Ghana and the Politics of Personalities

Sat, 26 Mar 2011 Source: Yakubu, Adams-Sheriff

A couple of months ago, a friend and classmate referred to a Ghanaian politician as an “ugly bitch” on his Facebook page. This was in reaction to a comment purported to have been made by this woman (I will withhold the name and identity for obvious reasons). It was a comment that didn’t sink in well with me. So I picked up the phone and called my friend in the US and admonished him against the use of such language. My argument was that there was no justification whatsoever for using such language on anyone. I told him that the woman maybe someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone’s aunty or someone’s wife. I asked him how he would feel if someone referred to his late mum as an ugly bitch. Fortunately for me, my friend heeded my admonitions on this occasion and promised to be a little more decorous in future.

Prior to that I had the occasion of impacting the same wisdom on my cousin (Haruna Mahama) who had in the past written a number of articles about and against ex-president Kuffuor (refer to “NPP's Defeat-The Kufour factor” parts 1 to 4) and his role in the defeat of the NPP in the 2008 elections. I told Haruna to rise above attacking personalities but to focus on policies and programmes .Like my friend and classmate above, Haruna heeded my advice and ended his serialisations on Kufuor.

Only last week, I did a rejoinder to an article which sought to attack the Vice President as the most corrupt man in Ghana.

I have seen a number of comments alleged to have been made by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa most of which are directed especially at the person of Nana Akuffo Addo.

I have seen statements purported to have been made by Nana Akuffo Addo directed at Professor Mills.

In the past Rawlings had been referred variously as a “Scottish bastard”, “a lunatic”, and a drug addict.

I have also heard Kuffuor being referred to as bastard and a various other names.

Just today I read on ghanaweb a statement alleged to have been made by Dr Hannah Bissiw in which she is alleged to have described Nana Akuffo Addo as a “sexy old fool”.

And again on the same ghanaweb, I read a rejoinder to an article purported to been written by one Kwame Ahoofe in which he sought to discredit the literary prowess of one of Ghana’s finest journalists (Kweku Sakyi Addo). The list is endless and I am sure readers can build an even bigger list.

Whilst these name-callings and insults are filling our political stratosphere, I am left wondering what sort of a nation we have become. Here is a nation where electricity supply is intermittent; in a nation where 29% of the population lives below the poverty line; in a nation where schools are shut because of perennial shortages of potable water; in a nation where people still die from preventable diseases; in a nation where unemployment stands at a whopping 11%; in a nation where public debt stands at 60% of GDP and inflation rate at 11% and in a nation where children of school-going age are found on the streets selling dog chains in order to make ends meet, should we really be spending so much time attacking personalities rather than addressing the policies and programmes?

I know and understand that the game of politics is a “dirty game” and I will be the last person to want to make the case for politics devoid of attacks and counter-attacks. The American Pulitzer Prize-winner, Charles Krauthammer, once wrote that “Every two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country.” This and other events in world politics go to show that the use of virulent and scurrilous language in politics is not just a Ghanaian phenomenon but a global one. That notwithstanding, as Ghanaians who are known for our love of peace and a hospitable character, should we not really be learning from “best practice” rather than towing the line of a political culture that leaves nothing on our political landscapes but Badlands of political legacies not worthy of being bequeathed to generations unborn. Through politicians and their bad mannerisms, the core values of the Ghanaian society are being subjected to the most extreme forms of attrition.

I must confess that I have personally stopped listening to some programmes on Ghanaian radio stations and these are programmes I will hitherto do everything in my power to listen to no matter what the pressures of time maybe. This is simply because when one listens to a programme like “Alhaji and Alhaji” or “Front Page”, what I expect as a discerning listener is a serious debate on the pertinent issues that affect the Ghanaian people. What I expect is a dissection of issues and not personalities. What I expect is a panel that know their stuff and a moderator that has taken his time to research the issue at stake. I have heard that one fundamental principle in journalism is “do not ask the question if you don’t know the answer to the question”. But what one finds (most of the time) is journalists or presenters who have no clue of the issues they are supposed to be presenting and panellists who have no knowledge of the subject matter. I find the panellists quibble a lot thereby removing the substance of the issues they should be discussing and worse of all I find the discussions dominated by the attack on personalities.

I have seen Labour and Conservative MPs debate issues in Parliament in raised temperatures and tempos. I have seen David Cameron argue his case on an array of issues affecting the British people. I have seen Ed Milliband, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown arguing their cases succinctly on the floor of parliament. I have also seen Ed Milliband and David Milliband stand on the same dais competing for the leadership of Labour. What I did not hear or see during the Labour leadership is personal attacks that have characterised the Ghanaian political landscape. What I did not hear is the Millibands telling the world how big or small the other’s manhood is. What I did not hear or see is Tony Blair making reference to David Cameron’s late disabled son. What I did not see or hear is Theresa May calling Ed Milliband “a sexy-young fool”. What I certainly do not hear or read about is scathing and scurrilous attacks by people who parade themselves as academicians who seize every opportunity to flaunt their academic laurels by attacking people who hold opinions that stand contrary to theirs.

Those are the examples we need to follow. Those are the examples we need to emulate. We must be seen to be expunging the old bad habits that are permeating the penumbra and heart of Ghanaian politics. Albert Einstein wrote “All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.” And that is my word to all politicians of all political persuasions who see no sense in addressing issues but personalities.

We are sick and tired of reading about personalities when indeed we have a basketful of issues to address. We are sick and tired of hearing politicians talk as if they think through their anus. We are most definitely sick and tired of listening to politicians who fail to address the basic concerns of Ghanaians but choose to wallow in talks that bring nothing to the table.

The truth is that as long as Professor Mills addresses the fundamental needs and concerns of the average Ghanaian, what happens between him and Naadu Mills in the comfort of their bedroom is none of my business. That is what I call maturity in our political discourse!

God Bless Ghana

Adams-Sheriff Yakubu (NDC Zongo Caucus- UK)


Columnist: Yakubu, Adams-Sheriff