Signs you see when your democracy is drifting – Prof. John Gatsi
Democracy is a governance system built on equality of citizenship, freedom, human rights with free expression and fair access to economic and social opportunities.
In a democracy, governments, private and public institutions, individuals and leaders are guided by the rule of law. The rule of law is a principle rather than pronouncements by the courts. So, one can ensure the rule of law without necessarily resorting to the courts. The courts become an option only if those who are required to implement the principle of rule of law fail and in some cases are not willing to apply this principle in their governance and administrative roles. In this case, the court is called upon to restore or affirm the rule of law.
Democracy makes life beautiful. In a democracy, power resides with the citizenry so no one is entitled to rule unless the people give that individual or a group of persons the power to govern. Elections are important in a democracy and elected officials do not become demigods just because of the power entrusted in their care. At best, they become stewards depending on the choice and legitimacy of the people.
In a democracy, elected leaders such as a President, Vice President, members of parliament, as well as political appointees such as MCEs/DCEs, Public Servants, etc. are to be guided by the time tested needs articulated by Abraham Maslow so many years ago. Thus elected leaders are to ensure that citizens have maximum security, shelter, peace, freedom and access to socioeconomic development among others or a means to access these needs.
When freedom is not guaranteed or has become selectively guaranteed then you know your democracy is drifting. When human rights are no more priceless asset available to all citizens, then democracy is drifting. Like the melting of cemented parcels of ice due to climate change, every step on the way to destroy the enjoyment of democracy is caused by some actors within the democratic society and the destruction does not happen spontaneously but as a process.
In a democracy, state institutions, whether created administratively or by the constitution, live to please the constitution and not any individual political authority. The Police, Fire Service, Electoral Commission, National Commission for Civic Education, Public Universities, among others, are mandated to see the constitution as the light of duty and not any individual or a group of persons.
Every mature democrat knows that the heartbeat of the constitution is the rights of citizens and one is not a democrat until s/he appreciates, protects, and respects the human rights of all citizens.
In every society. there is bound to be elements who may think that whatever their group does is right and will support any action against others irrespective of whether they die or end up with lifelong deformities. When democracy is on the path of derailment, people see but refuse to talk, engage, appeal and chastise those causing the derailment. When democracy is finally drifted, the negative effects are like the sunshine, it does not avoid any house in a town.
Religious leaders, traditional leaders, eminent citizens, etc. who refuse to talk and create the impression that evil is right, will also take their portions.
Today, as l write this piece rightly within the spirit and letter of chapter six of the constitution and in particular article 34, some will insult, some will call me by names just because they are the beneficiaries or merely because they belong to the perpetrators. Others will genuinely fear for me because of the intolerance in our system. It is, however, clear to me that in a democracy, tolerance is a virtue and oppression is evil.
When democracy is drifting, eminent people do not speak against the eminent derailment and erosion of human rights and free expression. When democracy is drifting, the law which sole purpose is to guide and ensure a balance between development and orderliness on one hand and consolidation of rights on the other hand, may be used to oppress,, intimidate and truncate fundamental rights.
In my studies in business and economics, l accept the fact that businesses go through a period of growth, peak, recession, depression and a trough until growth resumes. Simply put, things will not always be the same. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to lead a state institution, use the law to foster the intent of the constitution.
It is not ordinary conception of law to brutalize parliamentarians on a walk to present a petition to the Electoral Commission. It is not the protection of democracy to invite all 109 Members of Parliament or arrange them before court in the name of democracy. Even if some are invited it is an invitation to all. What happens if ten thousand (10,000) constituents from each of the constituencies these members of parliament represent decide to follow their members of parliament to court session or to the CID Office. So can’t we see that we are defining a dangerous path?
In all these difficulties about elections, what role has the eminent Ghanaian advisors to the Electoral Commission played?
Is it not time for the National House of Chiefs, Christian Council, and Peace Council to decide to be on the side of the constitution and act in a manner that protects Ghana’s democracy?
It is sad people are expressing themselves painfully against Peace Council, National House of Chiefs and religious bodies. If people don’t trust those who should be closing the chasms and fault lines that emerged from the dismissal of Charlotte Osei, the appointment of the new commissioners, organization of voter registration and finally the December 7th elections. We are pretending these are not signs that our democratic values have sharply deteriorated?.
My question is if citizens think the police is not fair to them in terms of protests and demonstrations, and want to demonstrate against the police for discrimination, will the police be a judge in its own cause?
Let the values of democracy be rekindled and let the rights of citizens be enjoyed.