At a journalism lecture in school many years back, I learnt that the pen is mightier than the sword and the microphone in the studio is more powerful than the atomic bomb. What it generally means is that, the media is extremely powerful and the abuse of it is equally dangerous.
Until recently the media were all about just print and electronic. Newspapers and magazines were the preserve of the elite and therefore had little influence on society. Electronic, i.e., Television, radio etc on the other hand, had and still do have massive influence on society, especially radio. Radio was about the cheapest electronic media of communication but the most effective.
Over the years technology has greatly improved, so improved so that social media has become the order of the day. Facebook, twitter, whatapp, instagram, viber, tango etc have enhanced communication and made life easier for serious communicators across the globe.
All kinds of people from all walks of life, for all kinds of reasons, resort to the use of social media to perpetuate one agenda or the other going forward. Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama is widely noted for his insatiable affection and love for social media. As a modern day President, young as he maybe, it is only normal that he resorts to the use of social media to communicate to the citizenry regarding how his government is governing this country of ours.
President Mahama is on Facebook, twitter, viber, tango, instagram etc. And this is duly appropriated as it enables him to reach out to the vast majority of Ghanaians, especially the social media crazy youth of Ghana.
And so it turned out that on Friday, 18th July, 2014, President, twittered, “As a people, we have had to make sacrifices. I wish to assure you that results of these sacrifices would begin to show very soon.”
Moments after the President’s tweet, the US Embassy in Accra replied: “And what sacrifices are you making? Don’t tell me that pay cut.”
Pandemonium broke out on social media. The battle of social media erupted as Ghanaians from all walks of life joined in the twitter banter between the President and the American Embassy in Ghana. Passionate professed patriotic Ghanaians condemned the American Embassy in Ghana for what they called “interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign country like Ghana”.
Prominently leading the battle on social media were Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Ms. Hanna Tetteh and the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Youth Authority, Ras Mubarak.
Their reactions were after the US Embassy had unequivocally apologized. Explaining that the reactionary tweet from the Embassy was an, “errant tweet.” Because someone had mixed a private Twitter handle with that of the embassy. To the objective minded ITC or social media wizard, it’s common to mix a private twitter handle. It’s no crime at all.
Whiles Ms Tetteh replied the American “errant tweet”, “The tweet was public & was associated with your twitter handle. It was not a private/personal account,” Ras Mubarak wrote on his Facebook wall, “What a load of twaddle. No remorse, just arrogance. U shd be apologizing to JM [John Mahama] & Ghanaians & sackin da officer.”
I have since monitored the trend from apolitical Ghanaians, who have diversely advanced their positions on the matter on social media, in the print media as well as electronic media. Radio and TV hosts have discussed, taken phone calls, read SMS, whatsapp and Facebook messages over and over again. And it all comes to one point. Divided opinions on whether the American Embassy was right in responding to the President’s Tweets, that’s if the US Embassy officially and knowingly responded as may be assumed. This am strongly skeptical about. The US Embassy knows too much about international relations to meddle in the internal politics of a nation.
Ms Hanna Tetteh and Ras Mubarak may not represent genuine Ghanaian views on the subject matter herein under discussion. They may not, because as politicians, and typical Ghanaian politicians for that matter, the two have political responsibilities of singing the praise of the President and making his government look good in the eyes of the people. The tweet by President Mahama, its response from the corridors of the US Embassy, and the subsequent spontaneous response and or responses by government propagandists, epitomized in Ms Hanna Tetteh and Ras Mubarak reminds me of American President, Barack Obama point’s from his book, “The Audacity Of Hope”, He writes, “today’s politician understands this. He may not lie, but he understands that there is no great reward in store for those who speak the truth, particularly when the truth may be complicated. The truth may cause consternation; the truth will be attacked; the media won’t have the patience to sort out all the facts and so the public may not know the difference between the truth and falsehood. What comes to matter then is positioning-the statement on an issue that will avoid controversy or generate needed publicity, the stance that will fit both the image his press folks have constructed for him and one of the narrative boxes the media has created for politics in general”.
And President Mahama’s tweet squarely fits the above. He is a smart politician who will smartly want to massage the harsh reality that his government is under intense pressure to deliver. He is the first to admit that the hellish situation of the Ghanaian today must be massaged and politically so, till heaven smiles on the nation before the polls in 2016. The President’s tweet intended to give some hope to Ghanaians. A clear admittance that his government needs to do more to resuscitate the increasing dwindling fortunes of the Ghanaian and therefore the reactions of the holier than thou Ghanaian, especially his political spin-doctors is tantamount to what I call, “hypocritical patriotism”.
Can we call a spade a spade for once? Didn’t the “errant tweet” by the America Embassy staff not speak for the millions of voiceless Ghanaians who are languishing under the scotching political decisions by the Mahama-led NDC government?
Sheer hypocritical patriotism in the highest order. If you ask me.
Folks, granting that the US Embassy responded to the tweet by the President, what’s the Embassy’s crime? Do happenings around us, as a people not support the “errant tweet” by the staff of the embassy? Is the nation not under intense scotch from the economic setbacks that have bedeviled the Nation since President Mahama ascended the Presidency? Are Ghanaians not languishing and gnashing their teeth as the nation is told to “hold on tight”, “bit the bullet”, “fasten the seat belt” etc? Vainly hoping that we don’t hope against hopes, in the hope that things get better? In fact, does the President’s tweet itself not support the “errant tweet” from the American Embassy?
The positions adduced by government propagandists are the problems that have saddled and will continue to saddle Ghana and not the “errant tweet “by an innocent twitter at the Embassy of the United States in Ghana.
We as a nation must accept that we are at the receiving end of the President Mahama administration and life is not getting any better anytime soon. It’s only at this point, that we will seem prepared and ready to work towards resuscitating the extremely sudden dwindled fortunes of our economy.
Since when did the US become an enemy to Ghana? Of what use will it be to the US to antagonize and meddle in the affairs of a “sovereign” country like Ghana? I guess as, a nation we need to reason up by calling it as it is. Are facts not sacred and comments must free?
Ghanaians must appreciate the American Embassy by respecting the “errant tweet” as a God-sent call. This is the only way, that as a nation, we will be demonstrating empirical commitment to seeking pragmatic avenues of helping to revive the depreciating economy of this country. After all America and Ghana s have generally been friends since Ghana's independence, except for a period of strained relations during the later years of the Nkrumah regime. Ghana was the first country to which United States Peace Corps volunteers were sent in 1961. Ghana and the United States are signatories to twenty agreements and treaties covering such matters as agricultural commodities, aviation, defense, economic and technical cooperation, education, extradition, postal matters, telecommunications, and treaty obligations. The refusal of the United States to join the International Cocoa Agreement, given Ghana's heavy dependence on cocoa exports to earn hard currency, is the most serious bilateral issue between the two countries.
According to the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, 83% of Ghanaians viewed the U.S. favorably in 2002, declining slightly down to 80% in 2007,according to the 2012 U.S. Global Leadership Report, 79% of Ghanaians approve of U.S. leadership, with 12% disapproving and 10% uncertain, and in a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 82% of Ghanaians view U.S. influence positively, the highest rating for any surveyed African country.
Based on the above catalogue, i dare ask, since when did America become an enemy to Ghana, in fact, they have been faithful allies since independence and that’s why the “errant tweet” must rather than being condemned without bases, be commended and appreciated.
Truth is that, Ghana continues to struggle because leadership has over the years refused to speak the truth and Napoleon Bonaparte couldn’t have put it any better when he summed up that, “The World Suffers a lot. Not because of the Violence of bad people. But because of the silence of good people”. Ghana continues to suffer because leadership has been economical with the truth over the years and the incessant attacks on the bitter pile of truth such as the “errant tweet” is a crystal case in point.
It’s sad how politicians have taken the citizenry for granted, lied their ways out, attacked the truth to keep themselves in power, not to serve, but to milk the ordinary tax-paying Ghanaian dry to the bone. Former President Jerry John Rawlings couldn’t have said it better either, when he described some politicians around late President Mill’s as “greedy bastards”. These “greedy bastards” are vampires who will take to any medium of communication to defend the failures of their governments to milk the nation at the expense of the ordinary Ghanaian. The “errant tweet”, for me, spoke the minds of the masses and the attacks on it are baseless and sheepish to say the least.
We must find in America, friends, not enemies!
Did the American Embassy’s “errant tweet “create the problems that have engulfed Ghana and made the ordinary Ghanaian suffer whiles the “greedy bastards”, the “political vampires” steal and rob the people to enrich themselves by the second, by the minute, by the hour and by the day?.
Where do we as a people blame the American Embassy “errant tweet” in relation to the GYEEDA rot, the SUBAH shame, the SAD Story of SADA, the free fall of the cedi against major currencies, the absurd hike in utilities, the removal of subsidies on fuel and subsequent astronomical increase in the prices of fuel, among killing political decisions to burden the helpless Ghanaian?. And do we blame the American Embassy “errant tweet” for the unprecedented number of strikes and demonstrations across the country?
Within three days, i drove from Kumasi to Tain in the Brong Aharfo Region and to the Bulsa District capital of Sandema in the upper East Region. The stories to be told are chillingly pathetic and agonizingly disgusting. Endemic poverty written all over the people. Sorrowful sites galore. I wondered and continue to wonder whether we have leaders in this country. So what did the President mean by his tweet which received appropriate “errant tweet” response from a staff of the American Embassy staff?
The politician of today sits in the comfort of his of office under chilly air conditioner, drive in a 4 wheel car, receives fat salaries plus unimaginable allowances and bonuses etc at the sheer expense of the common Ghanaian only to turn around to lambast a genuine “errant tweet”? How disgusting!
I weep for Ghana!
Are the numerous demonstrations, protestations and strikes not enough handwritings on the wall that, the President’s tweet was at best provocative? And that the “errant tweet” was appropriate?
Did the America Embassy “errant tweet” ask government to openly carry between 3 and 6 million American dollars to a bunch of greedy Ghanaian footballers and gluttonous GFA officials in Brazil at the expense of corporate Ghana?
Will a serious President who is making genuine sacrifices re-assign a Sports Minister to the flagstaff House after he made a mess of the corporate image of Ghana amidst questions of financial misappropriations on the backs of the just ended FIFA World Cup in Brazil?
And what did I hear? That some Ghanaians intended to strike against the American Embassy in Ghana? I bet that would have been an exercise in futility and a waste of everyone’s time. I bet again that no serious Ghanaian would “waste” his time in this dying economy to hit the streets in the name of demonstrating against a truthful “errant tweet’ by a staff of the American Embassy here in Ghana.
Did I also hear some group or individuals call for the sacking of the “errant twitter” from the Embassy? That would be unfortunate and a stab in the foot of the Embassy itself.
Until, as a nation we are ready to embrace the truth, accept the facts as they are, politicians will continue to take us for a ride and the nation will be the worse losers from the shylock machinations of wicked politicians.
We must rather than chastise the “errant twitter”, encourage him/her, ask for more of such tweets and Ghana will be for the better.
I dare say, Ghana deserved and duly received an apology from the US Embassy but the fact still remains that the “errant twitter” spoke the minds of Ghanaians and I hail the twitter for being the voice of the voiceless Ghanaian.
I rest my case.
Folks, thinking unconventionally.
Listowell Yesu Bukarson.
The Writer is a Freelance Sports/Political Journalist.
Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalist Association
President of Awaambe Sports Academy
CEO of Authentic Sports (Sports Consortium)