By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Folks, it is interesting how language cuts in many ways to make or mar human communication—with results that may be pleasant or tormenting. As a language lover, I have always been keen on playing language games. It’s all based on SEMANTICS (meaning-making), which I enjoy.
Yesterday, the news media carried a report in which they quoted Mr. Isaac Osei (NPP MP for Subin and former Ambassador to the UK and Ireland and Chief Executive Officer of Ghana COCOBOD) as saying “Akufo-Addo must retire from politics”. He was reported to have said so in an interview with “Radio XYZ Breakfast Show” host, Moro Awudu, on Monday.
I took a critical look at the rationale behind that call: “Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is better off retiring from politics now to avoid sullying his statesmanship” and the highlights of Mr. Osei’s viewpoints that jumped at me:
• Akufo-Addo shot into the realm of statesmanship the moment he conceded after the election petition verdict was pronounced last year.
• “I think, at the moment, Nana Addo has transcended politics and has moved into the realm of statesmanship. He’s become a statesman. If I were to advise Nana Addo, I’ll say that let his legacy be that”.
• “Nana Addo has carved a certain niche for himself. He has moved a notch above politics to become a statesman with that singular statement that he made”.
• Nana Akufo-Addo's "... whole demeanour [and] comportment during the trial of the election petition case, and then his statement on the day when judgment was given put him on a certain pedestal”.
When I read the report, I quickly dismissed it as not worth my bother, apparently because I won’t be surprised if Akufo-Addo goes that way. He has seen his better days in Ghanaian politics, even if his ambition to become the President, “come what may”, hasn’t materialized. The future doesn’t look good for him either to make me think that he will be Ghana’s President.
But Mr. Osei’s alleged call took me in a different direction to wonder if he wasn’t making that call to clear the path for himself since he indicated in the same breath that he could himself contest the NPP’s flagbearership at the March congress. And Akufo-Addo is a barrier to the other aspirants therein. A portion of the statement did say, however, that Mr. Osei said he “is ready to support the former Attorney General if he decides to run for president again”.
At the back of my mind was the nagging question: Has Mr. Osei not made utterances that will send him to the NPP’s Sanhedrin (as is the norm for those making such high-stakes utterances)? And considering the fact that some of the party’s stalwarts have already declared their support for Akufo-Addo and vowed to use the last drop of adrenaline in them to defend that cause, won’t Mr. Osei be hounded from within?
Even before I could find answers to these questions, Mr. Osei has sprung to his feet to deny ever making that call. The truth has sunk in that the implications of the utterances attributed to him are dire, not only for his own political interests and reputation but also for the NPP itself.
So, his reason for rebutting the news report? His “comment about the political future of Akufo-Addo was “misconstrued to suit the house style of the media house which reported the issue.”
So, what exactly did Mr. Osei say?
Folks, it’s a language game here. Take a critical look at Mr. Osei’s own admission and juxtapose it with what was reported in the media to see things for yourselves.
I have done so and can see no difference. It is all a matter of SEMANTICS—differences in meaning making—which reinforces my claim that different people read different meanings into utterances based on their particular positions of situatedness. It is readers who make meaning, not writers or speakers. People see what they want to see, not what somebody wants them to see. Here is why:
The operational statement in Mr. Osei’s own admission is that Akufo-Addo has “become a statesman. If I was to advise Nana Addo, I’ll say that let his legacy be that”.
And the news medium’s version is: “Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is better off retiring from politics now to avoid sullying his statesmanship”.
True, there are some clear differences in the framing of thoughts in the two versions, especially the part in the news report saying that Akufo-Addo “is better off retiring from politics now” and “to avoid sullying his statesmanship”. In his rebuttal, Mr. Osei didn’t admit saying so categorically.
The original statement made by him curtly portrayed Akufo-Addo as reaching the ultimate—statesmanship—meaning that he “is wise and skilled and engaged in fixing the policies and conducting the affairs of a government” (dictionary definition). The news report rightly mentioned this aspect of statesmanship.
Unfortunately for Mr. Osei, the part that conveys the part on “retirement” from politics is contained in his own words, even if subtly framed: “If I was to advise Nana Addo, I’ll say that let his legacy be that”. This part came after the idea of Akufo-Addo’s achieving statesmanship had been stated.
I repeat Mr. Osei’s words: “Let his legacy be that”. No more movement forward in a political bid because there is nothing beyond statesmanship to accomplish. The mentioning of LEGACY forbids any further aspiration.
Now, folks, tell me: What is considered a LEGACY and how is it recognized vis-à-vis the one leaving it behind? Can there be a legacy if the one supposedly to leave it behind is still in control of it (in Akufo-Addo’s case, still vying for the flagbearer position to contest the Presidential elections)? What, then, will constitute the legacy that Mr. Osei is talking about?
Folks, it’s all a matter of diplomacy, especially now that Mr. Osei is seeing issues from a wider angle to know the dire implications. I don’t see anything drastically different from the meaning that can be inferred from what the news medium reported him as saying and what he is advancing as the grounds for claiming that his original utterances were misconstrued and forced into the agenda of the news medium.
As for his other reasons to mitigate the impact of the reported utterances, they can be brushed aside as “diplomatic niceties” after the fact.
True, every media house has its house style to guide its writers. Such editorial policies cover many areas and are aimed at streamlining how written communication emanating from there should be shaped. But in Mr. Osei’s case, it is clear that he is scared stiff about the implications of his utterances and shifting blame to save his skin from the NPP’s Sanhedrin.
I didn’t get the chance to listen to the interview, but I hope Radio XYZ will respond to Mr. Osei’s accusation for us to move on. When politicians get carried away only to turn round to blame the media for putting words in their mouths, they sicken me!
Is Mr. Osei running away from the consequences of his own utterances?
I shall return…
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