Ghana’s Polarised Society: Can President Mahama’s bold initiative provide a cure?
Out of the cool harmatan weather and the soothing breeze gently beating the Independence Square stood a humble President John Dramani Mahama in an flowing immaculately white “agbada” or gown and declaring to the world: “I will ensure that our society is less polarised.”
Delivering his inaugural speech at the Square in Accra on Monday, January 7, 2013, President Mahama told the enthusiastic crowd; “I will work to ensure that our society is less polarized and weighted down by the pressures of political differences.
“I will work to ensure that Ghana is a place where all citizens, regardless of their religious faith, ethnicity or political affiliation, will have the opportunities available to them to reach their full potential.”
It is only a Ghanaian who just came from another planet who would deny that the country is polarised. The country is actually polarised. Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, a legal luminary, once observed that very soon “we are going to have NDC and NPP kenkey”.
Perhaps that is on a lighter side. It was not until I read the book; “My First Coup d’état” written by the current President John Dramani Mahama before I got the full import of what he had reiterated that under his regime no Ghanaian would become a refugee.
President Mahama had made this assertion when in 2008 he was campaigning for votes during rallies as a running mate to the late President John Evans Atta Mills for the National Democratic Congress (NDC). “No one would go into exile because of his political posture” Mr Mahama had declared.
He would say, “Voting in an election is a civil right and responsibility which does not need to degenerate into violence to warrant the Police to disperse rowdy crowd and chase people with clubs and guns.”
In that book President Mahama vividly painted a picture where his father, Mr E.A. Mahama who was a Minister in the Nkrumah era, went into detention when that regime was overthrown in a military coup d’état. The father went into exile again when the Limann administration fell.
Those painful detentions and exiles must have gone into the young Mahama and influenced him to decide that if he was given the power, never should any Ghanaian go into exile because of their political orientation.
Events leading to the 2012 general election sharply brought to the fore the need for peace to the extent that the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II engaged the political party leaders to sign a peace pact. After the Kumasi peace accord, Nana Akufo-Addo declared that no Ghanaian blood would be shed because he wanted to be a President of the nation.
But if Otumfuo, had not been informed about the tension being generated within the political parties, especially between the NPP and the NDC he would not have undertaken that enterprise. Almost everybody including traditional rulers, civil societies were clamouring for peace in the run-up to the December elections. Thus Otumfuor’s action invariably strengthened the African saying that when the elder is in the house the goat does not give birth on a tether.
The saying that coming events cast their shadows holds good for all time. The Kumsai Accord notwithstanding, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) rejected the 2012 results and took to the streets both in Accra and Kumasi, and even declared that the demonstrations would be held in all the regional capitals whiles at the same time indicating that the constitutional path open to them was for them to go to court.
Had it not been for sober and right-minded people within the NPP, the Ghanaian culture of tolerance and the efficiency of the National Security apparatus, those demonstrations could have gone sour.
It was reported that one NDC supporter was killed at the Obra Spot near Nkrumah Circle where the NPP held one of its demonstrations and yet Nana Akufo-Addo had publicly proclaimed before the elections that not a drop of Ghanaian blood will be spilled for him to become president.
One could only imagine what would have happened if a die-hard NDC supporter retaliated in a like manner or even if a frenzied policeman had fired a gun during the incident and incidentally killed someone.
In 2008 when NDC supporters also besieged the premises of the Electoral Commission the action attracted vehement public disapproval media condemnation.
A press conference the NPP held after filing its petition protesting against the presidential result of December 7, 2012 also turned rowdy. Supporters of the NPP massed up at the news conference, contrary to the guidelines of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) on the coverage of such events. The journalists there did not protest. It was Nana Akomea, NPP Director of Communications who, embarrassed by the situation, called for sanity.
Perhaps what saved the situation, too, was the Ghanaian love for peace emanating our culture/tradition, respect for religion, coupled with greater public education and the efforts of the National Peace Council and the National Security.
Indeed the vanquished has become the victor and there is fear in the air. Thomas Jefferson once said: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the Police there is anxiety, when the Police fear the people, there is liberty and comfort … “
This is indicative of the fact that despite the incessant and numerous calls for peace during and after the election events have manifested in fear and the need for peace.
Will Mr Alban Bagbin, the former Minority Leader in 2001 be right in observing that “it is now obvious that in Ghana soldiers are not the problem but the politicians are”. Mr Bagbin made the observation at the National Theatre in Accra during one of the sessions of the National Reconciliation Commission under the erstwhile Kufuor Administration.
Mr Jones Kugblenu, Director of Parliamentary Affairs has always told the journalists of the Parliamentary Press to be circumspect in their reportage so that they would not carry any unguarded statement or wild allegation made by any politician to create a problem for the country.
He said the journalists should be careful so that politicians would not use them or their media to create anarchy where some adventurous military man would take advantage of the situation.“It is not the military who are anxious to create coup d’états but politicians.” These are serious view-points which have far-reaching implications on Ghanaian society.
It has been held that the opposition in yester-year, the ancestors of the NPP contributed in no small way to turning Nkrumah into a dictator in the early stages of nationhood. So if by the action of the NPP of challenging election results by making governing impossible for the winner then the progress of the nation is what suffers.
Whiles many a Ghanaian has observed that the NPP is right in seeking redress in the court system as a mark of respect for constitutional governance and the rule of law, many have also found apprehensive the prejudicial judgements and comments from political commentators which can only deepen the acrimony and polarisation of the society.
Many a persimist would argue that ridding Ghanaian society of its current polarised nature would be next to impossible, but it is imperative that every Ghanaian lends support to President Mahama’s bid to heal the nation of this malignant canker so that a situation is not created where some future generation of Ghanaians would stand in a foreign country one day and point to where a rich Ghana once was.