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Vilest Legacies?

Introduction

My commentary today should have been under the title “Fiddling While Rome Burned”. I had the draft ready for peer review, but then I came across the commentary below in The Guardian. Though American-centred, the writer could have been commenting on Ghana’s current general disposition. The metaphors, allegories and other references match up. Just change Trump’s name to Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo, America for Ghana, Americans for Ghanaians, etc., and the article would be an accurate image of Ghana these past four years. The writer uses a wrecking ball and broken window as a metaphors describing the Trump years in the US (2017-2020), which equally applies to Ghana (2017-2020).

From when he made Ghana into an international laughing stock with a plagiarized inaugural speech in January 2017, to when he supervised the most shambolic, farcical presidential and parliamentary elections. so far, in Ghana’s history (Election 2020), Mr. Akufo-Addo has employed his wrecking ball to bring down many a cherished Ghanaian edifice, for no reason other than megalomania with bloody-minded partisan, religious and ethnic bigotry… The list is a long one: The following few will suffice here:

• Compromising the Electoral Commission of Ghana, leading to serious threats to the peace, security and cohesion of the state. It is not simply a matter of winning or losing elections, though that matters greatly, but creating, developing and sustaining the integrity of democracy. Democracy per se, cannot be faulted, it is the hands that wield it that can make it benign or toxic. Ghana’s electoral commission since Mr. Akufo-Addo played his hand in 2018 with the dismissal of the chair of the commission, Madam Charlotte Osei and replaced with Madam Jean Mensa, has become a tool for the latter. You can use an election with integrity to advance democracy or employ a flawed one to undo democracy…It is happening right now.

• The judiciary, but especially the Supreme Court of Ghana, an institution, we must all hold in reverence, is now considered by many as Nana Akufo-Addo’s private law firm and therefore pliant to his diktat and whims. It is this same Supreme Court that ruled that a birth certificate cannot be used as the primary document to determine citizenship! What is this Supreme Court going to hand down on the petition put before it yesterday on Election 2020? It will determine so much of our journey into the future – good or bad. We are all ears…

• Disturbing the delicate religious balance with his Christocentric proselytising against other faiths – Re: a so called national cathedral of Ghana to belittle other faiths. Ours is a multi-faith community of diverse cultural backgrounds. To raise one faith against the others is subversive of our constitution which was promulgated on the principle of separation of state and faith hence the provision for the freedom of worship to all Ghanaians, no matter the demographics involved. A national cathedral is provocative and an anathema to our national cohesion and religious tolerance.

• Breaking with long held national and continental solidarity with the abolishing of our republican heritage (July 1) and African Union (March 25) holidays to be replaced by sectarian dates of the UGCC and tokenism.

• A dangerously warped politics of exclusion where the doctrine of “Onka y3 who” has become a cardinal pillar of governance.

• Everything the man touches divides and Ghana today is more disunited than at any time of her history – not even the uncertainties of the immediate post-independence and military coups d’etat periods did we have such cracks... Often tinged with vindictiveness, we hear some citizens openly advocating immolation of and arson against opponents. Even a former president, is now under the threat of the arsonists and murderous hordes, without attracting serious sanction from appropriate authority…

Provocation, impunity and downright contempt for us is evident in how our sovereign parliament can be festooned with the blue, white and red colours of the NPP even as the country is tensing up for conflict after the disputed elections.

• There are many others like vigilantism violence, corruption (Mother Serpent), etc., which I will bring up in “Fiddling While Rome Burned”, but read the commentary below and discover how America’s “vilest legacy” is such a mirror image of Ghana’s…

Commentary by Robert Reich

Trump has brought impunity to the highest office in the land, wielding a wrecking ball to American democracy. More than 74m Americans voted to re-elect Donald Trump.

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to re-elect Donald Trump – 46.8%of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election – don’t hold Trump accountable for what he’s done to America.

Their acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy.

Nearly forty years ago, political scientist James Q Wilson and criminologist George Kelling observed that a broken window left unattended in a community signals that no one cares if windows are broken there. The broken window is thereby an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows.

The message: do whatever you want here because others have done it and got away with it.

The broken window theory has led to picayune and arbitrary law enforcement in poor communities. But America’s most privileged and powerful have been breaking big windows with impunity.

In 2008, Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The Street got bailed out while millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings, and homes. Yet not one major Wall Street executive ever went to jail.

In more recent years, top executives of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, along with the Sackler family, knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Executives at Wells Fargo Bank pushed bank employees to defraud customers. Executives at Boeing hid the results of tests showing its 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across America looked the other way as police under their command repeatedly killed innocent Black Americans.

Here, too, they’ve got away with it. These windows remain broken.

Trump has brought impunity to the highest office in the land, wielding a wrecking ball to the most precious windowpane of all – American democracy.

The message? A president can obstruct special counsels’ investigations of his wrongdoing, push foreign officials to dig up dirt on political rivals, fire inspectors general who find corruption, order the entire executive branch to refuse congressional subpoenas, flood the Internet with fake information about his opponents, refuse to release his tax returns, accuse the press of being “fake media” and “enemies of the people”, and make money off his presidency.

And he can get away with it. Almost half of the electorate will even vote for his re-election.

A president can also lie about the results of an election without a shred of evidence – and yet, according to polls, be believed by the vast majority of those who voted for him.

Trump’s recent pardons have broken double-pane windows.

Not only has he shattered the norm for presidential pardons – usually granted because of a petitioner’s good conduct after conviction and service of sentence – but he’s pardoned people who themselves shattered windows. By pardoning them, he has rendered them unaccountable for their acts.

They include aides convicted of lying to the FBI and threatening potential witnesses in order to protect him; his son-in-law’s father, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions, and lying to the Federal Election Commission; Blackwater security guards convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians, including women and children; Border Patrol agents convicted of assaulting or shooting unarmed suspects; and Republican lawmakers and their aides found guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations.

It’s not simply the size of the broken window that undermines standards, according to Wilson and Kelling. It’s the willingness of society to look the other way. If no one is held accountable, norms collapse.

Trump may face a barrage of lawsuits when he leaves office, possibly including criminal charges. But it’s unlikely he’ll go to jail. Presidential immunity or a self-pardon will protect him. Prosecutorial discretion would almost certainly argue against indictment, in any event. No former president has ever been convicted of a crime. The mere possibility of a criminal trial for Trump would ignite a partisan brawl across the nation.

Congress may try to limit the power of future presidents – strengthening congressional oversight, fortifying the independence of inspectors general, demanding more financial disclosure, increasing penalties on presidential aides who break laws, restricting the pardon process, and so on.

But Congress – a co-equal branch of government under the Constitution – cannot rein in rogue presidents. And the courts don’t want to weigh in on political questions.

The appalling reality is that Trump may get away with it. And in getting away with it he will have changed and degraded the norms governing American presidents. The giant windows he’s broken are invitations to a future president to break even more.

Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans recognize and condemn what has occurred.

My postscript

Mr. Reich is right. The overwhelming majority of Ghanaians must recognise and condemn the dangers of the Machiavellian hand that has been playing these past four years so as to put us back on the right track. The moral cowardice being exhibited by large sections of what should represent our national conscience will not do, for Yen ara asase ne tells us that this is our own native land and whether or not our nation prospers depends on the character of the citizens…

Y?n ara asaase ni;

?y? ab? den den de ma y?n,

Mogya a nananom hwie gu

Nya de to h? ma y?n,

Aduru me ne wo nso so,

S? y?b?y? bi atoa so. Nimde? ntraso, nkoto-kranne;

Ne p?s?menkomenya,

Adi y?n bra mu d?m, ama y?n asaase h? d? atomu s?.

Columnist: Amb. Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harruna Attah, MOV