Fighting over manifestoes is not the way forward (Part II)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, June 13, 2016

To me, the real issue surrounding this “manifesto war” goes beyond what the NPP is using to defend its unwillingness or hesitation to launch its manifesto. Of course, there is no need for it to be put under pressure to launch its manifesto. If, indeed, it has what its functionaries are boasting of as a better set of solutions to Ghana’s problems, it should be the first to publicize that manifesto.

After all, we will all get to know when any item in that manifesto is picked on for implementation. Why should the NPP gun for credit on the basis of its manifesto as if doing so will put it in power? Its secret manifesto is already out!!

A laughable aspect has already emerged to prove that the party is not being sincere to the truth and itself. While vociferously insisting that it will not launch its manifesto for it to be stolen or plagiarized by the NDC, its flagbearer has already revealed the substance of that manifesto.

In interacting with NPP supporters in the UK a few days ago, Akufo-Addo blared it all for us to know the substance of that manifesto. He was reported to have revealed that industrialization and agriculture would be his government’s bedrock policy initiative; and he went ahead to unpack everything as his vision for Ghana (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Akufo-Addo-outlines-vision-for-Ghana-446785). What he announced came from the NPP’s manifesto. So, what is the NPP afraid of anymore? What is there to hide anymore?

Any fear of its manifesto being stolen or plagiarized, diluted or wrongly implemented by the NDC and its Mahama-led administration is baseless. It is neither here nor there. The nub of that manifesto is already in the public domain, couched mostly in the NPP’s stand on the so-called failures of the incumbent administration and how it will do things differently if voted into office; a rehashing of previous manifestoes presented for elections in this 4th Republic; ideas from Akufo-Addo’s reaction to President Mahama’s “State of the Nation” address; and anything else that may reflect the party’s ideology of property-grabbing.

Within this context, I will stick out my neck to say that the NPP’s manifesto will not be anything new to strike any new chord. So, I expect that manifesto to be an extended package of promises and overly emphasized grandiose intentions aimed at appealing to specific voter populations such as unemployed graduates, nurse and teacher trainees whose allowances have been cut, or others critical of the government’s handling of the economy, particularly the business sector.

It is clear that items in that manifesto will be targeted at just any prospective voter who has an axe to grind with the government. In this sense, then, playing to the gallery won’t be ruled out. The manifesto will definitely be tinged with political jingoism as usual. We can tell from the swinging of the NPP’s pendulum that its rhetoric will be ratcheted up in this manner to provoke public sentiments against the government. That is why its manifesto will be used as a major tool to undermine the government. It’s all about the government, not the NDC as a political party!!

Of course, its promises will be sugar-coated as a bait for the uninformed voters. The expectation is that once laced with anti-Mahama sentiments, they will do the magic for Akufo-Addo. Witting voters will not fall for that poisonous bait. They know that a manifesto of that sort is just a “paper tiger” to view with measured suspicion.

My assessment of what Akufo-Addo has already revealed tells me that the NPP’s manifesto will seek to exploit voter sentiments, not necessarily offering anything innovative to address the systemic, perennial problems. That explains why nothing substantial has so far come from the NPP in regard to the energy crisis, particularly. It’s all talk about industrialization, agriculture, and job creation. True, the energy crisis (“Dumsor”) is a major concern to harp on, but how it will be solved under Akufo-Addo isn’t being said. Nothing as imagined by Akufo-Addo can happen to change the dynamics unless the energy crisis is resolved. So, where is his solution? I have serious doubts if the NPP will come out with anything different from steps so far taken by the government.

It is easy for it to tabulate problems facing the country under President Mahama and to present them as evidence of a “confused” or “incompetent” government. But failure to introduce anything innovatively different from what is already being done makes the NPP’s grandiose ideas fall flat.

This is where the incumbent administration comes in. It has the heaviest responsibility to persuade Ghanaians that it can solve national problems. Given its performance to date, it needs more than mere promises to win the electoral battle. Clearly, it has left traces behind by which it will be judged. Thus, in formulating its manifesto, it will have to know that its inadequacies will not be overlooked by the electorate just because it has launched a new manifesto. The electorate may even not be interested in any new manifesto once they can be persuaded by the evidence of their own eyes.

We have already been given to know that the party intends to focus on agriculture and job creation as the main props of its manifesto. What will be new here? The burden is heavy and the party/government has a lot to do to change minds that are already set against it. Doing so goes beyond mere rhetoric. Having already been in power all these years, what again does the government have up its sleeves to prove that it will do things differently and more efficiently to warrant its being retained in office? There are many other questions that the NDC’s manifesto should aim at answering with evidence. Anything short of that will not help its cause.

I am happy that both the CPP and APC have indicated their willingness to launch their manifestoes. As minority parties seeking an elbow room, they have ideas too and should be listened to.

As I indicated in a previous opinion piece after the “Presidential Debate” session held by the Institute of Economic Affairs for Election 2012, there is nothing wrong if the political party favoured by the voters gleans ideas from its rivals’ manifestoes for solving national problems. Ideas remain annoying abstractions unless implemented to yield practical results. Those intent on keeping their manifestoes hidden under their armpits in the hope of implementing them only when voted into office are lost. If they truly know what nation-building entails, they will cooperate with the winner of the elections for the good aspects of their manifestoes to be adopted and implemented for the good of Ghana and its citizens. It doesn’t have to take any divination for this truth to be known and accepted.

Meantime, wasting time and energy on this manifesto warfare is as senseless as it is symptomatic of a sterile democracy being led by self-seekers masquerading as problem solvers. Away with the pettiness!!

I shall return…

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