Why Number Of Years Does Not Matter

I read a news item on myjoyonline.com in which the Member of Parliament for Tafo/Pankrono, Honourable Dr Anthony Akoto Osei was proposing a seven-year non-renewable tenure of office for the president.

The adoption of such a system, in his view, would cause presidents to deliver to the satisfaction of Ghanaians.

According to the news item, the reason why governments have not been able to take bold and nation-transforming decisions is linked to the fear of losing re-election.

In other words, since the president would not be seeking re-election, he would initiate bold policies and programmes that would promote the interest of the nation and his political party.

The news item also made references to other issues which I agree with, such as the need to have a national development blueprint as well as the need to take another look at the practice where majority of ministers are selected from parliament.

But what I do not agree with is the call for a seven-year term and the promises it holds.

On the face of it, it is a good proposal. The president gets one term comprising seven years. Within this period, the president is aware of the bar placed on him. As a result, he would be inclined to take all the hard decisions that have to be taken within the given time and simply bow out into statesmanship when his time is due.

After all he would not care two hoots about the rantings of foot soldiers; and what’s more, he would not be bothered so much about the political perceptions that sometimes translate into votes.

The expectation is that we would all be clapping for him for having stuck his head out, put his best foot forward and done all that ought to be done to transform the fortunes of our nation. But it is not as simple as that.

In my sincere opinion, the problems and issues that confront us as a nation has got nothing to do with the current tenure of office of the president. Rather, it has everything to do with whether those elected into office are willing to go the extra mile to transform the lives and promote the welfare of the people.

Institutional limitations in the form of tenure of offices and so on, inasmuch as they are important, cannot propel a government to go further than the government is willing to go. It is a question of ambition and appetite; how much wealth the government is able to create and how that translates into improved livelihoods.

Blaming the fear of losing elections, therefore, on the need not to subject presidents to additional electoral processes so as to see them achieve greater things is in itself an indictment of the whole electoral processes over which we expend not only a lot of financial resources but also emotional capital.

If the electoral process causes political office holders to tackle national challenges in piecemeal and inefficient ways, then we are probably better off living without it.

In my view, it is a question of ambition, preparedness and how much the president and his government are willing to do within the given time frame. Be it four years or seven years.

Those who argue that the four-year period is too short are quick to point out that after winning elections, politicians start thinking about the next elections. As a result, they are not able to focus on their core mandate.

The question that comes up immediately then is: What is the relationship between having the next elections in mind and bad governance? Is it rather not a strong incentive enough for governments to live up to expectation? I cannot see the connection.

Even if we assume that politicians are always thinking of the next elections and thus do perform badly, how does a seven-year non-renewable tenure contribute to the resolution of this problem?

None of the presidents we’ve had so far in the history of this country has stood as independent candidates. They all belong to political parties.

As long as the presidents belong to political parties, the likelihood of a party prompting the president not to damage its [the party’s] electoral fortunes by “his bold acts” always comes to play.

Probably we need to remind ourselves of the fact that we live in a “particratic state” where those in the executive and the legislature exist to please the party.

The answers to our leadership challenges are basic. They have nothing to do with the length of the tenure of office and so on.

It comes down to simply how far the leadership and its people are willing to go. In sum, it is a question of ambition.

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