Senior Political Science Lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, has lashed out at the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante, for describing critics of government's Agenda 111, as witches.
Prof. Ransford Gyampo, maintained that it's unacceptable and undemocratic for the Clergy to use their religious influence to attempt to silence dissent.
Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, who is the ranking member on the Health Committee in Parliament, denied claims that the Minority in Parliament is opposed to President Akufo-Addo's Agenda 111.
According to him, the minority MPs are only asking legitimate questions which will make the government accountable to Ghanaians.
The Moderator had charged saying "We've allowed politics to dominate our lives to an extent that we do not have good hospitals… If someone says he is coming to construct 111 hospitals and you are angry about it, you are a witch. For the pastors who want to exorcise witchcraft, deal with those critics," he told the gathering.
Rt. Rev. Prof. Mante, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Christian Council rallied support for the initiative to improve the healthcare of the populace.
He, nonetheless, charged the government to remain committed to delivering the project in order to ensure that the vision becomes a reality.
"We're waiting for you to construct the hospitals. If you don't, we shall criticize you. More importantly, do not build sub-standard hospitals and clinics," he said.
But Prof Gyampo has shot at the Head of the Prebyterian Church saying "Our revered men and women of God must comment on public policies and on matters of partisan politics, in a manner that does not frustrate dissent through harsh judgemental invectives and vituperations."
Rt. Rev. Prof. Mante, who was speaking at a programme in the Central Region, had expressed worry over how some Ghanaians have allowed politics to clout their thoughts on good initiatives.
For him, the country lacks good healthcare infrastructure and if government has now decided to construct more hospitals, he cannot fathom why people should be pessimistic about the initiative.
Prof. Gyampo argued that dissenting views on government policies and programmes are meaningful in the spirit of democracy.
"We all cannot be forced to think alike. Society crumbles the day dissent is ousted," he stressed.
He said it is the duty of the MPs to put government's policies like Agenda 111 under scrutiny, especially when they have noticed some inconsistencies that need to be highlighted.
Akandoh told Joy FM on Friday, September 3 that, "I have not heard anybody who is opposed to the construction of 111 hospitals.
In any case, we have always made a point that there is even a need, if you do not even add more, to complete the abandoned hospitals in this country.
"So I, and on behalf of the Minority, we are in no way opposed to the construction of more hospitals. But as a government, if indeed you accept democracy, irrespective of how nice or ambitious a policy is, we would have to subject it to scrutiny, and when we do so you are insulting us?"
But Akandoh said Rt. Rev. Prof. Mante does not fully understand why people are scrutinising and describing critics as witches or wizards who do not speak well of a man of God.
"It is not any private individual who is going to build hospitals for this country, it is the money of you and I that is going to be used, and therefore we have every right to raise legitimate questions. Just like he himself says if they [government] are not able to build those hospitals, he will even lead the criticism.
"So, if there are any legitimate questions, I think that it is our right to raise those questions – especially when before the commencement of the programme, some monies have been spent and we don't know where those monies went to," he noted.
"Well, the rate at which people, especially Ghanaians, are losing trust and confidence in some men of God is alarming. So if some of them begin to talk this way, it only confirms the mistrust the people have in some men of God. "So I will plead with our clergy to exercise restraint when they are commenting on issues of this nature. They have the right to comment, but they are in unique positions and therefore they should not be seen stepping on toes unnecessarily," the Juaboso MP stressed.
Below is the full Statement of Prof. Gyampo
Several great projects have been initiated by the various regimes that have governed Ghana since 1992. But many of such projects have still not been completed and some have been abandoned because of the very bogus and disingenuous practice of policy discontinuity that continue to frustrate our efforts at development.
President AkufoAddo's Agenda 111 is undoubtedly a commendable initiative that may help to tackle our health needs if completed. But the fact remains that there are some hospitals that were commenced by the previous regime whose completion have either been stalled, delayed or abandoned. Kufuor commenced the affordable housing projects but the NDC that took over from him, under Prof Mills also commenced their own affordable housing project, abandoning the ones initiated by Kufuor. Rawlings purchased the Isuzu Galloper vehicles parked at the Institute of Local Government Studies, which were never used and allowed to rot by the regimes that took over from him.
Agenda 111 may be one of the things President AkufoAddo may want to do for Ghana as part of his legacies. But given our history of policy discontinuities, it is well within the right of any Ghanaian to raise questions, particularly about whether the project may be completed before the President completes his second term. There is nothing sinful and demonic, both religiously and politically about this.
Respectfully, I still hold the view that at this epoch of our development, building a national cathedral, should not be our priority. We may do so later, but not when our hospitals have become death traps and people with kidney diseases are dying because they cannot afford the cost of dialysis. Regardless of what our revered men of God say in support of the cathedral, this is my view and indeed, the view of many other Ghanaians, that must never be stifled by any religious propaganda.
There is no way religion can be used to silence voices of dissent in any democracy. Dissent is not sinful. It is healthy for the survival of multiparty democracy and development. He who is cutting a path would not know if his back is crooked. Through constructive dissent, (not cynicism) pitfalls of projects and governmental actions are exposed for introspection and redress.
It is therefore absolutely unacceptable and undemocratic for revered people of God to use their religious influence to attempt to silence dissent. It cannot work in a democracy and when overly pushed, religious reverence may suffer needless partisan and more importantly, societal disrespect We do not have to get there. Our revered men and women of God must comment on public policies and on matters of partisan politics, in a manner that does not frustrate dissent through harsh judgemental invectives and vituperations.
We all cannot be forced to think alike. Society crumbles the day dissent is ousted. So, let the government be focused on what it wants to do and let those who want to dissent, freely do so. Should there be wisdom in dissent, it must be taken on board. Should there be nothing sensible in dissent, it should remain as dissent, in the spirit of democracy.
Yaw GyampoA31, Prabiw StreetPAV Ansah StreetSaltpond&Suro Nipa HouseKubeaseLarteh-Akuapim
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