Originally Published, June 13, 2012
Dominant attitudes in all pervading cultures have ways of signalling whether the society is growing, declining or self-destructing. When we assess our political behaviour and practice from 1992 to date, within the general context of our political milieu, the question must be asked, what society are we seeking to leave behind for the next generation? Are we fostering the building of a cohesive society based on unity and trust or a society that lives in suspicion and fear of each other? Do we have people with true democratic mindset to be in charge of this country, Ghana?
The actions and utterances of politicians who seek to rule this country, must always personify the aspirations of our country, like education, provision of electrical energy to power our economy, modernization of the economy, science and technology, the fight against ignorance, the need to overturn the human resource deficit in our medical and educational institutions, and manage public expenditure in a more prudent manner by eliminating waste and corruption in the civil service. Political parties as civil society organizations are engineered for this purpose.
In societies bent on developing and improving the living circumstances of its citizens, for most part, their conversations in the mass media hovers around such issues as the need to increase revenue to strengthen central government’s capacity, or improving the business environment through lowering of taxes and tariffs, or extending credit and support for the business community to work towards the creation of a sustainable fiscal policy that will eventually extricate the economy from over reliance on donor support.
Bottom line, the debate is on how to enhance democracy and to protect the human dignity of the people. Albeit the fact that, the issue is clear cut, it is imperative to admit that sometimes the conversations over the “how(s)” are not always civil and clear.
Globally, and across various democracies of the world, it is not uncommon to come across political trends that advocate, with very strong convictions and passions, what may be considered extreme views and options. These tendencies which are described as being “Hawkish” are tolerated only because they are always made within the spirit of national aspirations of the country.
Having said that, history is also replete with the tragedy of nations that plunged into civil war due to political intolerance expressed in the predilection of extremists. The most tragic being extremist views articulated with tribal flavour and ethnocentrism; when people were emotionally manipulated and mobilized by politicians with selfish interests to draw swords against their countrymen who were not of kin. The horrifying images together with the painful displacement of the people from these countries – some of whom now live in our mist- vividly speaks to us on how nations slowly fall into insensibility only to be overtaken by violent conflicts which on its tail causes severe destruction and sufferings .
The Emergence of Political Hawks in Ghana
Politics in Ghana have always had its own Hawks. They emerged even before Ghana had its formal independence. The landmark of our political history which vividly announced the emergence of such tendency in the country was the election organized under the Coussey Constitution. The campaign was wrought with dissatisfaction and extremist views, resulting in the formation of regional, tribal and religious parties in the country, like the National Liberation Movement (NLM) in the Ashanti region, the Northern People’s Party, the Muslim Association Party, the Anlo Youth Organization, Togoland Congress and the Ga Shifimokpee.
The disaffection that characterised the aftermath of the 1951 election organized under the Coussey constitution together with political violence, infused by bomb-throwing, burning of houses and mob activities and lynching of innocent people, which plagued the country then, signalled to the nation what political hawkishness was capable of unleashing on this country.
It is imperative to establish that even though the wish of most well meaning Ghanaians from that period, was for the people of the nation to leave the politics of that era in our history behind, the formidable presence of political hawks in the country could not be overlooked.
The recent happenings on the political scene in Ghana, is beginning to cast its shadows. The hatred being preached by leading members of political parties, some of which comes with ‘ethnic cleansing’ tendencies; the call to arms; the vandalising and the beating of political opponents -even women political careerist- is gradually setting the stage for full-blown conflict. With this I wish to ask; what do we, as a nation hope to benefit from such political hawkishness?
Instead of seeking governance alternatives that will move our nation forward, our political behaviour still divides us; fills us with hate and anger; and fuels the ethnic fault lines already put into existence by colonialists whose interpretation of our cultural values, delineation of national borders, and distribution of national resources presented recipes for disaster. We may wish to find out why is it that, election periods in our country are always fretting times? Why all over the country, are we being made angry about nothing; or being asked to put each other down through hatred, dislike and distraught.
All these, are smacks of political hawkishness expressing intolerance and intemperate attitudes. Instead of thinking differently on how to move our democracy forward, rising up above our pockmarked history to secure a better future, they are now heightening the political temperature by instigating one tribe against another tribe, calling on party faithful to invest in weapons to assume the role of national security agencies who they suspect of bias; and commanding the lynching of people perceived to be altering the political process. Already, a call is gone out for people to be ready to die without the slightest consideration of what the outcome would be should the nation fall into conflagration.
No one ever indulges in an angry rage without doing injury to others and most of all to him or herself. The ‘simmering tensions’ preceding the 2012 election, especially the unnecessary call to arms with ‘ethnic cleansing’ tendencies, heightening the political pulse of the nation, galvanizing people to fight should be the last thing on the mind of any person who desires to rule this country.
The wisdom of those who framed our Constitution should guide us as we nurture our politics by building true internal democracy; we should at all times aspire to organize political parties that reflect true national identity. Also, I expect political stakeholders, to refer all grievances to the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) charged with the responsibility of improving trust, confidence and working relationship between the Electoral Commission and registered political parties.
We need to promote democratic governance that protects every ethnic group, large or small against social and economic injustices, irrespective of the size of the region’s resources. Again, no ethnic group in Ghana should fear for its existence because other ethnic groups with greater population, education and wealth appear to dominate political supremacy. No tribe or ethnic group – not even a Ghanaian individual whether resident here in Ghana or elsewhere – should be considered fit for death at the behest of any person or group of persons in this country. No!
In the last segment, I tried to establish why there is an urgent need to control political conversations and behaviour. I identified political hawkishness as posing inherent threat to the democracy and sovereign unity of this country. To say that the nation is already at the brink of mayhem is not being excessively cynical. The daily occurrence of violence and the nature of atrocities we witness, the sadistic posture of some of our youth on the streets, the horrid murders which occurred in some parts of the country which still beats the intelligence of our investigative agencies, are ample indicators that we are capable of committing the same heinous acts that we saw committed by people of other nations who have experienced war.
Patterns have emerged which inform our experiences. That is why Political leaders who claim to espouse democracy must not turn around to encourage recklessness in our national politics. We must assiduously, with all our nerve and verve, resist the creation of ethnic nationalism. At the right time, we may want to find out what is the motive behind the exaggerated political conversation by politicians and the rumble rousing? Is it greed or is it due to some genuine grievances?
The ‘simmering tensions’ preceding the 2012 election, especially the unnecessary call to arms with ‘ethnic cleansing’ tendencies, heightening the political pulse of the nation, galvanizing people to fight should be the last thing on the mind of any person who desires to rule this country.
MOBILIZING “USEFUL IDIOTS”?
Who do the proponents of ‘war’ have in mind to do their ‘dirty’ work? Political hawks, in their quest to seize every opportunity, do always organize “troops’ for the front lines. Who in this country are they mobilizing to be at the front lines of battle? Do we have in our midst the people classified as ‘useful idiots’ in political jargon?
Vladimir Lenin, the Leader of the Bolshevik Revolution which swept Russia and Eastern Europe is said to have used the term ‘Useful Idiots’ to identify stupid intellectuals in liberal democracies who promoted and furthered the political agenda of Communism.
The ‘useful idiots’ or the ‘stupid’, in our local politics, are those considered by some political leaders as the dregs of society fit to carry out the ‘dirty’ jobs of instigating and executing violence for hawkish politicians. Such perceived idiots are considered by hawkish politicians as people whose lives are expendable – people whose lives are of little significance, when compared to an overall purpose and therefore worthy to be abandoned after use.
They are the people the politician considers naive, foolish, ignorant of facts, unrealistically idealistic, wilfully in denial or deceptive, who hail from the ranks of chronically unhappy people at war with life. They could be found on the streets, or in the ivory towers of Academia. They are polluted to think they are not part of the political process – alienated from government and therefore prepared to be anti-establishment.
The useful idiot is the opposite of a person who honestly has a different point of view, whose views – though critical, helps to build a cohesive society. The useful idiot engages in wilful misinformation and deception when it suits him. As master practitioners of “scapegoating”, they assign blames to others whilst absolving themselves of responsibility. This is the person the political task master sees as being expendable. In other words, his or her blood has no value.
The Bible recounts a similar situation in the book of Judges chapter 9:1-5, where Abimelech played an ethnic card when he asked the people, “… which is better for you, the house of all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons to rule over you, or just one man? Remember, I am your flesh and blood. The Bible says, he raised money and hired reckless – vain people on his campaign trail who were instigated to kill those he perceived as enemies, just to make him king. Meanwhile, the people he killed were his kinsmen.
What do these hawks expect to achieve by instigating others through inflammatory political speeches? The blood of every Ghanaian is royal blood. No one Ghanaian should be considered ‘stupid’ – to sacrifice his or her life for the selfish interest of any person or group of persons. What establishment are we fighting to overthrow? Is it imperialism, colonialism or democracy? The colonial masters are no more here. Are they? Do we need an arms struggle to change from one government to another, when each government has only a span of four years to be in power? What is giving rise to the need for the beating of war drums?
THE COST OF WAR
A typical civil war may last up to about seven years; and it takes over a decade to recover from its effects. These effects are significantly persistent after the end of the war, and this is why, by the end of a typical civil war, the national economy is about 60% poorer than it would otherwise have been, therefore any development challenge, will take longer to resolve. It takes an even longer time to harmonize nations that fall victim to civil wars due to ethnic, religious and political polarization than that of nations which slipped into civil wars because of economic mismanagement. Whereas, blown up bridges and buildings could be reconstructed in no time, it takes more than financial aid to mend broken hearts, heal distrust, anger and suspicion.
It is never wise to use politics to create national anxiety. For, anxiety creates fear, fear instigated by politics leads to anger, anger breeds violence, violence which comes as a result of political, religious or ethnic polarization is deadly reality.
To enhance our democracy and the human dignity of our people, let us deliberately control our public political conversation and behaviour, before we push the country to the precipice of doom, for it to be used as a justification for acts of terror by adventurist with ‘messianic’ tendencies.
We all possess fateful powers to deal with fateful issues that confront Ghana as it stands tall over most countries in terms of quality democratic governance. So far, we have advanced our politics in a preferred democratic environment – multi-party parliamentary democracy, and this must not be disturbed by the very people who want to lead this country. Do not throw this country to the dogs.