This year, a number of our political parties will be marking their 30th year of existence, post-1992.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP), which was founded on July 28, 1992, celebrated its 30th anniversary with a thanksgiving service on Sunday, July 31, 2022.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC), the People’s National Convention (PNC) and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) are all in line to celebrate these epoch milestones at different times this year and beyond.
While the NDC was established on July 28, 1992, the PNC was founded on July 27, 1992. The CPP, though formed on June 12, 1949, was banned in 1966 and refounded on January 29, 1996.
Other parties which are more or less moribund were also formed around the same period. That is the history of the Fourth Republic.
Post 1992 dispensation
But 30 years down the line, what can we say are the significant achievements of post-1992? Beyond peace and stability, what can we easily identify as the emerging legacies to be proud of as a nation?
Where is the productive investment which can help us repay the debts we owe and sustainably improve on our development profile? Beyond the social investments, what are the policies on direct productive investment which can protect and save our foreign exchange earnings?
Post-1992 seems to be bequeathing to us a debtor nation which is not in good shape because we have not been able to do the right things as a collective.
Nature of politics
Take, for instance, the nature of our competitive politics, especially the winner-takes-all mentality, which is not helping our national cause. The opposition has, since 1992, consistently failed to proffer alternative policies to government programmes and agenda.
Under the Fourth Republican dispensation, we have largely witnessed an opposition always pointing out the faults of the government, without pointing to alternatives.
NPP and NDC
For the NPP and the NDC, no matter what, good or bad, they hardly give their consent to any government policies, programmes and plans when in opposition.
The politics of insults, personal attacks and issues that do not really matter have taken a chunk of our political space and discourse.
Our partisan politics is such that each party is always looking for the next election and who wins it.
PNC and CPP
I remember how exciting it was when the PNC was founded on July 27, 1992 and elected Dr Hilla Limann, the President of the Third Republic who was overthrown by Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, as the party’s first flag bearer. Since then, the PNC has continued to be on the slippery slope, declining in importance each stage in the governance process.
Similar excitement characterised the rebirth of the CPP, with Nana Okutwere Bekoe, Kojo Botsio, Kojo Armah, Prof. George Hagan, Felix Amoah, Lucy Anning, John Tettega, Andoh Kesson and Kate Abbam all playing phenomenal roles. But, today, Nkrumah’s CPP is a pale shadow of its former self.
By all standards, it is apt and proper for some of our political parties to celebrate their 30 years of existence under the Fourth Republic and reflect on how far we have come and where we are going.
It is only when we take stock of our performance so far that we can confidently say we are on track or out of track. It will also help position us to rededicate ourselves to the principles of democracy and what the respective parties hold for themselves, can do for the country and the citizenry.
For now, the emerging legacies that should inspire hope and promise seem to be eluding us. I have deliberately been asking people to share with me what in their estimation are the emerging legacies after practising uninterrupted democracy for 30 years?
Sadly, it appears the emerging legacies are showing signs of extreme partisanship, election mentality and winning elections at all cost. Another emerging legacy is the lack of consensus building.
Beyond peace, stability
Indeed, on July 26, 2022, the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) unveiled its Afrobarometer round 9 survey which made some disturbing revelations. According to the survey, the demand for democracy and the perceived supply of democracy in Ghana had fluctuated over the years and satisfaction with the country’s democracy had been on a downward slope.
Partisan consideration and political colouration have also become the hallmark of political parties. In the legislature, for instance, there is so much partisan consideration and divisiveness.
Polarisation hindering growth
It is worrying to note that while a number of our political parties chalk 30 years, polarisation is hindering our speedy progress and top-flight performance. The political discourse is a charged one full of intolerance, insults, abuse, misrepresentation of facts, peddling of falsehood and accusations without substantiation, among others.
Another example of partisanship is the politicisation of every development initiative, particularly by either of the two biggest political parties in the country’s democratic space – the NPP and the NDC.
VAT vrs E-Levy
These two parties, though not enemies, continue to show traces of disagreement and opposition on any initiative. For instance, the implementation of the Value Added Tax in 1995 and the Electronic Transfer Levy (E-Levy) passed by Parliament, which took effect from May 1, 2022, are some of the examples where the two dominant parties showed partisanship.
With the winner-takes-all mentality dominating our politics, doing the right things to push the development agenda right after elections becomes a herculean ordeal.
The opposition will not allow the government in power to steer affairs of state in peace. Like the name ‘opposition’ suggests, they oppose everything good or bad.
It is so regrettable that under the current democratic dispensation, we hardly see the opposition supporting a good development cause.
A sad one was the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs). A constitutional referendum was scheduled to be held in Ghana on December 17, 2019, alongside district level elections. The proposed amendments to the Constitution would have allowed for the direct election of MMDCEs and allow political parties to be involved in local elections.
However, on December 1, 2019, President Akufo-Addo cancelled the referendum for lack of a national consensus on the matter, with the dominant opposition party, the NDC, advocating a NO vote, although there had been an initial consensus on a YES vote in the referendum.
Simply because we did not have unity of purpose on that particular issue, today we want to bring it back, but with some difficulties.
Her Majesty’s Opposition
Learning from best global practice, for instance, the British recognise opposition as very official. Indeed, the opposition parties are considered and called “Her Majesty’s Opposition” and they offer constructive criticisms and alternative policies and programmes to government policies..
After 30 years, we need a focused developmental direction where, as a nation, we can all aspire to reach. The developmental challenges are countless and it is only with a focused and purposeful direction that we can overcome these challenges, otherwise another 30 years will soon come and the conversation will be the same old story.
Thirty years down the line, what is the central vision of the nation? In the next 10 or 20 years, what will be the state of the country Ghana?
We recall the attempts made by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) some time ago to implement a 40-year development plan. It never saw the light of day.
It is never too late to start from somewhere and commit to medium to long-term plans that will enjoy the buy-in of every Ghanaian, including the politicians, the citizenry, traditional authorities and businessmen, to steadily grow the country.
This will ensure continuity in development, and no matter which political party is in the saddle, we will be moving the country in the right direction and towards that long-term vision, notwithstanding differentials in party strategies to achieve that goal.
Many countries, including the United Arab Emirates, which declared its independence on December 2, 1971, following the completion of treaties with Great Britain, have done it and we can even do better.
We just celebrated our Founders’ Day last week. Our forebears played their part and, therefore, they deserve to be celebrated. The current generation cannot do otherwise but get our act right and do what will bring prosperity and progress to the citizenry and the country. We cannot stand while others are running. To do better calls for unity of purpose and deliberate actions, with values of patriotism and sacrifice.
Getting Ghana to work requires a paradigm shift focusing on priorities. If we repeat the same things over and over, the results will always be nothing to write home about.