Monday, May 12, 2014

Government business is not party business

Monday, May 12, 2014
Folks, I have insisted all this while that the kind of democracy that Ghana has been practising since January 7, 1993, isn’t designed to solve the problems of our under-development. It is a camouflaged dictatorship that allows those with political connections to hold sway for their own good. And as the Asantehene has rightly put it, the kind of politics motivated by this democracy has made Ghanaians lazy. And they have become the victims of this kind of democracy!
If you doubt it, tell me what specifically this democracy has offered the ordinary Ghanaian whose toil, blood, and sweat sustains it. Apart from being roused out of justifiable apathy or induced by power-hungry politicians to stand in inclement weather to vote, what exactly has this democracy done to prove that it is serving the interests of the people?
On a larger scale, what has changed in Ghana since the adoption of this democracy? Don’t tell me about freedom of speech or enfranchising of the citizens. These are mere ideals that don’t add anything to lives.

The democracy itself has its own internal weaknesses that incapacitate it at several levels. Just consider the institutions of state on which it depends to find out whether in their existing state they have been able to solve any problem. Don’t even wonder why none of the governments that have been ruling all these years have bothered to retool these institutions to make them more functional. In their weak state, they serve the purposes of those with political connections.
From the judiciary to the vehicle licensing institution, there is nothing new. Turn to other institutions all over the country to find out what changes they have undergone to perform satisfactorily. Nothing has changed and won’t change for as long as those abusing the status quo resist change! The only visible change is the sophistication with which bribery and corruption are perpetrated (a la judgement debts, etc.).
It is all designed for the good of those with political connections. And, indeed, they reap the windfall for doing nothing concrete to improve governance for the good of the people. The people remain as victims of their own docility and gullibility. They are too pliant and allow these politicians to exploit the situation.
Within this context, it is more than disgusting to learn that executives of the political party in power have been attending Cabinet meetings. Madness Number One!!
We are told that under the NPP administration, the party’s National Chairman and General Secretary regularly attended Cabinet meetings. There is nothing on what happened under Rawlings.
I condemn this practice and urge an end to it because it is not in the country’s interest. It is a constitutional violation that must be fought with all the power at our disposal.
On the contrary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia (General Secretary of the NDC) “has rubbished calls” for that practice to cease. Madness Number Two!!
(See: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=309068)
No justification supports the practice. A Cabinet meeting is strictly reserved for high-ranking government officials who have sworn the relevant oaths (of state and office) and been enjoined to keep their mouths shut on official secrets. The executives of the political party in power haven’t sworn any oath of the sort nor have they been recognized by our constitution as such to participate in Cabinet meetings.
Asiedu Nketiah’s premise or reasons for taking such a stance are flawed. There is always a separation between the government of the day and the political party on whose ticket it is in power. In civilized democracies, the party structures are clearly established, defined, and upheld to eliminate any collision course.
That is why in the United States, for instance, the party has its National Chairman (or whatever designation it is) who cannot stand elections while still holding that position. There is no talk of founder and father of any political party. Those doing the party’s work know their limits and end where the red line shows up.
Our democratic experiment is fashioned on that of the US, which is why references must be made to it. Asiedu Nketiah’s use of the United Kingdom and South Africa to justify his objection is skewed; it is inadmissible and contemptuous.
There is need for vigilance to ensure that the political party’s purview doesn’t overlap with that of the state (where the government comes in). Indeed, although the winner of the Presidential elections might have stood on the ticket of a political party, it doesn’t mean that the government he forms is necessarily an extension of the party. Our problem in Ghana is that we cannot separate the trees from the forest.
We must be bold enough to tell those thinking like Asiedu Nketiah what will deflate them as “lazy thinkers”. In his sloppy justification for the error of judgement by allowing executives of the political party to attend Cabinet sessions, he sought to create the impression that without the party, the government couldn’t have been formed.
Of course, a political party exists because it wants to win elections and form a government to rule the country. But common sense alone should tell Asiedu Nketiah that there are bounds. A political party remains what it is. A government may evolve from the party’s efforts but it doesn’t mean that the government cannot be separated from the party.
When the political parties have clear structures for their internal political work, they will have a pecking order and a system for self-sustenance. Clearly, if the parties can conduct primaries (to allow any qualified member to participate) and a clear Presidential Candidate chosen for the elections, there will be no need for anybody to confuse leadership positions. The executives of the party will definitely know their limits and leave the winner of the elections to form a government which won’t be seen as an appendage of the party.
Our problem is that our parties’ structures are not clear nor do the parties even have any system to groom members for leadership positions. Truth be told, the party cannot be the same as the government, regardless of the fact that the latter owes a lot to the former. The party only provides a platform and should not be confused with the product.
The problem that people who think and behave like Asiedu Nketiah have is that they find it difficult to let the “gravy train” pass them by. They cling on to every opportunity they see to be part of government business. Some are even known for arrogating to themselves powers that nobody gave them but which they could wear on their sleeves just because they know how to walk in the corridors of power.
Most of the governance problems facing us in Ghana are caused by such characters who muddy the waters and create the impression that without them and the political party they lead, the President will lose support. It is a way to blackmail the President, which may account for why certain appointments are made under duress. What we see happening is that the President faces so much “bullying” that he is virtually powerless.
We have often heard comments that Kufuor was really malleable and served the interests of those who could pull strings as so-called “power brokers”. The same is being said of President Mahama (even to the extent that a hitherto unknown Dr. Godwin Etse Sikanku, a political analyst, could describe him as" weak, reactionary" and "complains too much") (See: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=309050).
We need to take bold steps to clean the stables. The political party must be kept to its turf and the government encouraged to rule in the interest of Ghana and not be bullied by the dictates of any particular political party. Of course, the government may turn to its base for ideas (including the party’s manifesto); but the government must be a separate entity to act in accordance with constitutional provisions.
The political parties must also act as mandated by the Constitution. In this case, though, the Constitution doesn’t provide that executives of political parties should attend Cabinet meetings.
I am perturbed by the lousiness that propelled Asiedu Nketiah’s claims which, if not properly confronted, will give credence to this practice. Party officials are party officials but can be co-opted into government for the good of the country and not the party. They may still be imbued with the “party fervour” but should know how to do things in the interest of the country.
On this score, I strongly agree with Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi (Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development) that the practice is wrong.
Until we separate the party from the government, we will continue to mislead the people and create distortions to impede good governance. Government business is no party business!
I shall return…
·         E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
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