One of the significant features of democracy is good governance. Governments across the world have been praised and condemned based on their good governance records.
In 2017 when President Nana Akufo-Addo took office, he vowed to consolidate Ghana’s democratic gains, adhere to the characteristics of good governance and called on Ghanaians to be “citizens and not spectators.”
By this call, Akufo-Addo was asking Ghanaians to be active participants in his governance, voice strong approval or disapproval of his policies, action and inaction, be fierce in our criticism of him and be cynical at will.
Good governance has 8 major characteristics, according to the United Nations. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.
It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.
Akufo-Addo is a known avowed democrat. He is fondly hailed for speaking out against military dictatorship and the tyranny of the executive. In his heydays, he led multiple pro-democracy demonstrations all in the bid to shape Ghana’s governance in the right direction.
It is therefore a surprise to me when all the good governance indices are deteriorating under his watch.
For instance, reporters now work in fear and are careful to publish articles critical of the government. It follows the scapegoating of some journalists by the state for publishing critical pieces.
A case in point is the raid on the offices of online news website Modern Ghana by operatives of the National Security.
The raid is not an isolated case.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), a media watchdog based in Ghana, has detailed the assault on journalists in the last 18-month.
In a report titled “Critical Times for Press Freedom in Ghana as Violations Near Alarming Proportions,” MFWA said events unfolding in Ghana over the past 18 months paints a gloomy picture of the press freedom situation in the country.
“Attacks on journalists have been rampant and severe,” the report noted. “There is a growing sense of intimidation of the media, and a growing culture of intolerance for dissenting views. There has been arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of laws to shut down mainly pro-opposition media outlets. The independent broadcast media industry has been battling government over industry-crippling policy proposals.”
The report documented 31 cases of violations against over 40 reporters with majority of it being physical attacks and severe threats.
“There has also been one incident of murder and for the first time in over a decade, the MFWA had to provide a safe haven support to a Ghanaian journalist who faced death threats,” according to the report.
It is convenient for pro-government officials to say the president is not aware of the seeming press intimidation. If president Akufo-Addo had taken a harsher stand against intimidation of journalists by his officials who act in his name, it would have, perhaps, foiled the raid on Modern Ghana, the attack on a Radio XYZ journalists who led a demonstration against the shutdown of Radio Gold among others.
The rise in vigilantism and political violence is another case that cannot escape the radar of good governance watchers. This phenomenon, which is not exclusive to the Akufo-Addo administration, has led to the invasion of a high court in Kumasi, reminiscent of the murder of three Supreme Court judges.
Another shocking affront to good governance was when the presidency by-passed the board and management of Ghana Gas to appoint a Communications Director for the company.
Ghana dropped one place in the 2017 on the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). According to the report, Ghana showed 'Increasing Deterioration' in overall governance over the last five years.
In 2018, Ghana recorded its worst performance in the last six years in its fight against corruption, according to the corruption perception index (CPI). The country dropped three points from its 2016 score of 43 to 40 in 2017 and ranked 81 out of the total of 180 countries.
Good governance has been a thorny issue under the Akufo-Addo administration. It is important civil society groups take extreme interest in curbing the situation.
However, the ultimate responsibility is with the president to ensure he governs bearing in mind the tenants of good governance.