In one of my last chats with her before I left Windhoek for Accra, my wife (34 years of marriage), said to me, “When you return, keep an even temper”. She made a lot of sense – women do, most of the time.
But how do you keep an even temper in Ghana these days? I have observed it becoming distressingly unattainable with each passing political year since 1992. I choose this particular year because it was in that year that we reverted to constitutional governance after many years of unstable military incursions into partisan politics. We have kept at it since.
Even as we have seen some consistency in holding violence-free elections seven times, we have not grasped the fact that democracy without an even temper leaves a polity bruised, tired and unable to put nation first, leading to the loss of the many opportunities that could speed up progress.
In the months, weeks and days leading up to Election 2016, as the political parties vied for the eyes and ears of voters, it was the platform of nastiness that ruled the day. Facts, truths, personal insights into issues were clobbered viciously so long as they did not meet with the approval of political Rottweilers! Campaign rhetoric, perhaps, but also very much a manifestation of the vile temper that is now ingrained in our way of doing things. It has become a culture of attack and insult when actually, “no comment”, “I don’t know”, “I have no idea”, “I don’t know the source” or “I have to investigate further” should settle matters. This is not restricted to “working class” homes or platforms like beer/akpeteshie bars, trotros, but in some of the gleaming homes and offices where wealth, power and “sophistication” are on display.
Very much was made about “incompetence” during the campaign period. Whether it helped sway the outcome of those elections or not, the analysts would work that out in due course but it was a smear that was difficult to shake off…Even in the bright glare of the many positive additions to our country’s development, high international approval ratings and sub-regional leadership, we were constantly being regailed with accusations of “incompetence” which as the days wore on became even more strident. Cynical it was, but as a campaign sloganeering tactic, it could not be missed.
Then something happened on January 7 2017! Plagiarism! No need to go into the details here for “social media” and the traditional media sources have chewed and spat it out ad nauseam, but on day one, the charge of “dishonesty” had entered the records. This is going to define for a long time the image of the “change” that Election 2016 brought to Ghana, for how do you shrug off evidence that was delivered to hundreds of millions of people worldwide? If “incompetence” was served as a local dish, “dishonesty” was an international banquet.
I was winding up at post when my attention was called to it by a colleague African diplomat and then another, and another… As the modern terminology says, it had gone viral. A quick consultation among us Ghanaian diplomats yielded a nice way out: Yes, we should admit it because it was out there, but explain it away as an oversight by a not too careful speechwriter which should not distract from the very major achievement of peaceful elections and smooth transition in Ghana, feats that we should be proud of and commended…Plausible deniability, but the good name of our country had to be defended.
Hopefully the international community has forgiven, forgotten and moved on, BUT have we and can we in Ghana? “Incompetence” and “Dishonesty” are now the two sides of the Ghanaian coin…A pity and a shame because the Ghanaian coin should be more edifying and ennobling than that…The coin that was minted 60 years ago was clearly engraved with “Freedom” and “Justice”, one on each side. So what happened 60 years later with the coin being defaced with the patina of “Incompetence” and “Dishonesty”? A prize-winning journalist blogging on the issue said he prefers incompetence to dishonesty. Obviously there are many others who would see virtue in dishonesty and defend it, but as a country don’t we do ourselves much harm if we allow our inability to “keep an even temper” to sink us into the quagmire of “incompetence” and “dishonesty”? It is not right because I know we are neither incompetent nor dishonest!!!
Disturbingly, the vetting of nominees taking place in parliament is revealing yet again, the bogey of people who should know better and “keep an even temper” but are very deliberately perpetuating the intemperance of the campaign period. Wisely some are retracting and apologizing but shamefully some are persisting with the notion that the refusal to “keep an even temper” is a sign of loyalty to party. No, at that level, it is loyalty to Ghana that is paramount!
Namibians call their country the “Land of the Brave” and they rally behind it in addition to the flag and anthem. They go another step by flying the AU flag at all major events and playing the AU Anthem in recognition of and solidarity with their membership of our continental fraternity. Symbols that we can all buy into would take precedence over political party posturing and promote the pursuit of our national interest with an even temper!
Ghana @ 60 is only a month or so in the future; would it be organized in the atmosphere of an even temper? Ghana @ 50 certainly wasn’t and ended up in prosecutions for “economic crimes against the state”. Recriminations, boycotts and bad temper characterized Ghana @ 50; would the intervening years have evened the tempers enough to avoid history repeating itself…?
As we strive to get “incompetence” and “dishonesty” to cross each other out for a clean slate of “Freedom” and “Justice”, we can for the moment savour the elevation of a Ghanaian to the Deputy Chair of the African Union in this 60th year of our Independence. The Osagyefo must be turning in his grave, this time with joy and like the Namibians the “Land of Freedom and Justice” should be engaging us more than whether I am NDC or NPP!
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, The Hon. Shirely Ayorkor Botchwey MP, has taken a positive lead in these first few weeks. One of the first things she did on the assumption of office was to organize a farewell for her predecessor The Hon. Hannah Serwah Tetteh and Deputy, The Hon Bombande at which ceremony she presented them with citations of appreciation… Picture attached: Former Minister and New Minister with Directors of MFA&RI