Once a playground of military juntas, autocrats, and one-party apparatchiks, Ghana has experienced its share of rough-and-tumble politics including execution of some military politicians. Fifteen years since multiparty democracy was instituted, the democratic field is getting more fertile. The media is growing and getting freer; Ghanaians discuss sensitive national issues openly and freely; women are increasingly being empowered; multiethnic marriage is booming; and the judiciary is gradually re-tooling itself and opening up to alternate dispute resolutions.
In addition, traditional values are being encouraged as a fodder for progress; the military is getting attuned to constitutional order and political parties are getting more eclectic members, including well-qualified candidates.
It is in this flourishing democratic life that the Convention Peoples Party, a minority party formed in 1949 (and ruled Ghana from 1957 to 1966 under President Kwame Nkrumah) is receiving prominent Ghanaians in its flagbearership. The entering of prominent pathologist Prof. Agyeman Badu-Akosa and economic development expert Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum has prompted Mr. George Aggudey, the 2004 presidential candidate to cry foul that people who did not show any interest in the party are now rushing to lead it. Another minority party, Peoples National Convention, viewed as sleepy under Dr. Edward Mahama, has seen Dr. Yakubu Saaka, a professor of political science and a former Third Republic Deputy Foreign Minister, join.
The democratic growth is getting better. Mr. Odoi-Sykes, a former chair of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) remarks that initially, it was difficult to attract people to field parliamentary and presidential slots but now there are too many candidates for the comfort of the party.
As Ghana’s 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections close in, the developing democratic field is akin to children set loose to play. This has caused former United Nations chief scribe, Mr. Kofi Annan, and good number of Ghanaian traditional rulers, to caution some over excited politicians to be civil.
As Ghanaians enjoy democratic growth, Ghanaians’ socio-economic and cultural tribulations are increasingly being opened for scrutiny more than before – thanks to globalization, transnational Ghanaians and the vibrant mass media. A rising number of politicians are aware of the socio-economic and cultural challenges facing Ghanaians. The test is how well the politicians have thought about Ghana, sanitation, crime and policy-making.
There is still schism between traditional and neo-liberal Ghana 50 years after colonial rule, and this has impacted on Ghana’s greater progress negatively. In 2006, Ghana ranked 136th out of 177 countries ranked on the United Nations Human Development Index. Despite an international survey revealing that Ghanaians are one of the happiest people on earth, a survey of 1,130 Ghanaian adults conducted in April and 500 in June this year by www.ghanaweb.com shows that over 70 percent of Ghanaians prefer to "move abroad if they could, and 1 out of 4 say they would even do so illegally if necessary." Ghanaian politicians face a big challenge to reverse this worrying trend.
The life of the politician in a developing democracy and struggling economy could be very stressful compared to the no-party military and one-party regimes of yesteryears. Of Ghana’s 50 years of corporate existence, there have been multiparty democratic practices for 16 years, brutal military juntas for 21 years, and autocratic one-party governments for 6 years. All these roller coaster political swings saw Ghanaians enjoy less accountability and fewer freedoms.
In the face of economic pains and the challenges that democracy poses, one has to have fortitude to enter Ghanaian politics, which sometimes cascades into citizens unloading their pains and frustrations on the politicians.
While the socio-economic demands of politics drain politicians’ vitality, with Ghana’s contending traditional and neo-liberal dualities hovering at the background, there is no need to feel sorry for them. After all, they entered on their own volition. In a country where certain aspects of its paternalistic culture blindly hero-worship its "Big Men," politicians bask in power, glory, recognition, and sometimes, historical immortality. This is a reimburse for any pains in the democratic arena. There is always the door if they can’t take the heat. It is this double-edged dimension of Ghana’s growing democratic life that makes it both refreshing and disquieting.
By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Expo Times Independent Sierra Leone
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