Well not quite a stalemate; 6,730,587 forming 51.3% of valid votes excluding Techiman-South Constituency for President Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo-Addo. Agreeably, another 6,214,889 for the Ex-President John Dramani Mahama. It is rational and fair to say the nation is split politically with 6 million people preferring NDC as much as NPP. These figures may be in contest especially because of the unfortunate but explainable correction by the Electoral Commission about the total valid voters. My point however is, whether or not the total valid voters were 13,433,573 or 13,119,460, it still leaves us with more than 16 million Ghana who either could not partake in the process or chose not to, assuming our 30 million population estimate is indeed realistic.
This rant was inspired by my experience this morning, en route to work on a regular Thursday morning, little did I know I will waste an extra almost 3 hours of my life in traffic because supporters of the NDC had picketed at EC to demonstrate against the results. This article is not as much about the time waste or unbearable traffic but the conduct, chants, and the mood of demonstrators whiles I drove painstakingly through the mob. I could not but think of how volatile the situation is and how easily this incidence could escalate.
The news reportage and international media is already feasting with narratives like “deadly violence gripped the West African Country” and some gladly calling the elections a “contentious poll”. As a passionate African, I identify beyond these nation-states that were given us as a result of the European partition of the continent when we were not even at the table and discounted these reports as part of the game to give the dog a bad name in order to justify its murder.
As an Enterprise Risk Professional however and having observed the rancorous mob (to be entirely fair, just about 100 people) this morning holding clubs, nailed slabs, smoking in the full glare of the morning and chanting, ‘No Mahama, No Peace’, I was convinced writing this opinion will be necessary, at least to help all of us reflect what the end game could be? How does it all resolve? When all the pieces settle, how does the showdown look like? I may not have answers but I have a perspective; the curse of our duopoly.
The stories of modern politics begin in the summer of 1789, the French Revolution is gaining grounds, The National Assembly acting as the revolution’s government had the principal goal of writing a new constitution. One of the principal issues was, how much power should the king have? Should the King of France be given the right to an absolute veto was the central question. Members of the assembly who thought the king should have an absolute veto sat on the right of the president of the assembly, and those who thought he should not — the more radical view — sat on the left of the president of the assembly. In other words, “those who wanted to hew closer to tradition were on the right, and those who wanted more change were on the left” and these groupings became the origins of our modern political left and right where left and right suggest progressivism and conservatism.
Why do these lessons in history matter when I am ranting about a demonstrating mob chanting ‘No Mahama, No peace’? Well, I think it does for several reasons particularly because, in the current political climate, disagreements mean you belong to a different political ideology and thus an enemy. It is even particularly important because NPP and NDC are branded as moderate forms of the right and left respectively, although in practice none of the two parties are true to any of these political ideals. None has ever been progressives nor conservatives in its right sense. So the real question is what are the differences between these two parties except for the unfortunate ethnic and religious encoring? It needs to be said, I am neither NPP nor NDC especially because the two parties are essentially not differentiated in any form. Overtime however, affiliations and tribal affinity and the stakes of gain from the political power heightens emotions as well as our psychological affinity to the party colors as much as Arsenal or Manchester United may be, blinding us of very commonsensical matters, just sometimes.
The history lessons are also particularly relevant considering our national assembly, parliament, is almost split right down the aisle between the left and right. For once we are truly tendered towards the center. It is important at this point therefore for readers to pause and reflect rather carefully, why they may support or be empathetic towards NDC or NPP and perhaps ask further what is the end game of this political duopoly?
- What is the issue? One party disagrees with the official EC results. Is that new to democracies to have differences in opinions about simple matters as election data maybe? I do not think so. 2008 and 2012 were perhaps more contentious than this year. Does the disagreeing party have a right to demonstrate? Of course. But must such a demonstration unnecessarily burden others who have other legitimate business? Definitely Not. When I was in traffic today, I counted a minimum of at least three ambulances that were struggling to take people to the hospital, forgetting not that Ridge hospital is almost opposite the Electoral Commission. So by all means let us lament the 5 people who died out of the election violence but let us ask, how many more will die out of these protests? The enclave of the EC office is almost the financial district of Ghana with that principal road as the main connector to Accra Central, the central business district. I do not have a problem with people exercising their rights to demonstrate, but assuming even all the 6 million people who voted for Mahama choose the option of demonstration, we are left with over 24 million Ghanaians we know could not or did not prefer Mahama and so the rights of the 6 million should not take away from the right of the other people. If one juxtaposes the rhetoric of ‘No Mahama, No peace’ with the attitude, the real question is, does peace mean a disregard of the rights and preferences of the other 24 million Ghanaians? So for the many arguing that, there is a right to demonstration, by all means, demonstrate but such a right has a limit in public order and peace. What is the essence of burning car tyres or picketing at a place to inconvenience a lot more people? Is the end game to disturb the peace or make the nation ungovernable or is it to resolve the issues of disagreement with the EC declared results?
- How then do the parties resolve the issue of disagreement of election results? In 2012, a contending candidate took the issues to court and I dare say, after the rhetoric of ‘All die be die’, the maturity at resolving those disagreements was one of the main things that perhaps won him the affection to win 2016 by those significant margins as he did. If there is anything to be said, NDC is posturing and becoming unpopular at least to people who tender toward prudence and pragmatism. If indeed the endgame is 2024, this approach is causing disaffection rather than affection. The courts are institutions of public record, if the goal is transparency and justice then it cannot be found on the street, it is found in the claims and arguments in court and I pray that becomes the option of urgency as some of us are keen to know what the facts indeed are beyond the shouting at each either, we need a reasoned dialogue to figure out what the facts truly are as determined by an arbiter.
- What are the lessons for both parties? Neither of them is overly attractive, at least in 2020. 2016 was clear, the national shift and sentiments for President Nana Akuffo Addo and NPP was clear but no one can say the same about this year’s elections. In the words of my senior brother, Nana Awere Damoah, “In a strange twist of fate, the NDC may be the NPP’s savior in Elections 2020. In the end. JM may be the one who saves NADAA.” And therein lies the truism. This election for many people was not about who they preferred as the better candidate but who they considered a bad option for the worst alternative. Both parties have become desensitized to the average Ghanaian. It is interesting a DW’s Documentary on Ghana’s promise of oil find filmed over a decade is not mainstream yet. Many millions are unemployed and need to be put back to work, there is a country struggling with debt sustainability issues since the days of HIPC in 2000 and principally there is a mindset and educational issue in its proper sense and here we are bickering about NPP and NDC. These issues have been longstanding far beyond the term of one political party and will not be solved by a polarized nation so we can devolve to destroying our nation or choose the high difficult ground of wisdom and national interest.
In finding words to conclude, my mother always told me, “If the halves do not agree, it does not mean the stranger should take what is to be shared away” and that my friends is the real issue. The story is always told about the running lion and gazelle in the African forest every day if one is to survive, but that story has a darker side; the poachers and hunters with guns preying on the ‘game’. The common enemy is to deal with others who enjoy the low-level game we are playing as Africans as they benefit from the status quo. The real politics is international and the fight against a systems of valuation which perpetually leaves the African people poor.
We must not forsake the real battle of liberating our people from years of disadvantage and colonization. The real battle is the underdevelopment of millions of our people and so yes, the halves may not agree but they have a constitutional arbiter so if one chooses not to exercise that right, we should not let outsiders have the glory of our pride; the glory of our race needs to be built and these waste of time and narratives are needless, to say the least. Uhuru!
My name is Yaw Sompa, I am an African and I believe we must wake up from the slumber of the political duopoly. I am a lawyer and an Enterprise Risk Professional. I am an author of two books, ‘Be The Difference- A Leadership Roadmap for the New African’ and ‘Fate of System Thinking’. I believe the African youth will rebuild our continent far beyond our wildest imagination but first we must enable him to think independently. Ubuntu!