And young Captain Maxwell Mahama died.

Killed…

Murdered…

In the prime of youth…

In the service of Ghana our Motherland…

It need not come to that, but it often takes such an unspeakable tragedy to focus the conscience of a nation to a canker eating into and destroying the fabric of society. A few years ago, after so many needless fatal motor accidents, it took the death of a leading urologist, Professor Quartey and two others, in a highway smash up, to shock the nation into confronting our epidemic of road accidents.

Captain Mahama’s lynching by a mob in Denkyira-Obuasi in the Central Region has shocked and angered the nation and people are calling for retribution – some going as far as call for the firing squad for the perpetrators, if found guilty.

This was a young man in the service of his country, who merely on the unsubstantiated allegation of armed robbery, was set upon by a mob and given instant “justice”. Bizarrely, one of the suspects was identified as the Assemblyman of the area – someone, who in the absence of the police could have acted as an officer of the law!

So where, why and how did we get on to this road to perdition? I have read a number of write-ups since the incident – one even suggesting a national hypocrisy, because prior to that there had been numerous episodes of such mob actions without any national outcry. Yes, perhaps, but thank God at least this has piqued our conscience to say enough is enough and hopefully would engender the kind of soul-searching that would lead to a kinder and gentler nation, the kind my generation was born into…

The culture of coups d’etat and rabid partisan politics have entrenched violence, intolerance, exclusiveness, nastiness into our psyche. Coups are predicated on taking political power through the force of arms and if in the process people lose their lives, well…Generally what follows is a period of fault-finding and distribution of the spoils to a small cabal…Resentment builds up to boiling point.

Though the counter coup attempt of Lt. Arthur and his colleagues after the ’66 coup ended in the death of General Kotoka, their execution was no less traumatic to the nation. It affected me greatly as a young boy; it was bad enough for the General to have fallen at the hands of the young officers, in what was essentially a struggle for power, but to truss up the two young men, the other was Lt. Yeboah, and shoot them at a firing range has been for me our real first taste of human blood…Did it stop military coups…?

When we fast forward to June 4 ’79, we witness the spilling of Ghanaian blood by Ghanaians never seen in our history. The killing of the three former military heads of state and five of their colleagues is well known but who remembers names like Col Enninful, Col Omane Collison, et al. The blood that flowed from the firearms of June 4 ’79 had all the hallmarks of a lynching. For many years we were forced to observe it nationally because of “house cleaning”, “probity and accountability” and other highfalutin moralistic tones that have since been discredited by the sharp eyes and ears of history. With June 4, the tone was set for instant justice: seizure of property, public floggings, destruction of markets and overall persecution of “rich” people. Having more than one toilet in a house was considered unacceptable…Ghanaians would say hmmmmm to that now!

The 4th Republican Constitution of 1992, following in the liberal traditions of our other post-independence constitutions said all the nice things about human rights and assured us that we had a number of freedoms that were ours for the taking, among which was the freedom of association, which meant we could form political parties to contest elections!

But what have been some of the footprints: From shit-bombing of newspaper offices in the early periods of multiparty rule, jailing of journalists, to media excesses, to the recent acid execution of Alhaji Adam, to the government freeing of thugs who attacked a court, our political parties have not been able to rise above the kind of unenlightened ethos of coup-makers. Indeed, I have often said that in certain respects, the political parties have often shown more savage tactics than the coup makers. When elections have necessitated a change in government, the incoming administrations have often behaved just like coup makers coming into office: Vigilantism, persecution and victimization form the baggage of the incoming administration.

Party loyalty, either in the shape of the Azorka Boys, the Invincible or Delta Forces means one and only one thing: JUNGLE LAW. The political parties seem unwilling or unable to rein in these vigilante groups. When the Attorney General entered a no prosecution against those who attacked the court, it spelt impunity, pure and simple! Political expediency had upheld Indiscipline….

And how about verbal lynching where political parties descend on their perceived enemies with some of the cruelest and psychologically scarring words in circumstances that should call for enlightened debate? It is as if the foulest choice of words is the mark of political loyalty!

If there is someone in a position to know, I am! The verbally violent reactions to my contribution to the ethnocentric debate in the days leading up to Election 2016 is still fresh in my mind and the lacerations still exist! Among all the harsh words darted at me at the time, one that comes to mind readily and elicits a rather bitter smile every now and then, is the effusion by a lawyer on television screaming “Harruna Attah is a political prostitute”! Another said I was un-Islamic and only fell short of pronouncing a fatwa on me! I have since often wondered what would have happened if I had fallen into the hands of these howling wolves! I cringe at the thought. Partisan politics has made us that nasty and brutish! And it is the same mindset as those who would pick stones and cudgels to exact instant justice…

So when the mob in Denkyira-Obuasi set upon Captain Mahama, it was with the appetite of hounds that had tasted blood with the knowledge that they would get away with it. Just like the lawyer, who should have known better in his verbal lynching, an Assemblyman, who should also have known better, equally felt at home and perhaps also at peace to join a mob to take the life of a person they had accused, found guilty and executed in the space of less than one hour…

Captain, now posthumous Major Mahama, has been martyred so that we can all introspect and help change the course of this mean, nasty and brutish path we have embarked on.

Some pointers:1. Social Discipline2. National Inclusiveness3. Civic Education4. Media Accountability5. Programmes for creativity, innovation and productivity6. National Attitudes7. Security and8. Less strident partisan political posturingMore can be added to the above. Mahama’s demise has shown that burying our heads in the sand of “it can’t happen in Ghana” is not only delusional but also dangerous.

RIP, Major…

Source: Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harruna Attah/former Ghana Ambassador to Namibia