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Opinions of Friday, 8 July 2016

Columnist: Samuel Alesu-Dordzi

Democracy’s rascal

Democracy is a very strange phenomenon. It seeks to create - at least in theory - a decent and tolerable environment for everyone. This was what we signed up for with the 1992 Constitution.

The wings of the government are clipped to a significant extent, just so the citizens can fly free. But the altitude at which the citizenry can fly is also kept in check just so that everyone stays in check.

In signing on to be democratic, we vowed to be tolerant of each other - never mind that you were not born at the time the constitution came into being; and never mind that at the time the constitution came into being, you did not make a direct input.

At the end of the day, what matters is that we have all agreed to bind ourselves with a common set of rules and limitations.

At the very foundation of our democratic practice is the freedom of speech. We have the right to express and say what is on our minds without being dictated to; or being compelled to follow an official line.

We don’t have to be right. We should not care about being wrong. We just have to be sensible in the exercise of our freedom of speech and by extension freedom of expression. This is inherent. In other words, this is at the very heart of our being.

So when we hear persons like Kennedy Agyepong taking liberties to spew unsavoury comments about public officers, it should be a cause of concern to us.

When we hear persons, who for all intents and purposes should be considered as responsible, engaging in toxic conversations culminating in threats and abuses to the judiciary, we need to sit up. It cannot be business as usual.

The French philosopher, Voltaire, is renowned to have said that “even though I disagree with you, I will defend to death your right to say it.” This right to speak certainly does not include the right to speak in a manner that causes others to feel insecure.

This is not the first time I am having occasion to say this - but why is it that political operatives feel emboldened to act in ways that ordinarily other persons will not muster the courage to do so? And the answer is obvious. These are people with access to the “big men and women” in our society.

In some instances these people are the “big men and women” in our society. These are the persons who are, in one way or the other, connected to persons of influence. For this reason, it is very convenient for them to break the established rules of good conduct and not fear any repercussions.

Clamping on errant politicians and their operatives is considered as virtually impossible. The ruling government is not going to hang its own. The best we can expect is that governments will pursue opposition politicians for actual or perceived wrongs committed when they were in government - by which time a lot of water would have passed under the bridge.

Rabble-rousers may be democracy’s rascals but they are the party’s heroes. They are applauded by politicians and their supporters for being brave, courageous and fearless. They are literally awarded with medals of bravery for their exploits - comprising physical and verbal attack on opponents.

They are considered as the “soldiers of the party”. They are the ones who are bold and firm to meet the enemy on the battleground as it were.

And for all the assurances that they have received from their political mentors, they are fearless. The hypocrisy of the supposedly responsible politicians cannot be overlooked. Behind the door, they profess one thing; in the open space they profess another.

This is the very reason radio and television interviews are sometimes a waste of time, as the outputs are simply consistent with what everyone wants to hear.

But I think we have come a full circle. I am at least glad at the unanimity in terms of the condemnation of the recent excesses and quite frankly foolish comments by some political operatives who do not deserve mention.

We have heard from the Ghana Bar Association. We have heard from the religious community. We have heard from the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association. But most importantly, you have also made your voice heard.

A peaceful and decent country is the only gift we can give to ourselves and to those unborn. We have a mission as a nation to develop and build a strong, firm and hospitable space.

Let’s make the commitment not to be become the devil’s playing tools. At every point in time, we have a nation to build.

Our calling is to add on to the nation; and not take away from it or leave it in a weakened position.

Writer's e-mail: politics_today@yahoo.com