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Monday, March 22, 2010

Ghana: The Coming Anarchy: A stitch in time saves nine

Otumfuo Osei Tutu II
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II

When in the early 1990s Robert Kaplan warned of a looming anarchy that would engulf the whole of West Africa, many thought that he was an alarmist of insane proportions.

But it came to pass that few years later Liberia, Sierra Leone and later the Ivory Coast saw anarchy of unimaginable dimensions.

What Kaplan saw as necessary ingredients for the anarchy were the dictatorship, the clientilist approach to governance, corruption, tribalism, indiscipline at all levels of society, and above all imprudence in economic management, that were pervasive in the governance systems of west African states at the time.

We in this column have had occasions to warn of similar consequences for our nascent democracy, if we did not eschew exclusivism, partisanship, mediocrity, pettiness, and especially indiscipline from our body politic. We had said that an undisciplined society never progresses, it retrogresses at all times. The negatives that we have enumerated above did not start emerging in our society today.

Unfortunately, we are fond of nurturing them for use at the appropriate times. Since the days of the so-called revolution, indiscipline has been allowed to be part of our national psyche. The rule of law has been thrown to the dogs. Instead of nurturing and growing the principles of the rule of law and of democracy, we practice how to be defiant, lawless, and unprincipled. The worse offenders have been the political leadership of this country and the media. We call on people to be so-called positively defiant and they do our bidding for pittance.

As such they are ready to carry away ballot boxes or beat opponents in times of elections. They are ready to be called ‘macho-men’, or in a more polite form ‘foot soldiers’. The media, on the other hand is prepared harp on the sensational, the controversial, the most mind-boggling non-sense, the insipid lies, and many more that assist more in polarizing society than help nurture democracy and growth.

In effect, we have a society so polarized, and effectively impatient, illiterate on all dimensions of nation-building, and ready to tear the nation apart in the name of politics. Partisanship has permeated all the fabric of society to the extent that very soon the air we breathe would have to be distributed through partisan lenses. Incidentally, state institutions, upon whose platforms democracy may be built have all been belted under the idiotic hypnosis of this unfortunate but unfolding drama.

Anytime there is a change of government state institutions begin to behave differently. The police, for instance had to instantly act as soon as my friend, Kofi Adams, reported that someone had insulted the former Head of State, Jerry John Rawlings.

I do not know the law. But I know that insulting a Head of State is unlawful. We are told that there is a law dating back to the 1970s which forbids the publication of false information designed to cause disaffection and/or to incite public unrest. That is a very good law. But where were the police when Asemfofro kept heaping insults on President Kuffour? Where were they when on 28th December a Radio station asked Ghanaians to get ready for war? Where were they when we were told that President Kufour had emptied the vaults of the Bank of Ghana of all the gold bars?

Some ex-government officials are being hauled to the courts for various alleged offences. I have no quarrel with that. My beef is where were the SFOs, BNIs, CIDs etc., and all the state institutions mandated to be the gatekeepers of our country in various capacities? President Clinton was made to face the law by an Attorney General (Janet Reno), whom he had appointed to office in the first place.

All this is happening in our country because of all that we said above – partisanship, indiscipline, clientilism etc. Politics is polarizing our society to frightening dimensions. In appointments to public offices, in issues of national interests, in fact, in everything, politics is the least common denominator (LCM). The most frightening of all is that politics has entered the Chieftaincy institution.

Most of the tribal wars we have on our hand have been exacerbated by politics. It is nauseating to note that during the succession deliberations of who inherits Otumfuo Opoku ware II, a government delegation went to Kumasi to present drinks to the Queen Mother on behalf of a contestant. Again, after the unfortunate assassination of the Ya Na, Yakubu Andani of Dagbon, political capital was seriously made of it to the extent that a particular political party quickly made T-Shirts, bearing the party colours and the effigy of the slain Ya Na.

Of late we are witnessing partisan cleansing of the public sector institutions. The ‘proceed-on-leave’ syndrome and the spectre of party faithfuls and/or ‘foot-soldiers’, hounding officials out of their offices and virtually dismissing them are a sour blot on our democracy. What this means is that we are going to have cycles of vengeance politics – a recipe for disaster.

Dear Mr. President, you promised to be the ‘father of all Ghanaians’. But you recently told the journalists that if anybody did not share your ideology it would be difficult to work with such a person. This reduces you to be the father of only one party.

This statement of yours may have served as a catalyst to the syndrome of macho-men, foot-soldiers hounding people out of office. This is against the rule of law! Janet Reno, whom we earlier referred to is a Republican but President Clinton appointed her and worked with her for eight years. The current Defense Secretary of the US, Gates, is equally a Republican who worked under President Bush. But Obama has retained him. The current US Ambassador to China is a Republican.

The latest on our hand is the Tuobodom-Techiman feud. It is precisely because it has been politicized, it is precisely because the police are perceived to be partisan that the Asantehene is angry and bore his teeth. Now we have to rush a government delegation in to calm the waters.

Quickly and ironically, the police are now prepared to investigate the kidnapping issue. Can we imagine how even the chieftaincy institution is becoming undisciplined and that the macho-men syndrome has reached our palaces? What a world! Can we build a society based on rule of law and institutional governance? We in this column have always said that democracy is a process. It is driven by the rule of law and wheeled by institutional autonomy (governance).

Democracy is derailed when there is no rule of law. Democracy collapses when institutions of state are belted under the whims of an incumbent government. Such situations breeds indiscipline and anarchy is the inevitable result.

Credit: Dr. V. Antwi-Danso/Ghanaian Times

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