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Opinions Fri, 3 Jul 2020

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Let us respect the institution of the presidency

I would like to begin this my humble contribution to the ongoing heated political discourse in Ghana by stating the obvious. It is a truism to say that some of the comments, discussions, debates on radio, social media and television are demeaning and downright disrespectful to the Presidency and by association the leader of the opposition, traditional leaders, religious leaders and any person in authority.

If I may ask, what has happened to the norms, cultural values, decent upbringing that our grandmothers, aunties, elderly cousins, wise neighbours bestowed on us when we were children? What is happening to our “small beautiful” country? What has gone wrong?

As children, most of us would attest to the fact that we could be smacked on the buttocks by an elderly person around if you dare “cross the threshold” of unruly behaviour. Have some of us lost all sense of decorum and decency? God help us.

Disgraceful, Distasteful, Dangerous and Worrying Comments

Our country has made progress in the area of free speech and press freedom, but despite all the significant achievements in our democratic experiment, our country is in danger of being torn apart by demagogues, warmongers and political apparatchiks.

Let us assume that an alien ship was to land on the shores of James Town, tomorrow, and our alien guests decided to listen to our debates, discussions arguments on the numerous radio and television stations. Readers, what impression will our distinguished alien guests take back with them, about the nature of our people? I am afraid they would be extremely disappointed.

Our daily debates and discussions have turned into a recipe for insults, divisiveness, hate speeches, name-calling, party bashing, down-right rudeness and at times throwing filth and abuse at the Presidency. Some Ghanaians apparently think they have the eternal right to denigrate, humiliate, ridicule, spew venom and hatred when it comes to the institution of the Presidency and other important symbols of the state.

To exacerbate the problem, our Ghanaian friendliness, politeness, respect, mutual understanding and tolerance for each other seems to be thrown overboard when it comes to political debates. “Some” highly educated, intelligent Ghanaians and political commentators who should know better and set the right example for the next generation tend to shelter under the umbrella of political alliances and leanings.

They hide under the guise of free speech to insult, malign, poo pooh, write extremely hurtful, unethical, shameful postings on Facebook and other social media networks in an attempt to denigrate respectful, hard-working, elderly, traditional Chiefs and political opponents. Much more disturbing is, the Father of the Nation – the President is not spared such humiliation.

Debate Constructively

Of course, there are genuine concerns by many well-meaning Ghanaians on the issues surrounding how, when and who should be eligible to vote democratically to elect the President. It is quite right for Ghanaians to jaw-jaw than to war-war. The discourse, debates, arguments should continue it is the oxygen of democracy but we should learn to be civil and respect alternate views.

If we are honest, even before this brouhaha, the Presidency as an institution was continually ridiculed and brought to shame. Let us get one critical viewpoint out of the way. I may not like the current occupant of the seat at Jubilee House, and may not have voted for him nor would ever vote for him but the ‘truth of the matter is: he is the only person democratically elected by the good people of Ghana to lead, direct and guide our economic, social and political affairs.

The current occupant is the duly democratically elected President of Ghana and must command the respect of all Ghanaians, irrespective of our political, religious, ethnic and tribal leanings. It is my duty as a bona fide Ghanaian to respect the institution of the Presidency by inference the Leader of the opposition and all major state institutions of the country.

The gist of this piece is simple: as a nation, we are in danger of falling into the “Trump Presidency Model”- The President of the Republic being used as cannon fodder by all and sundry, as a playground football torn and tattered kicked around by young people. The sad and dangerous part of the continual drip demonizing, and personal insult being heaped on the current occupant of Jubilee House is, it makes it more likely for our children to turn two fingers on their teachers, headmasters and authority in general.

Open Governance

I have no doubt that the quality of our country’s governance system has been a key determinant in our ability and attempts to pursue sustainable economic and social development programmes for the benefit of the whole populace. Moreover, Ghana’s open governance systems have generated a semblance of responsible and responsive outcomes and led to a “halfway” focus on policy development by our elected leaders.

No Ghanaian above the age of 50 would deny that our country has come a long way and buried the ghosts and demons among us to earn the respect of the international community. Of course, our democratic institutions – the judiciary, legislature, executive arm, press, security services, etc., could and should become more accountable, transparent, fair and just.

They could improve their service level delivery and provide the citizenry with a more effective national Government, by engaging more closely with our folks in the rural and slum areas. However, despite our shortcomings, the average Ghanaian would agree with me that our political freedoms have empowered Ghanaians to press for policies that expand social and economic opportunities and improve the lives of albeit a minority of its citizens.

That does not necessarily mean, our “democratic train journey” has stopped on its way from Accra to Takoradi. As with all things on the subcontinent, progress moves slowly and incrementally. The “democratic train’ is hopping along and readers will agree with me that it may just have passed “Kotuku junction”. Not so bad for 28 years of our democratic travel although, we can do better.

Refocusing

My simple question to Ghanaians is: have we the time, energy and luxury to add more politically, socially divisive issues on to our already explosive poverty and jobs agenda? Have we the strength to tear ourselves apart? Are we capable of resolving the “ticking time –bomb” of massive youth unemployment? Are we going to use the power of the pen and internet to write filth and publish lies, falsehoods about our leaders?

Are we blind to the realities on the ground? Are we oblivious to the fact that our strength as a nation lies in our ability to feed, clothe, house the poor and vulnerable? Is it not time for Ghanaians to refocus our energies, talents and resources in creating a better society for the next generation? In part two of this article, I will put forward positive suggestions and devise community cohesive strategies that may assist us in moving forward as a nation.

In the meantime, for the sake of the next generation, the personal insults on the current occupant of the Jubilee House must stop.

Let us all be passionate about the preservation of the sanctity of the institution of the Presidency, we will need it in times of National Crisis.

Columnist: Appiah-Danquah Kufuor

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