Anarchy, Populism and ‘I thinkism’

BY: Dr Charles Wereko Brobby / Daily Graphic / Ghana

A posse of armed unidentified  men turn up in the middle of the night and destroy a toll booth under construction  on a  property belonging to the University of Ghana. Rumours abound that this act of wanton hooliganism was perpetrated by agents from the National Security Agency.

A discussion on Joy FM's Super Morning Show as to whether our nation is still engulfed in darkness because of load shedding (sustained dum so dum so), or load management (every night dum so dum so ) is brought to an abrupt halt. The National Security Coordinator, Lt Col. (rtd) Larry Gbevlo comes on air to confess that he is the demolisher in chief.

Not only that, Larry went on to tell us that he had given ample warnings to the university authorities (head of security and left his contact details to be passed on to decision makers (which turned out to be a forgery when persistent calls to the number  by Paul Adom Otchere were answered by " this number cannot be reached". 

Pressed further, the NSC asserted that he had personally ordered the act of public hooliganism; had not sought and did not need the permission of any higher being to do what he did, even as he could not provide us with the relevant law of the land that allowed him to behave as he did. 

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The Legon demolition act was the fourth in recent weeks where structures have been removed from purportedly illegal sites using armed police, soldiers and assorted security personnel. The legality and circumstances leading  to the perpetration of these acts are still very much a matter of continuing public discussion. However, the involvement of security personnel is in no doubt, even as  the question of "who authorised the use of security personnel in civilian disputes has not been answered.

The President of Ghana, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, head of the police and capo of our nation's security has been conspicuous by his eerie silence; refusing to confirm or deny that he authoriised the involvement of our security operatives in hooligan acts under the cloak of deep darkness.  

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Anarchy is defined as ''a situation of confusion and wild behaviour in which the people in a country, group, organisation, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws". It is my contention that for as long as the government refuses to offer us the people the rationale and cogent explanations on these matters which are founded in the constitution of Ghana and other laws derived from it, we are heading inexonerably and surely into a state of anarchy in Ghana.

The Legon action has elicited public sympathy, both for the inconvenience and draconian rates of the tolls instituted by the University of Ghana. Public sympathies were also in abundance for the plight of the affected people in the three other incidents. Again, the legality or otherwise of the rise of these 'shanty towns' in the middle of our cites, and how they were taken down, are still the subject of ongoing public discourse. 

Populism is defined as a political  strategy based on a calculated appeal to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people."  Alas, the story of Ghana for the past 50 years is one of false messiahs and avaricious politicians robbing the people blind on the populist sentiments.

Last Monday,  February 24, was the 48th anniversary of the coup that overthrew  Kwame Nkrumah. Kutu Acheampong's act of 1972 also passed us by last month. Those two events, were justified and cemented by the populist appeal of uprooting the corruption of the elected political elite, passed by with deafening silence. 

 " We no go  sit down make them cheat us" introduced into our body politic in 1979 and 1982,  has defined  populism in Ghanaian politics and influenced  the governance of Ghana right up to this day, more than 20 years into a fourth republican constitution.

From squatter settlements to  shanty towns; from unauthorised markets  to trading on pedestrian walkways; from food and lotto kiosks to fitting shops;  from kayayei to galamsey;  we the people of Ghana, acting under the guise of ahumobro (concern for the plight of the less fortunate) have acquiesced in, nay tolerated to triumph of populism over the rule of law.

It is when we try to come to terms with how a country committed to democracy and constitutional  governance, is engulfed with so much populism that it is heading into complete anarchy, that "I thinkism" comes into play and to the fore.

Twenty years ago this year, we put Radio Eye as the first independent radio station in Ghana. That act was informed by our belief that the exercise of democratic choice  through universal adult suffrage was best guaranteed through a properly informed electorate voting in an election. 96.2 MHz was Radio Eye's  frequency to denote 1996 and the year of the second general election of the fourth republic.

It is now said that more than 80 per cent  of Ghanaians get their political and indeed most other public information and education from radio of which we have nearly 300 in operation now.  This is an awesome manifestation of pluralism and choice but what of informed content?

Unfortunately, public discourse on our radio and other broadcast media, has been hijacked by personal opinion masquerading as incontrovertible truths akin to the commandments on  Moses' Tablet or an unshakable Islamic fatwa.  The style is to offer one's opinions ( "For me") without any recourse or reference to the relevant law of the land.  The people, who expect to be given the base facts to come to their own conclusions, are denied this opportunity, leaving them even more ignorant and confused in the end.

In the matter of the Legon demolitions, I have asked the President of Ghana to replace the National Security Coordinator on the basis that he acted without the President's authority; acted outside the laws from which he operates; acted capriciously and with total disregard and disdain to the constitution of Ghana.

To date, not a single person (legal luminary or social commentator) has been able to inform Ghanaians as to the precise section of the security law or indeed any other law of the land. The roles and underlying legal authority for the actions and inaction of the police, and especially soldiers, remain shrouded in deliberate official silence.

Ghana blazed the trail of Black Africa's modern political nation states because the colonial masters believed that our leaders and people were the most ready and prepared to embrace and practice democratic governance; founded on the pillars of universal adult suffrage, respect for rule of law and justice for all.

Aged nearly 60, our nation has been overcome by a growing and perceptibly worrying descent into a pot-pourri of anarchy, populism and  ignorance. We will do well to reverse the chaos before we are engulfed and consumed by the anger and revenge of a genuine revolution by the down-trodden people.   Ukraine and Bosnia Herzegovina are vivid harbingers of what could happen here.  

The writer is Chief Policy Analyst , Ghana Institute for Public Policy Options, GIPPO

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