Culture of silence under Akufo-Addo a reality – Manasseh

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All journalists who live in fear in Ghana under the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo administration have a good reason to do so, investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni, has said.

According to him, members of the inky fraternity in Ghana are not safe following the failure of the government to thoroughly investigate the killing of some journalists in the country and bringing the culprits to book.

Manasseh made these comments in relation to a comment by businessman Sam Jonah to the effect that many individuals and civil society organizations that used to speak up against social ills have all gone mute under President Nana Akufo-Addo despite wanton corruption, killing and torturing of journalists, and rising moral degeneration in the Ghanaian society.

He told Komla Adom on the Mid Day news on 3FM Monday, April 26 that “People are living in fear and they have a reason to live in fear because they don’t know who [murder] will happen to next.

“A colleague of ours was put on television and then somebody said if you meet him attack him, later this person was shot and killed and up till now we don’t know the one who was or is behind the murder of Ahmed Suale.

“So the average journalists living in this environment has every good reason to be afraid for their lives.

“Irrespective of whatever terminologies one will have to use the fear is real. I will also just want to add that there are some of us journalists who have imposed the culture of silence on ourselves for the fear of losing their jobs or to make money so we protect the status quo.”

Mr Jonah had said “we have elected governments since 1992 to steer our affairs. But the very nature of our democratic setup is our undoing. The three arms of government are like a tripod. For stability, each leg must have enough strength to stand. In our system, one leg i.e the executive has more strength than the other two combined. In fact, the two seem to derive their strengths from that of the executive, thus weakening checks and balances. Any party that comes to power has absolute power to do whatever they want.

“The 1992 Constitution is the basis for the current democratic dispensation. It created a monstrous executive which looms large over the other arms of the governance structure, and for 28 years, we have failed to make any meaningful changes to strengthen our democracy. Actually, what we have is an “Executocracy”, not a democracy. The President is supposed to appoint the majority of his ministers from Parliament. By definition, that makes Parliament a rubber stamp, because no MP in the ruling party will be able to stand up and demand accountability from the executive – they are all scrambling for positions!

“The Judiciary is no different. The President has a determining role in the appointment of all the judges of the Supreme Court including the Chief Justice. This festers the perception that the situation compromises the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. Indeed a large section of the citizenry believes that the judiciary is not impartial with 85% of Ghanaians in a recent Afrobarometer survey perceiving the judiciary as corrupt and ineffective.”

He added, “My own personal experience with the judiciary is that of frustration, lengthy and costly proceedings. Some lawyers take pride in being masters of legal gymnastics. Every opportunity to delay cases are seized. The Commercial Courts which were set up to speed up the dispensation of justice have been a huge disappointment. Disputes involving land overwhelm the courts. Land acquisition is the most important factor in investment decision making. Any prolonged litigation over land frustrates the investor.”

“It has been said that the enclave that houses the lands commission, lands evaluation and title deeds registry is arguably the most corrupt enclave in the world. It cannot be good for investment. But corruption pervades all aspects of our governance system. Few years ago, a prominent member of parliament said publicly that parliamentarians take bribes to pass bills that favour their sponsors. Ladies and gentlemen, if a fish comes out from water to tell us that the crocodile has one eye, who are we to doubt it? Incidentally, the said MP is now the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Alban Bagbin,” Mr Jonah stressed.

He noted that “Our governments pay lip service to anti-corruption but do little substantially to cure the canker. Which of the major corruption issues has been conclusively dealt with since the fourth Republic began? There have been major corruption scandals and none has been conclusively dealt with. I could give you a long list of unsolved corruption cases but there is no need to bore you with something you are all so familiar with.

“As a friend of mine will say, the problem with corruption is not the absence of laws, but the certainty of punishment. Sadly, there is rather certainty that corrupt people especially in high places will never face punishment. And this has bred impunity in those who would rather take it all for themselves through dubious means than serve the common good. We cannot go anywhere if this situation continues. No country can develop without dealing decisively with corruption.”

“Days ago, we read shocking news of two teenagers who were arrested for killing a 10-year-old boy for money rituals. This sparked extensive discussion on mainstream as well as social media. Many Ghanaians were expectedly shocked that children of this age were so moved by money that they allegedly killed a human being to get it. But if we were to reflect, we would know that this was merely a symptom of a much more deep-seated problem with the entire Ghanaian society.

“When our children watch TV, what do they see? Too much religiosity without morality; pastors displaying uncouth behaviour by stepping on pregnant women and slapping congregants; people showing how money can be made without hard work, and when they copy what they see, we appear shocked. Let us stop the pretence!”

He continued, “What is baffling is that those who used to have voices on these things seem to have lost their voices. People speak on issues based on who is in power. Is our deafening silence suggesting that we are no longer concerned about issues that we complained about not too long ago, particularly when those issues persist….. The molestation of and in some cases assassination of journalists, murder of MPs, corruption, the harassment of anti-corruption agents.

“We have just finished another election, the 8th in the series since the beginning of our fourth Republican democratic experiment. As usual, the accolades came in from all corners of the world, and we took them with pride. What we failed to tell the world is that some people lost their lives in the course of the election. No election is as important as to warrant the loss of even one life. And the silence over it is numbing as it gives the impression that it is okay, and it is to be expected. No, it is not to be expected.

“One of the saddest moments for me was after the State of the Nation address when an MP was asked why there had not been serious outpouring of grief about the death of the innocent people in Techiman, his response was that as far as he was concerned, they were undeserving of any sympathy because he saw them as armed robbers. For me, that was a new low for the country.

“We also witnessed arguably the biggest assault on our democracy since the beginning of the Fourth Republic when on the eve of the swearing-in of the President at a time when there were no ministers, and crucially there was no minister of defence, armed soldiers, that is to say, officers from an institution that works by command, invaded our Parliament and up till date, no serious answers have been provided. This could have had grave consequences and for the future of our country, the least the country deserves is a public enquiry. Have we become so numb to these things?

“The indiscipline on our roads has become a nightmare. Last year, about 1115 people lost their lives or got seriously injured due to. Road accidents, a 22% increase over the 2019 figures according to the bureau of public safety. For the first three months of this year alone, more than 700 people died from Road accidents. By comparison, COVID 19 has killed about 760 people over a one year period. Clearly, indiscipline on our roads is more deadly than coronavirus.

“Our media landscape is so polarised and partisan. There is hardly any objectivity, because a lot of the media stations are owned by politicians whose interest is in swaying voters one way or the other. Independent media practice seems to have faded and journalism has become a conveyor belt for political propaganda, insults, and acrimony. What is the status of the role of the media in holding the executive, judiciary, and legislature accountable as the fourth estate of the realm? Is it enough to just report issues. Where are the investigations? Where are the facts? These are hard questions that the media must ask and re-assess its role in reshaping our country’s future.

“In the past, when all had failed, academia was the last vanguard. We all remember the role that the Legon Observer played. Under the hallowed cloak of academic freedom, men and women of conscience could write and speak words that penetrated the halls of power. It appears to me that in recent times in our fourth Republican dispensation, the courage to stand up for the truth and the determination to uphold the common good are lost.

“In our dark moments as a nation, it is concerning that the voices of the intellectuals are receding into oblivion. Sadly, it is a consequence of the deep partisan polarisation of our country such that everything is seen through the lenses of politics. It appears to me that the culture of silence has returned. This time not enforced by legal and military power but through convenience, parochialism, hypocrisy and lack of conviction. Where are our Adu Boahens and PAV ANSAHs?

“Where do we go from here? If we were to listen to the voice of the over-the-hill, the over 70s who have seen it all, what would be their advice for the future of this country? Well, this is the advice of the over-the-hill crowd who have been of service and are very confident that a word to the wise is enough. As the Bible says, those who have ears, let them hear,” he intimated.

Mr Sam Jonah emphasised that “First to have a meaningful democracy, we cannot continue on the path of a tripod with one leg stronger than the other two combined. We must commit to review the experiment with the aim of strengthening accountability and ensuring that democracy delivers real development to the people. Democracy is meaningless unless it is capable of improving the living standards of the people and providing decent living conditions for at least the very poor in our society. To achieve this, the constitution must change.

“Second we must re-evaluate the structure of our economy. No country has attained the height of development unless the major drivers of the economy are owned and controlled largely by the citizenry. Take a look at the major drivers of the Ghanaian economy in the financial sector, the mining sector, construction of major projects, telecommunications, oil and gas, insurance etc. These are often predominantly foreign-owned, and Ghanaians own little in these sectors.

“For example, according to PwC, as of June 2019, only nine (9) out of 23 Class 1 licensed banks had majority local ownership with the rest being majority foreign-owned. In the mining sector, Ghana has more than 20 mining companies at various stages of operation in the country. As far as am aware no Ghanaian business man or woman has 5% of the ownership in any of these companies. The situation is not different from what pertains to the oil sector.

“I note with some satisfaction the efforts of the government to empowering Ghanaians in the economy. In this regard, I pray we will learn from the experiences of Malaysia and South Africa. In Malaysia, the promotion of what they called “bumiputra” (Malay sons of the soil) policies as an attempt to empower local businesses in an affirmative manner led to massive corruption and cronyism. South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment Program (BEE) suffered the same fate. Even though these programmes were well-intended, their implementation gave room for political patronage and clientelism leading to the consequences noted above. We must therefore be guarded in the implementation of this initiative.

“We can empower our own people without creating seasonal local entrepreneurs through political patronage or “create, loot and share” schemes disguised as investments. Tribal and ethnocentric considerations, family affiliation and friendships must not be the defining routes to gain business opportunities.”


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