Doreen Hammond
Doreen Hammond

Are electoral promises meant to be kept?

Gradually, we are inching towards the election year.

Barely 11 months from now, Ghanaians will go to the polls to elect their Members of Parliament (MPs), and a president to rule us for another four years.

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Thanks to a stable democracy, the change of government every four years has almost become a routine and we may even be taking it for granted.

The election year comes with it, a lot of excitement and a general heightened tempo in the environment. Campaign strategies keep evolving and now we have house-to-house and even door-to-door campaigns.

During such campaigns, it is not uncommon to see “honourable” men, pounding fufu, preparing banku, braiding hair and playing ampe with the electorate.

Coming with this will be the usual campaign promises some of which border on the extreme and absurd.

Perhaps what we have not encountered yet is for a politician to tell us that he or she will bring Jesus Christ to attend his investiture if he were voted into power.
Or better still, he will let manna fall from heaven, but this time in the form of well packaged fufu and goat light soup to be delivered to citizens in a fashion similar to the medical drones.

A few days ago, the think tank, IMANI Ghana, conducted an assessment of the ruling government’s promises and how many had been fulfilled in their third year in office.

As would be expected, the verdict was not very impressive. Similar assessments in the past yielded almost the same results.

The reason for this is simple.

Not all campaign promises are meant to be taken seriously. Some may be for emotional reasons, some for practical reasons and even others for comic relief.

One of the reasons why such promises may not relate to the realities on the ground is the fact that people make these promises when they are not privy to what is happening in government. No wonder, at a point in time, a president confessed that the meat was finished and what remained were only bones.

Not long ago, the sitting president also commented that “his father” referring to his predecessor, left him nothing in the coffers. Yet, in all these, a lot of promises had been made and funding was required to make good those promises.

Why such promises are made without recourse to where the funding will come from means only two things. That they either take the electorate for granted or they never meant them in the first place.

What happens at the parliamentary level by way of promises is even worse. MPs are noted to have promised bridges, roads, schools, hospitals only to disappear after winning the elections and reappearing during another campaign.

The electorate are beginning to realise that only some of the promises made are fulfilled, leaving a majority never fulfilled. It is therefore not surprising that gradually, the disillusioned electorate are demanding instant cash rewards in lieu of campaign promises which may never be fulfilled.

As if such unfulfilled promises at the higher level are not enough, even at the local level now, some assembly members are also promising heaven on earth. Who can fault them when such has become the standard at the national level and appear to have worked.

In a video, making the rounds on social media, an aspiring assembly member is seen boldly promising free breakfast every morning in addition to other weird promises.

There is also a case of a student vying for dining hall prefect who promised to increase the size of kenkey in the dining hall. How he intended to do that beats one’s imagination.

What we need to interrogate as a country is whether this is how we want to proceed as far as our political campaigns are concerned. If for nothing at all, such promises must come with a clear path as to how they would be fulfilled.

Is it not about time we held people accountable to their promises and most importantly, do not succumb to such promises, knowing that they are mere political talk?

How about looking into policies, individual track records, integrity and people with a clear vision as the yardstick for choosing our leaders? Promises which are not based on any clear sources of funding will always remain beer bar talk.

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Writer’s E-mail: [email protected]/[email protected]

This column takes a break for the holidays. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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