Practically speaking, for a Political Party to set an agenda for the entire nation is like asking a senior High School (SHS) students to set their own examination questions and answer them. Obviously, what do you expect? By analogy, to be politically correct, it would be seemingly unfair on the part of any Ghanaian to criticize a particular political party in power for not doing well. In the first place, they came up with what they want to do for the entire nation and not the other way round. They set their own questions and freely answer them the way they see fit. Have you ever wondered why political parties attribute the few developments they have been able to put in place to themselves (the particular reigning party) rather than viewing it as a national achievement?
Among the many things Ghana seriously needs in order to enhance her democracy is a National Agenda. When that becomes a priority of the nation, the government will continue to blame the governed and the governed, the government. The absence of a National Agenda as a major problem is likely to pose a serious security threat, encompassing economic, food, health, environmental and personal security. Mother Ghana needs a National Agenda to ensure the continuation of programmes and policies to benefit the citizenry irrespective of which government was in power. Thus, issues of unemployment, hunger, marginalization, conflict and other underlying conditions that could make people, especially the youth, susceptible to being recruited into violent extremist groups, would be addressed by the national agenda. It is common knowledge that most projects, which should have been completed and operationalized to address societal needs, are either abandoned or canceled by successive governments. “This happens each time there’s a change of government. This one will come and discontinue projects that were already ongoing and initiate new ones. When the other one comes, he repeats what the predecessor did. What happens is that development problems that such projects would have solved, linger on. That is not all. The amount of money proposed initially for the execution of such a project goes up. So we end up spending huge sums of money in the end. Monies that should have been channeled into other areas to benefit Ghana just go waste and we the citizens are the losers.
There is a popular saying that “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. And so, Ghana needs to plan well or have set-up a National Agenda or “Strategic plan” that will give Ghanaian a fair view to access the performance of the ruling party; this will give the nation a “fairer-right” to criticize a particular political party in governance if they are not doing well. When we listen to discussions and talk shows on radio, TV and other social media platforms, you realize every Ghanaian has what he thinks the country needs to make things work. Therefore, this write-up is firstly advocating the possibility of collating all these brilliant ideas and making them a national agenda or a national plan for effective implementation by ruling political parties. Secondly, this write-up laments the current political system whereby political parties, who are often the minority of the entire population of the country, rather have the prerogative to set National Agenda for the country. Consequently, these Political Parties often come up with beautiful manifestos but when voted into power, they either change their strategies or twist those same manifestos in their own interest to the detriment of the entire populace.
It is well known in this country that some of these manifestos are merely manipulative and are never achieved. For instance, the Political Party “SVD” says I want to create the sea in the northern part of the country, Political Party “SSPS” says I want to build the hot sun in the southern part of the country. Most of these agendas are calculated and craftily hatched based on the plight of the poor and destitute in the country; to entice these vulnerable poor who seek immediate relief in their economic and social situations to vote for such parties anticipating a better future which never comes to sight. And so as long as the margin of the poor and destitute stays widened, politicians will continue to buy their way through elections with promises upon promises. These manifestos are auctioned during the campaign. Instead of working to change the lives of people, they spend the entire time trying to build strategies to stay in office. They would work for re-election, they need more time (second term) to fix this and that. However, when given a second term, they use nearly all that time blaming the problems inherited from the previous “government” as the hindrance for not achieving all their goals.
THE OPPOSITION AND THE ELITE
The opposition on the other hand, assumes the role of “pull them down”; very often they see the danger coming, they may not say anything, they will wait for it to happen before they come out to play the hero. Meanwhile, this involves state funds and other resources of the country. When these things should have been prevented as at the time they were happening. These would later be used as campaign messages against the other and the rest of us will be applauding them.
Unfortunately, the elites who can discern between a genuine manifesto and “poor plight based” manifesto only speak loudly on the radio, TV and other social media platforms but are not in the majority to effect any change when it comes to voting.
HELPFUL REFERENCE TO THE POLITICAL ARCHIVES
One outstanding mark of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his administration, which brought success to the nation was that he had a national plan or agenda. This plan was beyond any particular group of people or a political party. Ghana had Vision 2020, later, a National Development Plan. Sad to say all these were tossed overboard with time.
There were a couple of recommendations from the Constitutional Review Committee of Ghana that the National Development Plan Committee (NDPC) be entrenched to bind all successive governments but that never saw the light of day. They also proposed that it should not be the sole prerogative of a political party to draw up an agenda for the nation, but a team of experts who will work into the interest of Ghanaians.
THE WAY FORWARD
A National Agenda, if well planned, would help build a healthy and good participatory democracy. This will obviously stamp out a fair bit of corruption, false loyalty to a political party, unrealistic manifesto, selfish motives in serving the country and the spirit of amassing wealth by individuals. The National Agenda will keep the entire government and the governed focused and realistic in their approach to what the country is in need of.
In the National Agenda, when a particular government (political Party) leaves office, the projects should be continued by the next government. A different political Party does not start an entirely new Agenda according to their whims and caprices. A National Agenda should help everyone in the country to be able to measure and judge how well the country is being run and developed by a particular political party or government. This is where honest and proper assessment could be done by fellow citizens. A national Agenda will also eliminate any calculated and crafty manifesto form of any political party to win votes from the poor majority of people in the country. Legible Ghanaian voters will then exercise their franchise based on HOW the National Agenda will be executed.
More so, a National Agenda (probably for the duration of either 20 or 30 years), when finally collated from the various Regions in the country can be further divided into parts per the period of 6 years, according to the priority of the country. When working on a prioritized Agenda for a particular period of time, the National Agenda should not halt other developments or activities; other sectors, which are not on the priority list for that period should continue to play along but should not be the main focus.
For instance, if from 2023 – 2028 if the country’s priorities are Health, Road and Environment, HOW would the next government achieve that for the country? The populist would examine each political party’s approach and vote for the best party with the best approach into power. When the next government takes over, they will continue from where the other left off. This is how participatory democracy is enhanced, this is how a government of the day can be fairly criticized in a well-meaning country and demonstrates that they know where they are going and what they seek to achieve as a goal oriented people.
Finally, let me sum up by saying that all this would mean that political parties campaigning or canvasing for votes should be based on the HOW rather than the WHAT. The WHAT the country needs must be decided by the entire nation through collating of suggestions from all the Regions and subsequently, a referendum to decide. Certainly, it should be the right of political parties to bargain and convince the rest of Ghanaians through their campaign on HOW to approach and achieve these agenda.
Source: Nicholas Nibetol Aazine, SVD
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC Coordinator)
Divine Word Missionaries, Ghana-Liberia Province