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Dec 7 polls: stop the political bigotry

Monday, December 5, 2016 - 10:53

In the not-too very distant future, valid Ghanaian voters will be going to the polls to select political leaders to govern the country. The 2016 election year is not so different from previous election years which are often full of melodramatic features. In such election years, key political actors never fail in treating their audiences to accusations and counter-accusations, over-ambitious and realistic promises, propaganda and fallacies of ad hominem (attack on personalities). Again, election years in Ghana cannot end without being characterised by religious superstitions and mysticisms, endorsements, aggressive media campaigns, comic reliefs, sudden show of philanthropic gestures, among others. It is also not uncommon that political activities in Ghana are marked by pandemonium, hate speeches, mysterious deaths and assassinations, ethnocentrism, hooliganism, bigotry and a lot more volatile tendencies. From the beginning of this year till now, I have intentionally remained reticent yet observant about a few of the political events leading to the 2016 national elections with some analytical curiosity. Particularly, the much tensed atmosphere of this year’s electioneering activities jog my memory of an interesting event that occurred during the 1996 national elections. In this piece of writing, I wish to share this anecdote or short story so we can learn a few lessons which might be relevant to the forthcoming 2016 Ghanaian elections.

During the 1996 elections, Ghanaians witnessed a very intense contest between J.J. Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the late Prof. Adu-Boahen of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Mammoth political rallies and processions organised by the various political parties were very vibrant and prevalent. These rallies and processions provided some kind of entertainment for little children who were obviously ignorant about the underpinnings of those activities. In one of such processions organised by the NPP, along the C-5 main road of Nungua in Accra, while a few of the kids watched on, a little cousin of mine quickly joined the procession with an extremely jubilant mood. Unfortunately, my naïve cousin was jumping and dancing to an NDC folk song she was singing amongst the NPP adults in the procession. The lyrics of the song she sang are as follows:

“shuᴐ eee…tsatsu mliba (Elephant…Elephant, the ant is coming your way)

Ataa shuᴐ, tsatsu mliba“(Mr. Elephant, the ant is coming your way)” – song in Ga language.

When I was a kid, we were told stories of how easily the ant could kill the elephant when it enters the trunk of the elephant. I have no idea of any scientific proof to confirm this claim. In any case, this song of my cousin’s obviously attracted the fury of some people in the procession who overheard her and threw her out of the procession. My poor little cousin went home crying because some supporters of a political party jeopardised her supposedly blissful moment.

Without any political biasness, the above anecdote illustrates how political affiliations and extremism in Ghana and anywhere in the world can squeeze out of people the very milk of humanity. It’s amazing how some parents, intoxicated with the hard liquor of political radicalism, will magically forget that children will always remain childish. This is an extent to which political bigotry can go. Political bigotry seems to blind the eyes of politicians. Like a dangerously intense heat, political chauvinism or prejudice can sear the consciences of some politicians into ashes.    

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If it is not party-political extremism, am yet to know and understand what motivates some Ghanaian politicians to act in ways that are likely to stoke unwarranted tensions. From the beginning of the 2016 election year to date, some senior government officials and bigwigs of some political parties have already made several misogynistic and ethnocentric statements due to political bigotry. Some are peddling blatant lies, fuelling the fire of sensationalism and wielding a dangerous armoury of cheap propaganda all because of political power. It is even more shameful to hear some ministers and former ministers of state chanting war songs in the name of political rivalry. Ironically, most of these key political actors are supposed to be the very embodiment of peace and unity of our beloved country, Ghana.       

How long will acrimony, rancour, character assassinations, hate speeches, sentimentalism, irresponsibility, among other unpleasant tendencies, continue to dominate our politics? When shall we understand, as a people, that differences in political affiliations only confirm our natural dispositions as human beings? Should our educated politicians continue to engage in their often highly opinionated and mendacious political debates? Can we ever get a significant number of true and bold politicians who can speak against their own party comrades for engaging in political bigotry? For the sake of our country’s overall development agenda, can we look at national pressing issues with politically neutral lenses?

Ideally, the beauty of political democracy should be an ostentatious show of different opinions and ideas all geared toward the sole agenda of developing a country. We should learn to debate political issues with unquestionable facts and infallible evidences and not to denigrate personalities. It is very possible that political campaigns and debates can be done without unnecessary innuendos and provocative statements. If we disagree with our political opponents, it is appropriate to always provide the better alternative idea.   

As Ghana heads to the polls on December 7, 2016, all well-meaning Ghanaians should speak up vehemently against every form of political bigotry. All political bigots should be named and duly shamed. Let us vote massively against political bigotry and rather vote for peace. Certainly, the usually heated contest of political parties to clinch the highest prize of governance will naturally result in pockets of rivalries. But these rivalries or minor conflicts should not be allowed to lead to needless disturbances that endanger the invaluable peace of the country.

To conclude, I urge all my peace-loving countrymen to exercise their franchise with a great deal of decorum on December 7. We need to intensify all efforts to enthrone peace and tolerance before, during and after this year’s election. I believe in Ghana and am proud to be a Ghanaian. May God continue to bless our Homeland, Ghana! 

By: Martin Ato Addison

General Assembly Member

ActionAid Ghana