Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Efficacy of the Ghanaian Democratic Experiment Essay Example for Free

The Efficacy of the Ghanaian Democratic Experiment Essay The hackneyed, yet apt and succinct, definition of Democracy by Abraham Lincoln as contained in the concluding part of his famous Gettysburg Address as ‘’†¦government of the people, by the people, for the people†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ remains today as the most quoted statement on Democracy. However, a careful examination of our democratic experiment leaves one to wonder if this definition perfectly encapsulates our experience. Our government is, granted, elected by the ordinary people, which bears testimony to the fact that we practise a form of democracy which is ‘’of the people’’. However, I contend that our form of government is not a government whose workings have, wholly, over the years, proven to be in the interest of the people. We are constantly saddled with the unfortunate and despicably capricious abrupt abrogation of government’s contracts shortly after a change from one democratically-elected head of state to another of different political persuasions. Our constitution, under The Directive Principles of State Policy, explicitly, states in Article 35, Clause (7) that, ‘’As far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments.’’ When a successive Government arbitrarily abrogates a contract, most of the time for political expediency, those who bear the brunt of this ill-advised action have always been the ordinary tax payer. Classic cases in point are the payments of judgment debts by the current and previous Governments, which were shrouded in some amount of secrecy until recent revelations. Governments engage in this reprehensible act in a sophomoric attempt to make their predecessors unpopular. Such a practice does not engender development, which democracy seeks to attain for all. Democracy must result in meaningful development for the populace, otherwise it is of no significance; we do not practise democracy just for the sake of it. It is to afford every single citizen a say in the way the country is governed, and, eventually, respond to their needs. I strongly believe this problem is, partly, caused by the lack of a common national development policy to guide our governments. The deep partisan nature of our politics makes it impossible for government and opposition parties to agree on a common development objectives. Our politics is characterised by the continual applause by Government for doing better than any government of the opposition and the continual representation of Government by the opposition parties for having done nothing. Sadly enough, this happens to be the case in most Western countries,too, and it always raises the question if we cannot adapt our democracy to our peculiar circumstances? For instance, I was surprised to hear that Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the United States of America, who incidentally happened to be the person I was rooting for in last year’s American Presidential Election, imprudently, chose to attack the Obama Administration over the deaths of the US Ambassador to Libya and some American officials who were working at the embassy. I thought that in such a solemn moment, Romney would exercise some political maturity and join President Obama to issue a statement to the friends and family of those who died. But this is how far political opposition can take us! And it is no different from what we, sometimes, witness in our homeland. Political parties in and out of government oppose each other for no tangible reasons. Looking at the development deficits of our nation, it is imperative that we adapt our democracy to be more responsive to the developmental needs of the ordinary people. Another reason that makes me doubt if our democracy is really ‘’for the people’’ is the unfortunate level of participation of the Ghanaian in our democratic experiment. Again, under the aforementioned Directive Principles of State Policy, the Constitution states, inter alia, in Article 35, Clause (6), paragraph (d) that the State shall afford all possible opportunities to the people in decision-making at ever y level in national life and in government. This, to me, sounds pretty laudable in print, but in practice, the story is completely different: The only moment the Ghanaian really takes any decision in our national life is when it is time to elect Members of Parliament and the President. Beyond that time, the Ghanaian becomes merely a passive participant in the governance of the country. We usually hear refrains of ‘’Participatory Democracy’’ in the media being trumpeted by some state institutions, but, unfortunately, our Democracy does not have any real elements to showcase for that. I believe that our Democracy would be more participatory if we create more educated people, who understand the actual essence and imperatives of democratic governance. This, I suspect, would enable the greatest masses of the people to get actively engaged in the entire governance process of the country, and not merely always wait for every four years to queue up to vote. To this end, I fervently pray that Government and all other stakeholders would invest heavily in the education of our people since it is an open secret that true democracy can only thrive on an informed citizenry. And for one to be informed, one needs to have the ability to appreciate the national issues of concern; one must possess the ability of separating useless propaganda from issues which present all sides in an objective manner. This can only be achieved if the citizenry have some appreciable level of education. Another issue that worries me greatly is how our democratic practice is becoming more and more expensive. Most political parties in opposition always promise to have slimmer Government when voted into power, but we all know what happens after they win power. It costs a lot to maintain just one minister of state. Lately, we see more people working at the Presidency, some even without any official designation. It has become common to see lots of Government functionaries who describe themselves as being part of Government Communication Team. All these people are paid with the Tax Payer’s money! It is important that, as a nation, we do something drastic about our size of Government. Let us, however, not for once, delude ourselves into thinking that this problem is peculiar to the executive arm of Government. The most nauseating development, lately, in our national politics is the ritual increase of the number of constituencies by the Electoral Commission almost every four years on the basis of its constitutional mandate given to it by Article 47, clause (5) of our constitution. The foregoing article states clearly that, ‘’The Electoral Commission shall review the division of Ghana into constituencies at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of the enumeration figures after the holding of a census of the population of Ghana, whichever is earlier, and may, as a result, alter the constituencies.’’ This constitutional provision is so clear and simple to understand. I am quite worried because the approach of the Commission to this constitutional duty is making it seem as though review of division into constituencies and altering of constituencies automatically mean an increase in their number. Review and alter are not synonymous with increase in any dictionary! When you do your calculations, you can be assured that within the next forty years the country cannot find a place to accommodate our Members of Parliament to conduct Government business if the commission does not stop this practice of increasing the constituencies regularly. Maybe the best way to deal with this problem is to set a ceiling for the number of Members of Parliament in the Constitution since from all indications, the Commission’s understanding of that provision is simply to increase the number of constituencies every eight years. Without doubt, the size of the legislative arm of Government is getting too large, and we must, without any delay, start taking measures to reduce it. Ghanaians deserve quality representation, not quantity. Some Members of Parliament do not make any contribution to parliamentary debates in the chamber of the House, and some, I understand, do not make any meaningful contribution at the committees’ level. The strong brouhaha over the creation of the forty-five new constituencies last year was quite expected. As much as the argument about the unfavourableness of the time, was, sincerely, perfectly in order, the popular belief that a country of twenty-four million is not too huge to warrant more than two hundred legislative representatives is just the point. In the first place, the Commission should not have even created the thirty constituencies in 2004. It is not a matter of legalities; it is a matter of common sense. Anytime any person opposes the creation of the new constituencies, the Commission quickly rebuts that it is its constitutional mandate. Well, the constitution talks of review, not necessarily an increase. Our democratic experiment may be fraught with some difficulties, but my most fervent prayer is that we should never allow any malcontent(s) to truncate this political system. I would hope that we invest in education and strengthening state institutions. These two exercises are critical to deepening democratic culture in our country. I pray that all Ghanaians would get their hands on deck so that we can move forward collectively to truly build a better Ghana.

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