Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Why Ghana Is Not Stable (Part 2)

Colonel Annor Odjidja (rtd).

"There has been the delusion that tribalism does not exist. Despite the progress of the fifties and early sixties towards national integration, it has come to play a significant role in the political dramas of our recent history. Fears of a tribe's domination in national affairs have been a source of tension…”
The use of the gun to settle political arguments in Ghana has created a feeling that in the end violence is justifiable in our politics. Coups beget other coups and counter-coups. They introduce intolerant attitudes in our political behaviour and create feelings for revenge. The coup syndrome in Ghana has had a debilitating effect on the conduct of national political activity and created a climate where the rational and steady approach has been jettisoned in favour of the instant solution and the know-all supermen whom we hope will bring us to the promised land. We know, of course, that they can do no such thing and this realisation increases our sense of despair.

Perhaps we could have created a stable society in Ghana. But then this has been severely tested by the coups and attempted coups. Whatever one may care to ascribe to their significance, there is no doubt that they set the stage for much of the upheavals in masters. Ghana from 1966 till date. They encouraged indiscipline and disrespect for the law and traditional norms. They created a feeling that any group within our armed forces with the resources and motivation can seize power. More dangerously they encouraged the use of anarchistic theories and policies whose mindlessness was only matched by the destruction they have wreaked on our country. The lawless ness and confusion that are the marked features of Ghana today owed their genesis to past coups.

The military's power in Ghana place it in a unique position. As our armed forces are part of the state, they reflect its problems. Once these assume serious proportions, the armed forces have always used them as an excuse to intervene. Under such a situation, the Ghana Armed Forces will remain a threat to the survival of any government. Present attempts by the PNDC to remove this threat by forming a peoples' militia will only worsen the problem of controlling the instruments of organised violence in Ghana since it will enlarge the number of trained men who can threaten peace.

The apologists of the PNDC will say that this body will ensure the survival of the regime, but the experience in Africa suggests that the departure of the leader introduces a situation where palace guards can turn on their masters. No country can be termed stable when its armed forces have had cause to intervene or attempted to do so on no less than forty occasions since 1966.

In view of all this, an atmosphere is thus created, which cannot be conducive to the national conduct of govern- ment. No country can be termed stable when its armed forces have had cause to intervene or attempted to do so on no less than forty occasions since 1966.

There can be no permanent peace in Ghana for as long as the economy is in such dire straits. The fact of the matter is that our economy has been in a state of decline for about 20 years now. No new sources of wealth creation have been identified and exploited. National wealth has therefore been diminishing. To arrest this situation, we have consistently applied the wrong set of policies which have rather speeded the decline. But then as the economy has deteriorated, so has been the tendency to concentrate economic power in the hands of the government. This statist economic regime has complicated the problem because our experience has shown that it causes serious dislocations in the use of our resources to achieve set economic targets. Economic success is thus minimised and growth decelerated.

The effect is that we cannot for example finance growth or fund social programmes without setting in train an inflationary spiral. We have emphasis ed private and public consumption over production. Economic regulation and bureaucratic control ensure that our governments are unable to formulate the array of incentives to entice Ghanaians to shift their energies to wealth creating production. Government has become the provider instead of acting as a catalyst for innovation. After twenty years of failure, it is logical for us to accept the need for an entirely new approach which should de-emphasise the state role in favour of a private role in the economy, as a pragmatic long-term strategic option for dealing with this particularly Ghanaian disease.

The security implications of the national economic decline? The erosion of the quality of life which this decline creates, causes despair, leading to widespread discontent which only needs a suitable opportunity to explode into a violent crisis. Unless our economic deterioration is arrested and replaced with a healthy economy, we should accept that economic decline will continue to provide flashpoints for violent upheavals.

Artificially low prices have continued to keep national food output down, compelling governments to use millions to import food and to seek food aid. What is produced locally and what is brought in cannot meet the needs of the population. Bad policies and a rush to industrialise have managed to weaken our agricultural base. Farming is not an attractive investment option. Those involved produce barely enough for themselves and a little extra to sell.

Meanwhile, unrealistic policies denude our rural areas of manpower as the rural folk rush to the urban areas where government subsidies of food keep prices cheap. Supplies cannot meet the subsequent demand in the urban centres. As prices jump up, the urban population becomes hostile to the government because it cannot provide basic food needs. Urban pressures on the government translate into demands for it to be replaced. Because of unrealistic policies, our farmers reject demands for increased production to satisfy urban needs.

The military have usually intervened when the perception has grown that the food situation is unbearable. Never mind that the new rulers can solve the food problem. They promote the same old and failed policies. Unless a realistic programme which combines high production with high profits for the farmer is adopted, there will be no food security for Ghanaians. The lack of adequate food supplies must then remain a potentially destabilising factor for whoever is in power in Ghana.

There has been the delusion that tribalism does not exist. Despite the progress of the fifties and early sixties towards national integration, it has come to play a significant role in the political dramas of our recent history. Fears of a tribe's domination in national affairs have been a source of tension and led to a situation where sections of our armed forces have been persuaded to seize power. Our insensitivity to the implications of this problem and our subtle encouragement of this issue have heightened tribal consciousness.

Where once tribal politics was laughed off the stage; it has become an attractive option to be regularly used in the on-going struggle for power in Ghana. The danger is that the intensifi- cation of tribalism may lead to a possible disintegration of Ghana as we know it.

One effect of our educational system is to turn out thousands of Ghanaians who are not trained to fill specific manpower requirements. The economic problem has also ensured that they cannot be gainfully employed. Their long-term prospects are not favourable. They however refuse to be drawn into productive sectors like agriculture but prefer to eke out a precarious living in the urban areas where they easily fall prey to revolutionary radicalism.

They were a source of recruitment for the Rawlings campaign for power. They have not disappeared even if some have been absorbed into the PNDC's bureaucracy. This problem remains a factor for social disorder even in a so-called revolutionary milieu. As the numbers of the educated unemployed increased, so the prospects for destabilization that their situation create light fires which will promote disorder of the kind that will make past disruptions look like child's play.

The upheavals in Ghana has not provided the opportunities for lasting solutions to be applied to the national economy. As it deteriorates, the forces for destabilization emerge with new strengths to challenge the efforts of the civilian political leadership at solutions to national problems. The military are persuaded to intervene and introduce measures to solve the problems. They cannot succeed. As the situation worsens, newer destabilising forces emerge to upset the military. The succeeding government falls prey to still new forces.

Thus, the government of Ghana becomes like musical chairs, with military and civilian regimes alternating. This is the cycle we have gone through for almost two decades. Indications are that this cycle will continue to turn unless we recognise the seriousness of the national security problem and summon all energies to deal with it. The PNDC is wasting its time because the sum total of its actions cannot succeed in promoting stability in Ghana. Resort to repression as the only way to guaranteeing internal peace only postpones the day when everything will come unstuck. They will only reveal the bankruptcy of present policies. Fear and fervor do not promote stable conditions, they only mask public anxieties and hostilities for sometime.

The objective of national security management should be to integrate political, economic, military and social actions to ensure that national and individual interests are combined to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of our people and so increase the opportunities for maintaining stability in Ghana.

So when we talk about instability in Ghana, we should remember that several factors make for this problem. This of course includes the contribution of the armed forces who are also the vehicle for the violent changes. Whichever way one looks at the problem, we should accept that it demands a much more deeper recognition than we are prepared to concede.

The task for a future political leadership in Ghana will be how to steer the country away from the conditions which cause instability to one which promotes an atmosphere of peace. Else history will say of them too as it said of the Bourbons in France that "they learnt nothing and forgot nothing".

talking drums 1984-07-02 President Doe - Onabanjo trial in Nigeria - Krobo Edusei famous or infamous