Public officials are required to be above reproach; they are expected to conduct themselves in ways that distinguish them from ordinary citizens; put another way, they are suppose to act responsibly and prudently. To this end, anything and everything they do is invariably scrutinized.
Hajia Boya Hawawu Gariba, the deputy Ghana Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, recently learnt the hard way that there are certain things public officials just don't do; you cannot brandish a weapon in public, fire a shot in the process and expect to get a slap on the wrist. Ghana is too sophisticated for such antics.
Reports have it that last week, in a confrontation with members of a church over the level of noise emanating from their church, Hajia Gariba allegedly fired a warning shot.
Asked by authorities to give a rationale for her action, the deputy ambassador reverted to the standard response usually trotted out by people caught in the act of firing weapons illegally: "I was only protecting myself," she said. To that, I say hogwash, nonsense.
A public official of her ranking should know better; given the volatile nature of the confrontation and the potential for serious injury and possible death, it would have been prudent and wise if only she had risen above the fray by retreating quietly into her mansion.
On the flip side, members of the church should not, under any circumstances, have marched to the deputy ambassador's house en masse. Two is a crowd, the saying goes, and Hajia Gariba may have been taken aback, and indeed frightened immensely by the large number of churchgoers suddenly appearing on her doorstep.
Tensions between Hajia Gariba and members of the church could have been avoided if both parties had exercised restraint. They should have called authorities to defuse the situation, instead of taking take the law into their hands.
There was absolutely no need for the deputy ambassador to whip out her gun, and fire a shot to scare off the church members who had come to her house to complain about a substance --- which they suspected to be tear gas --- that she had thrown into their church. And, there was certainly no grounds for the church to generate the kind of noise that ultimately became an irritant to Hajia Gariba.
There are laws on the book pertaining to gun ownership and possession and usage, and she ought to obey these laws. I believe that there is the distinct possibility the deputy ambassador may have violated our gun laws.
If the investigations currently under way by police authorities prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Hajia Boya brazenly broke our laws, she should be made to face the full wrath of the law. She is certainly not above the law.
Besides, prosecuting her, will send a strong message to others who may be thinking of pulling the same stunt. Our nation is awash in guns and other deadly weapons and there must be a way to control this trend. The security of our lives and properties should be the paramount concern here.
And, authorities have to come out with ways to have churches which are mushrooming around the country, control the decibels of noise they produce. Churches are places of worship, and need not be constrained. Churchgoers should be free to worship as they deem fit.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that churches situated in residential neighborhoods are sources of unpleasant noise. Something ought to be done about that. And, fast, to prevent clashes such as that which we have just witnessed between the ambassador and the churchgoers.