This is a follow up on a discussion I had with my friend on social media on the unfortunate events following the inauguration of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s government on 7th January 2017.
It soon became apparent that some parts of the President’s inauguration speech were lifted from speeches delivered by two former Presidents of the United States and President Buhari of Nigeria.
My friend took umbrage at some Ghanaians who appeared to be gloating over what clearly was an embarrassment to us all as Ghanaians.
He referred to the western media organisations who reported the matter and in the manner in which they reported it as being hypocritical. His point was that, similar, and indeed sometimes worse things happen in some of these countries but they are not highlighted, especially in the same manner and the speed with which they reported the matter.
I told my friend that while I agreed with him that the western governments and their media have always been hypocritical on some of these issues, in respect of their reportage, I held the view that, we as Ghanaians have been more hypocritical, compared to the western media, and that the claim that those of our compatriots who appear to be excited about what happened on Saturday, largely opponents of the President, are “naïve” or “stupid” as my friend put it, was not justified.
Servitude to our parties
To some people we are a country of cynics, unpatriotic and insanely political people who refuse to be liberated from the clutches of partisan political servitude. Servitude to our parties. Some Ghanaians, it would appear have rented their brains to be used to advance myopic political advantages.
You may not agree with me on my assertions. That is okay. For those who find my characterisation offensive and in bad taste, I apologize. But we must learn to say things as they are in this country.
The events of 7th January, 2017 were momentous. It was a colourful event in all respect. Even by our own standards, this was a remarkable improvement on what happened 4 years ago. We had 3 living former head of states grace the occasion to pledge the President, their support.
Those who have lived longer than many of us, are telling us that this was the first time something like this was happening in our country. It was even significant when one considers the fact that exactly four years ago we are talking about the needless pandemonium which happened at the residence of former President Kuffour. Some members of the New Patriotic Party went to the house of the former President to prevent him from attending the investiture of the then President-elect John Mahama. This was because the NPP was challenging the presidential election results as declared by the Electoral Commission.
That was how the NPP chose to express their disapproval of the election results– Outright boycott of the inauguration. That was, to be fair, perhaps a legitimate means of expressing their anger at what they considered a ‘stolen verdict” and as I have heard some argue that, it will be counter-intuitive to challenge something and seek to be part of the processes that will offer legitimacy to the process.
Demo against presidents in foreign lands
That is part of our history now, and it should belong there-in the past. But the events of last week clearly demonstrates that some Ghanaians did not forget some of these things in the past. In an attempt to rob the President of any aura of legitimacy and integrity, some individuals were dispatched from Ghana to the US and UK to organise demonstrations against the President and call him a thief.
He was reviled in foreign land, in front of the media and his host. Indeed, that began in Ghana here and in the House of Parliament where some minority Members of Parliament held placards, referring to the President as a thief, in the full glare of western diplomats and the media-both local and foreign.
They poured immeasurable amount of scorn and odium on the president. They were not excoriated. Some Ghanaians were obviously angry. But that is what and who we have been. We have seen, dealt with and regarded our presidents based on where we stand on the political and ideological continuum.
We did it to Rawlings, Kufuor, Mills and Mahama
We did it to Presidents Rawlings, Kuffour, Mills and Mahama. On occasions when some of them travelled, we followed them there, to tell the world our leaders are corrupt and undeserving of their offices and any courtesy that their host may extends to them. When we have been busily trying to outdo each other in handing over lethal weapons to our “enemies”, why should we be expecting mercy from them?
When a western leader travels outside of his jurisdiction, you find citizens of his country, in his host country waving their flags at them. We have seen that before, and many times. When President Obama visited us here in July 2009, the flags we saw were not those of the Democrats or Republicans, but the American flag.
I do not in anyway wish to be understood to be saying that we should be quiet about the corruption or the many ills we accuse our leader of. Corruption is bad, in whichever shape it takes, irrespective of who is seen or suspected of engaging in it. We should be seen agitated about it. When we see it happening and we have evidence of it, we should punish those leaders who we think are corrupt, of course through the powers we have at the polls.
If you were happy this was done to former President Mahama or any of his predecessors, but you are unhappy at the way the western media took this plagiarism claim and reported it, you are not being fair and you are not being sincere and to put it bluntly, you are being hypocritical.
If you were smouldering in the past because this was being done to President Mahama, but you are happy at what happened to President Akufo-Addo, and you are happily sharing it on social media platforms, you need to seriously re-examine what your values and principles are , and when they left you. .
What should happen going forward?
We should define the Ghana project and be committed to it. We should know where politics begins and where it ends in this country. We should know and appreciate where the frontiers of mischief and cynicism should and must end. We should summon the same spirit of dedication, good will and good faith that moves us to wish well for our parties and wish same for our presidents and the country at large. We should learn to tolerate each other more and zealously guard the honour and dignity of our leaders we put in office and our country.
I do not ask for a mindless defense of anything they do and close our eyes on their failings. We should not fail to speak against authority when acts of corruption and bad governance are apparent and proven. We should never not tolerate bad governance and corruption. But when we want to do that, as we sure have to do, I encourage us all to be decorous and civil in expressing our anger and disquiet. Notwithstanding the noise and hot air we hear on our airwaves, it is actually possible to be decorous and still be heard. You may want to give it a try. When we do that, others will respect us and our leaders.
However you look it and whichever side of the political divide you stand, the events of 7th January is not just a part of the legacy and history of President Nana Akufo-Addo. But the story of Ghana. It was meant to be a defining moment, not just in the life of the President, but that of Ghana as well. But a wicked combination of incompetence and dishonesty, has robbed us all of the goodwill that ought to have come with it.
Observers are worried
Next time the President travels outside to speak, those who will be listening to him will be wondering which of the lines were picked from somewhere. When he goes to the UN in September this year to deliver his speech, they will be wondering if that is also a plagiarized speech. That is how bad this is. Quite unfortunate for those of us who have had the opportunity of listening to the President.
When I heard then candidate Akufo-Addo speak to students of the University of Ghana School of Law in April 2016, I went to one of his aides to confirm if indeed he spoke extempore, because he didn’t have a speech before him. But we all enjoyed his speech-both in substance and delivery.
Akufo-Addo could have done better
There are those who believe, and quite rightly so, that, the president could have delivered a much better speech on that day even if he had to speak extempore. But unfortunately, for him, and quite sadly for us all as Ghanaians, his first encounter with the world in his capacity as President was in many respects a huge embarrassment. It may end up defining him in a rather bad manner as someone who lifts speeches, as someone who cannot think for himself. It is not just unfair, but nonsense to attempt to put a blame on the President and call him incompetent.
For we all know he didn’t write it and couldn’t have discovered it. Someone disappointed him. Should the person be dismissed? I think so, for the President to send a message that he means business. But will that be done? I don’t think so, it won’t happen. Not in this our society and certainly not from our political class. That will be expecting too much.
Let us wish the President and his team well to deliver to this country the many things they promised. We should, by now have a “Green Book” or better still a “Red Book” of the promises he made to us. Let us, together with our media take up positions and police the corridors of power to ensure that the promises are delivered. That power is not abused. That jobs are created and that life is made better for us all.
This is not the time to be sniggering at the president and his team and call them incompetent too, because of what may have been said during the campaign. Let us commit ourselves to continue to do that even after President Akufo-Addo leaves office and extend same respect to the office.
That way we can expect others to respect, not just our Presidents but we Ghanaian as well, wherever we may find ourselves.
By: Gafaru Ali