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Taking ‘forward ever’ to another level, Ghana has done it again, Ayekoo!

By Samwin Banienuba
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On December 7th, 2016 Ghanaians pulled off yet another peaceful election almost on the blind side of the world as many remained fixated on the thunderbolt of the American election before it and the embarrassing confusion in the Gambian election next door. The 8th quadrennial affair in Ghana passed off without hiccups as if the exercise of this democratic principle of changing their leaders through the ballot box has always been indigenous.

At the end of the day, the NDC sitting President John Mahama and his party lost and graciously conceded defeat. The NPP opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo won and was conciliatory in victory. They both called the elections a Ghanaian victory. Even before this laudable patriotic exercise of exchanging acknowledgements and pleasantries went to press, the two parties quickly teamed together to agree the transition process and handover of power in accordance with relevant laws of the land. Seminal, isn’t it?

In the run up to December 7th, there was of course the not too unusual hype of a nation in tension as with many national elections elsewhere. The candidates crisscrossed the country to sell their wares as it were, and did slip on more occasions than one into personality attacks or ethnic goofs. Some institutions including the Electoral Commission were not spared their share of lashing tongues and criticisms. But the rivalry was largely respectful if not friendly, and campaign rallies were not without the typical African fanfare.

Although a total of seven parties presented presidential candidates including an independent candidate, all eyes were on the NDC and the NPP, the two parties which have dominated the 4th Republican political landscape by virtue of their resources, but also by their broad base and possible appeal. Respectively, they represent the left and right of Ghana politics or the social democrats and conservatives whatever that means today. All other parties have often been dismissively described as the ‘small parties’, incapable of providing a third force between the two. They proved their bidding yet again in this election.

Inasmuch as voter turnout may have dipped slightly when compared with turnouts in 2012 and the years before, 68.62% would still make older democracies green with envy. The appetite for democracy is without shadow of doubt great in Ghana, and likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. It behoves the incoming government, as with all successive governments, to sustain the momentum with an increasing supply of all the other tenets of democracy that should make it a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

It is for instance not lost on Ghanaians and Africans as such that one of the key issues in the campaigns was corruption, satirically also known as the African disease. It is not as if it is a new issue; it has always been there, but it was pivotal this time. The opposition alleged governance at all levels amounted to loot and share. The government begged to differ and instead pointed similar accusing fingers at the opposition when they were in power some eight years ago. Whoever is more culpable is neither here nor there for the ordinary Ghanaian struggling to get by. The equalisation must stop.

The very perception that public officers dip their hands into the public kitty unaccountably suggests the supply of democracy by elected officials is not matching the demand for democracy by the electorate and citizens at large. The economy is not stupid and the new government scheduled to take office have their work cut out. In addition to their own expressed promises, they will have to quickly respond to nagging youth unemployment, erratic power supply, inadequate drainage systems, high inflation, an increasing public debt and a myriad of many others to justify their election.

Certainly, Ghanaians will be keen to see evidence of significant difference in status quo as regards equal opportunity, equality before the law and accountability in governance as key benchmarks of their democracy moving forward. But governments, they say, are products of society, and currying favours from them promotes patronage which in turn enhances the very corruption society wants to see mitigate. Indeed, civil society organisations should not sit idly by for voter power to do the right thing at the next quadrennial. Citizen vigilance and media scrutiny should hold all arms of government truly accountable until then.

At independence in 1957, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah and father of the nation declared that Ghanaians were going to create their own African personality and identity. Knowing this was not going to be easy sailing for any new nation, especially as it was in the days of the East / West divide, otherwise known as cold war, he quickly added that Ghanaians should be allowed to make their own mistakes. And mistakes there have been one too many, but clearly the country has gotten its act in place in the 4th Republic and is staring the waves of democracy and good governance throughout Africa and across. ‘Forward ever’ was the battle cry of the Osagyefo and ‘forward ever’ it is as the country inches gracefully towards its 60th anniversary in March 2017. The proud African personality and identity may have finally docked.

Humanitas Afrika believe this new brand of Ghana recasts the country in pole leadership role of the early independence years of Africa, and raises the bar for governance and higher values to which all other Africans can aspire. We take this opportunity to congratulate the NPP and wish Nana Akufo-Addo great success in his tenure for the benefit of Ghana and the pride of Africa. We also thank the NDC and John Mahama for superintending peaceful, fair and credible elections in accordance with law and expectations of country and continent. More importantly, we salute Ghana and the Ghanaian people for their exemplary resolve to chart a course of freedom, unity and peace through democracy and constructive elections. Well done! Or better still, Ayekoo as they say in Ghana!

The writer is the International Spokesperson for Humanitas Afrika