Better a good man for four
years than a dunce for five
January 06, 2016
Is a five year presidential term, instead of four, good or
bad? This is one idea that keeps coming up; one idea that
means much to those who have vested interest in the power of office.
For, holding office for a long stretch of time is a lucrative
enterprise, particularly for those who participate in governance in Africa.
For the rest of us, after all is done, especially when
nothing profitable has been gained, the experience then becomes
our loss, a complete waste of time,
and, certainly for a long time to come, a lingering residue
of painful reflections on the wasted years.
But the idea of presidential tenure length has come up. So it is worth a critical look
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Mark Woyongo, has suggested
that "a five - year presidential tenure" for the country
would be a good idea. His reason is that it will assure
"that the winning party fully executes its development
Are we to read into this an excuse for failure of his
party's agenda or a reluctance to confront the
real demons that have for so long bedeviled our progress as
Are we being asked to skip the phenomenon of the easy access to money that begets corruption
- the default judgment payments; or, forget the
power of incumbency that allows corruption to skate free; or the
proclivity of this same power to reverse or stomp on viable policies of previous
administrations it doesn't like?
If this power is what Mr. Woyongo, wittingly or unwittingly,
is proposing to extend, then I say no to the idea.
However, what we can deduce from Mr. Wayongo's plea is that the NDC
promise for "better Ghana" has not been fully met.
And that this plea, therefore, may also be a distraction from the grim facts
of hardship on the grounds
in Ghana today.
The hardships may not be entirely the NDC's fault. But long
after this regime is gone, the hardships may still be here,
if nothing realistic is done.
This must call for the devising of a
permanent fix in our system of governance. Presidential term extension by one year
may be a wished for magic wand but it will not get the
What to do first is to consider whether another
political party, within the same four years time confine given
to the NDC, could
not have completed a delivery of similar goals that the NDC
promised under its "better Ghana"
Another is to dismiss promptly the duration of tenure as a
factor in the accomplishment of political objectives by
sighting the 19
years stretch of constitutional or
unconstitutional rule of the same NDC administrations, from
1981 to 2000.
Then append to this stretch another seven years, (soon to be
eight), after the interregnum of the Kufuor era. You would think the years here are
reprise the ideals of the NDC/Rawlings' revolution.
But after all this stretch of time, Mr. Wayongo, who is a minister of this regime,
is still pleading for a five year presidential term.
Of course, it has been natural for many African regimes to
changes in constitutionally set presidential terms.
But this act is a slippery slope that often leads to
retention of incompetents in power and the prolonging of civil
in some countries like Burundi and others.
Senegal, Congo, Rwanda already have seven year presidential terms.
The majority of the nations on the continent has five year each.
So is Burkina Faso, Mr. Wayongo's poster country.
But the problem is how
well off are these countries. Are they so well off
enough to command
same lack of development in Ghana is woefully expressed
in many of these countries too. The drive to advance our goals in timely manner,
that has gone stale over the years, is on exhibition in
these countries too. So, our lack of steady
development has nothing
to do with our short presidential tenure.
It should be obvious now that what is missing is something
else other than tenure.
Truth be told, we don't get much done in four years because of prevalence of excessive corruption.
The tendency to
reverse policies of past regimes, our choice mode for
political revenge or vindictiveness, is also dodging us.
Since the coup of
1966, there have been many policy reversals. Once a
regime is out of power, its project and ideas become preys.
We thwart projects of our political opponents to make room
for new ones, ours, so as to gain access to funds that can be
made amenable for corruption..
The above tendencies are the stumbling blocks. So no lengthy presidential term will be
of any account, unless these tendencies are removed or
Even so, why the magic number of five? If more
is the issue then why not a twenty year
term? Hopefully, the nonsensical nature of the
proposal can be revealed by this question.
Personally, I cannot support a regime that is unable to
start and finish its agenda in four years or pass the
ideas on to the next regime, to be restructured and finished.
This is the path progressive development should take.
But Mr Woyongo has a different reason. He says, "the four
year period for the Presidential tenure of office in Ghana,
...will be very difficult for any political party who
emerges as winner to execute all planned development
And he continues, “The five years period for the tenure of
office of the Presidency will be very ideal for
Ghana......just like our neigbouring country Burkina Faso
which has five years under its constitutional provision for
her tenure of the Presidency."
I could point to Mr. Woyongo other countries, like the
United States, that are doing well under the shorter four
year term. Or Paraguay that has a single 5 year presidential
term (no repeat) as my ideal.
Mr. Woyongo's argument in support of a longer term is false. Even the thought
embodied is not complete. There is an omission. A
complete thought would have provided a caution: That five years
of productive work under a brilliant leader can also result in five years
of roll back of the same under a dunce.
Also to think that one party alone in a plurality of parties
and possible regimes can build or develop a country is a
Development of a country is a cumulative process in effort and cooperation. Essential ideas of active
politics on projects must be shared, accepted and passed on
from regime to regime, regardless of their ideological
differences, because what is at stake is nation building; not the aggrandizement of a
party or an individual.
Once the above is understood, we can be assured that legacies of
viable visions and
essential ideas for development can be passed on -
uninterrupted from generation to generation.
Examples from Nkrumah and Kufuor can be used for this
purpose. But I will only dwell on a single project.
Nkrumah completed the Tema Motorway in 1965 with a plan to link
it to other
road systems in Ghana in a network called The Golden
Triangle. His vision collapsed immediately after 1966
because of the hostility to Nkrumah.
This Golden Triangle idea was revived some 40 years later
under Kufuor, when the
Bush Highway extension was completed on February
2008, with the help of grant from the US.
This highway has become a very
symbolic item and also a link to the crucial idea that
worthwhile projects must be continued, regardless of
political or ideological differences.
Nkrumah had only six years as President. Kufuor had the full
eight; two four year terms. Had there been less policy
reversals and more continuity and cooperation from the time
of Nkrumah to the present, Ghana would have been a far
advanced country than it is today, even though we would
still be under the same four year presidential term allowed
by the constitution.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com, Washington,
DC, January 06, 2016.
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