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Opinions of Friday, 16 October 2015

Columnist: Daily Guide

Demo-El Luta: The fate of Let My Vote Count Alliance

Opinion Opinion

'No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as its promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were.
Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee'. John Donne (1572-1631)

Kwesi Pratt is not the toast of a good number of listeners to Peace FM and Hello FM that I know of - but I am not one of them – indeed, I am not shy to say that among the few who admire him, you can count me in. He is an Nkrumaist, but I swear by the 2 -Ghana cedi note with Nkrumah's effigy that I am not. But I admire him for his steadfast loyalty to Nkrumah, being a huge defender of anything Nkrumaist.

If those who claim to be Danquahists or Busiaists or Domboists could marshall equal vim to defend these personalities, there could be a good political balance, and debates about their roles in the struggle for independence or their performance in government could be livelier than it has now been.

Ghanaians had watched Kwesi Pratt do a one - man show in which he staged a one - man demonstration and took a picture of President Kufour's residence a few years back. He must have done that to test the pulse of the security agencies to the claim that Kufour's residence was a security zone. He took the picture of the nearby hotel (curiously dubbed 'Hotel Waa-Waa'), and came away unscathed.

The policemen detailed to watch over him, gave him a clear passage, and after satisfying his interest (not 'whims'), went his way—to his home or to his hovel. If anything untoward touched him, it was not reported, but the general account was that, it was peaceful and incident-free. One had thought that Ghanaians had grown well enough to embrace the freedom of the individual - as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, 1992.

Article 21(1) says: 'All persons shall have the right to - (a) freedom of speech and expression… (b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief… (c) freedom to practise any religion (d) freedom of assembly including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations; (e) freedom of association … (f) information …(g) freedom of movement…'

Article 21(3) says: 'All citizens shall have the right and freedom to form or join political parties and to participate in political activities subject to such qualifications and laws are necessary in a freedom and democratic society and are consistent with this constitution.

Times were when demonstrators would expect nothing less than 'brutalisation' when they were planning a demonstration. We have a long history of suppression of demonstrations: in the colonial (pre-independence) days three ex - servicemen were gunned down by the colonial police, led by one Imray, when the ex-servicemen went on the ill-fated demonstration to register their protest at the way they had been treated since their return from the Second World War.

General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong was never spared any peace during his time as the Chairman of the Supreme Military Council - 1972 to 1979 - till he was brutally and callously shot to death by the Rawlings regime, together with General Akuffo, General Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa, Colonel Utuka and others. Tales were told-severally- about Kutu's 'booze'(Metwa bi a metumi ka nkwaseasem—'when I am booze, I can talk nonsense' and 'womanizing'(fa woto begye Golf—'bring your buttocks to collect a Golf car').

These and other rumours were spread by students, especially of the universities, in spite of the government's order on rumour—mongering. But in any case that students were arrested, Kutu's magnanimity was on display and he would readily grant them pardon.

A lot of present - day government officials, Ministers of State, Parliamentarians - and even the President - have had their time as students or student leaders to organise and take part in demonstrations when they were students at Ghana's universities. What was foremost on their minds when they embarked on these demonstrations was the need to sacrifice for their country.

There was a time when students thought it was part of the student—culture and regime to, at least, go on one demonstration in a year. That would mark them out as full—fledged students and their leaders as 'astute' student leaders. None would therefore listen to sound advice by Freddie Blay, the SRC President of Legon in 1976 when he advised students not to embark on a certain demo, and that if they did and anything happened to them, they should not 'blame Blay'. Students enjoyed the poetic rhyme (alliteration) in 'blame' and 'Blay', and not the syllogism of his argument.

In the 1960s and 1970s, students at the universities of Ghana delighted in the theories of Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and felt they (the students) 'had nothing to lose but their chains'. Any student - discussion would centre on 'socialism' 'socialistic state', 'state sponsorship' 'state control of resources', and many other similar clichés, and they knew only one weapon for putting the government on its toes—that was through demonstrations, and 'Aluta' ( el luta) whether 'continua' or 'abolitioa' fascinated and tickled them.

The Police Administration had also undergone massive transformation, and most of the present police administrators had passed through the corridors of the universities and had tasted 'student - life' which embodied 'demonstrations', which they all relished.

From the 'buga - buga' (beat – beat) or 'na ma reka' (I will beat you) concepts learnt at the Police Training Schools, modern policing had tended to embrace new concepts and orientation which include fraternizing with the citizenry, and empathising with them rather than being provoked, even at the point of mimicry and teasing, to the point of beating innocent and unarmed civilians.

Thus, the brutality unleashed on the demonstrators (Let My Vote Count Alliance) can hardly be sufficiently explained. The LMVC decided to picket on the premises of the Electoral Commission—to present a petition for a new electoral register. From the Obra Spot, the demonstrators marched to the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, then went to Adabraka Traffic Light (Asylum Down) and then the Holy Spirit Cathedral.

Why were the demonstrators pelted with tear gas and rubber bullets? Were there other policemen armed with live bullets? Is anybody conducting investigations to ascertain what object hit the left eye of Justice Adjakumah, the 36 year old father of two and shoes seller?

In 2008, the NDC had picketed on the premises of the Electoral Commission without anybody telling Ghanaians that it was a security zone! For the medical officer who allegedly said that Adjakumah had put tomato paste on his face to deceive the public, one can only say, 'Shame', nothing more nothing less, because we know that 'prom—prom nnte ho daa' ( 'sweet, not always').

'To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;…A time to weep and a time to laugh…We know of other police officers who are so professional in their job that when faced with a similar situation, the head was able to contain it so beautifully to the admiration of all, including the errant demonstrators.

DCOP Kofi Boakye may be the 'no—nonsense' man to criminals—armed robbers, thieves, wee (or 'substance') smokers and inhalers, but he is the understanding type when it comes to 'crowd control'. One would wish that other policemen would emulate the example of police officers of equal mettle. In 'Beowulf' is a passage: '…So Hrothgar's men lived happy in his hall Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend, Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild Marshes, and made his home in a hell, Not hell but earth.

He was spawned in that slime, Conceived by a pair of those monsters born Of Cain, murderous creatures banished by God, punished forever for the crime Of Abel's death…' No one wishes anything like this will be written as the epitaph on the tomb of any of the police officers who fired the murderous bullets, that fateful day.