Concepts of Politics, Partisanship and Public Participation: A whisper from Agona Asafo

Engaging or participating in governance as a Ghanaian citizen is gradually becoming onerous, greatly due to misapprehensions regarding the enterprise.

There are many who dread to become victims or targets of the powers unknown; or foes to friends and family. In fact, there are undesirable testimonies of Ghanaian individuals who have lost their jobs, or promotions, or businesses for being active participants in the governing processes of the country. Some have been deprived of jobs and other opportunities for just fulfilling their civic responsibilities as citizens.

Others have also been branded enemies of one political party or the other for being critical of certain activities and policies in their communities. Interrogating these governance and political concepts, I believe, will offer players in the governance and political structure the opportunity to know their boundaries as well as understanding and respecting the responsibilities of the various actors.

The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of the term ‘political’ meaning “of, relating to, involving, or involved in politics and especially party politics”. It further explains that to be political is to be involved in government. It is therefore possible to be political and non-partisan instantaneously.

According to Jeff Zdrale, the author of ‘Can we be Political but not Partisan’, the understanding of being political is to be involved in governance or public affairs; that is, being interested in how elected people get, keep and use power.

Political characters’ involvement in governance include voting, holding office (e.g., Unit Committee, District Assembly Elections, etc.), calling or writing to your Member of Parliament or Minister about an issue you care about.

An extreme case of being political, however, is to decide not to engage in any governance activities around you. Such decisions usually result in a regression of a people’s human, social and economic development.

A partisan on the other hand is a committed member of a specific political party or army. In multi-party systems, the term is used for politicians who strongly and exclusively support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents.

A partisan individual advances the agenda of a political party without consideration, in some cases, for the greater good of the people. Acting in partisan manner suggests that the person is intensely committed to the ideology and goals of a particular political party.

Such partisan engagements ultimately focus on winning power for its one sake, rather than using that power for some larger purpose. People who are partisan usually take a particular stance before engaging in any discourse.

The good thing is that there is always a room for one to be non-partisan, that is, being involved in government without exclusively taking any one party’s side – that is participation in governance. Public participation seeks and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.

This can be in relation to individuals (MMDCEs, MPs, etc.), governments, institutions, companies, or any other entities that affect public interests. The principle of public participation holds that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.

Participation has always been central to democratic governance – simply, a way a nation chooses to organize itself politically. Active participation or citizenship, is even more important in the political environment we currently find ourselves.

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It is important for us to note that, being non-partisan, does not necessarily mean apolitical, unengaged, and indifferent for failing to take a stance.

Rather non-partisan means, not taking one side exclusively; you could be here today and there tomorrow depending on the policy or issue under consideration at any particular time (whiles being partisan in this sense requires an individual to take a side exclusively, no matter what).

Manuela Ekowo (a Media Associate & Policy Analyst), advises that, as citizens, we should all be political, even if we are not all partisan; for what it means to be a citizen is wrapped up in the extent to which we actively participate in what is happening around us. This includes what is going on in our communities, schools and our government.

We need to eschew extreme partisanship thereby creating conditions for effective interaction with the government which is necessary to achieve consensual governance for sustainable development.

I therefore appeal to my fellow Ghanaians, the good people of Central Region, Agona East, and most importantly, natives of my beloved Republic of Agona Asafo, just as I did in my last article; to solemnly pray for a wind of change to blow through Agona East Constituency/ District, a change that will ensure that the youth are well educated and empowered to make informed choices; a change that will inspire the youth and the adult to speak truth to power without fear or favour; and follow political parties with their conscience and not their stomachs and selfish interest. A change that will compel the partisan politician to put the people first.

I will conclude with a quote from Frank Abeku Adams (a histoactivist and pan-Africanist) which says, “the Islamised, Christianised, and Masonic African, must eventually rise up to a higher conviction that the greatest act of charity isn’t zakat, or alms-giving but committing to the building of a functional State in which all Souls that work can reach their goals without fear.

We need a State in which the kids whose mothers or fathers beg today to feed will grow up to be able to work for food for their families”. This, we cannot achieve if we are extremely partisan.

BY: Richardson Commey Fio (Gyegyewase , Agona Asafo)

Theater Practitioner and Cultural Policy Expert

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