In DepthColumnsDemocracy brewed in an African pot

Mon,20Nov2017

Posted on Monday, 03 December 2012 18:50

Democracy brewed in an African pot

As Ghanaians prepare to go to the polls, the whole country is awash with political party paraphernalia underscoring a grassroots appreciation of political pluralism.

 

But for the concept of universal adult suffrage the voters register would have garnered many more names as the youth show an acute awareness of what the grown -ups are doing.

Of course the interest of youngsters in this year's electoral process has been heightened by the candidature of the leading opposition party, the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo whose proposal for free senior high school education seems to resonate with the young and old alike.

The rather audacious nature of his pledge to the electorate has forced an edification process onto the local political discourse taking it away from the odious realm of character assassination and insults to a platform of constructive debates and policy oriented exchanges which hitherto were rare to the Ghanaian body politic.

There still remain nonetheless, elements of gutter politics as parties continue to use a candidate's biography to undo his message.

With both the incumbent, John Dramani Mahama dubbed the caretaker President after the untimely demise of his predecessor, John Evans Atta Mills and his main rival Akuffo Addo being on the receiving end of wild accusations that are generally unfounded.

The beauty in all of this however is that democratic governance so far has brought out the best and the worst in a nation that prides itself as a continental trailblazer.

When the ugly specter of electioneering violence generates a civil society's plea for moderation and calm, one senses the ethos of a peace loving country sustaining a political process that was imported from the West.

Indeed Ghana's democracy has proven to be one of the strongest in Africa and with an impending fifth presidential contest the call for political harmony has proven to be the leitmotiv in every candidate's message. Mammoth political rallies are now accentuated by a clarion call for tranquility at the polls.

The maturity of the candidates is undoubtedly showing through their fervent commitment to peace as they all responded affirmatively to an invitation by Ghana's foremost traditional ruler the Asantehene (King of the Ashanti) Otumfuo Osei Tutu ii who along with the institute for democratic governance (ideg), a local political think tank, called on all flag bearers to sign a peace pact to ensure stability in the country before, during and after the elections.

Even in the midst of democratic governance the traditional leader still finds a place as the role of the chief gains new significance in a westernized political dispensation.

So far some of the traditionalists have opted to identify openly with political parties but the significance of otumfuo's gesture is not lost on Ghanaians as a traditional ruler showed his ability to call on his more contemporary counterparts to diffuse tension by staging a campaign that is devoid of unnecessary antagonism and entreating their followers to behave as the nation prepares for general elections.

The clergy too has been drawn into the all encompassing melee of Ghanaian politics with the sound bytes of a leading evangelist, Mensa Otabil making its way into the campaign ads of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in their attempt to discredit the free high school policy of their main political rivals.

If the December 7th polls prove to be smooth and peaceful with an electoral commissioner's verdict that is not challenged by any of the parties, the 2012 election will prove to be a fascinating contest showcasing all that there is to know about the relatively tiny West African country where Kwame Nkrumah once stood and proclaimed the liberation of the black man.

From the most rural setting where crowds carry the slogans of political parties as they go chasing after party convoys to the high minded intellectual debates that have stretched the mental capacity of presidential candidates, Ghana's politics continues to be a complex human endeavor that portrays the cocktail of variables that go into making democratic practice a success in Africa.

The Ghanaian situation is even made more poignant by a vibrant and dynamic media interfacing the proper combination of the ancient with the modern, as well as the inevitable correspondence between rural and urban, and of course the unending friction existing between the religious and the secular with worldly rulers at odds with God's chosen ones.

Elections in Africa invariably tend to spring up scenarios that are often missing in other democracies around the world.

It is probably so because all the peculiar features of an African state play into the successful implementation of a multi party political system on the continent.

From the unruly ghetto goon whose belligerent posturing activates the interest of security agencies to the greedy businessman exchanging cash with a dirty politician for a chunk of favors in case the latter is successful at the polls, every single Ghanaian suddenly matters when the time comes to find a leader.

Equity may not exist on a daily basis but it finally finds a voice on Election Day as every citizen expresses an opinion with a single vote.



William Manful

William Manful

William Manful is a human rights advocate committed to the democratization of Africa. He has worked as a contributing columnist for afrik- news.com and talkafrique. He holds degrees in french and spanish as well as international relations from the University of Cambridge. Mr manful also writes on philosophy, sports and cinema. He is currently working for the Government of Ghana.

 

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