Irresponsible Sensationalism versus Genuine Quest For Rights

Thu, 28 Oct 2010 Source: Berko, George

On Siana Cenus: Irresponsible Sensationalism versus Genuine Quest For Rights.

According to an Article appearing on Ghanaweb.com and other Media on October 25, 2010, the Chief of Siana, in the Asunafo South District of Brong Ahafo Region, and his people did not allow the Census Personnel to do their work in their town. The said Article had a caption reading thus: “Siana residents chase out enumerators”.

While the caption or title of the Article sounds alarming, suggesting some violent methods might have been employed by the Chief and people of Siana to rid their land of the Census Personnel, the content of the same Article indicates nothing of the sorts, directly or remotely.

I am not sure whether the Author used such a caption just to attract an overwhelming attention to the story, or for some characteristic tabloid sensationalism, but it seems this is yet another instance of misleading Captions by Reporters that dangerously mischaracterize entities written about. With the potential to portray Siana and its folks, including the Chief of the town, as some misguided hooligans blatantly breaching our National Laws on Census and criminally threatening the lives of Government Officials undertaking their official duties, the story’s detail content hugely but gladly failed to confirm the fears its caption suggested.

Nevertheless, the story connotes a certain urgency depicting the due seriousness the Chief and people of Siana attach to the Census. This laudable attribute, I believe, must not be remised under the dark cloud of the misleading title of the Article. Why that seriousness from the people of Siana in disallowing the Census to proceed among them? Was their action a form of revolt against some Traditional or Political imposition? Or, it was simply a genuine reaction to some perceived inaction by Authorities, intentional or otherwise, likely to cost the people of Siana a whole lot?

Well, the Chief and the people of Siana, rightly, might have realized the great significance to them of the data collected from the Census and would not tolerate any ineptitude or machinations to deny them what could be rightly theirs. How deeply those data could impact on the future Economic and infrastructural well-being of the area seems to have aroused the Chief and his people to ensure that the demarcation of their boundaries with neighboring Towns and Local Authorities are precisely as they should be. That is what I term as responsible, vigilant, objective, and progressive leadership and Civil Awareness.

The fact that the Census of the people of Siana could not be carried out on schedule along with the rest of the Nation, as per the time-table of the National Census Bureau is regrettable. But we should not jump to accuse the Chief and people of Siana for taking this drastic measure to protect their interest. Because, somehow, someone, somewhere higher in the hierarchy of the Administration of our Land failed to settle, before the Census began, whatever dispute there might have been regarding the boundaries. That negligent Official or Agency or Institution should therefore bear the brunt of culpability for the incompletion of the Census in Siana.

If the issue of the boundaries is not settled early enough to allow the Census in the area to proceed, the people of Siana have every right to sue the Government and any other Institution or entity that contributed to the delay of the resolution of the issue on the basis that the area could lose out in the appropriation of deserving Services and Infrastructure. Given that the Census data could also be used in delineating new Constituencies for Political representation, both locally and at Parliament, denying Siana fair counting via the Census would be tantamount to denying its Citizens of their Constitutional rights to participate in our democratic process.

If, on the other hand, it is the fault of the Chief and people of Siana that the resolution of the conflict was delayed, the Nation needs to know that, too. Yes, we should as well recognize the possibility that Siana simply was defiant of a legal and fair resolution of the boundary dispute, thereby unlawfully prolonging the impasse and contravening the Laws of the Nation regarding the execution of our Census. It is important to note that even in the event of the latter scenario, Siana has not been shown anywhere to have employed violent tactics to endanger the lives of the Census Officials.

In consideration of all the above, if the truth stands as is presented, thus far, in the original Article and elsewhere, that the issue of the boundaries was not duly and satisfactorily settled, then the Government must concede the onus of responsibility in the failure of executing the Census in Siana, and be prepared to foot any compensatory bill to make up for the delay or loss of infrastructural development in the area. On furthering that thought, if the Chief and people of Siana refused to cooperate with, and failed to welcome, the Census Personnel, anyone using irresponsible hyperbole to misconstrue that action to the Public would be doing the good Citizens of Siana a massive wrong and disservice to the Nation.

If we wish that our fledgling Democracy survives and thrives, our Political leadership must stop “playing footsie” with the very tenets of our existential rights and boldly, fairly and legally call a spade, a spade in settling disputes like the one in Siana, and in a timely manner. And our Journalists must refrain from unnecessary sensationalism to sell their otherwise benign but important stories, as it tends to obscure the real import or objectivity of an important event.

Justice must prevail in Ghana. Skewed Justice leads to screwed Democracy!

Long Live Ghana!!

Columnist: Berko, George