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Bright Philip Donkor writes: Let's avoid intemperate language in our political dispensation

It's my turn to turn in some pages to lament on politics of insults which has gained notoriety in our political discourse. Ghana has achieved remarkable success in democratic consolidation by conducting six general elections in the Fourth Republic without widespread violence since 1992.

Nonetheless, the kind of tensions and acrimony that surround her elections are issues that cannot be glossed over. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana paved the way for freedom of speech and expression, which has been strengthened by the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law. Most political actors tend to abuse the freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution by using abusive words and insulting their political opponents especially on the airwaves and during political campaigns.

This article focuses on how the use of indecent language can be detrimental to the development agenda of the country and the need to embrace decorum in our politics. Recently, some key stakeholders of the major political parties in the country; the NDC and NPP have embraced the use of abusive words on the airwaves and even as part of their campaigns. These leaders are not just the perpetuators of such act of indiscipline, the followers (both young and old) are also susceptible. Truth be told, this issue has been a thorn in the flesh in the country's body politics.

The persistent use of intemperate language affects the quality of policy discourse and also creates tension at every election year. Faced with the use of indecorous language at every election year, a common feature of elections in Ghana is the numerous appeal for peace from all sections of society. The use of indecent words by political actors thus poses a serious threat to Ghana's democratic dispensation. The singular reason that, it can aggravate into serious conflict with social, political, cultural and economic ramifications.

Indubitably, insults are socially unacceptable behavior that cause embarrassment and disgrace to the person it is directed at and that's why it is frowned upon in the civilised world. However, this unacceptable behavior is exhibited everyday by ordinary people and disturbingly by the political actors in the country. In fact, politics in Ghana has become a discourse of personal attack, vilification and insults.

Political parties in their attempt to win political power have not been able to present any concrete national vision, definable and measurable plans that will lead to socio-economic improvement and development of the citizenry. Political campaign messages have rather been centered on arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of Ghanaians to gain power and popularity.

Recently, some political actors have come out with statements such as 'Akyem Sakawa Mafia and Granpa', and referring to 'Critics as Naysayers and Jeremiahs', with the connotation of nothing else but analogy and emotionalism premised on ethnocentrism and violence. At least, can't we practice politics devoid of all these negative tendencies for once? We need to stop this trend now. It is a dent on the democracy. The 7th December Polls should not be a battle of insults. It should be a battle of records visible to the blind and audible to the deaf.

Political opponents have grown comfortable in trading abusive words and intemperate language especially on media platforms. Consequently, this has provoked an extraordinary public concern on the surge of insults. Even though, scores of concerned Ghanaians being it the civil society, academia, media, chiefs among others have expressed their abhorrence to insults traded by politicians but the practice still persists.

Today, I can count countless media platforms that are filled every day with unsavoury comments by politicians against each other which poses threats to our united achievements. Yes, people are talking but they don’t talk about the right stuff. Unfortunately, the current media involvement has amplified the loudest of the most partisan voices and helped spread fact-free theories about our needs and desires. To keep it upbeat, political insurgents have tilted the national conversation. As a result, the real issues have been pushed out to the wayside.

I think that we should stop letting partisanship cloud common sense. The young people especially must not toe in their line but rather be willing to condemn and be advocates to shame politicians who engage in this growing canker. We shouldn't engage or encourage political speeches and debates plagued with plethora of falsehood, indecent words, personal attacks and bigotry of ethnic groups by and of political opponents.

We should debate vital issues of national concern and not to sustain and fabricate stories of emotional campaigns. It's high time we start talking more loudly about things that are very, very important to the development of our nation and personal well-being. Some of these things are education, sanitation, employment, roads, water bodies, public security, the youth involvement and well-being in policy formulations and decisions and the unwillingness of our politicians and leaders to find solutions to our emerging problems.

Such is the way to safeguard our enviable democratic credentials as compared to other countries in West Africa sub-region. The key political actors must set practical leadership examples, for the supporters and party sympathizers to emulate by using decorous words before, during and after the 7th December elections. Politicians should communicate their messages to the electorate without insult and be measured in their utterances to maintain peace in the country.

It is not for nothing that Ghana is touted as a beacon of hope in the midst of political upheavals in West Africa, and her ability to overcome difficult challenges with ease is what has brought us this far. As matter of urgency and harmonious living, we need to continue to demonstrate that resilience and jealously guard against our democratic achievements less we lose our grip on the strides and gains we have made so far. Freedom of expression does not give one the right to insult those with whom they disagree, but rather to learn to agree to disagree.

The author, Bright Philip Donkor is the CSA'20 Online Journalist of the Year ; Communication Practitioner, Social & Political Commentator, Young Activist and a Prolific Feature Writer.

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