Opinions Mon, 14 Nov 2011

Petulant Ablakwa reels from dim-witted omments

He was at it again, the abrasive and petulant Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Deputy Minister for Information, blurting out dim-witted responses to perceived provocations. Yes, I know his style; Ablakwa does not shy away from fights. In fact, he thrives on verbal "fisticuffs" and his public spars with political opponents are well documented. Those who've had the misfortune of jostling with him attest to his pugnacity, gruffness and an inflexibility that defies reasoning. Dare cross his path, they say, and you unwittingly set him off on a froth-drenched verbal rampage.

So, it came as a stunner when the insufferable Ablakwa did an about-turn last week and apologized for remarks that angered some folks up north. Threatened with physical violence, Ablakwa retreated into his shell; appearing on a local radio show, the chastened Ablakwa issued a mea culpa.

Ablakwa's latest confrontation pitted him against the Youth of Dagbon, a peripheral group in the endless chieftaincy saga in the north. Purporting to represent the Andanis, the group fired a salvo at the NDC to register its disgust and impatience at the snail-paced investigations of the late Ya-Na's murder and threatened to withhold its votes in 2012. The group claimed that given the razor-thin margin of its victory in 2008....the NDC won by 50,000 votes....the NDC owes its political fortunes to the Andanis who turned out overwhelmingly at the polls for the party.

The deputy Minister was the first off the blocks to respond; he brushed off the threat, dismissing it as blackmail. "I don't think that voting for anybody should be used as blackmail for which people can think that they can do anything and threaten you with their votes." A poor choice of words, no doubt, and invariably bound to spark outrage and anger. Not unexpected, the Youth of Dagbon upped the ante by threatening this time to "roast" Ablakwa whenever he stepped foot in the northern region. It then went on to demand an unqualified apology from Ablakwa.

Could we have been spared this embarrassing spectacle, one that only serves to sour relations between the NDC and the Andanis on one hand, and on the other, depicts the Andanis however, erroneously, as a bunch of violence-loving humanoids? Yes, but only if the gaffe prone deputy minister had couched his words in a soothing and sensitive way while reassuring the Andanis that the government is hot on the tracks of the killers. Similarly, the Youth of Dagbon should have skipped the hot rhetoric and done the prudent thing... prodding the government discreetly...behind the scenes.

There are significant lessons to be drawn from Ablakwa's latest faux pas and the Youth of Dagbon's aggressive laced response; political discourse has to be civil and conducted in a manner that productive and respects the dignity of all participants. Ablakwa has to be reined in. He has gone overboard on several occasions with his simplistic assertions that have angered foes and allies alike.

Need I say that he is fast becoming a liability and a drag on the NDC, and the party's electoral fortunes next year will hinge largely on how committed it is to humbling Ablakwa and his ilk. The Andanis are an aggrieved bunch and needs the nation's empathy and understanding.

Threatening a state official with physical violence, albeit an empty one, is counterproductive and defeatist, and the Youth of Dagbon ought to know that. Where are the elders? To be heard in the corridors of power requires tact, patience and unrelenting determination, traits the group should incorporate into its DNA if it is to realize its goals.

Moses Kofi Yahaya

Columnist: Yahaya, Moses Kofi