Politics & the Struggle for Democracy in Ghana: An Introduction to Political Science

Politics & the Struggle for Democracy in Ghana: An Introduction to Political Science

by Dr. Joseph K. Manboah-Rockson


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ISBN-13: 9781482863239
Publisher: Partridge Africa
Publication date: 09/23/2016
Pages: 454
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)

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Politics & The Struggle for Democracy in Ghana

An Introduction to Political Science

By Joseph K. Manboah-Rockson

Partridge Africa

Copyright © 2016 Dr. Joseph K. Manboah-Rockson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4828-6323-9



One basic fact of human life is that people live together and not in isolation. Social scientists generally define the largest group in which people live as a society. The Ghanaian society therefore can be described as a group of people living in a common environment and having common traditions, institutions, activities, and interests. When we reflect, as Ghanaians, upon our lives and try to understand what has happened to us, we realize that our stories must be told in terms of our relationships with other people: parents and teachers, boyfriends and girlfriends, supporters and opponents, or bosses and dependents. To be human is to interact with, to affect and be affected by other human beings, every day of our lives, but to interact with others is to be in conflict with them, to some extent. Why is this?

In the world, human beings are alike in certain respects, but no person is exactly like any other in every respect. One of the most significant differences between each person is their personal values. A value, as the term is used here, is an object or situation deemed to be of intrinsic worth, or something to be esteemed and sought. People place value on things they consider important and desirable, whether it is a Mercedes-Benz car, passing grades, social prestige, peace of mind, or a brave new world. Social scientists agree that different people have different values and that every person acts in some way to realize his or her value. Whenever people come in contact with each other, their values will conflict to some degree. In a world of limited resources, some values are satisfied, while others go unsatisfied. Consider the yearly budget reading of Ghana: the finance minister will always remind Members of Parliament that there are many competing areas of government, but the presented budget is what the government can currently afford. If taxes are increased to support higher welfare payments, then some taxpayers will be unhappy.

As we live our daily lives, continue our education, and study what interests us in order to find a good job, we discover that others also want these same things. Not everyone is equally successful in achieving his or her goals and obtaining what they value. This is true of even our most lofty aims; we all want a better, more just world, but we do not all agree on the best way to achieve this. In order to achieve our goals, we work and rest, study and practice, speak and demonstrate, vote and not vote, tell the truth and lie, or obey the rules and break them. All the while, we strive, in competition with others who pursue different goals in different ways. Conflict, then, is an essential and inescapable consequence of living in a society rather than in isolation.

Political Conflict in Society

Wherever people live together in a society, most members of that society will believe that certain values can only be satisfied by rules that bind everyone within that society. Most people regard government action as the best way to obtain authoritative and binding rules. We define conflict over what societal rules should be as political conflict. In Ghana, most political conflict is also ethnic, which results in many ethnic groups taking up arms against each other in territorial wars; I call them uncivil territorial wars. These conflicts stem from economic hardship due to lack of jobs and opportunities for young people to grievances over ethnic relationships. Many conflicts, in any society, are fought outside the political arena, such as economics, academics, sports, and marriage. The point that is being made here is that no society — traditional or modern, more advanced or less advanced, democratic or authoritarian — is entirely without political conflict. In modern societies — Ghana not the exception — most conflicts over values become political conflicts.

What Is Politics?

Politics is deciding who gets what, when, and how. It is the method by which people try to take more of whatever there is to take — whether it is money, prestige, jobs, respect, sex, or even power itself. Politics occurs in many different settings. We talk about office politics, student politics, union politics, and church politics, but political science limits its usage to politics in government. So what is the science of politics?

Political science is the study of politics, or the study of who gets what, when, and how. The who are the political participants, who include voters, interest groups, political parties, the media, corporations, labour unions, lawyers, lobbyists, and elected government officials. The what of politics are public policies — the decisions made by the government concerning issues such as social welfare, healthcare, national defence, law enforcement, and thousands of other policies important to a society. The when and how are the political processes, including campaigns and elections, political news reporting, television debates, fundraising, lobbying, and decision-making in the Flagstaff House, the halls of Parliament, the ministries, and the law courts. Political science is generally concerned with three questions: Who governs? To what end? And by what means? Throughout this book, we will be concerned with who participates in politics, who benefits most from government decisions, who bears the greatest costs, and how these decisions are made.

Different Areas in Political Science

Political science is commonly divided into five distinct sub-disciplines that include:

• Political theory

• Comparative politics

• Public administration

• International relations

• Public law

Political theory is concerned with the contributions of various classical thinkers such as Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, Niccolo Machiavelli, and many others. Comparative politics is the science of comparison and teaches different types of constitutions, political actors, legislatures, and associated fields from an intrastate (country-to-country) perspective. Public administration is the implementation of government policies. Putting it another way, public administration is often regarded as including also some reasonability for determining the policies and programs of governments. Specifically, it is the planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling of government operations. The pursuit of the public good by enhancing civil society, ensuring a well-run, fair, and effective public service are some of the goals of the field. Therefore, public administration can be described as the development, implementation, and study of branches of government policy. Public law is that area of constitutional, administrative, criminal, and international law that focuses on the organization of the government, the relations between the state and its citizens, the responsibilities of government officials, and the relations between sister states. It is concerned with political matters, including the powers, rights, capacities, and duties of various levels of government and government officials. International relations refer to the interaction between nation-states and intergovernmental or transnational organizations. Political science is methodologically diverse and appropriates many methods originating in social research. These approaches include interpretivism, positivism, behaviourism, structuralism, post-structuralism, realism, institutionalism, rational choice theory, and pluralism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, employs methods and techniques related to the type of inquiry sought: primary sources such as historical documents and official records, and secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis, case studies, experimental research, and model building.

Subfields in Political Science

Most political scientists work in one or more of the following five areas:

• Comparative politics, including area studies

• International relations

• Political philosophy

• Public administration

• Public law

Some political science departments classify methodology and scholarship on the domestic politics of particular countries as distinct subfields. In the United States, American politics is often treated as a separate subfield. Instead of the traditional classification, some academic departments organize scholarship into thematic categories that include political behaviour, political philosophy (public opinion, collective action, and identity), and political institutions (legislatures and international organizations). Political science conferences and journals often emphasize scholarship in categories even more specific. For example, the American Political Science Association has forty-two organized sections that address various methods and topics of political inquiry.

Politics in Everyday Conversation

Many people in Ghana engage in politics unknowingly in their daily conversations with others. The word politics and its derivatives come up repeatedly in day-to-day conversation in schools, government offices, and even in churches and homes. Most of us think we know what such statements mean when a classmate accuses, say, Master Nakoja of being undeservedly chosen as the editor of the school paper because of politics when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) or the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is accused of assisting Master Nmukanjo Konja to be elected as the Students' Representative Council (SRC) president ahead of the students' favourite, Ms Augustina Mensah; or when a university vice-chancellor charges that politicians are interfering with higher education, or when a newspaper columnist declares that a tax levied on cellular talk time to balance the budget is politically impossible. We are likely to nod sagely and perhaps add a sigh for the imperfections of human nature, but all that said is politics or political conversation.

These statements offer hints as to what politics means to most people. It has to do with distributing desirable things in scarce supply and deciding who gets what, probably, as people often say, the lion's share of whatever is to be shared. It operates not only within the government but also in private groups like a school competition for a newspaper editor and other competitive elections in colleges, social clubs, and institutions. The word politics often suggests selfish squabbling for private gain, rather than enlightened cooperation for the common good of all. There is no doubt that politicians have a poor reputation in public opinion polls across the world. Statistics have shown that the only professions thought to have even lower ethical standards than politicians are insurance salespeople, labour union leaders, advertisers, and car salespeople.

On the other hand, while most people look down on politicians, they admire statesmen, who are past politicians. The only trouble is that many can never agree on which public figures deserve which label. To some, for example, the first president of the republic, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was a great president — he has even been named the 'man of the century' and continental citizen of Africa. But to others he was a lying and selfish politician. Similar disagreements have existed about almost every other president, from Dr Kofi Busia, Dr Hilla Liman, and Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings to President John Agyekum Kufuor. Some observers suspect that, for most people, a statesman is simply a government leader they like and a politician is one they dislike. This suspicion has led some commentators to say that a statesman is a dead politician; others declare that a statesman is a politician held upright by pressures from all sides. It has also inclined most politician scientists to use the terms politics and politicians in the more neutral senses, an adoption we will be using throughout this book.

Politics and Government

What distinguishes government politics from politics in other institutions in society? After all, parents, teachers, unions, banks, corporations, and many other organizations make decisions about who gets what in society. The answer is that only government decisions can extend to the whole society, and only government decisions can legitimately use force. Other institutions encompass only a part of society, for example, students and faculty in a college, members of a church or union, employees or customers of a corporation. Individuals have a legal right to voluntarily withdraw from non-governmental organizations. By contrast, governments make decisions affecting everyone, and no one can voluntarily withdraw from the government's authority (without leaving the country and thus becoming subject to some other government's authority). Some individuals and organizations — gangs, crime families — occasionally use physical force to get what they want. In fact, the history of Ghana is not without violence or force used for political ends.

Government thus enjoys legitimacy, or rightfulness, in its use of force. A democratic government has a special claim to legitimacy because it is based on the consent of its people, who participate in the selection of its leaders and the making of its laws. Those who disagree with a law have the option of working for its change by speaking out, petitioning, demonstrating against the law (protests), forming interest groups or parties, voting against unpopular leaders, or running for office themselves. Since people living in a democracy can effect change by working within the system, they have a greater moral obligation to obey the law than do people living under regimes in which they have no voice. However, there may be some occasions when civil disobedience, even in a democracy, may be morally justified.

The Purposes of Government

All governments in the world, including that of Ghana, tax, penalize, punish, restrict, and regulate their people. The government of Ghana — a unitary system of government modelled along the British parliamentary system — has 10 regions and roughly 262 local or metropolitan, municipal, or district governments (MMDs). Each year, the Parliament of Ghana enacts about thirty new laws, and makes about seventy-eight rules and regulations. The regions have no parliaments, but instead have regional coordinating councils (RCC). The districts are also divided into area or zonal councils, districts' assemblies (DAs), and zonal security councils. Why do people put up with governments? An answer to this question can be found in the words of the preamble to the Constitution of Ghana: 'That we the people ...' In other words, 'the Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this [1992] Constitution; for reasons best known to us, [we Ghanaians] have come out with this Constitution to guide us in governing ourselves.' Therefore, people put up with governments in terms of paying taxes and obeying laws for many reasons; among many other reasons are the following:

To Establish Justice and Insure Domestic Tranquillity — First, the purpose of any government is to manage conflict and maintain order. We might think of government as a social contract among people who agree to allow themselves to be regulated and taxed in exchange for protection of their lives and property.

No society can allow individuals or groups to settle their conflicts by street fighting, murder, kidnapping, rioting, bombing, or terrorism. Whenever government fails to control such violence, we say that there has been a breakdown in law and order. Indeed, when government loses control consistently, the government itself often breaks down. Without the protection of government, human lives and property are endangered, and only those skilled with fists and weapons have much of a chance of survival. The seventeenth-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes described life without government as 'a war where every man is enemy to every man' and 'where people live in continual fear and danger of violent death'.

To Promote the General Welfare — Government promotes the general welfare in a number of ways. It provides public goods — goods and services that private markets cannot readily furnish either because they are too expensive for individuals to buy for themselves (for example, the children's park near the National Theatre in Accra, the Tema Highway, or the Accra Sports Stadium and other stadia in the country) or because if one person bought them, everyone else would 'free-ride' or use them without paying (for example, clean air, police protection, or national defence). Nevertheless, Ghanaians acquire most of their goods and services on the free market, through voluntary exchange among individuals, firms, and corporations. Government also regulates society. Free markets cannot function effectively if individuals and firms engage in fraud, deception, or unfair competition, or if contracts cannot be enforced. Moreover, many economic activities impose costs on persons who are not direct participants in these activities. Economists refer to such costs as externalities. A factory that generates air pollutants or waste water imposes external costs on community residents who would otherwise enjoy cleaner air or water.


Excerpted from Politics & The Struggle for Democracy in Ghana by Joseph K. Manboah-Rockson. Copyright © 2016 Dr. Joseph K. Manboah-Rockson. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Prefaces, vii,
Chapter Outline, xi,
Chapter 1 The Ghanaian Heritage, 1,
Chapter 2 Constitutional Democracy, 27,
Chapter 3 The Political Process, 57,
Chapter 4 Political Parties, 74,
Chapter 5 The Parliament (Legislature), 105,
Chapter 6 The Presidency (Executive), 122,
Chapter 7 The Courts (Judiciary), 144,
Chapter 8 Civil Service System, 165,
Chapter 9 Interest Groups, 186,
Chapter 10 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), 201,
Chapter 11 Civil Rights, 216,
Chapter 12 Civil Liberties, 230,
Chapter 13 The Media, 240,
Chapter 14 Local Government, 257,
Chapter 15 The Politics of National Policy, 279,
Chapter 16 Making Economic Policies, 289,
Chapter 17 Making Social Policy, 325,
Chapter 18 Making Foreign and Defence Policy, 345,
Chapter 19 Regionalism and Regionalization in Africa, 354,
Chapter 20 The African Union (AU), 417,

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