Dr. Etse Sikanku writes: On Dr Bawumia’s political philosophy

Dr. Etse Sikanku writes: On Dr Bawumia’s political philosophy

There have been recent conversations about the nature of the political philosophy concerning one of the presidential candidates in the upcoming presidential elections in Ghana (Dr Mahamudu Bawumia).

This is a useful and welcome development as Ghana continues to deepen and elevate its political discourse to the highest level of democratic practice. The political philosophies of candidates or presidents has been an interesting issue of discussion in other jurisdictions which has fascinated me over time. In recent times I’ve tried to apply this concept or idea to one of the most prominent political figures in Ghana in the contemporary era, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.

Like Rogers Smith of the University of Pennsylvania, it is fairly possible to do this through an educated and guided observation of his speeches, actions, ideas, initiative and discourses. Political philosophies are part of the attempt to understand the nature of knowledge and thought underpinning a particular candidate or politicians’ overtures and actions in politics or governance. As Strauss (1957) puts it, political philosophy refers to “…knowledge of the nature of political things…” (p.344). We should also take note that the idea of presidential or vice-presidential philosophy has evolved over time beyond the straight-jacket left-right dichotomy.

Scholar Michael Peters of the prestigious University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign for instance characterized Obama’s philosophy as doing away with the dualism of right-left politics.

He laid forth a political philosophy of the former US president that was not singular but multiple in nature. In fact, by way of example, Obama’s political philosophy has been characterized in various forms including communitarianism, philosophical pragmatism, or centrism.

As we can see from across a swathe of literature, a person’s political philosophy can therefore be dual or multiple. Peters (2009) also talks about political philosophy as being shaped by experiences, ideals, traditions and narratives. What then can we say about Dr Bawumia’s political philosophy after observing and studying his discourse and actions in politics over the years? VP Bawumia’s philosophy can be characterized or rooted in compassionate conservatism and democratic progressivism.

The principle of compassionate conservatism is one that was first propounded by Geroge Walker Bush which recognizes laissez-faire, market-oriented governance but at the same time a recognition of the need for government to remain empathetic, caring and sensitive to extraordinary needs. Bawumia’s compassionate conservatism is grounded in his belief in the traditional NPP philosophy of free market, property owning democracy but also steeped or grounded in compassion characterised or indicated by empathy, social and economic justice and pro-poor interventions.

His overtures to the vulnerable in society through the consistent work he does with lepers together with Father Campbell, the social intervention or social safety-net policies in the administration to which he belongs, his theory of inclusivity and his overtures to the downtrodden in society all come together to support this political philosophical position.

What needs to be communicated more robustly is that many of his policies including the digitalization drive will actually bridge the gap between the rich and the poor through greater inclusivity, availability of wider services to a larger section of Ghanaians irrespective of social status, ensure better and well mechanized processes leading to more jobs and lifting many out of poverty.

His disposition towards voters in terms of his values: fellow feeling, respect for all irrespective of social status, humility, courage to fight for equality, levelling the playing field through digitalization and the quest for a fair, equitable and inclusive society are key components of his compassionate conservatism.

When one pays attention to his politics, you realize that most of the technological and digitization drives will actually reduce cost, improve the standard of living and become a great equalizer for all. At the core his political identity is steeped in his humane, people-centered and civil ideals.

This brings us to the other strand of his political philosophy which is actually neatly tied or flows naturally from one of his greatest issues of advocacy; the philosophy of democratic progressivism. I’ll now provide an explication or explanation of the political philosophy of democratic progressivism.

This deserves particular mention because the Vice President has been unequivocally committed to democratic ideals through his civility, civic ideals, reformation of the institution of the Vice presidency but more importantly through his unabashed, irrepressible and inescapable commitment to bring about democratic and societal progress through innovation, digitalization and technological enhancement.

Some have called this policy-making pragmatism. He has been quite forthright in his propagation of big, bold and ambitious policy agenda.

It should therefore not be too difficult, through any discursive analysis to point out his principles or theories of reformation, reconstruction, inclusive growth or technological determinism espoused through his impassioned but robust advocacy on digitalization.

We can all agree that he has persisted tirelessly in propounding a general social-re-engineering of Ghanaian society using digitalization as the anchor for re-imagining or re-constructing Ghanaian society through innovation and the technology super highway.

Commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, this philosophical belief/disposition will be an enabler for so many things including: providing solutions by leveraging technology, providing jobs, expanding markets, enhancing productivity, enhancing efficiency, promoting societal well-being and ushering Ghana into the path of modernity and progress.

He has been a consequential Vice President, and he has all it takes to become a consequential President.

This Vice President has the capacity, mentality (a mindset of possibilities), and politico-philosophical disposition to become one of the most impactful presidents in our nations’ history and to dramatically make life better for all and sundry. We can see this through his courage, creativity, compassion, determination and passion.

His forward-looking ideas, revivalist spirit, reformative ideals and his commitment to innovation through digitization will redefine our world—and re-build the nation, spur productivity, unlock the country’s potential and ultimately lead to the sustainable development we all desire.

Dr Sikanku is a political communication analyst and author of the forthcoming book “Dr Bawumia and the modern Vice Presidency in Ghana.. He is the author of the book: “The Afrocentric Obama and lessons on political communication”.

The author of this piece is Dr. Godwin Etse Sikanku, a Senior Lecturer and Head of Directorate for Research, Innovations & Development (DRID) at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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