I was chatting with a woman lecturer in Communication Studies from Nigeria yesterday, who said: “In Africa, a whole ocean separates official pronouncements from action.” She was absolutely right.
As newsmen, we were examining the import of an assurance from the Inspector General of Police, John Kudalor, who gave the assurance that the police was ready to hold the peace of Ghana, on a visit to the Tema Regional Police Command, at the weekend.
Incidentally, at the time the police capo was giving the assurance, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), a key section of his command, was unlawfully detaining a Ghanaian journalist and known activist of the opposition New Patriotic Party, on the flimsy excuse that he had defamed President John Dramani Mahama in a book he had written, titled ’59 Years to Nowhere.’How the BNI decided to interest themselves in what is a purely civil matter, after Criminal Libel was kicked into touch some 15 years ago, tells the volatile atmosphere the security service is creating, while shouting from the rooftops of ensuring that peace prevails before, during, and after the 2016 presidential and legislative elections.
How the BNI decided to interest themselves in what is a purely civil matter, after Criminal Libel was kicked into touch some 15 years ago, tells the volatile atmosphere the security service is creating, while shouting from the rooftops of ensuring that peace prevails before, during, and after the 2016 presidential and legislative elections.
The tragedy is that the BNI has some of the finest legal brains in the country. Why officials of the nation’s leading security agency decided to visit criminality on a person who could, after all, be taken on with a private lawsuit from the occupant of Government House, tells a lot about the jittery in official circles as the vote gets nearer.
On Sunday, I was talking to a senior Cabinet Minister, who told me on phone that the government would not hesitate to arrest anybody who makes, what is regarded as uncivil comments of the President and all his men and women.
I told him that officialdom could not do anything that could damage the reputation of Ghana in the international comity of nations, given the struggle to re-align this nation from the era of the culture of silence.
The arrest of Mr. Fadi Samir Dabbouassi, a journalist and known activist of the opposition New Patriotic Party, and his four-day ordeal as a detainee at the dreaded BNI cells in Accra, does not create the congenial atmosphere necessary for peace, as we head for the polls.
Day in and day out, activists of the National Democratic Congress rain insults on the personality of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, and other opposition party officials on television, radio, and every available forum open to them with careless abandon.
The various security apparatus of state turn a blind eye to this naked abuse of the electoral processes but are very quick to subject members of the opposition to all sorts of intimidation.
It is this state of ‘we versus them’ that is creating tension and could possibly lead to open conflict, if not checked. The security agencies are aware. I bet my last cedi that the Head of State of this Republic cannot be ignorant of the war drums being beaten by the BNI especially.
The other day, when members of the ‘Montie 3’ were summoned to the Supreme Court to explain why disciplinary measures should not be taken against them for maligning and threatening judges of the Supreme Court, an official statement released to the media sourcing the BNI, said the leading state security agency had interviewed the personalities involved, and concluded that they were incapable of carrying out the threat of killing judges of the Supreme Court.
It was as clear as today is Wednesday, that the sole aim of the BNI was to prevent the three NDC activists from being thrown into jail. It is becoming clearer by the day that the BNI especially, is being used to harass opponents of the Mahama regime, while activists of the NDC who fall foul of the law, are treated with kid gloves.
I do not know whether the President and all his men and women have taken note. Under Mahama, this country is split down the middle. Those benefitting from state largesse are talking through their hearts. These are the men and women who see the rot around us, and still pontificate on the miracle that has turned this nation of near destitute into the land of plenty. These are the untouchables. They also control very huge resources, with the latest versions of V8s smiling all the way to their garages.
It is in this group that the ‘Montie 3’ and their collaborators are found. The State of Ghana goes out of its way to offer them protection, even when they are pronounced guilty of the law. Not long ago, the whole state apparatus virtually grounded to a halt, as ministers queued to append their signatures to a document calling on the President to free the ‘Montie 3’ when they were found guilty of contempt, by publicly announcing their intention to get some of our leading judges in the Supreme Court killed.
Mr. Julius Debrah, Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, the only one on record to have abandoned his job to mount a campaign for the President and his ministers, orchestrated the release of the ‘Montie 3’- Alistair Nelson, Godwin Ako Gunn and Salifu Maase alias Mugabe – by sending the signed request from NDC activists to the Council of State to invite the President to free them.
The Council of State, chaired by Cecilia Johnson, alleged to have founded the 31st December Women’s Movement with their red berets with Ama Benyiwa Doe, alias Chavez, playing a lead role, duly invited President Mahama to use his constitutional liberties under Article 72 to free the jailed NDC activists. They think it is a mark of machismo. But Ghanaians are watching.
The large mass of the people are suffering under Pontius Pilate. They constitute what one novelist described as the ‘wretched of the earth.” They live virtually from hand to mouth. For the large mass of our people, coming by one meal of any shape, is a daily struggle.
For men and women in this category, and their spokespersons in the opposition, the state cannot be relied upon to guarantee their safety in their times of need. In President Mahama’s Ghana, the security agencies are quick to react to the least misdemeanor. “Cry, My Beloved People’ are overwhelmed by avalanches of taxes eating away their abilities to make any meaning out of their existence.
It is not only the living expenses that overwhelm those who do not believe in the rooftop advertisements of ‘Changing Lives and Transforming Ghana’. In areas where the belief in this administration is not that strong, development projects are delivered in tots.
I was at Akyem Tafo at the weekend, observing the various traditional rituals that have transformed my good friend, Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, Chairman of the National Media Commission, from a socialist advocate to a Chief. My good friend is the Apagyahene of Ati, near New Tafo in the Eastern Region, which is itself a subject of study by sociology students.
On the ground though, one area that needs to be explained is how the road from Koforidua through Kukurantumi, New Tafo to Bunso Junction still looks like a large track of muddy field, with the rains setting in. This is one road officially listed as constructed in government books.
It is becoming crystal clear that, in the Eastern Region, roads are not meant to look good. The Suhum-Asamankese road is another exhibit of deception under this administration. Following the protest led by the Okyenhene and chiefs and elders of the Ofori Panin Stool, the government made so much noise about constructing the road. On Saturday, what I found shocked me as a Ghanaian.
The construction has been done in patches. Like the eight-kilometre Otuam-Essuehyia road in the late Prof. J.E.A. Mills’ backyard in the Ekumfi District of the Central Region, the Suhum-Asamankese road is a good exhibit for students learning about patched jobs. One travels for a while on tarred road, and descends into the mud and dust for a long stretch, before getting back on tarred road.
By the way, nearly 10 years after the bridge at the interchange near my alma mater, the Suhum Secondary School, was constructed by the Kufuor regime, the bridge has still not been made motorable.
When one weighs what is in sight in the Eastern Region against the asphalt surface at Chorkor in Accra, and Damango in Northern Region, the national divide is so sharp.
A Ghanaian, who had lived in the United States for quite a while, and who arrived in the country at the weekend to witness the traditional rites accompanying the enstoolment of the Chairman of the Media Commission as Apagyahene of Anti, near New Tafo, engaged me in a lively conversation on the impression one gets following news on Ghana in the Diaspora from various government websites.
“Reading about Ghana from official websites, one gets the impression that Accra and many parts of Ghana are like Dubai. I was surprised at the treacherous nature of the road, travelling from Koforidua to Tafo. How can this road remain untarred for all this while?” she queried.
The answer, I guessed much later, lies in the political divide sharply splitting this nation. The President of this Republic ought to be aware that he is superintending over a divided nation, as we head for the polls. It is one fact all the sweet talks cannot massage.
I shall return!