Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ghana Elections 2012: may the best candidates win

In exactly a week, Ghanaians will troop to the polling stations to cast their votes for the governors that will rule the country for the next three years.

The presidency is up for grabs as are the two hundred and seventy-five parliamentary seats.

With five relatively free and fair elections under her belt, Ghana proudly brandishes an enviable record of organizing elections that are widely hailed across the world.

It is an achievement that countries like the USA cannot even boast of, as elections in god’s own country continue to be besetted by every manner of shenanigan like gerrymandering, and the intimidation of illiterate minorities.

With our enviable record, it is sad that elections continue to polarize our nation. It is equally sad that the act of choosing our governors continues to be so fraught with insults, mudslinging, and character assassinations!

If we begin from the premise that we are all patriotic citizens of the land, why has it become impossible for us to agree to disagree without being uncivil to each other?
Why do we think of ourselves as the super-patriots and our political opponents as evil, treasonous felons?

Why do we think that we love our country more than those on the opposing political side?

We ought not to think that we love our country more than those on the other side of the political divide, and we should not think less of them to the extent that we disparage and assassinate their characters.

It is sad that many fine and quite capable citizens shy away from joining politics simply, because the professional politicians have so muddled the water, that many think of politics as a dirty profession.

The numerous entreaties and exhortations from religious and opinion leaders appear only to have lessened but not totally eliminated the ugly incidences of political violence in the country.

It is to be hoped that Ghanaians will remember that the eyes of the world is upon us and that we are seen as the cynosure of Africa – a continent that continues to receive unfair negative media attention.

Let us continue to exhibit the maturity that has earned the country global kudos.
Our people should realize that elections are nothing more than occasions for us to exercise our franchise as citizens of a free and sovereign nation.

Elections should not be occasions to think of how best we could display our primitive masochism or visit mayhem at the behest of the elite.

It is time we all realize how much it cost us whenever things go awry in any part of the country.

Maintaining law and order does not come cheap, and bringing back peace after mayhem is very expensive.

The common people of Ghana should start to use their common sense.

Our elders say that those that allow their heads to be used to break the coconut will not partake in eating it.

People should ask themselves how many children of the elite they see rioting, snatching ballot boxes or bashing the heads of their parents’ political opponents?
None, I daresay, since the children of the elite are esconded safely in elite schools abroad. Their fees are paid in hard currency, thank you very much. They live in comfortable environment totally devoid of the deprivations we suffer daily in Ghana.

The children of our elite parley and enjoy lives with children of other elite from other parts of the world.

There, they make the connections and the networks to ensure that they are made for life.

It is the nadir of stupidity for an ignorant, illiterate and unemployed youth to accept pittance from politicians and rent himself out as political machoman.

We should employ our brain and brawn to demand that our politicians use our resources for the common good.

Few people will enjoy the benefits of a university education without thinking twice about becoming party thugs.

There should be vigorous campaign to make our youth realize the folly of allowing themselves to be used as cannon-fodder by politicians.

It behooves all of us to campaign against all and every form of political hooliganism.

Simple logic suggests that if our politicians are not selfish, greedy and self-seeking they could have created the environment whereby no Ghanaian will be deprived of the basic education with which to fend for himself.

If we had been blessed with leaders with visions, Ghana should by now be up there as an industrialised nation, where citizens use their time and their brains to create the things that will make lives more comfortable.

If our leaders had been serious, we should by now be creating and manufacturing all the fanciful things our leaders borrow money to purchase.

All these make this year elections all the more interesting. For several reasons this year election is going to be a watershed.

For one, the ruling party is prosecuting it without its enigmatic and charismatic founder, Jerry Rawlings.

A man of deep conviction and one who is totally unafraid of voicing out his thoughts on the thorniest of issues, President Rawlings has so far refused to join the campaign train and his party has, wisely it seems, decided to ignore him.

This year will make or mar the President Rawlings political legacy as Ghanaians will, once and for all, demonstrate whether or not he still count for something in Ghanaian political calculus.

It has being nice to see the dignified figure of ex-president John Kufuor campaigning rigorously for his party. Kufuor committed several faux pas during his tenure, but when the occasion called for true statesmanship during the tensed 2008 elections, he rose gallantly and deserved praises for that singular act.

Without a doubt, this year elections have also seen more robust and better packaged political messages than the previous ones.

The TV and radio adverts have been very creative. It is good to see all the political parties embracing new technologies in their campaign.

Gone are the days of dull TV adverts.

This is good news especially for those in the advertising business.

According to the Finder newspaper, this year will go down as the most expensive: “An estimated amount of GH¢549 million has been spent by the country’s political parties on all forms of advertisements and inducements aimed at wooing the electorate to vote for them in the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

The money is being spent on advertisements, promotions, billboards, vehicles, motorbikes and bicycles, and as direct monetary gifts to voters.

According to investigations conducted by The Finder newspaper, about GH¢350 million has been spent so far on advertisement on television, radio and newspapers while billboards have consumed some GH¢21 million mainly in the Greater Accra Region.

So, if the Finder’s findings were to be true, we will end up having the most expensive president money can buy!

This year elections have also seen the introduction of more focused political messages. Instead of the drab, canned messages lifted from cut-and-paste manifestoes, the parties are beaming to us easy-to-digest ideas we can sink our teeth into.

The ruling NDC is all over the place with its Better Ghana Agenda with adverts chronicling for us its achievements in power.

In John Mahama, the NDC has an extremely confident, affable man who appears to be at peace with himself. Behind the affability, however, we perceive a man that brooks no nonsense.

The president has also managed, within a few months, to rein in the babies with sharp teeth in his party and government, who managed to ostracized many people who might have taken a liking to the NDC.

Gladly, the nation has been spared the venomous vituperations of uncouth presidential spokesmen like Anyidoho and Presidential Staffers like Vanderpuye.

As we said many times in this column, the presidency is too important to be served by those unable to control either their temper or their mouth.

We cannot afford to have ill-mannered, ill-bred masochists speaking for our nation’s Chief Executive.

Ironically, the main opposition party, New Patriotic Party (NPP), have become associated with free education policy. This is great for a party that is supposed to be for the seriously rich men in society.

With social policies targeted at the under-privileged, the NPP have stolen the thunder of the NDC, a self-avowed social-democratic party.

The well-crafted adverts from the NPP show serious professionalism that showily demonstrated the fact that the party’s chairman was an advertising guru before he branched into politics.

Everyone can relate to the NPP’s main manta: “Free SHS Now.”

By telling us that the president was a beneficiary of a free education policy, the NPP makes it extremely difficult for the NDC to continue to lampoon the free education policy.

This is simply brilliant.

Wow, funny that the Danquahists borrowed Nkrumah’s battle cry of “Independence, now!”
The NPP’s candidate, Nana Akuffo-Addo, have also transformed himself into a more human, humane, accessible person who is even capable of social banter.

The picture of his eating Kenkey at a side chopbar was also an endearing one.

Kudos must go to Paa Kwesi Nduom, the Progressive People’s Party candidate. With its bold ideas and policy thrusts, the PPP has live up to its billing as a truly progressive party.

There is no deny the fact that for sheer organizational skills and personal dynamism, none of the presidential candidates comes close to Paa Kwesi Nduom.

It must take lots of ability and skills to single-handedly formed and launched a party and gave it national prominence within a very short time.

Those types of prodigious abilities ought to be saluted and celebrated irrespective of what we think of the man’s personal politics.

Not only that, the PPP’s programme remain the most visionary and the best articulated among the parties.

Were people to vote on pure merit alone, the PPP will win handsomely.

CPP’s Abu Sakara’s proved his mettle during the presidential Debates as he projected the image of a confident leader on top of issues.

His performance was simply sterling.

Alas, Nkrumah’s party continues to operate at the periphery of Ghanaian politics!
Top officials of the CPP told this writer that they know what they are doing at the grassroots; I can only hope that the party of Africa’s favourite son is able to spring a surprise in this year’s election.

On the other hand, my younger brother, Deji, always tell me that hope and prayer are not strategies!

And we cannot forget the comic relief provided us by the PNC leader, Hassan Ayariga – thank ye, gods, for small blessings.

The man gave us occasions to laugh and relieve our tensions.

He even managed to drag his mother to come out with an appeal in his behalf! But as we said before, Hassan Ayariga is no presidential material and he, undoubtedly, knows it. Even members of his own party appeared scandalized by his antics.

Let it never be said that our politics lack a dull moment or that it is devoid of joksters. Our political lexicon have been greatly enriched by words like ‘Ayarigate,’ and we all know what Ayaricough now mean.

Whatever happens, Ghana appears to have crossed a political Rubicon: Free Education has become the standard by which every political party will be judged.

In this column we have consistently advocated for the implementation of a free and compulsory education for every Ghanaian.

A free education for youth should go in tandem with a comprehensive adult literacy education programme to ensure that illiteracy is totally wiped out from our society.
No nation that haboured illiterate citizens has ever been able to break out of the under-development logjam.

We are either serious or we are not. We cannot eat our cake and expect to keep having it. Let no one tell us any lie; without full complement of educated people, we shall never break out of our Third-World status.

As we wrote in, “It is education, stupid”: In a globalized world, we need to produce global citizens who can successfully compete with their peers from anywhere in the world.

We need to seriously reconsider our education system under which we continue to graduate people who cannot think critically.

We cannot continue to operate a system whereby our graduates are good at only quotology – swallowing and regurgitating facts like parrots mimicking human voices.

Our next leader should be someone prepared to break away from the crowd and lead. He should be a confident person and one that is bold enough to tell us basic home truths. Principal among this that there is no way we can continue the way we are going and expect to get anywhere.

Our next leader should be one emboldened to change the whole paradigm of our education system.

Our next leader should be an education President. If he only could successfully prosecute an education agenda that give our children quality education, linked intrinsically with our core traditional values, he would succeed beyond measures.

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