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President Trumpets Nation’s Stability but Fault-lines Remain


While some of our West African neighbors—Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast—have self destructed, Ghana has managed in the face of odds—military coups, ethnic conflicts and political grandstanding— to avoid civil upheaval.

Acutely averse to large scale violence and the mayhem and hardships it unleashes, Ghanaians have exercised great restraint and controlled their violent impulses.

But sadly, we trumpet “this feat”—our stability—at every opportune time and often gloatingly.

Here was the President, John D. Mahama, shamelessly touting Ghanaians’ capacity for tolerance in his maiden address to the nation following the death of President John A. Mills.

“When other nations descended into ethnic rivalries and warfare, we Ghanaians worked and laughed and lived together without regard to ethnic background. When other nations allowed religious intolerance to turn to violence, we embraced our brothers and sisters of differing faiths wishing them Good Friday and Happy Easter or Ramadan Mubarak.”

The President’s gloating aside, this was a good speech. Mr. Mahama hit all the right chords. He was thoughtful and reassuring. Pandering was minimal. He reached out to his political opponents and prodded them to join him in promoting peace and national unity.

Ghanaians are indeed peace loving people. In fact, the nearly two and half decades of stability have made Ghana the darling of the international community. Leading world figures speak glowingly of the country.

And not unexpected, the windfall from our prolonged period of “peace” has been enormous; foreign investments have increased fourfold from years past and Ghana is now the investment destination for a splattering of nations— Asian, African and European.

However, before we get carried away with euphoria, it is important to pose this question; is Ghana a model of peace in a region rife with conflict? Yes, to the extent that Ghanaians continue to keep their parochial feelings from bubbling to the surface and ultimately engulfing them in a firestorm of violence, yes, Ghana is a model of peace.

But beneath the veneer of stability lie simmering political, economic and social tensions that if left unchecked could undo the peaceful atmosphere we have tediously built.

How did these fault lines come about? Our political culture is the source; political discourse has become increasingly coarse and puerile. The political system is awash in rancor. It is no longer a tightly held secret that our politicians have jettisoned civility and replaced it with unbridled meanness.

Ghanaian politicians will readily admit…off the record, of course….that their first impulse is to belittle their opponent to gain political advantage. Examples abound; the late President Mills was vilified endlessly, so too, was Kufuor and already, Mahama has begun to suffer the same fate.

There is no end in sight. Each passing day our politicians give us a lot to worry about with their utter contempt and disdain for each other. Frankly, the fissures within the body politic will only worsen as the elections draw near and the parties vie for electoral victory.

Talking about unruly politicians brings to mind the bombastic utterances of Ablakwa Okudzeto (NDC) and Kennedy Agyapong (NPP)? These two symbolize all that is wrong with Ghanaian politics. They are combative, rude and unapologetic.

Of course, there are other politicians who are just as inflammatory, but the insufferable Okudzeto and the pugnacious Agyepong are provocateurs par excellence. I am hoping that the President had these two fellows in mind when he urged Ghanaians to erase negativity and the petty name calling

The fact that these two boisterous politicians continue to poison the political well and torment their opponents is due to some unexplained paralysis that has gripped their political parties. Why the NDC and NPP continue to cling to these two obvious albatrosses befuddles me.

Other threats to our cohesiveness as a nation, and by extension our democracy, are the teeming hordes of the unemployed in our cities and the frequency of communal violence in some parts of the country.

There is a widening financial gap between the newly minted Ghanaian middle class and millions of their compatriots in the ghettos and the rural areas. Our politicians are keenly aware of this divide, but are yet to propose concrete solutions. Instead, they waltz around the issue and make grandiose promises. Any wonder banditry is now a disturbing feature of our daily lives.

Our nation has come perilously close to erupting on many occasions, but cooler heads prevailed. Cooler heads should continue to dominate the national conversation.



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