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General News of Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Source: myjoyonline.com

Otabil saga: ‘Religious leaders are not God’- Kpessah Whyte

A political science lecturer at the University of Ghana says the head pastor of the International Central Gospel Church Pastor Mensa Otabil was not measured in his reaction to a controversial political campaign advertisement which had his voice ridiculing the free Senior High School policy by the opposition NPP.

According to Dr Kpessah Whyte, Pastor Otabil has the right to a rebuttal but his choice of words were unbecoming of a pastor.

“There is nothing wrong with rebutting the way he did. But he needs to understand the terrain and the environment within which he was doing this.

“...There was a tape that was being played. It happened to be his voice. Of course he has a right to express his views like he did. But doing it in the manner and associating the president with it and using words like Machiavellian, evil and those things. For a man of God I think that really was not measured at all,” Dr Kpessah Whyte told Joy News’ Evans Mensah.

He was commenting on the likely impact the ongoing row between the ruling NDC and religious leaders, Pastor Mensa Otabil in particular, could have on the December 2012 elections.

Another political science lecturer with the University of Ghana Dr Bossman Asare hinted there could be consequences for the ruling party given the way it handled the controversial issue with the ICGC head pastor.

He argued “many Ghanaians are very religious” and when a political party official says something bad about their religious leaders that party could be punished.

He was quick to add though that there is no empirical evidence that the ongoing row between the NDC and religious leaders will have any impact on the December election, except to advice that in an election which depends on popular vote, a political party must not be for or in confrontation with religious groups.

Whilst agreeing in part with his colleague, Dr Kpessah Whyte stated categorically that the row between the NDC and ICGC will have no impact on the December elections.

“I don’t believe that this issue is going to have any impact necessarily…”

He challenged persons who are alleging the president is aware of the Otabil tape to produce the evidence, saying “what is the evidence coming from those who are trying very hard to associate the president and his party with this particular tape?”

“I think the thing that matters to Ghanaians are things like housing, education, transport, health care and on the day people are going to look at which of the parties present a much more credible alternative as far as all these issues are concerned. That in my mind is what is going to inform their vote not because an individual has been flogged in the public domain.”

He agreed with Dr Asare that Ghanaians respect their pastors but added Ghanaians also expect their pastors to be consistent, measured and fair when commenting on political issues.

When asked if Otabil was measured in his response to the political campaign advert, Dr Kpessah Whyte was unequivocal in his criticisms of the ICGC head pastor, insisting Ghanaians "must not shy away from criticizing our religious leaders when they also go wrong. They are not God. They are only God’s representatives here. They are human; they are fallible so we should feel free to be able to hold their feet to fire just like how we hold the feet of our politicians to fire. Why is that we call for accountability in respect of the taxes that we pay but we hardly call for accountability for the collections we collect in church?” he questioned.

He said the church must not be seen to be higher than all other institution in the country.

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