The Human Element in our Democratic Experiment -Part 2

Sun, 6 Sep 2009 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor


September 1st, 2009

The thrust of any reference to the place of Rawlings and Kufuor in Ghana politics is preceded by the refrain: “Rawlings this… Kufuor that…” Such a cacophonous refrain because of its negative contents!

It will be unwise for anybody to suggest that we should gloss over the enmity between Rawlings and Kufuor. It has already rippled over to affect their followers too (whether at the level of partisan politics involving the NDC or NPP or in terms of ethnic extraction). In this sense, those in the NPP supporting Kufuor hardly ever have any warmth toward their NDC counterparts upholding Rawlings as their hero. The fault lines are clear in this case as the issue has spilt over to affect ethnic relations too. Rawlings for the Ewes and Kufuor for Asantes! Where else will this negative attitude take us if not doom? Admirers of either former President have taken entrenched positions. While those supporting Rawlings don’t want to see or say anything ameliorating about Kufuor, those rooting for Kufuor are also bent on demonizing Rawlings whenever/wherever possible and even extend their disparaging remarks to the entire Ewe ethnic group. Whether in cyberspace or news media (especially the private-owned ones), the demonization by either faction is evident; and there is no indication that it will abate soon. What we read every day in the comments of visitors to Ghanaweb and other media about Asante-Ewe tribal sentiments is a clear demonstration of the depths to which such frosty relationships between the two political leaders could sink us.

Efforts to repair this frosty and dangerous relational “feud” have come from the Ghana Peace Council, the Clergy, the former Council of State, and many others. When the Asantehene pledged to repair the relationship between Kufuor and Rawlings before the former’s term ended, Ghanaians hailed it as a step in the right direction. Alas, he couldn’t do it. These attempts appear to be ending in smoke. As things stand now, it is likely that such efforts will fizzle out without anything substantial being achieved. We must not continue to tolerate this awkwardness in our national life.

What is the situation now and where is the hope that something good is being achieved to make these two people stop disgracing Ghana with their petty squabbles and unfounded allegations and counter-accusations?

This is not to say that the two former Presidents should intentionally strain their personal relations for anybody to resolve. It will be unconscionable on their part if that’s what they want to do. After all, don’t we all have our personal problems to solve? What I want to suggest is that if they continue to be at each other’s throat, they will set themselves up to be treated with contempt by society.

At this point, the emergence of President Mills and his non-aggressive style of governance points to something different.

John Evans Atta Mills

As sure as the night follows the day, President Mills will end his tenure and join the fold of ex-Presidents. His style of politics, especially his claim to be a “father” to all Ghanaians is encouraging even if it has more benefits nominally than in practice for now. He is also a victim of political circumstances, entering office at a time that the hardcore NDC functionaries would want to use the power that being in government has given them to avenge whatever ill-treatment they might have suffered from the NPP while in opposition for 8 years. The spate of attacks by NDC functionaries on their NPP opponents in many parts of the country is a clear demonstration of this misguided craving for vengeance.

In one way or the other, however, President Mills’ own public posturing and utterances have put him streets ahead of both Rawlings and Kufuor. At least, he’s given us much to suggest that he is not in power to wreak vengeance on anybody. His aim is to pool all resources together for national development. His is a difficult task, given the true picture of Ghanaian politics, where tit-for-tat has become the rule rather than the exception. One hopes that something positive will come out from this “father-to-all-Ghanaians” stature despite the harsh criticisms of his dormancy and seeming lack of focus.

Where do we go from here?

The ruin of a country begins from its home, in case we miss the mark and don’t know that the current tension in the political system has dire consequences for us. We talk about national unity as if it’s something that is rained down from the heavens by a supernatural force.

What I want to say is that all of us whose utterances and public posturing appear not to be encouraging should look beyond partisan politics to make amends. Those of us who write for people to read too are in many ways guilty of this offence and must learn to use our resources to enhance good relationships. We must not continue to tear people apart through the venom that we splash on the pages.

There is too much vindictiveness in our kind of politics. We punish people on the basis of whims and caprices—either someone used his “power” while in government to punish others and must be punished in turn at the fall of his government or someone just wants to show the other “where naked power lies” and manipulates the system to that effect. Even if anybody who falls foul should be punished, it is mostly not done through the established laws, but because of a mere human urge for vengeance or through the extra-judicial acts that we have seen over the years.

That’s the main cause of our woes. We find it difficult to use lawful means to do politics and rather resort to the “show of force” as the be-it-all-and-end-it-all. This situation must change for the better so that anybody (politician or not) who is identified as falling out of step is dealt with according to what the laws of the land prescribe. Such a person must not be hounded and dealt blows because there is a change of government and a new king has come with a new law.

Successful democracy rests on the human element, which we must cultivate through good relationships between the people involved in it. Otherwise, it cannot endure.

In any consideration, Ghanaians expect that their leaders will set good examples in every sense for them to either emulate or stand on to contribute their quota to national development efforts. That’s a good way to motivate the people. After all, when we have good personal relationships, it is hoped that they will extend to other levels such as the family, clan, and ethnic group levels. Eventually, it is the country that benefits because we will then be working toward unity, which is the bedrock of maturity in human affairs. We must work hard to sustain the creed of one nation, one people, one common destiny.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.