Oliver Barker’s post is in bad taste. It is immaterial that he cannot plan a coup.
Those who watched Money Heist would know that the protagonist, ‘Professor’, was basically incapable of stealing or pulling a trigger. But everything his squad of ex-convicts did, bore the prints of his powerful mind.
Coups need an environment. Activists can create an environment. And then from there, one foolish soldier is all we need. What Barker posted was in bad taste.
But it is not enough to hate coups, it is necessary to love something. Love creates hate. Love is a powerful hate.
And when I see those who line up to condemn Barker’s post, I see what they hate, but I do not see what they love. They hate coups, but E-Lab does not see their love for democracy.
Coup brings guaranteed impunity. And so, when impunity thrives in a democracy, we begin to feel the same confused look of Jacob who married Rachael in the night and woke up, stuck with Leah.
Of course, the intensity of impunity in coup is not really the same as that in our democracy. But that’s a choice between armed robbers and robbers. Something is still stolen.
And, at least, two incidents in less than a week, capture the decline of our democracy. The police handling of Bobbie Ansah and Oliver Barker. The police robbed us of the expression of our own disappointment by becoming in themselves, the disappointment.
The disappearance-looking arrests, the alleged blocking of access by lawyers, the use of the police to settle civil scores. More ridiculously, the charges.
The police know that the charges won’t cut it. They know we know it won’t cut it. But they are telling us they will prosecute him, knowing that we know what they know that they can’t prosecute him. They are proceeding with a seriousness that shows they do not take us seriously.
It is all another opportunity to flex muscles and show activists where power lies, the language of coup eras. It is like, on the face of it, Oliver and the police want the same thing, only that one says what he wants in words, the police in deeds.
It is this frustration about this make-believe democracy that triggers Oliver’s disturbing vituperations. And we must be disappointed in him. But when we get angry at him, we begin to look like Visual Arts students angry at the Science student who gave a wrong answer at Round Three of the National Science and Maths Quiz, The Problem of the Day.
A contestant can get some marks for the wrong answer, but she can also get absolutely no point for the correct answer. If a contestant puts down the answer without explaining the process, no marks. But if he explains the process and gets the answer wrong, he may get some points.
Oliver got it wrong, but some of the processes he has taken in trying to answer the Problem of the Day, give him some good points. And if we love our democracy, we will see that his dark answer raises a bright question about the state of our democracy.
All two general secretaries of the NPP and NDC have confessed on JoyNews that they fear for the future of elections because of the incredible levels of vote-buying over the last 30 years. We give cloth, deep freezers, bicycles, motorbikes, cars, and now camp delegates without a tingle of shame. An MCE nominee angrily demands his bribe back after he loses approval.
Take parliament as an example. After the last elections, the president and several political observers said the closeness of the parliamentary results meant Ghanaians wanted the two parties to work together.
But this interpretation of the results is like peering at the photo of two sweaty boxers closely hugging in the middle of a fight and declaring that it means they have just discovered they are brothers.
The simple reality is that they are just tired.
And, right now, Ghanaians are tired of this type of “parliamentary” democracy. We had 122 new MPs in 2016. Just four years later, we had 101 new MPs after the 2020 elections. The attrition rate is a hemorrhage. MPs are losing seats because of the payment of water bill when the constitution put him there to scrutinise the water development bill.
This is what E-Lab explained in Why we need to abolish parliamentary elections.
There is a mismatch between what the constitution wants the MP to do and what the constituents want their MPs to do. Caught in this crossfire, MPs are falling off their perch in great scores.
If we love our democracy, if we love Rachael, we must be willing to put in Jacob’s seven years of laborious activism to marry the love of his life, democracy.
The thing about democracy is that right when we establish it, you start to lose it. Because right when you paint a wall white, it is no longer white. Discolouration has already set in. Right when you have a child, you lose your child, for every step the child takes is to assert their own will and their independence from you.
Right when we had the 1992 constitution and an election, we begin to lose our democracy to the forces of discoloration and decay. What keeps it democratic is activism. A passionate citizenry like the passionate painter who wants to paint the wall white again. And again. And again, for eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
We don’t have enough of these activists. We have dangerously few painters of our democracy. The Ghanaian is designed to “stay out of trouble”, the language of genetic cowards.
We are a very inward citizenry. We outsource our democratic obligations to third parties. We are a country that sees demonstrators as those who don’t know what to do with their time.
And so gradually, the white wall looks dull. It is turning grey. And could soon look creamy. Peel off and fall off.
One of the painters who angrily says that if we cannot paint it white again, then he will single-handedly just remove the paint has been lampooned by some people as a traitor of colour white.
We forget, almost deliberately, that if we don’t repaint this drab wall again, we would not need to remove it.
The force of nature will.
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