What if the president had no second chance?

I have a question in the title of this article but I’m going to start the article again with a question, what if the president had no second chance?

What do you mean a second chance? Everyone deserves a second chance, why not the president? In this article, I will try to be as clear as possible regarding my personal position on this.

In clearer terms, what if every president in Ghana had only one term? This may be what Ghana needs right now in terms of political leadership.

One of the biggest problems facing Ghana today is a lack of a solid developmental plan if there is any at all. Usually, the effects of good policies are not often seen in the short term. It may require up to a decade or more to see the real impact of a good policy or developmental plan. Unfortunately, governments are compelled to look for short term glory in efforts to win the next election to continue their mandate.

We have seen the effects of this system. Projects are abandoned across the country after millions of tax payer’s money have been invested. Every president comes to start their own project hoping to take the credit to score political points for the next election.

Why not a one-term president whose legacy is from his or her capacity to drive real reform rather than in his ability to win reelection? I think this will help our country far more than the current system.

I have seen arguments concerning the number of years that makes one term of presidency. If 4 years is too short and 8 years too long for continuous governance, why not find a middle ground. Let’s say a president upon winning can ran for 5-6 years continuously after which they are not qualified to run again. Which will mean that after every five years, the incumbent president is replaced with a fresh candidate in his party for the next election.

If this happens, every president would know that his legacy will be judged in the long term on the soundness of his policies and not how long he sat as president. I believe if it is so, the government is likely to focus more on strong national reforms and policies instead of short term fixes to win the next election.

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A small history

When the first Europeans arrived in the late 15th century. Inhabitants of the Gold Coast area were under very strong processes of the organisation. Led by the great Ashanti Empire, the gold coast already had some bureaucratic processes and had some form of central leadership. The northern side was dominated by the Dagbon Kingdom which had one of the most organised central systems in place.  Initially, the Gold Coast did not participate in the export slave trade. As recorded by Ivor Wilks, a leading historian of Ghana, the Akan purchased slaves from Portuguese traders operating from other parts of Africa, including DR Congo and Benin in order to augment the labour needed for the state formation that was characteristic of this period.

This history is meant to point to the fact that Ghana, as it is now, was undergoing its own political evolution before they were strongly interrupted by external civilizations. Before the Europeans came, the inhabitants of the Gold Coast had contacted other civilizations. They were renowned for their trading prowess and rich in gold. I guess it is no brainer the land was named the Gold Coast.

This history is meant to point to the fact that Ghana as it is now was undergoing its own political evolution before they were strongly interrupted by external civilizations. Before the Europeans came, the inhabitants of the Gold Coast had contacted other civilizations. They were renowned for their trading prowess and rich in gold. I guess it is no brainer the land was named the Gold Coast.

How does everything lined up with the point of this article?

I cannot pretend to know exactly what would be the political situation of Ghana had our own efforts to evolve had not been hijacked by an external civilizations. However, I do know for certain that it would be different from what we have today. Probably we would have come up with some form of democracy or ‘anythingcracy’ but how can we know if we would have been politically better off or not.

I know in today’s world, democracy is hyped as if it was handed down by the owner of this universe for man to be ruled by. But the truth is, it is just a stage of evolution of another civilization. If the Arabians had the kind of influence the western civilizations had, we would probably be washed down to run the Arabian political system as well.

In the lens of heavy political programming, democracy has been totally whitewashed so much that any country that hesitates to join is seen as the devil incarnate.

But is that really so?

There is this very popular comparison that people make. We gained independence 6 years before Malaysia and the two countries were much alike at the time of independence. But today, it will be difficult to compare the two. Malaysia is miles ahead almost in every aspect of national development. People make this comparison while criticizing the leadership of Ghana.

What those people don’t see is the fact that Ghana and Malaysia ran a completely different political systems. While Malaysia were able to adapt democracy to their native political systems after independence, Ghana simply adopted democracy and almost discarded what they had before colonialism.

Malaysia political system has a framework of a federal representative democratic constitutional monarchy, in which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is head of state and the Prime Minister of Malaysia is the head of government. More like what we have in England. In such a system, there is continuous authority that is concerned with the countries growth than personal glories.

You can carry out a small research to see the point I’m making. Compare countries that adopted democracy as a whole grain to those who adapted it. Take your own metric of development and compare the two groups. You will see that democracy is just like any other political system that has its pros and cons.

Let’s see some sentiments from a leading figure of the civilization that are known as the fathers of democracy.  In the dialogues of Plato, the founding father of Greek Philosophy – Socrates – is portrayed as hugely pessimistic about the whole business of democracy. He made some illustrations that implied that voting in an election is a skill, not a random intuition. And like any skill, it needs to be taught systematically to people.

This is however not an anti-democracy article.

Do not get me wrong. Democracy offers a lot for every free society but like any other system, it is not a one fix for every country. Just because one form of democracy worked for one country does not mean it will work for every country. I believe every country that considers democracy needs to adapt it rather than adopting it.

We have tried this two-term system for nearly 60 years now. Though there were some periods of autocratic leadership I still think we have seen the aspects of this system that work for us and those that do not. Unfortunately, I have not seen any major efforts Ghana have made in recent times regarding our leadership structure.

We keep doing the same exact thing and hoping that somehow the results comes out different. I think even a child in Ghana knows that our political system is not serving us anymore. The only people that defend the system are those in power.

This is not to suggest that a one-term presidential amendment will take away all the inherent problems in our political system. However, I believe it will be a big step in the right direction to say the least. For starters, this will make our democracy even much more stable. Incumbency advantage and the will to abuse incumbency and sabotage elections will be drastically reduced.

Also, in basic school, we were taught that a member of parliament is a representative of the people who elected him. Well, I guess it is only true when it comes to who receives the people’s money. MPs represent their parties and not any way in the interest of the people.

This is why there is a growing disconnect between the people and the local governments. Today, the local governments are like a stuffed bear, huge but useless unless one wants to cry. Though we all know how it affects our very democratic process, it looks like that trend only gets stronger with passing administration. What if there were an amendment that included a number of experts in their field that balances the odds of minority and majority when it comes to serious policy formulation? I will explain.

Let’s assume the government wants to pass a policy in the energy sector. And the majority have 10 votes more than the minority. The parliament set up could be in such a way that 20 volunteering experts in energy in academia and industry joins the discussion and are given the power to vote. This will offset the minority, majority divide. The aim is to get our parliament focusing on issues than which party is in power.

It is a known fact that most of our parliamentarians can’t even tie their shoelaces and they are up there making decisions that affect national health, energy, agriculture and other very important aspects of national development. Sometimes their stupidity on a particular topic is exposed immediately they start to talk. A parliamentarian who thinks blood is mixed with water before transfusion is going to make a decision that medical doctors have to work with. Well, that is exactly what we have currently.

The kind of democracy we are practising right now is much more suited for an enlightened society. If majority of voters cannot discern policies we will always end up with leaders who are talkers than those who are dowers.

Let me narrate a scenario Socrates himself painted. Imagine a medical doctor and a clown contesting for a leadership position. The medical doctor speaks on what he will offer. The clown then tells the people, wait, isn’t it this same man that gives you medicine and forces you to swallow them? He gives you injection all the time and causes you pain. While I make you happy all the time, vote for me. Is the doctor then going to say, “Well, I cause you pain, but it is for your own good”? Imagine the sentence as the title of a news article in this country. 

This may look outlandish but that is exactly how this democracy works. And we still wonder why our leadership fails us all the time? Well, we will only be lucky to come across a visionary and action-driven leader as long as we maintain the current course. Kwame Nkurumah was voted after he proved a point with the independence struggle. It looks like he is the only visionary leader we have ever had as a country. I mean no disrespect.

In summary, I have raised two opinions; amend the constitution to allow presidents only one term and make room for experts to have a vote in passing policies at least in sensitive sectors.

I’m no political scientist but I think if a system is not working as needed, it is better to make efforts to change the system than keep waiting for miracles. At least, we have had like forever to come out with a report on what is not working. Let’s have the courage to make tough decisions and get us on a better path.

2 COMMENTS

  1. […] There are challenges with this administration but every well-meaning Ghanaian knows Ghana is a developing nation hence challenges is our second name. And no administration can even score close to perfect. Nana has implemented some populist projects purposely for political points but that is normal for any political party. It is a general problem with our political system. You can read my thoughts on that. […]

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