feature by Edwina Ocansey
Accra, Feb.9, GNA – Is it possible that the electorate of all African societies would shun ethnic considerations and concentrate on leaders who are competent and dedicated to the wellbeing of the people?
The ethnic and cultural divisions of Africa are numerous and varied. These are often expressed in various forms including folktales, clothing and cuisine.
It is fair to say the total mindset of the individual in an African society is developed, formed and shaped by the socio-cultural traditions of where he or she was raised, hence the need for emphasis to be placed on cultural dynamics in all development efforts.
This is quite important as it would help correct certain inherent anomalies in many African democratic processes, and help to ensure that the progressive path of the continent is sustained.
Over the years, various researches have revealed that in sub Saharan Africa the ethnicity of a candidate is a determinant to the extent of the votes one accrues in an election.
IMANI- Ghana, a think tank conducted a survey before the 2016 general election, whether Ghanaians vote on ethnocentrism or not.
Dennis Laumann a Historian and Professor of University of Memphis said ethnicity still played too big a role in Ghana’s elections.
However this assertion may not be applicable to the 2016 December 7 general election, which gave Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), clear majority victory with 5,594,360 votes over the closed contender of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama who pulled 4,550,116 votes.
It is, however, also fair to conclude that over a fairly long period, the voting pattern in the Volta and Ashanti regions, is fairly predictable unlike the other eight regions.
Again, it is quite reasonable to say that many of the electorate are aware that the success of our democracy and the development of the nation are not hinged on ethnic considerations but the extent to which the policies of a party are meaningful to the individual and the society where he or she resides.
Thus, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and other governance institutions, have sought to highlight in their various educational campaigns the need for Ghanaians not to be influenced to make political choices based on ethnicity.
For over the years, the NCCE has been emphasising the importance of granting equal opportunities to all political parties and candidates to disseminate their ideas.
This gives the parties equal access to the State-owned media, as contained in Article 55 (11) of the constitution: “The State shall provide fair opportunity to all political parties to present their programmes to the public by ensuring equal access to the state-owned media.”
Article 55(12) also goes on to say that: “All presidential candidates shall be given the same amount of time and space on the State-owned media to present their programmes to the people.”
It is also arguable that in many African societies, the more educated the person is, the more likely the fellow would vote based on policies, ideologies and ideals of a preferred political party.
Often when votes are cast and governments are sworn into office based on ethnic considerations, what results range from intolerance of divergent opinions, corruption to misappropriation of funds, leading to a downward spiral of the national economy.
Although Ghana prides herself as a beacon of democracy, since the return to Constitutional in 1992, the country has been ruled only two political parties- the NDC and the NPP.
But it is quite possible though that in the not too distant future, a third party with the needed resources and funds can relegate the two dominant parties to opposition and take the reins of government.
Prophet Saint Koranteng, the Head of Wordplus Chapel International, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra that there was an illusory conception of democracy blinding many Ghanaians.
He said democracy was experienced only during elections where the people went to the polls to exercise their franchise.
Prophet Koranteng said the will of the people was thus reflected only on the arrival of a new government till the next elections were held.
He noted that another critical aspect of democracy was government’s accountability to the people.
Government accountability reflects the transparency and trustworthiness of government machinery and institutions to its people.
One thing is certain that before Africans can experience the true meaning of democracy, its parliamentary bodies should setup appropriate government bodies that would conduct the behaviour of individuals in institutions of authority.
Since 2006, corruption in Ghana has reached a breaking point where government appointees, businessmen and women, government contractors are involved in corruption one way or the other.
It is therefore an issue of great concern when government officials are allowed to go scot-free without allowing appropriate measures against them.
It should be mandatory to allow government officials to answer the way they have spent money, exercise power and control vested by law in the public interest.
A student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, who gave his name as Mr Ofosuhene, also told the GNA that it seemed as though the 1992 Constitution had been relegated to the background where laws did not work effectively.
He observed that in other to see Africa thrive within its socio-economic challenges, sanctions should be meted out to officials whose unlawful conducts had led to the collapse of State institutions and the loss of funds.
Parliamentary structures such as the Select Committee System and the power of the purse entrusted to the legislature must be made to work.
Article 218(a) of the Constitution says an instrument of the government that could ensure proper accountability of government is the Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice.
It investigates complaints of fundamental rights and freedoms, injustice, corruption, abuse of power and takes appropriate actions.
Ghanaians are now seeking for the Right to Information Bill to be passed to facilitate access to data.
The rationale for the bill is to give the public a right and access to official information held by public institutions, private entities, which perform public functions with public funds.
The bill will give substance to Article 21(1) (f) of the Constitution, which states that ’All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.
The former Upper East Deputy Regional Minister; Mr Daniel Syme once said “the public procurement law passed in January 2004 aimed at improving accountability, value for money, transparency and efficiency in the use of public resources”.
According to him, this initiative is a dual purpose activity which will build the capacity of civil society organisations and citizens to demand accountability and transparency from the government and also ensure equitable distribution of financial resources particularly in deprived communities.
“We have elected a new government with distinguished and competent individuals and we need to support them in all their endeavours,” he added.
Like the bible says, to whom much is given, much is expected and in this vein, any ruling party has an onerous responsibility and needs the support of the populace to unite Ghana for the needed development.