By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, September 19, 2014
Folks, in response to the controversy raised by the huge sum of money paid on hotel accommodation for Ms. Lauretta Lamptey (head of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, CHRAJ) a contributor made an insightful contribution to an opinion piece that I wrote a few days ago:
“Not only CHRAJ but these too, NMC, Energy Commission, PURC, NPA, and many others... their duties and functions can be done by a Supervising and Monitoring Directorate of their related agencies... What are the Parliamentary Sub-committees there to do if not to check any excesses by these state institutions?”
This opinion is rich and needs a thorough discussion. Thus, I have expanded the contributor’s ideas to come up with this prompt to guide us as we continue to explore issues regarding our democracy. I hope you will add your voices to our good friend’s and mine as well. Enjoy!!
The problem created by Ms. Lamptey has brought to sharp focus many issues that should make us question the efficacy of our democracy. Amazingly, she is not ashamed of herself within this context nor are the appointing authorities even bothered by any qualm of conscience to act decisively against her. Spending public funds with impunity and against the grain should be regarded as a punishable offence for which Ms. Lamptey stands accused.
The truth is that she isn’t fit to hold that position anymore; and if she is adamantly refusing to resign at her own volition because she isn’t well-cut-out to know what morality enjoins public servants like her caught up in such self-created acts of immorality to do, the authorities who put her in office should act decisively to save their own faces too! But no one is acting, apparently because all conscience is seared with a hot, branding iron!! A democracy that is designed to succeed won’t tolerate this kind of criminal flippancy.
Many people who know the shortfalls of this democracy have already drawn their conclusion: that Ghana cannot make any progress under the current political dispensation. Too much nastiness going on! Probably, some credit may be given to Rawlings when he said that he won’t admire this kind of “ballot-paper democracy”.
It is undeniable that a democracy can grow and serve the purposes for which it was adopted only if it addresses the exigencies that necessitated its birth. Our Ghanaian version of democracy has turned out to be a huge mockery. It is an albatross on the necks of the tax-payers to be derided and pooh-poohed for not only cushioning those who know how to manipulate it for undeserved personal gains but also for worsening the plight of the voiceless millions whose sweat, toil, and blood feed the national coffers on which it depends. Disgraceful.
And the problem can be traced to the institutions of state that have failed to shape and shave the democracy to meet the needs of the people. These institutions have not only functioned to perpetuate the status of the privileged but they have also acted in despicable ways to close doors to the poor majority of Ghanaians seeking to effect any change for promoting their well-being. This kind of democracy is sham and not worth supporting. And the institutions of state downgrading it stand accused.
Is it really necessary to retain and sustain all these institutions of state just to prove that we have a democracy that is to be respected as a political umbrella? To me, the most important element that should validate a democracy is the economic and social aspects of human existence. If the democracy cannot solve problems to make life worth living, it is useless and should be discarded.
Mind you, I am not trying to be an anarchist; but I just want to make it clear that the kind of democracy that exists in Ghana places too much emphasis on the “political” element, which isn’t solving problems to help the citizens live their lives in comfort. All that our democracy ensures is the right to vote on Election Day to put in place political toads who have no compunction feeding fat and fast on the national coffers. The voters can huff and puff all they like, but the fast-feeding frenzy will continue while their sentiments are massaged in readiness for another Election Day.
Even then, the voting is characterized by intrigues that detract from the fundamental principle of democracy itself—the free will of the people to choose their leaders. We know how much manipulation and inducement goes on when the politicians and their lackeys criss-cross the political landscape to corrupt the electorate with gifts (roofing sheets, corn mills, cars, promises of good jobs, and many others that end up not being fulfilled as soon as the elections are over).
We also know how the main political actors manipulate the institutions of state to suit their agenda. So also are the desperate efforts by those not favoured at the elections to attempt twisting arms so they can enter the corridors of power by the backdoor. Our democracy isn’t growing; it isn’t serving the purposes served by democracies that are designed to succeed. History tells us a lot and we have come to know the truth about democracies to the extent that when we take away the political aspect (the mere casting of ballots), we can tell how hollow and deceptive our kind of democracy has turned out to be.
It is practically in place to cushion those who know how to manipulate the system to advantage. And there are lots of them parading as human rights activists, philanthropists, and what-have-you who, when given the nod to be in power, end up being hyenas feasting on the system that they quickly construct as carrion!! Ravenous scavengers devouring carrion and feeding their own whims and caprices at the expense of the vast majority of the people. Fie on them!!
As currently configured, our democracy serves the best interests of such people. That is why they aren’t interested in overhauling the system so our democracy can be reformed to empower the citizens. They fear empowerment of the citizens because it will spell their doom. That is why they can’t even pass a simple bill on the Right to Information to help the citizens know as much as they need to know about how those put in authority are functioning. That is why they cannot open themselves to public scrutiny. They adopt face-saving measures and run away from the truth when threatened. They fear the beam of public scrutiny and operate confidently in darkness.
Ask me why the government cannot sustain its “Meet-the-Press” series or even follow through its own agenda of a weekly press briefing at the Flagstaff House (as the former Deputy Minister of Information, Murtala Mohammed, had announced many months before he got pushed out of contention. He is still holding a position of trust but has learnt to seal his mouth so he can enjoy the benefits of public office without attracting the searchlight to himself. And there are many of his type in this Mahama-led government).
As the Italian writer (Mario Puzo) puts it, even in the mafia gangster community, “fools die”! And the Ghanaian democracy has a lot of fools who will die for lack of knowledge and for recourse to shortcuts to wealth at the expense of the state and people. Too bad for our democracy. I say in conclusion that the profligacy displayed by Ms. Lamptey is characteristic of our loose democracy. There are many of her type all over the place; but in tying up the loose ends, she has sent herself to the slaughter house and must be so dealt with. She has to go and others behaving like her fished out and sent packing too. Who has the nerves to act decisively in the interest of our democracy?
I shall return…
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