Yesterday, as I interacted with a commercial driver over a scene unfolding in a certain neighbourhood where some bigwigs in our current administration were holding an event and the flashy cars and wailing sirens were pointers to what power was like in our part of the world, the driver said to me: “Power sweet o, my brother. Power sweet." That got me thinking, you see.
This year, leading into next year, many West African countries will be going to the polls to elect new leaders. There will be national elections in the likes of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Benin, in fact, went to the polls yesterday to change the face of their parliament. And you can bet your bottom dollar that all of these politicians contesting in these elections will come to their people talking about serving them.
Something that has got me scratching my head, though, is the eagerness that characterises the African politician’s petitions when it comes to offering himself up for service.
Some African politicians even kill, literally, and you know this, just so they can serve. But why should serving us, if that is the true motive, be a life-and-death affair? If service is so altruistic and if politicians stand to gain nothing, essentially, but are only coming to offer us their intelligence, skills and expertise, then what exactly is there in leadership that makes these politicians fall all over themselves, and adopt various sly schemes, and employ every trick in the book? And all this, just to serve! I smell a big, fat rat somewhere. Don't you too?
What is it about serving the people that makes the African politician, a lamb when in opposition, turn into a vicious beast when in power?
And how come these same people who claim to serve, oftentimes only come to be served? Maybe Chinua Achebe's book, ‘The Trouble with Nigeria,’ holds part of the answer to my questions.
On pages 51 and 52, Achebe writes:
“Anyone who saw Aminu Kano’s last television interview will recall that he insisted, with an urgency most moving in retrospect, on that primary question: Why do you seek political office? Why do you want to rule? We know, of course, that every politician gives us an answer to that question.
Unfortunately their answers are so alike as to leave us totally unenlightened. We are victims. The entire Nigerian populace constitutes one huge, helpless electoral dupe in the hands of the politician/victimiser. We know, of course, that politicians everywhere will attempt to deceive and hoodwink. But there must be very few places in the world outside one-party states where they succeed as admirably as they do in this country. The Chinese have a very wise proverb: fool me once, shame on you; fool me again, shame on me!”
Our politicians have fooled us one time too many! But what are we going to do about it? Let us arise and smell the coffee, fellow Ghanaians! Let us awaken to the mischief of the people we elect, somewhat by default in this country, election after election.
First, they pamper us when it is close to elections; then they ignore us after they have secured what they desperately want: power! Once that is secured, they ignore us again! When are we going to bring an end to this vicious cycle that brings us nothing more than suffering? When are we going to make our leaders realise that they can no longer take us for granted?
When are we going to hold their feet to the fire of responsibility? Run your checks; you will find out that the main opposition political party now, as well as the ruling administration in this country, often see eye to eye - only when there are goodies to be shared among them. Apart from that they always are at loggerheads, it would appear.
But what is behind this diabolical positioning by these two major political forces in our country? Do such positions inure to our national benefit – the benefit of the ordinary Ghanaian on the streets – or is it a self-serving gimmick that must kick against anything that is “from the other side”?
Have you not wondered why the opposition never seems to see anything worthwhile in the ruling government's actions? Have you not pondered, also, the puzzling bit about how the ruling administration never sees anything good in the suggestions proffered by the opposition? That is our politics – zero sum and senseless as can be!
All these demonstrate clearly that we have sold out our birthright, as citizens, to a cunning bunch of manipulators who will stop at nothing to achieve their wicked ends.
These are misleaders who come to us wearing the masks, the camouflage of service, but in reality come, as John 10:10 depicts, to do nothing but "steal, kill and destroy."
As Chinua Achebe again writes in his other work, ‘Things Fall Apart,’ "Eneke the bird says that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching." So, too, we must do, as a people.
We must wise up to the wiles and treachery of our misleaders. Why? Elections are up again in Ghana in 2020.
Shall we allow these misleaders, past and present, to trick us once more with false promises and little gifts of cash that insult our intelligence?
It is time to wake up, people of Ghana! If we don't, that boon called real development is something we shall never see! Arise and shine, people of Ghana! Rise up! Be brave!
Let us show these misleaders that we, who follow, are not stupid! Let us make them understand that we deserve much better than they are offering us! And if you are a leader in this country who is due for re-election next year and if you are listening to me, just keep in mind that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. A word to the wise, they say, is enough! Mano esi!
I write these things, my brothers and sisters, because I love Ghana! Because I care about what happens to us all! Because I am a citizen, not a spectator! My name is Benjamin Akakpo and this is a piece of my mind!
By: Benjamin Akakpo (Host of the Executive Breakfast Show on Class 91.3 FM)