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Opinions of Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Columnist: Agbota, Tete Kobla

All-die-be-die, purported mantra in defence of ....

Ghana’s democratic gains is a disastrous formula

On the 21st of November Desmond Boakye Frimpong published a feature article entitled “All Die Be Die is a call to defend Ghana’s democratic gains”. According to him, “There is deliberate attempt by the ruling party, the NDC, to disingenuously twist the “All die be die mantra by the NPP flag-bearer, Nana Akufo-Addo”. Can you be for peace and subscribe to the call for “all-die- be-die” at the same time? This irony seems feasible for my friend, Desmond. I co-organized a seminar with him on peace in Ghana before, during and after elections on the 17th of November in Oslo. After the seminar we co-signed a joint communique which was published on your webpage on the 19th of November. Two things in his article are perturbing: the use of the word mantra and his quotation of Patrick Henry’s - “Give me liberty or give me death”.
I find it disturbing that “all-die-be-die” is a being dubbed a “mantra” to defend Ghana’s democratic gains. Desmond knows what mantra means: “It is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of creating (spiritual) transformation". Singing or chanting “all-die-be-die” as an incantation to defend Ghana’s democracy is formula for a disastrous transformation. Resolving an electoral conflict or challenge peacefully may not be the first choice of action for a person who is frenzied by chanting the mantra “all-die-be-die”. This sounds more like a terrorist chant. The type used to radicalise suicide bombers. I will like him to remember that while we are safe here in Norway, there are peace-loving relatives back home that deserve to feel safe without such a mantra. The elections should not be a “win-or-die” affair.
I am ‘foot soldier’ of the Norwegian Labour Party and I have participated actively in many parliamentary and local government electioneering. There has not been any occasion when a politician, the public, the clergy or any grouping in the Norwegian polity, had called for peace during elections. This is because political actors are issue oriented and above all civil in their demeanour. People don’t take matters into their own hands. If there are any challenges or problems, the established institutions would be used to resolve the conflicts. This is what I believe the Diaspora has to report home.
Election time in Ghana tends to be a volatile period and what we say before, during and after elections can increase this volatility. In my opinion, if you consider the context in which all-die-be-die was uttered and who uttered it , it was “irresponsible”, to borrow the word used by Pastor Otabil. Instead of admitting that all-die-be-die was inappropriate in the context it was used, NPP is finding all means to defend its use. NPP could have ended the all-die-be-die debate and parked it for good by admitting its impropriety. Its potency as an electoral campaign message would have been diffused; and it would not be exploited by political opponents for electoral points. We all saw how Nana Akufo-Addo was unsettled when Ayariga mentioned on all-die-be-die during the last IEA debate. NPP’s reactions against Ayariga in the aftermath of debate show clearly that this is a soft spot of the NPP. I learnt the Secretary General of NPP called Ayariga a “blockheaded” person apparently for repeating statements Akufo-Addo had made earlier.
Quoting Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” to support his claim that “all-die-be-die is a call to defend democratic gains, is another worrying element in Desmond’s article. Patrick Henry used the above words to urge the militia in Virginia to attack the British army during the American Revolutionary war in 1775. This is what Patrick Henry actually said: "We must fight!" "Gentlemen may cry 'peace, peace' - but there is no peace." "As for me, give me liberty or give me death." For Desmond to cite a quote attributed to this man to back his argument for defending Ghana’s democratic gains is inappropriate. It only amplifies the violence implied by message in all-die-be-die. I don’t think we should be drawing inspiration from Patrick Henry. Mahatma Ghandi and his non-violence message to defend our democratic gains, preferably, is what we should be drawing inspiration from.
Finally, I will like to congratulate the Manhyia Palace, National Peace Council and IDEG for convening the ‘Mother of all Meetings’ on peace on the 27th of November. The joint-communique we published on the 19th of November advocated for a meeting of this nature. It should be a nice platform for our leaders to apologize for statements like all-die-be-die and then pledge to punish electoral violence regardless party colour or ethnicity. According to former UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan we should remember that “Beyond our party differences, there is the greater national interest at stake. After the elections, we shall have to work together across party lines to pursue the development of our country. Much remains to be done to ensure a better future for our children. We cannot afford to let them down”.

Tete Kobla Agbota
Chairman, NDC-Norway