Opinions Sat, 30 Sep 2017

Are we really developing in freedom?

Many strange things have happened to our country since I last appeared here, that I think it is appropriate to ask myself whether the acclaimed motto of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) means exactly what it says or something else.

The soul of the NPP seems bent on disavowing its historic claim to being the home of democracy, the rule of law and private enterprise. I will attempt today to highlight what leapt to my attention and with a comment or two, show how things have strayed so far from the motto of the party to get us all worrying about the future of democratic rule in this country.

Has anyone noticed as I have that in spite of Ghana having an elected President and his vice, a Chief of Staff at the Presidency, plus a gargantuan 109 ministers and deputy ministers, the propensity of the ruling party is to consciously and deliberately put forward statements and have media encounters in the name and person of Mr John Boadu, the acting General Secretary of the party? Let me cite two examples only this week. Following the much-heralded victory of Ghana at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea [ITLOS] in Hamburg last weekend, it was Mr Boadu who first issued a statement in spite of the availability of the Ministers for Energy, Information, their numerous deputies and other relevant public officials appointed by our President. Why?

Mr Boadu also happened to be the first official of the ruling party to say anything definitive about the curious and unlawful arrest and incarceration of Appiah Stadium last Tuesday when he appeared on Asempa Radio in the afternoon to express extremely disappointing views which ran counter to the professed beliefs of the party he holds office in. The Information Minister dutifully appeared on the horizon far later in the evening of the same day with a statement suggesting strongly, presidential carelessness, in the face of historical practice regarding control of the police and the specific events on the day the gentleman was arrested. The public position held by the NPP acting general secretary is as a member of the board of directors of the Tema Oil Refinery. Is that the qualification for wading into matters which are clearly non-party matters but matters of state? Why?

Partisan lenses

These two examples show clearly that to the ruling NPP, everything the government does must of necessity be seen in partisan lenses and be responded to likewise in a partisan manner. This is very unhealthy for our democracy and our governance. But there is more to the interesting twists and turns we have witnessed of late to make us all doubt the sincerity of the official slogan of the NPP.

I was reading a BBC online post of the two Koreas which implied a lot about the revisionism embedded in the NPP slogan as a reprise of an ancient belief. Perhaps, this may explain the frenzied revisionism also embedded in the futile Founder’s Day debate. Development in freedom means developing the human and physical resource of a country and doing so while upholding the democratic freedoms and rights of the citizenry spelt out in the Constitution.

North Korea, the pariah state of the world, has been ruled by the Kim dynasty, grandfather, son and grandson since 1948. In spite of the spectacular development of nuclear weaponry, it is very much a very poor cousin of its southern neighbour. On the other hand, the much-cited and developed South Korea, in the same period has had six republics, survived several coups, a total of 12 Presidents spending 19 terms in office. This short narrative of the political histories of the two neighbouring countries should tell us that the slogan development in freedom is neither true nor a reflection of the trajectory of development of any developed country in the world.

Lessons from the Appiah Stadium matter

The surprising lessons to be taken from the Appiah Stadium matter are several. The aspects of our defamation legislation were expunged from our laws by Parliament in 2001 led by the then Attorney-General and Justice Minister now President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. I remember clearly Mr Martin Amidu protesting the repeal of the criminal libel laws, accusing the minister of unethical behaviour since the law chambers he owned was representing in court the editor and publisher of the Ghanaian Chronicle over similar charges at the time!

The police have indicated that they acted on their own, yet the President in the statement of the Information Minister, is claiming personal disinterest in the case hence must be discontinued. This is contradictory. I am always amazed that in spite of the long campaign in this country from colonial times, there are still shameless yet articulate defenders of tyranny in this country. When Prime Minister K.A.Busia was heckled by Ebow Hutchful at Legon and the police arrested him, Busia swiftly had him freed. The same happened with President Mills when a boy called him a chimpanzee in Kumasi. But as I write, Appiah Stadium is on bail for exercising his freedom of speech after being manacled and transported from Kumasi to Accra with the full knowledge of the executive which did nothing to ground the slogan of the NPP in fact.

How can all eligible citizens stand in the sun for hours and vote for another citizen for the latter to be transformed into a super human being upon victory? Democratic politics is government by equals. It is not the arena to preach a supposed dignity which towers above the citizenry whose vote put you up there. Anyone interested in his personal self-respect, dignity and cultural superiority should not seek democratic office. The two are opposites. The reference to traditional cultural norms is laughable, and a sad indication that inferiority complexes may be driving this whole saga. The ruling party still has the opportunity to reverse this blot on its reputation. Unless the slogan development in freedom is patently false.

Writer’s E-mail :aburaepistle@hotmail.com
Columnist: Colin Essamuah