Last week, there was quite a stir on social media over an announcement by Mr Marricke Gane, a chartered accountant, that he intended to run in the 2020 presidential election as an independent candidate.
Whilst it generated some excitement among some people who welcomed the ‘fresh air’ away from what they called the ‘duopoly’ of the NPP and NDC, others rolled their eyes and kissed their teeth, simply amused.
Independents, neutrals and duopoly
I remember two independent presidential candidates from the 1979 presidential election.
I think Mr Diamond Addy’s symbol was a fish.
The other independent, Mr Kwame Nyanteh, had a half-peeled cob of corn as his symbol, and it did look quite tantalisingly appealing.
Of course, they both campaigned.
And of course, they both trailed quite badly, scraping the bottom of the barrel. In contemporary times, my schoolmate Jacob Osei Yeboah (JOY) stood in both the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, and in both instances, came nowhere near making an impact.
The independents clearly do not have a proud electoral record in Ghanaian presidential elections.
Our political landscape is dominated by the two major parties, the NDC and NPP.
It does not appear these parties are about to lose their grip anytime soon.
I have read from a number of self-acclaimed neutrals who say they are disenchanted with both parties, but it appears to me that this does not seem to trickle down to the voting public in sufficient numbers so as to cause a groundswell of sentiments that will translate into voting an independent candidate as President.
Yes, Dr Nkrumah’s rise to power was rather unconventional, but then he rode on the back of a solid and well-oiled political machine, the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
What I find most intriguing, however, is that the neutrals, who have been tearing apart the policies, ideas and practices of the NDC and NPP, and who snorted derisively that these parties’ supporters who defended same were on autopilot mode, suddenly seem to be swooning over Mr Gane’s mere declaration of intent in a broad statement.
Those asking questions were tagged as being nervous of an impending political tsunami.
Political parties, part of Ghanaian DNA?
I suspect political parties are built into the Ghanaian political DNA.
They were the vehicle of mobilisation for political activism during the 1950s in the run-up to independence and beyond.
And of course, when the Acheampong government proposed doing away with political parties and rather suggested Union Government as the model of governance, the people rose in anger.
I think crucially, people are careful not to ‘waste’ their votes for people or parties they believe have no chance of winning or even coming close to winning, unless they wish to make a statement by voting for an outsider.
So far, however, people who seek to make a political statement at elections tend not to vote at all, and both the NDC and NPP have suffered from this nonchalance in their strongholds.
We need to do better
We have many governance challenges and weak institutions.
The political class must do better to inspire public confidence on several fronts, ranging from constitutional reform, corruption, law enforcement to party funding, among others.
And I accept that in all of this, leadership is essential.
Whilst they have had their challenges, civil society groups and the media have played huge roles in whatever modest gains we have had in the 4th Republic.
Other countries effectively have a two-party system and are making progress.
The problem is not a duopoly. It is far deeper than that.
Welcome, Mr Gane
Our politics is not only multi-party but multi-candidate. Of course, Mr Gane has every right to stand for President.
I welcome him into the bear pit of the Ghanaian politics, where there are no sacred cows, where every word and action of any serious presidential candidate are subjected to the most intense scrutiny under a microscope.
I honestly believe he will not win and will make no significant impact beyond his predecessor independent presidential candidates.
But his decision is a courageous one.
Instead of complaining about politicians, he has decided to be one and try to make a difference.
I am sure he has the requisite thick skin, and I wish him well.