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So What If President John Atta Mills Were Legally Blind?

Sat, 28 May 2011 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

A sickening and vile piece that appeared on Ghanaweb.com on May 26, 2011, and attributed to Citifmonline.com, the topic under discussion purportedly originating from one Michael Teye Nyaunu, a staunch Nana Konadu Rawlings acolyte, reveals once again the shamelessness and vindictiveness of the Nana Konadu Rawlings camp, in its ongoing efforts to discredit Dr. John Atta Mills, the sitting president of the Republic of Ghana. To begin with, I am not a member of any of Ghana’s major political parties – one loses the capacity to offer evenhanded opinions, if one became aligned to a political party – so the reader should consider this piece as totally devoid of any parochialism: this writer is only interested in the truth, and what he believes constitutes common decency on the part of the nation’s politicians, irrespective of what offices they are seeking.

According to the aforementioned report, Michael Teye Nyaunu’s denigration of President Mills was captured on tape, most likely without Mr. Nyaunu's knowledge, a common modus operandi of alert and/or seasoned journalists. So what if President Mills were legally blind? (Mr. Nyaunu could not have been referring to complete blindness, since no one ever saw the sitting president walking around with a white cane.) Could legal blindness have prevented President Mills from carrying out his duties as the nation's leader? The answer is an emphatic "no!"

Long before the sitting president was offered to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) – and, by extension, the nation – as a viable candidate for president, most people had known about his eye troubles. Anyone in his sixties is likely to have some type of degeneration in vision, a common situation that comes with age. Does the reader know that human beings begin to decline, in a biological sense, from age 25, when the body starts to grow fewer cells than it loses? Besides, when did aging – and its attendant problems – become the problem of only one man, John Atta Mills? Does Michael Teye Nyaunu believe that he will remain young forever? Now, let us move on to the issue of governance, which the sitting president was chosen at the ballot box in 2008 by Ghanaians to undertake.

President Mills may lack a 20/20 vision, but he is able to get around without assistance. The bespectacled leader of the nation cannot read any documents brought to his attention? Wow, is this Michael Nyaunu's latest, but certainly despicable, ploy to win the NDC delegates' votes to perpetuate the Rawlings Dynasty? There is no code or law against the use of extemporaneous communication, something Mr. Nyaunu considers a weakness, and if the president is skilled at addressing the public via this method, then we are happy for him. Unless Mr. Nyaunu is too young to remember, Jerry Rawlings has, arguably, engaged in extemporaneous communication more than any other leader the nation has had since independence.

Most people, except those within the NDC, may care little about who is eventually chosen as the NDC party's candidate for Election 2012, but common decency demands that ad hominem attacks be jettisoned; instead, vigorous discussions about the issues should be at the forefront of any public office-seeking campaigns.

I was stunned by Mr. Nyaunu's remark that he knew his comments about President Mills were insensitive, and that the message was meant for party delegates only. How could such damaging comments be made to the NDC delegates only, when the man being assailed is the leader of the entire nation, and not just one political party? If, indeed, the sitting president were blind, do Ghanaians not have a right to know, except, in this case, the allegation is completely false?

Had Mr. Nyaunu made such comments in an advanced democracy, interest groups would have descended on him heavily, forcing him to retract such a callous statement and apologize to people with disabilities. Ridiculing disability in any form, whether or not the Ghanaian president has lost his eyesight, is unacceptable in any civilized society, and Mr. Nyaunu ought to apologize to disabled citizens of Ghana and the sitting president.

An informative Web site explains legal blindness this way: "In North America and Europe, legal blindness is defined as visual acuity (vision) of 20/200 (6/60) or less in the better eye with best correction possible. This means that a legally blind individual would have to stand 20 feet from an object to see it with the same degree of clarity as a normally sighted person could from 200 feet." So, once again, what if President Mills were legally blind? Does he not use eyeglasses, just like many other Ghanaians do, to read documents pertaining to the affairs of the nation?

During the dark and heady days of the two Jerry Rawlings-superintended revolutions, there was never any doubt that Paul Victor Obeng and Captain Kojo Tsikata were two of Mr. Rawlings' most trusted lieutenants, even though Mr. Tsikata was rarely seen in public. (Mr. Tsikata is mentioned here only as an example of the importance of any leader's inner circle.) Certainly, a leader would always have an inner circle – and that is a universal truth. Just because the Ahwoi brothers, most certainly Ghanaian intellectuals in their own right, are alleged to play a pivotal role in the Mills administration, ought not be a source of consternation for anyone. If the president believes that the Ahwoi brothers belong in his inner circle, then our nation's top civil servant has his justifications for doing so.

If Mr. Nyaunu and all the other pro-Konadu Rawlings agitators believe that Mrs. Rawlings is the best person to lead the NDC at this time, then they should disseminate their message without denigrating the sitting president and those persons with disabilities. Legal blindness, that is if the allegation were even true, does not prevent Dr. Atta Mills from performing his duties as president. Perhaps, Mr. Michael Teye Nyaunu would want to tell us the real reasons why the Rawlings Clan so desperately wants to oust the sitting president, instead of belittling the collective intelligence of Ghanaians with this outrageous accusation.

If because of an impairment Dr. Atta Mills was unable to perform his duties as president, I am certain that his deputy, John Mahama, would have been handed the reins of government by now. And to give Mr. Nyaunu the benefit of the doubt, I call on Ghana's Parliament to investigate the matter, although I am not sure that it is worth any lawmaker's time, except to satiate the ever-burgeoning grandiosity of the members of the Rawlings Clan, who, somehow, believe that the geographic entity called Ghana is their fiefdom, or inheritance.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. He holds a master's degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.