…The 2012 campaign must be based on policies
By Lord Aikins Adusei
The year 2012 will be another year for elections in Ghana. Leading candidates of the two main dominant parties i.e. the ruling National Democratic Congress and the opposition New Patriotic Parties are mobilising their supporters, issuing statements and making pronouncements. The President is alleged to have said that he would hand over the reign of government in 2017 prompting his critics and chiefly the opposition NPP to suggest that the President intends to stay in office irrespective of the outcome of the 2012 elections. The NDC on their part have argued that the NPP is willing and intends to use violence to achieve victory at all cost. They point to statement made by Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo the flagbearer in which he is reported to have used the phrase “all die be die” suggesting that nothing but a win will calm him and his supporters. Nana Addo has been accused by his critics and opponents particularly the NDC and their supporters of playing the ethnic card by using the word “Akan” which is the name of Ghana's largest ethnic group.
The recent brouhaha surrounding the use of biometric voting and the NPP insistence that there cannot be biometric voting without verification has added another twist to the fuel being poured into the upcoming 2012 elections.
These accusations and counter accusations are a semblance of the suspicion, mistrust and election violence that characterise elections in Africa in particular and the developing world in general. However, violent as elections in Africa may have been, there is enough evidence that Ghana has been a nation which has defied the odds in Africa and has maintained a positive reputation and standard that her African contemporaries are struggling to match. It is this reputation as a stable, peaceful, violence-free democratic country that Ghanaians must be happy and be proud to protect in the 2012 elections.
Students of politics and indeed politicians know too well that in politics wining and losing are things of reality and Ghanaian politicians must begin to educate and prepare their supporters on these realities so as to offset any negative event(s) that will emanate as result of the elections. One message that must be made clear is that so far as the 2012 presidential election is concerned there can be only one winner. That winner could be President Mills, Nana Addo or any of the presidential candidates of PNC and CPP. Since there is going to be only one winner and several losers, whoever emerges as the winner should quickly show maturity and leadership and avoid statements that will be interpreted negatively by the losing candidates. The losers on their part must accept the outcome of the election as being the people's verdict, congratulate the winner and assure their supporters that there will be another opportunity in 2017. In short every effort must be made to prevent the 2012 elections from going the Ivorian or the Kenyan way. Indeed it is the view of the author that there can be politics without violence and Ghana must not burn because of candidates losing or wining elections.
Campaign based on Policies
Each of the parties must have a clear campaign message and tell Ghanaians why they want them to vote for them. That is the political parties must talk more about their policies both domestic and foreign and take time to explain these policies to the people. For example domestically it is extremely important that the parties let Ghanaians know what policies they have on these specific issues: internet access and telecommunication in rural areas; quality education for all Ghanaians; financing tertiary education; financing and providing quality healthcare for all Ghanaians; employment and skill training for the youth; water delivery in cities and villages; quality and affordable rural housing; and promoting industrialisation, research and development.
Other policy areas could be ensuring energy security for businesses and fighting energy poverty in Ghana i.e. reducing Ghanaians' dependence on firewood, charcoal, kerosene and candles and increasing access to modern energy facilities. Other policies could also focus on ensuring that Ghanaians fully benefit from the proceeds of the oil, and other minerals in the country; providing irrigation, tractors and machinery for farmers and to ensuring that goods produced will not be left in the bush for lack of good roads. Voters may want to know what the parties' policies will be on combating climate change and desertification; addressing the problem of Kayayo and child streetism; providing efficient, reliable rail transport network; revamping Ghana urban road transportation system; fighting corruption and keeping Ghanaians safe at all time.
The campaign must move away from the shallow politics that addresses none of the major problems facing the country to substantive and critical issues such as how do we connect the south of the country to the north by fast train network so that we do not have all our goods and passengers move by road thereby creating congestion and unnecessary fatal accidents. Thus the critical question political parties and Ghanaians must ask and answer is what do we do as a nation to come out from the economic quagmire, poverty and deprivation that we continue to find ourselves in and how do we solve our numerous problems. The question of what we must do and how we must do it must be central to the campaign. In short the focus of the campaign must be economic and political stability; peace and prosperity; unity and love; economic and social equality; national security; and protecting our national interest.
Faith in the Electoral System
All political parties must have faith in the electoral system, the Electoral Commission and its chairman Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan. Judging from their previous experience and performance in organizing elections there can be no doubt that Dr. Afari Gyan and his team members have what it takes to organise the elections. In the past the Commission has shown itself to be a credible institution that operates without favouritism. In fact throughout country, the Commission has come to symbolise independence, transparency, accountability, fair play, honesty, integrity, openness, objectivity and strong leadership and is idolised by many institutions in Ghana and Africa. This notwithstanding, it is important that the Commission continues to work hard to erode any misconception that it is favouring or might be favouring one political party against the other. All peace loving Ghanaians must continue to support the Commission to deliver a credible, free and fair election which will make all of us proud.
Each of the parties must assemble their best election strategists to craft messages that will catch the attention of voters. The campaign strategist and managers must develop and come up with policies that Ghanaians can identify themselves with. The party that sells well will win at the end of the day. The parties must commit themselves to run clean, free and fair campaign devoid of any acrimony. These would help to avoid the mayhem and destruction that characterised the elections in Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
Language used by politicians and their agents must be civil, polite and full of respect and be devoid of the insults, tribal and ethnic rhetoric that has come to define the Ghanaian political landscape. Politicians must stop using abusive, inflammable language and avoid utterances that will not auger well for the wellbeing of the country. They must use sound argument to criticize their opponent(s) without the usual insults. Political leaders must quickly condemn irresponsible statements that will put the peace and stability of the country in danger and bring the nation into international ridicule and disrepute.
Each of the political parties and NDC and NPP in particular must educate their members on how to conduct themselves during the elections. The parties must reign in their supporters; suspend wayward members and distance themselves from anyone who will soil their reputation.
Every soul we lose and every property we destroy will be a cost to our common identity as Ghanaians. Therefore, circumspection must be exercised by moderators of radio and television programmes. The Ghana Peace Council, the media, universities, National Union of Ghana Students, the Christian Council, Catholic Bishops' Conference, and other faith based groups, non-governmental organisations and the international community must play their role to ensure that Ghana will once again go through another successful election without violence. Ghana is a constitutionally governed country and anyone who tries to disturb the peace of the land must be dealt with according to the laws of the land. Therefore the police and the judiciary must be allowed to work independently without pressure from any quarters.
Every prosperous nation is built with the sweat of all its citizens and politics is just one of the wheels by which a prosperous nation is built. But the politics must not be violent before we can build a prosperous nation. Indeed the politics can be conducted without unnecessary violence, loss of life and destruction of properties. Ghana is our home and the only country we have and doing politics based on policies and not violence must be our primary aim and concern.
Lord Aikins Adusei is an activist and anti-corruption campaigner. He blogs at www.ghanapundit.blogspot.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.