Politics of infrastructure: The case of Ghana.

No doubt, infrastructures and material technologies shape and define developmental paths, especially in poorer economies in Africa. Discourses about their construction, functionality and management has enjoyed relatively high attention by policy maker, engineers, architectures and policy makers alike. However, the politicization of infrastructure is a new dimension that requires further interrogations. Since, Ghana’s return to democracy in 1992, and particularly after political  power changed hands in 2000, infrastructures’ construction has often played a major role in the political economy of the two main parties (NDC- NPP). However, whilst it has become apparent that infrastructures shape political inter party debates, there is no scientifically proven evidence that possessing rich histories of infrastructure construction or promotion gurantees political power, at least, in the fourth republic democracy. Far back to the run-up to 2008 elections, the then ruling party (NPP) sought to promote an infrastructure-led debates and campaigns to seekre-election. Throughout the the political campaigns, infrastructures were mobilised and showcased as visible manifestation of progress and development, to presumably secure a second term under the NPP. Nationwide construction of schools, hospitals, stadia, roads, clinics, etc particularly from the HIPC initiative the country had enjoyed, were showed cased to voting public as justifications for a second term. I can vividly recall how grass root campaigners mobilized HIPC toilets for rallies. Nonetheless, the impact of the crippling global financial and economic crisis of 2008 overpowered the so-called benefits of visible infrastructure that were supposed to trickle down to masses. The NPP lost the elections to candidate Mills. Technically, then opposition party (NDC),  practically leveraged on the impacts of the economic crisis and the fact that candidate NADAA did not have a message to win the elections. In fact, NADAA placed high hopes on the supposed massive development the country had enjoyed under kuffour, and practically campaigned on  false assumptions to his defeat. A more recent scenario could sited in the 2016 elections. The then ruling party (NDC), had hoped to leverage its massive infrastructures construction arsenals to retain political power in the 2016 elections, by mobilizing its communication strategy around the so-called “green book”. In fact, regardless of the wanton dissipated national resources, couple with perceived massive corruption. The JM-led government has sufficiently written its name in the political history of Ghana, for being one of the governments to have caused massive infrastructures growth since independence. Till date, the legacies of infrastructure construction are still abound. Hence, it was probably proper to have hoped for a second term, as they said, to complete what it was left to patch. But both history and circumstances did not favor events. The campaign strategists of JM were not unaware of the NPP’s case in 2008. They perhaps, had learned some lessons from that election when infrastructures campaign failed to secure power for the NPP. So, it was then proper to argue that, probably, it was due to poor communication that caused the NPP’s failure. Or to say, the then ruling government could not showcase its visible infrastructures which caused it to fail to secure a re-election. Thus, a more elaborate communication strategy that encompassed all-prone approach, including mainstream media, social media, and expensive large-scale billboards and sign ages and nationwide tours were to be deployed. It must be acknowledged also, that the NDC’s communication approach was (and perhaps, still is) the most comprehensive and probably, most expensive political communication in the history of Ghana. But, again, infrastructures failed to them too. The spectacular failures of JM to secure a second term has previously been analyzed through socioeconomic and political lenses. An infrastructural approach adds to that. It goes further to offer a useful analytical tool for understanding far-reaching implications of politico-infrastructure decisions in African context, especially for ruling governments seeking re-elections. It mobilize argument to state that, the so-called infrastructures returns or “trickled down effects” can only be expected to reach the masses in distanced future. However, the opportunity cost of infrastructure construction, especially on consumer economy, could be massive (and counterproductive) to “everyday economics” and political opportunism, which then paradoxically go against ruling parties, if they hope to leverage solely on it for securing power. In conclusion, in impoverished economies like Ghana and other African settings, securing political power goes beyond just infrastructures development. In fact, the intersection of varying political, economic, and social and of course, infrastructural factors implicate political power. Thus, it’s security cannot be guaranteed by approaching or pursuing one or two dimensions without adequately addressing others equally important dimensions. The imbalance will cause a disrupted structures of “political power security” which could erase any positive gain made in other sectors, and cause significant dislocation of the economy. It’s thus proper and highly recommended that, governments pay relative equal attention to economic and social sectors aside infrastructures. In fact, if short-term political gains, such as winning an impending election, is the immediate objects of the government, it’s recommended that maintaining micro and macro economic sanity should be prioritized amongst others.

By: Lazarus Jambadu

Ayamga Bawa Fatawu is a community development practitioner, a Freelancer, Rural Reporter/blogger . He is also a Youth Activist and an environmental advocate. Being the administrator of www. Ghstories.com, Consumed by passion to serve the vulnerable and less privilege in society he gives voice to voiceless and also craves for attention from duty bearers to the plights of the most deprived areas in the country. He also has experienced in child protection having worked with an International Non-Governmental Organization . You can contact him via Phone Number :+233(0)-243154092/203810156 Email :sbloga@yahoo.com

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