The eyes of the world are on us. We are being watched and we are being tested. It’s a test we cannot afford to fail – for our own sake and that of our fellow Africans who are in dire need of a good example of a well-organised, cleanly-contested and free and fair election.
This week, almost every major international news organization will be carrying features on Ghana – our people, our politics and our problems. Most of the stories will not be pretty. They will speak about how bad our roads are, the filth we live in and the bad hospitals where only the lucky and rich go to get healed. They will point out the fact that much of our country is without good drinking water and tell stories about how in the midst of abject poverty our government decided, rather unwisely, to build a new presidential mansion.
Some may argue that this is all in keeping with the international media’s ‘negative’ reportage on Africa. I beg to differ. In my opinion, the images the international media carry of our continent is an exact reflection of what we portray. If we don’t want them to show us chopping off arms, we should stop chopping off arms. If we don’t want them to show little children with distended bellies and flies hovering around their heads, we should feed the kids.
So a lot of the images we will be seeing of our country on CNN and BBC will be an exact reflection of who we are and what we have. But we have an opportunity to show the world that we are different and we are not a collection of crass thieves and brutes, who make a mockery of democracy.
You see, it’s so easy for Africans to turn democracy into a farce. Madman Mugabe did it so expertly in Zimbabwe, by clinging to power like a leech even when he knew he had lost the mandate of the people. He literally hijacked the election results and used them as a bargaining chip to negotiate his continued stay in power. Mugabe made a big joke of democracy and the world still laughs at him, his country and our continent.
It happened in Kenya as well. There the Electoral Commissioner was forced to cook up the electoral figures and declare the results from what appeared to be his bedroom or dining hall. He handed victory on a silver platter to a bunch of hoodlums who didn’t deserve it and by so doing ensured that his country was thrown into a state of ethnic strife and confusion. Luckily, they pulled back from the brink and by some strange agreement both the victor and the vanquished are sharing the spoils of power in Nairobi.
Long before Kenya and Zimbabwe, the Nigerians made a mockery of democracy as well by organizing one of the most shambolic elections the world has ever seen. Brazen fraud coupled with the ineptitude and incompetence of the Nigerian Electoral Commission helped ensure that Umaru Yar’Adua won an incredible 70% of the votes in what many described as a ‘419’ poll.
Add up the stories from Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe (as well as several other countries on the continent) and you will realize that democracy has really received a battering in Africa.
We in Ghana have a choice. We can either choose to do it like they did in Nigeria, Kenya or Zimbabwe or we can opt to do it our way – the right way. Herein lies our opportunity to deliver a surprise to the world and let everyone know that we are a different breed of Africans. We have done it before and we should do it again.
Let’s pamper our teenaged democracy with even more ‘tender loving care’ and show the world that we are ready to nurture it and help it grow to become the solid, unshakeable foundation upon which we will build a strong, proud nation.
We may not have much. As a people, most of us may not have the basics. But with a growing democracy, we have the basis for the basics. For me, the one thing that makes me proud to be a Ghanaian is our 16-year-old democracy.
I believe strongly that our Electoral Commission has done all what is humanely possible – within all its constraints – to make sure that the will of the people is not subverted. I will bet my last cedi that our Electoral Commissioner will not stoop so low as his counterparts did in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria. So when we go out there to vote on Sunday, we can be sure that we will get the leaders we actually voted for. It’s a test we dare not fail. If we pass, our nation will be the better for it. But if we fail we are doomed.
Let’s show the world that we are not Zimbabweans. We are not Kenyans and we are certainly not Nigerians. We are Ghanaians – the Black Stars of Africa! Under the watchful eyes of the world, we will shine so bright and show the way for most of the rest of Africa.