Arguably, perhaps, the most remarkable aspect of President John Evans Atta-Mills’s third State-of-the-Nation Address was his flat and abject refusal to salutatorily acknowledge the presence and personalities of former President John Agyekum-Kufuor and Chief Justice Georgina Wood in Ghana’s National Assembly (See “Drag Kyei-Mensah Before Privileges Committee of Parliament – Ablakwa” Peacefmonline.com 2/17/11).
Predictably, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, the Deputy Information Minister’s glib excuse for the President’s unpardonable breach of protocol was to flippantly riposte that “no speech maker in the world gets everything right” (See “Okudzeto Ablakwa: Reason Why President Mills Failed To Recognize Kufuor And Chief Justice” Peacefmonline.com 2/17/11).
That may very well be the case. The fact of the matter, though, is that this was no ordinary speech – it was a State-of-the-Nation Address, the kind of epic speech that very few people of any generation get to make. And even more significantly, this speech, an annual occurrence in most of the so-called civilized world, is an opportunity for a leader to present a well-calibrated portrait of his/her country to both the electorate and the international community at large. And what is more, President Mills is no ordinary speech-maker; he is a former distinguished professor of law who was educated at such elite institutions as Achimota, Legon and London. In other words, this is a highly educated man and a lawyer who ought to know and cherish the social value of respect for other equally distinguished human beings, even public and political figures who may be considered to be his inveterate ideological opponents!
In brief, it constitutes nothing short of the very height of arrogance for Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa to pretend that there is absolutely no well-established pattern subtending the President’s tendency, all-too-routine, to be certain, to publicly disrespect his most ardent and formidable political opponents.
For starters, Ghanaians not quite awhile ago witnessed the true colors of the so-called father of their nation, shortly after the 2008 presidential run-off, when at a durbar hosted by the Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panyin II, in celebration of the annual Odwira festival, the then newly-elected President Mills flatly refused to acknowledge his arch-rival and defeated presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The fact that shortly after his electoral defeat Nana Akufo-Addo had publicly and graciously observed his long-standing collegiality and friendship with President Mills, going back to their Legon days, clearly appeared not to have mattered to our self-proclaimed “Prince-of-Peace” and “Father-of-All-Ghanaians.”
And even as many Ghanaians may also readily recall, President Mills never issued any apology. Needless to say, what made the situation even more painfully embarrassing was the fact that Kyebi, where the Okyenhene sat in state to receive congratulatory messages and homage from his people and well-wishers, is also the hometown of Nana Akufo-Addo! It was almost as if a nose-thumbing President Mills was out to prove beyond every shadow of a doubt that as the country’s newly-elected commander-in-chief, he could travel wherever he chose without any regard for both the presence and humanity of his political opponents.
Secondly, you also have a so-called Head of Communications at the Presidency, an uncomely butterball by the name of Koku Anyidoho, who has categorically stated several times in the past that his pet aversion is the visage or facial portrait of former President Kufuor! We must also bear in mind that in terms of protocol, Mr. Anyidoho had quite a lot to do with both the crafting and delivery of the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address. And this, definitely, is also why Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa, the Deputy Information Minister, cannot be taken seriously when he glibly chalks the President’s salutatory omission of Mr. Kufuor and Mrs. Wood to human error or genuine procedural mistake.
At any rate, accepting the foregoing excuse becomes extremely difficult, particularly when one reckons the fact that not quite awhile ago, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, National Chairman of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), flagrantly questioned both the credibility of the Judiciary, as an institution, and even more significantly, the professional credibility of Chief Justice Georgina Wood, with Dr. Adjei’s infamous tirade of: “There are many ways of killing a cat.”
Needless to say, the thrust of the NDC chairman’s tirade, a veritable public threat, to be certain, was the imperative necessity for the Judiciary and the Chief Justice to toe the party line or find themselves functionally proscribed, with key NDC operatives literally bending the rule of law to suit their whims and caprices. We firmly believe that this is the latest signal to Justice Georgina Wood and the man who appointed the latter to hang up her gavel and make way for a Dzelukope-Sogakope Mafioso. And this, ironically, is also a deliberately and deviously low-keyed act of siege that makes Nana Akufo-Addo’s credo of “All-Die-Be-Die” even more relevant. In other words, it would be a grievous mistake for President Mills to so recklessly attempt to push out Justice Wood, and equally too dangerous for the Chief Justice to kowtow to such political gimmickry!
Anyway, some Ghanaians who sincerely believe themselves to be well-meaning and even patriotic may not want to hear this but, in fact, there is both a method and historical precedent to President Mills’ consistent and systematically calculated attempts at “diplomatically” marginalizing his political opponents. One only needs to peruse President Nkrumah’s Declaration of Independence Speech to logically arrive at the prejudicial conclusion that Messrs. J. B. Danquah, George Alfred (Paa) Grant, Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ofori-Atta and Ako-Adjei, among a host of others, of course, had little or almost zilch to do with Ghana’s liberation struggle.
In fact, one would even be tempted to conclude that these pioneers actually worked, counter-clockwise, towards the continuous and protracted colonization of their compatriots! Ironically, the man who has been, admittedly, aptly immortalized by the following words, “The independence of Ghana is meaningless, unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent,” could not even bring himself to honestly and graciously acknowledge those upon whose backs and shoulders he climbed to prominence and stardom on March 6, 1957. And, needless to say, President John Evans Atta-Mills is an Nkrumaist devotee of the first rank.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
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 “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com, 2011).