Press Releases of Thursday, 22 November 2012
Dr. Mensa Otabil and the Against-Free-Education Case
The Press Conference by Dr. Mensa Otabil on November 12th, 2012 “to clarify … misrepresentations of [his] sermons and to … stop the running harassment against [his] integrity…” did not deal with the issue at stake.
The real issue is that Dr. Mensa Otabil waded into matters of education policy. Whether the trip into the policy arena was done from the pulpit, on a political platform or in the classroom; or whether it occurred ten years ago or indeed this year is immaterial. Whether Dr. Otabil spoke in favor of or against a political party makes no difference. His statements of fact fit squarely in the realm of policy issues.
Statements or comments on policy can be discussed, appropriated, analyzed, emphasized, amplified, disagreed with, agreed with, quoted for support or quoted to oppose. In that arena of policy, sooner or later, discussion becomes inevitable. A political analyst, a journalist, a student of the politics of religion, a scholar of theology, or indeed a political party is at liberty to reference such a statement.
We expect that such referencing is done with integrity, objectivity and in the spirit of the word, but once words have left the safety of one’s person and become located in the public domain one loses exclusive use of them. One may be quoted if such words gain relevant currency. That is why we quote, debate, amplify, albeit with varying degrees of intensity, not only political figures like Presidents Kwame Nkrumah, Kofi Abrefa Busia, Jerry John Rawlings, John Kufour, John Atta Mills but also religious figures like the Most Reverend Peter Kwasi Sarpong, the Most Reverend Father Charles Palmer-Buckle, and the Reverend Dr. kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, to name just a handful.
Dr. Otabil certainly owns his thoughts, words and beliefs but once these are expressed in the social institution called language and placed in the public domain, they can be quoted to support other positions and agendas. This is not necessarily “ … unethical, criminal, malicious, Machiavellian….”
Politicians and academics practice this art of referencing all the time, using parentheses and ellipses – what you refer to as “sampl[ing], splic[ing] and manipulat[ing]” – to advance their agendas and support their arguments. So the issue, it seems to me, is not that the sermons were preached years ago nor that they were gathered from different sermons but that views about policy were expressed. And indeed, a political party or any other entity need not present your position as having been uttered in the heat of today’s politicking for it to gain currency. So long as you have not publicly shifted from your previous policy stance, that stance can be quoted and rightly attributed to you. In fact, some may give your words prophetic status; … and it shall come to pass that….
I am puzzled by the position of the Christian Council of Ghana. They are indeed right about calling for a stop to the use of “intemperate and uncomplimentary language.” But they must also call for the truth in the matter? As it stands, we really do not know where the true representation lies.
If I may, I would like to will advise that ICGC make publicly available the original tapes of Dr. Otabil’s sermons on education. It could improve our understanding of what is at stake and put paid to this he-said-she said dance. There are many of us out there who believe in Dr. Otabil’s thoughtfulness and who take an intellectual interest in the matter. Please give us a chance for comprehension.
Christie Agawu (Ph.D.) [email protected] --024 615 2216--- Issued in Accra, Wednesday 21st November 2012.
Dr. Christie Agawu, is a member of the Princeton Research Forum, a group of independent research scholars. A leading community, education and social entrepreneur, Dr. Agawu is Founder and Executive Director of FUNDS LOCATOR AND COUNSELING CENTRE (FLOCC), Ghana, a charity organisation promoting community development in Ghana in the areas of education, health and the environment, and small-scale income enterprise. FLOCC is also an active player in Pre-Tertiary Educational Development efforts in Ghana.