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Uneducated citizenry is like a pitch any game can be played on it. Illiteracy is what has given the politicians in Ghana the chance to fool so many people for so a long a time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Are we practicing democracy or thuggery?

Democracy in Ghana, over the years, has been touted as one of the best in the world. Most political pundits and analysts, as well as influential leaders, e.g., Barack Obama have all concluded that Ghana is a democratic icon on the continent. I have also held that view, but after a sober and careful reflection on developments in the country during elections, I am afraid, we are not yet there.

If we define democracy as the orderly transfer of power from one regime to the other, I would agree that democracy is gaining grounds in the country. But we all know that democracy is not all about the transference of power from one party to the other. We would be living under serious illusions if we were to go by this definition. If we would be honest to ourselves, you would agree with me that we have a lot of work on our hands to execute if we want to deepen our democratic culture.

If a group of irate individuals, mostly youths could besiege the premises of the electoral commission with cutlasses, machetes, guns, etc. after the second ballot in December 2008 to demand the commission to declare the results in favor of a certain party, then we should not deceive ourselves of being the most democratic country on the continent. When after the extraordinary and historical visit of President Obama to the country, where he parted us on the back for our democratic credentials, we still fight and injure the other individuals on the other side of the political divide during elections at only six polling stations in Akwatia, then what are we talking about? The unfathomable aspect of this election was that the outcome was obvious. If Baba Jamal had pulled off that rerun, it would have been the greatest comeback since Lazarus, I tell you.

What we have to do as a nation is to stop living under illusions, and take the bull by the horns in addressing the issues that lend themselves to all these violence that have become a norm during electioneering campaigns. We have obviously made gains, I agree, but what is left to be accomplished supersedes the gains made. You Know what, if democracy is about governance, if it is about the people, then why all these unnecessary and orchestrated violence during elections? This is obviously not democracy, but “democrazy.” When electorates hide implements such as axes, machetes, clubs, etc. etc. in their bodies at polling stations, a practice that belonged to the anachronistic era and not this day and age, would you then agree with me, just allow me to borrow a popular saw used by the NDC administration that our democracy is “not what we have been made to believe.” If we want to move our democracy forward and enjoy its benefits, then we have to put in the right measures. There are a lot of measures that can be used to address this canker- hooliganism and violence in our body politic, but would like to proffer only three suggestions.

First, we have to re-educate our politicians. This point might appear ludicrous, but I think it’s crucial if we took it serious. Here is why! Most of our politicians are the cause of the electoral violence that we witness time and again in the country. They don’t only hire thugs, macho men, etc., but also supply them with drugs and alcohol that ginger them to engage in these heinous crimes and atrocities.

Honestly, I couldn’t hide my frustrations and disappointments when I heard some politicians conceding this unholy act of supporting the executors of violence during elections on some radio stations in the country. The saddest aspect of this situation is that majority of these politicians are educated, with most of them having obtained their degrees outside the shores of Ghana. When educated politicians are behind all these violence, doesn’t it make sense for them to undergo re-education? They are simply educated illiterates, if not self-centered nation wreckers.

Second, after the re-education of the politicians, I expect the government to strive to drastically reduce the rate of illiteracy (47%, 2006) in the country. Literacy and democracy are not mutually exclusive. There is nowhere in the world where democracy can thrive and succeed when majority of the populace is illiterate. The high illiteracy rate allows some unscrupulous politicians to take advantage of these unfortunate, poor, starving unlettered folks to achieve their selfish ends. If our government is serious in underpinning democracy in the country, then it’s about time they took a critical look at literacy development in the country. Educate the people, and you will end up achieving real democracy, and not the pseudo-democracy we pride ourselves in. When the electorates are lettered, they will not give heed to the diabolical and uncivilized orchestrations and machinations of politicians who use religion, ethnicity, tribalism, among others to set their heads against each other.

Finally, our elected officials should exhibit some sense of patriotism. Patriots think more about their countries than themselves. They seek the betterment and transformations in the lives of their people. They don’t instigate the less endowed to take clubs, guns, machetes, etc. to visit mayhem on their fellow brothers and sisters in order for them to obtain political power. Patriots fight together with their country folks to defeat their common enemy. We are not enemies; we are a people with a common cause fighting a common enemy. Our enemies are poverty, hunger, and disease, and not those who differ from us in opinions, views, and ideologies. Patriots build a country; they don’t destroy it. They build the people; they don’t brutalize and kill them. In this 21st century, when other countries, especially the eastern ones are working assiduously to overcome the challenges of globalization and poverty, some of our elected officials are busying themselves in creating a wedge amongst us; so that they can realize their ambition of becoming public officials where they can be in money overnight. These guys don’t think about what they have to offer their country, but rather how to amass wealth and safeguard their futures. Too bad, isn’t it?

Until we get to the point where the above delineated points are considered with all seriousness, we should not deceive ourselves that our democracy has taken root. To some extent, we have made progress, but very little. We have long miles to cover. Until our politicians start thinking more about the country than themselves, and do away with their intentional manipulation of the electorates to realize their selfish interest, we should understand that we are not yet there. There is no place for violence or hooliganism in democracy; we should endeavor to eliminate them from our democracy. Winning an election should not be at the expense of innocent poor souls. The blood of every Ghanaian is more precious than the ambitions of any politician. God bless Ghana!!

Credit: Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, Educational Consultant, IAF- Munich

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