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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Columnist: Appiah, Papa

All Die Be Die –Reinforcing the Cycle of Fear

Nana Akuffo- Addo is not one for making “boom” speeches and neither should we expect him to be. The least Ghanaians should expect of a potential leader, in this new era, is a man who thinks carefully before speaking and who means every word he says. That is why we must take his “all die be die” comment rather seriously. We seem to be moving from an era of intimidating military threats at June 4th parades to a more sinister call to Ghanaians to be prepared to shed blood to make one man president, thus perpetually reinforcing the cycle of fear amongst Ghanaians. Ghana deserve better.

Nana Akuffo -Addo is determined to be president. It is his democratic right. In Arthur Kennedy’s much criticized book –Chasing the Elephant into the Bush – Lord Commey was said to have objected to being excluded from Field Operations in the NPP campaign “It is wrong to exclude the National Organiser from this and I want to put this on record” he is quoted to have said. Nana acknowledged Lord Commey’s comments “but since it is MY PRESIDENCY that is at stake”, he had responded “I am taking responsibility.” It is our hope, that one man’s personal and strong desire to be president does not crowd his judgement to the point of insinuating, however subtly, that others should be prepared to die for the course.

After all, what is there to die for? Let us, for the sake of argument, ignore every electoral malpractice and intimidation that occurred in the Ashanti Region in the 1998 elections and concentrate on what was purported to have happened in the Volta region and ask whether a single drop of Ghanaian blood is worth shedding for that. While strongly condemning any form of electoral malpractice and while advocating the institution of sensible measures to prevent the stuffing of electoral boxes and intimidation and sometimes violence to electorates, I wonder whether there are grounds for anyone to urge “an eye for an eye” policy and risk driving our country into the kind of electoral violence that has decimated other African countries.

What are a few “stuffed boxes” compared to the hundreds of years of systematic brutalizing and imprisonment of the black population in apartheid South Africa. Yet, Nelson Mandela did not suggest “all die be die.” He recommended a policy of reconciliation, of forgiveness and of an all-inclusive rainbow nation. “Forgiveness is a powerful weapon” he said “It liberates the soul and removes fear..... We have to be better than our enemy thinks we are. We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint and with generosity. This is not time for petty revenge; this is the time to build our nation...”

And so where are the great leaders of our times when we need them in Ghana? Where is our Nelson Mandela? Where is our Aung San Suu Kyi, who continues to preach peaceful democratic change in Burma in the face of intense provocation and long imprisonment? Where is our Martin Luther King, who dared dream, in the face of gross injustice and oppression, and at a time when the life of the negro was “crippled with the manacles of segregation and discrimination”, that his four little children “would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character,” while at the same time urging his people not to “seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred”. All die be die? Indeed!

At the end of the day, all die no be die. Men die with honour for great courses like defending their land from invasion. So I doff my heart to the great Ashanti Warriors and King Cetshwayo and his Zulu warriors who fought and died against British aggression. I doff my heart to Sergeant Adjetey and his fellow ex-servicemen, shot and killed in cold blood for daring to peacefully demonstrate in their own land. But to die in a rather peaceful country like Ghana to make one man achieve his ambition of becoming president would be, dare I say, unpardonable.

Ghanaians can be accused of many a weakness. We may be too friendly, too hospitable and, maybe, a wee too laid-back for our own good. However, nobody, nobody can ever accuse our people of wearing the doomed cloak of stupidity. And that is why we remain a beacon of hope and inspiration to the rest of Africa.

Papa Appiah