It has been some few days since the celebrated Madam Elizabeth Ohene went to town on the all-knowing CSOs. Coming on as it is on the heels of a season where every statement assumes a life of its own, the reactions have been varied; many are hailing the beautiful piece, some are attacking it largely for reasons that are not even the main argument, and some others have gone into insult mode.
Whilst I would have diplomatically avoided the use of ‘all-knowing’ the evidence before us is that many of the CSOs have become experts in everything by simply googling and regurgitating materials that seek to compel everybody in this town to hold such google discoveries as proven solutions. For instance a queuing theory utilising McDonalds as the reference was recently presented as proof that the EC of Ghana couldn’t compile a voters’ register within a certain time frame. The rest is history!
CSOs have done well in deepening our democratic dispensation, and in some cases extending services to underserved groups. Credible CSOs such as the CDDs, IEAs, IDEGs etc continue to demonstrate what a functioning CSO front can do for the citizenry and country. Unfortunately, there is a worrying trend that seems to suggest that so long as you make noise repeatedly directed at officialdom you must be doing something right. Far too often we mistake dominant voices and belligerence for advocacy. This false equivalence would be laughable if it wasn’t so annoying.
CSOs, please listen! The central thesis of Aunty Lizzy’s excellent piece was about tolerance and being receptive to other views. Ironically the now christened ‘all-knowing’ CSOs are accusing opposing voices of intolerance. It bears repeating the main stuff here. “It will be a happy day when they accept that criticizing them doesn’t mean you are against them. Strange how they dish it out, but can’t take it.” Madam didn’t ask for too much. If you insist on utilising your right to criticize (plain insults most of the times), you should be wise enough to know that others also have that inalienable right to ask questions. Exactly how this translates into an attack or intolerance is as confounding as the link between the waiting time in a restaurant in Europe and the time required for a potential voter at Alubo to get her name on the voters register. Elsewhere in this country, there is a saying that those who slaughter people do not even want to lie in a supine position.
I have seen many people in and outside CSOs come to the defense of CSOs by mostly introducing clutter and items that were not even the subject of the brilliant article. For instance they have argued that CSOs are not funded by the tax payer and therefore are unaccountable to us. May be this is about ‘the dry bones’ cliché, but we aren’t there yet. As feeble as this excuse is, one would have thought that this shouldn’t have made it to the long list of incoherent and unrelated response to the article by auntie Lizzy. CSOs are funded on behalf of the public in millions of Dollars, Pounds and Euros, and to suggest that the public has no locus in questioning their operations and inside dealings demonstrates a ridiculously low appreciation of the ethos of public interest and accountability. But this is the subject of another conversion. And these are people who call everybody else dumb and go at all lengths to impose their mostly plagiarized opinions as policy options. And talking of plagiarism, then I am reminded of this line I saw somewhere; “A nail may want a hammer, but we need a lamp to see our work.”
But the most bizarre of attackers are the NDC footsoldiers and social media activists. The new gender brigade that recently asked us not to scrutinise Prof Naana Jane’s competence and record of achievement in government because she is a woman are at the forefront of attacking Madam Elizabeth Ohene for her common sense article. There is no known nice way of describing these people, so I will leave it at that.
I will end this piece by once again quoting the seasoned journalist and former Minister of State in the following few words. “Strange how they dish it out, but can’t take it.” If offended CSOs cannot comprehend this, then we have every right to question why they even call themselves CSOs in the first place. May be that is the meaning of all-knowing!
By Seth Osei Darko, Accra / The views expressed by the writer are solely his and do not represent the position of Daily Mail GH