A Step Into Becoming A Dictator: In Ghana’s 4th Republic
Julius Caesar was a charismatic and unconventional politician who knew what the masses wanted to hear and he would deliver that to them. He crossed the Rubicon River at the surprise of the old politicians. He promised to shake things up and he did, but it wasn’t long before he proclaimed himself a dictator. Even among the democratically elected leaders, getting absolute power is tempting, because absolute power corrupts absolutely.
History attests to how Hitler rose to be a dictator, and recent past and present leaders like François Duvalier (Papa Doc) of Haiti, General Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Turkey’s Erdogan, and President Donald Trump, are just a few to be worried about. Donald Trump became the third President of America since independence in 1776 to have been impeached. All these people have the tendency to be demagogues, and demagogues have been a problem for democracy for close to 20 centuries. Therefore, concerned Ghanaian and the CSOs cannot remain neutral or silence to allow our young 4th Republic fall into a state of near-anarchy.
The greatest danger to Africa democracy is the struggling of poor masses in search of easy answers.
The ancient Roman Empire was far from a perfect democracy, yet the citizens had a real voice in their government in contrast to the kingdoms and autocratic empires elsewhere. Ghana has gone through decades of military rules but citizens or opponents have not been threatened or intimidated so much as our current government under a democratically elected President. This is the man who served as the General Secretary for Movement for Freedom and Justice (MFJ) in the late 1980s to early The 1990s.
This pressure group opposed the plans of the military government in Ghana and even criticized the composition and modus operandi of the Consultative Assembly that drafted our 1992 Constitution that ushered Ghana to the 4th Republic. Today President Nana Akufo-Addo has disowned the MFJ members and might call them enemies of the state.
When seeking power, candidate Nana Akufo-Addo went very low to the people, ate together with them, and sat among them in their churches and mosques. He posited that Ghana was a rich country but someone else was sitting on our gold while the masses are starving. In view of this, he gave unfulfilled promises, polluted the minds of many and blackmailed his predecessor. An over-ambitious leader without having found self-knowledge falls into error and makes himself and everyone else miserable. The man who was said to be incorruptible is now supervising over 110 corruption and scandals.
He has turned his Presidency into a Clearing House, vindicating his corrupted ministers and appointees, and accuse opponents as naysayers. Times are hard in Ghana and it’s going to be harder if Ghanaians make another mistake by retaining this administration. More than three and half years of an economic downslide, Cedi is still depreciating against major currencies.
Under this administration, two-thirds of the banks and microfinance have been closed down in the name of financial cleanup. This government is said to have spent Ghc22 billion to clean up the banks whose total debt stood at Ghc9 billion. And yet some depositors are believed not to have received their money, more than a year the banks collapsed. Collapsing of the financial institutions and other Ghanaian businesses have created lots of unemployment in Ghana.
The preambles of our 1992 Constitution declares and confirms Freedom, Justice, Probity and Accountability. In fact, there is no democracy without opposition and media checks and balances. Imbalance role of media has a bad reputation of any democratic state. The media is the greatest source of information people can rely on to make an informed decision.
However, in Ghana, it is the highest bidder who will always utilise the media as a weapon. Unfortunately, President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government sought to threaten and suppress media houses and journalists. On several occasions, there have been numerous cases of intimidation against leaders of the opposition parties and unnecessary police arrests have been recorded in this era.Ghanaians have enjoyed the freedom of speech and expression since 1993, but the NPP government has become a standing block to the rule of law. These have left some weary of the plodding nature of their government.
There is no denying the fact that our civilian government, under Nana Akufo-Addo is stepping into dictatorship and tranny regime. The following characteristics in the regime can be outlined here below:
- Government expands power base through nepotism and corruption
It happened in Western countries as well as Third World countries. Scandals like Bridgegate, Koreagate, Monicagate and Watergate, and yet-to-be Trumpgate, demonstrate that the powerful will always find ways to abuse their privileges. Use constitutional mandate to appoint favourites and the repercussion is corruption. Robert Mugabe gave lots of incentives to wife, who could have even taken over the presidency. Jacob Zuma, awarded contracts to friends and brother-in-law supervising his corrupt deals. President Nana Akufo-Addo has filled his families and relatives to key political appointments, including children, and then appoint friends and their relatives to lucrative key positions. At some points, none existing positions are created to suit close members.
Meanwhile, in less than 4 years in office, the NPP government under President Akufo-Addo has recorded 130 corruptions and scandals activities. Among them are a $3 billion conflict of interest Eurobonds involving Finance Minister; $12.5 million sole-sourced the contract for blood distribution drones, BOST contaminated saga, Australian visa racketeering. AfCON saga, Atta Akyea housing contract, pay to sit with the President, nolle prosequi against 13 Delta Force vigilantes, Mac Manu fingered in $1.5 billion MPS deal, US$24 million tax waiver for family business company, PDS corrupt scandal, Ameri renegotiation scandal, over 1200 missing tricycles sent to the North, missing of 500 excavators ceased from galamsey sites, stinking Aker Oil deals, the latest Agyapa Royalties saga, etc. All these corrupt dealings are through nepotistic families and friends’ affairs of government. Among some of the unthinkable are the appointment of 125 Ministers and Deputies and more than 1200 staff working at the presidency.
- Government instigates monopoly on the use of force on the masses.
Dictators cannot survive for long without disarming the people and buttering up the military. Former dictators such as Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo and Idi Amin of Uganda were few examples of history will never forget. Some adopt policies of getting rid of their political enemies - or, more cleverly, embrace them in the hope that the bear hug will neutralize them. Zimbabwe’s former dictator Robert Mugabe abandoned the unpopular practice of murdering political rivals and instead bribed them. Other tactics are witch-hunt and blemish character assassination to silence others.
In Ghana, the government using his own vigilante forces in disguise, to torment the opposition and even the media. The current administration has supervised the burgeoning of what is called political vigilantism. One National Peace Council member is believed to have said he does not feel safe with the current rise of pro-government party vigilantism in the country. Right after the government was handed the baton, NPP Invincible Forces assaulted a policeman on duty at Flagstaff House, Kandahar Boys tormented the CEO of the Tamale Teaching Hospital. In Ashanti Region, Delta Force attacked the Regional Security Coordinator and when they were put before the court, their counterparts raided the court and freed their members. During last year by-election at Ayawaso West-Wougon, government’s thuggery and vigilantes caused severe havoc against their opponents. But when the media exposed the government of sponsoring the thugs, the government rather was on the offensive.
Today in Ghana, the government suppresses the media, the right to public protest is limited, free social media is even under scrutiny, vociferous clergies are attacked and threatened, unnecessarily police arrest of the opposition. People are killed across the country where there is no proper investigation ongoing, and numerous harassments are reported daily. All because the government has taken away the police power of neutrality. The police are no more independent and are now working under the instructions of the national security or directives from the presidency. There is no rule of law. The rule of law can serve as a safeguard against tyranny because just laws ensure that rulers do not become corrupt.
- Accumulate power by manipulating the hearts and minds of citizens.
One of the first actions of any aspiring dictator should be to control the free flow of information because it plugs a potential channel of criticism. A healthy democratic politics depends on a free flow of information among citizens, groups, candidates for public office, and political parties. The right to speak diminishes in significance without the ability to be heard, and that speech is often conditional on the availability of financial resources. Most dictatorial regime turns the media into a propaganda machine to the benefit of the regime. For years down the lane, the government has shut down more than two major radio stations belonging to the opposition. The reasons are not monetary but another way to silence the opposition. They have deprived the poor of any development possibilities and hinders the free flow of information which is crucial to holding government officials accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of them.
Democracies need leaders, lawyers, academicians, civil societies, and journalists who can articulate the expected norms of politics and expose violations of them. Our democratic Republic was supposed to resist the unscrupulous means of fraud and corruption among appointees. Rather we have demagogues pretending to be speaking for the people but can be seen to be truly committed to the advancement of the interests of themselves, small group or simply to their own aggrandizement.
- Create an ideology to justify an exalted position
Tyranny occurs when absolute power is granted to a ruler, either elected or forced means. In a tyrannical government, the ruler becomes corrupt and uses his power to further his own interests instead of working for the common good. Throughout history, leaders have used or, in some cases, invented an ideology to legitimize their power. It’s a matter of creating some atmosphere to capture the civil society, honour church leaders to win support and sometimes suppress opinion leaders. President Nana Akufo-Addo has established himself on the ruins of constitutional arrangements where the absence of a strong middle class is helping him to achieve that aim. With the help of constitutional arrangements, he successfully replaced all the heads of the Electoral Commission where he could easily manipulate to his advantage. He succeeded in filling in about 10 Justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana, and elevated many high court judges to appeal court. Similarly, he placed his own favourites at the heads of state securities. Because of these arrangements, all these institutions have lost their independence.
Using the constitutional arrangements to his advantage, the President after receiving Justice Emile Short’s Commission Report recommendation on the violence at Ayawaso West-Wougon by-election, he threw it away. But rather threatened a journalist for producing a documental report on Tiger Eye vigilante training at the annexe of the presidency. In recent voter register exercise, the government deliberately deployed the military, police, other security operatives and own thugs along the borders to harass and intimidate people in the opposition strongholds. There were no reasons apart from trying to suppress registrants from registering so that he can win the incoming 7 December 2020.
- Create fears and intimidation to strengthen the position
Nobody takes legal action for granted. No one wants to be sued, ever because it involves costs. You can’t be sure of which judge will handle the case; you won’t be lucky to have a good lawyer. This regime will threaten anyone who dares say anything against it. If even wrong things are happening, no one dares to say anything, like the days in a military rule where you would be asked to “keep quiet and suffer”. More often than not, the government communicators will tell you to go to court if you are not comfortable with the situation.
Dictators usually resort to force or fraud to gain despotic political power, which they maintain through the use of intimidation, terror, and the suppression of basic civil liberties. They may also employ techniques of mass propaganda in order to sustain their public support. It is because of this a minister could pull up a gun and fires indiscriminately in the public where peaceful civilians are going about voters’ registration exercise. Truly, truly, the President didn’t see anything with his minister and didn’t condemn his minister for wrongdoing. Till date, the President didn’t talk about those who died or wounded during that registration exercise.
Today Ghanaians are looking for someone to take the reins of power and bring back businesses and the freedom they have enjoyed for decades. The current administration has allied itself with a particular social class (“families & friends), and attempting to either maintain the interests of the wealthy and privileged elites or to recoup all their losses when they stayed in opposition.The type of the government under President Nana Akufo-Addo is a step into the direction of a tyrant if not a dictatorship and if nothing is done about it, it would erase the freedom we have enjoyed under the 4th Republic. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” My observation is not warped to state that if democracy then degenerates into tyranny where no one has discipline, society can exist in chaos.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana, --- And help us to resist oppressors' rule.
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