Winner takes all responsible for political vigilantism

In the last few weeks we have spent a lot of airtime in the electronic and ink, in the print media, to express our concerns over politics inspired vigilantism and violence in Ghana.

Causes:

In the discussions so far, the law enforcement agencies, particularly the police have been singled out and chastised for doing little or nothing at all, to bring the situation under control. While some insist that taking away from the executive, the powers to appoint the Inspector General of Police (IGP), would afford the police the needed independence to deal with politically motivated crimes, including vigilantism without fear or favour, others insist it would make no difference.

I stand with the latter position. Political vigilantism is nurtured and promoted by our winner takes all governance system. When the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) was in opposition, it indicated that it could not trust the state security agencies to be independent and fair to all political actors.

Obviously, The National Democratic Congress (NDC) that was in power at the time had taken “all” the security and left the NPP feeling vulnerable with what was obviously inadequate by way of security. To that end, the NPP decided to arrange for its own private security network to augment that of the state.

The NPP went as far as South Africa to enlist the services of security expert that the NDC scornfully described as mercenaries for the purposes of deportation. Some of the private security details of the NPP network we leant right after they won the 2016 elections include the notorious Delta and Invisible Forces.

The actions of these informal groups, have given expression to the spoils system. They contributed to the NPP’s win and must in turn be given appointments in the new administration by hook or crook.

I recall the Savelugu Municipal Assembly disturbances among others, where the duly appointed Municipal Chief Executive, Hajia Aishetu Seidu, was prevented from performing her official duties, by members of the NPP in the area. They wanted the President to withdraw the appointment because the appointee in their view was not NPP enough.

Again, I recall 2001, when the first regime changed through the ballot box in the fourth republican dispensation, the transition was characterized by revenge, acrimony and huge administrative lapses.

The acrimony between the government and members of the previous administration heightened. Foot soldiers of the new administration took the law into their own hands and seized income generation entities like public toilets, lorry parks and market toll booths all over the country.

Some members of the security agencies in collaboration with officials of the party in power, backed by tacit government support went after officers of the previous administration on a vehicle seizure spree.

 

Leadership failure

Right after the 2008 elections when the NDC returned to power, the same cycle was repeated. The exclusion of Ghanaians who did not belong to the NDC from public office was so pronounced. By January 2017 when the NDC handed power over to the NPP, the problem had not been solved.

In the run up to the 2016 elections, it was suggested to the NDC and NPP to ban the existence and operations of the vigilante groups within their parties. They unanimously rejected the suggestion. Mr. John Dramani Hahama was President as of the time. He was in charge but he refused to ban the vigilante groups.

Last week when the people of Ghana indicated they had had enough of the crimes of the political vigilante groups, the former president posted the following comments on the social media platform; Facebook –

 

“When you sow the wind, you reap a whirlwind!” Political ‘vigilantism’ is spiraling out of control and government doesn’t appear to be able to deal with the situation. And the tragedy is that most of our moral society have become passive spectators”.

Really? President Mahama was in charge of the country for at least four years. He could have stopped political vigilantism with his executive powers. But he did not. I find it hard to accept his criticism of the current administration for a problem he should have solved.

 

Solutions

Until we change the winner takes all system, political vigilantism would be difficult to stop. If the support offered by foot soldiers and vigilante groups within the NDC and NPP are for rewards when their parties get power, why do we expect them not to expect and in fact demand those rewards using the same aggressive, sometimes criminal methods they used in getting their parties into power in the first place?

Alternatively, the NDC and NPP must agree to outlaw the vigilante groups within their parties. But even if they do not agree, the constitution grants the President wide and sweeping powers to make illegal through the due process of law, activities of individuals and groups that clearly breach the laws of the land. President Nana Addo must ban the creation and operation of vigilante groups among political parties in Ghana.

As illegal mining “galamsey” is to the environment, so is political vigilantism to our democracy. If the President banned galamsey to protect our environment, he must in like manner, ban political vigilantism to protect our democracy. A ban, is the surest way out!

 

The Last Uprising

…with William Dowokpor

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