Friday, May 11, 2012
Retracing our steps from the abyss
Recent events in the country should give every Ghanaians and friends of Ghana reason to be very anxious indeed.
We all should be worried, very worried without a doubt.
Although many of us like to mouth the (now largely discredited mantra) that we are a peaceful people, recent happenings in the land suggest that there is absolutely nothing in our genes to suggest that we have less proclivity to violence like other human beings. Recent happenings in the land suggest that we possess in abundance, like many human, the capacity and the propensity to become violent.
National peace and cohesion are not to be taken for granted under any circumstance, especially in tenuous nation-states such as ours which, as I often said, are cobbled together to satisfy colonial logic.
Actually, in many instances, peace, at the national level, must be assiduously courted and worked for. We cannot have peace simply by wishing for it. Our behaviour, individually and collectively, is going to determine the type of peace we continue to enjoy.
Recent happenings in Mali should also tell us that we take our much touted democratic credentials for granted at our peril.
Like us, Malian democracy is about twenty years old. Like us, Malians have conducted four successful elections. Like us, Malians were also toasted by the international community (I actually used that word, ah!) for the steady progress they have made in building democratic capacity.
Sadly, all these achievements of Mali were wiped out overnight when aggrieved middle-ranked soldiers overthrew the government and sent shivers down the spine of complacent leaders in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Today, a shaky contraption of government rules in Mali and the country is effectively divided by a secessionist group that overran the northern part of the country and sundered it.
The pictures of Malians dancing at the violent overthrow of their elected represents should in no way suggest that they do not like democracy or freedom, or that they are demented masochists that enjoy being brutalized by gun-wielding soldiers ruling under decrees.
No, it should suggest to us that Malian politicians failed miserably to read the mood of the ordinary Malians, and change their evil ways before it was too late. It shows that the Malian political class, like the French Bourbons, refused to learn the lessons of history. The Malian political class was too obsessed with themselves, and in their self-masturbatory indulgence; they forgot the ordinary Malian people.
The result of this complacent was a comic coup that should not have happened had the politicians been up to their mettle.
Former President Rawlings is a man known to speak his mind. He is also one that leaves no one in doubt as to where he stands on major issue.
Few days ago, the ex president warned that our nation is poised on an abyss and that we should pray to god to help us.
Sadly, Mr. Rawlings apt warning was given every manner of political colorations that very few serious minds ponder over its aptness, significance and necessity.
It is less than eight months to the general elections in December and already the atmosphere in the country is charged and poised beyond belief. A first time visitor to the country would think that the nation is preparing for serious war, and not just the registration of voters who are to partake in elections that are still months down the road.
Ghanaian politicians, even those whom we have credited with much intelligence and who should know better, have turned a mere voter registration exercise into a do or die affair. They hop from radio station to radio station preaching their special brands of bigotry and intolerance, laced with the most vitriol of personal and tribal attacks. Some people have lost their lives. Many have been stabled and cudgeled. Many have made it their business to go around with every manner of instruments of violence.
And all of these in the name of politics!
Are all these tensions necessary in order to elect our leaders?
As a dispassionate observer of the political scene, I can only say that I feel distressed when I watch people, who are supposed to know better, joined the fray not only to muddle water, but also to contribute their own quota to the unnecessary cacophonous and totally unnecessary noises.
The gods know that this column has tried to focus on discussing ideas about how the country can best realize its objectives to use its god-given resources to improve the lives of the people of the country.
It is rather painful to watch all the passions and the energies that are daily dissipated on discussing politics.
I have travelled the length and breadth of this beautiful and immensely blessed country. In my travels, I have often been saddened by the crushing poverty I see all over the country, most especially in the northern half of the country.
To me, such poverty are totally unnecessary. Given the wealth we have in this country, there is absolutely no reason why we should not have the same standard of living that are among the top best in the world.
If only our leaders will act up, there is no reason whatever why Ghanaians should not have the same quality of life like Singaporeans or Norwegians.
Thrice this year our nation has been embarrassed by national blackouts. Our currency is sinking faster than the Titanic. Our debt burden is increasing exponentially. The price of our primary product, Cocoa, is falling alarmingly. We still beg for support to balance our budget.
The big question is why do all these development shortcomings we see around us not agitate our minds? Why do the sights of children studying under trees not excite our passions for us to want to want do something, anything about it? Why do spectacle of men doing back-breaking farm work in scorching sun not bringing tears to our eyes. Why is the scene of women carrying babies on their backs, balancing heavy loads on their heads in midday sun not moving us to try and do something, anything? Why do we not feel any personal or national shame that we contribute absolutely nothing to global science, technology or engineering? Why are we not shamed that we are mere consumers and not originators of ideas that benefit mankind?
I have seen villages and towns in Ghana that are of such poor quality that they won’t be allowed to function as pig sties in some country.
Even in the modern, urban concrete jungle that we call capital, Accra, our people are still dying of cholera – a disease that is caused solely by poor, unhygienic living - which should show how far behind we are in providing good health service for our people.
We have all these development challenges, yet very few of us make it our business to comment on them.
But bring on politics, and we all discover our vocal chords and we are galvanised into action. Like some long hibernating gnomes, we suddenly wake up from deep slumber, primed for action.
There will be little concern if the political discussions are intellectually elevating and can contribute to moving our political development in a smoother trajectory.
No, they are not. All we are treated to are mostly vomit-inducing, headache-causing political mis-analyses, personalized by crazy ideas, vituperative insults and high decibel shoutfests.
We utilize our numerous rag sheets of newspapers, our plentiful FM stations and TV stations not to engage in debating ideas that of could be beneficial to us, but only to propagate one jejune political idea or the other from morning to night.
Breathlessly, our men and women vociferate themselves silly on the air debating totally, totally useless political nonsense.
Why don’t we make it our business to demand why those that we elect go ahead to sign away our oil for ten percent, whilst war-torn Afghanistan got eighty-five percent from the Chinese? Why don’t we begin to query why Ghanaian officials, with their head screwed on right, will agree to an agreement to cart away our oil unrefined in their crude form, whilst our refinery at Tema is starved of inputs? Why can’t we ask why for over a century, we have been contented to receive three to six percent for our gold, whilst the expatriate executives of the mining companies do nothing but play golf, stay in big hotels and get over ninety percent of our gold revenue? Why do we not feel passionate about the mining companies polluting our rivers and streams and despoiling our environment?
Why do we not feel concerned that our country, Ghana, has initialed the disastrous EPA agreement the European Union is forcing down the throats of African nations?
Why do we not make it our business to think about how we can use our children in school to clean and beautify our villages, towns and cities? Or why we cannot make the planting of flowers and grasses form part of our Environment Studies? Or make the growing and harvesting of agriculture produce form part of our syllabi on the subject? Or why we cannot task our universities and polytechnics to come up with practical solutions to some of the problems bedeviling us? Or why we cannot engage our parents to teach our culture to our children in our schools?
There are just too many questions and challenges that should agitate our minds rather than all the silly talks about politics, politics, and politics.
We all hail the Hypocrite in Chief, Brother Barack Obama, when he came and told us to build republic of strong institutions rather than states of strong men.
It was a good advice, but what are we to make of the sights of those that should know better doing their damn best to undermine state institutions?
What are we to make of the spectacle of crowds gathering at police stations to protest against the police doing their constitutionally-mandated duties? What are we to make of the threat by an ex minister to deal with a policeman doing his lawful duty? And why didn’t the police boss come out to defend his men under attack from politicians? What are we to make of a presidential aide (Nii Lartey Vandepuye) threatening to spill blood over bio-metric registration exercise? What are we suppose to make of political parties and groups storming police stations with their rented crowds to disturb officers that are lawfully discharging their duties? What are we to make of the chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) addressing his party’s supporters who besieged police headquarters without condemning them?
How and when did we reach this nadir of madness, whereby everyone thinks it normal to take the laws into his hand?
Of course, our well-crafted constitution guarantees freedom for all and we have ‘Freedom and Justice,’ as our motto, but is freedom not always to be tempered with responsibility and discipline?
What type of society do we aim to build when all that we know is freedom without its concomitant responsibilities?
More importantly, what can we begin to do to stem this creeping madness that is bound to shove us all into an abyss if not arrested and quickly too?
I listened to the MP from Adenta attempt to defend our president, who said that he is not a policeman and therefore cannot cause arrest. The MP asked rhetorically what rank the president has in the police force.
This is crass and belies an ill-thought response.
Are we to take it that because the president is not a farmer that we shouldn’t complain when the prices of food shot up under his watch? Or that because Mr. President is not a mason, we should keep mum when prices of building materials and housing become unaffordable?
Of course, the president is not a uniformed police officer, but he, as the Commander in Chief of all Forces in Ghana, is ultimately the Chief Police Officer.
The constitution entrusted enormous authority in the office of the president and we are in deep trouble when anyone that occupies that position try to duck and fudge.
The Adenta MP should be reminded that many people who have occupied the position of executives know that there is no way they could shirk the responsibility of the office. Maybe that explains why President Harry Truman has on his desk the famous sign: The Bucks Stops Here.
Since there is simply no higher authority in the land than the Executive President, the occupant must bear the ultimate responsibility for any failure in any of our state institutions. It is his job to ensure that he employs the best people to head the agencies. It is his responsibility to tell them what he wants done and ensure that his directives are complied with. He has the prerogative to hire and fire at his discretion. If mayhem happens anywhere in the country, and the police appear not be up to par, we do not say that the president should don a uniform and chase hoodlums. What we say is that he should summon the head of the police, ask him questions and fire him if he is not satisfied.
I have said severally in this column that if the president knows what is good for him, he’ll fire some of the people he surrounds himself with.
There is little doubt that the president has the intellectual capacity and also the good will, the best intentions to do his best for the nation, but could we say the same for those that surrounds him?
History is replete with stories of well-meaning leaders who, upon been disgraced from office, cursed their advisors for mis-leading them.
In Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon lamented the role is advisors played in mis-leading him about the true state of affairs in the Nigerian nation.
Presidents are not superhumans; that explains why they are entitled to aides to advise and assist them. But we are left to wonder the caliber of advice a desperado like Nii Lante Vanderpuye can provide a head of state.
As Brother Obama advised, we must strengthen our institutions. We can begin by empowering the police and the judicial system to make examples of those in the habit of storming police stations to protest against lawful arrest.
I think there are laws against interfering with officials performing their duties. It is time the heavy sanctions of the laws are made to descend very heavily on those miscreants who have come to make a habit of storming police stations.
The president must take immediate step to arrest the creeping state of lawlessness, lest we are courting serious troubles. He could liaise with the leaders of the legislature and the judiciary to expeditiously put in place extra-ordinary measures to save the corporate integrity of the state, which today is being challenged as never before.
A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. If our police, performing their assigned duties, feel intimidated by rowdy rented crowds, how do we expect them to function optimally?
If we do not stamp down this creeping lawlessness down very firm, we will all regret to reap the whirlwind in the very near future. If a mere registration of voters can result in so much mayhem, what are we to expect from the election proper?
President John Atta Mills should try and remember that ultimately he is responsible for the actions and the inactions that happen under his watch.
An African adage says: “The king under whose rule the nation prospers shall never be forgotten; neither shall the king under whose rule the nation descended into chaos.”