I will begin this write-up by saying that even though it is going to create the negative impression that the country does not have patriotic and honest politicians, a few of them have been.
During the latter part of the seventies, I was in the U.S. and I took advantage of my being there to interact with people in addition to making sure the purpose of my stay was achieved. I was able to have discussions with people from various classes of the society, including students, lecturers, civil servants, and politicians; some of whom became my friends.
Topics for our discourse covered many aspects of life but I was more interested in educational and political practice. The fruitful conversations we had especially on politics gave me an insight into American social life and how a democratic political system is practised in the country.
I was in America when two general elections were held. During a talk with a friend of mine concerning one of the elections, I was surprised to hear that he voted for the Democratic candidate because I knew him to be a Republican Party fanatic. When I gathered the courage to ask him the rationale behind his voting, he reminded me that the election was a national one and so the most capable person was needed.
Then he went on to say that he thought the Democratic candidate was the one who could lead the country better and sustain its prosperity and greatness. Truly, this is the opinion I gathered from many of the people I had the election post-mortem with. To them voting should be based on ability to lead and perform and not on personality or where the candidate comes from.
During another presidential election campaign, one of the aspirants said, and I quote,’ I have got the financial power already. Now I need the political power so that I can serve and help develop my country’, unquote. This is how he introduced himself to the electorate and asked for their votes so that he could ‘serve’ the nation. He ended up winning the presidential election and becoming the President of the U. S. And true to what he said he served his term without blemish and the country prospered.
I have followed political practice in many other western democracies and seen that the main aim and objective of people entering politics in these countries is the same as I witnessed in the U.S. and that is, to help improve the living conditions of the people. The politicians are patriotic and the heads of state in these countries selfless and so they are able to work together in bringing sensible developments that benefit their people in their respective countries. Their institutions are made to work systematically and nobody is above the law.
To the patriotic politicians in the west, it is nation and not self and family first. And so with all due diligence put in place and adhered to, they are able to manage their economies profitably. It is therefore no coincidence that their nations are now developed countries
Sadly, political practice in Ghana and I believe, in Africa, is in no way comparable to what prevails in the western world. Unlike western democracies, only a few people enter politics with the avowed aim to serve the nation and improve the living standards of the people. Many of them go into the profession with a personal hidden agenda which is to acquire wealth, first and foremost, for themselves and then for family and friends.
They take politics as an easy route to improving their personal living standards with the hope that they will be protected by parliamentary immunity which will enable them to dip their hands into the nation’s chest with impunity. It is only in Ghana or Africa that politicians or people in authority are not made to face the rigours of the law when they infringe it.
The Legislature is autonomous only on paper because the head of state or the executive could control it. Most of the aspirants normally portray themselves as angels or people with magical wands and promise the electorate anything they can think of. Others may not have the qualities or all that it takes to be lawmakers or heads of state but may have an extensive tribal base which could guarantee a huge support in times of elections.
Eventually such unpatriotic and selfish people are voted into power, unfortunately, by the unsuspecting ignorant voters who are unable to discern the genuine from the fake ones. This is because voting is, in most cases, based on tribal lines and not on policies. This tribal bias is one of the problems in Ghana politics. Even if an idiot manages to become the leader of a party, all party members and people in his linguistic area will vote for him whether he is good for purpose or not. Another canker is corruption because it is through it that the politicians are able to acquire their wealth at the expense of the nation and her people.
Again, it is only in Ghana and Africa that anything could happen in politics and governance. The government that is formed could be made up mainly of members of the president’s family and friends. Governing boards of state institutions could be dissolved unwisely and new ones made up of party loyalists or cronies formed whether they are qualified or not. Projects started by the previous regime could wickedly be neglected whether they are beneficial to the state or not and contractors would not be paid.
After all the politicians are in government to satisfy their whims and caprices and not to serve the nation and the people who elected them. In order to make their money, contracts signed could be inflated and the monetary difference paid into individual pockets. Some of these contracts could be given to members within the government, many of whom might not even have the necessary tools for the work for which the loans are given.
Soon these politicians could be seen living in mansions, riding big cars, and owning many properties at home and abroad. Foreign loans upon loans would be sought by the government ostensibly to develop the country but nothing could be seen on the ground in terms of development. There would still be the absence of infrastructure, lack of jobs and absence of social services. Living standards would continue to be high and the people would begin to feel the pinch of the hardships as a result of the stagnant economy.
However, in spite of how harsh the economic situation and the living standards might be these sycophants and the die-hard parochial and ignorant members of the governing party would not utter a word. They would not criticize the government and neither would they allow anybody to do so. Anyone who does becomes an enemy. And when these toad-eaters of the government party are asked why they are not saying anything against the visionless government or individual members of the ruling party, the response would always be and I quote, ‘it is our party’ or ‘he is our party member.’ To them whether the government is performing well or not and whether they are suffering as a result of government’s actions or inactions or not, there should be no negative criticism against it. This is ridiculous, if not a stupid attitude.
This is contrary to what happens in the west, especially, Great Britain, where people vote on policies and not according to personality or where one comes from. Individuals can differ on issues and express their opinions openly and freely without fear. Even in the houses of parliament, parliamentarians of the same party can differ as a matter of principle and vote against their own party or government on issues they disagree with.
That is why some of the time we hear of rebels. They are not rebels as such. They react the way they do because unlike Ghanaian politicians, they have principles and conscience which they do not want to be compromised. Therefore they do not just accept what the government says or does without a full examination. I have not heard of any member of a Ghanaian parliament criticising or voting against his own party. Anything that comes from the executive is proper.
One would have thought that it would only be the uneducated ignorant members of the party who might have this ‘it is our party, it is our party members’ mind-set. But no; the educated, the intellectuals, the academicians, and even the clergymen of the party also share this divisive and unproductive mentality. This attitude which makes people support a person because of a group association, whether the person is qualified or not, does not help the nation in any way. Tribalism and nepotism which lead to corruption are cankers in a society and politics. They are retrogressive and so they have to be shunned to pave the way for national development.
Politicians, therefore, have to change their mentality and cultivate a love for their country. This must be through avowed determination to get rid of sectionalism, dishonesty, and corruption in them and in the system in order to achieve the national goal. Otherwise, the country would remain underdeveloped and governments would continue to go to the west to beg for loans, some of which, in most cases, go into personal pockets. Governments do not sit down to think of how the money they go in for as loans were made. This dependence on the west will keep the country in the clutches of the industrialized countries, resulting in neo-colonialism prophesied by the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah if Ghanaians do change their greedy attitudes.
Ghanaians, wake up; Ghanaian youth, wake up!