Opinions Fri, 27 Aug 2010

Politicking with President Mills's health

If there is a Ghanaian politician whose health has assumed an uncomfortable centre stage in national political discourse, it would have to be the President.

From his

days as an opposition leader, through his campaign to the Castle days, the matter of

the President’s health in the mouths of friends and foes alike has simply not died


We might as well talk about it then. I will start ... speculating that is, given

that none of us has the benefit of the President’s medical records.

During the campaign, not only was he said to be dying, he was actually proclaimed

dead in South Africa. When his ghost won the election and assumed power, intra

ruling party bickering resurrected the matter of the President’s health. Of course

this would be picked up by Madam Ursula Owusu, a renowned gender activist and lawyer

who on national television will berate the ruling party for foisting on Ghanaians “a

man whose mind is not working”. A mind that is not working quite easily translates

in the books of many sane people into ‘madness’. And so it is that the matter of the

President’s mental sanity was called into question and put on the national

socio-political discourse, unfortunately I might add.

That has not ended it. The NDC’s Sekou Nkrumah in an interview granted to the Africa

Watch newsmagazine had this to say when asked about a so-called turf war within the

ruling National Democratic Congress.

“I was even worried the few times I went with candidate Mills on the campaign. In

those days when he climbed the podium, I was really worried because it looked like

he could not really see …” For obvious reasons, “Mills cannot see” would be given

front page treatment by the Daily Guide. So if the President’s friends, former

friends and foes are to be believed, we have for a President a blind ghost with a

dysfunctional mind! Not bad at all, wouldn’t you say?

Now I see you are getting a trifle uncomfortable. No need to, really. Let’s face it.

Isn’t this the level of our politics now; high on trivia and low on substance? So

let’s forget any illusions we might have nursed about migrating from third world to

first and focus on the onerous task of diagnosing President Mills. A few issues

however before that.

I actually do find it funny that people, including some who do not have the faintest

clue about their own health status will actually find the time and the energy to

speculate about another person’s health. Ever since you were thirteen, you have been

most active and in the process earned the kind of record that would be the envy of

many a courtesan. Your cervix has as a result enjoyed many brutal hits of the human

papilloma virus. It is thus ripe for cervical cancer in the next seven years except

that you don’t know it because you have never been screened before and yet you find

it in you to mock ‘Agya Atta.’

You are a male parliamentarian, upward of fifty and downward of seventy but a

doctor’s probing finger has never had the privilege of digging into your juicy

backside. You don’t know the size of your prostate or what ailments plague it but

unlike the President, you hallucinate you will live forever which is why when he

travels to South Africa, you poke and ask him to be man enough to confess what you

believe is the true intent of his trip; a medical check up. What you don’t know is

that healthy though you might be today, your death is nearer than you think. At

least you will surely die before the President because in the near future, you will

be knocked down by a car while out jogging one morning and blindness will not be the

cause of death.

You are a young man. Just 35 years. Unlike Korle Bu’s Prof Naaeder who is almost

twice your age, you are very unable to run briskly up the six floors of the surgical

block. You are overweight if not obese and your inner thighs rub uncomfortably when

you walk. Your frequent headaches do not respond to paracetamol but despite a strong

family history of hypertension, you have never had your blood pressure checked.

Like Ursula, you also mock the President for poor health although you yourself are a

high grade hypertensive with an enlarged heart and practically rotten kidneys.

Again, your high cholesterol levels (which you have never before checked in your

life) have ensured that your coronary arteries are almost blocked making you a prime

candidate for a massive heart attack by the time you hit 45. But you are convinced

you are in better shape than the President.

At least the President knows what ailments plague him and is probably getting the

best of medical care in addition to using gbecious font sizes in his written

speeches to see his how far.

Since this is the stuff of which speculation is made, let us for once focus on

Ursula and Sekou. Will it be right for me to conclude that Ursula’s eyes which could

otherwise have passed for beautifully bold and arresting were rather a sign of

thyrotoxicosis; a malady of her thyroid gland? Or that because Sekou’s bearing can

hardly be described as erect, conclude that he is a hunckback? The fact is that the

very people who are expected to retort with a sharp “and so what?” to the above

scenarios are sometimes among the very ones drawing some of the above conclusions.

So you see, Professor Mills’s health is hardly in issue here unless of course your

point is that they disqualify him from being President which argument would of

course be unconstitutional not to mention an affront to our differentially abled

country men and women. After all, are blind people not human beings?

The next time anyone starts any holier-than-thou rabble rousing on Mill’s health, I

will endeavor to investigate that person’s own health background. Where I fail to

secure access to the rabble rouser’s private and confidential health records, I will

not hesitate to speculate voraciously using the same yard stick originally relied

upon by them for their initial speculations.

Let people stop breaking our ears (apologies Kwesi Pratt) with this cheap

politicking while real development challenges remain

And besides Mr. President, kindly be ware that you are not going to attract my

sympathy should you allow yourself to be distracted by this unfortunate focus on

your health. You will not go scot free simply because your opponents were attacking

you. I am keen on the kind of bold and affirmatively disruptive leadership on the

oil front that would be a far departure from what has become accepted as the sad lot

of our people in the gold mining areas. This oil money must transform the oil city

and this oil country of ours. We shouldn’t sit here, let others profit while we

inhale the grime and grit they leave in their wake.

Furthermore, we are dying under mortgages pegged at a whopping 30% despite prime

rates hovering around 13% not to mention an unregulated real estate sector that has

virtually run riot with the wishes of their clients. Additionally, my own health has

recently suffered certain reverses during which I have discovered that a procedure

which we were taught in medical school to be a convenient substitute for open

surgery is still not available in Ghana! After all this while, South Africa and

Egypt remain the only viable options in Africa.

These are a fraction of my problems Sir, problems to which solutions are needed and

I will not have you walking around thinking you are a blind insane ghost because the

truth is that you are not. In the mean time, let people proactively deal with their

own health logs before speculating on the speck in the President’s eyes.

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi