It is relatively easy to win power in a democratic state.

Words, words and more words – the more palatable to the electorate, the better – are what apparently win elections.

In a country with many facts and “non-facts”, a slick tongue can convince people that (as one politician is reported to have put it!) “if you get 50 Cedis, say you got 5,000 Cedis; if you were given a chicken, say you got ten cows!” Or words to that effect. To the feeble- or simple-minded, the words work!

But given a bit of time, the electorate learns to play its own game. Worried that an elected government might become so powerful that it would act in ways that would increase the cost of living to the electorate, and thereby worsen their standard of living, generally, some electorate guard against making an elected government arrogant and uncaring.

In Ghana, the system the electorate has evolved – and how they did it, no-one knows! – is what they call the “skirt and blouse”. This means a person votes for one party’s presidential candidate, but then changes the party which was beneficiary of his or her presidential vote, when it comes to voting for a Member of Parliament!

This is, of course, not quite “fair”, inasmuch as the electorate ought to know that we have a Constitution that obliges the President and his Cabinet to pass the legislation they require – in order to raise money for Government expenditure – as well as, in general, the legislation needed to maintain the “public weal” or welfare, through Parliament.

It may not be “fair,” but if that’s how the electorate wants to be governed, who has the power to say “No!” to it? The wishes of the people are “supreme” – in a democracy!

You see, the Government is the electorate’s instrument, not the other way round. As unrecognisable Ministers sit in their air-conditioned cars with sirens blaring to clear the way for them to go about their business – or social affairs, as they sign off fat vouchers that become fat cheques for “friends” to whom they’ve granted contracts, they might be tempted to think that life has been “good” to them and that they should be grateful to the Almighty who has looked upon them with greater favour than millions of others.

But in a democratic system like ours, all that is illusory. Eventually, egos do get pricked. We might have a Finance Ministry led by someone who has been in banking and finance for so long that he even thinks his Ministry can challenge the findings of Moody’s or some similar agency, when it publishes adverse findings about Ghana’s finances. The question is, would the Ministry be challenging a Moody’s finding if it had accepted that Ghana’s finances were “sound”? Come to that, who has been boasting that whenever Ghana goes to the international market to raise funds, its offer is “over-subscribed”?

Indeed, cocooning oneself in a “comfort zone” is a dangerous practice in politics. Power, in a democratic state, is like “an egg” (as our non-too-modern sages tell us) and must be held with the greatest care. You have a majority of one in Parliament, yet you manage to present your most controversial legislation to date, the “E-Levy”proposal, at a time when the non-voting Speaker of the National Assembly is unavailable to preside over the House due to health reasons.

As a guide to the competence of the NPP’s parliamentary leaders, this question must be asked: were they aware of the Speaker’s delicate state of health when they endorsed him for the post? If they didn’t know, was that not a lamentable failure in political intelligence? If they knew, then why did they do it?

So, now that the incompetence of the NPP parliamentary show has been ruthlessly exposed, an exercise is launched to take the “E-Levy” message to Town and Village halls, to try and convince the public that the “E-Levy” is a good thing meant to promote their interests?

Why was the campaign not launched BEFORE opposition to the E-Levy became so widespread? And now that the NDC has “tasted blood”, will it draw in its claws, or will it sharpen them to draw more blood?

Please let’s “Play up! Play up and play the game” of democracy (with apologies to Sir Henry Newbolt!). To the rulers, this is my advice: “If you realise that the political cost” of any measure is too high, then drop it! For politics is the art of the possible. There are always alternative measures that can achieve much the same ends, if you are clever enough to look for them!”

To those in whose eyes the ship of state is seen to be listing and who would wish to hijack it, perhaps it would be a good idea to go to neighbouring West African countries, such as Burkina Faso, Mali or Guinea, to observe how much “better” life has become for the citizens of those countries, since their civilian governments were shown the door by ambitious soldiers, some under foreign influence.

Yeah – you never know the value of what you have lost – until it is irretrievably lost!


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