As Prof. John Evans Atta Mills is sworn-in as Third President of the Third Republic today, many Nigerians and groups have continued to hail Ghana’s democratic culture.
Still pained by the controversies that heralded the 2007 polls in Nigeria, they stressed that the country could learn a couple of lessons from the Ghana example, to deepen democracy in the world’s largest black nation.
Those who spoke on the issue were presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2007 polls, Prof. Patrick Utomi, President of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin and National Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Yinka Odumakin.
Mills won the presidency after three polls in four weeks – the first ballot, a run-off and a mini-run-off in a constituency. Mills, who contested on the banner opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) had 4,521,032 votes (50.23 per cent) to be crowned the winner of the Ghana 2008 Presidential polls while Akufo-Addo polled 4,480,446 votes (49.77 per cent). In spite of misgivings, Akufo-Addo has congratulated Mills and the ruling NPP withdrew all suits against the polls. And today’s swearing-in of Mills will take place without rancour and acrimony.
Looking at the Ghana scenario, Utomi congratulated the people of Ghana and her electoral institution and suggested Nigeria may need technical assistance from the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) to enthrone and sustain democratic ethos.
In a statement by Kila Odunayo (press/media aide), Utomi said: “I would like to congratulate the Ghanaian people for doing Africa proud by holding credible and fair elections that would help in removing the shame that has been elections in Africa recently.
“As I also congratulate the electoral commission in Ghana for having more than a thing or two to teach their counterparts elsewhere in Africa, especially in Nigeria, I do hope it will not be considered uncharitable to suggest that we may need technical assistance from the Ghanaian Electoral Commission.
“We also hope that whoever is considering the Electoral Reform Committee’s report should pay attention to what has happened in Ghana to see what they can learn from it.”
He continued: “As it is pertinent to note that democracy has finally arrived in Ghana by the fact of change from one political party to the other each election cycle, it helps us with a very important understanding of the nature of multi-party democracy, which is that possibilities are embedded in the nature of the process.
“One of the great lessons of multi-party politics and democratic process is that sometimes, even when an incumbent party is doing well, change may be necessary as this would prevent absolute power from resting in any group because the group may become insensitive to the people.
“As Lord Acton says, I have said often, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that even more importantly, prolonged absolute power makes mad. This is why democracy gives people the opportunity to change governments after a while even if nothing terrible has happened to the government just to ensure those in power knows that the people are sovereign and power must be responsive to the people.
“When Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman said they would be in power for 60 years, I did not bother to join the list of those criticising him because though it was a natural thing to say, it was a comment showing of lack of sophistication and an understanding that democracy of its own tries to change prolonged absolute power.
“I therefore call on all patriotic people of goodwill to join in congratulation the Ghanaian people who show great wisdom in changing leadership from time to time from party to party, as they help expose the retrogression inherent this kind of approach. Of greater importance to me are the Nigerian people who should now realize that it is in our hands if we want to be constantly outdone by the Ghanaians, and that as we resolve never again to leave our future to some government agency or regulatory body, we must pull-in together and indeed with one voice say it is only together we can.”
In like manner, the ARG in a statement by Odumakin congratulated Ghanaians as they look forward to the inauguration of their new president today, “after a testy election that stretched the democratic fibre of their country to its limit.”
He said that the rest of Africa, indeed the world watched with anxiety as Ghana went through all the motions as stipulated by the rules and eventually came out stronger – with the democratic enterprise the better for it.
The first and the second ballot in December 7 failed to produce a clear winner as stipulated by the constitution. The second ballot on December 28 did not meet the constitutional prescription of a candidate hitting the 50 per cent mark to be declared winner. “At this point, the African democratic demon was about to raise its ugly head in Ghana as elements in the ruling party wanted to borrow a leaf from their Nigerian counterparts. But they failed woefully. Thanks to the Electoral Commission in Ghana that maintained its integrity, the Ghanaian Judiciary that has shown itself as an example to Nigeria’s and outgoing President John Kufuor who chose to be a statesman rather than a politician.”
He continued: “We commend the awakened electorates in Ghana who ensured that their votes count and were counted even if they had to go through all the sessions and tensions. They have shown that Africans can fight within the rules without bringing down the house and that there is nothing genetically wrong with us.
The Ghanaian Electoral Commission led by Kwadwo Afari-Gyan has also shown that any country that wants to learn any lesson from electoral conduct should go to Ghana and ignore the loquacious Prof. Maurice Iwu who asked America to come for tutorials in Nigeria.
The “biggest for nothing” party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must by now see that it is not about size but how responsible a party is that endears it to the people. That Ghanaians were split almost 50-50 between the NDC and NPP is a statement on how responsible the two parties have been in office.
It is on record that under the duo, Ghana has enjoyed uninterrupted power supply; economic prosperity and an enduring functional state where corruption is no longer a factor.
“By far the greatest hero of this successful project is President Kufuor who did not behave like most incumbents in Africa do. He had all the chance to turn Ghana to another headache in Africa. He could have asked the EC boss to falsify the figures for his party, but he declared that elections in Ghana were not a “do-or-die” affair.
He could have behaved like Babangida, Kibaki or Mugabe by annulling the NDC victory, but he had his eyes on history and disagreed with his own party. He is now a democratic icon in Africa to shame the Obasanjos, Kibakis, Mugabes and their ilk.
As Ghana inaugurates Attah Mills, the product of the fifth successive and successful elections since 1992, he called on all the institutions and democratic actors in Ghana to keep up their conduct so that Ghana could continue on the path of progress. “Ghana must go on. The party in power and the opposition (with almost equal strength in parliament) must cooperate in the interest of the country without necessarily sacrificing their principles.”
On her part, Okei-Odumakin said that Ghana’s democratic consolidation was a good example for Africa and congratulated Ghanaians for the peaceful, and heartwarming resolution of the presidential elections.
Her words: “The resolution of the logjam on the side of exemplary democratic conduct is a testimony for the maturity of democracy in Ghana and good temperament of its political actors. The Ghanaian electorate, the Electoral Commission, the Judiciary and all other institutions of State by their various conducts put the Nation First before every other consideration.
It is exciting that the keenly contested elections, which saw the winner with a slim margin, did not degenerate into upheavals, as there were no reports of violent clashes between and among the parties and their supporters. The Ghana story is a very clear message that all hope is not lost for Africa and that the democratic project can be a sweet experience on the continent if political actors can borrow a leaf from the Ghanaian model and play the game according to the rules of the game.”
Okei-Odumakin said that Nigeria, what happened in Ghana was a humbling experience because “48 years after independence, Nigeria is still battling with how to conduct elections that the world can celebrate.
The only time we got it right was on June 12, 1993 before the forces of backwardness annulled the hope of the renewal for the democratic project in the country’s successive elections after that have continued to be monumental embarrassments.”
“If we are to move forward as a nation, we must be ready to do all that Ghana did to attain this status. We must be able to observe the rules to the letter and elevate the nation above narrow, selfish and short-term interests. Ghana is attaining greatness because it has shunned the corrupt path and the route of perfidy. Great nations are never built on fraud.”
Congratulating Mills, she urged him “to work ceaselessly to consolidate on the gains of his predecessors so that Ghana may continue to shine as a beacon and worthy example to other misguided countries in Africa, ours inclusive.”
Credit: By Clifford Ndujihe