Thursday, October 21, 2010

Politically Speaking

On qualifications desirable for prospective politician, Winston Churchill said "The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year; and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."

Politicians, it doesn't matter which party they belong to, have two remarkable characteristics- verbal diarrhea and selective amnesia. The former is very important to walk your way into power and the latter is a defense if and when you are asked to account for the byproduct of the former. The first President of the fifth French republic , Charles De Gaulle, is reported to have said, "Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him". When elections brood across the nation, it distributes gifts to all Parties and the politicians speak in political tongues. In those days if a political 'perspirant' ( a man or woman sweating to get elected) promises your community a bridge, don't bother to remind him that there is no river in town, if you do, he will promise you one, after all he was only politically speaking. Parties in opposition easily catch the verbal diarrhea and notoriously refuse a cure. When Edward Langley said "what this country needs are more unemployed politicians", I don't think he envisaged the situation in Ghana where they make radio stations parliament in exile and do three things only, talk, talk and talk. The talk itself is not the problem, but the irresponsible criticisms bordering on dishonesty and the avalanche of promises which they wish everyone forgets as soon as they get what they want-power. Through the magic of radio, the criticisms and promises drown all good judgment, but don't remind them of their speeches once they gain power, because amnesia is a remarkable attribute in politics.

After losing two elections on the trot a few years ago, the NDC propagandists had their work cut out for them. They had to get aggressive and they did get aggressive. When Kuffuor's NPP government presented proposals by the Ghana Air Force to augment the communication squadron with a couple of planes, the opportunity was presented to speak , politically. What we heard continuously was that the NPP had lost touch with the need s of the people. How could a government be thinking of luxury planes when the citizenry were hungry? We don't have good drinking water in the country. Two years after winning the election, the NDC government has taken delivery of a presidential jet and has promised getting a few more for the Ghana airforce. What happened to the hungry people in Ghana? Oh they starved to death under Kuffours regime, so it's okay to get a plane now. What about Water? No problem at all. For God so loved the president, that he provided great shades in the sky, so Ghanaians sweat less and as a result, they need less water than they did under Kuffuor. Ignore me, I was only politically speaking. But more importantly, the NDC communication machine has suddenly seen the importance of equipping the air force with their toys.

Today, the NDC communication machine is straining itself to let Ghanaians understand that the planes are for The Ghana Airforce, of course apart from the one presidential jet. I can swear I heard the NPP make the same argument about the airforce, but at the time that was not the emphasis the NDC propagandists were interested in, they were only politically speaking. Unfortunately for the NDC , they can't wish away the populist argument about hunger, water and electricity, yet the plane has been bought, a luxury jet for the president. I think the president needs the plane, Kuffuor was right in ordering the Jet, and Attah Mills was right in paying for it, and he deserves to use it. If only we had less of populist politics, he would fly it without political talk.

The biggest problem with politically speaking, is when it becomes a substitute for the real job. When you acquire the habit, there is the tendency to continue politically speaking even after you acquire the power you so perspired for. I've never understood why NPP converted three years SSS program to four years and changed the name of the program to SHS, at a time that our systems seemed to have adjusted to the three year program. When NDC decided to restore the status quo ante, they had almost two years to make it right. It was obvious we would need more classrooms whether we stuck to NPP's four years or we revert to the three year calendar. Somehow, this fact got lost on officialdom as we spent too much time talking about restoring the three year calendar to the detriment of implementing an action plan. Soon time caught up with us and it was obvious the schools were not ready to receive the next batch of JHS graduates. Important stake holders like CHASS asked for more time, but the politicians and their bureaucrats won't hear any of that, they asked the school heads to improvise. What they put on the political C.V is more important than the condition of living and studying in senior secondary schools. It didn't matter that the infrastructure was not ready to receive the extra numbers.

Faced with the real situations on the ground, some school Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) decided to impose levies to provide the conducive conditions to support the education of their Kids. The GES quickly renounced the actions of these schools and described the fees as illegal. Threats were even issued in certain instances. I admit that sometimes PTA becomes an overzealous instrument that wearies poor parents with all manner of levies. Asking parents to cough up four hundred extra cedis in two days as was the case in Achimota School, was insensitive to parents who are not so endowed. But the truth is , these PTAs only fill voids left by years of government neglect and political talk. The difference between the PTA and the political class is that, the PTA attempts to solve the problems while the politicians talk about them. What other option does the PTA have? Most of the members cannot afford to send their wards to London to educate them, neither do they have the luxury of owning friends who can cater for their fees abroad, so they have only one focus- fix the local school. After 53 years of independence, I'm waiting to hear our politicians pat themselves at the back that we have ingeniously solved this school headache by sending some kids to learn under trees and in garages, of course politically speaking.

In this age of pluralistic media where the Internet, Radio, TV, Newspapers, etc compete to be the first to deliver the political talk to the homes of every Ghanaian living everywhere, one phrase that will be heard several times in every home is "the President, John Attah Mills…" It is therefore not funny when a primary school pupil mentions the opposition presidential aspirant as the president of Ghana. The incident so infuriated the ruling party that the DCE of Atwima Nwabiagya in the Ashanti Region ordered all schools to display the president's portrait in the schools. This position was supported by the deputy minister of Local Government and the minister of communications. As is usual with our politicians, politically speaking is the solution. I want to believe the boy just got confused or his situation is an isolated case. I hope we are not overlooking the real question -what is the quality of education being offered at our public basic schools? Or perhaps, the boy is ahead of his peers in the game, he was only politically speaking.

Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.- George Orwell

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