By Nana Yaw Osei
My first time of understanding the word propaganda was in George Owell’s dystopian novel, 1984. In that novel the main protagonist: Wiston Smith, was in charge of propaganda and in his capacity as a worker at the ministry of truth, his responsibilities included reversing history by rewriting newspapers to support his party line.
The impeccable economist of no mean international repute, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia must be commended for his ignition of issues-centered campaign in Ghana’s politics which, was heretofore characterized with innuendos, vendetta, character assassination and primitive bigotry.
He presented a lecture on the state of Ghana’s economy which was received with mixed reactions. For example, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is disputing some facts presented by Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, vice presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at his recent economic lecture dubbed: "The State of the Ghanaian Economy – A Foundation of Concrete or Straw" (Ghanaweb, September 16, 2016).
The aim of this article is to reflect on the mission statement of MFWA and connect some social science research methodologies with Dr. Bawumia’s analysis. This will help the cherished readers to understand whether it is proper for MFWA to describe Dr. Bawumia’s claim as lies.
The mission statement of MFWA as stipulated conspicuously on its website is “to promote and defend the right to freedom of expression of all persons particularly the media and human rights defenders in West Africa.”
The vision is to see “a West Africa in which all persons enjoy the right to freedom of expression without fear or threat by any actors.” Media freedom or freedom of expression is still an illusion in many parts of West Africa.
For example, in the neighboring Republic of Togo, government control over the editorial content of state media—the daily Togo-Presse, Television Togolaise (TVT), Radio Togolaise, and the Togo News Agency (ATOP)—continues to be a problem.
In the Gambian Republic, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and torture of journalist continue to rise. Instead of MFWA to come out with pragmatic interventions to ameliorate the malaise of Togolese and the Gambians relative to press freedom and freedom of speech, they have remorselessly and obsessed with sycophancy of their own creation - come out with the most egregious phony charade in the annals of Ghana’s political history, by discrediting Dr. Bawumia.
Since when did MFWA become an economic think tank?
The MFWA asserted that 4 out 8 claims by Dr. Bawumia were false. This claim by MFWA presents some hunches. Chief among them is that Dr. Bawumia is not credible. It is epistemologically naïve, scientifically a flaw and philosophically weak for anybody to conclude that the result of a social science research is either totally true or totally false.
There are several methods of social science research which include, qualitative, quantitative, the heuristic of mixed methodology, systematic review, meta-synthesis and others.
For example, one of the main characteristics of qualitative method is subjectivity. Subjectivity is accepted in the academic world. There is nothing wrong for Dr. Bawumia as an economists and a politician to be subjective. There is equally nothing wrong for the ruling government to be subjective. This notwithstanding, subjectivity of such nature must be anchored by one’s pedigree in the subject (Economics).
Quantitative research is equally not devoid of shortcomings. For example, it collects a much narrower and sometimes superficial data set. Results are limited as they provide numerical descriptions rather than detailed narrative and generally provides less elaborate accounts of human perception.
The research is often carried out in an unnatural environment so that a level of control can be applied to the exercise. This level of control might not normally be in place in the real world. Even the central tendency used in statistics such as the mean, mode, median and standard deviation describes location but not does not define location. Thus, it is not fair for MFWA to describe Dr. Bawumia as a liar especially when they are not economists themselves.
The MFWA asserted that the claim by Dr. Bawumia that research allowance for lecturers has been scrapped was false on the following grounds:
In 2014, government expressed its intention to review and replace the book and research allowance paid to teaching staff and senior members in public institutions of higher learning. Government planned to replace the allowance with a national research fund, to which interested persons could apply to for research funding. This policy intention was contained in the 2014 Budget Statement and Economic Policy (p. 190). Lecturers through organizations like the UTAG and POTAG had opposed the move, and even resorted to industrial action to drive home their demands.
The UTAG and POTAG supported the establishment of the proposed national research fund, but insisted that the fund could co-exist with the Book and Research Allowance as these two interventions were not mutually exclusive.
According to them, unsuccessful applicants to the fund within funding cycle could still be minimally supported by their book and research allowances.
Though the disagreement about the payment of the book and research allowance had often deteriorated into threats, counter threats, and strike actions, the government has continued to pay the allowance. The latest payment (GHc 37 million) for the 2015/2016 academic year was announced by Pres. Mahama and reported to have been received by UTAG in July, 2016. These evidences render Bawumia’s claim about the cutting of book and research allowances to lecturers, “mostly false”. (Ghanaweb, September 16, 2016).
The foregoing explanation by MFWA is not convincing. This is a prime example of what the behaviorists, John B. Watson and his graduate student, Rosalie Rayner described as conditioned fear after their famous experiment: little Albert and the rat.
One does not need a soothsayer to conclude that the government paid the aforementioned allowances in July 2016 to lecturers for political expediency. A good researcher will conduct a systematic review of the behavior of politicians in the election year before humiliating Dr. Bawumia as a liar, bereft of intellectual credibility.
In addition to the above, empiricism is the theory that all knowledge comes from sensory experience. According to empiricism, our senses obtain the raw information from the world around us. Therefore, our perception of this raw information starts a process in which we begin ideas and beliefs.
The notion that humans are born with an innate knowledge is rejected and the claim that knowledge is a “posteriori”, meaning based on experience is accepted. The German thinker, Edmund Husserl suggested phenomenology as an alternative to empiricism. Husserl coined the Greek term “epoche” meaning bracketing to propose what he called phenomenological reduction.
Husserl claimed that people take the various aspects of their lives (language, culture, gravity, their bodies, politics, religion, etc.) for granted, and that these aspects are keeping people in captivity. The epoche, however, is the phenomenological reduction where one no longer accepts these aspects to be true.
This means that every good researchers must allow issues to speak for themselves. So MFWA, go out there, what are citizens of Ghana themselves saying about the economy? Research data is never free from philosophical entanglement and confusions. For example, what shows that the data presented by the government are not bereft of honesty?
What indicates that Dr. Bawumia cannot go to his stronghold to gather data to discredit his political opponents? Philosophical encumbrances associated with data and competing theories could be resolved through mixed methodology and interdisciplinary approach.
So MFWA, social science research goes beyond getting a quantitative matrix or template to analyze data. Dr. Bawumia’s predictions in the past have come to pass. He is an accomplished economist with about 24 publications in the scholarly peer-reviewed journals of economics. He has created an economic knowledge in the whole world through his dissertation.
Let us stop attacking him as if Ghana has turned into the historical Polish Diet. For MFWA to conclude that Dr. Bawumia is a liar is unfortunate. The MFWA is an organization without principles because they cannot concentrate on their non-accomplished mission statement.
God bless our homeland Ghana.
“I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” (Socrates)
Writer's e-mail: email@example.com
Nana Yaw Osei(Padigo) is a PhD Candidate, Psychology Arizona, USA