Confronting Ghana’s Problems: Political Intolerance Part II – By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

With the eruption of open-ended in-fighting in the NDC, all manner of unsavoury comments from the various functionaries aligned to any of the main players (President Mills’ government as against the faction supporting the Rawlingses) suggest that the level of political intolerance has been raised to frighteningly higher levels.

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Ghanaians must be perturbed by this show of aggressiveness. It is not a situation that any rival political party should seek to gain from; first, because it has the potential to destabilize governance and endanger our democracy; and second, because the phenomenon of political intolerance is not limited to only the NDC.

It pervades the affairs of all the other parties. But that of the NDC is on our lips because that is the party in power. Anything that erupts to destabilize the party in power will definitely threaten the entire country’s well-being. Obviously, the fate of the party in power is tied to that of the country it governs. That’s where the danger lies.

The happenings in the NDC are caused by nothing but the highest degree of political intolerance and a deadly quest for power and influence by those who should have known better that in politics, no one has a permanent monopoly over power. But their persistent fault-finding and inclination toward mischief will blind them to this reality. It will strengthen their resolve to be politically intolerant and be the gum that cements their hardline attitude.

It’s all about political intolerance, which indicates clearly how mindless (or careless) such people and their constituency of fanatical activists are. Fault-finding is the impetus for political intolerance and, once they’ve made up their minds to find fault, they have no means to relent until their political intolerance breaks all bounds to cause havoc. Much of what has led to the overthrow of our governments has been motivated by political intolerance and the failure of the architects to weigh their actions’ negative impact on the country, generally.
This intra-party bickering is worsening as each faction seems to have dug in and is prepared to gore the other. Utterances by the Rawlings faction have clearly impugned the integrity of President Mills and his government, eroding public confidence in the administration, and setting it up for disaster in the near future. In response, functionaries of the government have also poured vitriol on their critics. The stage is set for more of such verbal salvoes to be fired at will. The stream of political intolerance will definitely be fed to the brim by such loose talk until it bursts.

But does it have to take this kind of head-butting for anyone to have his way to implement his agenda for national development—if even there is any genuine intention behind such aggressiveness to solve Ghana’s politico-socio-economic problems and relieve the citizens of their permanent woes?
If the common purpose for being in politics is to work hard through appropriate policies and programmes for the building of the country, why are these politicians at each other’s throat, threatening hell and brimstone if they don’t get their way to assert their native influence on Ghanaian politics? If being in politics is their means to uplift the country, why should they not put national interests above their parochial personal or partisan political party considerations? Or do they have anything to hide from us, which may be the impetus for the dangerous political intolerance that they harbour and display at will?

With some politicians already conditioning their followers’ minds for an “All-die-be-die” war-chant while others are warning the incumbent not to do anything to retain power or threatening mayhem if the Electoral Commission colludes with the incumbent to rig the 2012 elections, we can already take a sneak peek into a grim future shaped by political intolerance. Unless something drastic happens for these main players to tone down their political intolerance, we can’t avoid the turmoil that is building up.

Anybody contemplating mayhem if his party or candidate doesn’t win the Presidential or Parliamentary elections comes across as a clear example of the kind of political activist that Ghana doesn’t need in contemporary times. Such a person, puffed up like a bullfrog, is full of nothing but mischief.

Using politics for national development is not a call to arms. It is not an opportunity for horn-locking either, contrary to what we have been witnessing in Ghana. It is a clarion call for those who understand what it takes to implement policies and programmes to uplift living standards and give the millions of Ghanaians the opportunity to live their lives in an atmosphere of peace, political stability, and tranquility. This call-to-duty has no room for political intolerance.

Those who regard politics as their be-it-all-and-end-it-all are most intolerant and guilty of whipping up volatile sentiments against their political opponents. In recent times, we have been bothered with threats from such people. By all accounts, they have lost none of their taste for terror and violence, having arrived in politics on either the point of a sword, through the barrel of a gun, or through rabble-rousing and dare-devil demonstrations from which they have drawn strength as “fighters for democracy” or “men of the people.”

Such self-beguiling tendencies are at the root of what they do or don’t do in politics. I insist that the NPP’s Akufo-Addo’s “All die be die” humbug is nothing but an outward manifestation of the pent-up political intolerance in him. It is a call to arms, which is definitely a clear manifestation of frustration borne out by political intolerance. Nothing will prove anything innocuous about this war-cry to me.

On top of all that, some of the politicians most guilty of political intolerance indulge in the kind of vainglorious boasting for which they are known, but which is their bane, after all. And when they can’t get their wishes fulfilled, they heighten the level of their political intolerance by badmouthing their political opponents and inciting hatred for them through name-calling and pure envy.

Happenings in the NDC also expose that cranky tendency. As the two camps (of President Mills versus Jerry Rawlings and his wife) begin jumping on each other, some have started making unfounded allegations and looking for more trumped-up charges with which to intensify the trading of insults. The kind of political intolerance emanating from the NDC activists is horrific, to say the least. Certainly, we can tell the background or history of such people from the words they use!

The climate of political intolerance in the NDC is created by the inability of the party’s functionaries not in President Mills’ government to tolerate his leadership style or unwillingness to be at the beck and call of the Rawlings faction. Primarily, though, this intolerance is the result of impatience and lack of appreciation for the government’s strategies for solving national problems. The truth be told, I see Rawlings as the worst offender who lacks the spirit of political tolerance and is the cause of the NDC’s internal problems and a source of irritation and anxiety to many Ghanaians.

Were he to be politically tolerant a bit, he would have hesitated to launch all the verbal attacks that have brought the NDC to this disgusting point in its march toward the edge of the political precipice. Pushing the button for his wife to lock horns with the incumbent is probably the manifestation of that intolerance, hoping that she will complete his unfinished agenda. That agenda itself is fed by political intolerance.

On the face of it, political intolerance stains our politics. It is a heavily polluted throwback to the uncharacteristic manner in which people have rushed into politics, especially in our 4th Republic as if politics is the goldmine that has eluded them all these years but which they have now discovered to exploit for personal gains. That must explain why they can’t accommodate divergent views—for fear of losing their hold on power and being deprived of the benefits that politics gives them.

If it is not the quest for personal gains that motivates these people to enter politics but the desire to contribute their quota toward national development, why can’t they be on the same page with others in the same trade of politics to know that the country can be developed only through sensible policies and programmes and the conscionable implementation of those measures for which they are in politics together? Does enunciating policies and programmes for the common good call for political intolerance?

I say with much trepidation that the main motivation for our Ghanaian politicians’ quest for power is personal interest. That is the jewel in the political crown that they do all they can to snatch and wear. And as they bulldoze their way through the political landscape, they put all their devilish plans into action either by personally taking on their opponents or hiring others to do so for them in many troubling ways.

The indecent haste to be in power is so overpowering that some will overstep bounds and take on those they consider as obstacles. We are privy to such occurrences, the most sickening of which is the leveling of unfounded allegations of impropriety against others who appear to be doing better than they are. Such vicious characters can’t take others’ success as such and must undo them through foul means if only it will get them close to achieving their objectives. They shamelessly, then, set out to out-Herod Herod himself, as Shakespeare will have it!!

To be continued in the next installment