Author: JayJay D. Segbefia, NAV
Accra – Ghana
Ghana’s democratic history is inundated with checkered obstructions every now and then from military dictatorship and buffoonery. If I am not mistaken in my calculations (I was, at best, an indifferent student of history), we have had 24 of our 59 years smarting under the zombie-spiked whips of military oppression, brutality and bruxism. The last one never really left until 2001. Jerry Rawlings only switched his faded Air force OJs for the more glorious civilian suit and Agortime kente, but the ACDR and the dreaded 64th Battalion remained, beating demonstrators of the famous 1995 Kume Preko demonstrations to pulps and shooting peaceful demonstrators in the chest and (specifically as they were ordered to do) in the genitals.
Oh, we remember too well the brutish abandon with which our human dignity was trampled on and fed to the dogs when people whose only route to anything resembling intellectual power and influence was through the barrel of older versions of my Kalashnikov. Which is one of the reasons this country will never again tolerate a military coup without a fight that will, like Turkey, make them understand just who is actually in charge of this country’s destiny, but I digress.
2001 ushered in all freedoms – the unfettered freedom of the press being the most admired. And it granted to everyone in this country, without let or hindrance, the right to say whatever the heck they wanted, however the heck they wanted to say it, and anywhere the heck they wanted, about the way they believed the course of our Republic needed to be charted. The 64th Battalion was disbanded with alacrity, and the Ghana Military, for once in their hitherto constitutionally miserable existence, suddenly understood what their proper place in the Ghanaian society was – under the rest us. (After all, wasn’t it our hard-earned taxes that paid for their very drawers?)
For these reasons and more, John Agyekum Kuffour never wore military garb. He stood at all parades as tall as a giant, majestic in civilian garb, and civilian garb only. His towering form, his proclivity for Asante Bonwire kente, and his incisive eyes bore true faith and allegiance to the fact that he was Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces as a civilian. And as a civilian, he had the dignity and power to command the nation’s forces. And he was, by explicit constitutional design, above all the Generals and Captains and Wing Commanders of the Ghana Armed Forces. He didn’t need camo to prove nada.
Same with Prof. Atta Mills. Although weaker of physical composition than his predecessor, the tottering Prof. Mills was a hundred times more powerful than Colonels by the scores, Captains by the dozens and Generals without number of the GAF. And all this in his plain-coloured political suit. Neither Kuffour nor Mills went down the infantile road of donning military garb. They knew their places, and did not, under any circumstances, seek to undermine their powerful positions as civilian heads of state with any military threadmanship. No childish horseplay attended their relationship to the GAF, and they certainly were smarter than the cheap theatricality and imprudent small-boys-playing-soldiers stunt the current occupier of the nation’s highest office seem to have arrived unabashedly at overnight.
I would not here begin to go down the road of the legal impropriety of a civilian donning military garb in Ghana. Someone please tell me where the honour is in a civilian wearing military uniform here? Besides the fact that a person that does so gets a prejudicial beating by soldiers in this Republic, what is so honourable, outside of the honourable service of our gallant Officers and Men, about wearing camos and government boots? In other jurisdictions, doing so raises awareness of, and respect for the people who volunteer, sign up for, and put their lives on the line for a country. In the United States, numbers of people looking to sign up for military service is declining by the thousands. The military is lucky to have people sporting their garb in solidarity.
But in Ghana, military service is more a search for economic prospects in contemporary times than any real desire on the part of soldiers to lay down lives for the good of civilians. The naked truth is that acceptance into the Ghana Armed Forces is so ethnically and nepotically polarized that people apply to get in with a tall list of back-ups and higher-ups should they get kicked out at any stage of the selection process, and for as little as jerking back quickly because a female medic was grabbing one’s genitals too quickly during medic exams.
President John Mahama does neither his civilian power nor his Commander-in-Chief status any honour by his military threadmanship stunts and toy-soldier gimmickry. The president plays too darn much! Military facilities and events deserve better gravity, a seriousness commensurate with the highest task of safeguarding the territorial integrity of a nation. And that has been lacking these two times the president has gotten involved in this tomfoolery. Any GAF Officer of high station whose voice contributed to this hoopla needs to resign with immediate effect. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the depths of treason to stand aside, unconcerned, as your Commander-in-Chief makes a mockery of himself. And if he, as president, cannot find it in himself to get off the playground, he should step aside so his betters may lead this country with the gravity required to overcome our increasing economic and socio-political doldrums.
Onukpa bɛ shĩa aloo?
And, while we’re at it, Puss-in-Boots did far more for his master, in boots and jaunty feathered hat, than Opana-in-Berets has done for our economy. Let’s get off the playground and be serious, for Pete’s sake.