The Woes of Political Promises in Africa

One fundamental lesson growing democracies in Africa must learn in order to serve their countries successfully is to endeavor to educate the electorate on the realities of the socio-economic situations while desisting from making unnecessary promises they cannot fulfill in their quest for political power. In recent turn of events after the 2008 general elections in Ghana in which the then opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) was elected into office with myriad promises to reduce poverty within the shortest span of time has culminated into a precarious security situation in the country. Emerging groups of especially the youth calling themselves the “foot soldiers” of the ruling party sprang up in most part of the country taking both civil and public servants who were appointed by the former government hostage purporting it is their turn to share the spoils. The assumption of the NDC to power has come with it a new breed of violent sympathizers who have ignored diplomatic alternatives and adopted the most radical means of achieving their own ends.

Ghana returned to democratic rule in 1992 and has since conducted series of free and fair elections and has had peaceful transitions with power falling into oppositions’ hands. These democratic trends have been lauded by many countries especially the West touting the country’s democracy a “Noble Democracy”. In spite of these worldwide acknowledgements, Ghana’s democracy is yet to be firmly grounded since both past and present leaders did not do enough to elevate the living standards of the people and have not eschewed the politics of mischief by making promises they cannot fulfill overnight.

What has become a cumbersome but dangerous situation for the current government and the security apparatus to curtail in the country is the growing animosity being perpetrated by these ‘foot soldiers”. These groups emerging in most parts of the country purports they are grassroots stalwarts who groomed, and fought under the tunnels and trenches to bring the NDC party in power after it went into opposition for eight years.  In the wake of the campaign period, the party’s leadership thirsty for a come back made numerous promises that when they come into office, they will eliminate poverty and add value to the living standards of the supporters. After close to two years in power, these promises upon which the electorate gave them the mandate to rule is yet to materialize.

Against this backdrop, the youth especially feels they were deceived and decided to go on rampage to demand their share of the economic booty. Some of the nefarious activities perpetrated by these groups are that they seized public toilet facilities and local government offices. At certain points they demanded the heads of District Chief Executives they claim were underperforming.

In January 2010, some of these “foot soldiers who were arrested and brought to court showed no remorse to their actions in the court but insisted that it was within their “"right" as NDC foot-soldiers to dismiss anyone perceived to be “a stranger” to the ruling party holding any public office”. These ‘foot soldiers’ contended that “since government was formed out of the party, its actions and inactions should be of great concern to the party, and that the party is encumbered to jealously guard the interest of the party. We want the government to know that it is the party that owns the government and not the government that owns the party”.

The Vice president, John Dramani Mahama on an occasion took strong reservations against these “foot soldiers” of his party expressing worry about the recent violent demands of party foot soldiers. According to him, the approach by the foot-soldiers should be a matter of concern to every Ghanaian. The Vice President underscored that “the recent seizure and closure of government buildings and offices is a canker that must be of concern to all political parties”. “This is a canker that plaques all political parties and as one we must think of a solution to this problem. In my mind a foot soldier or a cadre of an idea or a party or an organization is one that is prepared to sacrifice for the organization in order to keep the fortunes of the organization…,” he said. “Now the kinds of foot soldiers we have in Ghana are different. They will work during the campaign and help you to get into power but once the party gets into power they must be served first; no sense of sacrifice. So the question is: Who is a foot soldier and what is the definition of a foot soldier?” Mr. Mahama quipped in one of his speeches. He said the attitude of foot soldiers asking for heads of government institutions to be replaced by members of the ruling party can be dangerous as a change in government will mean a change of such new appointees.

“Invariably, every four years government could change and what will we be doing to our institutional growth if every four years we sack our managers and everybody and recruit new ones belonging to a certain political party and then the next four years government changes and we sack everybody and we bring in new ones belonging to a party. There is no way any country can grow in an environment like this,” he indicated.

The Vice president’s criticisms of his party’s “foot soldiers” were laudable. However, the prevailing consequences of their actions were precipitated by the party’s leadership who did not reason much of the current state of the country’s economy. The situation is created because of the failure on their parts to tell the truth.

Even though these ongoing upheavals perpetrated by the so-called NDC party “foot soldiers” have received castigations and condemnations across the political divide and some religious leaders, the government has done little to clamp down their activities.  It goes without saying therefore that these attitudes by the “foot soldiers” have been rampant and consistent; attracting less punitive actions since the party do not want to incur the wrath of its supporters. These lawless trends of events are very detrimental to the security and stability of the country. It is creating an atmosphere of insecurity and panic in both public and civil servants wondering when these tags will surface in their offices and demand their removal.

These turn of events in the political terrain of Ghana is worth discussing. In as much as one might want to condemn the illegitimate means these groups adopt to register their grievances against government not meeting their needs, one should pause and ponder why some politicians continue to take things for granted. What is happening now in Ghana is a clarion call to politicians across the African continent that it is about time they faced the reality of situations and told the truth as it is to the electorate so as to avoid higher expectations after they are elected into office. Politicians can no longer take the electorate for granted. Whereas these means to attaining power is not carefully looked at, precedence is set to gradually weaken the democratic processes to electing leaders to represent constituents.

Imperatively, politicians should endeavor to take the necessary steps to educate and explain the real socio-economic situations to their supporters during campaign periods. In this regards they will not be under pressure to deliver within the shortest possible time when elected into government.  Similarly, politicians should not only focus on solving remote problems in order to seek re-election but the right measures should be put in place to create a society that will enjoy sustainable developmental projects.