A Leading member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Kwame Pianim, has stated that the privileges of any former head of state of Ghana is not the right of any sitting government to withdraw or bestow.
“How is the pride of Ghana served by our former heads of state or first ladies waiting at a conveyor belt at Heathrow Airport to collect their baggage or hustling with mortals like me to board a plane or to get a visa to travel?”, he asked.
Mr Pianim, who stated this at the opening ceremony of a joint consultative meeting between heads of political parties from Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire in Accra yesterday, said the privileges for former heads of state “reflect on us as a nation”.
Organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the two-day dialogue was on the theme, “The Consolidation of Democracy — The Role of Political Parties”.
According to Mr Pianim, his saddest day was when he saw a former first lady, Mrs Limann, queuing with him at the Dutch Embassy to collect visa to travel.
He therefore reminded politicians that the probability of them being on either side of the political divide was like the toss of a dice.
He also added that the fact that former President J.J. Rawlings did not treat former heads of state with the decorum and respect due them should not “blind us as a nation”.
Touching on the democratic process in Ghana, Mr Pianim said it was achieved through loss of lives, soul-wrenching anguish, great personal sacrifices, patience, political maturity, level headedness and huge doses of tolerance .
He said although the democratic process was still in its embryonic stage, Ghanaians were committed to the process of changing governments through the use of the thumb and counting of heads.
Advising the Ivorians, he said although it was not easy to forgive the anguish that accompanied the loss of loved ones in wars and tension, the public good demanded that people put the past behind them and work together with their adversaries to serve the interests of the disadvantaged and weak.
Sharing the Ghanaian experience, Mr Pianim said after a decade of revolution where the regime controlled all state apparatus, both internal and external institutions initiated the difficult process of minimising interactions between the opposing political parties and back-channelling contacts among the leadership.
He said although others were not in favour of democratisation, there were a few farsighted individuals in the governing party who advanced and promoted the idea of moving towards the restoration of the democratic process and a two-term mandate presidency.
He mentioned Mr Justice D. F. Annan, Dr Obed Asamoah and Mr Kojo Tsikata as some of those in the government who resisted any attempt to backtrack on the principle.
Mr Pianim reminded all that if Cote d'Ivoire which used to be a symbol of stability and social cohesion in the sub-region could disintegrate into warring tribes and religious factions, then the sub-region could not be said to be stable because instability was infectious.
“Once adventurers and demagogues come to believe that power can be acquired by cutting heads and not through the more difficult mechanism of counting heads, then it becomes difficult to get the monster of instability and social strife back into the container from which it was conjured,” he added.
He said politically tolerant individuals were needed if the press was to do its work as a watchdog, because politicians needed to make sacrifices.
Mr Pianim said the press in Ghana had sometimes overstepped their boundaries and sometimes one was tempted to believe “we live not in democracy but in 'pressocracy”.
He said this was also manifested in instances where some parliamentarians who were expected to represent the views of their constituents found it more convenient to present their views to the press than to articulate their arguments in Parliament.
“It is my belief that as public figures we have an obligation to sacrifice our personal privacy on the altar of greater good of public accountability and transparency. It is not easy but political life demands a tough skin,” he added.
The Administrator of the IEA, Mrs Jean Mensa, said since political parties were the soul of any democracy, nations needed strong and well established political parties to channel the demands of the citizens, govern in the public good and satisfy the basic needs of their societies.
She said these laudable ideas could not be achieved unless there was a tradition and a culture where different political parties communicated freely among themselves and worked together for the good of the nation.