We at Africawatch pride ourselves on being one of the most uncompromising, unbiased and truthful pan-African magazines, and it was in that spirit that we covered in our August issue the health status of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of Ghana’s main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
We felt it was a story of vital national and international interest, with ramifications for Ghanaians in the upcoming election as regarding Akufo-Addo’s personal health and ability to withstand the rigors of the presidency.
In that cover story, we stated that we had clear medical proof that the NPP presidential candidate did not have only prostate cancer but also other serious complications.
We said he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer as far back as June 2013 at the Wellington Hospital in London and that he had since been undergoing treatment at that hospital.
From Akufo-Addo’s medical records that we obtained, it is obvious that he has an acute kidney injury as well as an enlarged heart, all of which are life- threatening diseases, and for which he has been receiving medical attention at the Welling-ton Hospital and, indeed, has undergone catheterization at that medical facility.
We wholly sympathize with Akufo-Addo as he battles against these serious diseases. Our thoughts and prayers are also with his brother, Edward ‘Bumpty’ Akufo-Addo, who is also seriously ill at this time. Edward has been at the side of the presidential candidate since the 2008 elections as a leading member of his personal finance team.
We understand that with two key members of the Akufo-Addo family being critically ill at the same time, this is a very difficult situation for the family to bear, and we ask the Almighty God to bring them to a speedy recovery.
As we stated in the Akufo-Addo cancer story, illness is, of course, a very private affair, and sharing such information is usually an individual decision for any private citizen, just like Edward. But when one is making a run for the presidency, such as Akufo-Addo is doing, then the entire public has a right to know the state of that candidate’s health, because of the massive responsibilities that come with the position.
Akufo-Addo is no longer simply a private citizen, so his health status is no longer just a private matter, and the people he seeks to govern have the right to know about his illness, and such medical transparency far outweighs Akufo-Addo’s right to such privacy.
In as much as we sympathize with Akufo-Addo, we were duty-bound to report his diagnosis of prostate cancer and his medical complications.
President Atta Mills’ example
Akufo-Addo’s cancer story is extremely important and necessary to enable an open national discourse regarding the personal health of anyone running for such an important and powerful office as the presidency of Ghana. The country has been through this before, when President John Atta Mills was impaired by serious illness while in office, and how that was kept secret until his sudden death while still in power, leaving the country in a very vulnerable state during the transition period. We at Africawatch believe that the medical records that we have made public revealing the true state of health of Presidential Candidate Akufo-Addo are of national importance and we have only those interests in mind. Nothing more, nothing less!
We published the story purely out of duty and obligation to the nation. Whatever anybody may say, the nation deserves to know the health status of its leaders or aspiring leaders. Being a president is a very serious and stressful job that deserves to be done by healthy persons elected to do so by the people.
There is no virtue in electing a president whose ill health would impair the person’s ability to execute his or her presidential duties and mandate properly. Such a president would spend much time in hospitals abroad (usually abroad, never at home, an admission that African presidents don’t believe in the health services they build for their own people), while the duties of state are farmed out to subordinates who may not be up to scratch or may abuse such power suddenly thrown into their laps, to the detriment of the nation.
Since our August issue hit the Ghanaian newsstands, people from Akufo-Addo’s faction within the NPP have attacked Africawatch in a well-orchestrated campaign full of lies and insults, and many of these attacks have been directly upon me, both personally and professionally.
We believe that our credibility and reputation are strong enough to absorb these unwarranted and provocative attacks. Akufo-Addo’s men engaged in very crude diversionary tactics, some using absurd language, but none of them has responded directly to the substance and actual facts of the report. So far there has been no clear denial by Akufo-Addo himself or his people of what Africawatch reported.
When a big man lies …
What Akufo-Addo’s men have done is to bring forward a local Ghanaian doctor, Prof. Adu Gyamfi, who claimed that he has been treating Akufo-Addo for the past two years, in an attempt to refute the substance of our report. He stated that Akufo-Addo’s Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) was not the extremely high 89.9 which we reported, but was only 0.03.
But when asked whether his famous patient had ever been to Wellington Hospital in London, Prof. Gyamfi responded that he didn’t know. This response from someone who has been treating a 72-year-old man for the past two years is striking.
Prof. Gyamfi appears to suggest that he took on Akufo-Addo as a patient at the age of 70 without checking his prior medical history before treating him. If he had done so, he could have easily given at least a yes or no response to the simple question of whether Akufo-Addo has ever been to the Wellington Hospital.
This alone calls into serious doubt his assertion of a current PSA count of 0.03, or anything else he may have to say regarding the candidate’s state of health. It would appear the professor doctor has been far from truthful in this important matter. Which brings us to the substance of our report.
Akufo-Addo’s one clear response to all the issues raised by our story was to state at a rally in the Northern Region: “Now, they say I have cancer, it will not work.” This, of course, neither confirms nor denies the truth of the medical facts as we have reported them. And not denying those facts speak to the truth of what we reported. However, Akufo-Addo seems to be openly implying that we at Africawatch are “out to get him,” giving his men the wherewithal to propagate the same. But it is simply not true that Africawatch is out to get Akufo-Addo.
Here, it is imperative that I explain some few things, particularly my prior and current relationship with Akufo-Addo.
As public records will indicate, in the past I was involved in the center-right politics of Ghana and was active in that, helping raise funds, as well as personally contributing to the campaign of some candidates, particularly Akufo-Addo.
But I quit active politics in 2009 to return to journalism, after which I indicated clearly to Akufo-Addo, on several occasions, that as a journalist I would remain neutral in Ghanaian party politics, and the magazine I edit would also remain neutral in Ghanaian politics.
But as a friend, I have supported Akufo-Addo in the past. For those who do not know and are saying all sorts of things, I have given Akufo-Addo money in the past to support his campaigns, but he has never, ever given me one cent or one pesewa for my personal use, contrary to what his men are alleging. I dare Akufo-Addo to prove me wrong.
While I was in active politics, I did not have any personal issues with Akufo-Addo. My only concern was how Akufo-Addo’s campaign funds were poorly handled and misused. I am therefore not surprised that people are not too keen this time around to open their wallets in support of the NPP 2016 campaign.
I know people across the Ghanaian political divide. But as an editor, I have to do what is best for the country. I cannot and would not allow friendships or personal relationships to influence my job. And they have never influenced my job.
I have always been objective and truthful in my journalistic endeavors, and in the course of my career, I have published stories that may be interpreted as helping or hurting all sides of the Ghanaian political divide. All my publications are based on indisputable evidence, and I am ready at any time to produce evidence in support of these assertions, including those related to the recent story on the health status of Akufo-Addo.
Doing Akufo-Addo’s bidding
A local newspaper, Daily Guide – run by the acting chairman of the NPP, Freddie Blay, and his wife, Gina – has alleged that Africawatch was paid by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) to publish the Akufo-Addo cancer story.
Theirs was a concocted accusation of course, but one obviously published to do Akufo-Addo’s bidding. But how do Blay and his wife, and the master they want to please, square this circle: When Africawatch publishes articles that are critical of Akufo-Addo’s opponents, does Akufo-Addo pay us for those stories? Of course not!
We have always sought to remain neutral in Ghanaian politics. We have stayed in the middle and criticized the two main parties, the NDC and the NPP, when criticism was due and praised them when praise was due. And we will continue to play this role.
But in their desperation to run down our August story, and even Africawatch as a magazine, Chairman Blay and his wife have claimed in their newspaper that some people had advance copies of our August issue before it got to Accra, and so therefore they must have had an inside connection and foreknowledge of Akufo-Addo’s cancermstory. This is absolutely false.
Africawatch is an international publication based in New York. More often than not – and this happened with the August issue– when the magazine is released in New York, because of freight shipment difficulties, it can take quite some time for it to arrive in other countries, particularly Ghana.
So it is likely that some people in Ghana obtain electronic or hard copies of the magazine directly from New York City or other distribution locations before the bulk consignment arrive in Accra.
What is more: In their rashness to diminish or damage the influence of Africawatch in Ghana, Blay and his wife reported in the Daily Guide that we circulate only 1,000 copies a month in Ghana and that for the August issue we shipped 4,000 copies there. That is simply ridiculous.
Since its founding in 2009, Africawatch has made a good connection with its Ghanaian readership, one that is reflected in our sales every month. We are in about 160 outlets throughout the capital, Accra, and 50 additional outlets in Kumasi.
We also have a considerable presence on the newsstands in all the 10 regions of the country – no other magazine has that reach in Ghana! Regarding the August issue, we shipped a total of 17,750 copies to Ghana and this figure can be verified with the appropriate authorities at the Kotoka International Airport.
Chairman Blay and his wife are out of order propagating lies intended to tarnish the reputation of Africawatch just because they want to please their master. That is unethical.
Let me take this opportunity to share one of many interesting stories regarding the character of Blay, the man behind the Daily Guide, who in his own way, possibly altered Ghana’s history. While a Member of Parliament for Ellembelle on the ticket of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) some years ago, the then-ruling NPP government was very generous to Blay, even making him the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament. He almost got everything he wanted from the NPP, and yet he was never satisfied.
At the time, some people inside the NPP had realized that John Mahama, then the MP for the Bole-Bamboi Constituency, could someday become president, so they were scheming to offer a cushy international job in the UK as bait to get him out of the country. Unaware of this plot, Mahama went ahead and applied for the job.
But when a letter arrived in Parliament inviting Mahama to come over to London for his interview regarding that job, the Speaker was out of town, and this invitation fell on Blay’s desk, so he secretly replaced Mahama with himself. He then went for the interview in London, failed miserably and returned home quietly. Blay’s greed destroyed that plan, and as fate would have it, Mahama finally became president.
Perhaps if Blay had not been so greedy, Mahama would have gone for that interview, gotten himself hired, and moved to London for the job as it had all been arranged. Then the history of Ghana may not have been as it is today. But this fact does not change: The NPP was wrong with Blay then, and it is wrong with the man now.
But enough of the past. The truth remains that Akufo-Addo’s ill health does not allow for a sustained and rigorous election campaign, and it does not do any favors to the party and even the presidential candidate himself. The man is struggling to maintain a sustained period on the campaign without breaking it off to seek medical attention.
Playing hide and seek
On September 8, after two weeks or so of his faction in the NPP raising hell about the Africawatch report on his prostate cancer, Akufo-Addo sneaked out of the country on a British Airways flight to London for a routine medical treatment. Because of our story, no announcement was made about Akufo-Addo’s sudden departure to London.
In fact, he used a lecture in Accra on Ghana’s economy by his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, as a cover to slip out to London. Akufo-Addo showed up at Bawumia’s lecture all right, to keep up appearances in fact, but after the event, when everybody was digesting what the former deputy governor of Ghana’s central bank had said in his lecture, the presidential candidate took advantage of the din after the lecture to make good his escape to London for medical treatment.
While in London, as usual, he did other activities as a cover-up. But insiders who saw him on his return to Accra some few days later said he did not look good. He looked weak.
Now it appears Akufo-Addo has hit a snag that poses a threat to the NPP campaign. Three critical factors have come into play: The first is the fact that Akufo-Addo’s ill health is taking a serious toll on him. Second, his brother’s deteriorating health has become a major distraction for him as well. Third, the Akufo-Addo family is financially weak and the NPP is almost broke.
NPP in a quandary
Worse, the acting chairman of the party, Blay, who crossed carpet from the CPP to join the NPP, is basically seen as a stranger in the party by those leading lights of the NPP who think that Blay is causing the same confusion in the NPP as he caused in the CPP before he left that party. Thus, some NPP stalwarts refuse to recognize him as their chairman. Rather, they see him as a man planted in the office of national chairman to do Akufo Addo’s bidding. So in effect, the center of the NPP cannot hold.
Interestingly, when Akufo-Addo talks about better managing the affairs of the nation, people look at the NPP and see how the party has been mismanaged and ask, “if you cannot manage your own party, how can you manage the nation?”
As Akufo-Addo shares his plans to maintain peace in the country, people look inside the NPP and see disgruntled party members pulling daggers at each other’s throats and they ask what the heck is he talking about?
When Akufo-Addo talks about bringing unity to the nation, people look at the NPP and see only divisions and confusion in the party.
If Akufo-Addo talks about fighting corruption nationally, people shake their heads at how NPP stalwarts have illegally diverted party funds with impunity, and ask how on earth can Akufo-Addo fight corruption at the national level when he cannot fight it within his own party?
The fact of the matter is that the NPP is in a quandary. Barely two months to Election Day, the party is floundering. But the Akufo-Addo faction within the NPP has a greater control over the Ghanaian media. So at the moment the local media is overhyping Akufo-Addo, making it look as if it is a given that he will win the presidential race when, in reality, there are huge odds stacked up against him and the NPP.
In the last two elections in 2008 and 2012, the media again overhyped Akufo-Addo only for him to fall at the finishing line. It seems the same is happening again. So Akufo-Addo and his men have become very desperate and will do anything just to win power, including insulting, maligning, slandering and impugning others’ reputations and characters by telling outright lies or saying anything that first comes to their head. That must stop.
As a publication of the strictest integrity, Africawatch asks any member of Akufo-Addo’s team who have made public attacks on us regarding our story on Akufo-Addo’s prostate cancer to respond to this simple journalistic challenge: If any part of what we wrote was incorrect, we invite you to confront us with those facts, and we will share them with the public – just as openly as we have shared Akufo-Addo’s medical records that came to our attention.
But if there is nothing forthcoming to counter that important story – a story we believe is more vital to the nation than personalities or politics, one whose core issues of ransparency and power concern us all, then we will continue to stand on our position, with the same words that we closed our original report with – that the people have a right to know who they are electing to lead their country, and what that person’s condition truly is, both in body and soul. n