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Democracy? Money-crazy is the order of the day

botchway August 1, 2018


Ebo Quansah in Accra  .

One school kid in Kumasi got his Headteacher in trouble by naming Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as Head of State of the Republic of Ghana. It was the point in time in the history of this nation, when Ekumfi-born Prof. John Evans Atta Mills was occupying the old Slave Castle as constitutional head of this society.

The propaganda apparatus of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was put into full gear. The initial assessment was that officials of the then opposition party had deliberately indoctrinated kids in the region to believe that only members of the Elephant Family could climb to the highest pinnacle in this nation’s politics.

To diffuse this notion, a concept emerged to decorate all classrooms in the region with the effigy of Prof. Evans Atta Mills. Trust Ghanaians and their ingenuity. By the time the exercise got into full gear, a different breed of Ghanaian millionaires had emerged in society.

Following the tradition of making the cedi speak at every function involving the vote, one school kid told his teacher that he would want to become a delegate when he grew up. Many Ghanaians took it as a joke, but when my good friend and former hall president, Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, the man universally acknowledged as Sir John, lost his mandate as General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and blamed delegates, it became a national concern.

“Fear delegates,” Sir John screamed after losing the General Secretary position to now suspended Kwabena Agyei Agyepong at the NPP Delegates’ Conference election in Tamale in 2014. The former General Secretary’s comments became a topic for discussion on mainstream media, as well as on social media, for some time. Civil society organisations and individual Ghanaians discussed ways and means of ending the money syndrome in national politics.

Unfortunately, like many things Ghanaian, there has been no end to the expanding tentacles of monetary influence on our politic game. At the NPP Delegates’ Conference in Koforidua last month, one of the features of the event was pockets of delegates meeting at the fringes of the conference ground at the Technical University Park. I am told that most of those pockets of meetings were composed of delegates discussing what monetary gain each contestant was offering. It is unfortunate that the influence of money is threatening to erode the gains of the Fourth Republican experiment.

Yesterday, The Chronicle published a frontpage item with a screaming headline. “They took GH¢54,000 and ditched me.” It told the story of Mr. Martin Obeng Adjei, the President’s nominee who lost the vote which would have made him the new Chief Executive of the Berekum West Municipal Assembly.

According to the victim, narrating his experience on radio, he paid GH¢54,000 to 27 delegates as a means of aiding him to catapult himself to become the political and administrative head of the municipality. The interesting bit is that the delegates had bargained with him and accepted to take GH¢2,000 each to induce them to confirm the contestant for that position.  

Initially, each delegate had asked for GH¢3,000. Following intensive bargaining, the delegates on one part, and the contesting MCE on the other, settled on GH¢2,000 each. He fulfilled his part of the bargain by forking out a total of GH¢54,000. But, instead of the 27 votes he was expecting, only 12 people thumb-printed their ballot papers in front of his effigy.

The rules of engagement required the contestant to receive at least 18 of the 27 votes. Mr. Obeng Adjei is not going to be the new MCE. He is also GH¢54,000 poorer. How a retired education officer managed to part with GH¢54,000 is one issue he would have to deal with later. The immediate concern is how this society could manage to eliminate the craze for money that is threatening to undermine this nation’s fourth attempt at building a true democratic society.

Remember General Erskine? He made a name for himself as a Ghanaian military officer who played a key role in building peace around the world. As Commander of United Nation’s Peace Keeping troops in various locations around the world, he made himself and his nation proud.

When he retired from the military, Gen Erskine tried to dabble in local politics. After wearing the blue beret in many battlefields, Gen Erskine obviously believed he would be a natural leader in his home country. When Ghana decided to democratise after Jerry John Rawlings’ decade of the ‘Culture of Silence, Gen. Erskine threw his hat into the political ring and contested the 1992 presidential elections as leader of the People’s Heritage Party (PHP), one of the numerous splinter groups from the Nkrumaist front.

The news in his bid is not only that he failed to make it to the Castle, but the PHP he led failed to make any meaningful impression on the voters. But that is besides the point.

The real news is that Gen. Erskine failed to get a single vote at the polling booth where he cast his vote. Fuming with rage, and with his moustache rising and falling to the crescendo of his angry voice, the four-star General stormed several news outfits to register his protest.

“I accept the fact that my wife and children might not have voted for me. It could also happen that no relative nor friend ever cast their votes for me. But where is my own vote?” He was visibly annoyed.  No one at the Electoral Commission has been able to provide cogent answers to the General’s enquiries. Much later, it was learnt that the retired General was credited with 10 votes at that particular pulling booth in the Ayawaso East Constituency. But what actually happened to the General’s vote at that point in time has still not been resolved.

As you read this piece, the debate is still raging over whether or not to open up the District Chief Executive position to partisan political party participation in the vote. It looks like all sides of the political divide agree on one thing – that the electorate in all the Metropolitan, Municipal and Districts in Ghana should be involved in an open vote.

Apart from the need to fashion out a system to take care of the extreme partisan nature of the vote, and creating anarchy in many societies in this country, the fear of money deciding who becomes the Chief Executive in the various district across the country is very real.

I can visualise in my mind’s eye monetary considerations hijacking many of such positions across the country. It could happen that people with money to spare would sponsor candidates who would do the bidding of their paymasters once they win the vote to become the President’s representatives in the various districts. This society is still evolving.

Though we are voting for our president and parliamentarians, this society has not been educated enough to see through the machinations of many mischief-makers on our political battlefields.

In Europe and America, for instance, it is very common to encounter the leadership of the country hailing from a particular political party, while majority of borough councilors come from other political parties.

I do not believe it would be easy to encounter a district assembly election in, say, the Volta Region for instance, and expect the NPP in power gaining more of DCE votes, even when the Elephant occupies Jubilee House. Similarly, I do not expect the NDC to win most assembly votes in the Ashanti Region, even when the NDC occupies the seat of power.

In any society, it would make for a beautiful marriage politically. Not in this country. My fear is that there could be a deliberate attempt to undermine the central government in any such scenario. This is a third world society, with an entirely different perception to politics.

We need to change our orientation to politics if this society would change for the better. Our democracy is threatening to be overtaken by money-crazy. We all have a task to work to redeem our politics.

One last request. Please remember Mr. Martin Obeng Adjei in prayers, even when you pay your collection via mobile money. We are told that redemption does not necessarily come with entering the church’s auditorium. Living Word assails us in our living rooms.

I shall return!

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