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A Theological Reflection on Ghana’s Kyɛ-mu-pɛ (Hung) Parliament

Abstract

On 7th December, 2020, Ghana went to the polls for the 8th time in the Fourth Republic which began on 7th January 1993. Ghana has two hundred and seventy-five (275) constituencies. From the results declared by the Electoral Commission, NPP won 137 parliamentary seats; NDC also won 137 parliamentary seats while 1 seat was won by an independent candidate. This situation, according to political analysts, means there is no majority party in parliament though there will be majority caucus after the independent parliamentarian decides to sit with one of the two leading parties. The author of this article is aware that some of the declared results are being challenged in court and the outcome may change the composition of the 8th parliament. The expression “Kyɛ-mu-pɛ (Hung) Parliament” is used in this paper based on the equal seats that each of the two sides has obtained (that is, 137) at the time of writing of this paper (6th December 2020). Therefore, the expression “Kyɛ-mu-pɛ (Hung) Parliament” is used in the context of this paper to mean a situation where no single political party wins a majority in the composition of the parliament. The general public has expressed varied ideas regarding the pros and cons of the composition of the 8th parliament for the political and socio-economic development of the nation. The present author contributes to the public discourse through this theological reflection on the official results of Ghana’s 2020 parliamentary elections as declared by the Electoral Commission.

Introduction

Ghana (in 1957) became the first sub-Saharan African country to become politically independent. After independence, the first president of the nation, Ɔsagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, expressed optimism about the nation’s ability to lay her own economic and political foundation and build upon it. Nkrumah tried to implement this vision to some meaningful extent. Along the line, the country’s experienced political instability due to series coup d’état which resulted in social and political violence and bloodshed. Ghana’s military rule was characterized by violent suppression and detentions without trial, political deaths in detention, and capital punishment, among others. After a long period of military rule, the country went back to constitutional rule in 1993, a decision which was reached through a referendum. Since then, Ghana has enjoyed political stability and eight generally peaceful general elections have been conducted successfully. In these elections, two political parties, namely the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have been dominant, even though there are other political parties in the country.

In the Fourth Republic, Ghana, presently, has two hundred and seventy-five (275) constituencies. The results of the December 2020 parliamentary elections declared by the Electoral Commission indicate that the NPP won 137 seats, NDC won 137 seats while an independent candidate won 1 seat. The general public has expressed varied ideas regarding what the composition of the 8th parliament holds for Ghana’s the political and socio-economic development. The present author contributes to the public discourse through this theological reflection on the Kyɛ-mu-pɛ composition of the 8th parliament based on the official results declared by the Electoral Commission.

The Reality of Diversity

The reality and necessity of diversity is attested by Scripture. God himself is an embodiment of divert, existing as three persons in one God. The creation of humankind (as male and female) must be understood in terms of polygenism rather than monogenism. The creation of one individual requires putting together different organs all of which work together to make the person function properly. That the human reality is diverse is evident in the fact that “humanity can only be defined and informed by diversity defined in terms of race, stock, physiology, culture and others and expressed in the oneness of being human” (Asante 2010, 5-6). The following quote by the Methodist cleric and scientist, Garbrah (cited in Asante 2010, 8-9), stresses the fact and value of biodiversity:

Biodiversity or biological diversity expresses the fact that in his wisdom, God has created a vast variety of plants and animals. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of insects. Beetles have the highest diversity. Similarly, there are many types of ants. There are several types of grass. These include wheat, barley, rice, sugarcane and even bamboo. We also know that for each of these crop types there several varieties. For example, there are several species of maize and rice. Globally, the human depends more on grass for plant-based food than on any other crop. Biodiversity exists not only on land but also in the air and water bodies, including the sea.

It is deducible from Garbrah’s assertion that Ghana’s gender, socio-cultural, political, economic, racial, linguistic, and ethnic diversity comes from GOD (the “Generator Of Diversity”). Ghanaians must therefore embrace their diversity noting that there is strength in diversity. Ghana’s multi-party democracy has come to stay and therefore, the nation should be prepared to move along with it. The obvious conclusion is that diversity is an inevitable reality in the country’s political life. The diversity that exists in our political lives compares well with the many organs that form the one human body: “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Cor. 12:20 RSV). In the same way, there are many political parties yet one country; there are many colors, yet one people.

The Need for Political Inclusion

There is value in political diversity. One has to grasp the value in diversity to be able actualize his/her God-given potential (Asante 2010, 9). As Pease (cited in Asante 2010, 10) notes “All of life; all of nature; all of history, and all the universe is based on the principle of interdependence and the fact that everyone needs what someone else has, and everyone has what someone needs. Only God is totally independent and self-existent. All else and everyone else is interdependent.” The value in diversity and the need for interdependence in governance is expressed in the Akan proverb “Nyansa nni ɔbaakofoɔ tirim” (“Wisdom is not the preserve of one person”). From the Ghanaian traditional perspective, everybody is endowed with wisdom; therefore, everybody has some useful contribution to make in respect to governance. Another Akan proverb, Ti korɔ nkɔ agyina (“Two heads are better than one”) underlines the fact that collective wisdom is greater than that of an individual. Asante (2007, 81) is therefore right to assert that “true democracy requires active, hand-on leadership and effective facilitation of involvement of people in the system.” This assertion is well captured by the Akan adage “ɔbaakofoɔ mmu ɔman” (“One person does not rule a nation”).

The composition of the 8th parliament makes it imperative for the country’s political leaders to work together for the benefit of the country. The present author opines that the outcome of the 2020 parliamentary elections is God’s way of drawing the nation’s attention to the need for all-inclusive governance. Diversity is needed to bring together the brightest minds to create solutions to the problems facing the country in the 21st century and beyond. In his speech following the declaration of the presidential election, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo made it clear that the results of the election show that Ghanaians want the NPP and the NDC to work together: “The Ghanaian people through the results [of the elections] have made it loud and clear that the two parties, the NPP and NDC, must work together, especially in parliament, for the good of the country” (Akuffo-Addo cited in Knott 2020, online article). The President’s assertion underscores the need for political inclusion in the country’s political activities.

Political inclusion in this context refers to “the state of politics in which the ruling party recognizes that the governing process can be best enhanced by tapping all the skills in the country regardless of their sources” (Asante 2007, 78). Political inclusion may be expressed through the appointment of qualified persons “from other political parties, openly acknowledging and implementing the policies of another party where those policies have the effect of addressing particular problem the nation faces (Asante 2007, 78). Therefore, the various parties (especially the NPP and the NDC) should work together for the betterment of the country. It also implies MPs must look beyond the interest of their parties and work in harmony towards the wellbeing of the populace.

Tolerance and Consensus Building

The success of the 8th parliament depends largely on tolerance and consensus-building. From the Latin word tolerare, the English word “tolerance” means “to endure” (Asante 2010, 13). Political tolerance has to do with the ability or willingness to endure political opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with. A tolerant leader protects the rights of all, including those he/she dislikes or with whom he/she strongly disagrees. Toleration indicates “the permission of, or patience in the presence of opinions or practices that are not regarded as really good or of persons identified with such opinions and practices” (Rule 1960, 525-526). Asante (2010, 14) adds that “toleration has to do with the capacity to accept what one considers to be acceptable even though substandard or imperfect.” Political tolerance is key to the development of every nation. One president of the USA, John F. Kennedy, once said, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others” (Retrieved from https://proverbicals.com/tolerance). One can be tolerant and still hold on to his/her beliefs. Tolerance, however does not mean condoning evil. Evil must be exposed at all cost.

The composition of the 8th parliament also requires high level of consensus building which is good for national development. Consensus building requires the ruling government to subject proposed policies to the scrutiny of the opposition party. This is not something new in the country’s democracy; however, the nature of the 8th parliament deepens the need to continue this practice and even do it better. The opposition in particular (and the entire house in general) should however note that there is a “Big Eye” somewhere watching them. Since they are accountable to God, they must execute their task very well and do it with their whole being, as working for the Lord and not for men (Col. 2:23). From the perspective of the author, the success of the Ghana’s democracy depends to a great extent on the constructive role of the opposition party. The divine assignment given to the opposition include checking the government from becoming authoritarian; constructively criticizing the policies of the government and making such criticisms known to the public through the press; checking expenditure of the government, among others. If the opposition decides not to support the ruling government’s policies meant for the development of the nation, simply because they are in opposition and because of their political power in the Kyɛ-mu-pɛ parliament, they should remember that the unfailing oversight of the “Big Eye” is constantly keeping records of their actions and inactions. God expects the opposition to play their role very well to ensure accountability and the progress of the nation. All leaders are accountable to God who has given them authority to lead. The electorates also require accountability. Perhaps, the “skirt and blouse” situation in some constituencies is to tell politicians that a substantial number of Ghanaian voters are beginning to vote beyond party lines, to entrust their will into the hands of the one who they believe is accountable and can keep them on the road to development and prosperity.

A political lesson from Funtumfunefu Denkyɛmfunafu

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The Adinkra symbol, Funtumfunefu Denkyɛmfunafu, (shown above; retrieved from https://www.tattootribes.com/index.php?idinfo) represents two mythical crocodiles which have a common stomach. The name “Funtumfunefu Denkyɛmfunafu” is the shortened form of the proverb “Funtumfunafu Denkyɛmfunafu, wɔwɔ yafunu korɔ nanso wɔnya biribi a wɔfom ɛfiri se aduane no dɛ no yɛte no wo menetwitwie mu,” meaning, “Funtumfunafu and Denkyɛmfunafu share the same stomach, yet when they get something (food) to eat, they strive over it because the sweetness of the food is felt as it passes through the throat.” Even though one of the siamese crocodile’s act of eating eventually fills the stomach which both of them share, each crocodile is determined to participate in the eating because of the sweetness of the food which is felt when the food passes through the throat. The result of this is the constant struggle between the two crocodiles when the have food to eat.

This scenario compares well with the Ghanaian political experience in which the two leading political parties, the NPP and the NDC, claim to have the interest of the nation at heart and yet, their behavior sometimes leads to the conclusion that they are in to seek their own welfare, not that of the citizenry. The main political lesson from the Funtumfunefu Denkyemfunefu symbol is that democracy must embrace unity in diversity. Since the two crocodiles share the same stomach, if a crocodile eats, everyone eats; therefore, none of them survives without the other. Ghana’s two major political parties should note that God has appointed them to seek the welfare of the people; therefore, if a particular party’s policy will end up achieving the divine goal of seeking the welfare of the citizenry, that course must be supported regardless of which party initiated it. The political sweetness which people usually struggle with others to enjoy include, pride, fame, luxury, privileges and others. Political figures are to note these “dangerous” sweetness and to suppress them in order to serve the people better.

In this light the present author suggests that parliamentarians should conduct secret voting on any matter that needs to be settled through voting. Open ballot will not enhance objectivity and people’s freedom to express their views through the ballot. Secret voting is what brings out people’s true mind. When this is done, it is believed that, eventually, the “whip” methodology (which in the author’s view is sometimes inappropriate) can be checked.

Conclusion: A Theological Recap

From the Christian perspective, diversity, in and of itself, is a God-created good that reflects the unity (oneness) and diversity (three-ness) of the Triune God. Therefore, ethnic, cultural or linguistic diversity is not inherently evil or sinful, rather it fulfills a purpose in God’s plan for humanity. Political diversity must not be seen as something that intrinsically evil. The Fall of humanity however, distorted the diversity that God created, turning it into a systemic ideological idolatry that breaks down human society. Racism, political bias, ethnocentrism, nepotism and others, therefore constitute a sin before God. God’s salvific mission of reconciliation inseparably includes reconciliation of people to each other, including the reconciliation of politically estranged parties. Hence, the Christian Church must serve as God’s strategic vehicle for embodying, proclaiming and promoting God’s reconciliation of all things and all people. Christians have the hope that in the Parousia, God will bring full restoration and reconciliation of diversity in unity. Diversity means strength, not division. Therefore, we should not allow our political diversity to divide us.

References

Asante, Emmanuel. (2007). Culture, Politics and Development: Ethical and Theological

Reflections on the Ghanaian Experience. Accra: Combert Impressions.

Asante, Emmanuel. (2010). Unity in Difference. Belarus: Printcorp.

Knott, Stacey. (2020). “Close Election Shows Maturing Democracy, Ghanaian Analysts Say”

Accessed online at https://www.voanews.com/africa/close-election-shows-maturing-democracy-ghanaian-analysts-say

Rule, Andrew K. (1960) Baker Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

s.v. “Toleration.”

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