The grueling experience endured by Mr. Owusu Afriyie, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), popularly known as Sir John, before Ghana’s highest court mid this week, for unsavoury remarks he’s said to have made against Justice Atuguba, president of the supreme court panel hearing the election petition, has been lauded by many ordinary Ghanaians, who have been concerned about the deteriorating state of political discourse, in Ghana.
Most of the Judges’ fury – or to be more specific Justice Atuguba’s indignation – was directed at the person of Sir John. And rightly so! After all, he was the one to have made that offensive statement, for which reason he was to face the wrath of the court by himself.
However, given the rather mature and generic posture adopted by the eminent judges in using Sir John’s case as a platform to caution all politicians in the country about their utterances, one would have thought that indeed ALL Ghanaian politicians, regardless of party affiliations, as well as social commentators.
One would have thought that those whose past remarks have been judged by the public to have amounted to disrespect for authority or respected persons in society would have taken a cue from Sir John’s humiliating experience and the warning issued from the bench to ‘advice themselves’ – in popular Ghanaian language. That is to say, bow their heads in shame and resolve to change their style and tome of public discourse.
But looking at the reaction that has come from some of the very Ghanaian politicians and social commentators known in the public sphere to be equally culpable of making disdainful statements in the past, it is sad – and actually disturbing – to imagine that these same persons have, within a twinkle of an eye, have attained the moral high ground, chastising Sir John for the remarks he made and the party he belongs for failing to deal with him in time. This is a rather worrying phenomenon, to say the least.
Please don’t get me wrong. I do not have any problems with people calling for Sir John’s resignation and criticizing the NPP for not reining in on what some have called ‘the culture of extremism’ creeping into the party.
I do have, however, have a problem – and a BIG ONE, I must say – when some of the people making these calls have question marks on them as far as their public utterances is concerned. This is because it amounts to hypocrisy, and it is also an indication of their unrepentant heart.
Now let’s get into real stuff here. Let’s do some reality check here to find out who has the right to be criticizing who.
1. Former President Rawlings
We’ve all been in this country when former President Rawlings began his campaign of ‘boom speeches’, speeches that saw him severally insult the personality of his successor president Kufour. At least on one occasion, Mr. Rawlings compared former president Kufour – the highest public official in the land of Ghana – to the most notorious criminal in the country at the time, Ataa Ayie, in his infamous chanting ‘Kufour nie Ataa Ayie nie’, to the cheer and applause of NDC sympathizers.
How did the NDC party react upon hearing this statement? What did individual members of the NDC party do? Only God knows!
2. Dr Kwabena Adjei
The chairman of the NDC, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, can certainly not be excluded from those who have undermined the authority of the state through ‘careless’ statements. His infamous 2010 threat to ‘purge the judiciary of corrupt judges’ because his party in government was not getting the kind of rulings they wanted from the courts, adding that ‘there are several ways of killing a cat’, is yet to be condemned by his own party.
In a rather surprising move, however, a sitting government minister at the time, in the person of Mr. Kobby Acheampong, then minister of tourism, justified Dr. Kwabena Adjei’s comments and encouraged him not to cooperate with the police, were he to be invited to explain and justify that unfortunate statement.
But today the same person is lambasting Sir John for his conduct and defending his use of ‘Kokoase Kurasini’ phrase, meaning an uncouth person, which he had used describe the person of Sir John some time ago. Yet he still finds nothing wrong with his party chairman’s statement which threatened the judiciary in the land, which some believe amounted to treason, considering the PNDC’s past treatment of judges.
3. Dr. Tony Aidoo
Dr. Tony has, on several occasions, insulted Christians and Men of God in Ghana. On one occasion, he likened all tongue-speaking Christians to ‘mad people’. At least on two occasions, he has attacked the personality of Dr. Mensah Otabil without any basis.
On one occasion he said ‘Mensah Otabil has no integrity’. More recently, he accused Dr. Otabil of being ‘an opportunist who wants to subvert democratic governance’. This was because of Dr. Otabil’s sin or crime of alerting his congregation and Christians regarding his sensing of a looming chaos in Ghana in the aftermath of the supreme court ruling on the election petition, and leading and admonishing same to pray for the peace of mother Ghana to avert what he said sensed in his spirit.
These are serious unproven allegations that should not be expected from a sitting (and perhaps) senior government official like Dr. Tony Aidoo, even if he does not like the person of Dr. Otabil or hate Christianity for that matter. The point being made here is that he could have expressed his disagreements with Dr. Otabil without having to defame his personality.
Similarly, he could have stated his lack of appreciation of why (some) Christians speak in tongues without denigrating them to the status of mad people.But what did his party or individual members of the party or the government or members of the government he was serving with do or say? Only God knows.
4. Mr. Kwesi Pratt
Mr. Kwesi Pratt, a senior journalist in Ghana has, like Dr. Tony Aidoo, on several occasions derided members of the clergy, including Dr. Otabil. In the most recent case, he indirectly said that Dr. Otabil must be suffering from high fever for the vision he saw regarding the state of Ghana, post supreme court’s decision about the election petition, if Christians did not rise to the task.What did the CPP party or Mr. Pratt’s circle of friends tell him? I don’t know.
Yet today, Mr. Kwesi Pratt has the moral fibre to say that ‘reckless people like Sir John must hold leadership position’. Was not Mr. Pratt’s remarks about Dr. Otabil reckless too? Did he hear Dr. Kwabena Adjei’s statement against the judiciary? What was his response to that? Did he state that people like Dr. Kwabena Adjei don’t deserve to be in leadership? I’m curious to know what his reaction was.
Off course, I cannot expect him to condemn Dr. Tony Aidoo, because their anti-Christian posture is not a matter of secret to Ghanaians.
5. Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketia
Mr. Asiedu-Nketia – the NDC’s General Secretary has, like the two gentlemen mentioned above, made disparaging remarks about the clergy, not least on one occasion. This was when, about a year ago, he commented that Ghanaian pastors (and by implication churches who have contributed immensely to the development of this nation) should ‘leave politics for us and concentrate on your Bibles’, in response to the call by the leadership of the Presby Church for the government and the EC to withhold their plans for creating 45 new constituencies in late 2012, because of the sensitivity of the timing to the December 2012 polls.
His statement that ‘any idiot can go to court’, in reaction to the decision by the opposition NPP to use legal processes to address their grievances with the outcome of the 2012 polls, and not resort to violence, was nothing but unfortunate.
Yet he got away with it, without any condemnation from his party leadership, even though the president apologized on the party’s behalf in the case of the confrontation between him and the leadership of the Presby church.
5. Mr. Ofosu-Kwakye
Mr. Ofosu-Kwakye, a young entrant into the political scene, has on numerous occasions made disrespectful statements against members of the opposition party, particularly their leader Nana Akufo-Addo – a senior political figure, a lawyer of international repute, and the leader of one of the largest political parties in Ghana.
He unsuccessfully tried to attribute Mr. Akufo Addo’s withdrawal from Oxford University to dismissal for smoking ‘wee’ until Nana Addos’ public records, made by the University, rendered those claims fictitious and childish.
He also accused Nana Addo of associating himself with drug barons, because one of his campaign contributors had been implicated in drug-related and money laundry scandals in the past. Several members of the NDC have also tried to label Nana Addo a drug user, without any proof.
However, neither Mr. Ofosu-Kwakye nor any of his young colleagues have been caution by his party leadership to stop making unproven allegations or exhorted to extol the virtues of respect and dignity in political discourse.
Recently, the head of the country’s airport security operations was arrested in the US for drug trafficking. We’re yet to hear whether Mr. Ofosu Kwakye will describe the sitting president, under whose watch he was awarded the contract, as a friend of drug barons, or even label his own NDC party, which he’s alleged to be a financier of, a party of drug barons.
Yet Mr. Ofosu Kwakye today sits on Radio Gold delighted over the treatment given to Sir John by the Supreme Court as though he were an angel, forgetting his own unguarded public utterances and showing his lack of remorse for them, in light of the supreme court’s warning to politicians.
Instead, he criticizes Ghanaian politicians, except himself, for the sour taste of Ghanaian politics today, adding that for him ‘..Justice Dotse’s criticism of the NPP leadership was the crowning moment of the entire proceedings because it went to the heart of the matter’.
Will Mr. Ofosu-Kwakye similarly attribute the contemptuous utterances from his party leaders and communicators, including the 2010 remark against the judiciary by Dr. Kwabena Adjei and Stephen Atubiga’s recent pronouncement regarding the NDC’s unwillingness to accept an unfavourable verdict from the on-going election petition, to the same very heart of the matter? That is, the failure of his party to deal with such conducts.
The list can go on and on and we may never finish. And yes, they include the likes of Mr. Kennedy Agyapong, who has been described as the ‘NPP Fire Brand’, known for making statements often disrespecting of the office and person of the sitting president John Mahama and the previous president Professor Mills.
Indeed, even the ‘All die be die’ phrase from Nana Akufo-Addo should come up for criticism and condemnation as well, as Dr. Arthur Kennedy has fairly argued.
In sum, the issue of Ghanaian politicians and public commentators polluting the public landscape and creating a tensed atmosphere conducive for instability, by trading insults, issuing threats and making wild, unproven accusations against their opponents – as well as casting insinuations against religious leaders and disrespecting the authority of statutory bodies held in high esteem by the Ghanaian populace – is a problem that cuts across the political spectrum. It also permeates all levels in these bodies, right from the grassroots level all the way up to the leadership ladder. And it must be condemned on all sides by all Ghanaians, not some.
It is time for all the political parties in Ghana, alongside the so-called social commentators, to begin a serious process of introspection, to evaluate the impact of their own utterances (not others) on the peace, wellbeing and development of mother Ghana. It is time for the political parties in particular to punish their own members found to be poisoning the hearts and minds of Ghanaians and inciting hatred among the public, in the name of politics and not resort to defending them in name of the same thing: politics. It is time for them to issue strong guidelines, with enforceable penal actions, to guide engagement by their members and communicators.
For so long a time, we have been calling on the non-political elements of the Ghanaian public – churches, NGOs, Peace Council, etc – to find ways of addressing this situation. It is now time for the political parties themselves to take the bull by the horn and prove to Ghanaians that they are serious about addressing this awful disease that has tainted the beautify of the Ghanaian culture of respect for elders and authority, in the name of ‘kabi ma menka bi’.
Yes, I know some will say that the list above is mostly biased against one political party, the NDC. Well, that could be true, although my own inclination is that a greater proportion of the unsavoury political statements made by Ghanaian politicians have emanated from the camp of the NDC, compared to any other political party in Ghana.
But I may be wrong. And I’m open to correction.
However, my major reason for highlighting the infractions coming from side of the NDC party is this:
The NPP has began conversations around the issue; there’s an internal wrangling going on now in the party, with some founding members accusing the party’s current leadership of overseeing a culture of extrememism creep into the party. One has even called for the resignation of Sir John. Hopefully, this will, at the end of the day, lead to a better collective behaviour and public image for the party.
But let’s compare this to what is happening in the camp of the NDC since Sir John’s tale evolved. Apart from the party chairman who, together with his NPP counterpart, announced their intentions to crack down on miscreants within their parties, leading figures of the party, including sitting government ministers, all seem to have ignored the fact of the existence of the problem in their own camp.
They seem not to remember the spate of violent destruction to state and party property by so-called party foot soldiers, in various parts of the country, as an expression of their disapproval of the president’s nominees for DCEs.
Instead, they’ve united to descend on the NPP party and Sir John, with party stalwarts like Mr. Sam Yarley and Deputy Education Minister, Mr. Okuzeto Ablakwa, trying to link Sir John’s behaviour to the violent nature of the NPP party itself.
Well, that’s all good, and I believe the NPP have some house cleaning to do.
But let us see the leadership of the NDC similarly and equally descend on the violent and ‘boom’ speech makers in their own party. Let us hear them calling for the resignation or sanctioning of people deemed to have made similar statements in the past.
Then Ghanaians will know how sincere our politicians across the political divide are in dealing with this evil. Let us rise above myopic political interests and put the interest of Ghana above personal and political gains. Yes, even if that means standing up to members of one’s party who refuse to uphold the principles and virtues of dignity, sincerity, and respect for leaders that the party has subscribed to.
Mr. Amidu has done that. He has stood for what he believes in, even when his own party was against him. Yet the people of Ghana have blessed him for saving this country huge sums of money which were recklessly given away in the name of judgement debts. He’ll not be forgotten for what has done! You can do the same, dear reader, if there’s every reason to do so, and God’s blessings will never pass you by.
Ghana is bigger than all of us, fellow Ghanaians! Whether or not it succeeds depends on us all. God bless us all, and long live the nation of Ghana.