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Opinions of Thursday, 15 October 2009

Columnist: Prah, Prince

Police And Thief: The Ghanaian Identity Problem

Growing up in the 90s, a game was common. We played this game of Police and Thief. The bad guy of course was the thief. After much chasing and hiding, it was normal for the police to catch the thief or for the police to shoot and kill the thief. That was based on simple logic, the triumph of good over evil. Even as kids it was very clear to us that evil must be quashed. Looking back into history, I can not really say how it went wrong, but definitely something went wrong.
The police and thief game shows the picture of how the larger society ought to be. The police in this piece are not limited to the men and women of the Ghana Police Service; rather it is Ghana as a state.
It encompasses all the institutions of the state and their various agents. It does talk about the machinery of government with due reference to those saddled with the responsibility of governing the country. It is both the elected and public officials, both civil and military. It talks about the security and law enforcement agencies in the country.
The dictionary defines a State as: a country's government and those government-controlled institutions that are responsible for its internal administration and its relationships with other countries. Or: a country or nation with its own sovereign independent government.
It goes further to define a government as a political authority: a group of people who have the power to make and enforce laws for a country or area. The state is therefore viewed as the ruler; the state and its administration are viewed as the ruling political power. A government thus assumes the mandate given by the people.
Since every one can not be law unto him/herself, the citizens surrender their power to a government who then has the authority to rule on their behalf. The legitimacy of any government is derived from the people and that is why popular participation mostly through free and fair elections seems to be the best form of coming into power.
It is only justifiable that after giving up their power to the state to rule with their mandate, the people of any country or nation will expect certain duties and responsibilities on the part of the rulers in exchange for the rights and privileges the rulers gain from occupying public offices.
These include but are not limited to the security of lives and property, provision of basic amenities and infrastructure, employment opportunities, social services, enabling atmosphere for businesses to thrive among other things. In fact I can summarize the responsibilities of any meaningful government to; developing, sustaining and even improving the human development of the people by utilizing the resources at the disposal of the government. Like a day which gives way to the setting of the sun, the situation here has become blurred. It is no more Police and thief but has over the years become a case of the Police is the thief. And for me this is the root of Ghana's Identity Crisis.
Ghanaians are a very religious people, yet violence and crime rates are very high. Ghana has enormous body of water but there is scarcity of water for human consumption and commercial use. The country has a vast array of arable land but majority of her people are starving. Ghana has many educated people who have excelled in all endeavors of life but our basic problems at home have not been solved. We have many sources of generating and distributing electricity but we exist perpetually in semi darkness and are the largest importer of generators in Africa. We import almost everything including tooth pick and cotton buds. We spend huge funds and lives to ensure peace keeping and enforcement in warring countries but we can not keep simple law and order at home.
The state and her institutions, the government and her organs, the people, have all connived to ensure that Ghana does not become the pride she was destined to be. Ghana has been wandering between obscurity and oblivion. We have no meaningful identity to present to the world or even ourselves.
The state has failed in its primary role of harnessing the resources of the country to the benefit of the generality of the citizenry. Rather corruption has become so endemic that it has been elevated to become the official language of governance.
Corruption has become the fuel which burns the governed but cooks the food for the elite club who has hijacked power that is the cult.
Various governments have been hypocritical in fighting corruption. They only fight it with their lips but oil its wheel with deeds. We have school buildings but the standard of education has nose-dived.
We have health professionals but our hospitals have become an entrance to the grave, my cousin who completed the Nursing Training last year is contemplating leaving the shores of Ghana.
Sadly water ways are not available for our folks in the Afram Plains, rail system is out of service and our roads are death traps.
We have more streets than homes in this country, more churches than Christians and more mosques than Moslems. We have more crises than solutions, more rogues than patriots and more contracts than projects.
We destroy faster (this am guilty because of the work I do) than we build and do not maintain at all. We have a government but we are been compared to say Somalia which has been without a functional government since 1991. We talk so much about development but achieve nothing or at best so little. Ghana is the only country where political parties campaign during elections without a manifesto. I say this because after winning power they forget their manifestoes and focus on different things.
Obviously it means the government has no ideology. Any government with out an ideology is a car without a driver. It can stop at any time in transit. It may skid off the road; it may summersault and may even drive itself into an ocean. And that is exactly what is happening. Ghana has been driving on the road of insecurity, driving into the ocean of dehumanization with reckless impunity. We have no safety valve to gauge the volume of air in our tube. Meaning we may burst at anytime due to excess pressure or may go flat due to inadequate air. Life expectancy in Ghana is at a lowly 50 years in a millennium where technology, research and development have used science to demystify most health related problems.
Given Ghana’s resources, abundant talents and the size of this country both in terms of population and land mass, Ghana ought to be what Malaysia is to the Asia continent, or what India is or what Brazil has become for Latin America. Unfortunately we keep falling on the scales of development indices.
The police and thief of the days gone beyond has become the police is thief. The state has not stood on the side of justice, equity, peace and development. The act of governance has become the route to exploitation.
The Ghana's identity problem calls for serious concern. If the police is now the thief, who will the victims run to for help? If the state is the bandit who will the citizens run to for reprieve? The police is the thief. Yes, that is the crux of Ghana's identity problem.
NB: I was overwhelmed with the comments you passed on the feature ‘Ghana’s Cult of Corruption’.
Source: Prince Prah
Email: prahprince@yahoo.com