Sometimes when activists of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) discuss violence perpetrated against party members over differences, they do so as if violence is intrinsic to party organisation. Some of the discourses and name callings make intra-party violence look healthy and desirable.
Some discussants often take their contributions to sickening levels and become irritants by their lack of sensitivity to the fact that they are addressing issues that touch at the core of democracy.
Violence in any manifestation cannot be ‘afisem’, neither ‘aponkye ntokwa’, because anytime violence is displayed by party supporters, the national interest is undermined. More important, the resort to the use of deadly weapons because of political differences or preferences can never be part of the democratic ethos and the principle of choice or alternatives.
But activists and supporters of the leading political parties could talk about intra-party violence in such patronising manner because our governments and coercive institutions of state have since January 7, 1993, looked on helplessly and haplessly as hoodlums take innocent citizens hostage. We have always tended to clothe such bestial acts under the guise of internal party activism, but violence can never be part of the democratic ethos.
Last week, there was violence at the NPP head office where two supposedly loyal party supporters were ready to tear each other apart with machetes because of disagreement over certain developments. And from the camp of the NDC, there were reports of violence over constituency elections in Obuasi and Asokwa, a suburb of Kumasi. The NDC has recorded a number of violent attacks at its party head office due to misunderstanding, including where an activist and serial caller, Dr Asemfoforo, nearly lost his life. There was also the harrowing experience of Dr Obed Asamoah, former National Chairman (NDC), when the party met at Koforidua, leading to the splintering of the party. There were allegations of violence in the period that Ghanaians jockingly and euphemistically refer to as the period of the FONKAR-GAME.
Returning to the NPP where the violence was triggered by an administrative instruction for a staff member to proceed on part of an expansive accumulated leave, that ordinarily should not spark violence or any misunderstanding at all since that should be routine. Perhaps one may argue that the timing was wrong or inappropriate. The three months from August to October this year is a very critical period for the NPP and will require all available human resources to be harnessed to prosecute the agenda of the party. One may, therefore, be tempted to agree with those who felt it was a bad period to ask the party’s director of communications to proceed on leave when his services may be badly needed to reach out to the diverse publics and stakeholders in the processes of electing a presidential candidate for the party.
But whether you are with those who gave the directive or those against it, for whatever reason, the deployment of machetes and guns cannot be the means to resolve any disagreements. Democracy is about free choice and alternatives, not might or force. We must, thus, come to the understanding that violence and brutish force are no elements of democracy.
We have to entrench the principle of tolerance, open discourse, debate and the necessity to agree to disagree if we want our democracy to grow. There is nothing positive about sticking to our positions and still claiming to be open and democratic. Politics must not be built on mutual hatred and mistrust, but openness and transparency.
Therefore, we must begin to deal decisively with all acts of violence and vandalism involving deviant youth within the NPP and NDC, which in the past had gone unpunished. The situation where our security institutions, especially personnel of the Ghana Police Service, sometimes view such crimes as internal party matters and where at other times attempts by the police to act are thwarted by party officials must end. More critically, since such deviants are known within the party circles, they must be disowned and shamed to serve as deterrents.
As our elders maintain, the anger of the lizard is not so much directed at the one who shoots it as the one who praises its killer as a great marksman. Those using violent and deviant acts to promote their political agenda must be exposed, but those who project them in glorious and laudatory terms must equally be condemned and detested like vermin. These commentators compromise such bestial acts and abuse the sensibility and sensitivity of true democrats and innocent Ghanaians. Let us do away with the bestiality in the name of party politics.