Manasseh's folder: A presidential rant without substance

Akufo Addo09 President Akufo-Addo

Fri, 6 Apr 2018 Source: Manasseh Azure Awuni

Dear President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,

On Sunday April 1, 2018, I called your Minister of Information, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, to congratulate and encourage him.

The reason?

The previous day, I had spoken to a colleague journalist (Isaac Asare of GBC in Bolgatanga) and he told me the Information Minister had come to engage them (journalists in the region) in a long meeting on the Ghana-US Military Cooperation Agreement. He said the purpose of the meeting was to explain some misconceptions and help them understand the agreement better in order to aid their reportage. He and his colleagues were happy about the encounter. The minister respected them and engaged them.

I told Mustapha Hamid that was the way to go. I was happy that we were departing from the practice of government branding every voice of dissent as a political opponent. I told him that there were people who had genuine concerns about the agreement and needed further explanations and assurances that it wasn’t going to hurt the nation. I encouraged him to keep it up, and he said he had intentions of engaging journalists in the other regions to explain government’s position on the matter.

Mr. President, when I heard you wanted to speak on the matter, I was glad. I do not miss your speeches. I love them. Creative writing. Solid content. And, impeccable delivery are the hallmarks of your speeches. Last night, my interest in your address heightened because you were about to address an important national issue that has been raging for weeks.

When the national anthem played, I sat back to, as usual, savour a well-prepared dish of literary meal with substance. When you signed off, however, I felt, for the first time, that I had wasted my time listening to you. With all due respect, you wasted my ears and precious airtime!

Your speech lacked substance. It was empty. This was my initial reaction, which I posted on Facebook immediately you ended your address.

Mr. President, your address was more of an attack on your political opponents than an attempt to convince the very citizens you have charged not to be spectators in the affairs of the republic. You seemed to have lumped together everybody with dissenting views and tarred them with a harsh and brutish political brush of words. You said you were outraged, but your tone was more of an arrogance of power than anger. You have no moral right to be angry when the people whose power you exercise question the propriety of your action.

Anytime you’re tempted to forget to whom the power belongs, remember that in 2016, you could not stop rowdy party opponents from pelting your house with stones, but today you have the power to change the name of the most important edifice in Ghana. Remember that in 2016, your political opponent had the power to release the Montie 3 from jail after they had been sentenced by the Supreme Court for contempt, but in 2018, he could not succeed in negotiating a bail for his party’s deputy general secretary. The power you have belongs to the people.

The politicization of policies and serious national issues is sickening. And I know some members of the NDC have been hypocritical on this matter. Last week, when President Mahama said he supported the protest against the agreement, I asked on Facebook whether he was against the 2018 agreement or the 2015 one, which he signed without taking it to parliament.

But, Nana Akufo-Addo, you have lost your moral right to call your political opponents hypocrites because that’s your stock in trade, you the NPP and the NDC. You and your party, in 2016, condemned the Mahama administration for accepting two former Guantanamo Bay detainees to settle in Ghana for two years. You said Mahama had sold our sovereignty to the Americans for personal gain. You asked Ghanaians to vote him out.

When we voted Mahama and the NDC out and brought you in, the two years expired. But you failed to send away the two men your party had described as “terrorists”. The NDC and the US Embassy in 2016 said the people did not pose a security threat to Ghana, but you and your party disagreed. Today, you are saying they don’t pose a threat. If this is not hypocrisy, what is it?

You accused the Mahama regime of stealing money through the Ameri deal. Bright Simons of IMANI Ghana and others have given enough reason for the review of the “bloated” contract. You’re in your second year and all we remember is that Ameri sponsored the trip of the committee that was supposed to probe it. If this is not hypocrisy, what is it?

You and your party said Mahama’s Karpower deal was wrong. You questioned why an “emergency” power barge should last for ten years. Your government has just extended it to 20 years. If this is not hypocrisy, then tell me what it is?

So you have no moral right to be angry or call people hypocrites, even if all your audience were your political opponents. The history of the Mahama administration just had an interesting way of repeating itself. Call it karma!

Mr. President, our elders have taught us that the man who farms by the main village path must not refuse greetings. If you did not like national greetings of the kind you receive, you should have stayed in your blossoming law firm. Once you put yourself up to lead the nation and we gave you the mandate, you must listen to us and speak like the father of the nation, not the leader of a political party.

Last night, you lost an opportunity to allay our fears because you decided to rant at your political opponents. You started your address by seeking to establish how transparent you have been as against the opaqueness your predecessors were in the signing of similar deals in the past. You made a point that this was not new by saying you came to meet some agreements. You are responsible for your actions. If we liked what your predecessor did, we would not have voted him out of office. So when you’re accused of wrongdoing, leave your opponent out.

As if in an attempt to remind your political opponents that nobody wields monopoly over strong language, you described them as “hypocrites”. You sunk even lower to describe your critics as promoting anti-American sentiments. You said:

“And how else would we have exposed the unspeakable hypocrisy of the fraternity of some frontline politicians, who make a habit of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, who secretly wallow in the largesse of the United States of America, whilst, at the same time, promote anti-American sentiments to a populist constituency?”

Mr. President, kindly give this script to one of the wise people you respect and ask them to give you an honest feedback. If they are honest, they will tell you this is your worst speech ever as President of Ghana and one of the worst presidential speeches in living memory.

Not everyone who has questioned this agreement is anti-American. America with its mighty military has given the rest of the world the opportunity to be skeptical of their “friendship”. America is the greatest nation in the world. It is the role model for democracy, good governance and some of the best development models the world has seen. America’s foreign policy, however, is not one that has a lot of question.

From Vietnam War to the war in Iraq, there have been Americans who have held protests and condemned some decisions and foreign policies of America. The American government did that in the interest of America but some Americans were against it. Were they promoting anti-American sentiments?

You sat at the UN General Assembly when Donald Trump told you that his policy was “America first.” He went on to tell you and other leaders to also focus on your countries first.

It is not your business to fight for America. Your business is to fight for Ghana. And the fact that some people have benefited from America does not mean they shouldn’t criticize that country. If I voted for your government and have benefited from your government, do I lose the right to oppose some of your policies?

Those of us in Africa have a very good reason to be skeptical of the intentions of America and the West in general. Slavery and colonization did not start with guns. They came as friends, signed treaties and the horrors that followed are well-documented.

Another reason some people are angry about the deal is the fact that we cannot trust our leaders to act in our best interest all the time. African leaders and politicians have never missed an opportunity to shortchange their people in exchange for protection of foreign powers. So that lack of trust also informs the opposition.

Because your speech focused so much on your political opponents, you made some incoherent submissions. In one breadth, you said the military agreement was not secret but you were angry the document had been “leaked” to the media. How could an open document be leaked?

You also compared the agreement to peacekeeping missions, diplomatic arrangements and our agreements with multinational financial agencies. This was poor because there is a world of difference between what this agreement entails and what the existing protocols entail. The American soldiers are not coming for a peacekeeping mission in Ghana.

When this story broke, your ministers told Ghanaians that America was going to support the nation with $20 million in return for the agreement. That explanation is the biggest insult to your integrity because it came at the time you were making waves around the world with your tough-talking mantra – Ghana beyond aid. Some of us know how much politicians steal so $20million is peanuts.

There is no money mentioned in the agreement. And there is evidence that the Americans are also trained here. Last night you shifted the discussion from benefit to Ghana to the security of the sub-region.

Mr. President, a military cooperation is good. But some well-meaning people have concerns about some aspects of the agreement. They are worried that if an American soldier comes to Ghana and shoots a minister of state, the agreement says he cannot be tried under our laws.

You seem to trust that they have not breached the agreement in the past and so they won’t do it. But some people who remember how the French forces in Cote d'Ivoire helped to oust Laurent Gbagbo, have concerns over the presence of foreign military on our soil. They have had enough reason to doubt the genuineness of the West and they are asking if the United States would have agreed to these same terms on their soil. Americans would have said same if their government had entered into this agreement to accommodate Ghanaian soldiers.

Your duty as the President and Commander in Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces is to convince us that you are acting in our interest. You don’t need to throw jabs at your political opponents and speak like a pro-American propagandist attacking people with anti-American sentiments.

People like Bright Simons have given the best responses to those who raised dissenting views. Your Defence Minister was even more convincing than what you did last night. I became convinced that the deal was not as bad as it appeared after reading extensively from him. That’s what you and your government should have done. No amount of harsh language can change your detractors.

And any time you’re tempted to compare and contrast what you and your predecessor have done on a particular issue, remember that some of us hold the NDC and NPP to different standards.

Respectfully yours,

Manasseh Azure Awuni

(A citizen, not a spectator)

Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni
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