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Opinions Thu, 2 Oct 2014

Ghana’s Many Problems: The Promise of Humanism 2

The level of assumptive reasoning propping up our body of arguments boils down to a simple factual reality: A sitting president who has legal knowledge of being prosecuted or impeached upon serving his tenure and sentenced to prison if found guilty by a competent court could not make light of his public conduct. Apparently as it is we are not saying this on the authority of the layered mechanics of interpretation, though, given our lack of formal jurisdiction over matters of constitutional niceties. We thereby plead ignorance of the taxing temperament of constitutional annotation. However, it is the dilemmatic repercussions of the Indemnity Clause for holding occupants of the highest seat in the land accountable for egregious public misconducts detrimental to national security and economic stability that grates on our quizzical conscience. Thus the Indemnity Clause cripples an important aspect of moral philosophy upon which the suckling’s tiny lips, which we shall call “equality before the law,” feeds. Apropos, must we always put the complex problem of constitutional inequities squarely at the feet of leadership?

Not necessarily.


Leadership is extension of families, marriages, communities, nation-states, continents, or such. And the community in question has a moral responsibility to ensure the behavior of every member of its constitution conforms, either through unspoken signals or through constitutional instruments, to the moral and ethical values of group dynamics. This tacitly or constitutionally agreed-upon concordance must uphold the virtues of mutual respectability and man’s innate impulse for individual, or collective, survival. Moreover, if the Indemnity Clause enjoys unflinching constitutional imprimatur and if it fits the rugged articulation of moral self-defense in protection of a few, who is there to say the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) cannot similarly benefit from the institutional benevolence of constitutional accommodation? Unfortunately neither the NPP nor the NDC has demonstrated any commendable height of leadership on this critical matter. The same goes for lack of leadership on the epidemic of Ebola. As it were the political and moral cost of leadership failure to society is enormous, if incalculable, indeed.


Let us try to see the bigger picture. We have the opinion that Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission, an institution patterned after South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, did a good job to prevent the specter of mutual revenge taking hold of public psychology in the lead-up to the Forth Republic. But Soyinka has categorically faulted South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for letting go of men and women who committed crimes against humanity by merely testifying before the Commission and showing remorse.


He believes the kind gesture extended to respondents has the tendency to breed impunity in the new South Africa (See his book “The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness”). However, regarding Ghana’s, we argue that it will be morally sacrilegious or sensitively hypocritical on the part of any individual to ascribe the aggregate happenings that eventually led to the formation of Ghana’s Commission to individual personalities, since the June 4, 1979 Revolution had the full backing of popular sovereignty.


However, we cannot underestimate the force of Soyinka’s moral arguments in light of the culture of impunity that has evolved in Ghana. It should interest us to know that this contention may or may not have anything to do with the violence that accompanied the Revolution, given the indebtedness of the latter to the putschism that topped Kwame Nkrumah and to those between.


We could stretch the argument to say that Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission, like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was raised on a strong moral foundation of humanism, which Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu otherwise labeled Ubuntu.


Besides, American-trained intellectuals like Dr. Vincent Kwabena Damuah (later Osofo Okomfo Damuah), founder of the Afrikania Mission, joined the ranks of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), bringing along their humanistic baggage. What did the Revolution achieve in the long run? That is for history and posterity to answer!


The question is: Can humanism co-exist with the corrupt practices of religion and politics? This is not an idle or soluble question. Undoubtedly, the question is philosophically tied to the social marriage between leadership priorities and the prerogatives of community dynamics in the knowledge that leadership failure cannot be easily decoupled from the imposed prerogatives of community dynamics. The moral disconnect between the two, leadership priorities and prerogatives of community dynamics, feeds the embers of mutual repulsion and mutual suspicions.


Overall, this is not healthy for Ghana’s internal stability and temperamental organization. It also does not reflect well on the integrity of society when a sitting president, a corrupt one at that, is legally mandated to terminate the services of subordinate public officials who run afoul of public trust and constitutional expectations, whilst his train of malfeasances enjoys full protection under the motoric dictatorship of constitutionalism. We make this bold assertion in the light of the constitutional implications of the Indemnity Clause.


Indeed “equality before the law” is an essential concept. On the other hand, the concept requires the prodding of practical affirmation, not theoretical groping, to establish a moral presence of institutional attestation. It constitutes an exemplar of moral irony when Ghanaian courts impose steep penalties on petty criminals while professional white-color criminals receive lenient pats on their chubby cheeks from milking the state to the tune of millions of dollars.


Social gullibility and institutional weakness are partly to blame for the moral problematic of leadership elitism. In fact, the hostile stench of institutional weakness and social gullibility, coupled with the raving spirit and letter of constitutional dictatorship, are responsible for the elitist distance setting ruler and the ruled apart, ruler against the ruled, and so on. The open cracks lodged in elitist distance, an exclusive club for white-color criminals, mostly politicians, are fertile grounds for growing the social seeds of corruption.


Nevertheless, the immortal story of corruption and social inequity is an exceedingly tall, obese, and labyrinthine one. Humanism is thus up against a formidable foe. It still beats the prying imagination of conscientious men and women to see Ghanaian politicians, like their counterparts elsewhere, endlessly engaged in the intoxicating sins of white-color criminality despite the enormous perquisites that accrue from their political responsibilities.


Thus, taming the malignancy of corruption will require conscious moments of continuous radical opposition. We employ the word “taming” in close congress with the moral fight against corruption because corruption, we acknowledge, is ineradicable. It is suppressible at best. Let us face facts. Thus, the kind of fight that must be mounted against the height of entrenchment to which corruption has attained in Ghanaian society could not be simply explained away through cosmetic apologetics. Humanism and public opinion have a difficult task ahead of them.


What is the Ghanaian society to do? There must be a more efficient way to deal with political corruption than the usual cosmetic approach, the convenient transfer of political miscreants from one ministry to another, to assuage public outrage. This strategy is problematic. An individual cannot be totally cured of internal worm infestation by resettling a clew of worms severally in different parts of human anatomy. De-worming is a more complex curative activity than that. Also, the relative youthfulness associated with the aesthetics of cosmetic surgery cannot fully account for the internal dynamics of aged cells.


These are life’s incontrovertible realities, of nature. Accordingly, band-aid solutions are certainly not creative avenues where proactive societies go in pursuit of practical strategies to aid in the closure of the ever-widening gash in public consciousness caused by the onslaught of corruption in the body politic.


Yet the conceptual effectuation of “equality before the law” in the expressive praxis of courtly proceedings could potentially be hampered by the constitutionality of the “winner-takes-all” syndrome. A charged criminal, political or private, attached to incumbency is more likely to go scot-free than a member of opposition. Revising Ghana’s unicameral parliamentary system or deciding between which of two, the Beijing Consensus or the Washington Consensus, may serve her economic and political needs best can go a long way to alleviate some of the pressing problems which constitutional dictatorship occasions!


It is apropos that the laws of the land must be made to work in order to serve as deterrent to prospective law breakers. More importantly, examples must be made of law breakers, public criminals, without special treatment or privileges extended to managers of the state. Granted, let us unapologetically concede that a body of laws, statutes to be specific, constitutes themselves into paper tigers and that they somehow enjoy conspicuous presences of moral authority only at the level of enforcement.


What is more, like viruses, a body of laws in and of itself has no practical or livable existence outside the living cells of a body politic. This is why the laws of the land must seek to secure a formidable existence in the social example of deterrability via sustained oversight of human agency. Moreover, the philosophical congress linking social justice, equality before the law, and humanism in a chain of moral corrective is incomplete without considering the question of prison reform.


We are talking about Ghana’s prison system. A procession of corruption allegations has seriously called the credibility of Ghana’s prison system into question. Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ painstaking investigative work, for instance, demonstrates how relatively easy it is for prisoners to acquire hard drugs, heroin and cocaine, in Ghanaian prisons than on the outside, the streets. In another vein the Ghanaian prison system has seen a panorama of opprobrious allegations of bribery, wardens’ physical abuse of prisoners, torture death of prisoners, overcrowding, and inadequate availability of modern conveniences (toilet facilities, running water, etc) plague its image as an institution designed to rein in criminality in the interest of public safety. We therefore argue that Ghanaian penology should be centrally about correction and rehabilitation, not about torture, mistreatment, or abuse of any kind, considering the humanity of criminals.


What must be done to improve prison services to inmates? Several. Maintaining a database on social statistics or prison statistics should aid prison authorities, sociologists, criminologists, and others concerned about public safety to reliably predict recidivism rate and general success of prison reform.


Adequate remuneration and training prison employees in workplace safety standards and human relations, passing laws to protect whistleblowers, giving investigative journalists restricted access to appraise prison conditions and report them in national dailies, getting religious institutions involved in selected prison activities conducive to the spiritual and intellectual well-being of prisoners, building prison libraries and furnishing them with appropriate books, giving inmates opportunities at vocational education, etc., may generally help improve inmate prison life.


Certainly prison reform is central to our humanistic project of improving the human condition. Admittedly prison reform is not an internal affair. Prison reform goes on in the inside as on the outside, a matter of the soul as well as of the flesh. Concomitantly expanding job and educational opportunities for the youth, parents’ becoming more proactive about raising good, patriotic, and responsible children, religious training, establishment of community libraries, creation of responsible movie and music industries, and so on could also help.


Hopefully the measurable slants of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, for instance, can be usefully relied upon to move Ghana in a corrective direction, of improving her middling human rights record. Obviously corruption in the police service and the courts is proverbial and has to be seriously dealt with. Unfortunately, although humanism derives its philosophical sense of moral muscularity from the innate goodness of man, its full existential expression faces stiff opposition from the weaknesses of man, another functional exemplar of moral irony. There are other important countervailing factors society cannot overlook in the exercise of humanism!


The autocracy of superstition and the pandemic proliferation of false religion are part of this system of countervailing factors, a millstone about the people’s neck. It has been argued by some that any supernatural or paranormal idea that has a nominal presence in human vocabulary must surely have a corresponding ontology, real or perceived, however abstract, untenable, or improvable the idea, in the lives of men. Ghosts, witchcraft, doppelgangers, prophecies, magic, dwarfs, miracles, etc., fall under this rubric of metaphysical argumentation.


As a matter of fact the teleological arguments of St. Aquinas and the so-called “watchmaker analogy” throw some light on the question of immanent, or ideational, paranormality and ontological actualities. These arguments are typically formulated a posteriori. However, we also cannot gloss over the impact of St. Augustine’s influential work “The City of God” on the history of early Christianity. Also interesting and important to our project is the central idea that St. Augustine’s explanatory insights into the metaphysical antagonism between the City of Man and the City of God have direct implications for the relational tensions that exist between superstition and the imperatives of science.


However, we are not by any stretch of the imagination arguing in favor of or against the ontology of paranormal instances, far from it. Ours is a position of philosophical neutrality in the main. We merely want to point to human appropriation of religious symbols as part of man’s existential quest to appreciate the ontological complexity of otherworldliness, and to say the rigors of scientific methodology and religious/spiritual beliefs are not always clearly distinct, mutually exclusive.


For instance, more and more specialties in the field of medical science, particularly, are gradually turning to spirituality to help them deal with the devastating challenges of oncology and pain management. Meanwhile, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, and prominent leader of the Human Genome Project, has authored an influential book whose central thesis links the practices of spirituality, science, and medicine (See “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”).


Quite surprisingly, Dr. Collins is a firm believer in evolutionary creation, or more appropriately, theistic evolution. Also, Dr. Ben Carson, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, a successful neurosurgeon, as well as a former professor of oncology, pediatrics, neurosurgery, and plastic surgery, is a Christian and a scientist.


At the other extreme of the ideological spectrum are the Kenyan-Born Dr. Richard Dawkins, an Oxford-trained ethnologist and evolutionary biologist, and Dr. John C. Venter, two of the world’s best-known atheistic evolutionists and scientists. We offer these contrasting backgrounds to affirm our belief that religious beliefs or superstition and scientific attestations are not always mutually exclusive at the center of the intellectual personalities of individuals.


That is not to say there are certainly not many glaring irrefutable inconsistencies between scientific attestations and superstition, however. Scholars have pointed out many of these: The scientific works of Galileo and Copernicus on the one hand, and on the other hand the Catholic Church’s early doctrinal and unscientific orthodoxies, the exegetical controversy surrounding Joshua’s petitioning of the sun to stay put vis-à-vis the scientific claims of heliocentrism, Biblical canonization versus Apocrypha, the chance discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Bible’s failure to give a correct or precise numerical value for mathematical pi are just a few.


Finally, the scholarly corpus of the late Ahmed Deedat, a scholar of comparative religion, exposes many of the internal inconsistencies found in the Bible, especially the King James Version. Then again Prof. Reza Aslan’s latest publication “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” affirmatively adds to the mountain of historical and exegetical controversies surrounding the historicity of Jesus Christ.


Particularly why Moslem scholars have consistently resisted translation of the Koran from Arabic into other languages as a reason to preserve its historical and exegetical integrity stems from the internal inconsistencies of the Bible arising from its various translations, among others. Let us go back to the subtle correlation between science and superstition. Whether superstition is scientifically affirmable or verifiable is beyond the scope of this essay, a question otherwise open to convenient interpretations according to the ideological bent of the interpreter!


We shall continue the discussion in Part 3!
Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis