26 November 2012

Ghana: The Presidency Is Not for Jokers


In the play Macbeth, William Shakespeare wrote, and I quote, "Is it possible to be wise, bewildered, calm, furious, loyal, and neutral all at once? Nobody can do that." Well, that is the belief of the famous 17th Century playwright, but the man known in the Ghanaian politics as Hassan Ayariga, disagrees. He took the wise decision not to participate in the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) sponsored presidential debate, because he was not happy with the way he was lambasted over his performance during the first debate held in Tamale.

After calmly reflecting over the decision, he surprisingly, became furious with the IEA for making the attempt to exclude him from the final debate, and insisted that he must be re-admitted. So, within the spell of a moment, the Bawku-born and German-trained politician who took the decision to pull out of the debate, changed his mind, and pleaded for clemency, participated and produced disastrous results.

Of course, the hilarious comments he made during the debate made the whole programme a bit interesting and lowered the boiling temperature between President Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo, but I dare say that the seat of government is not meant for jokers like the man who seems to have defied Shakespeare's time-tested theory. The media pluralism this country is enjoying is giving way to all sorts of characters to parade themselves in a field they do not fit to occupy. The other day, a lady called Akua Donkor claimed to have formed a political party called Ghana Freedom Party. Here is a lady who has never set foot in the classroom, but the media gave her all the platforms to make herself popular and prescribe theories that defy human understanding.

Akua Donkor, in one of her jokes, packaged as an electoral promise, claimed when elected as President she would not ask the people of this country to pay for water and electricity. She would also buy cars for every journalist to facilitate his or her work. Schooling, from kindergarten to university, would also be free, besides paying unemployment benefits. Certainly, these promises defy modern political science, originated by the Italian Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. Madam Akua Donkor did not tell Ghanaians how she was going to raise or the source of funds she would use to fund the generation of electricity, which is capital intensive, and distribute it free of charge to the good people of this country. She again, fails to tell us whether she was going to borrow from the capital markets to pay the unemployment benefits she was promising, or the money would be paid from taxes.

I concede that in some of the advanced countries they have the unemployment benefit policy, but one must first look at the size of their economy, and juxtapose it with ours before drawing the conclusion as to whether such a policy would be feasible in a developing economy like ours or not. Yet, this lady has been given the media platform to disseminate this obvious non-achievable promise to the voting public, much to the surprise of some of us. Her so called political campaign has reduced the high office of the President of Ghana to a podium, which every prankster can mount to exhibit his or her dramaturgical prowess. We must be serious in this country. Our politics should not be cheapened to the level we are experiencing now.

I am aware that in Britain and the US there are smaller parties which compete with the popular ones, and that is the essence of democracy. But, here in Ghana, some of these so-called politicians are using the formation of political parties as an avenue to advance their business causes, and only using the presidency as a ruse to achieve that aim. The Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) was formed by the late Dan Lartey some years back, and when the bell was tolled for them to field parliamentary candidates for the various constituencies, they could only field two out of the 230 constituencies.

No president of this Republic can effectively govern without the backing of the majority members of parliament (MPs), so if a party desirous to rule this country can contest parliamentary seats in only two constituencies how can such a party convince Ghanaians that it is not joking? And it is not the GCPP alone. Apart from the popular ones -the New Patriotic Party (NPP), National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Convention People's Party (CPP), People's National Convention (PNC) and the Progressive People's Party (PPP) which have fielded candidates in almost all the constituencies- the rest which have their names appearing on the ballot paper as presidential candidates, could not field more than ten candidates in all the constituencies.

Per our electoral rules, each political party is supposed to have offices in not less than two thirds of all the constituencies in the country. I do not think the Electoral Commission (EC) is enforcing this simple rule, because if it is, most of the political parties would not have qualified as such, let alone file to contest the presidential election. The EC must be seen to be enforcing the rules governing the game, instead of sitting aloof for people who may not even qualify for appointment as District Chief Executives (DCEs) to be filing to contest the presidential elections in the name of democracy. Some few years ago, the BBC reported that as many as 39 political parties filed to contest an election in Guinea. This is unbelievable, yet it did happen, and that is Africa for you.

Ghana must, however, not allow this kind of political nonsense to happen here. Our fledgling democracy is being universally acclaimed, and we must not allow comedians parading as politicians to destroy this hard won reputation. To me, if Hassan Ayariga had stuck to his decision not to participate in the IEA debate, using the death and funeral of Alhaji Aliu Mahama, former Vice President, as subterfuge, it would have served his own interest better than to participate in the event. The PNC is certainly not one of the political parties that can be described as a joke in our political landscape. Since 1996, the party has not presented less than two MPs in Parliament.

Even though the party is seen as a tribal one, it has established itself as one of the viable political parties in the country, so I was expecting Hassan Ayariga to build upon this solid foundation, but he rather joined the IEA debate to entertain people, instead of educating the voting populace on his policies and programmes for the country, when elected President. You see, in politics if people see you as a joker, no matter what you do, the voters would not take you serious. I must admit, however, that every good communicator will always try to share jokes with his or her audience, especially if they have sat down for a long time, just to draw their attention to his message.

But, this was not the technique Hassan Ayariga adopted. The man was just there to entertain the people, but he would not accept this reality, and the criticisms that have followed his appearance. I am sure the late President Hilla Limann turned in his grave when he saw the performance of the young man who has stepped into his shoes. I only hope and pray that he would improve upon his performance next time, should the PNC delegates decide to give him the chance to lead them into the 2016 elections.

Mr. Earl Lovelace, a Trinidadian novelist, once narrated in one of his novels, how a man told his people that he was prepared to die for them as Jesus did for mankind. He subsequently, asked his subjects to stone him to death, but when they started to stone him in truth, he became annoyed, wondering how human beings can just pick stones to kill fellow human being without thinking that what they were doing was wrong. Hassan Ayariga made a solemn pledge to lead this country damn the consequences, but he is now voting with his feet when the same people he is aspiring to lead start questioning his capability, based on his performance at the IEA debate. He may disagree with me, but I think a new 'Bob Okala' has been born. Hurray!

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