The military to rescue Ghana’s democracy?

Sun, 7 Apr 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

(Part I)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A retired officer of the Ghana Armed Forces, Captain Budu Koomson, is reported to have believed that “prevailing conditions in the country make the staging of a coup d’état imminent” because of “the blatant abuse of state wealth by political operatives” and “the political stalemate in the society.” (See: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=269949). Captain Koomson, who is Chief Operations Officer with the UT Group of Companies, made the statements during an interview with Accra-based Oman FM. Highlights of his pronouncements include:

• It is wrong for anybody to downplay the possibility of an uprising in the country • “I have heard so many people talking about the possibility of coup which means coup is frightening us”; the government and the security agencies to “act very fast and diffuse it”. • The government should not delude itself by thinking that Ghana had passed the stage of coup d’états because there is so much discontent in the country following the Finance Committee of Parliament’s revelation of abuse of state funds by the ruling NDC government. • “The fact that we are relatively stable does not mean that they can misbehave and do what they want to do. There should be fear of personal sanctions so that politicians and public officials would be circumspect in the way they spend our money,” he emphasized.

• He expressed concern about the security situation in the country, questioning why government had been sluggish in appointing personnel to fill all the vacancies in the security services.

He has more to say: “The profligate or reckless abuse of government funds, the political stalemate, the lack of focus of security operators because of political stalemate and the politics that is in the system…I think we have to be very careful,” he noted, insisting that “there is real danger.” So much for him. Now, let’s turn to the real issues that we can tease out of his pronouncements. Certainly, Capt. Koomson has articulated concerns that no one can afford to dismiss with a mere shrug of the shoulder. He has alerted us to something that he thinks he knows which the security services can take him on to help investigate if they choose to be proactive. All that ends well will be well, not so?

But I have my personal understanding of Capt. Koomson’s utterances, alarming as they are, especially at this time that a group of politicians are fighting tooth-and-nail for the Supreme Court to declare their flagbearer the winner of an election whose legitimate winner has already been installed in office and is governing the country.

A cursory appraisal of the current situation in the country suggests that the malcontents are doing things their own way, regardless of open accusations that they want to make the country ungovernable. The tension that anybody can point to as evidence of the conditions ripening for a military coup d’état are by-products of such political intrigues. So, I place Capt. Koomson’s pronouncements in this context for analysis.

Interestingly, no one in government or opposition has reacted to these brazen pronouncements. Neither have all the civil society groupings, public figures, and opinion leaders. I want to react to Capt. Koomson’s pronouncement as far as its implications for our democracy are concerned.

In a constitutional democratic dispensation, the citizens need not fear that the government of the day will be overthrown by force of arms, particularly, the military that is itself to be positively affected by the changes brought about by democracy.

The military establishment in a democracy gears itself up to perform the legitimate functions assigned it by the constitution that guides the democracy. In that sense, the institution itself is transformed into an instrument to protect the democracy, not to subvert it. Our Ghanaian military establishment is known for good and for bad. In our 4th Republic, the military has virtually remained in the shadows, although called upon sometimes to assist the police in quelling disturbances. Military-police cooperation is a possibility in a democracy, especially if the pockets of civil disorder become too much for the police. But the people are the depository of political power whose mandate installs in office the winner of the elections that they want to be the fount of authority. Our military personnel themselves have accepted to be part of the democratization process. So, what is the relevance of any reference to them as potentially positioning themselves to overthrow the civilian administration that the democracy has in place, and which they took part in the general elections to form?

Again, it is undeniable that the military’s involvement in national politics has created more problems for the country than the civilian administrations ever did create. But for the disruption of civility in governance by the military, Ghana’s political history would have been far better than what it has been all along.

In a democracy, the military is not the answer to the challenges emanating from the democracy itself. Our experiences operating democracy in Ghana aren’t so bitter as to warrant any premonition of the sort that Capt. Koomson has disclosed. Our journey in this 4th Republic is still short and full of tough and daunting challenges, some of which are manifesting now and being erroneously labelled as spawning conditions for a military coup.

We can’t say that we have yet developed the capacity to tackle all the challenges that our democracy will impose on us. So, why quickly alarm the populace with this talk of military coup as if that is the solution to the challenges? In truth, whatever anybody identifies as problems of governance can be explained away as the very elements constituting the challenges that a young democracy poses. It is not as if democracy is devoid of challenges. There are many twists and turns on the democratic path that may confound, astound, or unsettle the citizens. But the solution is not to turn to the military to disrupt the process. Democracy is not a tea party.

Our situation is no exception. Here is the genesis of what Capt. Koomson is erroneously portraying. The Ghanaian experience is remarkably unique in the sense that the transition from a purely military dictatorial regime (the PNDC, from Dec. 31, 1981, to January 7, 1993) to the civilian one that has been in existence since January 7, 1993, has its peculiar tinge.

Happenings under Rawlings carried over into those of the Kufuor government and then spilled over into the Mills one. The Mahama one seems to be evidently an amalgamation of those variegated experiences. We can agree that the bitterness that characterized the Rawlings-led NDC and the Kufuor-led NPP catalyzed happenings under the Kufuor administration where antagonism was the order of the day.

The situation under Mills wasn’t so acerbic but the undercurrents of vindictiveness were strong and noticeable. Those in the NDC still unhappy that Mills didn’t take drastic action to punish functionaries of the Kufuor administration are still nursing that bitterness. So is it within the ranks of the NPP, especially at the defeat of Akufo-Addo at Election 2012, which seems to have poured more fuel on that fire. Whether that fire will intensify into a conflagration will be known soon as the Supreme Court determines the NPP’s petition challenging President Mahama’s legitimacy. You see, at the political level, the tension that characterizes the NDC-NPP rivalry has polarized the country. So also is the tribal politics that is unavoidable in our case because of the peculiar nature of our type of politics, where ethnicity is a major deciding factor in who votes for whom.

That is why one has to be careful how one makes public pronouncements because instead of a military coup d’etat, we will have a civil war. In the next installment, I will explain why.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.