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Feature Article of Sunday, 28 August 2011

Columnist: Darko, Otchere

Election 2012 Draws Near

By Otchere Darko

[*Readers who are not sure about this writer and get confused about his name and identity may please read the information placed at the bottom of this article.]

Our past elections have always left sour and disturbing memories behind. Current political developments, insulting utterances and exchanges between our two dominant parties, NDC and NPP, are also disturbing and discouraging. These two facts, combined, throw doubt on, and fear about what will happen during the impending election season generally, but most especially during the real election days. With the fact of the on-going extreme NDC/NPP hostilities in mind, viewed against our past electoral records, it is important that all role-players in the impeding parliamentary and presidential elections think about the supreme interest of the whole nation and take steps, between now and the full completion of the elections, to ensure that this nation gets a “trouble-free” election season next year. This article aims at appealing to political parties and their supporters, media houses and journalists, the Electoral Commission and its staff, the government, the police, ordinary Ghanaians symbolised by “the man on the street”, and all other Ghanaian citizens to commit themselves to a “trouble-free” 2012 election season that will show that Ghana is indeed democratically “mature”. To these lots and all, individually and severally, I make this appeal with due diligence and in full humility.

Political Parties and Party Members: *Political parties, especially NDC and NPP, must between now and the end of the election season stop using insulting, provocative and inflammatory languages that have the potential to heighten tensions and create fertile grounds for serious political clashes and brutalities. *Parties must also stop using party youth in general and “gangsters” in particular to attack, intimidate and disorganise opposing parties and their members who are campaigning or organising other party activities. *The practice whereby almost all Ghanaian politicians use “body guards” wherever they are and wherever they go is one major means by which politicians harass their political opponents. While the security of politicians, like that of all other citizens, is an essential part of democracy, the frequent misuse of private “body guards” by Ghanaian politicians to harass their political opponents is becoming an affront to multi-party democracy in Ghana; and this calls for a review and control of the practice. *Political parties must also stop misusing journalists and media houses for the commission of their “wars of insults” and their “pull-him-down” character-assassination acts against their opponents, as well as for disseminating false party propaganda materials.

Media Houses and Journalists: Collectively, media houses and journalists have been seen as architects and guardians of multi-party democracy wherever they act professionally and independently in their judgments and reportages. In Ghana, however, most media houses and journalists are not independent, because they openly ally themselves with specific parties and thereby compromise their independence and professionalism; and, by so doing, cease to be true architects and guardians of multi-party democracy in Ghana. *Ghanaian media houses and journalists must therefore strive to stay independent and unbiased...... except in cases where specific media houses are registered officially as belonging to specific parties and are therefore in existence to officially publish for the purpose of promoting the interests of those specific parties. The most serious damage media houses and journalists are inflicting on Ghana’s multi-party democracy, however, is through “radio talks” in which presenters publicly promote and supervise the “trading of political insults” by radio panellists or callers. *This horrible and shameful media and journalistic practice should cease, if media houses and journalists want to be seen as vanguards of multi-party democracy in Ghana; and, also, if they want the impending general elections to be “trouble-free”.

Other Role-Players: Apart from parties and media houses, other important role-players should also be proactive in creating the right political atmosphere for a peaceful election season. With Respect To The EC: *The Electoral Commission, in particular, has a duty to put in place new and effective electoral rules and regulations that will stop all political parties, including the party in power, from deploying harassers, intimidators and other “trouble-shooters” in various negative acts against their political opponents and, through such deployments, from possibly disrupting the smooth and peaceful conduct of election 2012. *In my opinion, the Electoral Commission should have its own security wing with special powers of arrest, so that it can arrest people who engage in acts that have the potential to constrain the EC from the effective conduct of elections, such as acts that impede the orderliness and peacefulness of the electoral environment or acts that taint the credibility of the various electoral processes that take place during the entire election season...... that is: power to invoke the EC’s own power of arrest, without having to wait for the police to come from outside to effect such arrest. *It is also important that the EC prepares and submits its budgetary needs in good time to enable the government to find the money it needs to organise the coming elections more efficiently than the Commission did in the last local government elections in particular. With Respect To The Government: *The government, on its part, must play its role better than it did during the last local government elections. It must do this by making its own “projected estimate” for the 2012 elections, setting this aside, and ultimately making it available to the EC, even before the latter submits its own, should the EC’s own budget for the 2012 elections be late in its submission. *Again, the government in its entire membership must show good leadership by setting the right political tone that will be needed to help achieve a “trouble-free” election season next year. The President, the Vice, Ministers, Deputy Ministers and other executive members are “superior citizens” of Ghana and, therefore, it is incumbent upon them to separate “the grain” from “the chaff” by behaving differently from the way ordinary NDC members and supporters behave. Through such “leadership by example”, members of the government should influence political change in Ghana and contribute towards the right political atmosphere that will ensure the needed “trouble-free” elections next year. With Respect To The Police: Like the media, we need a good police service to uphold democracy. Without effective policing, law and order can break down before, during, and after the impending elections. Policemen and women, unlike media people, form part of State security and, as such, they take instructions from the government. *This fact notwithstanding, police chiefs in charge of the various units have a duty to the nation to act professionally, independently, and without political bias. Police authorities owe the nation a duty to use their power responsibly and avoid taking instructions, or acting in ways that drag them and their service into partisan politics. They should, thus, be able to separate “police work” from “party politics” and act in the supreme interest of the nation always, by maintaining law and order during the entire election season, without fear of any executive reprisals. With Respect To Ordinary Ghanaians: *It is important that Ghanaians in general, but with special emphasis on ordinary Ghanaians who include “the poor youth”, should refrain from allowing themselves to be used as “donkeys” and “messengers” by politicians who want to commit atrocities against their political opponents, or who want to breach some electoral rules and regulations so as to give their parties certain advantages. Without the assistance and connivance of ordinary Ghanaians, especially “the poor youth”, evil politicians would not be able to commit many of the negative acts that mar the smooth and clean conduct of elections in Ghana. *Finally, no Ghanaian, acting on his own or in concert with others, should hide behind the “party screen” and throw “stones” at a fellow Ghanaian, or engage in other negative political activities that have the effect of pulling Ghana’s democracy and the nation’s socio-economic progress backwards and down the gutter.

As citizens who love our country, in whatever political situations we find ourselves, and whatever political roles we play, we must always do what will assure our nation and ourselves a “trouble-free” election season in the year 2012, and after.

Source: Otchere Darko; [Personal Political Views].

*About the Author:

[This appendage is for the information of only readers who get confused about this particular writer because of the name he uses, and who therefore need to know more about him or about the name he uses. Please, ignore this appendage, if you are not one of such readers. *This writer is just one of hundreds, and possibly thousands of Ghanaians who use the name “Otchere Darko”, either on its own, or in combination with other names. Some users spell this same name as “Okyere Darko”, while other users conjoin it with the help of a hyphen to become one single compound name, “Otchere-Darko” or “Okyere-Darko”, depending on which spelling-mode they choose. This writer, who has officially used this ‘simple name’ from his school days in the sixties into the seventies and continues to use it officially to this very day, attended the School of Administration of University of Ghana where he finally left in September 1977, the year that students embarked on the “UNIGOV” demonstration. He has never before, or after September 1977 been a student of the Ghana Law School. Up to the end of 1981, he worked as a senior public servant in, and for one of the mainstream Ministries in Ghana. He is not working for, and has never worked at the Danquah Institute. He is currently also not a member of NPP, or of any other party in Ghana. He is not related to any practising Ghanaian politician who uses this same or other name. *May readers concerned, please, take note of this exhaustive clarification and stop drawing wrong conclusions that sometimes lead them to attack a wrong person. Thank you for taking note.]

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