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Feature Article of Friday, 15 July 2011

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Political Intolerance And Politicians In Ghana

KWESI ATTA SAKYI



11TH JULY 2011



Politics is described as the art of the possible and an arena for the influential who play power games. Someone once said that politics is capable of doing anything except to turn a man into a woman and vice versa. The word politics is derived from the Greek word polis which means city. Plato described man as a politikos bios or city dweller or political animal. People in the city are presumed civilized, urbanized, polished and have refined and urbane manners. It is therefore sad to note that politics these days has been reduced to a dirty game of mud slinging, innuendos, propaganda, character assassination and a whole gamut of unprintable epithets. The unprofessional media in Ghana have not helped matters as they go to unnecessary lengths of stretching the truth and fabricating lies and unfounded rumours to poison the political chalice. If our politicians consider themselves to be a cut above the rest, they should not stoop so low as to bribe the judiciary or journalists to swing the pendulum in their favour even when their case has no merit. This is because he who comes to justice/equity must come with clean hands and the law is no respecter of persons as it is blind. In this age and time of human rights, accountability, transparency and democracy, we expect our politicians to rise above petty issues and to focus their attention more on urgent national issues such as how to tackle corruption, how to create jobs, how to grow our economy, how to provide welfare payments to the vulnerable, how to salvage our waning educational system, how to improve our social and public infrastructure and foremost, how to secure the commanding heights of our economy for ourselves and generations to come instead of our economy being mortgaged and controlled by foreigners and powerful overseas multinationals. From time to time, I expect the President, Prof Mills, to confer with Nana Akuffo Addo (NPP) and Paa Kwesi Nduoum (CPP) on the way forward for Ghana. We expect our leaders to cooperate in advancing the so called Better Ghana Agenda by forging together a grand masterplan for Ghana such as a 7 year plan or a 10 year accelerated plan. These long term plans are the ones which can create jobs for idle hands, some of whom are tempted to indulge in armed robbery, drug trafficking, prostitution, galamsay and other unorthodox jobs such as street vending. Why can’t we borrow a leaf from Germany or Britain or France where politicians do not engage in bitter acrimony in the press but rather they engage in issue-based compaigns. I think we lack proper political education in Ghana. This is why many people are bitter as they fail to understand how their government works or operates. Take for example the fact that many semi-literate Ghanaians describe Prof Atta Mills as being slow. Have these people considered the intricacies and ramifications of the constitution as well as what is called the due process of the law? How can the President wake up one morning and use his prerogative or veto power to sack the Chief Justice or to sack the top civil servants and replace them with foot soldiers, party cadres? This can lead to impeachment and numerous court cases. The late Prof K.A.Busia of the Progress Party caused a purge of the civil service, infamously dubbed Apollo 569 in the early 70s. In the USA, it was President Andrew Jackson in the early 19th Century who introduced the concept of “jobs for the boys when he took office. In this 21st century, you will enter a minefield if you dare do an act like that because it is against human rights and it is not politically correct as it can lead to political suicide. Former President Kufuor once came to Lusaka, Zambia with a delegation made up of members from across the political divide because he wanted inclusiveness and continuity. I was then Secretary of the Ghanaian Association in Zambia, a post I held for 10 years.



In conclusion, I enjoin all the politicians in Ghana to work closely together to promote the interest of Ghanaians and not their own selfish petty agendas or projects. Our late first president was selfless. So were many of the freedom fighters who fought for independence in Africa.



I therefore call on President Atta Mills to call for an inter-party dialogue (insaka, ubuntu or durbar) to help bring about sanity in our media and in the way we do politicking in Ghana. Politicians have a bounden duty to educate their followers to desist from spreading lies and cooking cock and bull stories which dent the image of Ghana abroad. Even within the same party, we must practise democracy, political tolerance and restraint. I highly commend Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings for her boldness in contesting the primaries in the NDC.



The same goes for Alan Kyeremanten in the NPP. All these are future leaders-in-waiting and they should not be written off. After all, everybody has equal rights under our constitution. The future will be bright for Ghanaian politics if Ghanaians become patient, well-read and they take pains to logically reason and weigh every situation before they utter a boom statement. The wise talk less but fools chatter and jabber nonsense all day, ad nausea. To such, they had better go back to school.



In conclusion, I call upon all the political party leaders to lead exemplary lives by rising to the occasion in the area of being cautious with their political statements in the media. They should constantly admonish their followers and self-appointed spokespersons not to be sarcastic or careless with their statements in the media. Respect begets respect so all the political party leaders should respect one another and they should neither sit on the fence nor engage in backbiting or slanderous statements in an attempt to malign and destroy their political opponents. In the process, they are destroying themselves and Ghana. I expect our leaders to show political maturity, to be magnanimous and to try to build bridges across the political divide. They must remember that Ghana is Africa’s lodestar and Mecca of peace and so we expect all and sundry to shine like the twinkle twinkle little stars. President Atta Mills, as the incumbent president, should encourage more frequent dialogues with the opposition leaders because he is the father of the nation. The opposition leaders in turn should recognize him as such because they will have their turn to assume the mantle of office and they will be reciprocated in being accorded the same respect. To the media houses, I enjoin the editorial boards to behave professionally by reporting only facts and not concocted fabrications. As the fourth estate of government, they have an onerous role to play in promoting and advancing the frontiers of democracy in Ghana and as such, they had better become circumspect and professional by living up to their ethics and standards. I will enjoin the National Media Council to discipline their members and to impose severe penalties on the erring members or the black sheep.



By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

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