Feature: Is our presidential race turning into a freak show?

Ghanaian politics has become a freak show —- we mean a political culture that gives incentives to candidates, activists, partisans and the paid media that encourages personal attacks and stifles ideological debates. The incentives for fame, money and power now drives our politics. The reality is that the operators of the freak show operate at the very centre of our national politics.

Most of our politicians’ vision for the future is not grounded in reality at a time when voters are not satisfied with the general direction of the country and politicians job approval ratings are below average.

The rhetoric do not depict a clear path to tomorrow. Our would-be presidents, for lack of a clear vision, simply harness the poisonous strength of propaganda using corrupt pundits in the paid media.

Presently, money and buffoonery rule Ghanaian politics. Indeed, substance does not play any role on the presidential campaign trail. Observers who follow the campaign would have noticed that for some time now anger, sex and personal attacks and issues indirectly connected to issues of governance dominate the narrative. Ideas are the enemy of the freak show.

Undeniably, the legacy of the numerous military coups is that the bad people won. The outcome of the military dictatorship was a mutual victory for bad politicians, and a ‘soli’ infested press, epitomised first by ‘money for your story’ syndrome of the established and paid media.

Honest politicians find it difficult to find sufficient allies in their effort to clean the stable. Sadly, those who control the media, the bureaucracy and a large section of academia hold a common worldview —- the preservation of self, even if that mean accepting an unfair status quo.

2024 Presidential Race: Elephants and Midgets

Let us see if we can unravel the mind and motives of all the would-be presidents, who plan to announce their candidacy sooner or later. In 2020, no less than ten candidates filed for president – counting political parties and independents.

For 2024, it would be the same old story, with two elephants, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in the room with midgets.

Meanwhile, we expect to see more virtually unknown persons outside of their own circle of friends, to emerge as presidential aspirants. We should brace ourselves for the noise.

Some aspirants know the issues, but have not harnessed them to a greater vision.

Most retain a magical power of government to solve all problems. While ignorance of basic economics is not necessarily discrediting, it can introduce interpretive biases — particularly when it opens, wounds rooted in decades of authouritarian false promises — anti-wealth, anti-middle class and anti–market policies. The question remains if a few of the hopeful presidential candidates are up to the challenge of getting Ghana’s economy under control.

The short answer: Probably not.

What is the “plan’ to win next year?  To this date, there has been no major discussions on the list of problems that include corruption, weak property rights, noserious policy statements of any kind of a logical, effective, step-by-step policy by which the candidates would rule this country, motivate citizens, expand the Ghanaian economy and make it more efficient and more technologically advanced.

Most aspirants’ false choice narrative is clear when it comes to the economy. Most would like Ghanaians to believe that a growth-promoting strong economy and a roaring private sector only benefit the rich. FALSE.

Ghana does not have to choose between a strong local private-sector led economy and closing the poverty gap.

Ghana can do both with policies that encourages low levels of government intervention in the economy, low barriers to capital flows and reducing the high level of activity in the informal market.

Ghanaians have heard about certain strategies of putting money into the pockets of partisans, but nothing about any “long term policy,” on reducing inflation and strong property rights.

The rhetoric is simply on partial measures that will still make this country dependent on the generosity of the IMF and the World Bank.  The dynamics in 2024 will be the same. The would-be presidents have no intention of systemic reform.

The Political Elites

The political elite enjoy, and benefit from, the status quo. Political power has become personal and politics has become a type of business as political positions give access to economic resources.

The political elite cares absolutely nothing about the long-term welfare of the country, prefers partial measures that avoid short-term pain and sacrifice long-term prosperity. Their only goal is to stay in power and revel in the circle of followers that gives them that power.

For example, our aspirants talk blissfully about the ‘common man’. Elections have come and gone since 1992. But, instead of democracy widening and deepening, as we hope, power and wealth is slowly but unmistakably migrating into the hands of a few politicians and their cronies.

The current crop of candidates and rhetoric means continuation of what has been going on for decades—no accountability, no rule of law, no change.  Rule by corrupt tricksters who exploit corrupt influence for personal gain.

There will be no alteration of the current direction—more power in corrupt hands and that benefits the power hungry incompetent and their cronies.

Ironically, many voters will vote for their party next year, regardless of who the nominee.  In their view, their party winning gives them a place at the dinner table. FALSE

Whatever “plan” might exist is just to make enough noises to sound good to the base, but to ensure things do not change radically in Ghana.

We must understand that “sovereign development” is not the goal to most aspirants; the objective is to seek power, fame and wealth.  Their exhortations breed contempt, even hatred.

The actions they aspire is a political system that constantly stager toward the irrational. Thus, the common man is nothing but an irritant and exist only to help them accomplish their aim, which is to remain in power.

The Typical Follower

Good, decent Ghanaians are, no doubt, exceedingly frustrated by the freak show going on in governance. However, we are relatively naïve when it comes to picking our leaders. We accept and give unquestionable allegiance to candidates because they are from our parties.

Again, and this cannot be emphasized often enough, we are easily taken in by those whose primary goal is not our welfare but access to the power and influence they can use for their own purposes.

Experience has shown that when presidential aspirants talk about standing up for the many, not the few, they are just repeating a political cliché. As the 2024 campaign proceeds, we see aides who enable missteps, rather than check them, surround aspirants. At the moment just clichés to tinker with the status quo. Thus, nothing ever changes—except to get worse.

The NDC’s John Mahama’s ridiculous “you will all get poultry equipment to enable you rear chicken” is a perfect example.  It is a worthless pile of economic garbage, but he is selling it to a gullible electorate desperate for something, and it is exactly what Ghanaian politicians have been doing for decades. In this mode, it is impossible for leaders to entertain important course corrections.

John Mahama, the former president, and some of the others seeking our vote in 2024, say they want to “help create wealth.” Mahama, especially, failed to recognise that neither the poor nor leaders are omniscient. Nobody have the God-given right to create wealth for another.

He failed as a president because he did not understand the broad institutional framework within which economies function. So are some of the others.

The fundamentals of the Ghanaian economy is still weak. No amount of policy tinkering will reduce the current poverty levels.

We should ask all aspirants how they intend dealing with disastrous effects of chronic monetary instability, high inflation, punitive tax levels, or state appropriation of private property. And we must insist on the truth, not empty rhetoric.

We, the people, are going to have to change things.   We, the people, are going to have to let our politicians know that we are not going to tolerate their failures any longer.   The 1979 revolution brought nothing but indiscipline, ungodliness and envy.

The revolution that will bring Ghana back to godliness, decency, economic prosperity, national strength, and true freedom (not dishonesty) is not going to come from the top down, the army, or the pulpit.  It will not start in our political parties.

Ghanaian politicians are the problem, not the solution to our economic prosperity.  The revolution forward to true Ghanaian greatness will start with us.

If there are enough of us left to do it.

By Kwadwo Afari


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here