My teacher friend defined epistle to me as a document written or prepared purposely to inform or persuade a person or a group of people to move towards a specific direction or focus on a particular agenda.
Academically, it can also be defined as “a treatise often in letter form that is meant to be read to a particular audience.” With these, I am more than persuaded that I can conveniently describe manifestoes launched by the two major political parties in the country, the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress, recently as ‘epistles.’
Epistles are more inclined to religious or moral perspective as per the biblical understanding of the word and its connotation. So, I am looking now at whether or not manifestoes produced by our political parties have been religiously followed by way of implementation and what are the moral values in, there for, the producers and the populace.
Manifestoes are primarily “a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.” It deals with the declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives and, importantly, the ideological beliefs of the manifesto producers.
Ideology, and motives of someone to inculcate into others whether or not it will help their prosperity agenda. For example, the Communist Manifesto, written by the German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist, and socialist revolutionary,.Karl Marx, which was first published in 1848, formed the basis for the modern communist movement as we know it today. It argues that capitalism would inevitably self-destruct, to be replaced by socialism and ultimately communism.
In Ghana, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) believes in center-right and liberal, conservative ideology, while the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is a social-democratic political party.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the years touts to remain deeply committed to the principles and values of Social Democracy. “As Social Democrats, we subscribe to a compassionate political philosophy that seeks to create opportunities for all to develop to their fullest potential.”
The party, founded by the longest servicing Head of State of the country, believes that its pursuit of economic prosperity for Ghanaians can best be achieved through appropriate regulation and strategic investments.
The New Patriotic Party on the other hand, has it as a policy to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property-owning democracy of Ghanaians. It is also to ensure the “right to life, freedom and justice, as the principles to which the Government and laws of the land should be dedicated in order specifically to enrich life, property, and liberty of every citizen.”
The NPP says the party aims at bringing together like-minded citizens of the country so that “they may strive for Freedom and Justice by the appreciation and protection of human rights and the Rule of Law through the practice of true democracy.”
These leading political parties have dominated in ruling the country since the inception of the fourth republic in 1992. This is to say the people of this country have primarily lived on the decisions and opinions of leaders of these parties.
We can therefore conclude also that the nation’s progress or otherwise has hugely rested on the ideologies of these political parties. Unfortunately, as a people, these two giant political parties in the country have diametrically opposite ideologies and beliefs.
Their thinking of national development is different from each other even though they all have the focus as development. Can this be the reason why they have been acused of not continuing the projects and policies started by “opponents”? This needs to be interrogated thoroughly to help find solutions to the slow pace of development in the country.
In the recent launch of their manifestoes, each of them made yet again huge promises apparently to convince the populace to vote for them. This is not bad in itself, but I ask here and now the million-dollar question again. Are these promises religiously implemented?
Whose duty is it to ensure that political parties honor promises made to the people. I want to believe that such must be based on the populace decision backed by a national policy. This must be long-term, strategic, relatively permanent, binding, and holistic. It must be binding on all. Political parties must also be compelled by law or people’s actions to use the only one agreed and approved principle of national development. I will appreciate any medium of implementation, but the results must be fundamental.
For now, Ghana has not got a long-term development plan. All plans are either short term or ad hoc. National development currently is such that it rests solely on the manifestoes of political parties that are full of promises, some of which are rarely fulfilled
When the votes are needed, anything at all can be said as a promise. A story is told of a man who was talking to a woman he wanted to date. After all attempts have failed, by way of convincing and persuasion, he told the “adamant” lady, “I will buy a train for you so you can use it to go for shopping.” What a promise? This may sound laughable and out of sense, if you like, but what we are reading in some of the political party manifestoes sound similar to this.
Urgently something practical is needed to be done to improve the current practice of short-term planning and the reliance on political party manifestos that do not garner broad consensus but come out as spontaneous election promises.
How can we progress as a nation if our national development is hugely pivoted around the fulfillment or otherwise of election promises in the “epistles to the people” christened manifestoes? Ghana is too old and mature to be handled this way.
The national development plan should be national and holistic. We must ensure as a people willing to provide lasting national development to have a blueprint for national progress and sustainable development.
I don’t want to believe the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) has lost its mandate in this direction. This is the constitutionally mandated institution to work out and provide the core legal framework for national development, among others.
It is not enough for the Commission to only “advise the President on development planning policy and strategy at the request of the President.” What about if the President does not request? Circumstances are such that the Ghanaian President may never request because of obvious reasons.
Against this background, the urgent need for a holistic political literacy among the citizenry is paramount, so political parties do not, in any way, provide “sweet promises” just for their votes. The zeal and the ability to be able to consider and fully participate in national development discourse by all is paramount.
The National Commission of Civic Education (NCCE) needs to work towards improving political literacy in the country. Statistics are that in 2018, for instance, the adult literacy rate for Ghana, for example, was 79 %. The adult literacy rate of Ghana increased from 57.9 % in 2000 to 79 % in 2018, growing at an average annual rate of 17.02%. this needs to improve to cover political literacy too
Citizens need to read and understand the imprecations of the “epistle of promises” by political parties in the country.
Nana Sifa Twum