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Ghana’s Public Indiscipline and Violence

Ghana’s Public Indiscipline and Violence

Tue, 6 Apr 2010 Source: Danso, Kwaku A.

NDC, NPP –Who is Learning Faster? (A Follow-up article)

By: Kwaku A. Danso

The human selection process for political office was supposed to help elect representatives to serve our communities and nation in a democracy. However, for the people of Ghana since independence, as for most African countries, the competition has been one of a struggle for power. What is this power for?

In most cases in Ghana and in Africa, the elected power is not viewed as a responsibility, but as power for personal self-gain. A good example is the voting of a $50,000 for personal vehicles and $30,000 for housing being the first action taken by the Ghana parliament in 2009. Over 2,000 years ago the Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that politicians should serve their communities and should not expect a pay because their reward was in the respect given to them by society. It is quite possible that Aristotle did not know or predict of the people of modern day Ghana, and cars were not invented then. Perhaps in those days, for the people who came out with the concept of democracy in ancient Athens, the word Honorable meant what it really implies - an honorable and honest person of good character. In modern day Ghana the story is different.

Ghanaian politics prior to and at independence was tainted by violence. Even though not often mentioned when African politics are evaluated as a whole, partisan, sycophantic tribally- myopic culture led to violence between the CPP of Kwame Nkrumah and the UP of Dr. J.B. Danquah and Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia. Even after March 6, 1957, violence and terrorism occurred in Ghana with some demented members of the UP opposition conniving with a handful of disgruntled CPP members to assassinate Kwame Nkrumah through several attempts. This involved throwing hand grenades and bombs even at crowded Accra Sports stadium and at Kulungugu. When Parliament passed a law to protect Nkrumah and the people that later came to be called PDA, or preventive detention act, many in the opposition never forgave Nkrumah and cite it to this day! In other words in Ghana, it was alright to start violence but when one is caught, we like to invoke the forgiveness or fama-Nyame (give-it-to-God) principles.

Folks, indiscipline is becoming a deadly culture. How do we institute discipline in society when our culture supports the forgiveness of common criminals and terrorists, as well as corrupt public thieves because they come from our political Party, Church, High school, or tribe! The great South African warrior King Chaka Zulu said “never leave an enemy behind, for he will rise up and launch at your throat”. Nobody is suggesting now that we consider people charged with crimes as enemies. No. However, in my four decades of living mostly in the USA, I have never seen political parties defending their Congressmen or Senators caught or charged with crimes. They simply leave the laws to take care and prefer not to comment. When popular President Clinton was caught in a bad case of “lying”, a crime that many will call insignificant in Ghana, none of his Democratic Party leaders came out openly to demonstrate in support. Americans let the law take its course with the Independent investigator and trial till Clinton was saved by the Senate.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that people should not comment on such cases. However, for God’s sake, in a nation where water is being rationed, electricity is rationed with many interrupted per week, potholes develop on roads every rainy season and hospitals don’t have beds for patients, one would expect these party supporters to put pressure on their leaders to deliver for the people! When party leaders are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars building water reservoirs for themselves, furniture for their state-provided homes, using taxpayer funds, one expects the party members to riot about it! When school buildings in town and cities have leaking roofs and open sewage breeding mosquitoes, one would expect the members of political parties would put pressure on the politicians to fix these for the society instead of demonstrating for their innocence when we really don’t know but suspect all of them in our private moments! We have seen how simple verbal utterances as the nana Darkwah case, as well as disagreements in some towns and cities, especially on Chieftaincy issues and tribal issues, have escalated to violence. This is not the kind of Ghana we all want to see. No!

One thing we all know and agree on for sure is that in our cities due to poor planning of our roads it takes three to four hours to travel a distance of ten to fifteen miles due to traffic congestion, and many get way with crimes and never complete public projects to high quality. Even when attempts at budgeting through increase in tolls or a levy for health care such as NHIL are instituted, poor leadership communication, lack of disclosures and accountability leads to distrust and unpalatable implementation of good ideas. Huge loans meant for road and highway construction cannot be accounted for. All we know is that Ghana has an accumulated debt burden of $8.1 Billion as of January 2009, and no decent highways and roads, or hospitals decent enough for these politicians. When they are ill they travel overseas at the taxpayer’s expense for treatment whiles paying medical doctors less than a fifth or tenth of what they themselves take from public coffers! When a politician is arrested or charged with a crime, or even a state vehicle in possession of the politician is retrieved, the news media blows this up and the youth in the political party rise up and makes every simple act a political vendetta case! Why? What is wrong with us!!

In my recent article on Ghanaweb of April 4, 2010 I said that President Kufuor was wrong to show up in court to support former Ministers of his government charged with corruption crimes. I have not changed my mind. However, simply because I did not mention that former President Rawlings had done a similar thing or made public utterances when members of his NDC government were charged or on trial, many chose to insult me and said I was an NDC supporter or anti-NPP. I realize I may have given the wrong impression in not mentioning some of these public utterances of former President Rawlings. However, it would have been nice if these writers had pointed out that this behavior pattern is wrong but had been engaged in by the previous leader also. We all need to agree that this is a negative culture emerging in our young democracy when former Presidents who had appointed members of the judiciary come to sit in a court room in support of an accused or charged person! That is wrong! Period! A few people noted the possible solutions to corruption in our public service I had offered, and a call for decentralization of our services. Some even questioned if I had a PhD, as if a person with a doctorate is like a God who cannot make a mistake or cannot hold a contrary view.

Folks, why do we leave so much room for others to criticize us that we may not be serious! Ghanaians as a people have not developed a culture of debate on issues. People get personal when they disagree with you. This is the same habit we have which often ascribes the reasons for illness and diseases to some external spiritual or other forces, and hence our people can die at relatively younger ages without seeing a doctor. Our political disagreements have not matured in half a century and it is time we learnt! Disagreeing or even losing should not lead to hatred, and when people are told they are wrong and even know they are wrong, our culture should mature to the point where apologizing should not be a problem for adults with bruised egos or even Presidents!

In 1997/98 when I joined the Ghanaian forum called Okyeame I was so critical of the then government of J.J. Rawlings, the NDC that one local friend asked to meet me personally to settle scores – implying settling the matter with physical fist fight! Huh! In the 1982 to 1992 and then 1992-2000 reign of PNDC and then NDC respectively, many billions of dollars in loans and grants were lost due to corruption. The best example is the $4.2 Billion that was reported in the 1989/90 budget of Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, which was for road construction in Ghana. I have written on these before but repeat it here that in 1990 the Accra - Kumasi road was nicely surfaced. At the time we thought the PNDC had done a good job and praised them. In 1992 when I drove on the Accra-Kumasi road again, I almost wept, realizing the number of potholes and damages to the road in just two years! There was no doubt in my mind that road construction constituted the largest investment and losses in Ghana and that our people needed to confront the officials in government. Under a military dictatorship, who do you complain to! Some of us were writing in the media! In our era of hopeless leadership, simple naming of streets, erecting street signs and numbering have still not been done in our cities. Absolutely no leaders seem to care! Every simple act is rather resorted to huge World Bank loans so officials could squander the funds! This is the demonstrated result we all see!

Folks, the public crimes in Ghana are simply too many and nobody, at least not this writer, is suggesting that the NPP was more or less corrupt than the NDC before it. Nobody can tell who learning their lessons faster, as both of them have suffered defeats due to poor performance, corruption and mismanagement. I cannot even predict that the current NDC2 will be more honest and the President will be more caring for the needs of the people despite the religious flavor often cited. It is more than one year now since President Mills took power. Water is still being rationed, electricity situation is getting worse every day, potholes on our roads are getting bigger, traffic congestion is not easing, and there is no sign that the open gutters breeding mosquitoes is a concern to the new leader when in fact statistics shows from 55,000 to 100,000 die every year from the preventable malaria! Malaria is known to be caused by the preventable cause of open sewage! What is President Mills doing about it!

How can anybody have hope and for the President who has not instituted any projects to help create jobs advice the youth not to seek their fortunes elsewhere when opportunities for personal grown seem lost. Once again, I advocate participation by educated people in all sectors. People should organize in small to large groups and make appointment to see their elected and appointed officials. We need to have elected leaders in their own towns and districts. We need to push officials to perform, and when they don’t, are caught in the crime and corruption web, and are before the courts, let nobody ever sympathize with them! Let the laws work! Demonstrating and causing violence for people who enter politics not to serve is not worth the pursuit! Eventually justice will prevail for the people. Yes, it can be done!

Dr. Kwaku A. Danso (Email: k.danso@comcast.net)

(The writer is an Engineering and Management / Business Consultant and President of GLU, Ghana leadership Union (NGO) and moderator of GLU forum. He has dual homes and offices in California, USA and East Legon, Accra, Ghana).

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.