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WHERE HAVE ALL THE GA POLITICIANS GONE? (PART II)

Politics

In the first part of this article, we looked at constitutional requirements which have led political parties to promote non-indigenous candidates to stand in Greater Accra (GA). And we asked: should budding Ga politicians be deprived of serving their country just because 20 per cent of the population has been squeezed into 1.5 per cent of the land mass of Ghana ‒ a place they call their home but which is now home to all Ghanaians?

In the first part of this article, we looked at constitutional requirements which have led political parties to promote non-indigenous candidates to stand in Greater Accra (GA). And we asked: should budding Ga politicians be deprived of serving their country just because 20 per cent of the population has been squeezed into 1.5 per cent of the land mass of Ghana ‒ a place they call their home but which is now home to all Ghanaians?

Where are the ethnic Ga politicians and what are they saying? In these days when seats are being passed on to wives and children and nephews and nieces in their own land, where are the relatives of all the great Ga politicians, and what are they saying about the matter?

Think of Dr F V Nanka-Bruce, Dr C E Reindorf, Glover Addo, A M Akiwunmi, Owula A W Kojo Thompson, Akilagpa Sawyerr, J Kitson Mills, Kwatei Quartey-Papafio, Asafoatse Nettey, Nii Ayi-Bonte, C Garshong, D S Quarcoopome, E C A Quarshie, Jerome Quarshie, J M Myers, K Adumoa-Bossman, V B Annan, A G Heward-Mills, Nii Lante Heward-Mills, N N Heward-Mills, Solo Odamtten, Sir E C Quist, J Quist-Therson, Nii Amaa Ollennu, Dzenkle Dzewu, Gershong Ashie Kotei, Attoh Okine, Joe-Fio Meyer, C T Nylander, Attoh Quarshie, K Y Attoh, E C Quaye, Kwatelai Quartey, Boi Doku, Ako Adjei, Tawia Adamafio, Kofi Crabbe, Kweku Akwei, R M Abbey, Sophia Doku, A J Dowuona Hammond, Sonny Provencal, A A Adjei, T Jones Nelson, Ako Nai, R A Hammond, Nelson Cofie, Owula Dr H S Bannerman, Chappie Hutton Mills, Odoi Sykes, Ala Adjetey, Harry Sawyerr, Adjei Osekre, F T Sai, Ibrahim Cudjoe Quaye, Mike Oquaye, Ayikoi Otoo, Amerley Tagoe, Nii Armah Josiah Aryeh, Farouk Brimah, Imoro Brimah, E H T Korboe, Shanco Bruce, J T Ofei, E R T Madjitey [pictured on his wedding day], H O Lamptey.

Your seats have been taken away from you to suit a system that is unfair, because it gives politicians who hail from other places an unfair advantage over you.

When Odarkwei Obetsebi-Lamptey warned you about preferring Kwame Nkrumah over him in symbolic Ga Central for the 1951 election, did he foresee that you would all be written out of the political arithmetic as Northerners, Akans and Ewes battle for representation in your own land?

Progressively thinking

My plea is for an amendment to scrap the constitutional “hail from” rule. It has been used like many other rules, such as the lintel laws, intended to make Ghana a better democracy free for all, to dispossess Gamei and to give others another option for representation while limiting the options for Gamei. But we must also scrap the residency rule, as it serves no credible purpose.

To create a fair and progressive democracy we must scrap these tired rules about representation. But how do we begin to sensitise Ghanaians that ethnicity in politics detracts from building a democracy based on a culture which ensures that all can aspire to give Ghana their best, wherever they are in the country? We must promote a system that makes ethnicity irrelevant.

In the UK, when minority groups have complained about representation in politics, different parties have used different options. The Labour Party introduced all-women shortlists and is now being encouraged to introduce all-black shortlists.

The effect is that minority-ethnic candidates can gain seats in areas with a larger resident population of ethnic-minority people. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, created an A-list of candidates to ensure that they are offered a chance to run in what are considered to be safe conservative seats. Thus, there are minority-ethnic Tories representing lily-white areas in Parliament. Not a perfect solution but it is encouraging, I suspect, and it is working.

So what I propose for a progressive democracy in Ghana is for the political parties to propagate this message to their members: representation is not about one ethnic group or the other, it is about ensuring that the voices of all are heard and that votes are cast in line with the vision which best addresses the overall development of constituents.

The political parties should select prospective candidates centrally: people who receive training ahead of time on the role of an MP and the way in which they can most effectively represent their constituents. Then, when a seat becomes available, they place the candidate in that seat.

The essence of representation has nothing to do with ethnicity and relates far more to access to information and knowledge of constituents’ needs. The needs are often those of other Ghanaians and the perpetuation of ethnicity in selection criteria gives false hope that you are a better representative if you understand a culture better.

What we should be attempting to achieve is a single, progressive Ghanaian culture based on competence and excellence, as we build a country based on science and technology. These will be the chief ingredients for our development.

Scrap the rules

To Ga politicians, what I offer is hope. Serve your parties well, excel in all deliberations, let your competence shine through in campaign work and in recruitment of new members to your party. Make sure you can prove to all that you are better at representing the interests of all your constituents whether they are Ga or not, and even whether they are members of your party or not. Assist in the development of your communities and ensure that the watchwords of your forebears who led the way in democracy in Ghana are at the fore of all you do.

A better democracy is not created by reserving seats based on ethnicity. Neither the “hail from” nor the residency clause will lead us to a sustainable democracy which can create unity among Ghanaians. So I do not think that all seats in GA Region should be reserved for Gamei. If I had to choose, I would prefer the residency only rule, but if pressed I would ask for both clauses to be expunged from the constitution. All you need to stand in an election for any position in Ghana is to be a Ghanaian!

The wider Ga polity should know that Ghana is a republican country and our true leaders are our politicians; whether we have a paramount chief or not is neither here nor there. What we need is for all of us to join in political and community activity. That is the only way we can bring our parties to account and the government to book. It is also the only way that we can engage in principled, community-based activity to deal with the plight of the urban poor.

We must accept that the idea of “ablekuma aba kuma wɔ” (“let others join us so that we may become many”) has served us well and will continue to do so. We must also accept there is peace in Ghana now because we have been accepting of all and have contributed in no small way to helping the tribes coexist in our land.

Let us continue to do so, but be bolder to express our views at this perceived marginalisation in our places. Let us bring it into the open for debate, so that all others see that this strident view of ethnic politicisation of all things, from employment to allocation of resources, will become a thing of the past.

Governance by consent

I am sure that the politicians are listening to this call. I am sure that the politicians are aware of this issue of Ga people feeling their rights have been trampled on and their views pushed aside in their own land. The solution is not to shout louder but to do so smarter, to point to the injustices and to ask for redress.

Let me remind those who think they wield power over a people that they should be careful how they use it. Expert and reverent use of power engenders commitment. When the power exercised is legitimate and people feel rewarded, there is compliance, but when people think that because they are a majority they can run roughshod over a people in their own land, what happens is resistance.

The proverb says it all. Afi kɛɛ: mɔni gbe mi edɔɔ mi fe mɔni famɔ ntsɛjiŋ (“The partridge says, ‘The one who plucked my feathers hurts me more than the one who killed me’”). Indeed, the Ga people are gradually being diminished by some whom they have drawn closest.

Ade Sawyerr is a management consultant working on social and economic issues affecting disadvantaged communities in Britain (www.equinoxconsulting.net) and a past chairman of CPP UK. He passes comment on issues of interest to people of African heritage in the diaspora. Twitter @adesawyerr. http://www.adesawyerr.wordpress.com