By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, February 24, 2012
We may be tempted to heave a sigh of guarded relief at what we have just heard: that the NPP’s Kennedy Agyapong has apologized to President Mills for insulting him last Saturday. He aired the apology in an interview with Citi FM’s Umaru Sanda Amadu (Ghanaweb, February 24, 2012).
On its face value, this apology may be regarded as a show of maturity and Agyapong commended for demonstrating a sense of maturity. However, there are many aspects of his action that won’t portray his apology as genuine. First, he indicated that “he has been forced to swallow the bitter pill because of the incessant pressure mounting on him to do so,” citing calls from friends and a Pastor of the Pentecost Church as evidence.
If he were genuinely remorseful about his unguarded utterances against the President, why should he wait to be “forced” to apologize? Again, he indicated that his apology “is conditional in the fact that he was told that other high profile NDC persons would come out to apologise to NPP officials, especially the flagbearer Nana Akufo-Addo” and added, however, that “he is “monitoring closely and if they don’t do it, we’d still come. The same way they talk, we’d retaliate.”
In just one breath, Agyapong seeks to be apologizing while watering down the force of that very apology. Baffling as his move might be, it fits right into the kind of agenda that such politicians have set to give our politics a bad name.
But for the so-called pressure from such people, would Agyapong have apologized as he did? And why choose the airwaves to do so instead of a more refined manner if, indeed, his apology is to be seen as genuine?
As I have been saying all along, politicians of Agyapong’s type reflect the deep-seated problems that we have to surmount to be able to grow our democracy. No matter how we view his apology, it has some peculiarities that need further scrutiny. First, he made it on air, which reduces it to a spur-of-the-moment urge to come clean. Of course, considering the severity of the insult that he had hurled at President Mills at the Saturday NPP rally, and the negative reaction that it has aroused in certain circles, one would expect him to go beyond this spur-of-the-moment and half-hearted show of remorse.
One would expect him to be formal in rendering this apology, which means that he should have constructed it in writing to be given to President Mills in a face-to-face setting. Probably, a few exchanges between both might accentuate the genuineness of the apology. President Mills would definitely welcome such an interaction and seize the opportunity to say what might be on his mind as far as the politics of insults is concerned. But now that Agyapong has apologized on air, he has cut off any further interaction and trivialized an otherwise serious issue.
Even though Agyapong couldn’t render his apology in a face-to-face interaction with president Mills to heighten its rhetorical import, the opportunity to eschew the negative politics of insults shouldn’t be allowed to slip away. His apology, though, leaves behind many disturbing questions. With this apology, is Agyapong saying that he won’t insult any political opponent anymore as he seeks to court voter goodwill for his NPP? Or that he has found a better way to do politics than insulting political opponents? How about all others in the NPP who have stuck to insults as their modus operandi? Will Agyapong’s singular initiative be the restraining order that they need to recant?
Will Akufo-Addo himself also come out to apologize to President Mills for downgrading him as “Professor Do-Little” or as an incompetent, visionless President of Ghana? Or will he be bold enough to call his followers to order? Where will Nana Akomea’s threat against the integrity of President Mills and Vice president Mahama fit into this agenda of apologies?
Many functionaries of the NDC have also used insults and baseless allegations with very damaging intent to malign Akufo-Addo. Are they willing to apologize for their scathing verbal attacks and to reassure Ghanaians that they will no more depend on insults and character assassination as their main means to win Election 2012?
At a much larger level, will Agyapong’s apology be the trail blazer to halt these NDC activists who haven’t ceased casting damaging insinuations at Akufo-Addo and all others in the NPP, including former President Kufuor? Will it inspire President Mills to crack the whip on his appointees for them to stop insulting their political opponents?
Not until this apology by Agyapong registers a decisive impact across the political divide, it may not amount to anything beneficial. At most, it will only come across as an isolated case of remorse, which is good only in its own essence. It is limited and can’t help us refine our politics henceforth. Granted that such unguarded utterances are prompted by factors beyond the individual speaker’s control, we may want to cut such an errant person a slack. We may want to dismiss such preposterous utterances as part of the human frailties and foibles.
But if we monitor goings-on, we can conclude that those who make such utterances don’t do so on the spur-of-the-moment; nor do they not know that what they say at such moments is injurious to someone’s reputation, even if they feel overwhelmed by what is commonly known as “crowd fever” at that point in their delivery. A careful assessment of Kennedy Agyapong’s public utterances and posturings over the period—especially in the past few months—will lead us to conclude that whatever he has done or said so far has been done on purpose. It is a calculated attempt to do politics the way he thinks it should be done—through self-projection (in terms of his boas about the untold wealth that he has, to such an extent that he has even lost count of it and would rather prefer that anybody seeking information on his wealth should consult those in charge of his businesses; or that he has vowed to own a private jet before age 60) or as part of his political manouevres on the platform of the NPP, which he often turns into an opportunity to engage all manner of political opponents in a needless verbal tug-of-war.
He is known for spewing out utterances to hurt these political opponents. I remember his asking Mrs. Ama Benyiwa-Doe to refund the loan that she had taken from him at a time that she was publicly condemning him for his anti-NDC politics. That might be a disarming move. We won’t soon forget the encounter with the Sene MP, which led the latter to turn to the NPP’s flag-bearer to a challenge for a drug test a Korle Bu.
Then, his harsh words hurt President Mills’ reputation when he labelled him as Ghana’s “chief thief.” His apology follows this latest verbal attack. No matter how we assess this apology, one thing is clear—that it has come at a time that many Ghanaians are wary of the tension that is mounting in the country as a result of political intolerance and the mad rush by the politicians to undercut each other in the bid to catch the eyes of the electorate. If for nothing at all, it portrays the human side of Kennedy Agyapong and must serve as a rude awakening to all others who use insults as their main political tool. Those of us who write on topical national issues too have our lesson to learn, and must ensure that we don’t add to the problems that our politicians’ use of insults has created. In the same vein, we entreat all those who read what we write to be restrained in their responses so they don’t use their hearts instead of their heads in responding to our opinion pieces.
Kennedy Agyapong has taken the first step, even if worth considering as half-hearted. Who goes next?
Of course, this situation should challenge the bigwigs of both the NDC and NPP to demonstrate maturity in politics. It has given them the chance to rein in their followers. It is also an opportunity given them to reassure Ghanaians that they won’t any more countenance the negative politics of insults. But will they?
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