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INDISCIPLINE COULD BE GHANA’S GREATEST ENEMY

Health & Lifestyle

Ghana is going to hell in a handcart, we are told. Good governance has become a show of power by the state or strength of partisan political will. The rule of law, transparency and accountability have become merely technical questions of administrative procedure or institutional design. Our politics and democratising processes are increasingly driven by indiscipline and an unbridled quest for power, not committed leadership. The masses’ involvement and expectation, fractured by a stagnant economy and a corrupt political class, still bear traces of an expansive view of government and unsustainable demands based on a sense of entitlement.

Ghana is going to hell in a handcart, we are told. Good governance has become a show of power by the state or strength of partisan political will. The rule of law, transparency and accountability have become merely technical questions of administrative procedure or institutional design. Our politics and democratising processes are increasingly driven by indiscipline and an unbridled quest for power, not committed leadership. The masses’ involvement and expectation, fractured by a stagnant economy and a corrupt political class, still bear traces of an expansive view of government and unsustainable demands based on a sense of entitlement.

Ironically, all the articulate, “presidential” and “proper” professional politicians are sitting back and arrogantly contending among themselves what the state should do for individuals, while the Ghanaian nanny-state mud house burns out of control.

Ghana is polarised and indiscipline is eating into the fabric of our society, we are told. It is NPP versus NDC. The truth is that the polarisation is a myth. We all love the centralisation and growth of government power. The plausible suspicion is that all the hassle is simply about the pork barrel: not the interest of the country but the self-interest of the tiny group of feuding politicians and their partisans.

Vote for nothing

The years of multiparty democracy have created an extremely abnormal situation that requires an abnormal reaction if we are to hope for any change that brings economic development. Our politicians are that abnormality. Yet focusing solely on their abnormalities is like obsessing over nothing while ignoring how most of them undermine one of the weightiest foundational morals: respect for the truth. For a large majority of our politicians, voting has become a vote for nothing.

A careful look reveals that the political divide has more in common than meets the eye. Often those who aspire to higher office ignore the facts of history. Our past was sadly characterised by vilification, abuse, character assassination and, above all, unbridled lust for power. This destroyed the First, Second and Third Republics.

We now see the same traits which destroyed the past spreading to the present and future. It is still all about winning and nothing but. Our present ideological position-taking makes consensus-building difficult. Politics has become a profession and a road to quick riches, not service to country. Most politicians are destroying our society, not just by their inactions: they are taking a bulldozer to it. Every one of them acts as if he or she is on a mission to bankrupt this country, economically and morally. The past should be a guide to the present and future.

Asked to explain his support for President Nana Akufo-Addo, Kwasi Adjei, a voter, said: “What we need is a strong political leader whose agenda is the development of the economy and equal opportunities for all.”

Sam Mensah would agree, having noted that “bad and weak leadership destroyed this country”. He stresses that “the President’s vision and policies are good for Ghana, if he can defeat the indiscipline”.

Not so Hajia Sadat, a housewife who accepts indiscipline is a problem but blames it on “the partisan policies of President Akufo-Addo, the blatant disregard of the law by some of his appointees and the entitlement mentality of the majority of his supporters”.

Hajia Sadat’s friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, goes further, saying: “A country that has since the beginning of the current regime, relentlessly seen the rise of false prophets and dubious business deals and the weakening of state institutions, especially the judiciary, should not be surprised at all about the problems we have.
“Sadly, indiscipline, corruption and lawlessness are the new normal in town. The upsurge of indiscipline and the rise of lawlessness show clearly in the way deals are made, contracts are awarded, economic operations are carried out and the law is enforced.”

Truth is taboo

Mr Adjei insists that “the indiscipline is not the fault of the President alone”. He offers insights: “Our indiscipline is due to the general moral decline in Ghanaian society and a population that is increasingly becoming reliant on government handouts; and politicians who will promise everything and do anything to be elected.”

“Leadership is everything,” says Teacher Joyce. She insists that “beyond the qualities of individual leaders, the quality of collective leadership offered by the Ghanaian elite class as a whole is nothing. After all, a tree cannot make a forest, and an individual leader cannot do everything alone,” she says.

You can see the divide in these discussions, and the consensus. The lack of a collective vision, poor focus and indiscipline of the elite as a whole are destroying this country. Until we solve this problem, all our efforts to realise economic development will come to naught. When we consider Ghana's moral decline, our first instinct is to look at the politics. In our quest for nation-building, we have achieved certain successes, such as maintaining unity, but the political climate remains hostile to truth-seekers ‒ thus breeding indiscipline.

At present, the consensus among people on the street is that “There is no law in Ghana” and state institutions are too weak to function properly. In short, we have become an undisciplined country. There are several reasons for this bold assertion, sadly: we have not dealt with the divisions created by our history; we have failed to build democratic institutions for economic development and we still have leadership challenges. Above all, Ghanaian society is pervaded by a “double ethic” in which politicians and their partisans, the elite, the wealthy, family ties and friendship enable people to circumvent and break laws brazenly.

What is right blurs into what is wrong. Law-enforcement agents take bribes openly on the street and are seen to dispense justice arbitrarily, sometimes to the highest bidder. Bureaucrats openly abuse the rules and regulations for self-gain; cases take for ever in the law courts and environmentalists are expected to look the other way as residents of our cities produce mountains of trash and human faeces in public spaces. Crime and punishment bears political colours and citizens do not even try to uphold the law because indiscipline on the street pays. Most people do not feel they have a stake in the state’s effectiveness.

It seems the devil is at work in Ghana, stealing from individuals and the nation, assaulting our institutions and our values, putting a knife into the fabric of our souls. We are living in a country where “babies with sharp teeth” badmouth their elders, colleagues and opponents and stab them in the back to further their ambitions. Office-seekers take a hard line against critics and dissent, demanding that everyone conform, or shut up. If it will bring us power and personal gain, we will literally s**t on this country.

Call to authority

Sadly, the rented press gives indiscipline and lawlessness comfort, cover and collaboration, as politicians frown on penalising the bad behaviour of their leaders and members, legally, socially or politically, but rather punish good behaviour.

The country is engulfed in filth, cronyism and nepotism ‒ these have become the oil that lubricates the wheels of upward mobility in our society. The filth on our streets is a reflection of the filth in our hearts and shows how dirty we have become as a nation. Our collective lawlessness is a crisis. We need not only worry about the incompetence of our political leaders. Current attitudes will always bring in corrupt politicians, who will return, every election year, with their associates in tow, who are even more corrupt and abusive. We have to do away with the perception that not enforcing the law in little things ‒ on street trading, for instance ‒ helps the poor. In an environment of lawlessness, only greedy politicians and their cronies benefit.

Not until we shame those who break our laws and punish them will the government regain the moral authority to deal credibly with transgressions by ordinary citizens and put the economy in forward mode. We should be angry. We should be angry with politicians who disown the problem and look the other way. Anybody who is compassionate, anybody who is virtuous, anybody who cares about progress, would want to fight indiscipline with everything in their power.