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Opinions of Sunday, 25 January 2004

Columnist: Antwi, William

Of Elitist Democracy, 'Rawlingsic' Upheaval And National Instability.

The season of political carousel is once more upon us and predictably, some shameless political hacks have obstinately started taunting us with some classless lies and propaganda. It is, however, of eminent importance that as a nation we take stock of and gauge the health of our still-nascent democracy. Any serious and genuine conversation on sustaining the current political system must necessarily address the entrenched, pernicious inequalities in the system - a sick and skewed system which treats the poor and politically unconnected worse than criminals! Indeed, a system that continues to unashamedly reward our corrupt political elite to the detriment of the whole nation.

THE CURSE OF TRIBALISM?

A digression: Or is it? The present writer is of the view that tribal and religious passions have not risen to the level where national security is threatened. We have to be proud of the convenient fact that we don't suffer - albeit on a national level - from the dangerous craving of tribal violence that continues to decimate and afflict so many countries on our wretched continent. Of course, this is inspite of the mindless agitation of some knee-jerk tribalists touting the superiority of their tribes. What jerks!

Our political history tells us that the Nkrumahs were overthrown not because of where they come from but rather where they were taking us as a nation. For example, did Acheampong and co overthrow Dr Busia and his Progress Party gov't because the former was from Wenchi? What say you of the overthrow of Acheampong by Akuffo and his bunch of SMC II folks? The laundry list can go on and go and go! What should be so obvious to all of us is that despite scathing accusati! ons of nepotism and tribalism, the President and his party handily won all the bye-elections last year without rigging the said elections! Simple cautionary history readily informs us that the problem of political instability in our country,( aka, coup d'etats) does not lie with where we come from but rather with the phenomenal inability of the political elite to come clean with the vast majority of our people. Senseless tribal advocacy should have no place in modern Ghana!

THE MILITARY IS NOT THE PROBLEM!

Contrary to what some very venerable and eminent citizens (including our Chief Justice) want us to believe, our bellwether democracy is under withering attack NOT from the men in uniform (ie the military) but from our recklessly opportunistic and phenomenally corrupt political leaders. The awful truth is that they continue to turn our values and the time-tested principles of probity, accountability, sunshine, transparency and shared sacrifice into verbal sawdust. How on earth do we expect to build a viable democracy on false hopes, outright lies, deceit, half truths, stupifying arrogance, blind partisanship and in-your-face intimidation? For example, while the President and his cabal talk about "shared sacrifice", they heartless take their per-diem whenever they travel outside the country, buy themselves 90,000-dollar benz cars, recklessly pay themselves $15,000 two weeks vacation "chop money". Is that the brand new meaning of "shared sacrifice"? The simple question here is;! why should the system support the extravagant lifestyle of the people in power, while majority of our people are drowning in abject poverty and finding it tremendously hard to put food on the table, pay their wards schools fees, attend to their urgent health needs, live in squalor etc; etc? And oh, can anybody make sense of their rush to create a wholly unwarranted and financially ruinous 30 more constituencies at a time when our hospitals, public schools, roads etc are crying out for financial assistance? By the way, are our 200 parliamentarians performing efficiently? Haba! What smirking arrogance and total lack of sensitivity on the part of our political elite! Are they aware that such heedless acts undermine the confidence citizens have in their gov't?

Let me try this for bluntness: We can pontificate all we want about the values of "democracy", but the simple truth is that there is practically no way the current system is going to survive in the the midst of extreme poverty, squalor, humiliation and deprivation brought about by years of senseless corruption on the part of our political leadership. Do I need to be an economist to understand the connection between corruption in high places and the objective conditions on the ground? Therein lies the astounding disconnect between the political elite and their "subjects" which disconnect invariably fuels the political adrenalin of military adventurers. In fact, so far as the political elite blatantly refuses to address this disconnect, the spectre of coup d'etat will continue to haunt us. What is most disquieting is that these economic lowlifes calling themselves "the people's representatives" and their cronies are allowed by our bankrupt system to enjoy their ill-gotten boot! y with impunity. Isn't it the sacred duty of those in power to faithfully prosecute the laws of the country without fear or favor? For how long is our gov't going to shrug and look away while individuals within its rank continue to commit breathtaking economic crimes? We should never forget that our criminal justice system was created not only for cassava and goat thieves but most importantly white collar criminals!

I have always been a strong advocate of a system where our public officials and their cohorts are made to account for how they acquire their assets. Such a system should be open and transparent and should have the capacity to ruthless question these individuals and their cronies! If, this is what some individuals call "witchhunt", then so be it! Isn't it "miracle" to learn that individuals who come to power as paupers end up as millionaires! What changed so dramatically? If our leaders can't have the nerve (within the perimeters of the law) to question such individuals then there is something fatally wrong with our democracy.

Is ours a democracy designed only for the few, a la, the rich and politically connected to the exclusion of all other Ghanaians? What should we, as intelligent human beings, expect from the downtrodden and unconnected when the ruling class (elite) continues to maliciously deprive them of the basic tools to live decent lives? Just endure their avoidable plight while their "rulers" enjoy all the fabulous goodies that life can provide on their backs? Some individuals continue to delude themselves into believing that the "let-the-blood-flow" and "we-no-go-sit-down" crowds of June 4th and December 31st had no right to be indignant and angry. To some of us, the question that still obtains is: Why were these groups so driven by anger towards the powers-that-be? WHY, OH WHY? The answer, of course, lies in the objective conditions at the time - those inhuman and detestable conditions they were forced to endure! It is, indeed, laughable to hear people arguing as if Rawlings imposed himself on us and articificially created the historic conditions that led to his popularity. I strongly believe that he was a creature of the objective conditions at that time. The spontaneous support he garnered around the country should readily inform our thinking about the deplorable and desperate conditions in our country at that time. In earnest, can we confidently argue that the millions of Ghanaians who flocked the streets of our plighted nation to greet him as "Junior Jesus" were all wrong and for that matter were just driven by mere envy?! And, who among us can muster the moral chutzpah to argue that our leaders - those in and out of gov't - have learnt any instructive lessons from those traumatic political events of June 4th and December 31st? Events which tragically led to the death of some innocent Ghanaians. To them we say, may their souls rest in peace.

All said, our leaders lack of compassion and utter disregard for the screaming plight of the majority of our people portends serious trouble for our fragile democracy. We should not forget that democracy does not ride on empty stomach, deprivation and humiliation of majority of the population. Neither, is it the shepherding of the electorate to the ballot box every four years to cast votes. It revolves around the ability of the political elite to fairly and equitably manage our scarce resources to the betterment of the people. The elite class, therefore, bear total responsibility for whatever happens to our democratic experiment and for that matter the stability of our country. They have to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and steer the ship of the state to calmer waters before there is another 'rawlingsic' political explosion and thunderstorm!

We rest our case for now.
GOD SAVE US ALL!
WILLIAM ANTWI, aka, BAFO.


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