it knew something the rest didn’t.

The meeting ended, and everyone went their merry way. Pana sat and waited for the cheques to come. The big talkers didn’t walk the talk. Hardly any came, and in the sums that were pledged. Except one. The cheque from Rwanda came in the exact amount it was promised. The smallest pledge became Pana’s biggest payday.

The joke is that it was used to pay terminal benefits for Pana staff. They would have gone home empty-pocketed.

We revive this peculiarly African moment (many a deep-pocketed African will happily contribute $300 to your wedding but not 50 cents to build a school or set up a scholarship fund), to campaign for the creation of small and beautiful African things.

It was brought on by the announcement by South Korea that it had joined the African Summit bandwagon, and is shortly hosting a South Korea-Africa Summit — like the US, China, the UK, the European Union, Japan, India, Russia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey do.

Apart from the AU, whose summits are in danger of turning into dubious talk shops, outside of limited regional bloc events, there is no Pan-African platform that brings the continent’s leaders together.

The AU summits are not a solutions enterprise, partly because over 60 percent of its budget is funded by non-African development partners. You can’t seriously say you are going to set up a $500 million African climate crisis fund in the hope that some Europeans will put up the money.

It’s possible to reprise the Rwanda-Pana pledge episode; a convention of African leaders and important institutions on the continent for a “Small Initiatives, Big Impact Compact”. It would be a barebones summit. In the first one, leaders would come to kickstart it by investing seed money.

The rule would be that no country would be allowed to put up more than $100,000 — far, far less than it costs some presidents and their delegations to attend one day of an AU summit.

There would also be no pledges. Everyone would come with a certified cheque that cannot bounce, or hard cash in a bag. After all, some of our leaders are no strangers to travelling around with sacks from which they hand out cash like they were sweets.

If 54 states (we will exempt the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic for special circumstances) contribute $75,000 each, that is a good $4.05 million.

If just 200 of the bigger pan-African institutions such as the African Development Bank, Afrexim Bank, the giant companies such as MTN, Safaricom, East African Breweries, Nedbank, De Beers, Dangote, Orascom in Egypt, Attijariwafa Bank in Morocco, to name a few, each ponied up $75,000 each, that’s a cool $15 million just for the first year alone.

There will be a lot of imagination necessary to create magic out of it all, no doubt, but if I were asked to manage the project, I would immediately offer one small, beautiful thing to do.

After putting aside money for reasonable expenses to be paid at the end (a man has to eat) — which would be posted on a public website like all other expenditures — I would set out on a programme to get the most needy African children a dose of deworming tablets. Would do it all over for a couple of years.

Impact? Big. I read that people who received two to three additional years of childhood deworming experience an increase of 14 percent in consumption expenditure, 13 percent in hourly earnings, and nine percent in non-agricultural work hours.

At the next convention, I would report back, and possibly dazzle with the names, and photographs, of all the children who got the treatment. Other than the shopping opportunity, the US-Africa Summit would have nothing on that.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. X@cobbo3

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Strictly Personal

AU shouldn’t look on as outsiders treat Africa like a widow’s house, By Joachim Buwembo

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There is no shortage of news from the UK, a major former colonial master in Africa, over whose former empire the sun reputedly never set. We hope and pray that besides watching the Premier League, the managers of our economies are also monitoring the re-nationalisation of British Railways (BR).

 

Three decades after BR was privatised in the early to mid-nineties — around the season when Africa was hit by the privatisation fashion — there is emerging consensus by both conservative and liberal parties that it is time the major public transport system reverts to state management.

 

Yes, there are major services that should be rendered by the state, and the public must not be abandoned to the vagaries of purely profit-motivated capitalism. It is not enough to only argue that government is not good at doing business, because some business is government business.

 

Since we copied many of our systems from the British — including wigs for judges — we may as well copy the humility to accept if certain fashions don’t work.

 

Another piece of news from the UK, besides football, was of this conservative MP Tim Loughton, who caused a stir by getting summarily deported from Djibouti and claiming the small African country was just doing China’s bidding because he recently rubbed Beijing the wrong way.

 

China has dismissed the accusation as baseless, and Africa still respects China for not meddling in its politics, even as it negotiates economic partnerships. China generously co-funded the construction of Djibouti’s super modern multipurpose port.

 

What can African leaders learn from the Loughton Djibouti kerfuffle? The race to think for and manage Africa by outsiders is still on and attracting new players.

 

While China has described the Loughton accusation as lies, it shows that the accusing (and presumably informed) Britons suspect other powerful countries to be on a quest to influence African thinking and actions.

 

And while the new bidders for Africa’s resources are on the increase including Russia, the US, Middle Eastern newly rich states, and India, even declining powers like France, which is losing ground in West Africa, could be looking for weaker states to gain a new foothold.

 

My Ugandan people describe such a situation as treating a community like “like a widow’s house,” because the poor, defenceless woman is susceptible to having her door kicked open by any local bully. Yes, these small and weak countries are not insignificant and offer fertile ground for the indirect re-colonisation of the continent.

 

Djibouti, for example, may be small —at only 23,000square kilometres, with a population of one million doing hardly any farming, thus relying on imports for most of its food — but it is so strategically located that the African Union should look at it as precious territory that must be protected from external political influences.

 

It commands the southern entrance into the Red Sea, thus linking Africa to the Middle East. So if several foreign powers have military bases in Djibouti, why shouldn’t the AU, with its growing “peace kitty,” now be worth some hundreds of millions of dollars?

 

At a bilateral level, Ethiopia and Djibouti are doing impressively well in developing infrastructure such as the railway link, a whole 750 kilometres of it electrified. The AU should be looking at more such projects linking up the whole continent to increase internal trade with the continental market, the fastest growing in the world.

 

And, while at it, the AU should be resolutely pushing out fossil-fuel-based transportation the way Ethiopia is doing, without even making much noise about it. Ethiopia can be quite resolute in conceiving and implementing projects, and surely the AU, being headquartered in Addis Ababa, should be taking a leaf rather than looking on as external interests treat the continent like a Ugandan widow’s house.

 

Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:buwembo@gmail.com

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