Fellow Ghanaians, Lend Me Your Ears:

To say that the stakes in this election are higher is an understatement. Perhaps never before have invested so much in an election not just financially but also HOPE. The resources of the state are growing, the economy is expanding, and the country is getting richer but how is this impacting on the ordinary folks of Ghana. How do we distribute these resources to ensure that every Ghanaian benefits? For example, is free education only good for northerners? There are loads of people from the north who can afford to pay their way through school and lots of people from the south who cannot. Why not make it ability to pay if resources are limited instead of blanket free education for northerners irrespective of their economic circumstances and full fee paying for southerners even if they cannot.
As Ghanaians prepare to go to the polls next week to elect the 6th?Parliament of the 4th?Republic and a new President, the threat to peace and Ghana?s image as a budding democracy on the African continent is real. There is a heightened level of tension in the country that must be diffused.?Moreover, voter intimidation, fraud, and threat of violence continue to pose serious danger to life and property, and our image as a beacon of democracy in Africa.?Elections are a part of democracy and there will be winners and losers. As we recently witnessed in America, there was a lot at stake but there was no violence or intimidation. Losers must concede and winners must be humble. It is important to note that elections are not wars and should never lead to one. It is the triumph of one competing vision over the other so let?s respect the outcome and move on as the originators of democracy do.
In the last week alone several very disturbing news items indicating pockets of violence in certain parts of the country during political campaigns have been reported in the media. The first was a report on?ghanaweb.com?alleging that the President?s motorcade was prevented from entering Kyebi the hometown of Nana Akuffo-Addo to campaign by the youth of the town. As usual there was different versions of what actually took place but one thing was clear such lawless activities by uncontrolled and lawless bunch of individuals is what starts the sparks of violence. If care, caution and restraint are not exercised, the potential of real violence breaking out cannot be contained.
The most abhorrent form of violence was what occurred last Thursday, November 29th, 2012 in Ashtown, Kumasi. Gun shots were reportedly fired with stray bullets hitting people who were ostensibly going about their normal everyday chores. Again although different versions of the story are making the news rounds, we have been told that the NPP MP for Manhyia, Napo was doing a house to house campaign and a certain gentleman (Maphus) believed to be associated with the NDC fired a warning shot. What was his motive for firing a warning shot at a group of people who were organizing for their candidate? That?s a lawless act that breaches the peace. Are guns so readily available in Ghana these days? That?s why armed robbers are having a field day and continue to terrorize innocent law abiding citizens.
According to the news one member of the MP?s campaign team called Gausu fired back and shot him, severely wounding him whereas the rest of the people pounced on the wounded man inflicting cutlass cuts on him and a sister who went to his rescue. What kind of barbarism is this? Have we descended that deep into the pit latrine with our politics? In the first place, the police must determine the motive of this young man who fired a warning shot. The right to organize is a right that is enshrined in our constitution, and he (Maphus) not being a member of the security force of the state, has no right to fire a shot, whether a warning shot or not, at people who were ostensibly peacefully organizing.
Having said that, why did the NPP guy shot this Maphus guy and why did the NPP supporters inflict cutlass wounds on him? Do you go on a house to house campaign armed with cutlasses and gubs? Why did they attack his sister? Why didn?t the NPP MP for Manhyia, Napo, restrain and control his supporters to exercise calm and let the security agency of the state deal with the problem? As an MP he should know that we are a country of rule of law so nobody is allowed to take the laws into his own hands. IF Napo could not exercise leadership in a tense situation like that and let calm prevail, does he qualify to make laws for the country and can he be a leader at all?
Now I fear for the safety of my family, friends, and relatives living in Ghana. The PNC presidential candidate Ayariga was reportedly shot at on??campaign trail in the Western region, and as if that wasn?t enough, a young man was stabbed in Ashanti region in a scuffle over campaign posters. I fear for the safety of the peace loving Ghanaians and everyone in the homeland. Can we avert a disaster this time as we go to the polls? Can we trust the security agencies and the government to protect and secure the safety of live and property before, during, and after the elections? Can we trust the Electoral Commission to organize a free, transparent, credible, and fair elections which will ensure a credible outcome acceptable to all?
Political violence in Africa soon take on an ethnic dimension as it happened after Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections. Africa’s democratic transition is back in the spotlight. The concern is no longer the stranglehold of autocrats, but the hijacking of the democratic process by tribal politics. Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence revealed the extent to which tribal forces could quickly bring a country to the brink of civil war. Ghana can do much better than this and in fact the rest of Africa is looking up to us to have another successful elections.
A close outcome is predicted on December 7th, 2012 and the stakes in this election could not be any higher. Without an automated vote counting system, all votes are counted manually. The cost of processing the votes in this archaic manner is not only time consuming but also susceptible to all kinds of electoral frauds. Vote watching and protecting tallied votes by credible international observers and representatives of all political parties should be given top priority by all concerned. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to ensure that the peace and stability that we enjoy today is never compromised in any state, shape or form.

A truly free and fair elections that is kept honest and peaceful will add credence to the fact that Ghana is gradually maturing as a democratic country if not in substance but only in style. A lot is being done not to set the clock of progress and peace backwards. The recent signing of the so called peace pledge by the leaders of all the political parties is commendable but just appending one?s signature on a peace of paper alone can not do magic. I urge all political leaders in the country to join hands in front of God and the people of Ghana to say with me this prayer for a honest and peaceful elections on 7th?of December, 2012.

“Grant us, O Lord, the perfect expression of the people‘s will in this elections. Give us the humility to accept the true outcome, whether it goes for or against us, so that defeat be glorified by grace and victory be tempered with modesty, Amen”.

We shall be sowing the seeds of our national destruction and heading towards political chaos if we allow lawlessness and contempt for the rule of law to take root in our society. The Electoral Commission must ensure accountability and transparency in all its dealings. Alexis de Tocqueville concluded DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA in 1835, “full of apprehensions and hopes” perceiving “mighty dangers which is possible to ward off, mighty evils which may be avoided or alleviated”. The future of democracy in Africa now is no better than it was then in America but it survived. Democracy is a word that excites the imagination and inspires the hope of many the world over. It is a just system of government rightly prized and defended. It is the hope of this writer that Ghana’s march to democracy will succeed for the virtues inherent are enormous

All candidates and above all Ghanaians must commit to avoid all manner of acts, including lawlessness, impunity, injustice and violence, that could throw the country into confusion before, during and after the elections.?We must pray for a peaceful elections but more importantly they must resolve to be law abiding citizens and act peacefully
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GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND GHANA and make our nation great and strong.
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Ben Ofosu-Appiah,
Tokyo, JAPAN.
The writer is a senior political, economic and social analyst, and also a policy strategist based in Tokyo, JAPAN. He welcomes your comments and views;?[email protected]
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