Drugs and Politics
Arthur Kennedy, MD
University of Cape Coast—Cape Coast.
Since the announcement about my forthcoming book on drugs titled “The Drug Invasion of West Africa”, I have had very interesting and exciting conversations. These conversations have been with people all across the political spectrum.
Some have expressed worries about the timing and even the topic of drugs as an issue. Others have accused me of introducing the very dangerous topic of drugs into our elections.
Before proceeding with the discussion, let me debunk one myth— the myth that drugs are not an issue in this campaign. In the last year, the two major parties have sparred heatedly about who has a better record on dealing with drugs whenever there have been developments relating to drugs. These arguments have occurred following “Wiki-leaks” the “cocaine-for-baking soda” case as well as the arrest of Asem Dake of the “MV Benjamin” fame, to mention just a few instances. During these confrontations, the NPP and the NDC have traded accusations, not only about the performance of each other in government but even the supposed involvement of leading personalities of each party in drugs. As part of this “war”, hard-earned reputations acquired over decades are being destroyed by rumours and innuendo. This vindictive and ultimately futile “war” between the parties on drugs is harmful to our politics and damaging to our nation’s interest. I do not know that any party in Ghana has a policy of promoting the drug trade. I also believe that there is no party that can vouch that none of its members has ever been involved in drugs. Fact is that parties have no way of determining such things. Therefore, no party should claim an exclusive and perhaps divine ability to deal with drugs or cede to another party the drug issue. The contest about drugs should always be about the quality of the ideas on the table and the effectiveness of plans that have been implemented in the past. Unfortunately, some who should know better have decided that if we ignore the drug issue, it will go away. It will not. New revelations—during investigations or trials of on-going cases will only worsen the situation if we ignore it.
Perhaps, influenced by this background, many have stated that a book on drugs at this time can only muddy the waters. There is genuine fear that it will falsely exonerate the guilty on one hand matched with an equally genuine fear that it will falsely accuse the innocent on the other hand. I believe both sides have the best of intentions. Of course, these fears, in a back-handed manner, credit me with too much influence. I do not believe for a moment that I or “The Drug Invasion of West Africa” can have that much influence.
Stemming from this, I am experiencing an astonishing phenomenon. Supposed intellectuals are calling to urge that I withhold publication of a book that they have not read, based on the fevered speculations of others who also admit that they have not read the book. To cap it all, those making these suggestions about the publication of this book have shown little interest in examining the contents of the book in question. To them, the publication of this book would be a “gargantuan error”.
In short, this is a 21st century version of the very “culture-of-silence”, imposed by those late Prof. Adu Boahen called “the men on horseback” which we fought against in the 1980’s. That fight culminated in the re-introduction of democracy in 1993. I know a bit about that fight because I was exiled twice for my role in it while quite a few friends died. Of course, before “the men on horseback” of Prof. Adu Boahen, there were abridgements of our freedoms by the introduction of “one-party” state and by those who staged the 1966 coup. Indeed, it was this manifestation of the suppression of our freedoms that led to the burning of Danquah’s books. In our eagerness to build this country, we must be careful not to have another “culture of silence”. As we learned from the first republic, those who impose on us the culture of silence can be men in suits as well as men in uniform. Indeed, sometimes, unfortunately, they can be lawyers. I worry about the future of our democracy and our freedoms when so many who have had the benefit of University education can be against a book they have not read. This attitude bespeaks intolerance and closed minds— despite the good intentions. It is a disservice not just to our country but a major blemish on the Universities that produces all intellectuals. A country where such attitudes become dominant will no longer be a democracy—it will be a theocracy.
An outgrowth of this intolerance or added defect is the ability and willingness of people who have not read a book to ascribe to the book and its author views that have not been expressed in that book or expressed by the author, just for the purpose of damaging that author’s reputation. On this, I speak from rich and unpleasant experience. When my first book, “Chasing the Elephant into the Bush” was published, many, including some who had free copies put the book aside to concoct wild claims about the contents of the book. While many later acknowledged that the book was not only substantive but beneficial, the harm had already been done, to the book and the author. The central point of that book, that the 2008 election may have been stolen with election-day shenanigans was lost in the orgy of self-flagellation that the NPP unleashed on itself, with the grateful assistance of the NDC. Unfortunately, the media were very happy and eager accomplices in this crime against freedom of expression. The media happily repeated many scurrilous allegations. Indeed, even where these allegations did not exist, some in the media happily manufactured them.
“The Drug Invasion of West Africa”, though fictional, is a serious examination of a very serious problem and its effect on West Africa and indeed the world. In the book, all those involved in drugs are portrayed as individuals and not as agents acting for a political party. It is my hope that it will start an honest, non- partisan conversation about drugs that will lead to solutions to this important problem.
My motivations in writing this book are both professional and humanistic. As a doctor and an African, I am very concerned about what drugs can do to damage my race as well as the vulnerabilities of West Africa in respect of drugs. As one experienced author once said, “A book is one the author must write.” This is one of the books that I needed to write.
Therefore, today, I assure my brothers in the NPP that like all of them, I wish our party success in our endeavours and bear no grudges against any in our party. Indeed, everything I have done in politics has been done with the interest of my country and my party in mind and at heart. Where I have caused harm and/ or offence, they have been inadvertent and deeply regretted. Last year, in February, I was on my way to represent the party at a program in Accra when my vehicle somersaulted just before Mallam junction. Fortunately, I survived with minor injuries. From that as well as all that I had done before and since then, I have earned the right to have my motives trusted by all in the party.
Furthermore, I assure my friends in the NDC that I do not intend to exploit for political purposes the issue of drugs to the advantage of my party. They are too important to reduce to partisan politics. Indeed, it would be unpatriotic to do so. As a physician, I have respected fully the Hippocratic injunction to “Do no harm”.
Respectfully, I request that when the book is released, those inclined to criticize it at least take the time to read it and that the criticisms be based, not on wild conjectures but on what is in the book.
It is my hope that the media will practice responsible journalism by reporting factually on the book and insisting that those who have a beef with the book at least take the trouble to read it.
Consistent with my view that drugs should not be a partisan issue, I plan to invite people from all across the political divide as well as the diplomatic missions of all the countries discussed in the book; Britain, Belgium, China, Ethiopia, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, the United States and all West African countries to the launch. I hope that those unable or unwilling to attend will not blame me if they are accused, falsely, by the media of not being committed to the fight against drugs.
Let us work to make the use of drugs rare—together. Credit: myjoyonline.com
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