President Mahama to Journalists: Get Off My Case!

President Mahama to Journalists: Get Off My Case!

At a recent meeting, at his Flagstaff House office, with editors and chief executives of the print and electronic media, President John Dramani Mahama is reported to have counseled these media operatives against the production and dissemination of what he termed as “Lazy” morning shows and programming mediocrity in general (See “Stop the ‘Lazy’ Morning Shows on Radio – Prez Mahama Warns” 3/22/13).

I must confess here, upfront, that I am not a great fun of the sort of radio shows that Mr. Mahama alluded to, though I also readily have to fess up that the general quality and tenor of Fourth Republican radio programming in Ghana is far better than it has ever been since the country resserted its sovereignty on March 6, 1957. In sum, until 1992, or thereabouts, the bulk of radio programming almost invariably and hermetically reflected the ideological thrust and perspective of the government of the day.

The cause of such lack of ideological diversity and rhetorical liberty is not far-fetched; and it is, of course, the fact that the government of the day controlled the overwhelming majority of media facilities in the country. While, for instance, there existed a few privately owned newspapers, no private individual or citizen owned and operated either a radio or television station. The reason given for this dull state of affairs was “national security.”

The irony of the preceding pretext was the fact that those who claimed to be jealously guarding our national security, were rabid dictators like the former Chairman Jerry John Rawlings who had, themselves, appropriated national radio and television facilities to usurp democratic governance and thus endangered our national security. Consequently, it ought not to surprise anybody that Mr. Mahama would be so virulently railing against the dietary fare or programming of the electronic media, in particular, and the media establishment in general. The man is a bona fide product and graduate of the Rawlings School of Media Antagonism. Under the Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party (CPP), the latter was called “Development Journalism”; the media was perceived to primarily exist to passively and unreservedly promote the single-minded and exclusivist agenda of the government above all else.

It well appears that it is this perennial hang-up which the government of the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress is finding it so hard to successfully negotiate or overcome. Of course, it can hardly be gainsaid that much that passes for programming in the electronic media is patently mediocre; but this is all the more to be expected, in view of the country’s official policy of media democratization and liberalization which has resulted in the proliferation of electronic and print media outlets.

The healthy nature, or benefit, of such media liberalization is that it fosters competition, and competition, in turn, promotes excellence. In brief, the best of the Ghanaian private media establishment readily dwarfs the kind of decidedly tired “Command Programming” carried on the airwaves of the government-owned and operated Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. The same could be said for the print media.

At any rate, when he exhorts radio talk-show hosts and their directors to “cut down on the amount of politics discussed on the airwaves,” Mr. Mahama ought to be envisaged to be shamelessly pleading his own cause. From the day of the “mysterious” death of President John Evans Atta-Mills, Mr. Mahama’s former boss, politics has not been very savory, or palatable, for the man, his meteoric and euphoric rise into the highest seat of governance notwithstanding.

The foregoing state of affairs has been compounded by the fact of the vehement legal challenge to his political legitimacy by his most formidable ideological opponent, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the 2012 presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). I suppose it is this aspect of the electronic media coverage that Mr. Mahama was railing against.

Then also, the bulk of his decisions since his swearing-in as substantive premier of Ghana’s Fourth Republic on January 7, 2013, have been widely criticized for lacking the genius and ingenuity of a visionary leader who also doubles as Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces. His recent appointment of regional ministers and the latter’s reshuffling barely a month later is a striking case in point.

The man is a media expert himself, and so he pretty much appreciates the definitive power of the media, in general, and the electronic media, in particular, to shaping the cognitive temperament of the Ghanaian citizenry at large. But in view of the very fact of his debut, or maiden, memoir titled “My First Coup D’etat” being inescapably political, thematically, that is, it is rather curious, to speak much less about the downright hypocritical, for Mr. Mahama to counsel his former media associates against being overly political in practice.

Maybe what he means is for print and electronic media operatives to focus more on the alleged 600 Muslim pilgrims whom Mr. Mahama’s government will, reportedly, be sponsoring to Mecca during this year’s Hajj season, at the humongous cost of $3,100.00 a head, even as the legion zongos dotted all over the country’s landscape further degenerate for abject lack of direly needed development funding.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
March 28, 2013
E-mail: [email protected]