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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Columnist: Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Abbey-Quaye

Of some recent happenings in Ghana and the need for caution and responsibility

Preamble

Some recent happenings in Ghana, but particularly within the last few months or so, give many well-meaning Ghanaians a cause for worry, anxiety and frustration, leading many to believe that the time is ripe for both government and ordinary citizens to begin to exercise a bit more caution and responsibility. Some of these events include the following, among others:

Political party vigilantism

Even though there have always been cases of political (party) vigilantism in Ghana in the past, the threat posed by party vigilantism undoubtedly reached its height in Ghana in the immediate aftermath of the December 2016 elections. Between December 2016 and October 2017, vigilante groups mostly affiliated to the governing New Patriotic Party, named Delta Forces, Invisible Forces and Kandahar Boys, attacked courts and freed suspects, ransacked national offices and sacked staff, and seized toilets and toll booths across the country, among others. These incidents led many persons and groups to make passionate appeals for such activities to be halted because of their threat to national security. Since October 2017, incidents of this nature seemed to have lessened but things have changed in the past few months and the threat of party vigilantism has reared its ugly head once again in Ghana.

In the last few days, the country has witnessed vigilante attacks on Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, the Member of Parliament for Tafo-Pankrono and his constituents in Kumasi, attacks on some National Democratic Congress (NDC) executives in Tamale and attacks on some journalists covering the ex-President by members of the latter’s security detail. While these incidents among others like them have led the Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mrs. Josephine Nkrumah, to make impassionate calls for their disbandment, the two major political parties in Ghana do not seem interested and the General Secretary of the opposition NDC party has even called for support for the formation of more of such groups if the ruling party fails to disband their groups. What all of this means is that the threat that these groups pose to national security and the safety of individuals and groups including the members of the political parties themselves, will continue to be with us for a long time to come, with no one knowing the extent of the consequences that these can bring to us as a nation that is taking peace for granted.

I think as do many Ghanaians do that the call of Mrs. Nkrumah is worth heeding to and propose that as a matter of urgency, steps should be taken by the powers that be to disband these groups while strategies are put in place to deal with the impunity and lawlessness these groups display.

University impasses and some emerging issues

A number of our public universities in Ghana have had to grapple with varying disturbing issues in the past few months. Beginning with the University of Ghana where some agreements signed by the previous management is supposed to have led to costs for the premier university and moving to the University of Education where there was a legal tussle over the removal of the previous Vice Chancellor and the induction of a new one, the attention has now shifted to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, where currently, the university remains closed following disturbances by students protesting against some policies of management. The process for the formation of a new Council for the university that will pave the way for the re-opening of the university remains stalled at the moment with threat by members of the University Teachers’ Association (UTAG) threatening strike action in the days ahead. It is not magic to see that as long as Government and the university groups remain entrenched in their positions, no progress will be made. In the meanwhile, it is the students whose academic work is going to suffer even though they themselves cannot be completely absolved from blame amid this brouhaha due to their decision to use violence and acts of hooliganism to resolve their grievances instead of laid down processes.

As the KNUST impasse rages on, another one of a different kind is simmering at the University of Development Studies, Tamale, where students of the Wa and Nyankpala campuses are beginning to protest against perceived injustices and alleged subtle attempts to collapse the two campuses. As a matter of urgency, Government and other relevant stakeholders should begin to dialogue on the way forward for the two campuses and not sit and wait for matters to get out of hand. The Ministry in charge of Tertiary Education is capable of handling this situation and must be reasonably expected to resolve this matter before it becomes an albatross on our necks.

Accidents, protests and road tolls

Accidents have been one of the biggest causes of deaths in Ghana for a long time now. In this month of November alone, worrying reports of road traffic accidents and related deaths have been recorded in many places around the country including Bonsaso, Aboadze-Takoradi, Gomoa Mpota, Nsawam-Ofankor, Tetteh-Quarshie-Adenta, Michel Camp-Afienya, and Mataheko. The multiple accidents and deaths that have occurred on the Madina-Adenta highway has led to angry protests by residents who blocked roads and burnt tyres in their anger. Residents believe that uncompleted footbridges along the road when completed would resolve the road carnage that they are currently experiencing. Government has responded by issuing a statement to the effect that work will start on the bridges within a week while police will be deployed to check speeding on the road. Why it took that long for government to resume work on these bridges is anybody’s guess but it is better late than never. While Ghanaians must not be expected to jubilate over this announcement, they must remain vigilant to ensure that the work is fully completed.



In the meanwhile, reports say that some motorists plying the Tema-Accra motorway have started refusing to pay tolls in protest against the potholes and poor nature of the motorway. While they should be encouraged to change their minds, Government should show urgency and high level of commitment in fixing and maintaining that important highway. The earlier this problem is addressed, the better it would be for sanity to prevail on the motorway and its tollbooths. The Ministry of Roads and highways has its work cut out and should be up and doing.

Conclusion

It is important to reiterate the point that all around us, Ghana is viewed as a success story and an oasis of peace in a turbulent sub-Saharan region. Undoubtedly, we have achieved some modest gains which are worth celebrating. Yet, incidents such as what we have enumerated above and violent clashes in some parts of Ghana pose threats to the safety and security of citizens and national cohesion. While citizens must not take peace for granted but exercise caution in what they do, our government must take greater responsibility to ensure that law and order is maintained across the country and citizens legitimate concerns are addressed speedily. The unrest, violence, lawlessness and impunity creeping into Ghana today are getting out of hand and the earlier they are nipped in the bud, the better it would be for all of us and for national development.