The Minority, National Democratic Congress, (NDC) members in Ghana’s Parliament, has welcomed the call by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for all political parties to disband militia groups to ensure peace in the country’s political discourse.
But, asked the President to demonstrate his sincerity by fishing out all members of the militia groups who had been incorporated into the Police, the Military and National Security.
Leading the conversation for the Minority MPs’ was the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, who said when the president was talking about vigilantism, he was excited and wondered how sincerely steps could be taken to disband all the groups.
“We should all remember that a lot of them have been incorporated into the National Security. The minister said that they are now their staff.
“I hope that in the exercise to cleanse this vigilantism, we will go into the police, the military and the National Security and identify any person who you know is NPP or NDC to equally be stripped of his position,” he said.
Poor economic performance
Touching on the President’s take on the economy, the Deputy Minority Leader, James Avedzi, and the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, said the address did not offer any hope for the industrial sector and Ghanaians as a whole.
They said the President was selective in areas that favoured the government and avoided other critical areas that had significant impact on the operations of industry.
For instance, Mr. Avedzi said the President avoided to talk about the performance of the cedi “because he knows that the value of the cedi is falling at a faster rate”.
Besides, he said, the President used the new rebased figure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to calculate the debt-to-GDP ratio to indicate that the ratio was now 54 per cent.
However, he said, the President used the old GDP ratio to calculate the debt-to-GDP figure in the NDC era.
“The President chose those areas that he thinks will be good news for Ghanaians and decided to avoid those areas that will give a bad image of himself,” he said.
On the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, Mr. Avedzi said Ghana was supposed to have exited it last year, 2018, but it had been extended for one more year.
Therefore, he said, the programme ending in April 2019 was not good news because it should have ended by April 2018.
For his part, Mr Forson said the President missed the opportunity to communicate to the business community measures to arrest the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar and other foreign currencies. Again, he said, the GDP in the non-oil sector was contracting but the President failed to mention that.
Mr Forson said although the public debt had increased by GH¢53 billion in the last few years, the President did not mention the uses to which the money was put.
Meanwhile, some guests at the event commended President Nana Akufo-Addo for making a bold statement on the issue of vigilantism before it compromised the security of the country.
In separate interviews, the guests, including members of the Council of State, former Members of Parliament (MPs), representatives of political parties and students, described the President’s statement on vigilantism as the right step which could nip the worrying and unacceptable phenomenon in the bud.
While delivering the SONA, the President called on the two main political parties — the NPP and the NDC — to come together as soon as possible and agree on how to end vigilantism in the country.
The intervention by the President followed calls from the public, religious leaders, civil society organisations and high-ranking officials of the Ghana Police Service for the NPP and the NDC to disband their vigilante groups.
There are a number of groups which have been identified as vigilante groups affiliated to the NPP and the NDC.
While the Invincible Forces and the Delta Force have been linked to the NPP, the Hawks, the Azorka Boys, the Lions and the Dragons have been linked to the NDC.
These groups, made up of well-built, gun-wielding men, have, over the years, visited mayhem on ordinary citizens in the name of protecting ballot boxes during elections.
They also engage in acts of violence in their attempt to get what they believe they deserve as promised them by politicians.
I am impressed
A member of the Council of State, Tongraan Kugbilson Nanlebegtang, said he was impressed by the President’s emphasis on the issue of security, particularly political vigilantism, and the measures that needed to be implemented to address the issue.
“He reminded us of what we need to do to have the vigilante groups disbanded immediately. Particularly in the area of vigilantism, it was good he asked the two parties to come together to strike an understanding, in the absence of which he would take his own decision,” he said.
To him, the address was well delivered by the President, as he touched on “almost every aspect of the economy and our current issues. “It was balanced and well delivered”.
Another member of the Council of State, Mr Samuel Okudzeto, said “many Ghanaians are worried about the issue of vigilantism which is increasingly gaining ground. The President’s pronouncement gives the assurance that the problem can be solved”.
He said the two political parties must not see each other as opposing groups because they belonged to different sides of the political divide.
Condemning the use of vigilante groups by political parties, Mr Okudzeto said vigilantism must not be given a place in politics or in society, saying: “It is not good for the development of our country.”
A former MP, Mr E. T. Mensah, said he was optimistic that the two main political parties were in a position to find a lasting solution to the phenomenon of political vigilantism.
He blamed political communicators “as the main persons who fuel this kind of political vigilantism, as they speak on issues they have no idea about and sometimes use abusive language in the media”.
He said President Akufo-Addo had his full support in terms of finding a permanent solution to vigilantism in the country, adding: “These things must stop and the political party leaders which have been asked to come together should sit down and make sure that this vigilantism is stopped.”
A former MP for Bantama, Dr Henry K. Kokofu, said he was happy about the President’s intervention on vigilantism and that “the public must hold political parties accountable and call on them to end the phenomenon”.
Apart from the issue of vigilantism, he said, one other issue which he would want the public to discuss in the days ahead was the President’s statement on sanitation in Ghana, especially the practice of open defecation.
“It is very important. We need attitudinal change as citizens of this country to make Ghana clean and also safeguard our health,” he said.
The First Vice-Chairperson of the Convention People’s Party, Hajia Hamdatu Ibrahim, said “it is very refreshing that the President talked about vigilantism”.
“He came out boldly to say that if the two political parties are not able to disband it, he would initiate legislation to ban it,” she added.
She was also pleased that the government had developed a register for all oil and gas contracts where anyone who wanted information on such contracts could look it up.
“That is transparency; governance is about transparency and the sharing of information,” she said.