Solving Ghana’s problems doesn’t call for throat slashing

By IndepthAfrica
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Feb 24th, 2012
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By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Our political landscape is tense, apparently because of the hardline position taken by the various politicians to be at each other’s throat. Do we already not have the appropriate mechanisms in place for replacing one government with the other without having to resort to throat slashing?

No amount of sermonizing against using insults or physical confrontations as the main political tool seems to be catching on. There is no change for civility to drive politicking in the country because by its very nature, our politics itself is dirty—very dirty indeed! It can’t be done otherwise.

As the electioneering campaign heats up, we should expect an intensification of the bad-mouthing spree. Our politicians seem to know nothing other than insults as their trump-card. And they have found cunning but dangerous ways to imbue their followers with this trait. It is evidently clear that while some politicians have no compunction hurling insults at their rivals, they are ill prepared to be insulted in turn. They do to others what they don’t want to be done unto them.

What bothers me, however, is the new complexion that has been added to this deplorable manner of politicking.

The crisis situation that erupted at the premises of Joy FM/Asempa FM in Accra yesterday is a clear manifestation of the despicable extent to which the politics of insults is being taken. The event was widely reported. We have been told that the problem arose when supporters of the NPP trooped there in an attempt to attack an NDC activist whose utterances they regarded as injurious to the reputation of their flagbearer, Akufo-Addo.

In reaction, another group (made up of NDC supporters) also rose up to defend their party member being targeted by the NPP activists. But for the timely intervention of security personnel, the situation would have degenerated into something more troubling.

It is not as if that would be the first time that any political activist would be insulting any politician on the airwaves; nor would it be expected to be the last occurrence. Every now and then, political activists indiscriminately hurl insults at political opponents and are hailed by their leadership but roundly condemned by their opponents. It is nothing new in Ghana politics, especially in this 4th Republic.

Both Rawlings and Kufuor haven’t been spared. President Mills has often been openly insulted by his political opponents, especially those in the NPP. Just last week, the NPP Minority in Parliament accentuated the insults by disrespecting him, even as he performed his legitimate duty in Parliament. Then, Kennedy Agyapong capped it all at the NPP’s rally in Accra on Saturday by labeling him as the “chief thief” of Ghana.

But as an NPP apologist (Kwaku Baako) would have us believe, insulting President Mils is nothing strange because he is not the first high-ranking public figure to have been so maligned.

Of course, functionaries of the NDC haven’t spared the NPP’s flag-bearer too. He has been the butt of all wild allegations and damning insults.

It is a tit-for-tat phenomenon. And the NPP’s Nana Akomea has said that for as long as the NDC activists hurl insults at Akufo-Addo, the NPP will not spare President Mills and Vice President Mahama. The stage is set for the wordy warfare and all other aspects of the dirty game of horn-locking.

For as long as this kind of mentality holds sway, no one should expect a change for the better. What will happen to jolt us all has already begun. If political activists ratchet up their bitter rivalry and now move to take the law into their own hands by attacking personalities whose utterances they consider as inimical to the integrity of their idols, the tension will heighten and security threatened. In this atmosphere, can we truly have the peace of mind to work for national progress?

I have said it several times and will continue to reiterate the fact that the kind of acrimony and political intolerance that characterize our national political landscape won’t help us solve the country’s problems. They will only worsen the situation and push our people further down into the abyss of hopelessness, helplessness, and abject disease, squalor, and wretchedness till death do them part.

It seems our politicians are hell-bent on achieving their ambitions at the expense of national security, unity, and development. And they are manipulating the situation to do so, using their sharp and bitter tongues to wage a wordy warfare on each other and playing on the intelligence of the gullible youth and frustrated segments of the society for that purpose.

If, indeed, working hard to develop the country is the main objective of all these politicians scattered about in the various political parties, there will be no need for any of them to regard the other as an enemy to be mowed down or trampled upon in the bid to grab political power to rule the country.

Our politicians have created a bad impression about themselves as self-seekers who descend from their high horses to snuggle to the people, “listen” to them, and pretend to be “one of them” just to oil their political machinery for vote-grabbing. As soon as they get the nod to be in office, they quickly regain their composure and detach themselves from the people to live in comfort with their “Beware-of-dogs” notices all over the place.

These are people who see politics as the panacea to their personal economic problems and do all they can to make hay while their political sun shines. They neglect the people on whose back they rose to power. While these voters languish in excruciating poverty, they surround themselves with all the benefits of public office. Are these the people to die for, my fellow Ghanaians?

All the threats that they are issuing here and there won’t solve any problem. They are just meant to intimidate people and to pave the way for them to realize their ambitions. I don’t think that any of these politicians is really interested in national development. I can confidently say that all they are looking for is the opportunity to grab political power and to use it for purposes best known to them.

And, in truth, why should any ordinary Ghanaian want to sacrifice his/her life for a politician insisting on becoming Ghana’s president, rain or shine? Who will be so stupid as not to know who exactly the Ghanaian politician is? Or to be so base as to allow his/her conscience to be bought with a few balls of kenkey, cheap liquour, and vain promises on job opportunities?

Is there any need to be at each other’s throat at all? What for? What is the motivation for any politician to be so aggressive in seeking political power? I think that there is a more pressing exigence that we can trace to their quest for political power to achieve ulterior motives. No one who is really interested in national development will want to eliminate others to be able to do so. But that is what we have.

Does it have to take Akufo-Addo and his NPP an “All-die-be-die” mentality to grab political power to do better than what President Mils and his government have done over the past three years? I don’t think so.

In fact, Ghanaians don’t really care under whose tenure their existential problems are solved. They don’t really bat an eyelid whether it is the NPP, NDC, or APC that solves such problems. All they want is that their rulers will work hard to solve these problems and not worsen them or create new ones to add to these intractable ones.

Yet, day-in-day-out, the politicians make public pronouncements and position themselves in such a belligerent manner as to leave no one in any doubt that they are spoiling for a fight. By their public posturing and roof-top poise of self-righteousness, one can tell that they are doing all they can to move heaven and earth to accomplish their ambitions, damn the consequences.

That is why the current atmosphere of political intolerance and acrimony must be deplored. We don’t need any special divination skills to foresee the danger that lies ahead. Unless the very systemic problems that have prevented successive governments from solving the country’s problems are tackled, all the boastful noise being made by those politicians on the touchline will not impress anybody.

Are those now ganged up against this incumbent government saying that they have solutions to these systemic problems to warrant their being so aggressive in demanding the mandate to be in power? I don’t see anything encouraging because all they are giving us is a litany of criticisms and promises—nothing to persuade me that they have even identified the systemic problems let alone how to eradicate them.

Countries’ systemic problems aren’t solved that way. Nor are they tackled through physical confrontations that endanger national stability and unity. Will ordinary Ghanaians ever learn not to allow themselves to be manipulated by these over-ambitious power seekers?

While this head-butting goes on, the Electoral Commission will spend 243 million Ghana Cedis on general elections to put in office people who will not help us solve our problems. After 4 years, there will still be schools-under-trees, pan-latrines in Accra and the major cities/towns, rationing of electric power in the country, and people still living far below the poverty line. Ours is worse than a pitiable case!

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