The Politician

The story of the three Billy goats gruff is very intriguing. It tells how three Billy goats craftily crossed a troll’s bridge leading to his untimely death. In this story, the three Billy goats were hungry and wanted to crossover to a greener posture on the other side of the field. Between the Billy goats and the greener posture laid a bridge, underneath it, was a hungry troll ready to devour whoever crossed the bridge. So the Billy goats devised a scheme to deceive the troll.

The tiniest Billy goat was the first to cross the bridge. When he was confronted by the troll, the tiniest Billy goat pleaded with the troll to spare his life because his fat or big brother was next to cross the bridge. The troll allowed him to pass while he waited for the brother.

The fat brother arrived and he was allowed to pass because he told the troll that the fattest mother was next to cross the bridge. Finally, the strong and fattest mother arrived to overpower the troll leading to his untimely death.

Our political situation today bears some semblance of this story. While politicians are promising one big thing after the other in order to cross our bridge, the people are faithfully looking forward to the fulfillment of these big promises. Eventually, we are left with disappointment and broken promises.

Behind the bridge lies the greener posture waiting for the politician but underneath it are hunger, sorrow, economic hardship and despair. The politician knows that his fortunes will turnaround so long as he is able to cross the bridge. Therefore, he will move heaven and earth to do so.

For us, even the promise of the next big goat never materialized and even in the face of numerous unfulfilled promises, we are craftily persuaded to always drink a bitter pill or tighten our belt for better future. The promise of probity and accountability, positive change and better Ghana did little to illuminate the light at end of the tunnel for us, the people. It is quite clear that our future is likely to replicate this cycle of poverty and unfulfilled promises unless we as a people take active role in politics.

Unfortunately, we have developed a political system which to a large extent excludes the people from influencing the daily decisions of politicians. We have allowed them to sit at the negotiation table to ‘cut deals’ while we shout and scream outside the table hoping that they will one day hear our cry. We only become relevant a month or two to an election and once the outcome of the election is decided we are taken for granted and treated with disrespect and contempt as though we are unintelligent beings.

The politician knows that after we have been beaten by the harsh realities of daily life, we will turn to God to cry Abba Father or to Allah to pray and listen to the words of inspiration from televangelists and preachers and our anger will be curtailed. We will certainly return on a new day with renewed faith and willingness to dream again.

The politician has made politics as dirty as possible so that ‘decent’ people cannot participate. So we have no option than to leave politics and governance to them. But won’t be great if decent people are allowed to become active in the governance of this country, won’t be wonderful if these decent people and the politicians can sit at the negotiation table to negotiate deals that will benefit the ordinary person.

Won’t be awesome if the decent people are no longer shouting outside the negotiation table but can directly influence political decisions and can institute common sense into governance? Won’t it be great if by this arrangement the unclean politicians are perpetually cured from corruption and the people are never corrupted?

In his book, Revolutionary Path, Osagyefo noted that the effort of colonial people to end colonial exploitation demands eager and earnest collaboration of all and that the people must bring into service all their physical, mental and economic energies. He said, “a proper scrutiny of the colonial powers leads one to discover nothing but deception, hypocrisy, oppression and exploitation”. By operating on tribal differences the colonial powers age-long policy of divide and rule has been enhanced.

Osagyefo is still calling the people of Ghana to action and I believe he will not hesitate to describe today’s politicians as the colonial powers. In colonial times our enemy was the colonial powers, during the military era our enemy was the military but now who is our number one foe? Who is dividing our unity of purpose in order to rule, who is the oppressor?

We have dialogued with the military before, we have fought the colonial powers on high plane of dignity and discipline, what is standing between us and the good future is the politician and our integrity. But if can wake up, if we can unite, if we can be angry a little, if we can be disciplined, if we can cry a little, if we can shout out loud saying “we cannot take this anymore”, then we have taken the first step, a small step in the right direction.

As we take the first step forward, our obvious disappointment should not lead to distrust of all politicians. However, if there was or there is any ‘decent’ politician let him expose corruption, let him stop the covering up, let him resign his position when the quest to fight for the people is subdued by the selfish interest of the greedy ones, let him pay the political price for a good course and join our silent cry, let him speak out, and let him identify with us the people. Then we will know that his decency lies in deeds but not words.

In the year 2000, former president Rawlings reported serious energy crisis, and projected inflation rate of 9% in his last sessional address. By 2001 inflation would rise from projected 9% to 40%. The positive change regime of former president Kufour would learn nothing or little from the energy crisis of 1998/1999 but allowed it to develop into serious crisis in 2008. The positive change regime would propose similar solutions as the Rawlings regime to end the energy crisis once and for all.

By 2012 the serious energy crisis would degenerate to a catastrophe and it would assume a new name “Dumsor Dumsor”. The better Ghana regime would proudly claim “in all honesty that the phenomenon of dumsor, dumsor is not as bad as it used to be at the time we took over the management of the affairs of state”. By 2013 the Dumsor Dumsor would go out of control to become an uncontrollable catastrophe.

This is the track record of the managers of our capital (the politician) and when you have such bad managers you either invest somewhere else or you sit where the salient decisions are made to police your investment. Since we have no option than to invest in this monopoly, the only meaningful action is to actively influence the decision making process.

After over 20 years of reckless investment, we cannot afford to mortgage our destiny and that of our children to the politician, he has no track record, he has no moral, and he has no sympathy.

Sadly, the politician has even succeeded in persuading the people to believing that the only way to guarantee the peace and stability in this nation is to appease him. The recent attempt to resurrect Col. Acheampong from the grave by the people and repackage him as a Messiah is a reflection of the willingness of the people to live under the shadows of the politician.

The resurrection of the union government (unigov) concept in today’s national discourse is a temporary stop gap to stability and a bridge to nowhere. The Unigov which is being decorated as power sharing government would put politician in charge in a comprised position to further aggravate the plight of the people. It will maintain temporary order but will deprive us of the capacity to manage disorder or uncertainty required for lasting peace and stability.

Indeed, researchers, Cheeseman and Tendi who studied the power sharing government in Kenya and Zimbabwe attest to the fact that power sharing government serves to postpone conflict, rather than to resolve it. It is therefore not surprising that both Kenya and Zimbabwe power sharing governments could not survive for more than a term of office.

The IEA proposal for power sharing government will be a coalition that will increase the current constituencies of 275 to ceil at 400. The additional 125 constituencies will be reserved for marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities and women.

Additionally, if a political party goes beyond a certain threshold “like 40 per cent of valid votes” in an election, some key privileges such as ministerial and ambassadorial appointments should be given even if it loses the presidential race. This practical intervention was required to mitigate the manifestation of negative political culture and attitude “fuelling rancor, acrimony, sabotage of state agenda, do or die malady and political autocracy”.

Our nation is perceived to be unstable because the politician has forgone reason but entrenched his position on almost every important national issue. He has become laughably predictable when it comes to important matters of the state. You can easily predict what party A or B will say in any important national issue. Political decision making process has been reduced into a discrete phenomenon proudly formulated as “the minority will have their say and majority will have their way”. No middle grounds.

The parliamentary Hansard of March 4th 2014 epitomizes these entrenched and predictable behaviors of the politician. While NDC members of parliament blasphemously worship the president, the NPP members eagerly expose the president and the NDC government for omissions and unfulfilled promises without given credit where it is due. Apart Honorable Awuah who applauded the president for promoting made in Ghana goods most of the submissions were either designed to effectively push a political agenda or score a political point. In some case trivial issues of no or little significance were magnified to score political points.

To a large extent, we have reached a point where people can predict the thought of politicians with reasonable degree of accurate even before they utter a word. Such predictable and entrenched behaviors are the main cause of instability in the country.

If politics is about exchange of ideas then what will the opposition do when it is condemned into political dungeons and made irrelevant by the virtue of their allegiance. The opposition is likely to be unresponsive, disengaged or combative if it is rubber stamped into submission. The opposition has no avenue to exchange ideas, to win the argument in order to implement their program for which they were mandated. On the other hand, excessive predictability or entrenched positions by the opposition could results in excessive rubber stamping by the majority. No meaningful peace can be achieved in this predictable state.

In his Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers, David Turnbull identifies ‘order’ as a major problem of modernity. Rather than being governed by logic and method, modernity’s drive for order conceals its messy, contingent, unplanned and arational character. If we want to rethink peace and stability then we need to recognize uncertainty or diversity of opinion and even celebrate its unplanned and messy nature.

A political system driven by order or predictable politicians cannot survive the test of time because it has not developed the capacity to manage disorder, diversity or uncertainty of opinion. In other words, the system has not developed the capacity to manage fixed position on issues, predictable politicians or entrenched positions.

Tribalism or ethnicity is a form of order. Tribalism could be describe as people thinking or behaving in a way that makes them more loyal to their tribe than to their friends, their country or any other social group. Nkrumah used boarding school system to defuse tribalism by allowing different tribes to school together and learn how to manage their differences. I will say he used disorder or uncertainty to achieve stability.

The most successful president will be the one who will not surround himself with a particular ethnic group or tribe but the one who acknowledges and effectively manages disorder. Likewise, the most successful party will be the one that acknowledges and effectively manages disorder or uncertainty.

In the United Kingdom, the house of Lords provides limited oversight over the House of Commons. They can review, amend or delay bills which have been approved by the House of Commons and thereby introduce limited uncertainty in the political system. But here in Ghana, we have given our politicians a blank cheque to do all things, to misjudge, to mismanage, to misapply and to misuse.

In an attempt to conceal uncertainty in our body politics, the IEA is seeking to bring political parties together to share power but in doing so will deprive us of the capacity to manage our difference or uncertainty which is an important ingredient for lasting peace and stability. If this IEA system explodes in future we will have nothing left but acute instability.

Rather than promoting order or political comprise, we should invest our energy in teaching people how to dialog, how to agree and disagree, we should reform the electoral system to make it free and fair so that it is clear when one loses and when one wins, we should aim at fair distribution of members of parliament so that people will be properly represented. This will help us to build capacity for managing uncertainty which will eventually make us an anti-fragile state.

Active participation by the people will give us the opportunity to police our political investment from mismanagement while we introduce uncertainty into the political system. This uncertainty should not derail the system all together but should be able to reduce predictability in national body politics and decision making. Neither the majority nor the minority would like to be predictable anymore. The minority can also win arguments and can have the opportunity to implement their programs even though they are in the opposition. The majority can never dream of rubber stamp parliament but vibrant and active parliament.

By inviting the decent people to take active role in our national parliament, we can create a political system that benefit from uncertainty. These people’s candidate will be appointed by the people from credible groups and unions such as Christian council, Ghana bar association, teachers unions, bankers union, and student unions. The number of the people’s candidate should be just enough to introduce the necessary uncertainty that will balance power in the national assembly.

The recent occupy flag stuff house movement gives me hope that all is not lost. The people are gradually waking up to realization that nation building cannot be left in the hands of politicians. We are all responsible for achieving everlasting peace, justice, stability and prosperity for all. And we should run on the idea of combining powerful meritocracy and multi-party democracy to arrive at our ultimate destination. By this we can police our political investment and also build a political system that benefit from uncertainty, diversity of opinions and limited disorder.

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