Mr President, can I share a view on your debate proposal?’

Mahama Nana New President John Dramani Mahama with Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 Source: Samuel Osarfo Boateng

I read ,to my surprise, that the President is calling for a debate between himself and the leader of the largest opposition party.In his view, a debate will enable him to straighten up what he describes as the misinformation, the opposition party is churning about.

Certainly, i do not think the purpose for calling for an opportunity to set some records straight is problematic.At the very least, the president cannot be denied an opportunity to engage anyone on any issue as and when he deems same fitting.

This notwithstanding, i am not very sure a debate will provide the President the best forum to clearly parry away claims , he may deem as misinformation. From where i stand, i truly do not think a debate will provide an enabling ambiance and atmosphere, where the president can clearly hem in the loose ends in the assertions of the opposition.

As far back as 1964, Marshall MacLuhan, told(Communication Students) that the medium is the message.Being a Communicator himself,perhaps,the president should have been guided by this evergreen but old age maxim.For the purposes of emphasis, i am very clear in my mind that a debate is not the best medium through which the president can seek a redress in this issue and i adduce the following reasons in support of my position:

First of all,debate, to me, has a character, demeanor and a disposition on its own. Essentially, many of the debates that i have seen, even those one in academic cycles, are usually confrontational. People have barely varied their positions, however strong an opponent is able to articulate his/her position or the plethora of authorities that are quoted to advance an argument.I have been compelled to accept the hard truth that debates never serve any meaningful purpose in fact articulations.You can refer to the first Presidential debate involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to test the veracity or otherwise of this view.The defensive and confrontational posturing of debaters, does not create a conducive atmosphere for points of view to be carried across.May be, it can serve other purposes, but i will belong to the school of thought who will invariably be skeptical about the potential of debates in shaping or altering positions in political communication.

Secondly,in debates, facts and opinions usually have blur lines.However factual a person may be, he/she cannot hold autonomy over same.In most of the debates that i have witnessed, i have seen people state opinions as though they were facts.

I am just imagining how the President can compel the leader of the opposition, in the heat of a debate, to accept that the country’s debt to GDP ratio, is not same as the figures the opposition party has put out.The point is that however factual the President thinks he is on certain issues, he cannot foists same on or compel the opposition leader or his supporters to accepts same.This is how the President’s record setting agenda for which he is proposing a debate will stand defeated. Whiles mulling over this piece, i was hunched into a funny scenario of what may probably happen if facts were truly deemed asuch in debates.

Will the leader of opposition organize a press conference to tell his party that after the debate he now knows the real state of Ghana’s economy and that he and his party apologies to Ghanaian for churning out misinformation?I am not sure any serious mind can contemplate this happening. If a debate will not alter positions of the real targets, then why organize same in the first place?This logical but rhetorical questions begs.

Again, will a presidential candidate with such a clout, accede to the President’s assertions in a debate without seeking to vary or question the authenticity of those claims?It will never happen that the leader of the position party, will be turned into a silent mode, on a basis that a President is supposed to be setting a record straight.At the very least, not only does he has an obligation to preserve his intellectual integrity more so, also he has it on his honour, to as a matter of principle, defend the position of his tradition and the party, which flag he bears.

I therefore find it difficult to contemplate any change in opinions if indeed, he is the target of the President’s message. Can anyone point to a debate which ever ended conclusively, with parties deciding to jilt their entrenched positions?

Having monitored, with keen interests, parliamentary debates in Ghana, i have taken a view that in political communication, debates, do not really serve any meaningful purpose.

Unlike parliamentarians, where debates are easily decided on at the drop of the speaker’s gavel, presidential candidates, don’t have the luxury of finality on the positions that take in a debate.Once they take a position on an issue, it only takes the gavel-thumb of voters to either affirm or infirm their positions.

I have tried as much as possible to avoid getting into some of the matters that have been a subject of debate.I have done this deliberately because, as much as possible, i want to spare my readers of my political biases. Beyond this,i do not think i have the competence to discuss, in detail,the content of the subjects that have been a subjects of controversies between the ruling party and the opposition.

Nonetheless the above, by my training in communication, i owe it a duty to myself and the few readers who frequent my blog to discuss context, even when i have no much or deeper knowledge in content.

It is in the light of the above observations that i am firm in my conviction that in seeking to press home a point of fact, the President has an avalanche of opportunities to do same without opting for a debate.Except the President has an ulterior or hidden motives beyond the ones that he has openly communicated as being reasons for his want of a debate, i truly do not think, he has chosen the right forum.

In my view, the campaign trail, should prove useful in any record straightening agenda.Perhaps, a Lecturer or a Press Conference, akin to ones which has become a common place with the opposition, may be useful..Debates, without any shred of doubt, will fail symbolically and substantially. If i were a press boy at the Presidency, i will advice against a debate, same will i do for the leader of the opposition, were i his press boy….

Samuel Osarfo Boateng



Columnist: Samuel Osarfo Boateng