You probably saw this one coming, I mean, as Ghanaian as I am, how could I not have anything to say about Sunday’s presidential election. Either way you look at it, there just might be a drastic turn in Ghana’s history come December 7,2008. The only thing is, I am not in the least bit confident in any result that this election might come to. All I can hope is that we don’t accelerate the process of ruining what strides we have made so far…Initially, I would have said, “Vote Wisely” but now all I can say is “Try to choose the lesser of the evils.”
I realize I am very critical of Ghana’s development efforts, and it has nothing to do with being brainwashed by living in the West or anything of the sort. It is simply because Ghana has so much potential, yet continuously squanders it! (Now I understand why they say that our parents and teachers tend to be harder on us because they see the potential we have) And I dare not even go in depth about that one otherwise this post will never end… Who am I kidding, some things have to be said regardless.
First off, I will give Ghana her due. We have had a relatively stable democracy over the past decade or so. But times have changed, the world economy is in a recession, we have just discovered oil, political pundits are ever looking for something to debate about, the list is endless. I have personally never voted in a Ghanaian election. First because I was not “legally of age” (as far as I am concerned I am as old at heart as it gets) and secondly because I am currently abroad and there isn’t a system in place for citizens abroad to vote …or if there is, then the government and media have certainly been very tight-lipped about it.
Even if I were registered to vote, I wouldn’t know who to vote for. Sure, there is a whole list of candidates to choose from, but the point of the matter is none of them inspire any trust in me. Why? Unfulfilled promises. Ghana (and practically every African nation for that matter) has a history of those. “I will create x amount of jobs, I will build x amount of schools, I will solve the water crisis.” Excuse me, but it is one thing to spew out words, and another thing to act…and it seems the implementation trap always succeeds in tripping us up.
Take the water crisis for instance. Ghana has 2 main seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season is generally from April to October and the dry season from November to March. Two extreme conditions with two extreme results. In the rainy season, there is immense flooding all over the country; even in the relatively dry Northern region as was seen last year. During the dry season, the amount of water shortage is so acute that even the Hydroelectric Dam at Akosombo which supplies all of Ghana’s power does not have enough water to turn its turbines and produce electricity. I remember vividly that in my final year in high school and right before we had to write our final exams, the water crisis was so severe that ALL high schools closed down and students were sent back home. All except my high school.The implications of the water situation on Ghana’s development cannot and should not be underestimated. It does not only affect the sanitation and health sectors but basically every area of life in Ghana (Water is Life is not an exaggeration.)
For basically every election so far, the presidential candidates have promised to work on the water and power crises in Ghana. To date, nothing substantial has been done. Sure, many water facilities – pipes etc have been put in place, but what is the use of the pipe when the water is not being harnessed. I would think that the obvious solution to this problem would be to come up with a system by which the water (floods) from the rainy season could be stored and conserved for the dry season. That will not only help reduce the rate of loss of life and property during floods, but will go a long way towards helping ensure that citizens have the basic necessities of life. But I guess this solution is not so obvious to our politicians. Besides, Ghana is still running on the same electricity generation facility set up by Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah, and no extreme renovation works have been done on that either.
Now its 2008 and although the outgoing government has made great strides in many areas, it has also committed so many wrongs. On the top of the list, the privatization of the Ghana Water Company. Why in heavens name would you choose to turn over such a vital sector to foreigners (who are mainly profit-seeking), when you have not exhausted attempts at managing your system more efficiently? – Honestly, I don’t expect an answer to that question.
This year especially, I am wary about the political climate in Ghana. Ghana’s civil society has developed over the years and it is more willing to challenge government’s actions. Add a bit of oil and you might have an entire inferno blazing across the country. The discovery of oil in Ghana holds much promise, but it could also spell the country’s doom. I have never actually trusted the words of Ghanaian presidential aspirants, and I am even less inclined to do so now with the temptation of money that the oil brings. If ever there were a time when Ghanaians should be afraid, I would say the time is now.
Oil and Water aside, let’s talk about social interaction. Every nation has its marginalized populations, and Ghana is no exception. The Northern part of Ghana has been neglected for too long, and continues to be neglected. But instead of the government working at helping solve problems, they play the 3 Northern regions as they would chess pieces. Honestly, the next time I hear something along the lines of “Vote for us because we will make a Northerner Vice-President”, I will most likely go over the edge. I am Northerner, and I KNOW and BELIEVE that I am as competent (if not more) as any Southerner to handle the affairs of the country if it came down to it. One shouldn’t be surprised that there is unrest in these regions of the country. Neglecting people’s basic necessities is bound to have an effect.
There are many more areas where governments have had a chance to inspire confidence in the Ghanaian populace but have failed tremendously, and I do not mean to project the failings of past governments on the incoming government (whoever they may be). But my question is this. If you have an endless portfolio of instances where Ghanaian leaders have not fulfilled their promises, should it be so hard for you as an aspiring President to give case studies and propose solutions to them?? Obviously, the answer is no, but the manner in which presidential aspirants run their campaigns would make you think they were dealing with theories instead of reality. As has been stated by many media outlets, the Presidential Debates resulted in no substantial ideas on how these aspiring Presidents intend to handle the affairs of the country. Here’s a piece of advice from a young Ghanaian: Take a page from Obama’s book, don’t make unrealistic promises.
Any presidential aspirant who can come up with a detailed and realistic proposal on how to solve either of these situations, would have my vote…if I were voting. For now, all I can say to those of you who are voting is not to get pulled in by empty promises and instead choose the lesser of the evils. If in a couple of years, the incoming government puts my words to shame, I would be more than delighted to retract this statement. Until then…well, until then…
Photo Source: http://www.fosda.net/?q=node/201
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.