NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF EXCESSIVE PARTISANSHIP IN OUR INSTITUTIONS AND CALLS ON NATIONALISTS TO RISE UP AND HELP CURE THE NATION OF THIS DISEASE.
As Ghanaians, we bemoan the weakness of our institutions all the time. Together with corruption, very few factors are cited more often as causes of our underdevelopment than the weakness of our institutions. Indeed, in 2009, when President Obama stated that Africa needed strong institutions and not strong men, there was universal agreement. Whatever you list of the causes of our underdevelopment, put partisanship at the top of your list. It deserves to be there. One is not concerned here with the partisanship of foot soldier but the partisanship of institutions and personalities whose partisanship undermine our democracy. Recently, before the withdrawal of the appointment of the new Director-General for Ghana Health Services and his replacement, there was a statement by the NPP Health Caucus of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. What, in the name of God, is a party group doing in a hospital? What is next? The NDC caucus at Gondar barracks discussing whether they should stage a coup? To be fair, there are NDC groups too in our hospitals and other institutions. These partisan groups undermine the professionalism and “esprit de corps” of our health professionals. In the US, it is unheard of to have a party group in a hospital.
Indeed, one can work with someone for years without knowing their political affiliation. But this destructive partisanship does not end in healthcare. It afflicts the judiciary, tax collecting agencies, the police, the military, the Press and even our places of worship, churches and mosques. Our judiciary has been infamously political and partisan since the days of Nkrumah. Our tax collection shields party members and targets opposition members under both NPP and NDC. The Police has no independence and IGPs all of them, when asked by the President to jump, invariably ask, “How high, Sir”. Police force whose leadership are more focused on pleasing politicians rather than enforcing the law would never be effective. It has been revealed that when former President Mahama confirmed an appointment recommended by the military brass, he was berated by party functionaries because to them “he was not one of them!” His competence was never brought up. And this example notwithstanding, destructive partisanship is a firm bipartisan disease. The media is so partisan that it is hard to mention a well-known journalist whose partisanship does not come through his or her writings as clear as daylight. Even our churches have become partisan. There are NPP and NDC churches. Some religious leaders only criticize certain parties and are blind to the faults of others. And even within churches that are not officially tied to parties, there are strong informal party wings. As Archbishop Duncan Williams once said ” Because of politics, we are dividing the churches. Debates about the level of taxation, level of support for the poor, sanitation and environmental policies, and constitutional reform would be good for our country. But that is not what we have. When Benjamin Disreali said, “Damn your principles! Stick to your party.”, he had us in mind. Ghanaians would defend even a party member who has stolen public money because he is to them “one of them!”. We cannot build a country with institutions filled with people who believe in “My party’‘, right or wrong.
We need people who respond more to “My country”. A nation whose decision-makers are more loyal to their parties than the state are headed for trouble. We are witnessing, in the US, in addition to separation of powers, a vigorous clash of institutions under the executive branch in the events leading to the election and proposed impeachment of Trump. History too is replete with instances when people have put their country first. In 1861, as the civil war broke out, many Americans chose their country over their party, the Democratic party. As Nixon said perceptively, “There are times when one must protect the Presidency from the President”. We must protect appointees like the IGP and Electoral Commissioners and others from arbitrary dismissals, through a version of the Hatch Act. We must stand for truth and due process, if necessary, against our party and a President of the same party. Our courts must apply our constitution rather than their partisan inclinations. And those appointed to institutions must protect and build those institutions, making them stronger than they met them. Sometimes, these would entail risk to our perks, liberties and lives. That was what President Akufo-Addo was calling for when he exhorted us to be “citizens, not spectators “. That too, was what Ephraim Amu was calling us to when he wrote “Yen ara yen asase ni”. Let the nationalists rise up and take our nation back, from the partisans destroying it. May God bless Ghana.
BY DR. ARTHUR KOBINA KENNEDY, A POLITICIAN.