By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
August 10, 2010
As we continue to look for opportunities to smooth the rough edges of our democracy, any tendency that creates needless tension must not be overlooked. We dare not deny that Ghanaian politics is hampered by too many negative traits and pettiness. One clear negative trait is the prevalence of open insults and name-calling across the political spectrum, which undermines our democracy and suggests that our politicians are finding it difficult to mature. Very often, we hear one politician hurling insults at the other just to score cheap political points as if such an approach will provide the panacea that we need to solve the problems stalling our country’s forward march. It is disgusting for name-calling and open insults to become the trump-cards of our politicians.
The issue becomes more worrisome when looked at from one perspective, which concerns the fairer sex. The most guilty among this stratum is the particular segment made up of WOMEN-WITHOUT-HUSBANDS whose needlessly militant posture and brand of insult-laden politics is disturbing enough for us to condemn. Many instances of this kind of gutter politics have come to notice; but I will base my concerns on one topical instance, which is the NPP’s Ursula Owusu’s verbal attack on President Mills as “the LOUSIEST President that Ghana has ever had” (as reported by JoyFm and Ghanaweb on August 9, 2010). I want to say that these women-without-husbands are giving women and our politics a bad name.
As part of the discourse on the role of women in our country’s political development, this brand of politicking undergirded by wanton recourse to foul language by these women-without-husbands (or “Djakato women” as I prefer to call them) must not be overlooked. Their public pronouncements and poise run counter to acceptable norms. We expect our politicians to set good examples for emulation. We always complain about the negative activities of “machomen” who are hired by politicians to wreak havoc on their opponents and must as well complain about the crudeness of these “unbiz” women too. By using their mouths to do dirty politics, they create tension. We don’t need this kind of sentimental childishness and hysteria in our politics.
These “Djakato women” are all over the place, especially in the two main political camps—the NDC and NPP—stirring up tension whenever they open their mouths. By their galling pronouncements, they show outright disrespect for authority and sow seeds of discord among the party activists. They are very much on the rampage and their public posture and pronouncements raise disturbing questions and set very bad examples. They are really loudmouthed and seize every opportunity to use foul language. Their unguarded utterances irk society a lot; but it appears that the more they are condemned, the more they become energized to carry on with their belligerence.
Behaving like the antiquated “Amazonians” and thinking that they wield much power, these “Djakato women” have taken their sentiments to unexpected limits. Hiding under the canopy of “feminism” and the protection of their political parties, they have become needlessly adamant and are displaying this kind of abhorrent behaviour with impunity. Our African (Ghanaian) socio-cultural norms don’t favour this kind of purulent behaviour and these women-without-husbands should advise themselves. They come across as unacceptable models that don’t impress society. At least, I will not want my daughter to take after them.
Obviously, these “Djakato women” are noticeable from their posture and strident verbal attacks. They exhibit belligerence and uncharacteristically bellicose public appearances that reflect a disposition of extreme frustration and anger. By their posture, they draw attention to themselves as desperate people. Some people even allege that they have turned themselves into rolling stones that don’t gather any moss. They flow along with men of substance from whom they can eke out their livelihood, damn the consequences. In other words, they have become the objects of sexual attraction and tools for wanton carnal satisfaction. Those who know them well can’t say that they are proud of their records. They are all over the place, making a nuisance of themselves. Yet, they are out, casting the first stone. Do they think that in the estimation of society, they are credit-worthy politicians?
The place and role of these “Djakato women” came to notice long ago but became more entrenched about 29 years ago. At the initiation of Rawlings’ December 31 Revolution, these women-without-husbands registered their presence and the formation of the 31st December Women’s Movement provided a functional umbrella for some of them under which they congregated to launch their self-assertive politics against all manner of people, especially men. Affirmative Action seemed to have emboldened such characters into adopting the kind of aggressive posture that has spilled over into our democratic dispensation.
It is not surprising that most of the women in leadership positions in the 31st December Women’s Movement in those years were known for whatever they were. Much of their public image got dented by the poor opinions that people had about them. They might have now receded to the background but the kind of “self-assertive negative politics” that they did has left its ugly imprint behind. Today, there are some women who have picked up the pieces and are fast registering themselves as an anathema to the well-cultured segments of our population. Their disrespect for authority (as has just been demonstrated by the NPP’s Ursula Owusu who called President Mills “the LOUSIEST President Ghana has ever had”) leaves sour tastes in the mouth. Are these supposed to be the role models for our girls, if anything at all?
I am, however, not surprised (even though worried) that this tendency still persists. Very often, these “Djakato women” survive on fallouts from their strong political connections. Take, for instance, Frances Essiam, Ursula Owusu, Grace Omaboe (Maame Dokono), and many others. The list is really long. They have grown wings that help them fly about, pouring harsh words on anybody they disagree with. Such characters are all over the place, fouling our air with their virulent pronouncements. It is sickening.
By their (mis)behaviour, they are harming their own interests and creating a bad name for the political camps that they belong to. Our democracy deserves better than this kind of waywardness. Some of us are tempted to think that if these “Djakato women” continue doing this kind of dirty politics, they will create more problems for themselves (and our democracy) than they (or we) can handle. When Frances Essiam, for example, had a taste of it after being thrashed at the NDC Congress in Koforidua, the unfortunate sequel compounded problems. Obviously, these “Djakato women” may think they are on the right course; but they and the cultured segments of society are definitely not on the same wavelength. That is the problem because it breeds friction. Our political parties must desist from giving any frontline role to such characters so that they don’t continue to muddy the water.
These “Djakato women” must be told the plain truth: that society doesn’t like their brand of politicking through foul language and disrespect for authority. By their misconduct, they are not being spared “gossiping fingers,” more so when people question their status as women-without-husbands. People will lump things together because marriage and politics are integral parts of human nature, and share common attributes: tolerance, tactful mediation and negotiation of differences for mutual benefits, circumspection, and the willingness to sacrifice one’s interests for the collective good.
Thus, anybody who hasn’t passed the tests posed by marriage but wants to do national politics may attract scoff or scorn, depending on which side of the coin one looks at. But does success in marriage automatically translate into success in politics? I don’t know, but will stick my neck out to say “Yes,” to an extent. If one cannot manage one’s marriage (at the micro-level of human affairs), how can such a person be expected to manage the affairs of a whole country of diverse people (at the macro-level)? As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home.”
There are many examples, but I will mention only one here because it speaks to my agenda in this write-up. One major factor that worked against Victor Owusu’s Presidential ambitions in 1979 was the fact that he did not have a wife. Many people mocked him over this fact, wondering how they could have a bachelor-President. Someone told me that before the June 18, 1979 elections, he had managed to hang on to a young woman as his “significant other.” More mockery and disdain for him. It didn’t change matters for him, although his defeat at the elections was caused by other factors beyond marriage.
The lesson? Those seeking goodwill from the public, especially in doing national politics, must present a good image of themselves, starting from the basics—how they live their lives at home. That is why someone like the Nigerian novelist, Cyprian Ekwensi, tells us that “However honourable a man is in society, if he is not respected in his own home, he is like a bird with beautiful feathers: beautiful on the outside but ordinary within.”
This aphorism applies to women too; and those “Djakato women” should take note.