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Opinions of Saturday, 22 August 2009

Columnist: Sayibu, Akilu

The Akwatia Parliamentary Re-Run Any Lessons For Security And Democracy?


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Even though it was already known before the re-run in the six polling stations in the Akwatia constituency of the Eastern Region on the 18/08/09 the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and its candidate will win. But the political tension that took place in the constituency was just too much!

The NPP went into the election leading with over three thousand votes even before the first ballot was cast which was the difference between the NPP candidate and the NDC candidate after the first elections on December 7,2008. When before the election I told a friend that, it was needless to go for that election after all in my feeble opinion I wanted the NDC which was the main contended in the election to have issued a statement to the effect that, the Electoral Commission of Ghana should declare the NPP candidate the winner so that, the budget for that election could have being used to at least provide some social facilities in the Akwatia constituency for the benefit of all the people. My thoughts were that, the other contesting political parties would agree to do same. I could have been naive in my thoughts but that was what I told that friend. The friend responded, not reacted, by saying that the situation at Akwatia was similar to what happened at the Tain constituency that was to determined who was to rule mother Ghana for at least the next 4 years. The opinion of my friend was that, “Democracy needed to be allowed to go full cycle”. I agreed with him and told him that, all we needed was to pray for very peaceful elections.

How ever my biggest disappointment arrived when the election was declared a ‘Jihad’ by the NDC at Akwatia. I asked myself in which way was an election to become a ‘Jihad’? I honestly was not happy of this development. May I explain that, ‘Jihad’ in Islam means Holy war. It was the term used against the enemies of Islam in its embryonic stage when they vowed to ‘kill’ the religion at birth. All political parties in Ghana have Muslims and Christians in them so where was this Jihad thing coming from I asked myself once again? I saw the election at Akwatia to be an election just to fulfil a constitutional requirement. It was going to be impossible for the NDC to win that election. So why Jihad? I must say that, I was personally worried that, a popular term usually seen to be associated with violence and Osama Bin Laden in modern times was to be used in an election. It could be wrong but the impression that was created was that Muslims though not alone in Akwatia were violent people because the NDC candidate Baba Jamal who is also the Deputy Regional Minister of the region in which the election was to take place. This perception to me was wrong four square period!

Unfortunately however, before the elections there emerged alarming reports of assaults and brutalities from Akwatia. A group whether they were the ‘Jihadist’ of that we all read of in the news visited mayhem on the people. Twenty three persons we were told received various degrees of injuries either from gun shots, bricks, stones, cutlasses etc. The general Secretary of the opposition NPP Nana Ohene Ntow was assaulted physically he bled profusely in his own narration on Joyfm. The National chairman of the NPP Mac Manu also told the media in an interview of his side of assault. Cars had their windscreens smashed etc. It was as if there was a deliberate ploy to prevent the NPP from going anywhere near Akwatia. The greatest worry of all these reports and testimonies of assaults was the allegation of some of the recipients of the brutalities made. For instance Nana Ntow the General Secretary of the NPP stated that, he was assaulted in the fullest view of the Police at Akwatia.

The explanation that was attempted at why people were assaulted in the presence of the very people who are paid to protect them was that, the regional minister and his deputy attends Regional Security Meeting. What must be made clear here is that, while the Regional minister chairs the Regional Security Committee he is also a National Executive of the NDC, and his Deputy Baba Jamal who was the NDC candidate in the election was also a national executive of the NDC. As to whether these persons were able to use the security in the region to dance their “Takai” Dance is debatable.

All I can say about the security agencies is that, they must endeavour to be fair, to all and ready to protect all. It could be their own children, cousins, nephews, nieces etc who could suffer the vagaries of the Teargases, and live bullets. The security agencies must remind them selves that they were civilians before they joined their various agencies and will be civilians again if they retire from active service. Infact they will return to the ‘Lacose tee Shirts’ after their services to motherland Ghana. So how professional they conduct themselves while still at post or in uniform could determine how well society will treat them.

Politicians will come and go either every four or eight years, but the security personnel have to understand that, they will still be around to serve till their retirement when those politicians are gone. So they should never sacrifice the much valued and cherished professionalism for anything. Work so much, so well, so professionally that, one day the society will pay tribute to you by saying “here in lie the security man or woman who did his or her work very professionally and was never influenced to kill or harm innocent people” It was very appalling that, on the Election Day at Akwatia attempts were still being made to steal ballot boxes. The media also reported that, some party agents of the NPP were chased away from their polling stations. I heard Dan Botwe a Member of Parliament and a former General Secretary of the NPP say in an interview on joyfm that, even though he was lawfully accredited by the Electoral Commission to serve as his party agent, the ‘Jihadists’ at Akwatia drove him away from the polling station with the untenable reason that he was not from the Akwatia constituency. I have since spoken to election gurus and some leading lawyers as to whether Dan Botwe could have served as a polling agent to his party in that constituency.

They said anybody not just Dan Botwe could serve as a polling agent for his party in any part of the country or even outside the country if given accreditation by the Electoral Commission of Ghana to do so in Ghanaian elections.

So this meant that, the dismissal of Dan Botwe from the polling station was as wrong as the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) interrogating a suspect without his lawyers or the BNI seizing the passports of citizens of Ghana without a court mandate!!

Ghanaians will have to go to the Chereponi constituency in the northern region for yet another election. This time occasioned by the death of the NPP MP for that constituency for a bye election. There probably might be another bye election at Bawku in the Upper East Region of Ghana. I foresee a situation were brothers will visit mayhem on other brothers in the name of elections. I therefore proposed the following; the security agencies must be fair to all in the discharge of their duties. They must be ready to protect all lives and all properties during chaotic situations but not some lives and properties during such situations.

Civil society groups must speak openly and loudly against these acts, its perpetrators and it sponsors.

All political must preach against these actions, and rather preach the need for political tolerance and peaceful coexistence with perceived political enemies members of political parties who gets themselves involved in such acts must be isolated or dismissed from the party.

Religious groups must include in their sermons the need for political tolerance and the religious connotation of harming or killing one another in the name of politics. This to me should be done every day, every week, every month and every year not just when an election is expected and the political temperature is rising!

The youth must not allow themselves to be used to foment troubles by politicians whose only interests in first in their own selves and next their wives and children.

Attempts must be made to retrieve all weapons from hands that are not suppose to keep those weapons here all of us must support by offering the relevant information that will make this possible after all any of us could be the next victim of that weapon.

The media though already doing well must also help expose persons who are usually behind these acts is there in government or out of government. After all lives have no spares in any bank.

By Akilu Sayibu

Email: Akilu.sayibu@live.uwe.ac.uk

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