Prime News Ghana

Spectre of a Police State

By Kwaku Ansu Kyeremeh
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Barely eight hours after hearing the bodyguard of a presidential contender had been detained along with a photographer, I read this online story of a 15-year-old thrown into a police cell overnight for tearing up another presidential contender’s poster. Security matters are about everyone because everyone needs security. So I tread carefully in my ‘intrusion’ into those matters.

But where and how else will a 15-year-old be locked up overnight without informing a parent or relative for ALLEGEDLY tearing up an election poster? He was picked up by TWO customs officers. Or where will TWO innocent people be detained in cells because they have, on request, turned up to be witnesses?

When in 1990s Kwame Avege was arrested and prosecuted (freed by the judge) for insulting a president or when someone got an identification haircut inside the seat of government, some of my compatriots thought we were experiencing remnants or leftovers or crumbs or residuals of the dictatorship we were said to be emerging out of.

One day, I might have the opportunity of telling my own experiences of what I consider to be gross abuse by the security system. For now, though, I would implore PROFESSIONALS in the security system to work as professional to protect themselves and the reputations of their professions.

I have observed a subtle and insidious language as a tool in the prosecution of a security agenda. It may be a national unity agenda. Send anyone anywhere and everywhere that is of the motherland; just like they used to do when we passed out of teacher training. I remember my colleague who was assigned Class Two in the late sixties when he couldn’t speak a word of the local language. It was considered a perfect posting then because those children were to be taught to talk and write English.

Once upon a time in 1975, Blaa Kutu, upon the recommendation of a Dzobo Education Committee, introduced a Junior Secondary School curriculum which was to ensure every compatriot would have a working knowledge of at least TWO Ghanaian languages. This was in spite of boardinisation which had popularised certain languages across the motherland.

Had the policy continued, today, language limitation would be scarce in official place transactions and conversations. That would have reduced the exclusiveness by language of some workplace colleagues by others. It is frightening and threatening that in situations of arrest or incarceration, the victim would be further victimised through language incomprehensible to her or him. Linguistic researchers have identified certain languages as for commerce. But for very few places, the language of commerce is spoken (far less so written) by many in the motherland. It is impossible to replicate that in the security workplace. Yet, everyone working everywhere has turned into some working predominantly somewhere where the mother tongue is relegated to second or third language status.

Many would say it matters not; it is all one country. And none in authority would bother to find out the implications more so when the authority could be benefitting and most unlikely to be bothered by that situation of language imbalance.

Sometimes, dominant languages become victim of their own success of widespread use. I once watched a video of negotiation between two European companies. One was of the dominant European language. The other was of the technology dominance. Periodically, the technology people would confer using their own language as the dominant language people would look on without a clue.

The lesson there was that the dominant language people have had themselves discouraged from learning other European languages because they would easily communicate wherever they found themselves in Europe. They had become victims to everyone knowing their language and they knowing no one else’s language.

Every way you turn, people will tell you the official language of the motherland is English. Because this is not practically true, no one, not even Kwame Nkrumah, has had the courage to write that directly into any law. It would be a very, very bad law, simply because only the schooled know that language. Meanwhile, not everyone is schooled to the normal literacy level of completing JHS 3. The never-been to school and never completed JHS 3 would sue to nullify that kind of English is official language law.

But please mind language and security. Under no circumstances should people security officials are working for be alienated from the workings of security through language handicap. Let those who care watch and prevent or correct any prevalence. It could be a time bomb for people to become aware that they are being denied their security and protection by language they consider alien in their own backyard.

It would add to a spectre of police state that is incrementally emerging from actions of insecure security.