Why Ghana’s election matters to Africa

Much is at stake for not only Ghana but Africa as the country looks set to deepen its democratic tradition…

Much is at stake for not only Ghana but Africa as the country looks set to deepen its democratic tradition through a tightly contested election.This could be gleaned from the fact that a groundswell of Africans have been fixated with the West African nation of almost 30 million people in the lead up to Monday’s historic vote.

Among those casting a keen eye on Ghana is PLO Lumumba, a seasoned Kenyan lawyer turned public speaker reknown around anglophone Africa for his pan-Africanist rhetoric which is often critical of the past.

He says the elections in Ghana should be a step towards the elimination of the neo-colonial project from a country that had led the continent’s march to political independence in 1957.

Echoing the sentiment of many observers of Ghana’s attempt to consolidate its democracy, Lumumba has a simple message for Ghanaians which is enjoining them to let peace, truth and justice prevail before, during and after the elections.

The African Union which had sent a strong team of election observers in the country views Ghana as one of its “star pupils” and will be desperate for the country to pass the latest democratic test with flying colours.

ML Juwara, a Gambian born to a Ghanaian mother sums up what he calls Africa’s abiding interest in how elections are conducted in a country he has adopted as a second home.

“Ghana has become a role model in Africa, a continent where years of political upheavals had set the clock back on democracy” he observes.  

For many like Juwara, the country is indisputably the democratic election capital of West Africa where regional leaders fly in and out of Accra for regular consultations with their peers about how to proceed with the political agendas in their own countries.  

Ghana embraced democratic pluralism in 1992 and since then the country has not looked back, winning both regional, continental and global praise for its conduct of successive elections.

Over the years such exercises while passing off smoothly despite the usual tensions have almost always featured victors magnanimous in victory and losers gracious in defeat, sparing the country the post-electoral unrest witnessed in Guinea, and neighbouring Ivory Coast in recent months.

After a few false starts, Kwame Nkrumah’s country began writing its democratic credentials at a time in the early 1990s when West Africa and much of Africa had been bastions of one-party rule.

From Egypt in the north, Ethiopia in the east, Malawi in the south to Guinea Conakry in the west, democracy was viewed with wary suspicion and deep contempt by African governments dominated by sit-tight leaders most of whom morphed into dictators before they were eventually swept away by the rising tide of multi-party politics on the continent.  

Ghana was an island of democratic hope in a sea of autocracies in Africa where elections were derided as a Western inconvenience which had come to unsettle and divide nations.

This seems set to continue as all candidates in the 2020 presidential race signed a peace pact committing their parties and supporters to this tradition which has turned Ghana into a beacon of democracy and good governance.

Ghana is one of West Africa’s leading economies and an emerging global player thanks to its new clout as an oil-producing nation, a reputation which is pivotal to attract more foreign direct investment.

A peaceful election and seamless transfer of power should the incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo be pipped to the presidency by his main challenger John Dramani Mahama, would inspire more confidence from the big business world.

Incumbent parties in powers have lost elections in Ghana more than any other country in Africa since the late Jerry John Rawlings was elected after his first stint as soldier-president. 

It is something of a poignant irony that while democracy in Ghana marches on, its pacesetter Rawlings had succumbed to his own mortality.

 The domino effect from Ghana’s democratic credentials has since caught  on with the rest of West Africa.

Many believe that the region owes this tradition to Ghana’s commitment to democracy which consists in not merely going through the motion of elections every four years but respecting the rules of the game.

This means that from Gambia, Togo, Nigeria and Ivory Coast to Mali, Liberia and Sierra Leone, elections are held almost every few years without exception although with varying degrees of maturity.

Elsewhere Malawi, Zambia, Tunisia and Egypt are believed to have borrowed a leaf from Ghanaian democracy.

But as the ballots are cast once again to determine who rules Ghana for the next four years, the world is watching to know just how far the country’s democracy has come since the day political pluralism dawned in the country.