Opinion: Women in Politics Cannot Be Genuinely Empowered by Freebies by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

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The writer, Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

We have traveled this well-trodden path several times before in the past; and it all amounted to zilch. I am talking about this cheap and patronizing talk about the need to empower Ghanaian women in the political arena by increasing the number of seats occupied by our women parliamentarians. The fact of the matter is that in any democratically functional culture or country, the empowerment of women works best by creating a level-playing field or preparing would-be women politicians to effectively compete with and against their menfolk for the available parliamentary seats based primarily on merit rather than gender or the mere biological fact of them being women.

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You see, it is only non-critical thinkers like Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the National Democratic Congress’ Parliamentary Minority Leader, who would so cavalierly suppose that the political empowerment of women is a mere matter of addition and subtraction, rather than intellectual creativity and substance. We must also highlight the fact that unless genuine empowerment is induced among our womenfolk by facilitating the need for our women to fight their own way towards the top rungs of the political ladder, instead of having such power facilely and passively ceded them, it would not matter whether we decide to increase the number of women parliamentarians by one-hundred instead of the diddly twenty-five being suggested by the former Labor Minister under the Presidency of Mr. John Dramani Mahama.

You see, the sort of jaded Affirmative Action policy being peddled by the Tamale-South’s National Democratic Congress’ Member of Parliament has been tried many times in the democratically advanced West and been found not to be very effective. At best, it makes the subjects of such otherwise well-intended policy initiative feel beholden to those who made it possible for them to occupy these largely tokenistic positions. It also does not bring alongside with it the sort of enviable respect that routinely attends the posts of women who fiercely fought their way to power, literally and proverbially, by their own boots’ straps, as it were. We witnessed such cheap pandering as is being vacuously championed by Mr. Iddrisu recently, when the National Democratic Congress’ headquarters operatives decided to peg the 2020 NDC’s presidential nomination contest’s fees at GHȻ 420,000 for male candidates and GHȻ 220,000 or thereabouts for women party members desirous of contesting for the presidential nomination of the National Democratic Congress.

What was most striking here but which almost none of the reporters of our major media establishments picked up as prime grist for national political discourse, was the fact that in deciding to halve the presidential nomination fee for the NDC’s womenfolk, the forgone conclusion was the fact that the party’s presidential election primary contest was decidedly an all-male affair. The party’s womenfolk were merely being brought along for the ride, literally speaking. The unspoken subtext here was that there were at least a handful of grossly misguided and abjectly naïve women who might be tempted to throw their headscarves into the ring – no pun is hereby intended, by the way – just for the heck of it. on the headquarters’ side of the equation, of course, it was the deviously solicited added revenue that most mattered. You see, the key male operatives of the National Democratic Congress, including the Parliamentary Minority Leader, have never really taken their womenfolk seriously.

Indeed, the most powerful women among their ranks have always had their political status and heft closely linked and/or equated with how sexually attractive they are envisaged to be to the party’s most powerful men, especially the men who appointed these women to such major cabinet portfolios as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Justice. I don’t particularly have any liking for Ghana’s longest reigning First Lady, but we all witnessed the Mafia-style crudity that was used by the Mills-Mahama Posse and Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission in 2010, or thereabouts, to rigidly ensure that the Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings-founded and funded National Democratic Party (NDP) did not get on the ballot. We also shockingly witnessed the fiercely bold backing afforded the Montie Trio of would-be-rapists of then Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood by such Mahama women cabinet appointees as Nana Oye Lithur, the extant Women, Children and Gender Protection Minister, as well as the then Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Creative Arts, Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare.

Indeed, any critical observer of the country’s Fourth Republican political terrain cannot help but wisely conclude that at 275 members, Ghana’s Parliament is rather too bloated for functional comfort. With a national population of just under 30 million, Ghana does not need more than 140 MPs at the maximum. I have also said before that we need to double the average population size of each constituency in the country, if both spatial and economic sanity are to prevail. And trust me, with just half of the present size of Ghana’s parliament, the august House is apt to function even more effectively and efficiently than ever before.

*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs

The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com,  www.zongonews.com and ZongoNews Media Group