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I am not a fan of presidents, especially of the African sort. I believe that we, as a people, should always put whoever is leading us on his or her toes daring him to always do right by us. I do not believe we should be singing songs of praise to our leaders, calling them by fanciful epithets and treating them as if they are demi-gods. When they are long dead and gone, and we have had the benefit of hindsight to more accurately judge them, we can praise them and build monuments to them if they did well. Not before!
But when it comes to the issue of homosexuality in Ghana, I think Akufo-Addo said about the most sensible thing that any African leader has ever said on this vexed question. Those Ghanaians who are taking him to task and blaming him are not only wrong, they are way behind the times. It is such a pleasant surprise that Akufo-Addo, the old man, proves himself more abreast with the times than many a younger Ghanaian.
I do not know if his response to his interlocutor on Al-Jazeera was spontaneous or if it was well rehearsed from prepared answers to questions he had received ahead of the interview. Whatever, he gave an intelligent answer that should make all progressives in Ghana proud.
That many Ghanaians misunderstood the president’s words shows how bigotry can cloud even the best minds. He confounded many of his most ardent supporters. The president did not say that he was going to legalize homosexuality in the country. This is something he has no direct power to do. It is parliament that can pass a bill for his approval. He can decide to sign or reject it. If he rejects whatever bill parliament sends him, the constitution provides for procedures whereby parliament can still eventually make sure that the bill becomes law. Akufo-Addo knows that our country has not reached the stage to pass a law legalizing gay unions. He knows this is not likely to happen in his current, and a possible second, term. He will never be faced with a decision to sign a bill to that effect. So he can dare to be honest.
I suspect the president or his handlers did not expect the storm of negative reactions that met his pronouncements. For a government that is in perpetual campaign mode and sees everything in partisan political terms, his response may seem suicidal. It is the kind of bold statement that lame duck presidents have the luxury to make. But there are many of us who are happy that he did so, not because we want him to lose the next elections, but because of his boldness to tell the truth and damn the consequences.
He said Ghanaians are not ready to accept the legalization of homosexuality. That is the truth. He also said it is possible that in the future, there will be a change in opinion that is strong enough to accept a change in the law in favour of gay unions. And that is also the truth. It has happened in other countries and it will happen in our country too. After all, we like copying things from other countries. We have copied things like parliamentary democracy, football, wearing jeans, Christianity, Islam, calling people “Honourable” and “Excellency”, hip-hop, spring-rolls, false long hair, digital address system, English legal practice with the silly wigs and gowns, and a whole lot of other things without ever complaining that these things are not part of our culture. Our culture – that authentic unadulterated African culture that we are so proud of!!!
But there is something that is making me hold my breath. I am afraid the president may be forced to change his words because of the next elections. I hope he will not try to make another statement to “explain” his Al-Jazeera words or say he was quoted out of context. He should stand by the truth of what he said and shame all the bigots in our country. He should hold fast to his convictions and not revert to the default mode of lying to please us. The change that he has so bravely predicted will come. It may not be in his life time, or mine, or perhaps yours, but it will surely come. When two consenting adults of the same sex decide to do it with each other in the privacy of their homes or to behave as husband and husband or wife and wife, no power on earth, or in heaven, is going to stop them! This is a fight the homophobes in our country are going to lose. Eventually!
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