What’s your favourite song? I bet the answer is “It depends”, right? You probably have a favourite gospel song, a favourite highlife song, favourite love song and so forth, don’t you?
How about your favourite outfit? Depends on the occasion, right? And I’m sure you don’t have so much a favourite food as you have a favourite breakfast, favourite dessert, favourite snack and so forth. That is how most people are when it comes to making choices. Since no one thing is absolutely perfect, we do the smart thing and hedge our choices so that we can enjoy the best qualities of more than one option.
But there are some notable exceptions to this. There are times when we make a choice and we stick with it for life. You think I’m talking about marriage, don’t you? Most certainly not, my friends. Have you seen the divorce rates lately? No, I’m afraid there are too many people who consider marriage a temporary arrangement. These days, people are more committed to their choice of football team than they are to their choice of spouse.
I’m actually thinking of a choice that once a Ghanaian makes, they typically will never depart from. I’m thinking about our choice of a political party. For most Ghanaians, it seems as if we are assigned a political party the minute we hit puberty, and then we spend the rest of our lives supporting it no matter what.
Everything our party does is right. Every person who belongs to our party is good. Every criticism of our party is wrong. Every idea our party proposes is great. In a world where nobody and nothing is ever perfect, we somehow manage to see perfection even in the large, squidgy, organic, fallible human institution that is a political party.
The minute someone points out a perceived flaw in our political party, it’s like a switch goes off in our brain that tells us our party can’t possibly be wrong, and so we must justify the criticism at all costs. It’s almost as if to all politically aware adults, their party is their parent. Whatever they say, we will do. Wherever they send us, we will go. They own us, mind, body and soul, and that’s the end of it.
My friends, I wonder if we realise how heavily this attitude is contributing to the stunted growth and development of our nation and our continent. Now, the more human our leaders are, the more flawed they are. Our history in this part of the world has unfortunately proven that our leaders are as human and as flawed as they come. In order to follow our flawed leaders so blindly, we must rebrand their flaws as virtues, so we can colour them perfect. Perfection kills improvement, and a nation that celebrates flaws as virtues is robbing itself of the ability to improve.
How warped is our logic if we feel our parties and their leadership can never make mistakes? Are they not human? Could they possibly know everything about everything? More importantly, is it not naïve to think that our opponents have never ever got it right before? Not even by accident? Abaae, what are the odds of that?
Some people believe that when it comes to political affiliation, we should be balanced. By balanced, they mean we should give equal attention and acknowledgement to all parties in political discourse. I don’t believe in balance, but I do believe in objectivity.
Objectivity is all about taking each issue on a case by case basis. It’s about drawing your conclusions based on the merits or demerits of every individual situation, and not deciding your position beforehand, based on which party you were born into. It’s about deciding which argument makes sense at the time. It’s about appreciating the pros and the cons to make measured and informed decisions on all issues at all times. That’s objectivity, and that’s what we all need more of.
So the next time you hear a controversial news item, forget your party colours for a moment. Forget that your father and his father before him belonged to the CPP or the NDC or the PPP or the NPP or the PNC. Forget about who you voted for in the last six elections. Forget about following the leader. Just close your eyes, think of the issue and ask yourself: what makes sense?
Our nation has real problems and our leaders are only human. Let’s not make them into gods and then follow them until they lead us off a cliff.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and in our part of the world, we are not always blessed with great leaders, but we are constantly cursed with excellent followers.