President John Evans Atta Mills has apologised for his failure to recognize former President John Agyekum Kufuor and Chief Justice Georgina Woode when he acknowledged the presence of dignitaries in Parliament when he delivered his third State of the Nation Address to Parliament on Thursday February 17.
At the beginning of his address, the President acknowledged the presence of Speaker of Parliament Joyce Bamford Addo and Vice President John Mahama, but forgot to mention the CJ, who was seated on the President’s right on the dais, and the former president who was seated among the dignitaries in the front rows of the seats reserved for visiting dignitaries.
Interacting with the media right after delivering his Address, President Mills acknowledged his mistake but said it was not an intentional slight, instead an oversight arising from his commitment to observe Parliamentary protocol.
“There is a certain protocol about State of the Nation Address. When you go to Parliament, the person you address is the Speaker. And this has been done over the years. Today, I just wanted to veer off a little and therefore I acknowledged those who were around including the Speaker, Honorable members and distinguished ladies and gentlemen. In fact, I forgot to mention the Chief Justice. It wasn’t intentional at all. I am told that President Kufuor was also there and I missed him. The Diplomatic Corps were there, Honourable Ministers were there, Justices of the Supreme Court were all there but it was not that I wanted to slight anybody but that was the protocol so if I left anybody out it was not intentional. It was just because I wanted to make a point and I did. So I want to apologize to all of them. But next time I have to follow protocol to address only the Speaker when I go to Parliament,” he explained.
Asked how he felt about the refusal of the Minority Leader to escort him out of Parliament as protocol demands, President Mills said “Well, it is his choice. But I believe that we have certain protocols in this country and there are certain things that you need to do irrespective of your position. I think that we must all stick to the rules”.
In response to the Minority Leader’s claim that his address was a political message rather than an address in the national interest, Professor Mills said “That is his own judgment. I think that the people of Ghana will decide what kind of message it is.
“There was a message that I wanted to send to the people of Ghana that there is hope for the future and I think I succeeded in doing that. I also drew attention to what we have been able to do so far and what is in store for Ghanaians, and I believe that I was able to get the message across”.
“I was not surprised about the heckling because I am used to it and therefore it did not throw me off in anyway” the President said.
Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has described the President’s address to the nation as the most partisan and divisive address ever in the history of Ghana.
The Minority Leader refused to escort the president out of the House, as has been the custom.