“No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude”.
“No matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white”.
Karl Popper-Logik der Forschund (The Logic of Scientific Discovery).
“… In conclusion, the party wishes to state that in spite of these attempts to malign and destroy him, Honourable Gabriel Barima’s achievement as a DCE remains exemplary for others to emulate. In arriving at this conclusion, we have taken into consideration of the views of the traditional authorities in the Ahafo Ano South District who sent an eight – man strong delegation of chiefs from the district to petition the presidency and the party head office to get Honourable Gabriel Barima re –instated as the DCE.
We hope this appeal finds favour with His Excellency the President who had demonstrated on several occasions his preparedness to change his mind when further and better particulars are provided in each of the cases”.
Johnson Asiedu Nketia
NDC General Secretary
In THE 18th Century, political trouble–maker, John Wilkes (1725-1797), who championed the verbatim publication of parliamentary debates, was heckled by a man who yelled: “Vote for you? I’d sooner vote for the Devil”. Wilkes wittily remarked: “And what if your friend (the Devil) is not standing?” In March, 2013, Obama’s speech in Jerusalem was interrupted by a heckler, but he discouraged the audience from booing at the heckler, and rather said, “This is part of the lively debate that we talked about. This is good … I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.”
In February, 2014, a member of the audience, uncomfortable with Russia invading Ukraine interrupted: “Tell us about your plans for nuclear war with Russia.” President Obama responded: “I ‘m sorry, who’s that back there? What the heck are you talking about? Audience: Obama! Obama! Obama! President Obama; “No, no, don’t worry about it; we’re okay. Have a seat. I don’t know anything about that plan (laughter). Let me return to what I was talking about (Applause). See, he thought happy hour started earlier (laughter and applause)”
When it was common to get rotten fruits and vegetables thrown at speakers, Australian Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, asked the audience to lend him their ears, quoting Mark Antony’s ‘lend me your ears’. A little time later, a huge cabbage was thrown onto the stage. Chifley lamented: “I said your ears, sir, not your head”.
The best part of Martin Luther King’s ‘ I have a Dream’ speech appeared when he had to abandon his prepared text and improvised a new one in answer to a heckler, Mahalia Jackson, who shouted at him: “ Tell them about the dream”. In 1992, Bill Clinton who was then a presidential candidate was interrupted by Bob Ratsky accusing Clinton of a “dying ambition to be president”. He responded: “ I have treated you and all of the other people who have interrupted my rallies with a hell of a lot more respect than you treated me. And it’s time to start thinking about that”. When an Iraqi journalist hurled a shoe at George Bush at a press conference in Baghdad in December, 2008, Bush merely quipped: “All I can report is a size 10”. Later, in response to a journalist’s question, he retorted: “So, what if the guy threw his shoe at me”.
The term ‘heckling’ originates from the textile industry; here, to ‘heckle’ meant teasing out or combing out flax or hemp fibres. In Dundee, Scotland, in the 19th Century, someone would read out the day’s news as the workers were engaged, and they would murmur or enter into serious debates while working. A heckler would try to harass or embarrass a speaker with questions, challenges or disparaging comments.
Heckling is common in democracies and we are a fledgling democracy. When a politician is heckled , one would expect him to be smart enough to remain unruffled, composed and rather find an answer that will be witty, rather than insulting or retorting back. You could offer the heckler the stage-unprepared, he is likely to decline the offer; you could laugh the matter off; or you could disregard the comment and give it silent treatment.
In the USA, when a Republican is heckled his supporters would drown the heckler with chants of U-S-A! U-S-A! The Democrats would, under similar circumstances. drown the heckler with chants of the name of the President.
In May, 2013, during Obama’s address at National Defence University in Washington, a woman from the Code Pink group interrupted him three times. Obama only said: “I‘m about to address it, ma’am , but you’ve got to let me speak … why don’t you sit down and let me tell you exactly what I’d do,” He further said, “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to , obviously I do not agree with much of what she said. And obviously she wasn’t listening to me and much of what I said. But these are tough issues and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong”.
In a petition sent to President Mahama by the National Executive Committee of the NDC, and signed by Johnson Asiedu Nketia, General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress, the Petitioners indicated : “Paragraph 4: Excited about the prospects of resolving this problem, Hon – Gabriel Barima readily accepted the invitation and attended the function on the said date. In the middle of his address some of the staff whom he thought had repented from their earlier misdeeds started heckling him using unprintable words directed at him including the word ‘tweaa’. The senior staff who had come to his office earlier on looked on helplessly and this led to the DCE asking ‘Who said tweaa’ and decided to abandon the function, but was prevailed upon by some of the senior staff who were present to continue with his speech.
“Paragraph 5: This matter was not considered to be so important as to be made the headlines when it happened. However, several weeks later an unknown person who had filmed the function decided to put a doctored version of the clip on the internet.
“Paragraph 7: After the President had delivered the State of the Nation Address, a young man posing as a supporter of the DCE approached the DCE at his house to show how excited he was when he heard the President using the expression: ‘Tweaa’…’ are you my co – equal’ to deal with the heckling of the NPP in Parliament engaged Honourable Gabriel Barima in a lot of idle talk. Unknown to the DCE, the young man was recording the conversation with a secret recorder. Some days later, this secret recording was again played on the same Joy FM as if the DCE had granted another interview to the radio station after his apology”.
So, these are the further and better particulars. Further and better particulars, indeed. The DCE could have helped the Assembly to retrieve 250 bags of the 300 which the Coordinating Director had allegedly diverted; he could have resisted the temptation to touch the assembly’s resources; and he could have remained unpaid for the 20 months of his engagement. But did he accord his position the requisite respect? Did he show respect to his audience?
The DCE is demanding the copyright of the ‘tweeaa’ word, as if he had done something beneficial to the nation. Perhaps the President sought to douse the conflagration that erupted after the incident by using the expression in Parliament, but it is doubtful if he succeeded. Not so, especially, occurring at a time when Parliament had declared the word ‘un-parliamentary’ and forbidden its use in Parliament.
With a plethora of radio stations, the least whiff is blown apace and in my village, my 3 year – old grandson was singing a song entitled ‘who said tweaa: am I your co – equal’. I have respect for people who have had a chequered history and managed to rise to the top. Hence, I have respect for people like Asiedu Nketia, but what is he trying to achieve by this petition to the President? What did he do when Vicky Hammah’s case erupted. Was it because she was…? What are the people of this generation going to leave for our children? That insult pays; that political office holders can bluff their way through; that with a godfather, you can get away with any damnable behaviour!
Now eight people are contesting he Ahafo Ano seat. These must be men of integrity-unlike the NPP’s seventeen thieves for President in 2008. One can be hand-picked a la Swedru Declaration or they may be subjected to a one-question interview : “What will you do when on a political platform you hear someone say ‘Apeetoo’?