Tarzan’s Guide to the Discerning Voter

Tarzan’s Guide to the Discerning Voter
Source: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com| Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby
Date: 06-12-2016 Time: 10:12:32:am
Author: Charles Wereko-Brobby

INTRODUCTION

My last Opinion piece was written three months ago. Instead, I have been listening and watching the incumbent President and the 16 turned 6 “wannabees” wooing us Ghanaians, to renew or give them the mandate to govern in our name and on our behalf.  This opportunity to assess our leaders comes so rarely, indeed only once every four years, that I decided not to allow my readership, the Discerning Ghanaians, to devote their fullest attention to the political messages that will shape their choice next Wednesday, December 07 2016.

However, I have not just been a silent listener these past three months I have taken to social media - Twitter & Facebook - like the proverbial duck to water. I have become addicted to the opportunity for instant commentary on the ongoing issues of national discourse. And my love has become even more compounded by the further opportunity to discern the partisan inclinations of the readers and respondents to my ‘Donald Trump’ frequency of opinions on every matter local, and a few stars into Brexit and the new America of the Alt Right. 

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Social Media has provided me with the proof that there are indeed very few Ghanaians whose choices decide which Politicians get to govern in our name and on our behalf. It is this class that I have dubbed the “Discernable Voters” in this piece, to whom this article is primarily directed, even though many more others will read it. The others are the rabidly and fiercely partisan voters for whom nothing matters to influence their decision but the party they are associated with.

A recent study published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) concluded that 78% of Ghanaian voters belong to the Pavlovian class, to wit “Y3nte Gyae” don’t confuse us with the facts, “Y3 gyina de3 Y3 gyina” (unshakable). For them, the last three months has been about reinforcement of their base. Tinged with a necessary nod to try to get the “discernible” to help their side get over the 50% +1 hurdle.

Therefore, this Opinion piece is aimed at assisting the 22% of discerning Ghanaian Voters to make their choice of Governor next Wednesday. I will stretch this to 30% to cover the: soft belly” amongst the otherwise “unshakable.” I am not going to tell the discernable voter who to choose, not in a million years. After all, every one of us has the same equal vote. However, I am going to guide them to weigh the claims and evidence placed before them such that they can sort the Wheat from the Chaff and see the clear tilt of their individual balances.

CONTEXT  

Politics & Governance

The first article of the constitution of the 4th Republic of Ghana sets out the purposes of Elections and of Government in very clear and unambiguous terms: viz, “(1) The Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution.”

Let me try to put it in plain language.  We the people of Ghana give Governments the privilege to serve us, not the other way around. So, no government should go around trumpeting what favours they have done us.  Governments act in our names and for our welfare, and not lords unto themselves dispensing grace and favour for which we should be truly thankful. Increase our welfare is the abiding purpose for we the people giving power to governments and nobody should try to insist on telling us about that, we can feel and determine that ourselves. Government must act and respect the checks and balances placed on them by our laws. Transparency and Accountability are our rights, not favour from any government.

Thus to me, Increase in my welfare  is the cardinal yardstick definition of DEVELOPMENT. I think it is or must be the principal yardstick for all voters, irrespective of their leanings. For the partisans, allegiance to their political persuasion is it, period. It is to the minority “Discernables” for whom the competitors have to persuade that their various actions, whether soft or hard, have led to or will lead to an increase in our welfare.

For me at the end of my active life, the expansion of, demonstrated commitment to and ensuring the survival of multi-party free democracy might be my primary judgement as to increase in my welfare. For the graduate and highly skilled but perennially unemployed, their judgement of Development, will be markedly different, shaped very much by their desperate circumstances.

Thus, Development for me, and I hope for the Discernables, is not mortar, bricks, asphalt, gravel, machinery or factory. It is the combination of these tangibles and other actions and measures by government which result in a sustainable improvement in the voters’ wellbeing, in their own eyes and bones. It is not a one off gift of labelled perfumed rice or ”pure water”, or “kalyppo” even though this could provide an instantaneous but not lasting improvement in welfare. 

Choice: Person or Party

Every successful Presidential Candidate in the 4th Republic has run on the ticket of a political party, either the New Patriotic Party(NPP) or The National Democratic Congress (NDC). Therefore we cannot dismiss the importance of party in the governance of this nation.  Nevertheless, our present constitution places the power of governance absolutely and totally in the hands of the person elected as President, a constitutional “dictatorship”.

This is all set out in articles 57 & 58 of the Constitution, to wit: 58(1) There shall be a President of the Republic of Ghana who shall be the Head of State and Head of Government and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ghana.  58.(1) The executive authority of Ghana shall vest in the President and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (2) The executive authority of Ghana shall extend to the execution and  maintenance of this Constitution and all laws made under or continued in force by this Constitution.

Under the above sweeping powers, the President appoints everybody from Ministers, to Municipal Chief Executives, to Heads of Public Institutions, and if he is minded to, the operator of the local KVIP.  There is little or no meaningful checks on this enormous power, not from constitutional bodies, and certainly not from the Party. I have seen this in action at close up. The President of Ghana is the “ absolute Monarch” of Ghana, period. This is not only in appointments, but in the formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and activities which affect all facets of our lives during their tenure.

What I am saying is whilst the Political Party that puts up the Candidate is important, it is the leadership qualities and actions of the one who becomes President which can lead to improvements in our welfare. So selling the qualities of the Candidate to Discernables is a better strategy than going on and on about the Party. I am also advocating that the proven or believable capabilities of Candidates of the NDC or NPP are extremely important and relevant yardsticks in your decision as to your choice for President on Wednesday.

In a perfect world, I would have recommended Papa Kwesi Ndoum or Ivor Greenstreet instead of John Mahama. However, the reality is that both of the parties do not command the necessary critical support of a credible winning base.

Tenure    

It flows from the above that we elect and give powers of Governance to a President, not to a Party. Governance of parties ended with the 2nd Republic of Ghana and Prime Minister Busia. The 3rd & 4th Republics of Ghana are monarchy Presidencies where all power is placed in the hands of an individual rather than a collective Cabinet headed by the leader of the wining party in Parliament. It is in recognition of these, that our constitution places term limits on the President, not the party of Government.

Thus, whilst the NDC has sponsored the successful Presidential Candidacy of Ghana, it has not been of the same person, for reasons we all know tragically.  So yes, the NDC has been the party of power for  two successive terms, but its current Candidate, President John Mahama, has not served two successive terns in office, even though he was the Vice President in the first term. Yes, President Mahama qualifies to contest next Wednesday’s election, but he cannot escape being judged on the performance of the last NDC administration of which he was the Vice President and later President for six months.

The Scorecard

“ Where is the meat?”, I hear you murmur as you have patiently digested this piece. Here it is. Unfortunately, it is not an endorsement of one or the other candidate who is seeking the votes of Discernables to get to the 50% +1.  Rather it’s my personal assessment and judgements of President John Dramani Mahama’s DEEDS in office, including tenure as Veep: and Nana Akufo-Addo’s PROMISES as he seeks, for third successive time (no term limits) to become the President of Ghana.

It’s a comparison between the HAVE DONE of Dramani and the WILL DO of Nana Akuffo Addo.  The emphasis is on how their actions have or will impact positively on improving the wellbeing of Discernable voters. It is not a comparison of how well each and their supporters have imaginatively or creatively attacked each other or their works. Not about “Setting the Record Straight” or “Chairman Bugri’s purported V6 gift”.  Alas, the reality of this is that this is largely a fight to stay in office and improve personal wellbeing’s of the politicians, rather than the general wellbeing of us Ghanaians

President John Mahama

Within the foregoing framework, I focus on the President’s work of the last four years, using the 2012 NDC manifesto as its point of reference. On the ‘bird in hand is better than two in the bush" yardstick, I ignore the promises of the 2016 manifesto and platform speeches completely. If the record of the past four years has been of delivered promises, we may believe the future. If not, the 2016 promises are not worth the paper they were written on.

In 2012, President John Mahama set out to “Advance the Better Ghana Agenda”, obviously, a nod to continue and finish what the late President Mills had started in 2009. The advance would be through four themes, namely” 1) Putting People First; 2) A Strong & Resilient Economy; 3) Expanding Infrastructure; and, 4) Transparent & Accountable Governance.

Four years on, and facing re-election, Ghanaians are being asked to make their judgement of President Mahama’s performance in office and fitness to carry on under the arranged order of themes, viz 1) Infrastructure; 2) Accountability & Transparency; 3) Strong & Resilient Economy & finally 4) Putting People First. I have no problem with “the putting your best foot forward” approach. What is important ultimately is how performance under these four themes have advanced the wellbeing of Ghanaians in terms they can perceive as tangible in their own individual assessments leading to casting their vote on Wednesday.

It is ironic that Infrastructure Development has come to define the Mahama Presidency, especially given his 2008 “faux pas ” that this was no achievement for any Government to write home about. This notwithstanding, President Mahama has put down so much brick, mortar, asphalt, gravel that I have dubbed him “John the BUILDER”. Impressive as many of these are, the ultimate measure of their usefulness is not whether they are mimicking Dubai, but what impact they are having on the people’s wellbeing, such as in cutting journey times and offering better basic amenities.

Likewise, the imposing second cycle edifices that are springing up all round. I am less concerned with whether the promised to complete 200 schools has been fulfilled, than if the new schools will lead to an improvement in access and more importantly to the upliftment of the quality of standards and greater opportunities for kids not educated in private basic schools to get to university. As a product of a “cyto” basic school who got to Motown and ‘aburokyire’, this is my fundamental yardstick. Therefore, to see trained and qualified teachers without jobs or forced to change careers because they are frustrated by politicians and bureaucrats, breaks my heart.

Accountability and Transparency has been a major challenge to President Mahama’s tenure in office. I think voters need to look beyond the “Equalization” noises of the Political Opposition, as we have since found out to our cost that similar noises made under the guise of “Setting the Record Straight” have not engendered better behaviour in office. However, it is fair to interrogate the yawning gap between the promises and actions started to achieve greater accountability and transparency, and the actual outcomes of obfuscation and seeming lack of resolve to complete processes. 

Accountability and Transparency is the key to Ghana’s chances of staying the course as a multi-party, free, democratic country for the rest of the 21st century and beyond. It is incumbent on those of us who have lifted ourselves from the Basic Needs base of life’s ladder, to continue to give it the priority attention it deserves.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” is Bill Clinton most famous quote from his winning 1992 Presidential Campaign. Twenty-four years on, it will be the defining issue of Ghana’s election in 2016.  How could a land whose economy was boosted with the additional riches of oil gashing from our Western shores degenerate so quickly so fast that it is unable to pay for its running expenses because it is forced to use a large proportion of its income on servicing debts that have been piled up to develop new infrastructure?

I am not going to get into the game of growth rates, global and sectoral, inflation targets, interest rates, debt ratios etc. Suffice it to say that these numbers affect the daily lives and wellbeing of every single Ghanaian, employer, employee, unemployed, and dependent. In my view, explaining Ghana’s economic paradox will be the greatest challenge to President Mahama as he seeks to convince Ghanaians to come on board the “JM Toaso” train.    

DUMSOR is the defining policy of the John Mahama Presidency of the last four years. However, its seeds were sown in the 3 wasted years from 2009 to 2011, when projects started by the Kufuor administration, were allowed to fallow under the guise of “value for money” verification. As Vice President, John Mahama may not have been the architect of that destructive delay, but he quickly inherited the mantle of the “dilly-dallying” that became DUMSOR.

The effects of DUMSOR on Ghana was all extensive and all-embracing, perhaps with the exception of his in government.  Because everyone was affected, individual judgments will be made by virtually every voter,  unshakable or discernable, as to its effects on their wellbeing and whether it is finally over or just taken a temporary “election break”  

“Putting People First” promised very lofty & laudable visions on 1) Education, 2) Health for All, 3) Pensions, 4) Youth & Sports; 5) Comprehensive Poverty Reduction, etc.  As the theme suggests, this is a theme whose impacts are instantly and directly felt by the people who will cast their vote on Wednesday. Judgment is not about “manna for the future” but tangible effects on wellbeing over the past four years. 

Some of you might recall my Political mantra, “It’s all about People”, from my ill-fated tilt at Ghana’s Presidency in 2000. Well, I am stubborn enough to believe it is the purpose of Politics and the yardstick by which we determine the success or otherwise of those we elect to govern us.

President John Mahama must hope that in his extensive nationwide tours to sell the achievements of his four years in office, he has convinced enough Discernables to assess his tenure as “Satisfactory, but could do better”. That for me is what will earn him a second term, not all the glitz & glamour of commissioning and the tuned-up yells of Afriyie Ankrah & the Base.

Nana Akufo-Addo

This is the third successive attempt by Nana Akufo Addo to become the President of Ghana. Therefore, for the Discernables, the decision as to his “Fitness for Purpose” must necessarily be based on the credibility and believability of the WILL DO promises contained in the manifesto of 2016, and those of 2012 & 2008. 

It is true that Nana Akufo Addo is relying very much on the undoubtedly impressive record of JA Kufuor’s governance from 2000 – 2008, especially on the unusual introduction of social policies and programmes not normally associated with self-styled centre right political philosophies that focus on top-down dogmas.  However, it is my contention that whilst this may have been very apt and justified in 2008, when the election was very much about building on Kufuor’s legacy, it is largely a legacy tale for 2016. 

Yes, it may be reassuring to tout that many of the men and women who served Kufuor so well and effectively are still around and ready to be redeployed again should Nana Akufo Addo win next week’s election. But 8 years on, and on the eve of our 60th birthday, Ghana’s challenges have markedly changed and thus what is most important are the solutions proffered Now by Nana, as contained in the manifesto he launched in October, titled CHANGE: AN AGENDA FOR JOBS.

In 18 chapters, starting with “A Strong Economy Matters”, much of the narrative is very long on JAK’s legacy and comprehensive dissection of the perceived failings of the Mahama /Mills administrations. To be fair, each chapter ends with some proposals of actions that will be taken to ameliorate the perceived deficiencies, although these are very short of details on the specifics of implementation and likely outcomes and perceived impacts on people’s wellbeing.

Regrettably, beyond its launch, very little has been done to sell Nana Addo’s proposed solutions to the people of Ghana, especially to the Discernables. There has been very little or no opportunities taken of the incessant number of press conferences that have been staged to expatiate on the contents of the manifesto and be subjected to peer examination. 

Signature or Flagship initiatives such as “One District, One Factory” is explained away in one paragraph without much elaboration as to the Hows and Effects on wellbeing improvement in each district. Oh, how I would have loved a series of public engagements nationally and in each district. Likewise, with “One Village, One Dam”.

As a great departure with the past, Nana has been sold more to the people than the projection of the party and its supposedly capable men and women. Unfortunately, it has been marred by an unwillingness to take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate Nana Addo’s “readiness for office” thru established channels of peer review ad equal playing fields. In my humble view of these matters, I am of the view that the wannabee takes every opportunity to show grasp of issues and preparedness for office.

I know and have benefitted from Nana Addo’s competence, compassion and inventiveness when it comes to offering solutions. Alas his handlers have concluded that he must be shielded from scrutiny and only be presented as a very accomplished messenger of the foibles and failures of the incumbent. This approach has been very effective on the campaign trail, but as we approach next Wednesday's decision date, many of the Discernable undecided class are also posing the question “Yes, you have articulated the shortcomings of President John Mahama very well, but we have heard very little of your own answers that will alleviate our dire problems and lead to a sustained improvement in our wellbeing.

Conclusion     

Next Wednesday’s choice will be what it has always been about: CONTINUTY or CHANGE. If you are convinced that John Mahama’s extensive Infrastructure projects translates into a tangible improvement or has laid the foundation for improvement in in your wellbeing, and that this trumps all the economic hardships of the past four years, do by all means vote “JM Toaso”. If on the other hand, you are of the view that Change is a good thing in itself after 8 years of one party stewardship of Ghana, and you are prepared to take a chance in the hope of improving your prospects of enhanced wellbeing, by all means vote for Nana Akufo Addo on Wednesday.

Yes, there are five other candidates on the ballot, Unfortunately, a vote for any will at best postpone the inevitable choice to 28 December 2016. Papa Kwasi Ndoum has amply demonstrated that he is probably the best equipped and capable candidate to solve the problem of improving the wellbeing of the people. Alas, we the people of Ghana are stuck in the groove of a choice between INCOMPETENCE and INTOLERANCE.

 

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