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Feature Article of Monday, 20 May 2013

Columnist: Ofosu–Appiah, Ben

Otumfuo Speaks, "Don’t Commit National Suicide".

Stop, Look and Listen Ghanaians: Otumfuo Speaks, "Don’t Commit National Suicide".

We have had some wise counseling coming from Otumfuo Osei Tutu II at the just ended National commission for Civic Education’s Annual Democratic lectures. The increased, excessive, and obsessive politicization of national issues by Ghanaians is driving us to the political abyss. The development and the national interest of Ghana should be our number one priority not the well being of the political party one belongs to. He said there was the need for a national consensus on fundamental issues in the country, suggesting the enactment of a legislation that would forbid governments from abandoning projects initiated by their predecessor. Words of wisdom. If only we will pay attention and listen.

The Otumfuo mentioned that the polarized political atmosphere has given rise to a new profession of serial callers, Say it Loud (Ghanaweb) resident praise singers and attack dogs, propagandists and communicators, and foot soldiers to whom good is bad if it is about the other party, and bad is good it it’s about their own party. If this culture is allowed to fester (I am afraid it is festering), it will stifle honest intellectual and political discourse and it will be dangerous and threatening to the survival of our democracy. He said these serial callers are foisting on the nation a new culture of insult and abuse in the name of free speech and accountability. This must be a twisted form of accountability.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu said freedom of speech has never meant freedom to insult or defame without just cause. “In the most liberal environment, every citizen is entitled to the protection of his honour and integrity, and the citizen does not lose that right because he offers to serve his nation,”

The Asantehene rightly mentioned that, this culture of impunity has pushed Ghana to the age of howlers. The louder you can shout and the more derisive and dishonest you can be, the more attention you can command. So there is this senseless rush to the microphone after each Supreme Court sitting to spew out derogatory comments about the other side by those who are supposed to know better. The General secretaries of the two leading political parties have been a very bad example to all neutral political observers who truly have the interest of Ghana at heart. The media houses in Ghana today have contributed to this poisoned culture of abuse and spewing of malicious political gossips and use of abusive language on air. The large number of so called political talk shows in Ghana defies common sense. I sometimes wonder if politics is all that there is to talk about. From the morning to midnight all that you hear on radio and TV are these cacophony of noises on air which has no structure, no organization, no logic in it and proffers no solutions. It is jumbled, nonsensical, and just people going at each other and using unprintable words against each other on air.

We don't have class in Ghanaian politics anymore all we got is crass. How come people in political office, people who aspire to be in that office, people who call themselves leaders can go on air, on national TV and go that low? Do they need anyone to remind them that one's political opponent isn't his/her enemy? But don't just blame the politicians alone, blame the Radio stations, and the TV stations that give them the platform to insult each other. In fact political discussions in Ghana are very amateurish and organized in a crass way, it belongs to the gutters for sure. The program producers on Radio and TV plus the presenters and moderators are far below average in their skills. They are what mediocrity is defined. I don't call these shows discussion.......they are senseless quarreling and throwing of abusive language here and there. It’s a shame they do not put their air time to better use instead of this crass shows.

There appears to be no rules, or if any there are, they are not enforced. People interject and interrupt each other at will, and it degenerates into a senseless arguments where people shout themselves hoarse and it goes on forever and ....God knows what. It is in a way a reflection of our undisciplined national life. Even high schools debating club/society debates are better organized and students are more disciplined. Of course the moderators a these high school debates always do a better job.

Political parties and the media are vital institutions that should play a critical role in our democratic development but as things stand now they seem to be rather pulling us back. Today, you cannot criticize your own political party without being called names including a traitor and some more unpalatable ones. In the minds of some people, one must NEVER disagree or criticize his own party even if it is abundantly clear that what the party is doing is illegal, senseless, and affront to human dignity. This is what the Asantehene referred to as bad is good if it is about your own party and good is bad it is about the other party.

Second only to the political discussion programs on air in terms of its annoyance and lack of solutions is the senseless religious services that take away precious man hours that could go into productive venture. Prayer, thanksgiving and fasting are no substitutes for hard work and visionary leadership. What makes countries prosperous are hard work, dedication and commitment towards a better tomorrow, creative thinking and visionary leadership. We are in the 21st century and manna will never fall from heaven. No amount of prayers, thanksgiving, fasting will put a state of the art hospital in Accra and equip it. It requires planning, creative thinking, critical assessment of our priorities, then the will to carry through.

Do we have to blame God for our failure to build hospitals, roads, upgrade our infrastructure, modernize our railway system to ease the burden on our roads? Do we have to blame God for scheming 10% off contracts, for running down Ghana Airways, for shortchanging Ghanaians on almost every contract? We can pray all we can but if we don’t punish wrong doing and shame perpetrators, the next bunch of thieves are just lurking around the corner because they know they can get away with it. Religion is the opium of the masses and easy and convenience excuse for laziness. Religion is second only to corruption and tribalism as our biggest threat to socio economic development. WE DO HAVE A BIG PROBLEM ON OUR HANDS WHEN OUR LEADERS STRESS RELIGION OVER HARD WORK AS A WAY FORWARD. God never build bridges and roads !!!! No. No, He never did !!!!

As the Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II concluded, in view of the enormous economic challenges facing the nation, the huge infrastructural deficit, huge public wage bill, collapsed National Health Insurance, rising inflation coupled with a rising cost of living, lack of basic necessities like good drinking water and uninterrupted electricity supply just to mention a few, there is a need for visionary leadership and consensus building to move the nation forward. He said although people might belong to different political persuasions, the true meaning of democracy was for them to forge unity in diversity to address their common problems. Otumfuo admonished Ghanaians to be guided by the warning at intersections:

Stop, Look and Listen – and reflect on the shortcomings of the country’s democratic dispensation in order to make amends. Ghana is at the crossroads and as it is with all prudent road users, before you cross, it is imperative you stop, look, and listen. What a brilliant and timely speech. Thank you sir.

Ben Ofosu–Appiah,

Tokyo, JAPAN.The writer is a senior socio- political and economic analyst and a policy strategist. He welcomes your comments; do4luv27@hotmail.com

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