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Opinions of Thursday, 15 July 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Why we need a cage on Dwarf Island

Jomo, if you stood on your head to eat an apotoyuwa of fufu and bush meat soup, the food would not go into your skull in keeping with the laws of gravity as you might expect.

The food would still go into your stomach because of peristalsis, a scientific term for the involuntary muscular contraction of the digestive tract which sends the food down into your stomach as you chew and swallow.

Does it make sense to eat dinner standing on your head, in order to find out if peristalsis really works irrespective of the body’s position? If you did, you would prove the point about peristalsis alright, but then, you are likely to get hot soup along with some pepper, ginger and other spices of the African soup kitchen in your nostrils!

These days, like the acrobatic scientist running the peristalsis test, people seem bent on finding out what will happen to Ghana if they stand the law and social discipline on their heads for a change.

That is why I find the report that Ghana has the greatest press freedom in Africa amusing: Far from being an enemy of democracy and freedom of speech and expression, I am their most staunch advocate, cross my heart and doubly trust me.

What I am unable to do, is call a vulture a scavenging bird: If those who have appointed themselves the global policemen of democracy score us the highest marks as the most liberal in Africa when it comes to media freedom, then let us clap, clap, clap in self-congratulation but wait a second, old chap…

Have you considered the possibility that our being deemed the most tolerant in Africa when it comes to media freedom, may be more because of our general apathy towards the enforcement of law, order, social discipline and ethical conduct, than a result of official and public tolerance of critical media?

Too much of every good thing can be very injurious to its own well-intentioned purpose and that includes freedom: Healthy media freedom occurs in an atmosphere of professional and ethical responsibility. Ours has generated a massive and suffocating but often petty information overload which frequently drowns out critical issues.

A lot of media content is promoting inter-racial, political and other sectarian conflict, animosity and hatred by the troubled hour.

I strongly suspect that generally, we are exceeding the boundaries of liberal democracy and that must account for the sudden epidemic of violence, threats of violence, mob action and criminal activity.

It would seem that at any given time these days, mobs purporting to be protesting some form of injustice or other are on the rampage committing acts of vandalism. It all seems fashionable and normal all of a sudden.

People go around robbing and killing other people. You put them in jail and they refuse to stay there, thanks to the prevailing crisis of diligence and common sense in public institutions:

How the prison authorities came to leave about 800 prison inmates including extremely dangerous killers and an armoury in the charge of two prison guards, making it possible for inmates to break jail, is a puzzle that should give you an idea why I am griping incoherently like this.

The brazen daylight jail break at the Sekondi Prisons invites not only a reappraisal of the prison security system but also a careful profiling of the kind of convict who needs to be kept apart from other convicts. This profiling should take account of the kind of ruthless behavioral traits which played out inside the Sekondi prison and along the jail breakers’ escape route:

Several inmates attack the two guards on duty stabbing one and shooting the other. They invade the prison armoury and take away guns and ammunition, distributing some to other inmates and urging them to make their own bid for freedom.

Then they comb through the offices of off-duty prison officers, collecting cash and valuables and finally escaping, hijacking two vehicles on the go and shooting the drivers.

These types are ruthless killers who have long gone beyond penal reformation and spiritual redemption, except where God may choose to work a miracle.

These are career robbers who cannot live by any other means. They are extremely dangerous because they are incapable of feeling sympathy, pity or any form of affection for anyone.

Several of those who escaped from the Sekondi Prison are convicted armed robbers who after their sentencing, mocked the judge and the police with a “thank you very much” and a cheeky promise to wrest back their freedom!

You don’t keep people like that with first-time offenders and other convicts imprisoned for lesser crimes. The Dwarf Islands are within Ghana’s territorial borders, right? Build a maximum security prison there for these types and stock moats around the fortress with alligators.

I heard the cops singing a jazz tune in the media about crime statistics having taken a dip. I don’t believe them one bit and it remains to be seen whether the authorities are going to act decisively and ensure that all who perpetuate violence are punished or whether the epidemic of lunacy is going to be allowed to fester.

The paramount Chief of the Agogo Traditional Area Nana Akuoku Sarpong was in a hospital bed when news came to him that the people of his town had massed up and were trying to vandalize his place. Why? Armies of the infamous Fulani herdsmen from across the Sahel had invaded the area and their cattle were destroying farms and vegetation.

Frail with age and recent indisposition, the Agogohene was outraged and from his sick bed summoned the strength to express his indignation. The old man wondered why in a clear case of the government’s abdication of its responsibility to protect the people, the people were taking up their anger on him. Did they really expect him to be able to protect them?

The Agogohene is a respected lawyer, former minster of state, former Member of Parliament and currently a legal and cultural consultant. This is not the kind of man to act recklessness any day. How then could his people think it was their chief who had given the herdsmen and their rampaging beasts of beef the freedom to invade Agogo lands?

No one bothered to answer a question the Agogohene asked: What was he expected to do in a situation where the ECOWAS Treaty guarantees the free movement of people and goods across the West African sub –region? Cattle in the context of the treaty come under “goods” and Fulani nomads under “people”, don’t they?

…Tarry a while old chap, methinks there is a street protest going on outside!

George Sydney Abugri is a prolific, multi-award winning, Ghanaian newspaper journalist.

He maintains a blog of his works at http://sydneyabugri.com/

email him at georgeabu@hotmail.com