Opinion:Ghana’s Service Commanders, The President Or The Constitution?

President J.A. KufuorThe president appoints the chiefs and they obey his commands

Ghana’s service commanders may be facing crossroads in the country’s democratic process with the people voting on issues and appreciating the foundations of a strong democracy; that is a resolute working constitution that guarantees, human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press etc.

The constitution designates one Commander In Chief, CINC, the President of the Republic of Ghana. The president appoints the chiefs and they obey his commands. These Generals or their equivalent are like gods in the regimented services. A General is such that she orders an underling and it has to be obeyed even as the underling knew he was being dispatched to commune with the gods forever. Imagine being told indirectly to go and die and you do it. The song “zombie” by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was dead right on the money albeit an affront to the honourable men and women of the military who have pledged their souls to the service of their countries.

Only Buffalo Soldier, General Arnold Quainoo promised not to give such order when he told Ecomog soldiers “I want to send ten thousand men into the battlefield and bring back ten thousand men,” and the soldiers cheered. Good for morale.

And here is the question to Ghana’s service commanders

The disciplined service chain of command has to be maintained at all times with high morale and quality leadership. Throw that chain of command and discipline through the window and you have disaster, disorganised and or organised chaos, and dawn broadcasts. A mutiny then is the worst disgrace any commander in the chain of command could face and it is avoided at all cost, sometimes at the cost of human lives. This is how important the service commanders are to any democracy but, now comes the question.

And here is the question to Ghana’s service commanders, if the President of the Republic of Ghana, Commander In Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces gave you an order to circumvent the constitution, would you obey it?

Fair question and it was a focus during the Watergate scandal in the US in the early 70’s. The book, Four Stars by Mark Perry which traced the formation of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff from General Omar Bradley, the first Chairman to Admiral Crow in 1985 revealed how the service chiefs took offence when it was suggested that President Nixon could ask the military to bail him out instead of leaving office after he was embroiled in that scandal and there was pressure on him to resign.

Would you disobey a direct order from your CINC, the president?

Roll call, Chief Of Defence Staff, Lt General Joseph Boakye Danquah, Chief Of Army Staff, Major General Samuel Anum Odotei, Chief of the Naval Staff Rear Admiral Arthur Riby Sampa Nuno, Chief of Air Airforce Staff Air Vice Marshal Jo Boateng, Inspector General Of Police Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong, Director Of The Bureau Of National Investigation, Joshua Kyeremeh and Director of Immigration Ms Elisabeth Adjei. Would you disobey a direct order from your CINC, the president if it contravened the constitution or is not properly explained in the constitution? What if the order would result in genocide or if the order would seriously destroy your hard earned reputation forever and muddy the military or your service, would you obey it or resign?

These questions point to a grey area in governance that shows that at the end of the day, conscience, morality, virtue, these are values that become the main guidance in making a decision. Luckily, President Nixon resigned and the Generals were never tested in that area. The long lasting democracies are the ones that have been continuously tried and tested. Right now, the American democracy is undergoing a minor tricky test where a governor caught in corruption scandal still has the legal right and appointed a replacement senator for president elect Obama who resigned from his senate seat.

Those countries’ service commanders were not tested

This edition of VooDoo Child was taken from an earlier edition published in September titled “Showing John Who The Real John Is,” after ex-President Rawlings and some ex-security chiefs were banned from entering military installations following a meeting with the ex-president over unrest in the country. Those Generals made decisions that have helped guide Ghana through turmoil to what we have today. Our neighbours provide perfect examples of misadventure Generals making wrong decisions that were largely based on their own survival, riches and power.

Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and now Guinea. Name almost all African countries and others largely in the developing world; Pakistan, Haiti, any country in which people cannot criticise the authorities freely without being persecuted. None of them has what Ghana has today, stronger freedom of association, freedom of the press, human rights; and this is partly because those countries’ service commanders were not tested or did not pass the test like most of those banned service chiefs in Ghana.

Recap the 7th paragraph, MORAL JUDGMENT, VIRTUE, CONSCIENCE, those become values that should guide the military, police and other regimented service commanders when confronted with a grey area in upholding the constitution or executing a command. Our service commanders need the moral support of the citizenry. VooDoo Child is always about debate in civility and the question remains, “WOULD YOU DISOBEY A DIRECT ORDER FROM YOUR CINC, THE PRESIDENT IF IT CONTRAVENED THE CONSTITUTION OR IS NOT PROPERLY EXPLAINED IN THE CONSTITUTION?

Credit: Richard Dzifah Hiatsi