Dr. Percy’s proposal on national security is dangerous

Thu, 1 Nov 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

(Part I)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The proposal by Dr. David Percy, a leading member of the National Reform Party (NRP), that all Presidents refrain from directing national security during every election is unacceptable. In sum, it is not only absurd but dangerous and inadmissible for several reasons.

What is the rationale behind Dr. Percy’s proposal? He “believes such a move will be a major step in addressing transparency among security officials and insecurity of ballot boxes during elections” (Ghanaweb, October 28, 2012).

Transparency in national security matters and security for ballot boxes? Who says there is anything opaque going on that is a problem for a non-security expert like Dr. Percy to diagnose and prescribe this kind of solution on? I don’t see it.

Let’s hear him again say that “for every national election for which the president is standing, [he] has to recuse himself. The president would have to stand aside from directing the National Security. He is a candidate.”

If he steps aside, who takes over from him as the Commander-in-Chief? Dr. Percy himself? This suggestion is a recipe for national disaster, especially during the election period when tension will definitely be at its peak. Who will be in charge of national security, then? Nobody?

At this point, I will simply say that Dr. Percy’s suggestion is more problematic than the problem he might see where none exists.

He worsened his opinions by ascribing fraud to the President in his role as the head of national security. In seeing transparency as the basis for his proposal, Dr. Percy thinks that ceding his role “will ensure that there is transparency in the process so as not to create a situation where the other parties will not trust the command system of the security services.”

Is Dr. Percy accusing national security of masterminding malpractices such as the stuffing of ballot boxes to favour the President’s party or that the snatching of ballot boxes is the work of personnel of national security being manipulated by the President?

These are very serious claims that shouldn’t have been made at all, let alone by someone who has nothing to do with national security to be able to know how it functions. Stuffing ballot boxes or snatching them is the work of party activists and hooligans on the payroll of party big wigs. These are the miscreants to be tackled by national security.

Any suggestion that being the person directing national security during elections would give the President an undue advantage is misplaced and unfounded.

The President has the constitutional mandate as the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, invariably controlling all the country’s security apparatus. That constitutional obligation is irrevocable and incontrovertible because the President is the fount of authority. But it doesn’t give him any overarching power to command and control national security to do what might have prompted Dr. Percy’s proposal. Do we not have enough checks and balances to curb anything of the sort?

We have all these Councils for the security services either presided over by the President or Vice President. What is the basis for any fear that there is lack of transparency?

In our particular situation in Ghana, we know very well how the President exercises such powers, especially in consultation with the National Security Council and through the chain of command in the various security establishments.

In this 4th Republic, we haven’t had any cause to suspect our Presidents of bending the rule to suit their parochial political interests. Despite fears that the Rawlings administration might use the military to thwart the NPP’s bid for power at the various times, nobody could provide any evidence that he indeed used the military to advantage during elections.

Rawlings’ peculiar metamorphosis from a military dictator to a civilian president, surviving the elections in 1992 and 1996, may be given various interpretations but there is no evidence that he used the security apparatus for political leverage during the elections. Did we not hear reports that the election results in the military installations (especially at the Burma Camp in Accra) didn’t favour him? That the soldiers voted against him? What could he have done to reverse anything unfavourable to him?

If he were to manipulate the security apparatus, we would have cause to condemn him. As a military officer himself, he was well positioned to manipulate the situation but he didn’t; at least, we don’t have the evidence to that effect.

The performance of the civilian Presidents who succeeded him doesn’t arouse any fear that they are prone to abusing the constitutional mandate. Under the Kufuor government, elections were held twice but no report emerged of any attempt by him to manipulate the security apparatus to favour his NPP.

The alarming broadcasts made by Radio Gold on the eve of the elections and the run-off evaporated as mere speculative journalism. There was no evidence that Kufuor had set anything in motion to use the military to prosecute any self-serving agenda to cede power to Akufo-Addo.

Ex-President Mills didn’t intend to use nor did he misdirect his constitutional mandate toward abusing the constitutional mandate concerning national security. His successor, John Mahama, isn’t doing so either.

Where is the justification to support Dr. Percy’s apprehensions? I don’t see it.

Of course, we know how unconscionable some politicians and their lackeys in the security apparatus can be, especially if we consider how those opposed to Nkrumah managed to infiltrate the ranks of the security services with foreign backing to instigate Nkrumah’s overthrow.

Then again, we know how the various military interventions in national politics were masterminded. Even though the late Acheampong sought to abuse the military to skew the political situation in his favour, he couldn’t succeed in pushing through his agenda on the Union Government (UNIGOV).

Acheampong’s case might be the only one to cite as an attempted abuse of the authority invested in him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; but he failed terribly, and that belongs to history.

We haven’t been fortunate enough to have civilian governments run their full terms as we’ve had so far in the 4th Republic with three different Presidents in office to oversee general elections. Rawlings and Kufuor presided over two apiece and John Mahama will do so for the first time in December.

There is no indication that being in charge of national security has given any of these Presidents any urge to manipulate the situation to advantage. What is Dr. Percy afraid of?

To be continued…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.