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Opinions of Saturday, 9 October 2010

Columnist: Appiah, Gifty Andoh

2012 And Beyond,Better Bawku, Atiwa And Tema Experiences


There comes a time when a nation needs to put aside politics; better still, “dirty”
politics in order to achieve the greater good for the greatest number in society. In
reference to my article, “Return Military Regime”, I foresaw a dangerous time
approaching, when the youth of this country could take the law into their hands with
the “magic” of mobilization. From that time till now, I have heard a number of
discussions on radio and television pointing to the same direction. Social
commentators, conflict analysts, common people like myself and politicians alike
have expressed similar concerns passionately one way or the other.
It seems to me however, that this is only a repetition of trend as there have been
countless discussions and debates on one issue after the other without any concrete
yields. Talk, discussions and arguments, which mostly turn out to be battles of
grammatical prowess and determination of who has the most sophisticated arguing
skills, seem to be the order of the day. Its either a showdown of who wields
political upper hand or unnecessary personality attacks, while the main issues hang
in the throats of people, waiting for a calamity to happen before a move is made.
Talk is good but extremely useless when not backed with actions.
I stumbled on the footage of some youth at Tema giving the police a “run for their
teargas” over a piece of land. It was not much of what I will describe as a horrific
scene but I feared, I feared for the future and what could happen if things like
that continued. It looked no different from the pictures I have seen of things that
have happened in Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Pakistan, India and all the other
violent pictures I have seen about war torn areas. The police engaging civilians.
That seem to have been the trend of “humble” beginnings of civil unrests which
degenerates into the unthinkable.
It was a terrible sight of energetic youth defying the presence of policemen to
exhibit a strong sense of destructive manpower; manpower which could have been used
to work at achieving the president’s “Beter Ghana Agenda”, being washed down the
drain. They insulted, cursed, warned and burnt car tyres. It was a stone throwing
spree as mothers ran helter skeltor with their children. Good old Ghana Police on
the other hand, retaliated with teargas (amidst alleged gunshots). Having had an
experience with that gas myself during the Ashaiman mayhem, I wandered how these
young people managed to continue the stone throwing in the midst of the tear gas.
They were determined to press home their demand and would allow nothing to stand in
the way. A “can do” spirit being used negatively.
Closing my eyes, I remembered what I saw of the Atiwa By-elections and then Pictures
of my own imagination from an eye witness’ account of the Rwandan genocide
(Immaculee’s Left To Tell) played back in my mind. Groups wielding machetes, killing
people as and when they felt and burning down houses filled with human beings. I
remembered pictures of what I have seen about Sierra Leon and Liberia (both
fictitious and real) the “long and short sleeved” cuts given to children and adults
alike. A playback of the story told about a pregnant Liberian woman whose belly was
split open by some soldiers just to confirm their argument over the sex of the
unborn child as well as pictures of how women and girls have been brutally raped and
abused. Pictures of children being drugged, brainwashed and given guns to go on
shooting sprees. Many of such children have died and those who survived are said to
be as good as dead due to psychological traumas and physical
disabilities. Seeing the people and things you love and care about being burnt down
to ashes and being able to do nothing except to run for your dear life which hang
in the balance. Such has been the stories of warring nations; these stories have
begun with mobilization and incitement of young people.
I began asking if indeed Ghana was as peaceful and if the people are incapable of
causing serious chaos as we have been made to believe. In my opinion, the wickedness
in the heart of man as the bible says, and for that matter Ghanaians has not yet
been ignited to such a level .it has not yet gotten to the level of escalation,
which for me is the reason why we have convinced ourselves that Ghana is peaceful
and that Ghanaians are incapable of harming a “fly”. This state of conviction is
good but if we consider reality as most important, then this notion cannot be proven
“beyond reasonable doubt”. Evidence lies in the disturbing phenomenon of such youth
groups having their way through violent means.
The experiences of our brothers and sisters up North, especially Bawku, that of the
people in Atiwa during the recent by-elections and Tema, including sporadic unrests
which almost always follows one appointment or the other when “foot soldiers” are
unhappy coupled with bits and pieces of protests here and there, which usually gets
bloody and seizure of buildings among other things, should be telling us to go the
extra mile to ensure a much more peaceful coexistence in the midst of political,
tribal, religious and even sexual adversities. Lets take cognitive of the fact that
we live in a world of possibilities, where the “can do attitude” can be useful both
positively and negatively, where anything can happen. That should give us more than
clues as to what to do, what not to do and what to expect if we do not what ought to
be done as a people. As for chieftaincy and land disputes, the least said about them
in this piece, the better. Otherwise you
might whisper to yourself “yeatiaabre”(we have heard enough).
These things have happened to people like us. To countries like us. They do not hate
peace and harmony. The question is whether they saw it coming or not. What they did
or not do to have caused them such? What they could have done to change the
storyline as it is told today? The consequences of their actions and inactions most
importantly are what we as Ghanaians should learn from. Like the old adage goes, “se
obi abojwe eeshia, sa nsuo si wodie ho”(stand by with water when someone’s beard
catches fire)The same blood runs through all of us. As a matter of fact, we are
relatives. We are Africans. As to whether Ghanaians are more peace-loving, the
debate is on-going.

In 2012, Ghanaians will either retain or change government. This exercise has a
history of sporadic violence although we have been rated better than others and we
must stretch to our limits to keep it clean and deathless as much as possible. I
know the police will do their best but the fact that they get overwhelmed cannot be
overemphasized. I am calling for an extra step of diligence and sincerity from each
and every Ghanaian especially those in charge, towards ensuring peace and to better
if not prevent the Atiwa experience where 1200 policemen were seemingly overwhelmed
by situations in a single district. What happens then in the national elections?
That extra step is more than necessary.
Youth mobilization to press home a particular demand, which seem to be brewing a
culture of impunity, is a looming danger that needs to be checked with urgency. It
appears as though, once we earn something at the end of the day, have a place to lay
our heads, a place to run when nature calls, wake up to the bright smiles of the
people we love, every other thing is a discussion and remains so, mostly
politicized irrespective of the consequences until something terrible happens.
There is the need for all of us, from the presidency to the extremely ordinary
Ghanaian to make a conscious effort towards maintaining peace. It is not enough to
believe that “Ghanaians do not like fighting”. I’m calling for a national
consciousness, that no matter how peace-loving a group is thought to be, it takes
just the necessary ignition to cause the tables to turn. The peaceful nature of
Ghana cannot and should not be taken for granted.
As the good book puts it in Jeremiah 17:9 (King James’ Version) “the heart is
…desperately wicked…”.In one of his books, Bishop Dag Heward Mills, explains that
the presence of Christ in the heart of man tames this wickedness and if one can
honestly recall the kinds of ideas one has ever had about certain situations, it
will boost the understanding of this scripture. My impression is that without Christ
and for that matter any kind of piety in the heart of man, that “wickedness” is
ignited at the least provocation and the body controlled by such a heart can do
anything, any destructive thing is possible for a human being with such a heart. it
is possible even with the presence of some kind of piety in our hearts if not well
managed. Let us better manage youthful power and the power of mobilization for
better yields.

Gifty Andoh Appiah (