Be citizen and not spectators
“I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens building your communities and our nation. Let us work until the work is done."
The above is an excerpt of the speech delivered by H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on the 7th of January 2017. It was a clarion call of H. E. Nana Akuffo Addo on the day of his inauguration as the 5th president of the republic, and commander-in-chief of the Ghana Armed Forces of the fourth republic of Ghana. Though people doubt the originality of his speech, there is nothing new under the sun. And when you see something that touches or inspires you, you can copy or adopt it but make sure you acknowledge your source.
Prior to the president’s call, the 1992 constitution, Article 41 gives us that responsibility. Among the things expected of us as citizens from the constitution which the president agrees to are:
1. to promote the prestige and good name of Ghana and respect the symbols of the nation;
2. to uphold and defend this Constitution and the law;
3. to work conscientiously in his lawfully chosen occupation;
4. to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property;
5. to co-operate with lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order;
This responsibility entrusted us the by constitution was basically to make us dutiful, watchful and accountable as citizens who own the country. My aim in this article is to remind ourselves of these injunctions as we mark our republic.
Being citizens means that we are to promote the good name of Ghana wherever we find ourselves. We are generally noted to be hospitable and peace-loving people. Good name they say is better than riches. It is our collective responsibility not to tarnish our image as Ghanaians to the outside world. Political actors must know that they are also citizens and not spectators hence, when they engage in open vilification and blackmailing, they are destroying our image as Ghanaians. The outside world does not know NPP, NDC, PPP etc. All they know is Ghanaians are fighting.
Being citizens and not spectators is invitation to uphold the constitution and be law abiding citizens. Citizens who fail to follow rules become rowdy spectators. We are all interested in uploading the constitution when it comes to elections. Political players make sure that electoral rules are strictly followed to the latter. They are ready and willing to find redress in courts when they are not adhered to. Again, we are not to upload the constitution blindly. We must apply ‘moral common-sensical approach’ in upholding the constitution. If we fail to apply the ‘moral common-sensical approach’, people will take advantage of the lacuna in our laws to exploit others. They can even sack you from your legally acquired property and say it is the law. The legislature and the judiciary should be interest in upholding, amending law for the common good but not that which would suite their pay masters and keep them in power.
Furthermore, Law enforcement agencies must know that they are also citizens not spectators. Hence crime has no colour or party. When crime is reported to them, they should deal with the crime professionally without fear or favour. Many of our law enforcing authorities are swift to act when people offend government or their appointing authorities. I am yet to see a corrupt political or public official jailed while his or her party is in office. We seem to have more poor people jailed than the corrupt rich. Selective justice is dangerous. Most of the youth whom the state failed to employ and are engaged in deviant behaviours are behind bars as compared to the people employed by the state and paid by state and yet steal from the state. The police should stop arresting, molesting, intimidating and abusing innocent opponents of their pay masters. No political party would be in power forever. If you use the police against your opponent today, he or she would also use the police against you tomorrow. Citizens who are law enforcers would deal with crimes whiles spectators law enforcers would condone and connive with crime.
In addition, cleanliness they say is next to Godliness. A dirty environment is detrimental to our health as a nation hence, as citizens we need to safeguard the environment. We must avoid littering around. Government should be interested in waste management. Littering around does not make us good citizens it makes us spectators. Most of the floods in Accra are caused by our inability to manage and deal with our waste. As spectator, we throw refuse anywhere. A clean and safe environment will make us healthy and strong. Look at the number of people who die due to malaria, typhoid, cholera etc. We can avoid those deaths as citizens. We as citizens have the moral obligation to care for the country and protecting our environs by keeping them clean and safe.
More so, the constitution enjoys us as citizens to work and to work conscientiously in our lawfully chosen occupations. ‘Spectator’ political parties must know that we are all citizens of Ghana irrespective of our party affiliations. Hence, when they win political power they should stop chasing people out of legitimate jobs. Due to the seemly winner take all syndrome, we hardly find truly and dedicated competent people in responsible places. Most strategic places of the economy are occupied by relations, cronies or party faithful. This does not promote patriotism and citizenship. It also kills and destroy institutional memory. It also infests to corruption and promote acrimony among political parties and make us more spectators. Citizens should gain job by merit and their position should the protected and guaranteed.
Lastly as citizens we are to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property. Public and civil servants must know that they are also citizens. And it behoves on them as citizens and not spectators to protect and safeguard public goods in their custody. It is common to see state cars used for private or party business. People use state printers to print their private programmes. Public and civil servants using state phones for their private transactions. All these does not make us good citizens they make us spectators. We have this mentality that it is for the state and when it spoils the state would take care of it.
We also see projects started by government abandoned by successive government. These projects if they were to executed irrespective of party colouration, Ghana would have advanced. Political party players who fail to see themselves as citizens but as spectators do not care about those financial loses. It is also common to see political party players who are citizens either starting a similar project or renegotiating contracts for similar projects. It is common to see these ‘citizen-spectators’ ignoring public procurement procedures. The Auditor General’s report has countless cases of such violations and infractions. It does not auger well for us a nation. We must avoid those practices as citizens.
In conclusion, citizens act, spectators watch. Citizens own and are responsible but spectators rent and don’t care. Citizens are proactive and spectators are reactionary. What are you? May God bless Ghana our happy home a land of great rich resources and may he fill our hearts with true humility.
Rev. Fr Stephen Kofi Sakpaku
Apostolic Vicariate of Donkorkorm