In most cases, nobody knows whether this sudden attack of peacemaking will yield any result or whether these self-appointed “peace ambassadors” really do anything useful because there is no serious monitoring going on, and in any case, this being Ghana, words have replaced action and so such people know we are interested in what they say and not what they do, This is why politicians and preachers get away with so much insincerity and broken promises; they know we are not really going to check whether they do what they say. This is not to say that people who say they are going to work for peaceful elections are insincere; not all of them anyway, but becoming an instant peacemaker is a trend same as becoming an instant prophet or bishop.
The similarity between instant peacemakers and instant prophets is an interesting one, especially in the fact that this trend is mostly an urban phenomenon; you don’t find prophets and bishops outside the main cities and big towns in Ghana. Indeed, if I may be bold, I would guess that ninety percent of all prophets live in Accra and Kumasi with the latter boasting more prophets than you get in the Old Testament. In Accra, the majority of prophets tend to emerge in places like Awoshie, Kasoa and Sowutoum; and unlike Nehemiah and Isaiah in the Good book the modern prophet actually has a sign board and a bank account. I don’t know why we hardly hear of prophets in places like Cantonments and the Airport Residential Area; it is just a thought, but obviously the prophesy business is a seriously urban happening, which is what the election peacemaking is also trending towards.
However, it appears that a group of unsung heroes and heroines are really burrowing in the undergrowth, so to speak, in order to unearth the gemstones of peace in unheralded ways. These civil society groups working at grassroots level outside the Accra-Kumasi axis neither seek not receive publicity for the work they are doing. Examples of such real peace champions are among 45 organisations that have received funding support from STAR Ghana, which is funding agency that pools grant money from the UK, Denmark, USA and the European Union to support civil society, the media and Parliament initiatives in Ghana. (For acronym anoraks in our midst STAR stands for Strengthening Transparency Accountability and Responsiveness!).
STAR funding has enabled people and organisations outside the glare of publicity to be engaged in work among communities where they are likely to make an impact. Think of the Ahenbronoso Care Foundation which is based in the Brong-Ahafo region. This group is unknown nationally but is set to undertake a creative initiative that could be popular in the communities where it works. It has proposed to organise debates among parliamentary candidates in the Nkoranza and Techiman constituencies in order to create a local “manifesto” of what the people really need on the ground. Or take Northern Ghana Aid (NOGAID), which is a well known NGO but what may not be appreciated is the spread of its efforts to promote violence-free and transparent elections in Pru, East Gonja, Central Gonja, Chereponi, East Gonja, East Mamprusi, Gushegu, Karaga, Nanumba North, Savelugu/Nanton, Tamale Metropolitan, Tolon/Kumbungu, West Mamprusi, Yendi Municipal in the Northern and Brong-Ahafo Regions.
These are just two of such organisations working across all the ten regions of Ghana in promoting peace during these election times, but even more importantly enabling communities to participate in the activities that are designed to produce peace and its benefit. The difference between such groups working in communities and at grassroots levels and publicity-seeking individuals does not lie only in the city/ rural divide. Many of the people who go to newsrooms to announce their readiness to be peace ambassadors propose to do something for somebody in a top-down approach, whereas grassroots organisations mobilise people and communities to do it themselves.
There are hundreds of community based initiatives in addition to those funded by STAR and other sponsors and they all deserve our appreciation because a large number of such initiatives are self-funded and directed from their own resources and enthusiasm. One must also hasten to add that big set-piece events such as musical concerts, football matches, and other gala occasions are important means of creating awareness about peace, unity and other themes essential for our national wellbeing. Prayers by religious groups also do the same, and for believers, come with the added incentive of inviting God’s blessings and guidance for Ghana. What we need to be aware of are the machinations of self-seeking individuals who tend to use every occasion for their own personal glory and gain in one form or another.
THE SILO IN THE SKY
Last week I wrote about the silo-looking advertising thing that was being constructed in the middle of a roundabout on the Spintex Road. I am happy to report that the circular object has now been hoisted far above the ground from where it will be seen from afar. This happened even before the Diary came out at the weekend, and it was no doubt due to the pressure exerted by the media in the course of the week. Newspapers and radio stations that took up the cause must be applauded, but also commendations are also due to the builders for yielding to public opinion.
On the last point, I have heard it argued that the thing was not intended to sit on the ground where it would impede the line of vision but was always intended to be hoisted to its present position in the sky. Even if it is true it does not negate the fact that it posed a serious danger when it was on the ground and a danger is danger whether for a minute, an hour or one month. If for any reason a company or an individual has to undertake any activity such as blocking a public road or digging a trench across the road it has to obtain a permit on presenting a safety plan for the duration of the obstruction. This is what happens in disciplined and well organised countries.
It has to said that even hanging in the sky, the thing, whatever it is, could still pose a danger; one has only to count the number of advertising boards that fall at the least push. If this thing in the sky should fall from its current elevation the disaster will be worse that a billboard crashing from a mere 20 metre height. I am not saying it will fall, but knowing that safety is not always our first consideration, there is nothing wrong in advising that all bolts be tightened up there.
I can’t wait to see what is going to be advertised up there. After all this brouhaha it will be really disappointing if whatever is going to drape this silo turns out to be genuine Brazilian human hair or pure water. We will see.