Stand Up And Be Counted

by Elizabeth Ohene

The Daily Graphic June 27, 1979 editorial the morning after the execution of the six senior military officers including two former heads of state, Accra, Ghana

In more ways than one, we are all to blame for the miss this country is in now

The millions that suffered and bore it in silence, the many that felt and said it was no business of theirs because they were manageing somehow, the many that cheered on, those that joined in and of course those who started it all

The majority of Ghanaians have long ago lost the moral right to point accusing fingers at anybody; our silence in the midst of the wrong doings make us accomplices.

No amount of shouting now about how corrupt our rulers were, will atone for the fact that if we had all spoken earlier, things would never have reached such proportions.

For the greater proportion of our people who are so justifiably angry, the only answer seems to be destruction.

This time, more than ever before, people must make their voices heard, one way or the other. The Ghana Bar Association, which has a very proud history of always being in the vanguard of national affairs, has been uncharacteristically silent during these traumatic times.

It surely cannot be for want of an opinion, nor can it be that this very august body hasn't found events in the country, worthy of its attention.

When public hysteria is at such a crescendo, it is obviously very prudent to play it safe by keeping quiet and watch where the wind is blowing.

Such an attitude might be pardonable among the unimformed public, but for a group like the Ghana Bar Association, it is a disgraceful shirking of responsibility.

How should the silence of the political parties and their leaders be interpreted? Are they also playing it safe simply because it woudl be politically imprudent and might lose votes? Let them not forget that it is this same country they are struggling so hard to lead; they cannot pretend that whatever happens in this country before they get into power does not concern them. It is an ostrich behaviour for which they might pay very dearly.

And what about the churches, who forced by the circumstances of our very recent experiences, have become involved in the national life of this country; when will they say anything?

What about the Professional Bodies Association; they learnt to flex their muscles and get heard, could it be that nothing has happend yet that has touched their sensiblities and professed concern for this country?

There have been public executions, public floggings of both men and women. Let all these organizations make their voices heard, surely a declaration of support would be a guide to our new rulers and so will a condemnation be also of help

After all, this entire house cleaning is done in all our names, as have all other previous actions and utterances by previous leaders been supposed to have been in our names.

It might be prudent to keep silent, but it will be the greatest gift ever given to Ghana if our opinion leaders will speak out

Right now it might look like it is a matter for "them"; the problem is that the distinction between a "them" and "us" does not always stay clear.

A quote from the poet John Donne puts is quite aptly: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;... any man's death diminishes me, because I am in mankind. And therefore never send to know from whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee".

Elizabeth Ohene. June 27, 1979 editorial in The Daily Graphic, Accra, Ghana

Stand up and be counted by Elizabeth Ohene

See also: June 4th