Despite the new coronavirus pandemic and the ever-present threat of another spike in the number of infections, the ongoing voters registration exercise has been successful. I hope that we will convert our computer systems to continuous updating of the voters register especially since we now collect a lot of biometric information that can be stored and continuously updated in this digital age. The success, I hope, will translate into the enfranchisement of more people who will do their civic duty by casting their votes during the forthcoming elections.
I cannot say whether the teeming numbers of people who are registering is evidence of a resurgence of interest in politics in Ghana; I suspect the prospect of the once in four years sharing of goodies during the election campaign may be the reason, especially if you can show that you are eligible to vote for either of the two major parties is what has motivated more people to register. We all know that it is during the election campaigns that the people get the rewards for participating in politics, that a lot of money changes hands when the ‘hail from’ politicians go back to their villages to make themselves relevant to their people.
I cannot register in London because the ROPAL that President Kufour promised us will not be implemented this year, so I will forget about coming down to contest at Ayawaso Central this time round though a good friend of mine tells me that I should wake up from that dream because my pension money will be gobbled up on the first day of the campaign by my constituency operatives who will take their cut. Without money, lots of money, I do not stand a chance of winning even if I make the most outlandish promises. A seat in parliament to represent my people of Lagos Town is sadly beyond me.
He was humbled and humiliated in the 2005 by-election at Odododiodoo because he did not have money and people did not want to even listen to him. He tells me that the young boys sing for the NPP at their Korle Wukon office and they are given tons of money and T-Shirts, they change into NDC gear and are given bucketful of ‘unaccounted money’ at the NDC office with extra goodies. When they get to his office on Bannerman Road, they sing and play CPP ‘jama’ songs. He has no money to give them, so they made a song about him not having any money to give and that is what they sing when they get near his office. He lost and came back to London.
The whole concept and praxis of multi-party politics that should include, principles, philosophies, policies and programmes, has been replaced with pounds, and propaganda, and large dollops of insults on personalities, the insults are on radio with serial callers, on television by agent provocateurs, at press conferences, on social media with fake news. Our elections have become more important than politics, the debates are hollow – it is no longer about ideas for transforming the country, it is about ‘this party did this when in power so we can also do it’, even if what we are doing is below the standard for lifting up a developing country.
No one bothers to read the manifestos, they chant meaningless slogans every four years and imbibe the empty promises the parties make, till the next four years. This is the ‘cocoa season’ when the parties will come to shower the electorate with money. In the absence of well-rehearsed rhetoric, propaganda and promises, fill the space and people do not care whether the decision they make is informed or not.
Our representatives in parliament could do with better resourcing, with funds for rigorous research by competent political officers, consultants, and advisers so that our debates, especially on contentious issues, will be much richer. Parliament has been reduced to opposing because you are in opposition or rubberstamping because you belong to the majority party. Politicians on both sides should be intent on scrutiny of decisions of the executive. Whilst upskilling our parliamentarians we should encourage discussions and debates on politics and policies at all levels of the polity. Most of the talk is about who will win the next election, not about their policies and no offer of how they could serve the interests of the people they are representing better. With no party politics at the local level, the debates by the many honourable assemblymen and women remain hollow.
For a country that is so obsessed with elections, we relegate political discussions to funerals and only between people of the same party on their platforms. On family, year group, and tribal WhatsApp groups, you read a lot of discussion of America, British, Chinese, Middle Eastern and the politics of other African countries but when you mention politics in Ghana, the administrator clamps down on you. Most drinking bars have notices against political discussions, that I can understand because discussing politics when one is tired and emotional can be toxic and lead to unintended consequences.
So exactly where are we supposed to air our views about what is happening and how do we get our leaders to change track. I am sure that they have their own ways of testing opinion amongst their foot soldiers and macho men and women who are scared of losing their source of money if they are seen to be saying what they think would be against their leadership.
We need to engage in more political discussion, we need to offer the leadership of our country more critical friendship from the mass of the people, let us open that the channels for discussing politics, that is the freedom that multiparty democracy offers us and maybe we will be getting closer to the deepening of our democracy that we so crave..
Moni gbaa gbe enaa esɛɛ!
Owula Ade Sawyerr