Having endured series of military interventions since the 1966 coup that overthrew Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaians, after failed attempts to return to democratic and civilian rule, adopted the 4th Republican Constitution in 1992, ushering the troubled nation into a democratic rule that remained uninterrupted over the past twenty seven (27) years. The constitution, has in it, the qualification and the stated procedures for one to become a president of the republic. In addition, the Constitution has stipulated clearly, how the institutions of state are to be constituted and operated. The security sector, also has it express definition and composition in the constitution. The same constitution, frowns on certain conducts which it describes as criminal.
For one to take hold of the institutions of state and to have control over the exercise of executive authority, the democratic document enjoins citizens to engage in democratic, free and fair elections, and only upon winning, that one can be sworn in to office to exercise executive power and to command the nation’s security forces. It was in this spirit that the 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections were conducted. It is in the same spirit that we expect the 2020 elections to be conducted for the legitimate winner to be declared.
The battles into these elections have not been easy between the two largest political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). The stakes have kept rising, pushing some of the elections to the brink. Indeed, the 2000 elections have been closely contested, pushing the eventual decision into a run-off between the NDC and the NPP. Again, in the 2008 elections, Ghanaians witnessed, yet again, another keenly contested elections which was also decided in a run-off.
Then came the 2012 elections which, though were not decided on a run-off, ended up in the nation’s Supreme Court which took 8 solid months of protracted litigation to resolve. The election petition was mainly composed on the back of allegations of irregularities which the NPP wanted resolved with some votes annulled to pave way for then candidate Akufo-Addo to be declared winner by the courts. The courts eventually upheld the declarations as were made by the Electoral Commission (EC), legitimizing the authority of then President John Mahama as the duly elected president of the Republic of Ghana.
While one would admit that political vigilante activities have been with us for some time before the 2016 elections, we openly saw their mobilization ahead of the 2016 elections. Long before the 2012 elections, the current president, His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, issued a threat to then President John Evans Atta Mills, and in his words, “…militants on our side, convinced that the state cannot or will not protect them, may take measures to protect their interests, themselves and their loved ones”, a move which could drive the process towards a point of no return.”
It is also important to clearly establish that activities that had threats and potential to mar our elections, have been witnessed across the divide. However, these were individuals outside the authority of the state, who were operating with the state security apparatus to conceal their real identity and motive.
Before the 2016 elections, there were reports of various vigilante activities across the country, linked to the NPP which was then under the leadership of candidate Akufo-Addo, the leader and flag bearer of the NPP. Indeed, as a result of ensuring the equipping and resourcing of these vigilante members, the government of John Mahama, had had to apprehend and deport some three (3) South African mercenaries who were rounded up training some thugs believed to be vigilante members for the NPP in weapon handling, VVIP operations among others. The Ghanaian public, to some extent, pretended to speak about the phenomenon, but not with the full force of condemnation from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
Whatever the length of discussions we had on the subject, and how ever one would wish to lay blames on the previous administration for not dealing with the phenomenon of vigilantism as required, the New Patriotic Party, a party that apparently hosted openly the activities of these vigilante groups and actually benefited from them, emerged winners of the 2016 elections, and had had to deal with a monster of their own creation.
Faced with public uproar and opprobrium arising from the brutalities that were captured on video from the Awayaso West Wuogon by-elections over the elections of a replacement Member of Parliament (MP) of constituents in the area following the death of their MP, the government and especially the president, were seen in a pretentious move to have a total commitment towards dealing with the issue of rising acts of party militia, a phenomenon our society had found voice in recent times to condemn, be it a little too late.
With revelations coming from the Justice Emile Short Commission of Enquiry, constituted to look into the Ayawaso West Wuogon phenomenon, the nation felt embarrassed, to the extent that security officials who were expected to act in a professional manner, seem to have thrown away their professional standards and operated as individuals who have no formal training in crowd control in a civilized society. From the revelations, even though government officials have made efforts to legitimise their operations, it was too glaring to see the motive when security officers who were on the field and had command over the operations on the said day, appeared shocked and ignorant of the operations engaged in by forces other than those directly under their control and command. Perhaps, the Ayawaso West Wuogon issue had come rather too early, but timely for the world to see what this nation was to witness in the 2020 elections.
Having regard to the manner operations of the nature engaged in by militia groups linked to the NPP in the past especially from the declaration of Nana Akufo-Addo as president to today, it would be foolhardy for anyone to think that the president and his government are interested at any point in ensuring the end of the activities of party boys whose activities had been to his benefit intra party, ahead of the 2016 elections especially at the party headquarters which was a few yards away from his residence, but which he never spoke against.
Indeed, the conduct of the Delta Forces in Kumasi where they went into the offices of the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator, appointed by President Akufo-Addo, beat him up, and dragged him out of his office which eventually marked his last day in office without any reprimand, except to pat them on the wrist for a job well done when the party was alleged to have mobilized the needed resources to pay the eventual court fine that was slapped on them after previously storming the court to free their members standing trial in Rambo-style. In addition, the abuse and assault of ASP Nanka Bruce at the Jubilee House, captured on video, which went unpunished, are all instances to give as an idea of how serious the Akufo-Addo government is in dealing with issues of political thuggery.
Considering the abrasive and brave Akufo-Addo, the man who declared “all die be die” all of a sudden, showing some sobriety towards calls to end political thuggery, it was refreshing, but was a matter that should easily draw suspicions from all peace-loving citizens. There have not been any prior conducts from himself and government to show any commitment towards ensuring the end of such conducts in government. He has failed to punish even when the opportunity was so glaring with the perpetrators easy to round up. As a result, some were suspicious of his calls to the NDC to meet with his political party, the NPP, to begin discussions towards ending political vigilantism.
What was even shocking was the tone and language used in responding to the letter written to his office by the NDC to outline some modalities towards the discussions. The president, in his response, virtually denied claims by the NDC that he has infiltrated the security services with his party thugs.
Meanwhile, moments before his response was delivered to the party, his known party activist, believed to be a member of a vigilante group, seen in several pictures at NPP functions providing security and other activities to the party, Double, who admitted before the Emile Short Commission as having no formal qualification except vending mobile phones and subsequently acquiring a three week training at Asutware military training camp, a testimony that corroborated the statement to that effect by former President Mahama that party thugs were trained at the said facility and enrolled into the national security set-up, had made revelations that appeared to heighten the fears of many.
While the presidency was at the verge of denial of hosting party militia, Manasseh Azure of Joy FM, was yet to expose the double standards of the president. His revelations, have established the core operations of militia groups with state support, in state security facilities, at no mean a place, than the Osu Castle which not long ago, functioned as Ghana’s seat of government through the colonial administration to Kwame Nkrumah, Mills until John Mahama. We saw on the screens, how the president was said to have enquired if those were the members being hosted at the Castle, an indication that he knows of their existence, and the existence of other militia groups at other places.
What informed the choice of topic to this article, is the drive by a president who appears to want to please God, but who doesn’t appear to believe that the same God, answers to all things in His own time and will. I do not wish to proclaim superior knowledge of the Word of God more than the pastors who are seen globetrotting with the president in search of funds to build a cathedral.
Our God is a peaceful God, that, we know. Our God, admonishes us to live peacefully with our neighbours. He also teaches us to have faith and hope in Him. We should understand that, if our president, chooses to build a cathedral “to the glory of God” based on his personal promise to Him, then, we have every reason to believe that he believes wholly in the God he is building a cathedral to please. He cannot be serving two masters; building a cathedral to the glory of God, while building a private militia to his own glory.
I am at a loss, having watched the Manasseh video, how the president can claim no knowledge over the existence of these groups in his government, and their use of state security facilities for his parochial party interest, following the tone of response in his letter to the NDC on his own request.
The call appears a pretentious one, and a cunning way to play a clean political card before the international community in the open, while lacking the political will needed to fully and wholly deal with the threat of vigilantism.
Having paraded influential members of the clergy behind him in his quest and drive to build a national cathedral, we are afraid that these same individuals who are expected to hold high the moral fibre of our society, have lost their gravitas in calling on the president to live by his words and promise and to hold a higher moral standard if he really meant to serve the interest of God. This issue has the potential of derailing the gains we have made politically and would dent our enviable record of achievement as the beacon of democracy in Africa.
Our resolve must be to reprobate and to approbate when the need arises. We cannot be seen to be weak in our conviction and in dealing with issues that threatens our collective good. Our political environment must be safe, and be done in a democratic manner that allows citizens the right to choose their leaders without any threats of intimidation. The president must be clearly seen to be committed to what he preaches. If he is building a cathedral for God to dwell in, it simply means he loves God and loves His children. Building a militia that would intimidate and harm God’s children cannot be in tune with that commitment and promise to build a cathedral. Our president must not see the cathedral as a bribe to heaven, since indeed, our God looks into our hearts more than what we exhibit to the world.