Related Through Country

Mon, 13 Aug 2012 Source: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

Critical News, 12th August 2012

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Accra cried hard, buried President Mills on Friday and fell silent. I drove from Cantonments, through 37, past the BNI place to Kawukudi junction on to Dimples roundabout, hanging left to the George Bush Highway. Straight through Lapaz, Santa Maria, Awoshie, over the Mallam interchange and then right turn to McCarthy Hill. I heard not one horn and I arrived home in 17 minutes and 25 seconds. That journey used to take 4 hours in January. Later that night it hit me that, all interference can be transient. With time we forget the traffic of problems and relish in new ways, which are imperceptible while you endure the periods of nuisance. May the President’s soul rest in peace.

Now we are burrowing through a morass of democracy. Ghana managed the transition to a new President so well we have raised the bar for other events. The next three and a half months will tell the history of Ghana’s change either to a successful modern country or it might tell the tale of a country that missed the best opportunity to truly live to its dream: Freedom and Justice. Wherever I go, I hear non-Ghanaians willing us to achieve, but more importantly, Ghanaians voicing their intense desire to make a mark, a significant one with the death of a President who most persons considered peace loving and pious.

Our public institutions are our biggest challenge to success and as we wobble to December elections, the Institutions most likely to correct governance flaws in the next few months rank as follows in my mind. First, the Electoral Commission because of the voter registration and verification; so important we get it right, that we should forever in our history, never again worry about counting ballots and cheating. Both NDC and NPP parties have continuously found ways to manipulate vote counting in every election. Before them was the CPP under Kwame Nkrumah and of course Kutu Acheampong and his bogus Union Government idea. The ague caused by vote rigging over the years is incalculable. If we can eliminate all doubt in the final numbers, we will blaze a path through Africa’s scorched deserts leaving the rest to follow in the dust of our success. And it is important because ultimately the will of the people is the only final check on our corrupt politicians and public servants.

Next, I prefer the Supreme Court. We have several cases pending, which could go either way. Corruption cases, District demarcation, judicial modernization, etc. Most important to the people of Ghana is to restore confidence in judgments and eliminate the habit where political parties see court decisions as partisan and use that argument to reinstate felons and criminals only to perpetuate refined corrupt activity.

Third, our investigative arms. CID, BNI, EOCO, the Police, Immigration and others. I would like to be free of the notion of fear and panic. I would like to see a professional approach to the most common of irresponsible and lawless acts. I would like to think that I can make a case against “big men” and have a fair day in court. I would like to eliminate the entrenched principle that because my uncle heads the Regional force, I can pull more clout when needed. These things must be curbed so we can all have an equal say and believe that we have identical rights all the time.

Fourth on my list is the AG’s department. A Christmas present to Ghana would be to remove all the corrupt elements, sanitise the department and build capacity to a level of true competence and pride. Can we split it from the Ministry of Justice and create a truly independent prosecutor? Is there a Directorate for Public Prosecutions that can be made more effective? Can CHRAJ be made more central to providing true human rights?

Can we have a Freedom of Information Act?

I am always reassured to say that I have freedom. We have created an over-blown importance of radio stations, television and print, so politicians deflect peace disruption issues as a media responsibility, holding them (media) accountable because they offer a platform for voicing opinion. And the media actually fall for it and start creating a cacophony and rallying call to all studio guests to mind their language. Our bane is the politician. My freedom depends on my opportunity to express my views freely and I have that in Ghana. But I am looking over my shoulder for when justice will arrive to join the party. Insult me if you must, but preserve for me the right to sue you on my “equal platform” court and expect to get a fair hearing.

Fifth on my list are the Political Parties. Which one of them has filed its annual audited report and shouldn’t their registration be withdrawn if they have not complied with all the laws? This should be the last overlook by the EC. We can let it go this one last time, respectfully for Atta Mills, but it should not go on.

There is a billboard at the confluence traffic lights of the Arts Center and the Supreme Court. It used to have a picture of the face of the late President and “Damirifa Due”, now it has a picture of President John Mahama and President Mills side by side. The message is “thank you for all your support” or something to that effect. The message is from Mahama and Mills together, striding towards Ghanaians. I have spoken to friends and family about this and I do not understand whom President Mahama is thanking. Did he just lose a relative? The people of Ghana lost a President. Whether we voted for him or not, we ended up with him as a leader. The message smacks of hegemony for future rule. If I accept that Atta Mills died for the NDC party, then I can live with the message. If I accept that John Mahama is now part of the Mills family, I can live with the message. But if I deem me to be a Ghanaian who has also lost a President and therefore the loss is as much mine as it is the NDC’s, John Mahama’s or the executive arm of the Presidency, then I can only smell campaign fumes and instantly, the deception and sympathy vote soliciting is off the ground.

We are all related to our Presidents, Chiefs and Clans by country. This is how we define ourselves. President Mahama is only closer by dint of proxy work and this early salvo to churn out a sympathy vote might work if the NPP cannot counter with a simple clear message to voters. The voting analysis has suddenly become complicated due to a youth and sympathy vote and the economic issues, as central as they may be, are not easy to slogan for the not financially literate.

Ghana loves a funeral in many ways because the message is simple. He lived, he died, he lived well. We speak not too evilly about the dead, we exaggerate the achievements and hold back the bad and poor behavior, until the eyes have emptied their tear ducts and we return to measuring the length of the cadaver.

This has been a sobering week for all of us. Now we will wait to find out how long before the politicians get back to life as usual.

Alius valde week advenio. Another week to come!

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney