One of the problems that has raised eye brows and has become the talk of the town in recent times is Political Vigilantism. From time memorial vigilantism has gradually gained root in today’s political front which affects the political front one way or the other There is almost no single day that passes by without the mention of vigilante groups, which has become a canker in Ghana’s democracy.
Political vigilantism is an organized group of people affiliated to one or the other political party that influence government policies in their interest. The inception or purpose of vigilante groups from the beginning was meant to keep vigilance on people especially government officials to ensure that they performed their duties with due diligence and integrity. Vigilantism started as boys who were loyal to influential political figures but has over time, been formalized and given recognition by their political parties to provide security. During party events such as congresses, press conferences and demonstrations, these vigilante groups collaborated with the police to provide security. They were largely restrained and limited to party activities. However, in recent times, the activities of these vigilante groups have become an aberration to the constitution of Ghana. It appears that most of these vigilante groups is mostly dominated by affiliates of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which are the two major political parties in Ghana. It has become obvious from what we hear and see of late that the activities of these vigilante groups are based on party lines and selfish interest.
It has become more or less a routine in Ghana’s politics, especially in the last decades in pursuit for political power. It is mainly made up of desperate unemployed fanatics of one or the other political party who are grouped to provide internal party security. They often have dreaded names and funny nicknames.
In an interview with the Secretary General of the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS), Very Reverend Fr. Lazarus Anondee, he bemoaned the disorder that political vigilante groupsin Ghana are causing. He said the purpose of political vigilante groups were meant to keep vigilance especially among government officials to ensure that they discharge their duties as mandated.Political vigilante groups were meant to keep vigilance especially among government officials to ensure that they discharge their duties as mandated by the constitution and as expected of them. Of this (vigilance) he recommended should be imbued in our Ghanaian culture. Apparently, political vigilantism was never meant to be politically partisan or self-centered. Comparing the past years to that of today with regard to political vigilantism, Fr. Anondee said people have exploited this phenomenon to the extent that these groups which were meant to protect the interest of the whole country is being manipulated to serve the interest of a particular group of political fanatics. In other words, political vigilantism is being perpetrated for a particular group’s parochial interest. They intimidate people especially during national and democratic exercises such as the recent by-election conflict at Ayawaso West Wogon .
Fr. Lazarus condemned in no uncertain terms the unconstitutional acts perpetrated by these vigilante groups and described them as inimical to our democracy and constitution. He called on all citizens of Ghana to get involved and contribute their quota to eradicate these vigilante groups. He further added that aside the law taking its course, other possibilities should be explored to fight and get rid of this canker urging the law enforcement agencies like the Police force to discharge their responsibilities well. This he said to some extent will dwindle the existence and usefulness of vigilante groups in Ghana. He also added that, there must be equity with regard to the law that is the law must apply to every Ghanaian equally and there should be no compromise of any sort. The Secretary General of the NCS by way of conclusion said, laws which have been documented should be tested to see its efficacy and once again entreated all and sundry to come together and fight this canker which has become a “thorn in the flesh of Ghana’s democracy.
The issue of unemployment is a major factor and a recipe for these political vigilante groups hence the need for the government intensify and innovate more employment schemes and opportunities to curb and eventually eliminate this canker. The initiative of this government precisely the planting for food and jobs is a step in its right direction however, more of such needs to be promoted. The youth who ally themselves with one or the other political party who promise them better life if they win elections should detach themselvs from such affiliations and focus on doing something profitable to help themselves.
Political vigilantism is a huge threat to Ghana’s democracy that promises doom and chaos to the peace, stability and security of Ghana. It therefore behooves on the Commission on Enquiry together with other institutions and body that matter as well as every Ghanaian to put in place feasible measures to curb this menace.
The welfare and development of Ghana and her children should be paramount to every patriotic citizen, hence the activities of these vigilante groups should not be compromised in anyway being it NPP, NDC, PNC, PPP or any other political party but should be abolished and condemned in no uncertain terms.
Paul Kofi Ankapong Ofori
Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)