A Glance At Ghana – By Kelechi Jeff Eme
Nigerians are ordinarily patriotic people especially when the international image of their country is at stake. This patriotism gets more pronounced when there is an attempt to compare their “mighty” country with any “tiny” African nation in any field of human endeavor. “We are the giant of Africa.” They will proclaim with glee to the envy of even the most patriotic American citizen. The convenient alibi most Nigerians anchor their dismissal of the democratic milestone Ghana has attained is the “smallness” of the country and the “bigness” of our great country.Remind them of highly populated and democratically advanced countries like India, Brazil and United States of America, they either recoil into their delusionary shells or offer the feeble excuse of the aforementioned countries not domiciled in Africa.
One important lesson we have failed to learn as a country is the non-linear relationship between democracy and population. Democracy thrives on the attitude of the people, the political elite, the clergy, the civil society organizations and the traditional institution towards the entrenchment of statutory public institutions that coalesce into the betterment of the lives of present and future generations. A diverse country such as Nigeria can only be on the right democratic lane when we eschew negative virtues like ethnicity, bigotry, nepotism and greed. These are the ingredients that continuously fuel the unimaginable corruption in our polity. We must however admit that corruption is as old as man but this animalistic tendency is in most cases drastically curtailed by the administration of justice without fear or favour. While the resort to capital punishment has not eliminated corruption in China, it has reduced it to a manageable level that engendered economic flourishing of the country.
The election of President John Dramani Mahama of the Republic of Ghana has once more showcased the country as the most competitive democratic country in Africa. Ghanaians in reaffirming their readiness to continue with the leadership of the Johns conclusively rejected the candidature of Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, a veteran politician oozing with supreme legal acumen. The opposition leader though a friendly and easy going gentleman was perceptively viewed as arrogant, rich and aristocratic. My assessment of his persona based on the limited interactions I had with him as a fellow congregant of Ridge Church and at social events is at variance with the general perception of him. The lesson here is that no matter how articulate, humane and astute you are as a politician, a negative public perception your personality will at all times render you unelectable. Nana as he is fondly called by admirers has probably been retired from competitive politics by Ghanaian voters.
Another important lesson from Accra is the ability of the Ghanaian voter to decipher through the manifestos of the political parties and situate them within the country’s developmental realities. In fact part of the reasons for the loss of the opposition was its promise of free education at Senior High School level. Considering the fact that Nana Addo was probably running his last presidential campaign, the ruling party effectively labeled his free education policy as populist and in line with the desperation of candidate who was on his final competitive campaign trail. The government effectively used facts, figures and logic to show Ghanaians that free education at Senor High School level is impossible considering the financial constraints the country is facing. Immediately that message was absorbed by the floating voters, the operation ‘let’s retire Nana” was home and dry. The post election grandstanding of the opposition leader could be located within the reality of the end of his presidential challenge in Ghana. The death of President John Mills and the emergence of the energetic, charismatic and loveable John Mahama arguably nailed his political coffin.
The failing of our present democratic dispensation is an aggregate of the collective failures of the political elites, the technocrats, the academia, the labour unions, the judiciary and the masses. The huge turnover of the leadership of the electoral commission is a demonstration of the control political authorities exert on the electoral process. We have organized four different elections with four different heads of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). At times one wonders the relevance of the word independent in the entire setup. It is noteworthy that Dr. Kojo Afari Djan has been the head of Ghana’s electoral commission since the country returned to democratic rule in 1992. He has organized six successful elections and will retire at the age of seventy. The lesson here is that administrative stability and security of tenure is an essential factor in organizing free and fair elections.
The most dangerous factor inhibiting our democratic march is the docility of the masses in asserting their rights. The ordinary Nigerian has been carefully oriented to bigotry and ethnicity to the point that he sees his fellow suffering citizen of different tribe and creed as his enemy. This resentment in most cases is in misguided protection of corrupt and nation wrecking politicians he considers as his tribesman and sect soul mate. The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian political elite has no religion, no tribesman or woman and cares less about such depictions as long as his seat on the gravy train is permanently guaranteed. His brothers, sisters and religious soul mates are the people seated on the huge “chop chop” table with him. The lesson is that Ghanaians have to a large extent exorcised the ghost of religion and ethnicity in making electoral decisions. In reality, candidates seen as ethnic and religious jingoists are thoroughly humiliated by their tribesmen and fellow religious adherents in an election. You cannot plant cassava and reap yam.
Those who shudder at the mere thought of making a comparison between an imaginary giant and a perceived Lilliputian in any area of human endeavour should revisit their notes and realize that the 21st century train is in motion conveying realists to the 22nd century. The sentimentalists are not part of the journey to that destination. One democratic right you can enjoy as an individual is the ability to dream. In this dream you can be a professor or multi billionaire, own the choicest cars, jets, homes and if you are the randy type, enjoy a wonderful bliss in the arms of most beautiful of women. Reality will however beckon on you when you wake up from that dream. You do not just dream success. You actualize it through practical steps.