Politics in Ghana has metamorphosed a lot over the past 24 years or so. It is not the sort of politics we read in history text books in junior or senior secondary schools nor the type Mike Ocquaye, Boafo-Arthur, Drah and co taught at Legon. Sadly there have been some new yardsticks that inform who qualifies to run on the tickets of our political parties to enter parliament. This happens to be the issue of money. Lots and lots of money.
Money has always been a factor in our politics over the last few years. However the scale at which this has grown over the past few years should worry all those who care about our democracy and the development of our dear nation.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, LOTS OF MONEY
At a meeting with the Parliamentary Press Corp a few months back the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Edward Doe-Adjaho complained about how we have made money the fulcrum of our political endeavours.
As citifmonline.com reports;
” The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho has expressed serious concerns over the dominance of money in Ghana’s politics. He observed that Ghana’s democracy has got to a stage that money rules rather than seeking the interest of Ghanaians.“We have monetized politics, all of us. If you don’t pay they won’t vote for you,” the Speaker of Parliament stated. This he said have had a negative effect on the country’s democracy because those who have good intentions but may not have money to spread would not get the chance to go into politics.
The Member of Parliament for Bosomtwe, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah, has attributed his loss in the New Patriotic Party ( NPP ) primaries in the constituency to his inability to match the financial muscle of the eventual winner.
“The most important thing that led to my loss to the eventual winner is that he was the highest bidder. The whole thing turned in his favour about an hour to the elections. That is the trend now. That is the order of the day now. The highest bidder wins and I am not talking about my party alone. It happens in all political parties. That is the way our politics is going now,” he told Graphic Online in an interview in Parliament.
– See more at: http://graphic.com.gh/news/politics/44847-i-lost-bosomtwe-npp-seat-to-the-highest-bidder-simon-osei-mensah.html#sthash.0SPrLu0Z.dpuf
The core reasons that surround the winners and losers of June 13th primaries of the NPP, I think are:
1. Those with the deepest pockets won in in a lot of constituencies. Some pundits have tried to give cogent reasons why some 1, 2, 3, and even 4 term MPS lost. I will come back to this in a bit.
2. Loyalty to the party seemed an endearing trait why others managed to win. Indeed a got an email from one of the victors who concedes that he did give out monies to delegates but he is aware also that his rivals gave more than he did but the loyalty element played out for him.
3. The only reason I can fathom for a big shot like Richard Anane losing his seat will be his less than impressive support of Nana Addo as compared to Alan Kyeremanteng. There are a few of such losers.
4. The desire for change also seems to have been a factor.
I am reliably informed that in one of the constituencies in the Eastern Region, the winning candidate probably spent about 2,000 cedis on each delegate to ensure victory. I am told that on the day of voting, the winning candidate arranged breakfast for 350 delegates. Each delegate was then given 300 cedis cash. Each one was then taken to a large storeroom with plasma TVs, fridges and generators and asked to select one. They were then told to go and vote, take a picture of the voting slip and use that as evidence to come and collect their chosen gift.
Elsewhere, delegates were given substantial cash and made to swear by deities to vote for particular candidates. Others also made the doling out of motorbikes, fridges, mobile phones and of course wads of cash an essential part of the campaign.
A defeated New Patriotic Party (NPP) Parliamentary aspirant has attributed his loss to threats by his opponent to invoke the wrath of a powerful deity ‘Antoa’ on the delegates. According to the Member of Parliament for the Afigya Sekyere East constituency in the Ashanti Region, Henry David Yeboah, the delegates were afraid to vote for him because they feared the consequences of incurring the wrath of ‘Antoa.’ “He came on radio and accepted it that he had imposed curses on about 480 to 500 delegates and had given them 500 cedis that if they don’t vote for his daughter, they will die. He claimed on Kessben and Nhyria FM that he is a devil.” Henry Yeboah who is serving his third term as MP lost in the primaries to a 26-year-old Mavis Nkansah Boadu. – See more at: http://citifmonline.com/2015/06/15/my-opponent-threatened-delegates-with-antoa-defeated-npp-aspirant/#sthash.fnZdYAgM.dpuf
What this means is that we are in an era where our MPS are not necessarily the smart or brilliant ones capable of passing laws that will inure to the benefit of our land but those who have the who have the means to influence delegates. I will now look at these aspirants and I can’t help but ask myself, ‘is this the MP who got elected because he or she had cash or the one that exhibited brilliance and an understanding of what the issues are?’
Democracy means that as long as the laid down processes of doing A, B and C are adhered to, any other argument does not matter.
Who should we blame?
Another big question that must be asked is this, how do political parties selected their delegates? The ironic and perhaps hypocritical part of the Ghanaian is that we yell that politicians are corrupt but yet these same Ghanaians are those that will threaten politicians that they wouldn’t vote for them if they don’t give them this or that.
Indeed I am told of areas where candidates agree to a certain line of action as regards the handling of these demands. However some of them turn back and try to influence the process. They entice voters with items they know they can’t resist. They also know that the integrity of the Ghanaian is nothing to write home about.
If MP aspirants dole out such monies to delegates, is it therefore strange that;
1. Our MPS and indeed politicians are allegedly corrupt? Because to ‘invest’ anything between 300,000 and a million cedis on an internal election process suggests that the ‘investment’ must be recouped some way somewhere and that’s when those who have access dip their hands in the national kitty.
2. Is it also strange that constituents can call on MPS and political party figures making all manner of demands from them? You showed them that there is a lot of money somewhere and they deserve a bit of the cheery.
These have contributed to the widespread allegations of corruption among our politicians and the misconstrued position of what MPS are supposed to be doing. Primarily the MP is supposed to be a law maker and to use his position to lobby for projects. The state however allocates some meagre sum of money for each MP to use for some developmental project. This does not mean it is their jobs to build roads, churches, car parks, schools, markets, toilets, pay school fees, dole out monthly stipends, buy shoes for people and some of the outrageous demands that party and constituency folks make.
As for me, I will put the blame squarely at the doorstep of;
1. The party for failing to structure the electioneering process to eliminate what clearly is vote-buying and a system that is increasingly favouring the rich.
2. The aspirants for encouraging an unhealthy behavior from delegates that ends up making corrupt MPS out of otherwise decent folk. Having thrown in a million cedis just to be MP, I have every reason to wonder if it is worth it and how they want to recoup it. They have also encouraged delegates, some of whom are very illiterate, to believe in the power of the pocket in winning political office instead of the things that should count. One delegate in the Ashanti is said to have ‘single-handedly built a constituency office for the party. This is clearly
3. The delegates (some of the delegates) for being a bunch of blood sucking, illiterate, unpatriotic and narrow minded folk who think of their immediate benefits than the party’s, their constituencies and their nation. We need enlightened people who can understand and appreciate what their roles are in the scheme of things.
MY BIGGEST FEAR
Truly my biggest fear is that we ae running our democracy down to the level where it is money that counts. That’s where we are inching ever closer to. Is that where we want to get to with our democracy? My biggest fear is not that we elected supposedly inexperienced people – none of the MPs that first went to parliament in 1993 were in Parliament in 1979 or so, and the fact that someone has worked for a 100 years does not mean he or she will speak sense on the floor of the house. We should find a way of ending this trend where money determines who goes to the parliament. The stories abound from the recent primaries. Quite a number of these folks going to stand as MPs will not have my respect because they bought or bribed or forced themselves to be there. Respect is earned. They did not earn theirs. They bought it. They bought what was supposed not to have been sold.
Who is going to end this? The parties? The aspirants? The delegates?
They all should.
Our role will be to pressure them to do so.