I was in Kumasi on Tuesday as a facilitator for a National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE)/European Union (EU) workshop themed STRENGTHENING CIVIC CONSCIOUSNESS THROUGH MEDIA ADVOCACY. It is obvious the NCCE has a real need for the media to reach a majority of citizens with its badly needed education.
I am sharing portions of my thoughts largely derived from the Constitution and NCCE Act which I shared with journalists from the northern zone of the country at the workshop. I chose the above title and singled out the journalists, charging them to do a better job. But my co-facilitator, Nana Kwesi Gyan-Appenteng, Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), got me thinking even deeper when he opened his presentation stating and reminding the participants that “[y]ou are a citizen first, and then a journalist”.
We are constantly complaining about a deterioration in the quality of habits, moral values, and respect for law and order, etc. We are quick to refer to the impact of the book “Courtesy for Boys and Girls” made on a generation of citizens, forgetting how much we have contributed to the state of affairs where a generation is confused as it loses its unique socio-cultural identity and rich heritage. The media, which is run by citizens is doing a major disservice in this regard flooding our television experience with everything but what identifies the true Ghanaian and the patriotic values that came as second nature to our forebears and made Ghana envy of many nations.
In article 233 of the Constitution and section 2 of the NCCE law, the commission, among others, has the primary job “to create and sustain within the society the awareness of the principles and objectives of [the] Constitution as the fundamental law of the people of Ghana; [and] to educate and encourage the public to defend [the] Constitution at all times, against all forms of abuse and violation”. Guess what? The media’s primary constitutional duty in article 162 (5) is to “…at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions, and objectives of [the] Constitution, and … the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.”
The NCCE has an extensive job, not PR, which is often to correct, but its job is one that is aimed at avoiding what necessitates the corrective PR done by PR outfits of the Police Service, etc etc. The NCCE is the mother educator on the issues that keep society alive to the demands of sanity and dignity; the issues that keep us in peaceful co-existence; the issues that sustain our democracy. It is the mother educator in teaching civic duties and responsibilities to empower citizens with the knowledge to assert and defend their rights and those of others and to honour their obligations towards developing a beautiful country.
In fact, if citizens will cultivate a habit of paying taxes; stand up against any form of brutality by any person in uniform; loath cheating at elections and in exams; stop bad and unlawful habits like littering; acts that threaten the environment and human survival; all forms of child abuse, etc; if people will resort to the CHRAJ,
Labour Commission, Police, the Courts and other civilized lawful means of settling their grievances, the NCCE must lead the education.
In this day and age, the NCCE, whose many offices are in a state of obvious neglect and which does not boast of any decent vehicle, needs the media to do this job efficiently. If the NCCE has not been as visible and on the front pages of our minds as it ought to, it’s largely the fault of the media. If you raise your voice that the NCCE has been dormant or has failed in delivering on its mandate, raise that voice but raise it against yourself for not insisting it is well funded and assisted. If the NCCE has such onerous responsibilities and should not own the widest national broadcast network, tell me how it is supposed to reach out to all of us in Hamile. See where the media comes in? If the NCCE has such onerous responsibilities to enlighten, empower, and improve our society, tell me why it attracts the least budget and financial help from the state?
In the meantime, what if the media dedicated a minute or two each day to a message from the NCCE? Are we not concerned that a poor woman whose husband is in police custody for a minor offence must go and borrow money in order to have him bailed when that bail is his right and comes at no cost? With creativity, giving the NCCE a space in media programming will not only help educate the nation but it can draw an audience to such programmes aimed at showing the citizens what is hidden in place sight.
Like all important independent constitutional bodies such as the Commission on High Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), The NCCE function only through the benevolence of donors such as the EU. The politicians may feel threatened by the NCCE for the most bizarre reasons, but citizens know we need it. Citizens and electorates alive to their rights are a great asset to the future of Ghana. Let’s demand and get what is due to the NCCE.