THIS GRUESOME, BARBARIC MURDER IS SO DEFLATING By CAMERON DUODU
(The Ghanaian Times 26.05.2015)
This is so un-Ghanaian!” I said of the gruesome murder of Mr Adams Mahama, the Upper East Chairman of the NPP.
But what do I mean by “un-Ghanaian”?
Is this the first acid attack in Ghana?
The only peculiar thing about this case is that it happened to a person with a high profile. In the past, we have read about acid attacks by estranged former lovers; by rivals in love contests and even by business competitors. We usually shake our heads sadly and go about our business.
So we have to ask: Do we flatter ourselves when we think that we are above such beastliness?
What have our legislators ever done to make it impossible for acid to be so easily available in such quantities as to be able to be used to cause grievous bodily harm to people?
Why haven’t our legislators banned the manufacture and sale of acid – except under strict licensing?
We could, for instance, require whoever wants to buy acid in large quantities to provide proof of what the acid is being purchased for. And we could also demand that the RESIDENTIAL addresses of purchasers be provided and written down on a special form. We could further make it a criminal offence not to inform the Police when any suspicious purchase of acid is made.
A suspicious purchase? Yes – a few clever and totally unexpected questions can expose criminal intent. For example: “How many vehicles are you buying the acid for?” Or “Have you bought acid from here before?”
As soon as such an answer elicits a lie – and a person’s facial expression can expose him/her as telling a lie – one can conclude that all is not well with the purchase.
Now, Ghana imposes severe punishment for what might be called self-inflicted harm. For instance, our laws punish people for “attempted suicide”. We also punish persons for being in possession of mind-altering drugs – including wee/cannabis — which are now being legalised in some of the very countries that brought us the laws criminalising their use.
If we can legislate to prevent a potential crime by drug-users (because we fear they may act violently against members of society when they get high on drugs) how much more a chemical that definitely causes gruesome injuries and death?
But even as I ask these questions, my heart sinks. For we do live in a society that is so uncaring that it has been sitting down unconcerned, although a poor old woman, obviously suffering from dementia, was burned to death in broad daylight at Tema many months ago, on suspicion of being a “witch”.
What happened to the old woman’s assailants? The Ghana Police and the Prosecution Service are yet to tell us what progress has been made in prosecuting the old lady’s unprovoked murderers, some of whom were arrested and arraigned before the courts..
If we can fail to bring to justice, the murderers of a poor, sick, old woman, then why should other murders appear un-Ghanaian to us? Maybe we flatter ourselves?
Well, actually, it can be argued that whatever is an aberration in a particular society, makes it an uncharacteristic or atypical behaviour, and is therefore, in our case, to be considered as un-Ghanaian.
Anyway, I think most Ghanaians aspire to be above such beastly behaviour.
However, if we don’t successfully prosecute such cases, then we shall become inured to them. At that point, we may well consider ourselves as having reached our Doomsday Epoch.
Sadly, we are inching gradually towards that Epoch, for there have been many serious political schisms in our society, without producing gruesome assassinations of the type inflicted upon Mr Adams Mahama.
For instance, among the founders, in 1954, of the anti-CPP party, the Northern People’s Party (the “NPP” of the time) were the following MPs — Alhaji Yakubu Tali, Tolon-Na; Mr J A Braimah and Mr Mumuni Bawumia. All three later left the NPP to join the CPP! But nobody killed them for “defecting” from the party they had helped to form.
If we turn the tables and look at the CPP, we find that one of its biggest names was Mr Joseph Appiah (Joe Appiah), one-time London representative of the leader of the CPP, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Joe Appiah was in London when the National Liberation Movement (NLM) was formed in Ghana in 1954. So when he returned to Ghana in February 1955, his future political allegiance became an issue of great interest to the whole nation. As it happened, he opted for the NLM. This embarrassed Dr Kwame Nkrumah. But no-one hunted Joe Appiah down to kill him.
More recently, both Mr Victor Owusu and Mr William (“Paa Willie”) Ofori Atta had been leading members of the NLM, then the United Party (UP) and the Progress Party (PP) of Dr K A Busia. In 1969-72, the two men were senior members of Dr Busia’s PP Cabinet. And yet, when politics resumed in 1978-79 after the military Government (led by General Kutu Acheampong) that had overthrown the PP Government in 1972 had gone, Victor Owusu became leader of the Popular Front Party (PFP) while Paa Willie became leader of the United National Convention (UNC).
There is little doubt that if the PFP and the UNC had merged, they might have been able to defeat the People’s National Party (PNP) of Dr Hilla Limann in the 1979 general election. Yet neither politician ever sought to kill the other for splitting away and thereby ensuring that both parties were defeated.
In other words, our political history demonstrates that as elsewhere, politics in Ghana can — and does — create disagreement, on the basis of new interests and new alliances, as new situations arise. To ignore this political reality and proclaim: “I must win by all means and at all costs!” is to practise political barbarism, pure and simple.
In that sense, political assassination can be considered generally un-Ghanaian. For throughout our traditional societies, we are taught that in contests, someone must win and someone must lose.
In traditional politics, the choice of a Chief is almost always subject to intense competition. In the Akan areas, a ruling family usually presents several candidates who are each eligible to occupy a vacant stool. Each candidate canvasses for support – perhaps not openly, but through “’subterranean” methods, such as nocturnal visits to the “Elders” or “King-makers”. No serious candidate makes such “visits” empty-handed.
The support of particular individuals – especially the Queen Mother and the leaders of the “young men” of the town or village – is crucial in this selection process. But once the process ends, almost everyone forgets about the preceding wrangling and accepts the person who has “won”.
In the non-Akan areas, the “enskinment” of a new Na or Naba (in the North) is also subject to the same complex selection processes. A Na or a Naba is usually expected to have many male children, each of whom may be eligible to succeed him. Thus. a winnowing-down of the qualified candidates takes place, based on precedent, especially on what “house” last presented a Na or Naba. Again, despite the competition, someone eventually emerges who is accepted as the Chief.
Other Ghanaian traditional areas also have their well-tried methods of picking a new Chief; in almost every case, competition amongst candidates, each with a more or less equal claim, occurs.
Now, the election of a Chief can be likened to the installation of new political party officials or a change in the executive committee of a private society or association. So, if such changes were followed by gunfights, acid attacks and social estrangement, where would Ghana have been over the centuries?
Our societies didn’t collapse, despite internal rivalries. Indeed, we have gained a reputation as one of the most elastic and resilient societies in the world. We fight our corner, yes; but in the final analysis, we do reconcile ourselves to whatever new situation emerges. We do not resort to gruesome murder to change a status quo that seems distasteful to us.
All peace-loving Ghanaians therefore expect the Ghana Police to unravel the murder of Mr Adams Mahama and bring his killers to book in a transparent manner. It is the duty of those with information to make it available to the Police.
I would like to remind the Ghana Police that in 1955, a sensitive political crime occurred in Kumasi, when the Regional Propaganda Secretary of the ruling CPP, Mr K A Twumasi Ankrah, stabbed a former colleague of his, E Y Baffoe, to death. Despite the fact that Twumasi Ankrah held such a high office in the ruling CPP, the Ghana Police managed expertly to investigate the crime and eventually secured a conviction for murder against Twumasi Ankrah. He was hanged.