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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


naturally.


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