POLITICAL TOLERANCE HEADING SOUTH!The criminal and uncivilized conduct of some NPP members at a meeting organized by the Ablekuma South Constituency of the ruling party has once again eminently thrust to the limelight our nation’s attempt to accommodate divergent political views. This NPP-on-NPP political violence is disquieting when viewed against the ominous backdrop of the vicious and merciless physical attack on Evangelist Oppong by "unknown" assailants and the undignified heckling of Dr. Asem Fofro by enraged supporters of the ruling NPP for exercising their constitutional right of patriotically questioning the President and his party for mismanaging the affairs of our dear but blighted nation by various acts of corruption and incompetence. Had the gold-gilt democratic principles that catapulted the NPP to power in December 2000 been so corrupted that it has become an attraction - a magnet - for violent anti-democracy elements? Criminal elements who simply can’t stand the dissenting views of others?
Well, instead of totally condemning such uncivilized, criminal actions there is a shameless, concerted public onslaught on the part of some misguided political hacks within the NPP establishment to victimize these individuals. For pure political expediency, the government came out to condemn the criminals who physically assaulted Evangelist Oppong and solemnly promised the nation a thorough investigation to bring the cowards who committed that atrocity to justice. Sadly enough, we all know the depressing track record of our ruling government when it comes to dealing with criminal matters that have the potential of casting the NPP in bad public light but advancing the cause of democracy. We have a name for that kind of despicable conduct on the part of a ruling government. It is called "selective justice"!
It is worth recalling here that a little more than six years ago, the NPP, trumpeting its "zero tolerance for corruption" and "positive change" sing-songs, succeeded in demonizing the NDC as an unrepentant, violent political party populated by "thugs" "coupists", "zealots", and "anti-democrats". Thank God the NDC emphatically shed that dubious characterization during its highly successful congress last year that consecrated our highly esteemed Prof Mills as its flagbearer for the December 2008 presidential election. Needless to state here that the NDC as national institution - and to the chagrin of its detractors - zealously continues to showcase to the democratic world their passionate love for democratic values which, of course, include accommodating political dissent. Prof Mills reinforced this democratic tradition when he called on party supporters and, in fact, all Ghanaians to refrain from using "provocative and abusive language against their opponents". To his credit, he continues to entreat us to civilly engage our political opponents on those legitimate issues that would make our democracy tick. This is a true mark of a leader who is putting his political money where his mouth is.
Tragically, under this clueless and corrupt government, political tolerance is heading south with the upsurge of NPP-on-NPP political violence: Let’s run down some few unfortunate examples:
1. Our ex-president, Mr. John Jerry Rawlings, was practically dragged before the High Court on a bogus and frivolous contempt motion for daring to criticize the judiciary for corruption and incompetence! This was a cowardly act by the ruling NPP government of hiding behind the court’s processes to do that which they could not do politically - constitutionally stifling dissent!
2. A prominent member of the opposition party - Alhaji Mobila - was brutally murdered while in military custody in the heat of the December 2004 general elections. The nation and his grieving family are still crying for justice, although we have a president and attorney general who have sworn to prosecute the law to bring justice to every home and hamlet in Ghana! How tragic!
3. A citizen by name "Bobby" was arrested for allegedly "insulting" the President. We wonder aloud when "insulting" a President became a crime under our legal scheme! It may be disrespectful but is it an arrestable offence?
4. The Police for some strange legal reasoning invited the editors of the Chronicle for questioning for publishing a piece I did on per diem allowances paid to public officers including our sitting president.
5. So-called party "dissidents" have been summarily dismissed by the executive for exercising their right to oppose the party’s candidate in favor of an opposing candidate.
6. NPP party members disgustingly sprayed human excreta on their own district office in Bekwai because they could not agree on simple matters! Is that what winning political power has crudely taught members of our elephant party?
7. Now, in a more bizarre and brazen act of political violence, their own party members have criminally started using machetes, cutlasses, human fists and other deadly instruments to settle political differences! What is scary about this criminal behavior of these NPP members is that if they can visit such brutality on each other, can we imagine what they are going to do to their political opponents including the present writer? These are anxious times in our political development!
How can we have a functional democracy sans political tolerance? If we are serious about building a dynamic and peaceful society, we must not see these anti-democratic events as isolated cases. Their adverse and chilling psychological impact on the rest of the country is simply immeasurable. What this government and some of its misguided and ill-informed supporters should know is that the freedom of speech and expression right ordained under Article 21(1)(a) of our constitution is not for decorative purposes. This prized democratic value underwrites our democratic dispensation. Indeed, the wisdom behind this provision is that any attempt to suppress speech will invariably breed contempt and hate - two vices - inimical to the peace and stability of any political system. If we truly believe in the system we are culturing for ourselves and posterity, then, no government or group of persons should be allowed to toy with the right to free speech and expression. It is in the light of the above vis-a-vis the ugly upsurge in NPP-on-NPP political violence that we take serious issue with the NPP leadership and particularly the Presidency for mindlessly behaving as if these destabilizing events are normal. For example, how on earth can the President countenance the disgraceful and potentially criminal behavior of Theresa Tagoe - the MP for Ablekuma South - for slapping the face of her constituency party chairman and being at the center of political mayhem at Ablekuma South? Where is the President’s total outrage? And, she is the deputy regional secretary for the Greater Accra Region? What object message is His Excellency sending to the rest of the country? That citizens are entitled to settle their political differences with guns, machetes, knifes, "koboko" and bows and arrows? And, we should imagine that this is not even December 2008! Really, really, scary!
Dealing firmly and resolutely with reprehensible acts of political intolerance and violence is not only the constitutional duty of the president but also a moral one. We should not forget that the President under Article 58(2) is legally (and morally) obligated to protect each and every one of us from any kind of abuse notwithstanding our tribe, religion, creed, party affiliation or gender. This explains why we are very disturbed that the president is awkwardly silent on the upsurge of political violence, intimidation and harassment in his party and the country. In-as-much as we want our criminal justice system to ruthlessly deal with political hooligans, there is the greater and weightier responsibility on the part of our political leadership to keep educating their followers on the absolute need to accommodate the dissenting views of others no matter how distasteful, disrespectful, offensive or colorless such views might be! That is the beauty of any true democratic process. Already, Prof Mills has honorably shown the way, let our President and other leaders of civil society follow suit! This is not about Prof Mills or party loyalty. It is strictly about taking care of the health of our democracy by doing what is right!
Simply put, promoting democracy does not include turning the other way while acts of political violence, harassment and intimidation are unfolding right before our naked eyes. Under no circumstance should the principle of political tolerance be sacrificed for political expediency and blind party loyalty. Doing so will clearly undermine the very foundation of our democratic culture.
Let’s give political tolerance a chance!
Down with political intolerance!
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