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Matters Arising

Mon, 4 May 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa


Ghana, it seems, is a democracy or at least working her way towards that goal. In which case free speech should be encouraged at all times. We can always agree to disagree on any subject at all and that should be okay too. But free speech does not in any way mean distortion of facts or indulgence in hypocrisy. I take issue with people who criticize others for one thing and then turn around to do the exact same thing. Nana Biakoye, the writer of the article “Koku:Kudos To You & Your Team”, is one such individual. I do not know who he/she is. I have not met nor seen the individual but I have read a number of his/her write-ups on Ghanaweb. In one of such pieces he/she castigated J.H. Mensah and the NPP for daring to say that the NPP would stay in power for 30 years or so. Right after that castigation, he/she went ahead to predict a similar fortune for the NDC. Is it that some people just don’t get it or maybe honesty has just bypassed some people? In his/her recent article he/she refers to the “unnecessary brouhaha over the roles of the Head of Communications ……” and states that it was a useless debate. He/she then tells us that he/she belongs to The Ghanaian Lens!! Who would have thought!! Nana Biakoye has all the right in the world to sing the praises of whomever he/she likes, but when he/she starts on a comparative analysis exercise, he/she better state the facts. Nana Biakoye is so impressed with the President because he (the president) sat alone and answered questions from the ‘select’ media. According to Nana the president did not get any help from anybody. He further contrasts that with Kufour’s and states that “Kufuor used to surround himself with his equally clueless ministers……” That’s all well and good, but the message to Nana Biakoye is this: deciding on the form and shape of a presidential press conference is the president’s prerogative. It is a matter of style and also the picture that particular president wants to ‘paint’ to the electorate. In Kufuor’s case, he wanted to portray his government as a team. He wanted Ghanaians to see them working together and complimenting one another. So he surrounds himself with his team and then gives them the opportunity to also interact with ordinary Ghanaians. President Atta Mills’ style is different, maybe. He sits alone and answers all questions himself. And the message he wants to convey?? Well, do we all remember his ‘there is only one president’ diatribe a while back? It is increasingly becoming more evident that Atta Mills would not pass on any opportunity to reassure himself, at every turn, that he is the president and he is in charge. You can’t blame the man for that.

To Nana Biakoye I will say this: Politics is a science and those who want to earn their living doing this should make sure of their training and knowledge before they venture publicly. It is not nice displaying one’s ignorance. Politics, I may add, is also an art. Political analysts need to understand both in order to gain any credibility.

And whiles on this issue let me comment on Koku Anyidoho’s arrogance and ignorance. He (Koku) is a public official. He is serving, on behalf of the president, the people of Ghana. He, together with the president and the rest of the team, are being paid with taxpayers’ money. The perks they enjoy are as a result of the sweat and blood of ordinary Ghanaians. If we are serious in building this democracy then we should get serious and put our public officials at their proper ‘stations’. We should not allow them to overstep their boundaries. To hear Koku on radio defending his decision not to invite certain media houses because they write ‘unpalatable’ stories about the president was just laughable and ridiculous. O yes I am very much aware of the sort of words he Koku used on Ato Kwabena Dadzie, so I am ready for whatever he may decide to spew forth. I can take anything from anybody but I would not sit idly by when some people decide to ‘bastardize’ our constitution and young democracy-apologies to Malik Kweku Baako.

The constitution makes provision for seeking redress at every level. One can always sue for defamation. If the Atta Mills presidency feels some journalists and their publishers are publishing untruths about the presidency, they can seek recourse at the courts. Nobody is above the law. The media is supposed to be the 4th estate and their role as ‘watchdogs’ is on behalf of the people. The people decide which media stay in operation and the ones that do not. If all they do is to publish falsehood, and through the court process Ghanaians come to know this for a fact, the people themselves would stop patronizing these media-houses and they would go out of business. As part of the media network these ‘rejected’ publishers deserve to be invited. It is their democratic right to be at the president’s press conference. No individual can take that away from them and I am so surprised that all these civil/governance institutions (like the CDD) have kept mute over this so far. Our constitutional lawyers should wake up and take this issue up. The President is there to carry out a mandate on our behalf. He is using our resources to achieve that. He is accountable to us or should be. He cannot discriminate against any media-house. He should invite everybody. Those who do show up show up. No matter their shade or colour, they do represent a section of Ghanaians. It that too much to expect from the law professor-turned- Asomdweehene, who promised to be the father of all? Would the law professor not obey the constitution or at least appear to be democratic???

The other issue in the news was the reaction to the President’s decision to appoint his brother to the Economic Advisory Council. I will start by stating for the records that I absolutely have no problem with a president appointing his/her brother to any position. Is it a crime to be the president’s brother?? I hear he is also qualified. So that should be all fine but there is a problem, and it is with the brother Dr. Cadman Atta Mills himself. I was all for him, then I hear him touting his own credentials. By the way I still have not heard any NDC member call that arrogant. If you ask me it is not arrogance but the NDC made us believe that anybody in the NPP singing his own praises was arrogant. I believe it would have been better if Dr. Atta Mills had not reacted the way he did. He talked about his wealth of experience. Well I don’t think he is telling us that he is the ONLY Ghanaian with such experience. And he is certainly not the only Ghanaian PhD to have worked for the World Bank. And again, he is not the only Ghanaian to have managed macro economic programmes in developing countries on behalf of the World Bank. There are so many other Ghanaians who could equally qualify for that appointment. So citing those ‘factors’ to support his appointment is neither here nor there. The appointment is the president’s right and prerogative. Out of all the qualified Ghanaians the president decided on him, his brother. That should be the end of the debate. The fact that he is his brother should not come in at all. Of course it becomes a problem if a president decides to fill all positions with only members of his family. But to criticize a president for appointing a brother is petty, if you ask me. After all, we are all related in one way or the other-by blood or through marriage. The NDC had a problem with Kufuor’s appointment. They criticized him for appointing those the NDC referred to as ‘cronies’. To the NDC Kufuor should have appointed his enemies and people he did not know. That was one silly argument!! If I were president, of course I would appoint my friends who I know and believe can do the work and help me accomplish my mandate. It is high time we moved away from such childish and unproductive arguments. Any government should draw a fine line and endeavour to achieve a balance. That is what we, as a people, should look for and demand. Going back to Dr. Cadman Atta Mills case, we should rather be concerned with his output and whether he would deliver or not. I have always said that Ghanaians are a bunch if hypocrites. Which of us in the president’s shoes would have done differently?? I wouldn’t!!

Written and submitted on May 2, 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw