Are Ghanaians security conscious?
One late Sunday on January 8, 2023, an American Rapper by the name Robert Rihmeek Williams popularly known as Meek Mill, posted a video on social media of him rapping in front of the country’s chief building – the official residence of the number one gentleman.
The Instagram reel was reported to be an announcement for his new track that he was set to release soon. This was done after he had paid a courtesy call on the President after performing at the Afronation Concert in Ghana during the Christmas holidays.
However, the deed of this low- rated rapper, received wide condemnation from Ghanaians particularly on Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Many, including parliamentarians such as Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Content Creators such as Kwadwo Sheldon, opposition party elements such as Sammy Gyamfi and many ordinary citizens criticized the President for allowing such an act to be carried out with such careless abandon.
A Security Analyst, Colonel Festus Aboagye (Rtd) slammed the President for ‘cheapening the presidency’ in a manner that gave free access to any individual to see him and do what they wanted in the Jubilee House – a high security zone.
Others were particular about how the rapper and his team of performers were allowed to freely use crucial spaces within the Flagstaff house such as the podium where the President addressed the nation to launch his next music track.
Ghanaians who lambasted this act, cited security concerns and rightly so. Though Meek Mill rendered an apology to the country and deleted the controversial video from his Twitter account, the question of whether ‘the country is really security conscious has again come under question.
Worst of all is the weak reason given by the director of diaspora affairs, Akwasi Awua Ababio that the officials at the presidency were not aware of. Really?! Is Nyame Bekyere republic safe at all?
The Public Relations Officer of the Country’s Red Cross Society, Captain Adabuga once said in an interview with the media on Saturday, 22 January 2022 that, most people in Ghana were more “security conscious than being safety conscious”.
According to him, citizens build their homes with much emphasis on gadgets likes Burglar proof, electric wire fencing, high walls but do not pay much attention to safety exits, assembly points or fire warning systems that can prevent situations such as stampedes, suffocation from fumes and the like when such disasters occur.
His submission, to an extent, is right. A drive through many residential areas of the capital Accra and beyond will reveal a maze of living accommodation built just like how he described it. Issues of security, especially personal and environmental, are the concern of a few.
Though the country has been adjudged in 2019 as a cyber-security champion in West Africa by ECOWAS with an average internet penetration of 32.3% at the beginning of 2021, Adam Motiwala in his 2017 research paper published by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Center stated that, cyber security consciousness remained a challenge in the country as pool of inexperienced and uneducated network users multiplied.
The above category he explains is the ones likely to be the victims of cybercrime activities such as Mobile money fraud or fall prey to cyber scammers or fraudsters particularly on Social Media platforms.
Over the years, the patronage of social media in Ghana, despite its numerous benefits of providing a platform to network and contacting loved ones amongst other crucial opportunities, have led to its abuse; making many vulnerable to attacks such as blackmail, hacking, impersonation, smear campaigns amongst others.
According to Kodjo Atiso & Jenna Kammer in their 2018 paper titled: “User Beware: Determining Vulnerability in Social Media Platforms for Users in Ghana” published by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the limited localised research into the subject area particularly on vulnerability coupled with limited legal and policy framework development has not helped matters.
Though many are aware of the presence of cyber criminals’ activities, many still fall prey to their operations due to the lack of adequate education and guidance on how to use the platforms wisely.
For environmental security, Caesar Nibellis’s academic paper in 2021 titled, “Emerging Security Threats in Ghana’ have argued how this growing threat keeps posing progressive critical risk livelihoods and the entire human biodiversity of the country.
To understand his argument, visit several mining communities in the Western, Ashanti, Eastern and Northern regions where illegal mining and the felling of Rosewood trees prevail, to realise the threats.
Foreign nationals are engaged in all manner of illegal mining which keeps destroying water bodies, fertile lands, and forest reserves.
Though many arrests have been made, there have been low levels of prosecutions and incarcerations harsh enough to deter people from these destructive activities.
The frightening part is those behind the environmental blunders are either a part of or affiliated with government and traditional authorities.
Graphic online in 2018 revealed that Ghana created 5,700 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate, about 70,000 plastic bottles every month out of which Only 2% gets recycled whist the remaining 98% are found in the streets, drains and water bodies.
The result is evident in the pollution of urban areas and clogging of drainage systems, which contribute to flooding annually.
The level of pollution is increasingly putting at risk the catch of fisher folks as reported in page 10 of the 2019 report by the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP). Fishers, whose livelihood is threatened as a result, the WANEP harvest less 20,000 tonnes of fish annually while the historical maximum had been between 120,000 to 130,000 tonnes per year.
The frightening statistics is calling for an emergency attention from the authorities as it discourages Fish folks from their trade and get them lured into piracy as with the case of Somalia.
Another observation to proof that Ghanaians are not security conscious is the fact that citizens are too generous with information, especially when it comes to visitors and foreigners.
The average local Ghanaian will willingly welcome and direct a foreigner to places in his community, village or any other place without asking about his mission; whether that foreigner is a pedophile, Drug trafficker, Terrorist or a Serial Killer does not come to mind or may not even be an issue, especially when the person in question exhibits generosity.
This needs to stop because it does not auger well for the security of the Country with respect to terrorist attacks such as suicide bombing. This has nothing to do with hospitality.
During events especially those that involve the President, you will often see well-built men dressed in black apart from the Police and Military, posing openly as national security apparatus.
Any attempt to get closer to take a photo or shake the hand of the President will result in being violently pushed away or arrested all in the name of ‘providing security’ but up till now, no one has been brought to book for allowing an American rapper to utilize such as high security enclave for the mere purposes of entertainment.
Imagine if it was one of the country’s known artistes such as Sakordie, Manifest, Stonebwoy, or ShattaWale. Would these performers be allowed to do a similar thing even behind the main gate of the Jubilee House? Would it have been tolerated?
Imagine an ordinary citizen, for the beauty of the Jubilee House stood outside its gates just to take a personal photo or make a live video, wouldn’t he or she be arrested, threatened, or harassed by security personnel guarding the place?
A look at the foreign embassies within the country, particularly those from Europe and North America and Asia will reveal their warning post outside their walls advertising a no ‘photo or videography allowed.’
That alone should tell authorities about how these nations value their security, especially in an era where terrorism, the proliferation of arms and light weapons or weapons of mass destruction among other transnational threats are rife.
In a time where the country’s northern neighbours are experiencing increasing acts of terrorism and crime against humanity, the country’s borders are porous enough to allow Sahelian begging rackets to thrive in our major cities particularly in the capital Accra.
Have the National Security Ministry and Concerned Agencies sat down to draft and implement a strategy to deal with these begging rackets which could even be a source of revenue or funding for this terrorist groups operating in the Sahel?
For youth employment, there is much reason to fear for the future. According to the Ghana Statistical Service report cited in the United Nations Ghana Press release dated on 30th June 2023, the national youth unemployment rate for young adults between 15-24 years is about 32.8 percent.
The rate of unemployment is however much higher in some of the regions in the North, with Upper East region having 39 percent, Savannah region 38.2 percent, and North East, 34.7 percent.
The above leaves the country more vulnerable security wise as crime rate soar and the potential of youth radicalization by terrorist organisations becomes more realistic than ever before.
The police will ensure that a top government official escapes heavy traffic yet show less concern when Okada riders intentionally ignore the red in the traffic lights.
The situation is horrible in real estate rental and lease, specifically with residential properties. Hardly would you find any landlord or lady doing background checks or extensively interviewing a foreign tenant, checking, or demanding to see a residential permit before renting out his property.
However, this is not the case in Ghana. Many landlords and ladies would rent out to foreigners without any scrutiny or checks to know their criminal history, the kind of jobs or activities they were engaged in.
Foreigners with questionable characters, but are willing to pay fat monies, the Ghanaian renter overlook and allow access without thinking about extremist or a criminal fugitive.
The situation is worse on porous borders where people sneak in and out. Many security officers, at borders allow overloaded trucks, trailers, smuggled goods and even people from neighboring countries to pass through because of bribery and Corruption.
To counter the activities of terrorist, extremists, drug traffickers and other transnational criminals Ghana needs to step up security consciousness?
Government, civil society organisations, schools, religious organisations should sensitise members and be on government’s toes to be security conscious and invest in technologies that will enhance this, especially in sensitive areas.
Meek mill would not dare do this at the Oval Office of the White House or at the pentagon. No celebrity, no matter how powerful or influential, can use the Throne room or even the forecourt of Buckingham Palace and Number 10 Downing Street for what that rapper did.
The National Security Ministry, Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the Cyber Security Authority, and other concerned agencies rather than serving mostly the interest of leadership, should step up their education to sensitize Ghanaians on the need not to practise blind hospitality especially to total or suspicious non-citizens.
The “see something say something” campaign should not only be limited to media adverts or campaigns, but rather empower and engage the ordinary people to expose suspicious individuals and dangerous criminals coupled with handsome financial rewards and genuine confidentiality and protection.
The government should take the bull by the horn by taking proper and sustainable steps to address the unemployment and underemployment situation in the country. This would minimize the security risk.
The unthinking reaction to situations must cease. We should not wait for this beloved country to become another Darfur, Nigeria or Mali before leadership rise to act.
Ghana’s leaders must wake up concerning national security before it is too late.
By Christiana Afua Nyarko