On Tuesday 6th November 2012, while the rest of the world was focused on the outcome of American elections, a unique experience of democracy on the African continent was being shaped and pursuing its apparent unstoppable pace in Ghana.
A week before the public slated event, a televised debate had given opportunity to presidential candidates of the four political parties with representatives in the Ghanaian parliament, to present their policies to the public.
The debate had brought together: John Mahama , sitting president, representing the National Democratic Congress of Ghana, Hassan Ayariga of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Michael Abu Sakara Forster of the Convention People’s Party and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the main opposition New Patriotic Party.
This time around it was the occasion for their respective vice presidential candidates to provide more of the details regarding their policies their parties would pursue once in power. The personalities on the podium included: Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Cherita Sarpong-Kumankuma of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Helen Sanorita Dzatugbe Matervi of the People’s National Convention (PNC) and Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
For Ghanaians and Africans in general, this democratic exercise should be seen as more important than the American election. The same way the outcome of the latter will affect the lives of US citizens and probably the country’s relations with the rest of the world, effective practice of the Ghanaian democratic experience will immensely transform the lives of people of that country and the way it relates to other nations.
On 11th July 2009, Barack Obama declared in Accra that Africa needed strong institutions but not strong men. He did not say that America was going to help Africa get those strong institutions. America, as any other nation, true to its primary responsibility of caring for its people, will always pursue American interests, particularly in its relations with other nations.
On his inaugural day when he was first elected as the 44th US president, there are also many good declarations of intention he made which, looking back on the day of his re-election almost four years later, demonstrate that he did not live up to his promises.
He said on 20/01/09 while addressing the nation and the world, certainly talking of particularly African autocratic leaders and of other places:
“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
But this should have been a strong and clear lesson that many in different countries don’t get: that politicians only make promises and fulfilling them or not, that what makes politics.
Back to those strong institutions without which a strong and sustainable development is impossible, it’s up to Africa and Africans to seek how to develop them. And Ghana with this other democratic milestone characterized by presidential and vice-presidential televised debates appears to be doing the very right thing on the African continent, which is worth supporting and emulating across its different countries.