The Role of the Youth in the Politics of Ghana
Date published: August 16, 2011
Speech delivered by Hon. Dr K. Addo-Kufuor to the 3rd Anglican National Youth Camp on 2nd August 2011 at Legon.
Mr. Vice Chancellor, etc., I am indeed grateful and feel honoured to be invited by the organizers of the 3rd Anglican National Youth Camp to be Guest Speaker here at Legon.
As the political temperature rises in the country, and decent and constructive political discourse gives way to indecent personal attacks and insults, because of the looming 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, it is proper that every opportunity is seized to remind the youth of Ghana of the crucial role they play in all the political parties as far as organization and implementation of political strategy are concerned.
It is also important that the youth is reminded that they should strive to ensure for the sake of Ghana and her people that the elections are free, fair, transparent and peaceful. Decent behaviour and decorous language is what is expected of all citizens especially the youth.
The theme chosen for this meeting ‘’Politics in Ghana – The role of the youth’’ is therefore most appropriate and in accord with the spirit of the times.
Mr. Chairman, as far as most young people in Ghana are concerned, when one mentions the word ‘’Politics’’, they start thinking of NPP, NDC, and to a lesser extent CPP and PNC. Their minds also focus on the political events which have taken place since the advent of the 4th Republic – 1992.
Mr. Chair, I will briefly touch on the political history of Ghana because I believe that a young person with a sense of history is usually more balanced in his opinion when involved in political discourse, and also shows greater appreciation of the achievements of other political traditions.
With this in mind, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us first briefly touch on the pre-colonial political tradition of our people, and then the post colonial period.
In the pre-colonial era, ie before the advent of the Europeans, the country consisted of the various traditional units each with their own peculiar political system.
But viewed broadly, in the traditional context, the paramount chief or the king played the role of the modern executive branch of the govt, and was also, in most cases, the head of the judicial branch, assisted by the sub chiefs, elders and the linguists.
The chief’s palace or the forecourt was the venue of community meetings or the mini parliament.
The head of the Asafo Clan was the commander of the militia. The youth were active in production, particularly agriculture and virtually all the activities of the society. The system had some positive aspects which will be discussed later, but is not suitable for a complex, heterogeneous society such as we have in the present day Ghana.
In 1874, the British formally established the crown colony of the Gold Coast, thereby legalizing the status of our country as a colony.
Mr. Chair, with our people now subjects of the British crown, a Legislative Council was established to advise the Governor who was the representative of the British monarch in the country.
Apart from the colonial officials, a few Africans were appointed to serve on the Legislative Council – the first to be appointed was George Kuntu Blankson.
Mr. Chair, on 4th August 1947, a significant political movement was formed in the Gold Coast – the United Gold Coast Convention. The leader was a timber merchant – Paa Grant or George Grant.
The aim of this movement was to pressurize the British to grant self govt to the people of the Gold Coast. It was this group which invited Nkrumah from UK, and appointed him the Gen. Sec of the Convention.
In 1949, Nkrumah, with the support of the youth broke away from the UGCC to form the Convention Peoples Party – CPP. Nkrumah was aged 39 and most of the major figures in the party at the time about the same age or younger.
It was the youth factor in the CPP that accounted for its success as a mass, anti colonial movement. The strikes the demonstrations and the boycotts were mainly organized by the youth.
1951 – Nkrumah was appointed the Leader of Govt business, in effect the Prime Minister, of the colony at the age of 41. Many of the African Ministers were still in their youthful years.
1957 – Ghana’s independence.
Mr Chairman, let us now take a look at the various post-independence regimes.
**Show pictures** of heads of state and their ages.
1. 1957- 1966: – CPP regime with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah first as prime minister and later as President aged 47.
2. 1966 – 1969: The Military regime of the National Liberation Council (NLC) headed first by Lt Gen Ankrah aged 50, and later by Gen Afrifa aged 32.
3. 1969 – 1972: The Progress Party civilian regime with Prof Abrefa Busia as Prime Minister, aged 56, wielding executive power and Mr Edward Akuffo Addo as ceremonial head of state.
4. 1972 – 1979: The Military regime of the National Redemption Council/Supreme Military Council led first by Gen Acheampong aged 41 and later by Gen Akuffo, also aged 41.
5. June 1979 – Sept 1979: The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council led by Flt Lt JJ Rawlings aged 31.
6. 1979 – 1981: The People’s National Party (PNP) govt, led by Dr Hilla
Limann as President aged 44.
7. 31st Dec 1981 – 1992: The PNDC led by Flt Lt JJ Rawlings as Chairman aged 34 years.
8. 1992 – 2001: The NDC led by Flt Lt JJ Rawlings now as civilian Head of State.
9. 2001- 2009: The NPP Govt led by Mr JA Kufuor aged 62, but was 29 when appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister in the Busia’s Govt.
10. 2009 – The NDC Govt led by Prof Atta Mills aged 64.
Mr Chairman, looking at the brief profiles of the 10 regimes that Ghana has had since independence, one can draw the conclusion that the country’s political history has been a turbulent one, and also that youthful leaders have significantly influenced history of this country.
Mr Chairman, the question which is often asked is “should the youth be involved in politics.”
For our purposes let us regard the youth as the portion of the population, aged 35 and below. In my view, the answer to this question is yes, and for the following reasons:
1. In our country, the youth constitute more than 50% (check) of the population, and since democratic governance is about numbers, the youth should have a role to play in the decision making process.
2. The youth are the portion of the population most directly affected by the political, social and economic decisions taken for now and the future.
They therefore need to be involved in the political process. But they must be adequately prepared for the roles they are expected to play.
3. The youth bring fresh thinking, energy and idealism to the political process, and these are factors beneficial to the society.
But I will again emphasize that the youth allow the experience, the wisdom and the other positive qualities of the senior citizens to nurture and guide them, in their own interest and in the interest of the nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, since 1957, Ghana has had 10 different regimes each with its own programmes and prescriptions.
The sum total of the effect these regimes has had on the socio economic development of the country, I will leave to historians to assess.
Except to point out that Malaysia, our classmate in the colonial era, and which had independence in the same year as Ghana, has GDP about 10 times bigger than our own, and she is making giant strides in its economic development.
Since independence, Malaysia has had five regimes with no coup.
The question I will leave with you as future leaders of our country, is what went wrong with Ghana, and what lessons can we learn from countries which have been more successful than our own. I hasten to state that Ghana has made giant strides in democratic governance since 1992, and the economy is also gradually picking up.
But I am of the view that this is a good opportunity for all of us to reflect on why we are where we are.
I would also want to state that the liberal democratic governance we are currently pursuing, freely chosen at a referendum by our people, is the most appropriate for our nation at this period of our history.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what contemporary history teaches us about countries which have become more successful than our own is that none of the countries which have made great strides in economic development especially, those in Asia, ie Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia etc has been able to do so without solid cultural base, discipline, hard work and quality education for the people.
My young friends, without deep respect for a nation’s culture, and history, the people’s confidence in them is undermined.
Africans copying European ways and borrowing their institutions whose evolution and history they barely understand cannot compete effectively in the global village.
Have you heard the phrase “African Personality?”
No society can disregard native wisdom, respect for the collective experience of elders, discipline, hardwork, appreciation of the positive aspects of its culture and expect to thrive.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, trees which thrive in the forest usually have deep roots. Considering the “stop-go” nature of the socio-economic development of this nation, and the turbulence of our political history, especially before the 4th Republic, there are many people in this country who are of the opinion that had we incorporated some positive aspects of our culture into our post independence governance, certain benefits might have accrued to the nation.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, certain aspects of traditional governance are worthy of consideration.
At the traditional level, governance is consensual after free debate. Adversarial politics is not known in our culture. Excessive political partisanship, crude abusive languages are frowned upon in our society. Dependence on traditional authority for cash hand outs and other unreasonable demands is virtually unknown in our traditional politics.
“I canvassed for you to be made chief, therefore give me special privilege” is unheard of. If that was the case, how could the newly installed chief cope? Compare this to the demands made on the average MP in Ghana today.
Mr Chairman, there is no doubt that the youth have played positive and significant roles during certain periods of our history i.e. the anti colonial struggle, cocoa evacuation from the hinterland to the ports for export, demonstrations against military dictatorship – especially against the Union Gov’t imposition and others.
In the present political dispensation, the youth groups of the various political parties eg TESCON, TEIN, Constituency Youth Groups etc have been very active in helping to formulate policies, mobilize grass root support and organize party activities at all levels of the party structure.
But in recent times, however, youth groups within certain parties have been involved in many anti social activities.
These include attacks on persons perceived to be political opponents during elections, snatching of ballot boxes, seizure of public toilets, assaulting high gov’t officials particularly DCEs, locking up of gov’t offices especially those of the National Health Insurance Scheme and even the seizure of the mighty Adomi Bridge to collect tolls.
The “footsoldier” and ‘’my party is in power’’ phenomena are new and unwelcome features on the political terrain of the country. Patriotic youth who have the welfare of the people and the security of the country at heart should resist these dangerous activities.
I call on the police to regard these as criminal activities and deal firmly with them.
My Chairman, the truth of the matter is that the US and Westminster constitutions on which we based our own though good and worthy of emulation by young states such as our own, were written for those societies.
The citizens of those countries have had centuries to operate them. National character and temperament were taken into consideration in crafting those constitutions. Their evolution has been influenced by the level of education and the economic circumstance of their people.
The jurists, clergy, older statemen, academics etc of those countries have all influenced the evolution of their constitutions. Mr Chairman, no post-colonial state in our part of the world including Ghana, has a comparable history, therefore, am happy that we have a constitutional review commission to fine-tune the 1992 constitution to make it more effective and relevant to our peculiar circumstance.
In our societies, most political parties have ethnic biases, and the ‘’winner takes all’’ aspects of these borrowed constitutions engender anxiety and resentment in the citizens on the losing side, this may partly be responsible for the many post-election upheavals experienced in many parts of the continent, e.g.; Ivory coast, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda etc.
My young friends, or should I say future leaders, in traditional governance, people freely support policies they agree with. Conversely, they criticize in measured terms, and with decorous language, and I emphasis, decorous language, policies they do not support. In such situations proverbs come into their own. In our societies, business of the state most often gets done without bitterness. Therefore when decisions are taken, no person or group of persons feels he has lost face. There is no permanent majority or minority side, but I must admit that we have the occasional ‘against group’ which may refuse to cooperate with a particular traditional ruler. But this is a rare occurrence.
People decide on issues and in the interest of all. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have no doubt that many in this audience will one day find themselves in positions of authority.
I hope some of the points raised here this morning will be given some consideration when that day comes.
I also hope all present will resolve that every effort will be put in to ensure the 2012 elections will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful. Recently the IGP made an ardent appeal to all policemen and women to be politically neutral. I hope this appeal will be taken seriously because some recent decisions and activities of the Ghana Police Service have given course for concern. The Ghana Police should be seen by all to be politically neutral.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman, I am of the conviction that apart from democratic governance, which is sine qua non, 3 factors will be needed by the people of this country to ensure sustainability of socio-economic development in the future.
Selfless, compassionate, and visionary leadership – the type which places the country and general wellbeing of ALL the citizens first in all deliberations and programmes. Under such leadership, as soon as the elections are over, all citizens receive the same treatment and the president becomes father of all the people.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”
Mr Chair, I am of the view that it is because we as a people, have failed to attach great importance to this cardinal virtue that our “5 year development plan”, “7 year development plan”, “Operation 2020”, “Operation 2015”, “Health for all by 2000” etc., have all become empty slogans. “Yamutu”. No effective implementation of any programme or initiative is possible without discipline.
Ghana is not known for the high productivity of her labour force.
We are basically a nation of talkers – ‘’All talk all day’’. I have heard some of our young people describe their counterparts in the US, Germany, Japan, etc., as lucky.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us listen to a quotation from Benjamin Franklin – the famous American Statesman, on the issue of luck. ‘’Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry (hardwork)’’.
In other words, if the slogan in this country had been ‘’all work, all day’’ God would have given us the prosperity and rapid socio-economic development we yearn for.
On this note, Mr. Chair, your Grace, your Lordships etc, let me once again take this opportunity to express profound gratitude to all of you for asking me to be part of this programme this morning.
Thank you for your attention.
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