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Do We Need A Gun Owning Society ...

Mon, 13 Oct 2008 Source: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

... To Make A Property Owning Society Real?

It was around 5:30 a.m. in the morning when the phone rang with such clarity as only the peace and quiet of the wee hours could offer. The placid morning was rudely interrupted by the piercing and crisp rings of my Casio cell phone. I woke up a bit rattled but clear headed enough to discern the origin of the call. It was from Ghana of course. Muttering a cuss under my breath, I wondered who was calling at such an ungodly hour. It had to be important I reckoned. I mustered courage to pick up the call and yelled, “Who is this?”. To my surprise, it was my big sister. I hurriedly said sorry for my daft approach and wondered why she was calling me this early. She said thieves broke into my uncompleted house and stripped the top floor of it electrical wires. In the course of the crime, they also destroyed the second floor wires. I asked her to report the matter to the police. After she hanged up, I shook my head and managed a dry chuckle to express my shock. After all, I have four men, two with their wives, living free in the house and I just could not understand how a thief outwitted all four of them.

While talking to my sister, one of the in-house men managed to get on the phone and assure me that they will get to the bottom of the matter. A few days later, I got another call. This time around, it was not in the wee hours. I was informed that all the folks in the house volunteered to pay a visit to a local pastor who doubles as a soothsayer. Apparently, the pastor managed to read the tea leaves and was able to finger one of the men in the house as an accomplice to the robbery. Frankly, I was surprised! Before long, the police, acting on the insistence of the soothsayer pastor, executed an arrest. The gentleman in question was locked up. Attempts to squeeze the truth out of him did not yield any information. Meanwhile, the soothsayer pastor was threatening to cast a spell on this gentleman if he does not confess. Indeed the pastor threatened to make the alleged criminal strip naked voluntarily if he does not come clean. Will Jesus Christ approve of such nakedness? Asem beba! I feel like breaking in tongues myself! Since you won’t be here to see my contortion and uncontrolled convulsions, why bother? Sa-ne baa ba!!

My friends, what this story tells me is the grim reality of law enforcement in Ghana. Though I wanted the thief of my electrical wires to be arrested, I don’t think I am being an ingrate, if I say, it is unfair to arrest anyone based on the soothsaying of a possibly quack pastor. Even if the pastor is right, it could be sheer coincidence or a dint of good luck. More disturbing is the fact that, the arresting police officer acknowledged to my sister that he is not supposed to arrest this man based on such pastoral sorcery. If the police officer knew that it was against the constitutional rights of this individual, why did he arrest and lock him up for days? It seems as if we are gradually drifting into a new brand of law enforcement based on spirituality. I bet there are instances of arrests based on fat tales and juicy speculations of fork-tongued fetish priests. Why do our people subject themselves to such dicey challenges? Is one prone to being tagged guilty if he or she should resist visiting these palm readers and fake pastors? Consulting the occult or oracle is nothing new in Ghana. However, using that as basis of law enforcement is taking it too far. This is dangerous and against the rule of law. Can we train our police not to tolerate it under any circumstances?

Why is a police officer willing to go along with pastoral sorcery? Could it be lack of proper training? Could it be lack of resources to conduct a thorough investigation? Could it be his belief system? How can anyone have confidence in a law enforcement system that indulges in such crass spirituality? Our law enforcement system is at the brink of collapse. The police force has been neglected for so long and it is totally under resourced. This has institutionalized a system of corruption and incompetence within the policing system. Other segments of the law enforcement system face the same dilemma even as we spend like drunken sailors on frivolities. We have to do something very quickly or risk turning Ghana into a jolly crime camp with a mortally weakened law enforcement system to boot.

Can you believe that my sister was called upon to go and feed the alleged criminal when he was locked up? Are we at a point where victims have to feed alleged criminals or mere suspects? They even asked her to bail the gentleman in question. Are those in power aware of these developments and what are they doing to shore up our police system? The leaders in the country must know that this system of feed-the-alleged-criminal or suspect, is crystallizing precariously like malignant cancer. If I have to feed a suspect or an alleged criminal before any court proceedings starts, what will be my motivation to report anyone to the police? What if I can’t feed the suspect? Then what? No Justice? And we wonder why mob justice is on the ascendancy? I surely do not endorse mob justice in anyway, shape or form, but if people have to suffer double jeopardy at a time when they’ve suffered a loss, are we surprise that they opt for such putrid barbarity only worthy of feral troglodytes? With such crippling collapse in law enforcement, how can we develop Ghana? We need effective law enforcement and we need it now.

Crime has taken a frightening upward spiral in Ghana. To be honest, crime in Ghana did not start under the NPP government but has increased inordinately under its watch. You could be on your way to Aflao and a band of AK-47 wielding thugs can stop your car, clean out the wallet of all its occupants and slap around or bloody the nose of a few smart alecs who resist. The same fate awaits those who travel to Kumasi, Tamale or Takoradi. Our country is gradually creeping into the steely hands of callous, dirty and irascible bandits. If you are not lucky, these disease infested thugs may opt to rape your wife, daughters and perhaps even sodomize you without a pinch of sympathy. And all this they do brazenly because our law enforcement officers are outgunned and under resourced. I will never forget this true robbery story as narrated by a good friend (it was his house). This thief, acting as a look out, had his well oiled AK-47 on his lap as he casually sat on the wall of the house that was being primed for robbery. Even as the inhabitants were screaming their tired lungs out for help, the thief, now clearly perched on the wall surrounding the house, casually lit a wrinkled sweat soaked cigarette and puffed away with the swagger and suave of a cigar connoisseur. Where was law enforcement? No where to be found!! This is the impunity and arrogance with which criminals have beseeched and continue to besmirch our beloved country.

Given the zoo-like crime situation we find ourselves in, would it not be a wise thing to own a gun if you live in Ghana? I consider myself a recovering pacifist. Yet, I am wise enough to understand the reality that you only live once. I would rather die fighting than sheepishly watch on, as my loved ones are humiliated and even killed. To this end, I have made a conscious decision to pack a set of guns in my house if I should relocate to Ghana. This way, I won’t have to call the police in the midst of a robbery, that is if I reach them successfully, only to be told that they don’t have a vehicle to get to my place or I should come and give them a ride to my place even though I am under intense assault. Every senior official of the government has a police detail with a loaded gun. Some have one, some have more! Wealthy individuals have armed guards as well. If guns help protect them, why not me and my family? Safety should not be the delicacy of only the wealthy and ruling elite. How can anyone vacation in Ghana and feel safe? Can we grow the tourism industry with crime spiraling out of control? How can the ordinary man protect the little that they have?

To this end, I am calling on the government of Ghana to issue policy guidelines on how to lawfully import guns into Ghana for personal use. I am seeking clear guidelines on which guns are permissible and how to legally register them in Ghana. This information must be made available in all our embassies and other media avenues so that we can safely import guns into Ghana for personal use without breaking the law. I believe the good people in Ghana should be allowed to own guns for their own protection. The criminals have guns and in fact, sophisticated ones. The citizens are helpless and the police force is a complete joke. This obviously makes the playing field not level. It will take quite a bit of resourcing to get the police force to par. The army should not be saddled with law enforcement. As De Soto, the celebrated economist tells us, we will need a viral law enforcement system that works seamlessly if our shot at development is to be taken seriously.

It is obvious that the government at this time cannot protect its citizens even if it wants to. We are broke and have our priorities screwed on upside down. The ruling elite, fully protected by the police and army, spend recklessly on luxuries even as our safety is inordinately compromised. The least the government can do is to get out of the way by making it is easy and legal for the citizens to own weapons that will enable them defend their dignity and hard work. I am sorry it had to come to this but if and when government fails, the people must act. For what shall it profit a man to gain property and lose his soul to thugs? We must bear arms to save our lives, property and that of our loved ones. Owning property, an idea that this government understands very well and supports, comes with an abiding responsibility to protect it at all cost. A government that believes in owning property must provide a canopy of policies that makes it possible and safe to protect such lawfully acquired property. Property ownership is meaningless without the protection of property rights or property. Let’s give the people of Ghana a fighting chance! Enough of the rhetoric! Act now!! Viva the people of Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman

(Also known as the double edge sword)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell.—Harry Truman

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka