Political Campaigns And Hollow Promises
FLASHBACK! NPP political rally
WORDS BECOME, and are very important in the struggle for political power. Politicians deal mostly in words, and words that do not always have any bearing in the real world of actions. To get votes, candidates promise the heavens. But judging by election campaigns, it is plausible to conclude that politicians do not have love for one another. It is a rare race for office that contains no mudslinging and dirty tricks. And it is political suicide to concede that opponents have good ideas at all. Each party candidate points out the opposition is incapable and will bring disaster. But how can politicians claim to have the interest of all the people at heart when they have so much low opinion about their opponents and their supporters? Perhaps, the standard of wisdom in Ghanaian multiparty politics is so low that men of less than average mental capacity have to stoop in order to reach it.
Bread and Leisure
But in politics, there is the game factor; and the players are interchangeable. In ancient Rome, the acceptable political wisdom was: ‘Give them bread and circuses and they will let you do as you will’. That was sadly accurate. The masses were satisfied with material goods and a quota of entertainment. The same thing is true of Ghana today, although it is not fashionable to think of the people as being given such things by government or by politicians seeking office. Rather, it is claimed as one’s rights.
Political theorists have haggled over the best way to ensure humanity its rights, ever since people have been living together in communities. Today’s global map is a patch work quilt of nations – each convinced that it has found the best way for people to live together. But there is not a society in which everybody is satisfied with the way things are run or done.
All the various political philosophies – capitalism, communism, socialism, military dictatorship, despotism and others – have been tried. Even during the time when God Himself led ancient Israel face-to-face out of Egyptian bondage and cruelty to the Promised Land, the people complained of economic hardship, ‘…If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost; also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite, we never see anything but this manna!’ Numbers 11:46.
Since 1957, Ghana has had four military and four constitutional democratic regimes. In the four interventions, those bureaucratic politicians whose only tool was a hammer, tended to treat everything in their wake as a nail. Starting 1992, the country has had a social democratic government until 2000. At that period the country had been beset by a weak economy and widespread unemployment.
Then came a new regime in 2001 – a conservative centre-right government that ran the affairs of the nation for eight years. It too, had been overwhelmed by a weak economy and widespread unemployment. All the governments ended up producing virtually the same sort of inequity. No matter who cuts the cake, the pieces are never the same size. More often than not, greed exerts pressure to protect a measure or programme deemed in one’s own interest, while envy demands new favours to redress or terminate programmes or measures already implemented for the benefit of others. No politician seemed willing to give up enough of his own so that everybody would have the same amount. Rather, they are always worried about getting the shorter end of the stick.
The Emerging Present
Ghana cannot survive into the future on so much political jousting and self-centered interests, poor leadership examples, greed and envy. The more-than-five decades of national political experience and economic grimness, and having to encounter an ever-shifting frontier, meant a constant rediscovery of eternal values with an emerging present.
The dynamic environment may lead to conscious efforts for change on the part of politicians and other authority figures in lieu of their established pattern of taking things for granted. The real change seemed underway because of four things: One: a new concept of the Ghanaian based on increased knowledge of his complex, shifting needs and growing political maturity which replaced an over-simplified, ignorant, innocent, push-button idea of him. Two: the articulate, educated, and politically aware segment of the population, not only has grown in number, but has also become somewhat more committed than in the recent past. Three: a new concept of power based on collaboration and reason which replaced a model of power based on coercion and threat. Four: a new concept of organizational values based on humanistic-democratic ideals which replaced the depersonalized, mechanistic value system of bureaucratic politics.
Politicians and their political parties are not altruists. Even if they are, they are not perfect. They are social entrepreneurs with strong self-interest. Although there may be conflicting ideas, positions, or views between government and opposition parties or groups, yet democracy is inevitable because it is the only system which can successfully cope with changing demands of contemporary civilization.
By democracy is meant hope and virtue, political decisions on the part of the electorate, respect and dignity of all men and equality before the law, a climate of beliefs and values and free communication, regardless of rank and power, reliance on consensus rather than coercion to manage conflict. And the idea that influence is based on technical competence and knowledge rather than the vagaries of personal whims or prerogative of power and a basically human bias which accept the inevitability of conflict between government and groups and individuals but which are willing to cope or mediate this conflict on rational ground.
Not everybody would use the word democracy to describe this set of beliefs and values, however. But the contrast between this climate and that of the authoritarian machine-like politics may be clear. It may be clear also that the actual trend in Ghana’s political scene is moving forward in democratic progression – not backward in authoritarian retrogression.
To consolidate progress, government must maintain peace and stability to counter high risk perception among investors, accelerate reform and build institutional capacity. It is strong institutions that will ensure that rent-seeking and corruption are contained and that the level playing field for investors and every Ghanaian is in place.
On the seashore Mother Ghana stands, looking for smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the vast sea lies undiscovered before her. Therefore, in this defining time of national political journey, there must be no turning back, nor faltering, even when the storm rages and thunder roars and the sea beats against the rocks in huge, dashing waves. With eyes and heart fixed on the substance of great things hoped for, may this infant democracy increasingly mature with its priceless and terrible gift of freedom; and may it be carried forth and presented safely to future generations.
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