Ghana Elections: The Rational Battles the Irrational

Published on 2nd October 2007

Over fifteen years into its nascent democratic dispensation, the Ghanaian democracy is increasingly becoming sophisticated, as it globalizes and fully employs tenets of information technology and scientific opinion polls. The politics of insults are receding gradually, giving way to the politics of issues and inclusiveness. Nana Akufo-Addo, a leading presidential contender of the ruling New Patriotic Party in a tone symptomatic of the emerging political climate, advises that using abusive language and insults against one another will not help the party and Ghana.

Eventually, Ghanaian politics is progressively battling irrationality that has bedeviled its growth, where prophets, juju and marabout mediums, Malams, Voodoo priests, Shamans, “Men of God” and other spiritual mediums hold sway and direct public opinion. At a certain point, it was similar to what is happening in the Southeast nation of Burma (Myanmar) where the military junta is heavily driven by astrologers. This has made Burma not only one of the poorest, rough, unpleasant, and irrational countries in the world but as Ben Macintyre of the UK based The Times writes: “The junta’s belief in astrology in part reflects the capricious weirdness of a peculiarly nasty regime, insulated from the rest of the world and divorced from reality.”

Today, Ghana is not Burma (Ghana’s top military barrack is named “Burma Camp”) that was years ago a playground of military juntas,  coup d’etat attempts, autocrats, confused democrats, and one-party apparatchiks, driven by prophets, juju and marabout mediums, Malams, Voodoo priests, Shamans, “Men of God,” and other spiritual mediums who scrambled for the political terrain.  

Ghana’s democratic growth is increasingly throwing more light on the dark recesses of its political topography. Appropriation of information technology, democratic values, serious issues, global development values and scientific polls is pushing many an irrational interpretation of political and development matters to the background, further helping to rationalize the bumpy political terrain.

Nobody better illustrates the battle between politics of irrationality and the increasing rationalization of Ghana’s emerging democracy than Nana Akufo-Addo, 63, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Attorney General and Justice Minister, who has been the subject of prophetic predictions, scientific opinion polls and is currently leading presidential candidate for the ruling NPP.  In August, Prophet Sarfo Adu prophesied that Nana Akufo-Addo has been chosen by the Almighty God to be President of Ghana from 2009 to 2016. Prophet Sarfo Adu said he had prophesied in the same manner about President John Kufour and commanded him (Kufuor) to visit him (Prophet) in 1998 and in 1999 at the late J.Y. Manu’s house in Accra and prayed for him in 2000 before the elections.

Neither Nana Akufo-Addo nor his campaign managers have  commented these prophetic predictions. Normally, Ghanaian “Big Men” do not comment on such prophet chants but do cheer up with such favorable predictions. Sidelining the prophets means rationalizing events on the ground that demand questioning, hard planning and campaigning.

In August, Nana Akufo-Addo launched, perhaps, the most sophisticated campaign since the dawn of multi-party democracy by a single politician in Kumasi. Appropriating all facets of mass communication networks – FM/SW/MW radio stations, internet broadband,   television, telephony and pod cast among others. His  formal launch was received by millions of Ghanaians nationwide and in the diaspora. Most polls put Nana Akufo-Addo ahead of other NPP presidential aspirants as well as the main opposition National Democratic Congress candidate, Prof. John Atta-Mills. In an opinion poll conducted by the respected Research International and carried by the Ghanaian media, Nana Akufo-Addo led three other top presidential aspirants by 40 percent.

Unlike the predictions of the prophets, Voodoo priests, Malams, juju and marabout mediums, Shamans and other spiritualists about Nana Akufo-Addo, the scientific opinion polls indicate Ghanaians rationalization of Nana Akufo-Addo from his activities on the ground and not from any unseen actions. More seriously, the prophets and other spiritualists are not questioned on how they arrive at their predictions leading to a huge culture of gullibility.

Ghanaians’ rationalization of Nana Akufo-Addo come from his long-running struggles for Ghana’s democracy and progress, to the risk of his life, from the dark periods of the brutal military dictatorships to crass human rights violations in the past 30 years. Added to this is his best performance as Foreign Minister, his transformation over the years, and formidable campaign machine shaped by hard work, strategy, long-term planning, dedication and steadfastness.

As the 2008 general elections close in, prophets, Voodoo priests, Malams, juju and marabout mediums, Shamans and other spiritualists will be having a festive season, with Jean-Francois Bayart, of the “The State in Africa: Politics of the Belly” (1993) fame, in mind. As the rational and the irrational battle in Ghana’s emerging democracy, the dilemma is how the spiritual mediums weaken rationalization of the democratic process, so much so that even the elites, like Nana Akufo-Addo, who are expected to radiate high-level reasoning to illuminate the democratic path, are under the heavy sway of the prophets and other spiritual mediums to the injury of Ghana’s democratic growth.

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