That this was accepted was a big positive in the life of Ghanaian politics; an important step in its evolution from a country formerly subject to the rule of force as opposed to the rule of law. It gave hope that even a ruling party can lose an election and accept the result.
And so it was that for eight years, Ghana was ruled by the former opposition and the former ruling party became the new opposition.
It was not easy but it worked. It was moment of pride when a fellow student and colleague during our days at Warwick University, Ben Kunbour returned to Ghana as an MP on the opposition benches.
In 2008, at the end of his last term Kuffour stepped down and his party’s candidate Nana Akufo-Addo contested the election. The main rival was Atta Mills, who had unsuccessfully contested the last two elections against Kuffour.
The election was close and it went to the Run-off stage where again the result was very close. Atta Mills, of the opposition won the election by a very a small margin: 50.23% to 49.77% for Akufo-Addo.
Atta Mills become President of Ghana — at the third attempt, fulfilling the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.
So, in effect twice there has been a reversal of fortunes for the ruling party in Ghana — the ruling party between 2000 and 2008 is back again in opposition.
Conversely, the opposition between 2000 and 2008 is back in power as the ruling party. And, incredibly, all this has been accepted and Ghana is moving ahead.
This is a phenomenon that one would normally observe in the older democracies in Western Europe and North America.
Even South Africa, which has done well to uphold elections, is yet to be seriously tested: that is, it is yet to get to that point when the ANC faces a more serious threat to its position as the ruling party.
Ghana tells us that it is possible for the election to mean something to the voters. It tells us that it is possible for leaders to be decent enough to accept defeat, in the same way that they welcome success.
It tells us that losing an election is hardly the end of the world; it educates us that there is life for a political party and its politicians after losing an election; that it is always possible to make a come back.
The last time I wrote about Ghana I finished with the following words, “One day, I hope to return to Ghana. I hope to see the finished Tetteh-Quarshie Roundabout (an extraordinarily large roundabout that was then under construction).
I hope to sit down and chat to the good men and women at the chop-bars of Accra. I hope to talk to a new generation of leaders, ready to take on the challenges that the next 50 years present. . .I hope that in 50 years time, the men, women and children of Nema (an old and dilapidated residential area in Accra) will be smiling and laughing in more comfortable surroundings”.
I still have those hopes for that beautiful country. And I am pleased that they seem to have found a comfortable and smooth road after the first 50 tumultuous years. As it happens, Ghana has recently discovered that it has black gold within its borders — I hope, unlike elsewhere in Africa, this substance fuels growth and not corruption, wars and deprivation for the ordinary people. I hope it is a blessing, not a curse.
And when I say so, I also have my own home, Zimbabwe, in mind. We are travelling a similar road. But I hope we won’t have to wait 50 years to appreciate that the election can be true agent of political change; that people can contest elections freely and fairly and that winners and losers can live peacefully side by side, doing their business and waiting to contest another day.
We were fortunate to have Amai Sally Mugabe; the Ghanaian girl who became a Zimbabwean mother — I hope we take a few lessons from that beautiful land on the West coast of Africa. One day, I shall return.
BY ALEX MAGAISA
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