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The Vice-President’s convoy and matters arising

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 Source: Colin Essamuah

“I have no position on the performance of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government. How they are leading will tell for itself. I was on the Cape Coast road and I saw the Veep’s convoy with a minimum of 14 cars. I counted 16 cars. I was with my brother. We followed the convoy for a while. I was 100 yards from them. I am getting to 70 years and this is the first time I am seeing something like that.”

Prof Stephen Adei on Joy FM radio with Kojo Yankson, October 18, 2017.

I still have not recovered from the shock I experienced when I gave myself the chance to listen carefully to Professor Stephen Adei, the former Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), being interviewed on his reported assertion that he saw the Vice-Presidential convoy on the Cape Coast road made up of 16 vehicles. The interview had become necessary because the office of the Vice President had replied that he uses a seven-vehicle convoy, and others may have joined who were not officially part of the convoy.

Before I proceed, however, let me get this off the way. It is a broad view of the kind of politics we do these days. Recent events which keep repeating themselves in various guises are leading me to identify the lack of tolerance, as the main driver of our problems. It is different in looks, speech, character, mannerisms and the like which define the basic blocks of our common humanity. I now firmly believe that it is not corruption, which I have discounted several times in this column. I had accepted that dishonesty and hypocrisy are the drawbacks to our national development as we seek to outdo each other. My previous position was that dishonesty and hypocrisy are the two biggest problems we face in this country.

Tolerance

I am now coming around to the view that perhaps our difficulties in successful nation-building stem from our inability, or, maybe our unwillingness, real or contrived, to tolerate each other. If intolerance is at the heart of our problems, then I dare say that any time we express our opposition or dislike in intolerant terms, we are harming our own sense of community. Toleration is at the heart of living together, and living together is what makes community action possible. Indeed, it is at the heart of all types of human government, from social clubs to superpowers. If we are unwilling, or, refuse, to tolerate each other, we fracture the basis for the social contract. This is what intolerance can do, make secession from community seem attractive.

Anytime we express disagreement in intolerant terms, we are announcing to the world that we do not wish to co-exist in the same place with the other person and his views. It is not about an honest airing of disagreement. The legitimacy of disagreement is transferred from the basic rights the constitutional orders give each of us to the concept of winning an argument, a debate, an election or any type of social engagement in any way possible. To oppose is, therefore, to subvert, and not to merely disagree.

This problem is worsened for our country when seen through democratic lens. Intolerance seen through democratic politics appears very much like ordinary politicking where men and women jostle in honest debate and discussion to fashion out a common, beneficial future. But with intolerance, it is always a zero-sum game; winners are seen as the legitimate voice of society while in truth they are just a strand of the several public opinions jostling for acceptance.

Convoys and V8s

Back to Prof. Adei. Exactly what is it about convoys, V8s, four-wheeled official vehicles and the like that get some of us so riled up and angry? The convoy of the vice-president of this republic is a matter that I do not expect those with teaching functions in this polity to be worried about. After all, let us take the revered Asantehene for example. The Asantehene has a convoy, supervised by both soldiers and policemen who work for the state, and we are quiet. He is not an elected official in this country. My readers know my position on unelected people exercising unaccountable power. Again, in our Third Republic, an insolent public servant used the official vehicle of our vice-president then for his wedding and nothing happened.

The opposition to bad things in the republic, though welcome and accepted as part of the constitutional order, need not seek or sustain its relevance by basically unimportant things. I say this knowing full well the damage Prof. Adei and now Vice-President Bawumia did to the previous government with incessant criticisms of everything, whether relevant or not, but with a propagandistic view in mind, to change perceptions. The intent then was to paint the previous government as snobbish, unmindful of the general poverty and corruption. Now that Prof. Adei has resumed his searching assessment of another regime, one would expect that he would gain my support. Not at all.

There are many intelligent people in this country who blithely say, for example, that when they meet the convoy of a President, Vice-President or any official they do not like, they would not obey the order to give way. Really?

The whole city of Baltimore was virtually shut down when President George Bush, in the midst of a budget crisis, decided to drive the 40 miles from Washington DC to watch a baseball match. It was expected. The reason usually given for this pointless navel-gazing by our people is that the convoy in itself bespeaks corruption. This is the exact reasoning which ended in the execution of Admiral joy Amedume in 1979. Is the rationalisation of the AFRC of 1979 acceptable to him?

Media clamp down

There has been a virtual media clampdown on what really happened on Dr Bawumia’s trip to the University of Cape Coast where he was headed when Prof. Adei saw him. Perhaps the focus on what happened on the road to Cape Coast is another way of diverting attention away from the close questioning of the vice-president by a lecturer on the economic performance of the ruling NPP at a public function. I do not believe for one second that that was the intent of Prof. Adei when his convoy story took centre stage over the purpose of that trip.

It is too easy and self-serving to say that the ruling NPP of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has met its just desserts with the Prof. Adei criticism of the convoy, but Prof. Adei’s half-hearted unconvincing responses to other issues thrown at him suggest strongly that accountability was not the basis for his prior conduct.

The problem with the $2.25 billion bond by the government has never been the need to restructure and refinance short-term obligations into more convenient long and medium term debt, but the opacity of the transaction. Were all the rules followed? The revelation that he is a proprietor of a basic school makes him a willing partaker in the process of the gradual devaluation of the quality of public education at that level, and he should have recused himself from answering any question on that.

It is a pity that those of us in the business of public education on issues of national concern seek the easier way of irrelevant criticism of public policies just to remain relevant. The defence of neutrality some donned for acceptability yesterday is wearing off. Neutrality is moral cowardice and leprous politics.

Columnist: Colin Essamuah