I have just read a Daily Graphic newspaper report quoting Mr Carl Wilson (described variously as a member of the NDC, a political scientist, head of port security during the Millls administration, political activist) as calling for an Independent Presidential Candidate if Ghana is to move in the right direction. I couldn’t agree more.
I don’t know Mr Wilson. I don’t even know his thoughts on the matter. I just know that he is talking about a NO PARTY Presidential candidate. And he is spot on.
It seems to me that the major political parties in Ghana have run their full cycle. There is no sign of reinvention. It’s the good old “maintenance of status quo” syndrome. Our parties now function as “businesses” that exist primarily for the well being of their membership.
We’ve got our party politics wrong. We’ve made it hard for a President to deliver and for broad, inclusive progress to occur. Something has got to give.
I daresay much of our dysfunction emanates from our 1992 constitution which we all agree requires changes here and there, but never actually take any action on. (Herein lies a clear example of how the current system works for the holders of power only. They only support constitutional reform when in opposition)
I have come to the conclusion that the emergence of a serious no party candidate (Independent), is what is required to make a real difference and force the political parties to reform. At the moment Ghana takes turns at the two main political parties whether they deliver or not. And they are in a comfortable place.
Roughly half of the electorate reside in each camp. The political parties have become the machinery through which largesse is dispensed. More than that. Membership in a ruling party brings job opportunities and power often to be abused. Competency of party officials is largely neglected and so mediocrity is what Ghanaians get.
The two major parties have become too powerful in the hands of a few individuals. Small parties are irrelevant. Try as they may, the system is stacked against them. If Ghana wants to lead the way again as a real democracy, it is time to try something different.
There is no real separation of powers in Ghana’s political arrangements, unlike well functioning democracies that thrive on checks and balances; where the various arms of government, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary serve as a buffer against the possible excesses of each other.
In Ghana, there is an “almighty executive” that the legislature especially is subservient to. In fact many parliamentarians aspire to be members of the Executive which basically does as it pleases.
Given the way our electorate votes, the governing party always has a majority in the parliament and we consider this a good thing. We have come up with all kinds of spurious arguments about why that makes for effective governance. The Executive arm of government is the centre of power.
How can the President and his team be more powerful than the representatives of the people?
Our “winner takes all” party system has come to encapsulate the power dynamic at play – absolute power for a select few because they belong to the winning party.
The threshold for victory has its own problems – 50 percent plus one; in what is essentially a two party system evenly split.
So the loser who has 49.9 percent of the vote, has no power whatsoever. In fact, he has as much power, as the third place candidate with 1 percent of the vote. A higher threshold would more than likely lead to big parties collaborating with small ones to get the pass mark.
The art of political collaboration would take on new meaning and we would be the better for it. Good people are found all over and not only in one party. Most are not even members of any party. As it stands, the winner has no incentive whatsoever to build bridges with other players. Appointments are guided primarily by party affiliation rather than merit and the so the wheel of progress grinds slowly.
Under our current party politics, there is all out war for the spoils of power. Some prominent think tanks have warned of the risks posed by this state of affairs, to Ghana’s long term peace. Parties cannot afford not to be in power. Being in opposition is the most dreaded prospect for party operatives.
So they will do whatever it takes to attain power; and do whatever they can to frustrate the governing party when in opposition.
Some people have argued that we should do away with democracy. They say the two major political parties are the problem. They equate democracy with the two political parties. I disagree. We can have a no party President and still have a democracy.
I’ve gotten used to people pouring scorn on the idea of a President who belongs to no party. This is what the defenders of the status quo do. They make sure to remind the populace that, that’s an impossible scenario; that to be President you have to be part of a party so you can have representatives in parliament; so that your policies can go through, so you can have people who will work for you etc etc.
I don’t know of a greater red herring.
After all Parliament is an arm of government so it is primarily there to work for the welfare of the people. Real power resides with the people whom parliament represent. There is no good reason for the people’s choice of President to be rendered ineffective by their parliament. I am reminded of “skirt and blouse” voting. It was vilified. Why?
Are we not after all, supposed to be examining individuals and deciding on who is more likely to serve the people? Selecting a member of parliament from the same party as the President only serves to deepen the practice of power exclusivity that bedevils our politics today. But let me not stray into “skirt and blouse”.
The main thesis I want to put forward is that the time is coming when Ghanaians should be willing to try something different. I don’t mean a different party. I mean a different concept such as an Independent candidate. The political parties will guarantee that because they are currently not set up to deliver for all Ghanaians when in government.
When that happens, we would have to come to the end of the road and be ready to go in a new direction: focusing on good competent people rather than simply voting to keep “our party” in power. To vote for an independent Presidential candidate is to signal to the world that our democracy is maturing; an individual that is not beholden to any one group; only beholden to the people of Ghana; and with one sole purpose: to serve the people of Ghana. All the people of Ghana. We need a meritocracy but it’s impossible with our current political arrangements.
But there is a “wind of change” blowing across the world today. In the USA, UK and Europe political outsiders are challenging the establishment. People are tired of “politics as usual”. They are tired of the shenanigans of the political establishment.They want something different. Not a new version of what exists. Something different.
I really hope Ghana begins a discussion about this. It might sound crazy so let me remind readers of the saying by the French poet and writer Victor Hugo:
“Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come”.
And come to it, we must.
One man can make a difference. Someone with a vision to propel Ghana forward now and into the future. He may come from “nowhere” and that’s fine. He doesn’t need to come from any political party. Ghanaians like “join the queue” too much; political party queues where people who came second in the primaries last time round, automatically think it’s their turn next time around.
History has numerous examples of society making quantum leaps once they break away from the established order of taking small steps. We must dare to try out new things. I know change isn’t easy largely because of the unknown. But dare we must. This is not our lot. We haven’t failed. We now know a thousand things that won’t work, so we’re that much closer to finding what will.
The younger generation must take it upon themselves to deliver Ghana from political parties in their current form. At the moment, they are just stirring the pot.
The article was published on the Author’s Facebook Page (web.facebook.com/TimeWithDavid/)
Author: David Ampofo (Ghanaian Media personality)