By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, April 5, 2012
This 4th Republic has revealed many intriguing things about the Ghanaian, especially those who have considered politics as their be-it-all-and-end-it-all and cannot live their lives in any other way. Whether still in government, out of it, or fighting tooth-and-nail to be in it, they can’t do without politics!
One of those intriguing things is the religious zeal, which our politicians have begun demonstrating as if they have been forewarned that they cannot realize their political ambitions without it. All of a sudden, some have become pilgrims, visiting the Biblical Promised Land for inspiration toward Election 2012.
Although one may be tempted to consider such religious aspects as the individual’s own private business to take care of and exclude them from public discourse, they can’t be so glossed over because of their influence on national politics. Obviously, those now exposing the religious side of their lives are doing so because they need voter sympathy. Don’t get me wrong to say that I’m being petty. I am not.
These politicians who are now investing their time and energy in all kinds of religious rituals are not doing so just for its own sake. They are doing so because they want to come across as God-fearing, sacrosanct and, therefore, clean enough to lead us to the Promised Land. It’s their choice of means to “pass”; and we know it.
Nana Akufo-Addo (the Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party) and his family left Accra on Wednesday night to join pilgrims in Jerusalem for this year’s Easter celebration. They are expected to be in Jerusalem for the entire duration of the Easter festivity and return on Wednesday, April 11, according to a statement issued by the NPP’s communications directorate (Ghanaweb, April 4, 2012).
The statement said “Nana Akufo-Addo… urged Christians in Ghana and the world over… and all people of faith to be guided constantly by the principles for which Christ died for all humanity—compassion, love, peace and human solidarity.”
Praise the Lord! Halleluia!!
The preachy tone of his message is apt, and says much about the kind of rhetoric that one would expect at Easter. Such rhetoric serves its purposes as far as the routine remembrance of Christ’s redemptive self-sacrifice is concerned. I am glad that his message has come at this time when the stakes in our national politics are high and political opponents are at each other’s throat.
However, I have serious doubts if this pilgrimage to Jerusalem will add anything new to Akufo-Addo’s constitutive self. Or take anything out of his element. But if it does add anything new to it, then, he will be expected to prove it to us through action, not just mere words. His war-mongering “All-die-be-die” ululation is still being heard, even as some of the political activists have begun putting it into action.
Translating his message (of compassion, love, peace, and human solidarity) into action may not be as easy as one might expect because of the belligerent position that the NPP has taken in respect of the politicking going on for Election 2012; and the NDC’s too. Will his pilgrimage change anything?
The same problem affects President Mills too. Ghanaians will appreciate the worth of all his pontification and show of piety if only it is tempered with the very qualities that undergird Christianity, which Akufo-Addo’s message underscores. The violence that has already characterized political activities exposes all this religious zealotry to scorn.
Until these politicians basking in this Christian faith influence others positively, whatever they embark on will come across as a mere gimmick for political capital. It is not as if they will win anybody’s heart with this “sepulchre-like posture”—white on the outside but pitch black within! They shouldn’t just howl out their pleas to fill God’s ears; they should also live in accordance with the Christian precepts too—and work for peace and oneness in the country. That’s what will make the difference.
I have said it several times and will continue to do so that Christianity (or any other religion that preaches peace, love, and understanding among humanity) is a lifestyle to be lived, not professed by word of mouth. Not until the sugar-coated rhetoric about peace, love, oneness, and understanding is translated into action to influence human behaviour positively, it remains what it is—a mere irritating verbiage.
It is one thing declaring one’s religious fervour and another thing putting that fervour to good use to benefit society. If only all these self-professed Christians will do as the Word of God says, we will have no cause to look constantly over our shoulders. Nothing is adding up well in our society because there is too much flight into the transcendental realm, especially when that manouevre is meant to blindfold the people.
Here is a clear test case. Both former Presidents Rawlings and Kufuor claim to be Catholics (I wonder if they take the communion, though); but we all know the bad blood relationship that has existed between them for many years now. None wants to forgive the other and forget the past. They are still harbouring ill-feeling in their hearts, yet calling themselves Christians and posturing to be seen as such.
The problem can’t be solved because of the hardline positions that they have adopted. Unfortunately, their mutual hostility has spilled over to influence their respective political camps too. The face-saving interaction that they had in the presence of the Asantehene or when Obama visited Ghana is nothing to be proud of. They really come across as crass pretenders!
Then, turn to the problem between President Mills and Rawlings. Regardless of the different denominations they belong to, none’s God or Bible is different from the others’. Will Rawlings bad-mouth President Mills if he puts his Christian injunctions above his human interests? Or will he not consider repairing his relationship with President Mills and all others that he has in one way or the other offended with his harsh and brash manners if indeed the Christian in him is still alive?
The insults that he has hurled at President Mills and Kufuor are in the public domain and don’t redound to him as a Catholic. Is that what his brand of Christianity endorses?
Former President Kufuor is also on record for equating Rawlings to the devil (or as he put it, “Obonsam”); and again, for falsely accusing Rawlings of planning to stage a coup d’état against him. Again, he is on record for describing Rawlings’ manner of politicking as “patapaa” and hasn’t apologized for such harsh words since then.
The same problem can be traced to this pilgrimage-bound Akufo-Addo too. Will he be honest enough to admit that he has cast much slur on President Mills’ reputation by using intemperate language in his effort to undermine him for political advantage? What will he say about the nickname “Professor Do-Little” that he coined for President Mills? Or any other that we might not have heard yet?
Let it be known that despite all that others have said about and to him, President Mills has remained continent. He hasn’t paid any of them back in the same coin. Yet, his opponents haven’t ceased questioning his Christian life, more so after it had emerged that he was part of T.B. Joshua’s congregation and after he had called for an annual National Day of Prayers.
Probably, his injecting his Christian life into the handling of national affairs is his undoing. And he has been heavily criticized for that, the worst of which is the banning of libation pouring at the celebration of Ghana’s independence anniversary or any other state function. He is being accused of allowing his Christian religious fervour to take the better part of him.
Another weakness is that under his watch, government functionaries are using foul language left-and-right, which has fuelled the politics of insults in this era. That’s uncharacteristic of a system headed by a Christian, right?
In Akufo-Addo’s case, I will stick my neck out to say that his going on this pilgrimage is geared toward portraying himself as a Christian to court the sympathy and support of the Christian segments of the electorate.
I don’t begrudge him how he worships his God; but I take issues with him for this politically motivated excursion into religion. Like President Mills, it remains to be seen how he will draw the line between state and religion (the church, particularly).
The point I have made in this article is that in our kind of politics, when the politicians begin introducing religion into their calling, they raise red flags and expose themselves to scrutiny. They will be closely watched if their recourse to religious rituals is politically motivated and driven by a spur-of-the-moment urge. I hope this pilgrimage will not be used to pull God’s leg only.
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