Nana Konadu Lectures On Multi-Party Democracy

31 03 2011

NANA KONADU AGYEMAN RAWLINGSPublic Lecture On The Topic ‘Multi-Party Democracy In Ghana, Challenges For The University Student’ Delivered By Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings On The Occasion Of The SRC Week Of The Kumasi Campus Of The University College Of Education, Winneba – Tuesday, March 29 2011

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured by your invitation to deliver a lecture as part of activities marking your SRC week and I will attempt to do justice to your chosen topic, “Multi-party democracy in Ghana, Challenges for the University Student”.

As you are all aware multi-party democracy is a system in which multiple registered political parties have the right to compete for the right to control government.

Ladies and gentlemen Ghana embraced multi-party democracy in the late 1950s when our fight for independence from colonial rule drew to a close and two major parties, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) emerged to contest for right of political governance of Ghana.

While the concept of multiparty democracy may have been adopted from our colonial masters, the British, it seemed the logical form of political office to adopt judging from the fact that it had been tried and tested by the so-called advanced countries at the time.

Events preceding Independence however gave enough indications that the concept of multi-party democracy was bound to be fraught with problems, particularly the initial acrimony it encountered.

The departure of Kwame Nkrumah from the UGCC to form the CPP and establishment of parties with ethnic biases such as the Northern People’s Party, the Ga Shifimopkee, the Muslim Association Party, the Anlo Youth Association and Togoland Congress were clear indications of the fact that our post-independence politics was fraught with partisanship of an ethnic and over-ambitious kind.

Parliament in 1957 prohibited the establishment of political parties on ethnic lines. Despite the merger of all the afore-mentioned under Busia’s National Liberation Movement, our multi-party democracy has carried heavy ethnic undertones which have often-times been abused by politicians with parochial and petty agendas.

Multi-party democracy suffered significantly during the period between 1957 and 1979 as Kwame Nkrumah effectively installed a one party state following boycotts by other parties that crippled smooth governance. The military also took turns to manage the country with the exception of Dr. Busia’s short-lived era as Prime Minister, from October 1969 to January 1972.

The major problem that plagued multiparty democracy between 1957 and 1979 was the desire of our kith and kin to abuse the political power vested in them by the electorate.

Historians and political analysts alike concede Kwame Nkrumah had a great vision for Ghana and indeed left a legacy for Ghana despite the major excesses that led to his demise. Despite the establishment of the Akosombo Dam, the VALCO, the huge investments in educational infrastructure and a host of other achievements, Kwame Nkrumah was let down by his ministers and their quest for power.

The Post-Nkrumah era period 1966 and 1969 also saw the pro-United Party UP military leadership cleared the civil service, industries and all government institutions of all persons appointed during the Nkrumah era. More dangerous was the fact that less experienced and sometimes incompetent people replaced these dismissed personnel. That led to the demise of Nkrumah’s industrialisation programme.

The Aliens Compliance Act of 1969, transfer of huge sums of money into personal bank accounts in 1970 and the devaluation of the cedi in 1971, which were all very unpopular decisions that led to the overthrow of Prime Minister Busia.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to explain the historical antecedent to our current Fourth Republican political dispensation as many of you take your history lessons lightly these days and many lack basic knowledge on how Ghana has evolved politically.

Unfortunately the interventions of Acheampong’s National Redemption Council and Supreme Military Council 1, Akuffo Supreme Military Council 2 rather exacerbated the die political situation left by the failed Busia regime.

It took the cleansing of the June 4 1979 uprising led by Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings and subsequently the 31st December 1979 revolution to bring sanity to the political musical chairs that had engulfed Ghana’s politics.

I have to state unequivocally that the major achievement of the 31st December Revolution was the rediscovery of people’s power and the belief by the PNDC that the people were to be part of national development and had to be empowered at every level of society.

The establishment of People and Workers Defence Committees which later metamorphosed into Committees for the Defence of the Revolution laid the groundwork for a very organised local government structure which served as the basis for the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1992.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Fourth Republic Constitution was built on a model of local governance popularly referred to as the District Assembly concept. Non-partisan in nature, many have questioned why a political substructure of national scope can exist in a multi-party presidential and parliamentary system.

Ladies and gentlemen, the District Assembly system was fashioned out to be non-partisan because of the inherent flaws in the multi-party system of democracy. The over-competitive nature of the multi-party system will be difficult to emulate at the grassroots level without creating too much antagonism and conflict. The idea was to ensure that the desire to serve one’s locality was not impeded by so much investment and forced adherence to one political faction or the other.

Our Fourth Republic dispensation, which will be the basis of most of my arguments, has seen two transitions. One very smooth and the other a grudging one with every attempt made to scupper the will of the people.

The multi-party system we practice is a challenging one for you students because you play an integral role in the success or failure of most political systems. While many see students as a by-product of our educational system, the political lives of most people starts with their activism or radicalism as some will call it, during their tertiary education days.

I suggest we do not limit ourselves to the challenges that face university students but all tertiary level students.

The first major challenge is the need not to be so indoctrinated that you close your ears and eyes to other people’s views and opinions so that they can analyse situations based on facts, figures and information on the ground. As young intellectuals growing up in a multiparty system if you don’t keep an open mind you will caught in the web of myopic partisanship and it will not help you grow in any democratic dispensation.

But perhaps the most disconcerting of the multi-party approach that serves as a huge challenge to our youth in general is the monetization that goes with it. The ideal of multi-partyism is to be able to sell your policies and ideas to the populace so they can weigh your alternative against the other parties’ without fear or favour, without any influence, material or monetary. We have unfortunately been saddled with a situation where our economic status has allowed greedy politicians to sway the electorate with so-called incentives forcing many to vote against their conscience.

As young people, this brazen abuse of the political system can affect you both morally and politically. At this stage of your lives you are always encouraged to have a strong moral behaviour while standing up for your rights as good citizens of society. We have all had our “Aluta” days when we had to fight on issues of corruption, or for higher student loans, better accommodation facilities and so on.

These were lessons in elementary politics. But ladies and gentlemen, is it not sad that the multi-party elections that you have even in your Halls of Residence and within the National Union of Ghana Students, is laden with so much monetary influence many who do not wish to be involved in controversy are automatically sidelined, as they refuse to get involved in the process.

The same factor affects our national politics as well where those of us who choose to stick our necks out have to fight all sorts of intrigues, abuse and mudslinging all because some people are afraid of competition.

As young adults and tertiary students you have a major challenge to campaign against the corruption of our multi-party system and also against those who see politics as a means to financial and material wealth.

The ideal of multi-party politics is service to the people not a service to yourself. As students remember one of the ideals of the PNDC and the NDC is and has always been probity and accountability. Some people have these days chosen to relegate probity and accountability to the background and have adopted their own ideals which I am afraid can destroy the moral fibre of our politics.

The challenge and campaign can be better be articulated by young vibrant people who have not been corrupted by the stench of some of the dirty politics going on.

You serve as the fifth realm of the state and you have a challenge to become the powerful voice to the voiceless, remembering that you have strength in numbers.

Your challenge is to ensure that even though you may originate from different political, social and ethnic backgrounds you are united by one goal – to grow into a future Ghana devoid of politics of corruption and intimidation by those who have money and influence.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen the challenge affects you more than any other group because you have the unenviable task of being the leaders of tomorrow. You cannot be good leaders of tomorrow if you spend your time chasing materialism, corrupting your leadership front and diluting the moral power that students are known to carry. You should rather take initiative and campaign for the sustainability of our current political dispensation.

Ladies and gentleman as students you also have the role of educating the electorate, particularly those at the grassroots who are easy victims of misinformation or lack the ability to understand and appreciate the political climate without the assistance of someone.

Lately many university students have become victims of the rural urban drift and refuse to go home regularly during semester breaks. You have a responsibility to go back home and educate your family at home. You have a responsibility to help identify the problems facing your local communities and pass them through various dissemination programmes offered at the district level.

It is important that you also do not forget to participate in active politics yourselves if you believe you have the capacity to serve your people. Leadership is service to the people and service can start even when you are young. You do not have to be intimidated into believing that you need to have a certain kind of wealth before embracing politics. Indeed that process has negatively affected our politics and prevented many gifted and talented people from bringing their wisdom into the political arena.

As you celebrate your SRC week I encourage you to reflect over the role you have to play in sustaining our current political dispensation. Our democracy is under siege because we have been infected by a disease, which makes us feel supreme, omnipotent, untouchable, and unstoppable making us see no wrong, do no wrong, and expect no criticism. So we must move away from this behaviour. A critique is not an insult, it acts as a check and balance on how we perform our duties what we do every day.

As university students you should look at the various realms of state, be it the executive, the legislature, the media or the judiciary and criticise where you have to, praise where you have to, but most importantly take a position that will help all four to work positively for the good of our democracy.

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