The week gone by will go down as one of this our Fourth Republic’s most paroxysmic, comical, farcical and emboldening too. In a near manic outburst a legislator had in essence raised worrying questions about the ongoing biometric registration in the Odododiodio constituency which was by his lights turning into some ethnic accounting system: if you fell into the appropriate column you could register. Unwisely our legislator urged retaliation. Irked the state initially invited the legislator and then proceeded to arrest this unarmed citizen with a blatant display of force and power as crass as the raw emotion with which the initial alarm was raised. Then the grand farce began in which our institutions of state displayed so publicly and tastelessly their putrid underbelly. Just laying the charge was dramatized and involved location theatrics marked by a sudden change in the choice of court. And then with blinding speed the charges swung crudely from treason to terrorism to genocide. In one fell swoop the legislator had taken on the lives of Jerry Rawlings, Osama Bin Laden and Slobodan Milosevic. And all this for an irate command that no intelligent citizen obeyed. An accidental hero is subsequently made in the full glare of national and international publicity in the facebook age. An ashen faced state recoils leaving its defense to febrile assigns whose perverted logic will shame Lucifer himself.
While we dispensed the froth freely the students of my Leadership Class in Ashesi University presented their end of semester projects. The students trawled through communities ranging from Nima, Osu, Mamprobi, Berekuso right up to Goi in the Volta Region trying to give back to their compatriots. Their remit was to identify some challenge in these communities and respond to them in a creative, sustained and engaged way. Our students among other things taught adult literacy classes; built a website for a budding theatre group in Nima; organized a book fair; built bookshelves for the primary school in Berekuso and acquired malaria testing kit for an ante-natal clinic which did not have one and raised millions of cedis in the process. The comments from the students were heartwarming. One struck me: their projects had taught them that Ghana’s problems were theirs and that in their actions they were in reality helping themselves. And this from nineteen year olds without the power to order tanks unto the streets or hot water cannons to spew their lethality. One would have thought that these are the dire social problems that our State will train its maximum efforts on and not the exercise of free speech that had crossed bounds of decency and reasonableness.
Truth also is that after the legislator’s comments our peoples went about their normal lives. No one was asked about his or her hometown before seeing the doctor or entering my class. In order words Ghanaians can differentiate a bark from a bite. At this point however cool heads must prevail across divides and the opportunity has been offered for some serious policy work on arresting the coarsening of our public discourse and indeed the abuse of our media space. For me that is the deeper lesson after the dust has been cleaned from the armoured car that carried the legislator.