Is demonstration the language?

Every democratic country has, as part of its regulation and to a larger extent constitution procedures, which stipulates the several means by which citizens show displeasure for a policy or against leaders in various rankings.

A number of these means workers could stage a boycott towards unconducive government initiatives, petitions among others through which citizens communicate their grievances.

However, a majority of citizens subscribe to demonstration.

In the history of Ghana, demonstrations have been the usual path. Even before independence, during the colonial period when citizens were fed up with treatment from the colonial government, they took to the street to demonstrate.

Many a time, it turns out that government gives a listening ear to the citizens when demonstration is used. It is based on this interesting happening around us that has moved me into writing on the topic “is demonstration the language”?

As stated earlier, there have been a lot of protests in our beloved country (Ghana). Most of which emanates from the civil service. It is surprising that in most cases protestants give government or authorities notice to address their problems yet they go unheeded to.

Failure of the government or leaders to act leads them to the street. For example, during the military regime in the early 1980s, university students normally went on demonstrations to show their disapproval for some unfavorable conditions.

When Ghana returned to constitutional rule in 1992 after “the era of the culture of silence” which was broken by Prof. Adu Boahene in 1988, there have been several moments when citizens have gone on protest. There is the famous demonstration dubbed “Kumi Preko” (Kill me at once). This demonstration was in three parts, the first one was called “Kumi Preko”, the second was “Wieme Preko” (Finish me at once) and Sieme Preko (Bury me at once).

These famous remonstrations happened in 1995 during the tenure of Flight Lieutenant Jeremiah John Rawlings (J.J Rawlings) the first president under the fourth republic (7th January 1993 to 7th January 2001). Government at that time wanted to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 12.5% to 17.5%. The projected increment nearly saw the light of the day but by arbitration from citizens it never happened.

In 1995, some opposition members and other citizens joined at the famous Obra Spot in Accra to go on a protest. Key amongst the demonstrators were Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo Addo, now president of Ghana, Mr. Kwaku Baako, Chief editor for the New Crusading Guide Newspaper, Dr. Nyaho Tamaklo, former president of the Ghana football Association, (GFA) Mr. Kwesi Pratt, Chief editor for the Insight News Paper, Dr. Charles Wereko Brobbey former Ghana Volta River Authority (VRA) boss and many other people who joined the move. There were a lot of people who took part in this demonstration.

This demonstration led to the demise of about three lives. Clashes between citizens and security personnel is a regular spectacle during demonstrations. The Kumi Preko one is no exception. But the good news is that after these protests, government hears the demands of the people and maintained the VAT.

Some few weeks ago, there were some issues that went down at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where some security personnel were seen assaulting and brutalizing students. This unfortunate incident went on for some time without any denunciation from school management. Prior to these brutalities, the vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Obiri Danso had hinted about a possible conversion of the two male halls into mixed sex halls. The proposal was refused by the Old students of Katanga and Conti, the only male halls on campus.

Even though both reasons given by the two parties (vice Chancellor and the Old Students) did not add up. The Vice chancellor said he wanted to increase the number of female students in the school thereby achieving gender balance. This reason, to me, is flawed. In that, you do not increase female population by converting. You do so by building more halls of residences.

Surprisingly, the only female hall on that campus was also converted. The old student’s defense was that management was trying to “disrupt culture”. This reason too is flawed, because culture is dynamic and as such was a baseless excuse.

However, students and their respective old students’ associations have on several occasions, called for some dialogue between management and the old students, but University management have turned deaf ears to their plea.

Some have suggested that the Vice Chancellor Prof. Obiri Danso is being autocratic as he has refused to listen to students and went on with the conversion. Something that begun as a minor issue now has escalated into something else.

Then on 22nd October 2018 students decided that the treatment by management were unfair and as such decided to protest. They planned to go on a demonstration to register their displeasure about the seemingly silence of management over the brutalization and oppression that the Vice Chancellor seems to give them and to be heard by the public. They dubbed the demonstration as “Enough is enough”. On that beautiful morning, students started the demonstration as what they called a “peaceful demonstration”.

However, whether that was peaceful is for the Lord to determine. Students had planned a peaceful protest. It was rather unfortunate that this demonstration ended up being violent. The question is, were their voices heard? Did government hear their cry on that fateful day? During the protest students vandalized a lot of properties in the school including the school’s administration block and destroyed a lot of cars including the Dean of Students’ own. It is estimated that about 1.7 million Ghana cedis worth of properties were destroyed. This was such an unfortunate occurrence. Was it worth it? Were the students’ right in anyway? I leave these questions to be answered by you the reader. It is surprising that after this demonstration the voices of these students were heard as government stepped in to curtail the burning issues. About 1.7 million cedis was gone, such a luckless incident.

But the question is, “is demonstration the language that government and leaders understand in this country”?

Another unfortunate incident that happened on 8th November 2018 on the Adenta – Madina stretch of road where another life was lost. This issue of uncompleted footbridges in this country is one of a concern to many as it has claimed the lives of innocent ones. All because successive governments have failed to complete the uncompleted footbridge that was started about 9 years ago. This has claimed about 24 lives and about 164 people have suffered injuries.

The saddest part is that people have started politicking with the issue. Some blame previous government, others blame the current government for this unfortunate incident. This is not necessary at this moment. Such comments are made in failed States like Somalia and others.

Or are people saying that Ghana is a failed state?

After the Thursday November 8, 2018 incident, residents of the area decided it was enough and for that matter blocked the road, preventing all vehicles from moving. There was a heavy traffic at the area as a lot of people joined in the “Emergency Demonstration”. This attracted a heavy security presence at the scene as armed police men were sent to calm down situation.

After this demonstration, government was awakened from her sleep and has issued a statement that work on that footbridge will commence in a week’s time. Are we serious as a country? Why can’t we be proactive rather than being reactive? The way and manner we play with certain sensitive issues in this country is so appalling. I dare say that we are not serious as a country.

Our leaders have failed to think ahead. They are not being proactive. It did not take more than 24 hours for government to respond to the KNUST issues and neither did it take more than 24 hours for government to respond to the Adenta-Madina footbridge issue. So, the question “is Demonstration the Language”? Is it the only means that government and leaders could hear the cries of their people? Is it the language that they want citizens to speak all the time? Is it by destroying properties?

We need to be serious as a country. If we will continue on this tangent, then our beloved country has no future. We need leaders who can think and see the future. We need leaders who can plan to prevent unfortunate incidents from happening. We do not need leaders who will react to unfortunate matters. It looks as if in this country we have none. This write-up is a wakeup call to all leaders. Let us “prevent and protect rather than repair and repent”. Who knows about the next demonstration? Is it going to cause the state a lot of resources to repair the damages? If issues are not being redressed on time, then citizens will always resort to demonstration which will lead to the destruction of properties and lives, where government can only hear their plight. Ghana must work again. Ghana will work again. YOUNG POSITIVIST, a concerned citizen of Ghana.

The writer is Boamah Sampson: (0548690091/ [email protected]).
A final year student of the University of Ghana, studying English and political Science.

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