This is the concluding part of the essay by Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, a veteran African journalist and writer. In the 1980s, he was the editor of a major newspaper in Ghana, from where he went on to edit the well-known West Africa Magazine in London.  He has reported on developments throughout Africa.


President Kufuor's reference to cynicism within the body politic ought to
become the centrepiece of the discussions raised by his State of the Nation
Address because it is perhaps the single deadliest disease that is
separating this country from its development expectations. It has been
manifest in many forms throughout our national life and will continue to do
so unless it is explicitly named and exorcised. The president blamed some
unnamed doomsday prophets and implicated the media in the spread of cynicism
but he could have helped us all by naming the centres where these doomsayers
reside. This is because although cynicism has been with us for a long time,
in the blame game of seeking its source no one will willingly claim to be
the parent of this ugly child.

However, we have placed part of the cause in the relentless onslaught of
corruption on our political morals. None of the current political traditions
- Nkrumah, Danquah/Busia or Rawlings - can lay claim to clean hands when
they had the privilege to manage the nation's finances and resources. Even
the short-lived Busia and Limann governments showed such rapacity that when
they fell at the dawn gun they were not mourned by the public. On the other
hand, people were generally ready to believe the tales of massive corruption
that were told by the liberators as justification for breaching the
constitution. This was because even if the stories of corruption were
exaggerated, the public perception was that politicians were corrupt and had
been in it for themselves. The upshot was the reinforcement of apathy and

However, corruption is not only stealing or abusing public resources but
personal and political dishonesty, and this also breeds cynicism. The
perception of politicians as liars, which they reinforce by hurling that
abuse at each other, is so entrenched in the public psyche that it no longer
cases any serious outrage. I was watching TV with a friend one evening
during the recent election campaign when a presidential candidate came on
and started the usual promises of schools, roads and hospitals. The list was
as long as he was emphatic that he would provide all these things in one
constituency within four years that I wondered how his government, if he
won, would pay for all those things. My friend provided a pithy but
revealing answer: even the people he is addressing know it is just political
talk; they don't believe him and in any case they don't expect to see him
again until next time around when he needs their votes. So the politicians
may think that the are playing a game for short-term gains but the result
endures for long.

If cynicism is the twin brother of apathy, their parents are corruption and
alienation of the vast majority of citizens from the political process.
Another thing that struck me during the political campaigns was that we, the
people, were not assigned any responsibility for the management of our own
lives. The politicians did not even ask us to pay our taxes. Indeed, if
people wanted a school or a hospital the very generous candidates of the
NPP, CPP, NCP and the NDC would promise to provide them. The people were not
challenged or engaged in any way that would ensure their participation in
the country's politics, and it is axiomatic that people are mostly cynical
about a process if they aren't part of it. When you talk to the young
hawkers around the Kantamanto area, you do get a clear picture of the effect
of this alienation. Even as they are busily and noisily hawking their wares,
they are in reality in some kind of Godot-like state, waiting for something
to happen. If they got their main chance they would leave the country but
the next best would be some government-run training or employment scheme.
The government promised this in 2000 so they are waiting. But these young
people are working, however precariously, however the idea that they might
form a cooperative to access bank credit to increase their business is too
remote an idea to them. And no one can blame them when they know that bank
facilities are not for people like themselves.

The vast majority of the people in this country, but especially the youth
see themselves excluded from any leadership potential in the country or even
in their communities. This country is now so divided between the rich
minority and the poor majority such that for the latter there is perhaps no
point even in dreaming about going ahead. The Church,  gospel music and
sport are some of the avenues still open to the many people on the poor side
of the fence if they want to make it big, as the expression goes.
Interestingly, in the Church as in sport, the prevailing metaphor is the
struggle against overwhelming odds - either physical or spiritual. These
areas you can excel in without having had to speak English with your parents
from the age of one week. If you want to be part of the political process
your straight path begins at a posh and expensive crèche and kindergarten
(they give them tot-gowns at graduation), to a private school in Accra, etc
then university, preferably abroad.

Another cause of cynicism is the widespread belief that politicians don't
practise what they preach. Let me give an example: Before Dr. K.A. Busia
became prime minister in 1969, he had paraded himself as the apostle of
democracy and rule of law. He had written books on the subject and
campaigned around the world proclaiming himself the potential restorer of
democracy to Ghana. Shortly after he had the opportunity to prove this claim
on assuming power, he was confronted with a court decision that went against
his government. He reacted angrily by declaring his notorious "no court"
statement. His defenders have since then sought to restore his image on that
one by pointing out that what he said was that no court could force an
employer to take on an employee he did not want. It has done his reputation
no good because the first impression that he did not respect the courts has
stuck. I was reminded of this episode recently when an NPP supported said in
a radio phone-in that the NDC could go to court if it felt aggrieved about
the election result. Someone retorted that even if the opposition went to
court the NPP would simply say "no court" and ignore the decision. Talk of
the sins of the fathers...

Another example: former President J.J. Rawlings was reported to have said
that he was broke. This man has educated his children in posh and expensive
foreign colleges but still he is a man with a big personal following in this
country and many people believe what he says. However, even one of his most
ardent public supporters was moved to exasperation when JJ opened his home
and his luxuries to Ovation magazine. This may appear to be a quirky and
eccentric behaviour by our non-conformist former president but erodes
further the legitimacy of revolutionary politics. The point is this: Ghana's
struggle for independence was anchored in revolutionary politics - the
belief that a complete break with the past was necessary for the
transformation of society. Even Kutu Acheampong called his coup of 1972 a
revolution and declared that its intention was the complete makeover of the
country's social fabric, which would result in the creation of the 13th
January Man. No one laughed because revolution was part of the legitimate
aspiration of the people. The height of revolutionary fervour was in the
early 1980s when following the June 4th Uprising Rawlings became the symbol
of that potential complete break with the past. He now parades his jaguar
cars in Ovation magazine!

The idea that there are no enduring moral values in politics also fuels
political cynicism. As the public sees it, even as the president was talking
about cynicism, his party was planning to orchestrate a political shenanigan
that has further eroded confidence in the integrity of the political class.
It is easy for the political class, especially the ruling party to explain
away the manner in which the Speaker of Parliament of Parliament was
replaced. Again, it is easy for the ruling party, even of the political
class to explain and accept the terms of engagement but to the public this
was yet another example of politics as anti-morality. The question people
are asking is this: why did the President praise Mr. Ala Adjetey as a good
speaker only to stab him in the back?

I think this point needs further explanation, and it might be a good thing
for the managers of the major parties to investigate it. The impression of
duplicity stems from the fact that the former Speaker, a past Chairman of
the ruling party was given his position by the NPP. The NDC Parliamentary
caucus was seen as initially hostile to the man and its leader said publicly
that he would "go after the speaker". The NPP backed their Speaker during
all his numerous travails and this included the President's perceived
endorsement only a couple of days before the proroguing of Parliament. Then
came the rumour that a new Speaker would be proposed by the NPP on January
7th, and indeed this turned out to be true. But surprise, surprise, Mr. Ala
Adjetey, the former NPP Chairman became the NDC candidate. Be this high
drama or pantomime, the result is a public bemused, befuddled and alienated
from what they regard as something unfathomable and remote. Cynical ploys
beget cynicism writ large.

There must be a way out of this cynicism, and there is a way but it is not
by blaming it on some nameless doomsayers. It should begin with the honest
admission that our political leaders have been largely responsible for the
cultivation of cynicism and its growth within the body politic. Perhaps the
political system, or the manner of governance breeds cynicism; I don't know
but the question demands a conscious effort to find answers. However,
openness and more openness would appear to me a good starting point to
dispel cynicism. Let us take an example of how more openness could create
trust in the people so they can keep faith with the politicians: take the
case of the mysterious coup plot just when the election campaign was heating
up. The government, unusually speaking through the police command, asserted
that something dark and mischievous  was afoot while the opposition retorted
that this was just crying wolf. The political coloration of this issue was
so blatant that on such a serious issue people just turned off muttering,
"oh, it is only the politicians trying to con us". Let the politicians clean
up their act and they will find a nation willing to do its bit as well.