RE: Peaceful elections
Allow me to share a personal letter to you with everyone else.
As we approach elections again, there is tension in the air even if some don’t feel it. It’s there. The Ghana Peace Council and the respected Think Tank, Institute for Democratic Governance, are among those who have warned of potential “basabasa”. It’s a shame that there should be a potential for “basabasa” after 24 years of our 4th Republic. But it’s not surprising. We have gotten ourselves into a place where the stakes are unnecessarily high. The lack of inclusivity in our politics, makes protagonists fight till the very last breath. The winner takes everything leaving nothing for the loser. Not even local government positions. This has tended to heighten tensions at election time leading in some cases to civil disturbances.
Mr President, I believe this may have been one of the considerations for declaring your support for elections at the local government level for the heads of our districts, DCEs. Currently you have the power under the constitution to appoint them all, so I was very impressed to see you speak publicly in support of changes that will strip your office of that power. But please promise to go beyond mere pronouncements and take the necessary steps that will make this change happen. If you win, I will come back to remind you of it. If the opposition candidate wins, I expect the same because he is also on record as supporting the election of chief executives at the local government level. Besides improving our democracy, it will reduce significantly the tension we experience every four years as elections approach. The idea is that by including the opposition in governance, the opposition parties will have a say in the governance of our people; albeit at the local level. Power sharing will occur even if only within the governing political class. (I’m always careful when I discuss the concept of power sharing). Here, I’m talking about a reduction in tensions because opposition parties will now be within government and not outside it, working against governments every move. We could have an NPP President working with an NDC mayor for example and vice versa. We could have PPP or CPP District Chief Executives.
Mr President, you have complained about the “winner takes all” system we currently operate, and you are right to. It makes the system more overheated than it needs to be at election time. None of us can deny that we are apprehensive. We see how people do all kinds of things in aid of their preferred candidate, and this brings me to my main point.
Mr President, it seems to me that this is the time for the security institutions to show a high sense of independence and professionalism in the conduct of their duties. Thank you for trusting in their judgement but what else can you do to ensure that they guarantee the personal welfare and security of all the people of Ghana? I think they could be prone to making rash and wrong decisions not because they are ill intentioned but because that’s the only way they know how to do it. We need the police and other security agencies to step up “customer service”. Are they getting the requisite training that will ensure the discharge of their work with diligence and maturity while respecting individual rights, even under extreme provocation? Arresting false prophets who predict victory for your opponent smacks of abuse of power, raises tensions further and brings people out onto the streets. This should be condemned in no uncertain terms.
You are on record as saying on several occasions that you and the ruling party will not be the ones to create political disturbances in the country. I don’t doubt that you mean it. Igniting civil disturbance is not the preserve of any one party or any single individual. The opposition can also encourage political related violence through miscalculations. I know that. I will be calling on them to think hard about their forms of protest, more importantly, controlling the twists and turns of rapidly unfolding events.
But I’m sure you agree with me that the greater responsibility for ensuring peaceful elections lies with the holders of power. The security apparatus is in your hands to deploy and not in the hands of the opposition. Civil disturbances frequently pit the country’s security apparatus against the people who normally are all the opposition have and holders of power can be tempted to use their power disproportionately. Please use your high office to prevent them from acting in a way that they think will please you but hurt the rest of us. I was a little worried when I heard you speak about how your message wasn’t getting out because of the activities of certain media players. Surely, such a comment does not engender confidence.
By the way can you update us on the activities of those paramilitary groups that the parties seem to call upon in their “time of need”? Then there are those overzealous party operatives on all sides who everyone else relies on to do the wrong thing. If there was ever a time for you to fully take charge, it is now. You are the one who should stay above the fray.
Mr President, your primary responsibility is to protect Ghana and its people from any harm. All its people. That is what all your predecessors have done. You have a meeting with destiny. You cannot fail.
Your faithful servant of Ghana,