On December 7th 2020, Ghana will be going to the polls to elect its president and members of parliament for the 8th time in the 4th republic. With the euphoria, excitement and mixed feelings that characterize every election year based on the leanings and believes of individuals and citizens, this year is no exception.
For the past decades that Ghana has held elections under the fourth republic, electoral violence and peacekeeping always take a centre space in our political discourse. Mostly, these discussions are around how both individuals and organizations, including political parties, state agencies like the police, EC among others can carry out their duties effectively to ensure the elections are held peacefully. Considering the countries Ghana shares borders, and how they have fared, Ghana has had one of the most peaceful political atmospheres in its 4th republic.
Although there are several acts of electoral violence that shows it ugly heads occasionally during elections and our political space, there is not been any yet that has thrown the country into a conflict zone. An acknowledge of these subtle of acts of political violence that occurs in some part of the country draws light on the possible harm electoral violence can cause the country at large and the fact that this small but significant violence is a threat to our democracy.
As a country that places value on lives and especially has a good majority of its citizens being young and vibrant, having political violence shows its head in some part of our countries will only mean that, the very vibrant and active age groups that serve as our human resources now and soon will be lost since they are the ones mostly used in such situation. That notwithstanding, the aged and children of such communities will be in a huge danger while properties and valuables will also be at the mercy of hooligans. The chances of throwing the country into a conflict zone will always be imminent until we can eradicate any form of electoral violence and conflicts that show up in the build-up to our elections.
In the fight for a strong and healthy state devoid of any form of electoral violence that will take the country back on the path of growth and development, several avenues have been exploited to ensure that, enough education is done in various ways to help prevent the situations even before they show they ugly head for management actions to be considered. Among the various institutions’ task to ensure the safety of the country through education and sensitization of the people on political violence, religious bodies are one of the institutions that officially or unofficially wield some sort of power to ensure that, there is some amount of peace in the country in elections years.
Religious organizations have over the years grown into some sort of authorities that legitimizes the dictates and doctrines of their creed. With the various sects of religious bodies and what they stand for, common among them is the need to ensure that, they uphold the highest moral standards as espoused by their religion. Generally, these beliefs of most religious bodies are ones that fall in line with most of the laws and practices of Ghana as a country. Owing to this fact, it becomes clearer that, both the various sects of religion and the state are one on issuing of holding the moral standards of the country which includes safeguarding the peace of the country. That makes it necessary for religious bodies to have stakes and more interest in the peace of the country in these periods
One of the ways religious bodies can actively ensure that the campaign for peace is effective is by adding their voices to the matter. The presumption that Ghana is a very religious state seeks to suggest that, at least 8 out of every 10 Ghanaians are associated with a part religious group in Ghana. In this vein, it becomes seemingly clear that religious leaders shepherd or lead a large number of Ghanaians. With this, religious leaders have the opportunity to use their meeting ground to iterate the peace message that government and CSO’s preach in the run-up to elections. Religious leaders more than ever must take it upon themselves to not only teach their people about the requirements of their religion but also use these avenues to sensitize their followers and continuously remind them of their moral obligations as believers of their various faiths and Ghanaians as well.
In Ghana, although everyone once a Ghanaian and of voting age has the right to vote and actively participate in our politics, it has become a long-standing tradition for preachers of peace during elections to exhibit some amount of neutrality to ensure that, they can speak to ensure that effects all political actors regardless of their party with some amount of objective. For the religious bodies to help maintain peace, the regular political affiliations that have been seen openly over the years must be dealt with properly. Due to how influential religious leaders are, they can often influence their congregations on what to do. Religious leaders, openly declaring their support for a party denies them of that right to be objective and be able to preach the word of peace properly to their congregants to accept since the congregation is politically polarized. Also, other political actors knowing they are supporters of a party will not take them seriously in their call for peace and fairness. It, therefore, remains necessary that, is religious bodies are strong stakeholders in this election, personal interest and gains of religious leaders should not be put before the ultimate interest of the country to ensure that, their words and councils are not compromised and received with prejudice.
The politics of prophecies on who wins an election has over the years, grown to become one of the norms of our politics. However, normalized this has become the subtle sentiments some prophecies invite that eventually lead to some sort of confrontation is one that cannot be ignored as they have happened over the last few elections. Religious leaders mostly are the key actors in these religious predictions and the likes that mostly do not sit well with everyone. As people with some sort of stake in the elections, it has become very necessary more than ever that religious bodies will refrain from all sort of open political predictions that will not sit down with some people and very likely to cause sentimental reactions. Religious bodies should this time around instead of chasing clout and exposure through their open prediction should rather do these covertly amid the parties involved to avoid any form of uproar and sentiment from the followers of the parties involved.
As religious bodies have over the years obtained legitimacy in our dispensation that, their voice and counsels are considered by political leaders, these are the times where they should be engaging political actors more regardless of who they are and their leanings to achieve the best interest of the country. It should be noted that, when the country is thrown into distress and chaos, religious leaders will be heavily burdened with the woes of their people and it will become highly impossible for their various religious rituals to take place in conducive environments. It is therefore imperative that religious bodies take their roles of promoting peace seriously without any form of compromises or prejudice.
The writer is Solomon Yidana
Evangelist, Assemblies of God and Gospel Artiste.