The world’s largest online encyclopedia; Wikipedia describes popular participation as “the inclusion of the public in the activities of any organization or project.” ‘academic.oup.com’ also explained that popular participation “implies a widening and redistribution of opportunities to take part in societal decision making.”
In a nutshell therefore, popular participation is a total inclusion of the average man or woman in the decision making process. This in theory can be said to be a very easy and possible task.
However, the African continent has over the decades been cursed with some leaders whose thirst for power and total control will not allow them to involve the driver and the carpenter and the mason and even the plumber or the nurse in the decision making process.
On the 6th of March 1957, one of the most historic events took place in the history of the African continent. Ghana, the country located closest to the very epicenter of the Earth, broke loose of the shackles of colonialism and declared independence from the British. While the shock-waves travel the length and breadth of sub Sahara Africa and the poets eulogize Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah; the idealist who led the country to freedom, Nkrumah surely knew that freedom could not have been possible without his famous popular participation policy. Without the rallies and the marches, the country that came to be known as the beacon of hope for the African continent would have reverted to “feudalism and imperialism” just as Nkrumah put it in his 1956 manifesto.
With popular participation however, the people of the then Gold Coast had the British leaving their country. Kwame Nkrumah’s earliest years as the leader of the newly freed country as well was fruitful due to popular participation. Unfortunately, Nkrumah’s formation of the Young Pioneers movement made the public believe that their opinion no longer mattered to the man who once idolized public opinion. At that point, the people no longer believed that they were crucial to the development of their beloved country. In order to feel important therefore, they supported the revolt that removed Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party from power. It is clear that given the chance a thousand times at the time, the people would support the revolution two thousand times.
Over 60 years since independence, Ghana is still among the world’s most underdeveloped nations. The nation who took off at the speed of lightening some 60 plus years ago, is today developing at the pace of a snail or worse. While even the nation’s most renowned development analysts and political critiques blame the country’s rather slow pace of development on corruption, it is important to take a critical look at a factor that is capable of breeding factor’s like greed and corruption; lack of popular participation.
Following a period of intermittent political stability, the Ghanaian people needed to feel important once again. It was for this reason that the revolutions led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings that ultimately resulted in the country’s most stabilized democratic period; the fourth republic, had the total support of the entire population.
Having understood how popular participation have been instrumental in the history of Ghana, it is now time to understand how it can be used as a catalyst to propel development in Ghana. Below is a list of some of the ways in which popular participation can be used to the advantage of development.
For the provision of social amenities.
The government of Ghana can not readily at any point in time, boast of enough funds for the provision of the country’s social amenities. However, if the country’s entire population was made to feel involved in the running of the country, the provision of amenities like schools, hospitals and even roads will become a shared responsibility o the government and the people. The people out of patriotism will go out in their numbers to build school blocks and hospital blocks and even poor the concrete on the roads. Even though democracy has made it possible for the citizens o Ghana to take their grievances to the polls, waiting for four (4) years of damage to be done and changing the guard only to see a repetition of the same damage over and over again is enough to wear patriotism off. Therefore, involving the general public through pubic dialogues, timely town-hall meetings, media briefing and a constant opening of suggestion boxes is imperative for the development of Ghana.
For quality education.
It is said that without education, the future is as dark as the moment before dawn because without a educated population, a country’s future will be in serious jeopardy. Ghana’s future today despite every effort made by the West African country’s central government to prioritize education,does not look very bright with students spending a little over two (2) weeks in school within three (3) to four (4) months periods. While the government concentrates on pushing more funds into the country’s education system, it is important to understand that having the entire population to ensure that government’s investment in the sector is put to good use, will drastically change the face of Ghana’s education system. This is because popular participation would have opened the floodgates for a swarm of volunteers and donors whose only motivation would be to see the future of their beloved country bright. This would arguably save the government a lot of money and also go a long way to elevate the country’s education system.
Higher Gross Domestic Product and less public spending.
With a well involved population, incidents like tax evasion and lack of passion for the protection of public property will be kept to the utmost minimum. This is practical because once people feel important in any establishment, they will also feel obliged to protect the best interests of the establishment in question. With the public actively involved in the running of the country therefore, the people will automatically help police themselves by encouraging everyone to pay their taxes while they take care of the amenities provided by the state. The cost of maintenance of the amenities in question will therefore be at the most possible minimum at all times hence a lower rate of pubic spending.
We can argue all we want but we can not deny the fact that a real popular participation will make Ghana one of the most developed nations in the world.