BY LINDA AKUBILA, STUDENT, GIJ
VIGILANTISM refers to the situation where people “take the law into their own hands” in order to protect or advance their interests. In this way, all vigilantism is political because it always involves the use of (illegal) power against others who are perceived to be a threat to those interests. However, when we speak of “political vigilantism” we mean specifically the use of vigilantes in the name of partisan politics.
In Ghana, political parties – whether in government or in opposition – are known to form and use vigilante groups who then act on their behalf. This has been highlighted in various reports, such as one put together by the Institute for Security Studies as well as academic research papers. These vigilante groups are often violent, target opposition groups and public officials, and seize property or assets.
Who are vigilante groups in Ghana?
In my view or opinion we the citizens of Ghana are our own vigilante groups.
I am not afraid to say that I trust mass media for way too many things in my life. I am not afraid to say that most Ghanaian citizens also trust the media for way too many things.
The media is not inherently evil, but its most problematic angle is that media practitioners craft stories in a way that makes people believe that they no longer need to think for themselves once they’ve seen something written in a Time News Roman font with the perfect touch of underlining here and there.
The media, consciously or not, makes us believe that it encapsulates the world, whereas it is hardly the case. It is a bit like the machine has taken over its employees by now: big institutions see that people are content with the service so they keep revolving until further due. In my opinion, we do not raise our voice enough: critical thinking, questioning what we see and having engaging discussions. I’m not talking about being angry, but about raising debates, within ourselves or with people around us. This is why mass media need to remain healthy channels. People are much too prompt to nod to everything they read.
My problem really is not the media making us believe that we no longer need to think for them; my problem is the media not using the right platform they have to make things right in this country. In fact, I won’t be wrong to say that the media is rather causing chaos and confusion in the minds of people.
There are several cases or scenarios evident in this country that the media could solve without involving politicians and giving way for propaganda but what do we see today? Let us take, for instance, the Ayawaso by-election violence, the media could have educated the public on the dangers of conflicts and what it could result in if not resolved. But I am not a bit surprised because our media today makes news a commodity to be sold so that they can generate their income. But let us remember that “when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.”
The next vigilante group is the youth
The youth of Ghana have played an important role in both local and national politics since the inception of the Fourth Republic.
Among others, they have served as the foot-soldiers and channels through which party manifestoes have been transmitted to the electorate and polling agents during registration and voting exercises. Through chanting of their party slogans and house-to- house campaigning, the youth have often made the presence of their various parties felt across the country.
It has also been recognized over the world that the youth constitute the most important human resource potential that can contribute significantly to the overall development of a nation. There is seemingly little being done to harness this tremendous potential which will determine our strength and resilience in pursuing our social, economic and political development goals.
The same youth, our elders say, are the future leaders yet they are not being treated fairly; at least, that’s what they say. My problem is not whether they are being treated fairly or not; maybe that’s a topic for discussion. My problem is the youth allow themselves to be misused by people in power; talk of vigilante groups, campaign grounds, I mean the youth are being used for the “dirty” work for others to enjoy the fruits.
One thing I am glad about is that the youth are getting angry and manifesting it against people. I won’t say I am happy about that development. I mean why will the youth attack personnel of the Ghana Fire Service and the Ghana Police Service? Are they the Government? Do they implement policies? If the youth are angry, they should vent their anger on the right institutions, not the people who are doing their best to work for us!! The youth should be angry not by attacking innocent people but avoiding offering themselves to be used for” dirty” work in this country.
The last vigilante group is the citizen
The citizen living in a neighborhood with armed robbers, kidnappers, rapists and potential troublemakers but refusing to report them to the police or security agencies for them to be dealt with is contributing to the increase in vigilantism.
The largest vigilante group in Ghana involves the politician but who am I to talk about them/ or should I say a lot has been said about them so I dare not say more. We put them where they are, if we stop putting them there, they will not have the prerogative to turn our nation upside down.