Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lessons From Ghana (CNTD)

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.


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  1. Thanks for this post Pen Powder and I enjoyed it. That is Ghana as seen by many. And why not? It is true. Ghana has gone through four successful elections without a problem but did you hear it on CNN or BBC? They trooped to Ghana at the re-run waiting for the electorate to pick up machetes and start butchering one another, because the tension was high. But when the vultures realised that the man is not dead and would not be dying soon they flew away and made no report to their equally scavenging populace of the birth of a new giant on the west coast of Africa. Like you said, none of these happened on a silver platter and I hope that we don't spoil it; that we don't taint our image. I am glad people are talking this good about Ghana, except that most Ghanaians don't feel same but at least most of them feel the freedom and the joy that comes with democracy. We are only hoping that it would improve.

    This article is so objective that I can't say anything against it. At least it showed that it wasn't all glossy; that there is a Nima and a worrying populace; that we are not there yet; that we shall get there. I know with time Zimbabwe would also get there though they have been there in a different form.

    I know Ben Kumbuor (not personally only on TV). He is a man I revere and presently he is the Deputy Health Minister, though people in both the opposition and in government has questioned why he is not a substantive minister. This tells you how good the man is.

  2. Sir, thank you. If only any one of my small contributions would convince anyone to change their perceptions of this world for the better, then I will gladly march to my grave a very satisfied man.

    I recently had the occassion to meeet Mr. Idrissu, the youthful minister of communication. I must say i was impressed by his grasp of what is going on in his ministry. Coming as I do from Zimbabwe where Ministers are pulled straight from the archives, i was also impressed by his age, and the fact that his beloved country had bestowed on him the honour to serve it.

    Since coming to Ghana I have been positively motivated in many ways, although I have some reservations too. But, thats the way life is, isnt it?