Recently, Ghana’s Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Wood, accompanied by three of her associates on the Supreme Court, paid a visit to Togo at the request of that country’s President of the Constitutional Court. The invitation, reportedly, was aimed at sharing knowledge on democratic cultural principles (See “Chief Justice Lauds Togo’s Commitment to Constitutional Rule” Ghana News Agency 6/19/11).
While only casual details of the meeting were provided by the GNA report, nonetheless, what was strikingly disappointing was the Ghanaian judicial delegation’s apparent reluctance to boldly let on to President Faure Gnassingbe, the son and successor of Togo’s late strongman for more than three decades, that as long as the younger Mr. Eyadema continues to perpetuate his father’s dynasty, there can be no genuine and productive discussion of constitutional democracy with the present Togolese regime.
Instead, the GNA report had Justice Wood hypocritically lauding the Togolese presidential chieftain for agreeing to receive her delegation and, in effect, facilitating the salutary exchange of ideas on ways and means of productively resolving “electoral disputes to enhance democracy, peace and development in the two neighboring countries.”
The fact of the matter is that contrary to what Mr. Gnassingbe would have the rest of the world believe, Togo’s protracted political problems did not arise primarily “out of disagreements among the country’s political parties.” Rather, they arose almost solely as a result of the insistence of one megalomaniac called Mr. Gnassingbe Eyadema’s decision and determination to dominate Togolese political culture for life. What is more, until Mr. Eyadema’s death by natural causes not quite long ago, Togo was a de-facto and de-jure one-party state, with the late tyrant playing the role of a demi-god and calling all the shots that mattered in Togolese national life, in strikingly much the same way that President Kwame Nkrumah held Ghanaians in a chokehold throughout much of the late 1950s and early to mid-1960s.
On the other hand, one can probably forgive the Wood delegation, comprising also of Justices Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Jones Dotse and Sule Gbadegbe, for apparently identifying the Togolese leader with Ghana’s President John Evans Atta-Mills who, like Mr. Gnassingbe, was handpicked by his mentor and predecessor and then imposed on Ghanaians through three consecutive elections until evidently fed up with the unsavory complacency of the then-ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), a dispirited Ghanaian electorate acquiesced to the Mills presidency.
One can also pardon President Gnassingbe for erroneously assuming that Ghana’s apparent political placidity and stability are the mutual handicraft of the belligerent National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the more urbane and legalistic New Patriotic Party (NPP). Had Justice Wood’s delegation been about the sacred business of forthright engagement with the Togolese authorities, it would have promptly corrected Mr. Gnassingbe by pointing out the legion number of times that Ghana was brought to the brink of civil strife by an NDC political juggernaut whose key operatives are hell-bent on perpetuating the primitive Rawlings legacy of “strongmanism.”
Of course, President Gnassingbe is dead-on accurate in observing that “the bedrock of democracy is a sound electoral system and a judiciary that handles electoral disputes expeditiously in a firm and fair manner.” What is not accurate is, of course, the quixotic expectation that, somehow, one can successfully mingle dynastic imposition of leadership with a modern type of constitutional democracy.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com, 2011).