Friday, August 16, 2013
My good friends, Justice Atuguba made a very bold assertion yesterday when he identified Ghanaian politicians of Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie’s type as doing “illegal political galamsey”. He accused them of inciting their unwitting followers with inflammatory language and belligerent public posturing that threaten national peace, security, and stability.
According to him, such rabble-rousing activities also endanger harmony and prevent Ghanaians from enjoying their lives to the full. He cited instances when people just sell their property and emigrate from the country to preserve their lives and condemned those “illegal galamsey politicians” for being intemperate and causing needless panic and fear. I agree with him.
Of course, in each historical epoch, a people get the kind of government they deserve.
The events characterizing the humiliation of Owusu Afriyie yesterday cannot be understood in isolation from others that have combined to give Ghanaian politics a very bad name in contemporary times. Of course, Ghanaian politics has been dirty ever since its main actors identified it as a gold mine to exploit and create specific spaces in the political terrain that they guard jealously against encroachment.
It began with the rivalry between the chiefs constituting the Joint Provincial Council of Chiefs and the intelligentsia in the colonial times and spread over to the late 1940s when Paa Grant’s United Gold Coast Convention pitted its strength of conservatism against the dynamism of Kwame Nkrumah’s “Verandah Boys” kind of politics. Then, at the collapse of the UGCC, the National Liberation Movement (NLM) took over the reins of confrontation with the CPP and rocked the boat. Such was the situation in the immediate pre- and post-independence period. The politicians who created the mess knew why and how to outwit the system for survival.
The overthrow of the Nkrumah was just the inevitable consequence of the bad-blood relationship between him and his detractors. In all that dog-bite-dog encounter, it was the politicians who gained (or lost if one was an Nkrumahist, even though some, like Alex Quayson Sackey, switched political camps to continue benefiting).
Then, the seed of antagonism, duplicity, and waywardness matured to take hold of national politics. That ugly fruit assumed very worrying dimensions with the military adding a different and ugly complexion to the body politic. We won’t recollect every instance of the “political galamsey” but we can confidently claim that all that has been happening since the 1st Republic, spreading through the Rawlings era to this 4th Republic, is the culmination of dishonesty and bad faith in the handling of affairs in national politics.
The much-talked-about spate of corruption and incompetence is the direct brainchild of a system dominated and manipulated by such “galamsey politicians” bent on reaping where they hardly sow anything. And they are very much adept at orchestrating all kinds of schemes to achieve their nasty objectives. In our time, we can’t miss their modus operand—hot-headed rhetoric, harping on ethnicity, exploiting the energies of gullible and benighted followers of their political cause, corrupting the electorate with material gifts and sugar-coated promises, forming secret groups of machomen to be used in tyrannizing political opponents, and many more.
They have also found political capital in establishing and using the mass media (especially FM stations, Web sites and social media, print media, etc.) to prosecute their agenda. Some don’t even bother turning to sabotage (be it in terms of the economy or destruction of important national installations) or provoking ethnic clashes and social unrests to prop themselves up in politics.
Not satisfied with all that they capitalize on, they have also found ways of banging people’s heads against each other, creating a wedge in the system, and running through for their own good. The activities and misguided utterances of these politicians have, indeed, endangered national cohesion. They are more threatening at this time when the NPP’s petition against Election 2012 has raised the stakes high and created needless tension.
As Justice Atuguba observed yesterday, why must the millions of Ghanaians allow these politicians to take them on the rough road toward self-destruction? Do these politicians outnumber the vast majority of Ghanaians not invested in partisan politics? No!!
Against this background, what Justice Atuguba touched on yesterday stood out to me as timely and eye-opening. We need to dissect our politicians carefully to know what they are made of and guard ourselves against being manipulated by them for personal gains. More importantly, we must remember that these politicians are in politics because they have their own personal interests to satisfy, not the national one. The evidence of our own eyes confirm to us all our fears, doubts, and suspicions about these politicians.
Just look around you to see how deplorable living conditions still are despite the over-abundance of resources for use in developing the country; how weak our economy is because of incompetence and lack of commitment, wayward policies, weak institutions that can’t shoulder responsibilities, and over-reliance on archaic methods/practices; how haphazard the government’s own attitude and strategies for managing national affairs are; how ethnicity has dominated national and local politics; and how lack of patriotism has destroyed the national psyche and brought the country to its knees.
I appeal to Ghanaians to reconsider their attitude to these politicians and use every means available to them to ensure that they are not taken for granted. Deepening our democracy means a lot more than participating in this “ballot-paper ritual” to replace one group of “illegal galamsey politicians” with another—and each new group turns out to be more adroit in exploiting the situation. It is as if with time, they get to learn the ropes of “galamsey politicking” more pointedly to be able to outdo those they target on their way to officialdom, where they settle in the groove to preside over the rot in the system for personal gains.
The dressing down given Owusu Afriyie won’t serve any useful purpose if Ghanaians don’t seize the opportunity to put fire at the backside of these politicians. They have several means to do so and should be more assertive than continue to be pliant.
Against this background, nothing but physical action by the populace can pump sense into the blinking heads of those in authority whose performance leaves a sour taste in our mouths and dampens our spirits.
As I was putting my thoughts together for this opinion piece, the news came in that aggrieved citizens of Bulgaria had marched to the Parliament building and blockaded the lawmakers and Ministers for many hours until the Police intervened. Among others, they accused their leaders of corruption and called for the government’s resignation.
Of course, Ghana is not Bulgaria, but the events necessitating the physical action by the ordinary citizens are similar and justifiable, as is clear in this opinion by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who had a day earlier declared on Twitter during a visit to Bulgaria that her sympathy lay “with the Bulgarian citizens who are protesting against corruption.”
Reding also told journalists after a two-hour citizens' debate that she had encouraged the leading Bulgarian parties to “stop the political quarrelling.” Listen to her: "When a country is in trouble—and it seems that there are problems to be solved in this country—then it is for the political parties to forget about their fights and to sit down together… Politicians are there to serve the citizens."
This situation clearly exemplifies the mood of a people who are determined to ensure that their elected officials do the right thing to deserve the huge expenditure being made on them. Are Ghanaians cowards not to take their own destiny into their own hands by taking on those in authority? Only action can force these public officials to do the right thing. They are too comfortable the way things are set for them to fit into.
I am not an anarchist stirring up mayhem; neither do I support the self-serving militancy that some power seekers provoke among the gullible segments of the society to accomplish their self-fulfilling prophecies. But I am a strong advocate for public action to deal with public officials and institutions of state that abuse the power vested in them and do what is detrimental to the well-being of the country and its citizens.
That is why I want to draw attention to our arms of government (the Executive, Parliament, and the Judiciary) as potential targets for any mass public protest because they are not serving our interests as expected. Our MPs, particularly, have drawn attention to themselves for what they have portrayed themselves to be and demand nothing but a concerted mass protest to show them where naked power lies.
I advocate that such mass public protests be targeted at any institution or individual in authority whose acts of omission or commission worsen existing problems or create new ones. The time has come for Ghanaians to go beyond blowing mere hot air from afar to taking concrete action against those in authority who abuse their mandate by failing to do what they have been placed in office for. The sacrifices being made by the people to support their lifestyles should be justified with competent handling of national affairs. Otherwise, only such a practical action against them can reverse the trend.
I shall return…
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