By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
August 4, 2011
Despite the clear threat that the NPP’s Presidential Candidate (Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo) has issued to take legal action against anybody insinuating that he is a drug addict; despite the re-issuance of that threat by his legal team; and despite vigorous attempts by some NPP functionaries to deny the persistent allegation against him, nothing positive seems to be forthcoming. The air is still choked with the allegation that Akufo-Addo is a drug (cocaine or marijuana) pusher, which dents his image.
Indeed, so pervasive is this insinuation that over the past few days, it seems to have dominated public discourse. A cursory glance on Ghanaweb.com yesterday, where a news item under the heading “Nana Akufo-Addo has never been arrested for narcotic drugs” was published, showed that by the close of the day, 260 comments had been passed on the matter by visitors. In that publication, Nana Bediatuo Asante, Counsel for Akufo-Addo, challenged those who claimed to have evidence that Akufo-Addo was a marijuana and/or cocaine user and dealer to either prosecute him or refrain from making such scurrilous allegations.
His utterances came upon the heels of an earlier emphatic warning he had given that he was gearing up to sue anybody who made such an allegation. Indeed, his latest utterances were less threatening of legal action to redeem his client’s image. Thus, many of the 260 comments suggested that he was backtracking, which wasn’t good in itself for his damage control efforts.
The snag is that while Nana Bediatuo Asante and the other damage controllers are busily defending Akufo-Addo, those who make the allegation have adamantly resisted such moves to cow them into silence. One of them is the editor of the Daily Post newspaper, Michael Dokosi, who had published stories alleging that Akufo-Addo is a drug addict and was arrested at the J.F.K International Airport for possession of drugs. In an interview on Asempa FM’s “Ekosii Sen” programme yesterday, he maintained that he has evidence to back his story.
At this point, the stage seems set for the continuation of exchanges concerning this damaging allegation against Akufo-Addo. Disorienting as this image-shattering allegation is, it is obvious that unless Akufo-Addo himself takes the bull by the horn, the matter will not fade away soon. And it will continue to dent his public image. A serious Presidential Candidate won’t sit down for his ambitions to be so torpedoed.
It is not as if those doing damage control for him aren’t putting up their best to whitewash him or to silence those making the allegation. It is not because their threat to go to court isn’t intimidating enough. It is because by its touchy nature, the matter itself raises larger issues and defies being put to rest without being exhaustively and conclusively tackled head-on by Akufo-Addo himself.
It doesn’t necessarily follow that assassinating his character is what will spell his doom at the elections; but it can cause some damage. Those who support him (especially in the NPP) will definitely vote for him while his opponents will not. The snag is that he will need more than the votes of only those in the NPP to defeat the incumbent.
Those non-NPP voters will base their electoral decisions on factors other than party loyalty. Such floating voters may be influenced by vicious campaigns of the sort being mounted against him. Such damaging campaigns shape and shave people’s perceptions. That’s why this allegation cannot be wished away. It will stick around for as long as people’s interest in it endures and for as long as Akufo-Addo runs away from it. The rumour machine in Ghana sometimes churns out some elements of truth.
I see four options available for Akufo-Addo and his handlers to take in addressing this problem:
i. Akufo-Addo’s personal choice to face up to the rumours and confront the issue by either owning up (if, indeed the allegation is true) or to emphatically refute it and prepare for the consequences. This is a less expensive approach to douse the fire. He has enough precedent to learn from—the US’ former President, Bill Clinton, and Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings made open admissions about their ever smoking marijuana (wee), which put the lid on all manner of calumny in that regard and didn’t thwart their political ambitions.
ii. Continued reliance on others in the NPP to do damage control for him, which will only worsen the situation because these people are mere spokesmen whose pronouncements often end up inflaming passions. Their vain threats and intimidation won’t scare anybody, anyway.
iii. The bold decision to go to court, which will be politically expensive because of the ramifications, especially if there is anybody out there who has concrete evidence to substantiate the allegation and can boldly step forward to make it available. Akufo-Addo needs a stoic spirit to contain the fallout. That’s why he must do a serious self-interrogation before taking this option to silence his detractors.
iv. An emphatic move to ignore the allegation and damn the consequences. Any posture of “I-don’t-carism” of this sort may be the least expensive but may have its own toll on his image.
In considering how to end the image-denting allegation, Akufo-Addo needs to know the extent to which character assassination has become a potent political tool in our fledgling democracy. Obnoxious though it may be, it serves the cause of those who know how to use it to bulldoze their way through the electoral landscape.
It must not be lost on him and all those stepping forward to vouch for his uprightness that this particular allegation of drug pushing emanated from their own camp and was only picked up by his opponents to do damage. Coupled with other negative perceptions of Akufo-Addo as arrogant and immoral (by his own unguarded profane utterances in public), some specific instances haven’t portrayed him positively.
Any attempt to solve Akufo-Addo’s credibility problem will not succeed if the issues feeding that problem are left out. One particular negative input that feeds that problem is Kofi Coomson’s unpalatable pronouncement in 2008 that he can’t sleep soundly in Ghana if Akufo-Addo becomes Ghana’s President. This statement is loaded and is part of the issues that connect with Akufo-Addo’s detractors. Why did Kofi Coomson say so? Can he come forward to explain that claim and alleviate fears?
I will be quick to add at this stage that what is circulating about Akufo-Addo can’t be dealt with successfully unless he takes it upon himself to come clean. Those suggesting that the onus should be on his detractors to provide proof are misleading him. On the contrary, he has to bite the bullet and bare his heart to the public. He can lay the matter to rest with one swift decisive move. Otherwise, he will continue to have credibility problems, which will go a long way to dent his image.
An assessment of the comments that people pass on this allegation of drug use suggests many negative things, which may stick around to influence their electoral decisions. People claim that they want a future President whose personal record they can be proud of. As of now, I don’t think that Akufo-Addo is “there” yet.
That’s why he has to tackle tactfully any allegation that has the potential to derail his ambitions again. For all he may care to know, next year’s election will be the last one that he can context on the ticket of the NPP. He will be too old to attempt another electoral battle thereafter. Not that I favour him,though.
I have said it several times that even though Ghanaians may find fault with President Mills’ leadership style, there is no guarantee that they will automatically go for an Akufo-Addo as a replacement. He has many questions to answer and must be bold to start with this one on drug pushing. As the saying goes, “the way is his front,” and he must act now to redeem himself from the clutches of calumny!