Democracy Of Impunity

The great pity is that we keep blaming political parties and governments, as if the parties and governments are managed by aliens. We have missed the central truth. And that is when the craving for power, situation, morality, integrity, decency and honesty flee with high speed. And the result is what we are ‘enjoying’. (Security in the Hands of God – Kofi Bentum Quantson).

At no time in the history of the world has the clamour for democracy been so widespread and so insistent. Just as the present century has seen the ascendancy of many different forms and ideologies of government such as colonialism, fascism, military dictatorships, civilian autocracies and dictatorships, monarchical despotism, constitutional monarchies and rule by religious fanatics, so also the closing decade of the century is likely to go down in history as the decade of democracy, so says Boateng E.A.

Surely, but for the collapse of the cold war between the Eastern and Western powers, the glasnost and peloistrioka, which preceded the wave for democratic journey the world over, perhaps Ghana at the time might not have experienced the Fourth Republic in its present democratic form considering the posture of the leadership of the country at the time.

For the purposes of this peace, I would want to ignore the First Republican democratic dispensation for reasons that will be very obvious to political watchers of this country. Sadly, for my generation and those after me, the Second and Third Republican democratic dispensations did not survive. As if their obituaries and requiem masses had been programmed long before they were installed, the two Republics fell just after two years of their existence.

We should be proud that the Fourth Republican dispensation has survived thus far. The principles of ‘sovereignty residing in the people’ have been adhered to and accepted by all the major political actors, the challenges and threats of mayhem prior to and immediately after each election notwithstanding. But is democracy all about freedom of electing our leaders and expressing our views without hindrance?

It seems our understanding of democracy as a people is limited to rights and that our obligations to the state as a people are always relegated to the background. The principle of rule of law enjoins the state to ensure that individual rights are protected just as the individual’s responsibility towards the state has been turned upside down. While the state at every point in time since the inception of the Fourth Republican process has found itself in court to answer questions citizens of this country want answers to, the state seems to be very weak in exacting lawful behaviour from the citizenry.

One should not be shy to state that the Fourth Republican era of our democratic governance has seen much more indiscipline in its graduated forms each election cycle in our history than ever before. Lawlessness seems to have become acceptable conditions in our governance and abnormal situations have been accepted as normal situations.

If readers would recall, in recent times, each time a new political party takes over from the other and forms a government, during the early months, the nation is plagued by senseless and needless fire outbreaks which involve the loss of lives and property. The sources and causes of them either come too late or we are not told anything at all. Invariably, nobody is punished for some of these human-related destructions.

Road accidents also occur with similar speed with major loss of lives. In Ghana today, one can conveniently state without any contradiction that road accidents take more lives than the dreaded HIV Aids. The Takoradi-Cape-Coast-Accra highway is one such stretch of highway that takes innocent lives almost every week.

As usual with Ghanaians, we express our condolences and shift the blame unto those we think are responsible, and once the euphoria of expressing our democratic rights to blame others is over, we forget the events and continue with our bad ways of doing things. Within the past two weeks, very fatal accidents have occurred on the road mentioned above and precious lives have been lost painfully.

As usual, the discussions have moved to the usual blame games on the nature of the roads, personnel of the Ghana Police Service or the drivers. First, most of the ghastly accidents and the deaths and injuries we record do not occur on very poor roads unless an overloaded truck overturns. Majority of the deaths occur on reasonably better roads, at least by our standards. Even though there is the need to have dual carriage roads on as many of our highways as possible, we all know the financial constraints confronting this country and every government.

The next cause of the accidents is the drivers. Which people do we put behind driving wheels to use our roads? How do we train drivers in this country and how do we issue driver’s licenses? My father was a driver with the Ghana Railways and Ports in those days. He had a trainee driver and it took a while as far as I can remember for my father to hand him a driving steer. Many young potential commercial drivers went under apprenticeship for years before they even applied for a driver’s license. What happens today?

As a result of dearth of job opportunities, the hundreds of thousands of male JHS graduates we hurriedly pushed on to the streets without further education and guided skills training over the years have found themselves as drivers; some learning at the private unsupervised washing bays on their own. Worst still, there are agents at the various DVLAs outfits who upon paying stated sums of money could deliver those licenses at their doorsteps.

Many of such drivers are the causes of the needless deaths occurring on our roads on a daily basis; we only talk but do nothing about it. In Ghana, most drivers don’t look for driving jobs; rather, vehicle owners look for drivers. This situation prevents them from going through the rigorous interviews. A relation out there buys a car, sends it home to be used as a commercial vehicle to take care of the family. The father, mother or the head of the family offers the vehicle to someone whose background is not known or an unemployed son or nephew suddenly becomes a driver and the next time he is on the road. This also contributes to road accidents.

Then the almighty Police Service – they get most of the accusations. What we forget is that they don’t have the right equipment to deal with erring citizens and even criminals. For example, how can the police chase and apprehend criminals or lawbreakers using motorbikes, meandering their way through the heavy traffic which has become part of our daily lives when all they have may be some rickety pickups.

Around us, in the sub-region, heavy duty motorbikes will be found with the police at every checkpoint. Imagine chasing armed robbers on motorbikes on our very poor arterial roads. Hmm! But you the police too, aaba! Stop the two, two cedis you collect from law breaking and undisciplined drivers. It is not a disincentive for them to do the right thing the next time. If you have to take a bribe, please take GH¢200.00 or GH¢300.00 or you take them to court. Next time, they won’t want to pay GH¢200.00 again.

To the politicians: please stop calling the law enforcement officers to set your party people free when they have clearly broken the law. Your party people are not above the law, not even you the MP or the minister. Stop this nonsense, don’t abuse your positions.

These are all poisonous ingredients that have turned us into a nation of chronic cynics and doomsday pessimists, with no recognition and appreciation of the goodness in other people. Pandemic negativity has become pervasive and the nation is drowning. The buoyancy and vibrancy that saw the birth of our dear Ghana in 1957 has dried up. We have sacrificed our virtues for vices (Kofi Bentum Quantson).

By Kwesi Biney