For people protected by a questionable Indemnity Clause deviously appended to Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution, it is quite amazing the pace at which any opposition political activist who makes remarks deemed to be unflattering to the Mills-Mahama government gets arrested by the police, on the apparent orders of key operatives of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). The latest victim of such deliberately targeted arrests is Mr. John Kumah, described as a no-nonsense youth-activist member of the Young Patriots, the youth wing of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
No specific reasons have so far been provided by any of the print news reports on the incident, except that Mr. Kumah’s arrest occurred while the latter was on-air contributing to a politically oriented program on the Accra-based radio station Hot-Fm (See “Police Pick Up NPP Youth Activist At Hot-Fm” 7/27/11). We, however, know quite well that in recent weeks Mr. Kumah has sternly cautioned members of the youth wing of the National Democratic Congress to desist from launching offensive and mendacious personal attacks at the Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, or be prepared to have the NPP youth wing return commensurate fire.
And on the latter score, we need to also promptly recall the NDC propaganda secretary, Mr. Richard Quashigah, vowing to unleash an even more vitriolic response. We must also appositely and commendably add that at the time of this writing (7/27/11), President Mills had, reportedly, called on the Accra police to release Mr. Kumah.
Still, what is rather disturbing here is the manner in which these clearly harassing arrests have been effected, such as having the police rudely pick up members of the opposition whose speech is deemed to be offensive and/or unflattering to key government operatives in the midst of on-air radio and other broadcast programs.
First of all, such arrests clearly violate the victims’/arrestees’ right to constitutionally protected freedom of speech. And here, perhaps, the police need to be reminded that even offensive speech is fully protected by Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution. On the other hand, if, as has been widely reported, Mr. Kumah was being faulted for having, allegedly, suggested that President John Evans Atta-Mills might be gay or bisexual, in which case the alleged accuser could legitimately be brought up on charges of character defamation, a libelous offence, then the very first line of approach ought to have been the issuance of a summons by the police to Mr. Kumah asking the latter to go to court and address the charge(s), failure of which could have resulted in punitive damages, largely in monetary form, being awarded to President Mills. The accuser, in addition, could also have been sternly cautioned by the judge and released. Then, also, the judge could have also ordered Mr. Kumah, or whoever may be guilty of such flagrant act of defamation to publicly render both a verbal and written unqualified apology to the party deemed to have been injured.
But, of course, in the case of Mr. Kumah whose admittedly unflattering remark was allegedly in response to one previously made by a member of the ruling National Democratic Congress against the character and sexual orientation of the Communications Director of the Akufo-Addo Campaign, Nana Akomea, the judge could legitimately use the provocative context as a mitigating circumstance to warn operatives of both major parties to desist from launching libelous attacks against members of each other’s camp.
At any rate, what we clearly see here is a calculated attempt by operatives of the ruling National Democratic Congress to preemptively muzzle its political opponents in a bid to strategically dominating the electioneering landscape in the lead-up to Election 2012. In a democratic political culture like Ghana’s Fourth Republic, this strategy is constitutionally untenable and bound to resoundingly fail. And the sooner the Mills-Mahama government recognize such flagrant anomaly, the better would Ghanaian democracy be served.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana (iUniverse.com, 2005).