What is wrong with our democracy?

BY: K. B. Asante

The answer to this loaded question is "Nothing".  But since many are not happy with their living conditions, a more truthful answer is "Nothing but the people". 

Democracy invests power in the people who through free and fair elections elect representatives to rule and administer or direct the affairs of the nation for the good of the people. 

And so when the rule or administration goes sour, the people should blame themselves for casting their votes unwisely.

 The unhappy situation may arise because of vain or false promises by those elected. Their manifestos might have been laden with falsehoods and pleasant but unlikely expectations. The people should, therefore, first blame themselves when life becomes difficult mainly because of government incompetence.

Some may argue that they did not vote for the party in power. But they and even those who voted for the administration have a duty to use the lawful means available to persuade the government to change or modify course where necessary.


This course of action is most difficult since the government has more powerful means to justify its decisions and actions, and stifle dissent. Sometimes the administration may use iniquitous laws on the statute book to justify and maintain its actions or coerce citizens. 

Therefore, all citizens have a duty to oppose questionable or bad laws even when promoted or enacted by the party they support. Equally important is the need to come together with citizens of the opposite party to criticise or oppose that which is wrong.

Modern governance is not easy. It is complicated and involves experts, and competent people. There is a tendency by the administration to justify all government or official acts, and even uphold lies to cover up the incompetence of its officials. Recently, a jury in England passed a verdict on an incident which occurred in 1989 at Hillsborough Football Stadium in Sheffield.  Ninety six football fans were killed and there were cover-ups of official misjudgements and incompetence. The police blamed the victims and even called them hooligans. A section of the press supported the official line. 

The people of Liverpool, many of whose citizens were killed, pressed for an independent enquiry. It has taken 27 long years for the independent enquiry. The cover-up and untruths have been exposed and the police have apologised. It is, however, likely that prosecutions will follow. Those who failed in their duty will have to account for their misdeeds.

Because of the determination of the people of Liverpool, measures have been taken to make football stadiums safer for spectators. We in Ghana should question inappropriate actions of officials even when apparently supported by the government.

We should learn to be our brother's keeper and see to it that citizens are not short-changed by government or administrative action. We should feel concerned when nurses go on strike because of the patients who are put in danger.

But we should also ask why the administrators should engage workers and not pay them for six months. We should ask who wrote the employment letters and why he or she issued letters when money for salaries had not been committed. The argument that officials were directed by higher authority should not be allowed to stand. Government officials are not robots and should act within procedures and the rules.

Even the great Kwame Nkrumah could be advised about procedures and policies. Once, even though I said nothing, he saw from my face that I was not happy. He snapped. "What is the matter?" I said two weeks ago you said…"  He did not allow me to finish. He said, "Asante only a fool does not change his mind." I satisfied myself that his instructions were not totally in accordance with the rules and modified the instructions to conform to established procedures.

The upshot of all this is that we have to be vigilant, speak and act to maintain democracy. Much of what is wrong with our democracy is due to lack of concern and involvement by fellow countrymen. The people should endeavour to be passionately involved in the democratic process.

Those we elect to govern are responsible for the provision of our needs and well-being. But not much will improve until we the citizens get more involved and ensure that the government acts to improve services, economic and social well-being.