Feature Article of Sunday, 2 December 2012
Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea
Part VII By Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.
Who told the NPP supporters that "Oxford University has stated in a letter received by GhanaWeb that the NPP flag-bearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, was not expelled from the institution after he enrolled in the 1962/63 academic year.”? It is one thing stating that you do not have records on one “Akofo-Addo”, and quite another thing saying that you have records on Mr William Addo Dankwa AKUFO-ADDO! FOI requests require a lot of intelligence and reading between the lines! What we know from the correspondence is that Akufo-Addo was a student at Oxford University in the 1962/63 academic year. Beyond that, there is no further information apart from a useless one that clears another name other than Akufo-Addo. The “Akofo-Addo” that they searched for most probably does not exist even in the first place. In fact, the easiest thing to clear is an invented name! How can you find records on someone who does not exist in the first place?
I have read very carefully the correspondence between Mr. Kofi Ata and the Registrar of Oxford University, Professor Ewan McKendrick. And I am not satisfied with the answers. It is problematic because it cannot be even used to argue that Nana Akufo-Addo "was never sacked from the school"! It does not even tell us whether or not they have any records on "Akufo-Addo". It only tells us they have no records on a Mr. "Akofo-Addo"! Is that the name of your flag-bearer? Why are you stealing a different name to clear someone else? I am raising this matter again because there are still more questions than answers. It is also due to the importance I attach to the office of the Presidency of the Republic of Ghana. I do not consider this as a waste of time at all because we need to know the truth. So far we do not know!
Contrary to the hasty conclusions being drawn from the letter form Oxford University, I can tell you without any doubt in my mind, that Oxford did not come out to clear Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo! What the correspondence between Mr. Kofi Ata and Oxford University tells me is that, when they did a search with his real name in the first letter dated 27 January 2012, this is what they reported, or here is the first response from the university. Take a careful look at the name in the body of the letter and the subject of the search:
“The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides an exemption for the personal data of third parties (i.e. a person other than the requester), where disclosure would breach any of the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. The only circumstance in which we disclose the personal data of a former student is when we have already published it in a University publication, such as the University Calendar, (because it is then unlikely that disclosure under FOIA would breach any of the data protection principles). We have searched our records and the only published information that falls within the scope of your request is that Mr William Addo Dankwa AKUFO-ADDO was a member of the University (and of New College) during the 1962/63 academic year. ” Click here to read reply from Oxford dated 27 January 2012.
Now, compare the subject of the search declared in the body of the letter, whether or not due diligence has taken place: “Was Mr Akufo-Addo expelled from the University and if so, for what reason? – (c) above
Where third party personal data has been requested and we do not hold the data, I do not consider it to be a breach of data protection principles to reveal that fact. We have searched our archives and found no record to indicate that Mr Akofo-Addo was expelled by the University. We have now complied fully with this part of your request. ” Click here to read reply from Oxford dated 27 February 2012.
Now take a careful look at the game of names being played here. Unlike the first letter that clearly tells us they know what they are searching for, over here, we are being factually told that Oxford University has no information on “Mr Akofo-Addo”. The obvious question that this kind of answer automatically triggers is, are we talking about the same person? Of course, even in Ghana, there are no records I know of, of any of our over 20 million citizens bearing the name “Akofo-Addo”, so you would obviously not find any records about such a person in our archives! But that does not mean the “Akufo-Addos” do not exist! It must be noted that the university refused to provide any information apart from admitting that Nana Akufo-Addo was a student in 1963/63. Mr. Kofi Ata had to appeal before he got the non-responsive answer:
“My original request was motivated by a news report I read from the MultiTv website (a copy of which I attached for your information). My objectives were to confirm whether Nana Akufo-Addo did or did not attend Oxford University and if so, why did he leave to continue his education at University of Ghana. This was of interest to me and many Ghanaians because no Ghanaian would leave Oxford to continue his/her university education at University of Ghana unless there is a very good reason such as financial difficulties. However, Nana Akufo-Addo came from a wealthy family and therefore finance could not have been the reason. It is also interesting that Nana Akufo Addo after one year at Oxford did the full three years at University of Ghana for an Economic degree.” See: Akufo-Addo’s Oxford University Mystery Unmasked, General News of Monday, 26 November 2012, Source: Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK.
My first impression is either the University is, at least, guilty of exercising due diligence in the search, or it is deliberately misleading the questioner with what appears to be an inadvertent human error. As it stands, the letter only clears a fictitious “Mr. Akofo Addo” and not the “Mr William Addo Dankwa AKUFO-ADDO” that we all know! We all know that in making a search of this nature, the values you put into the search determine the quality of your search results. How can you search for an obviously non-existent “Akofo-Addo” and then use that to answer whether or not there are any records on “Akufo-Addo”? I was glad to read the reflections of Mr. Kofi Ata on this question:
“Nana Akyea, do not worry yourself about the kind of language used by Oxford in response to my FOI request. In fact, it is the norm here in the UK and I used to send similar responses myself. FOI is often seen as unwanted request, intrusion, time wasting, mischief, trouble making, etc. As a result most recipient organisations do not want to have anything to do with the subject matter.
I remember attending training on how to respond to FOI request delivered by an FOI Expert (a Lawyer). I was a senior manager in a public institution and had to respond to FOI. We were trained and advised not to answer the questions directly but do our best to answer honestly not truthfully. That means, your answers should appear to be honest at the time of your responses and you must genuinely believe at the time that they were accurate. I could have taken Oxford back to the Information Commissioner that their responses were unsatisfactory and point out the wrong name but I decided not to since my main objective of confirming that Nana Akufo Addo was a student at Oxford was achieved.” And here is how I responded, and I still stand by that position:
“I am very happy that you know a thing or two about FOI requests, and the attitude the university adopted. We can be generous enough to say that it is easier for a Ghanaian who is familiar with the Akufo-Addo name to get the spelling right than people from other cultures. So that mistake does not in itself impute sinister motives on the part of the respondent. It is very easy and perhaps legally convenient for the Registrar's office to make the mistake and report that they have no records on "Akofo-Addo". As you rightly put it, this would "appear to be honest at the time of your responses" whilst one can argue that they "genuinely believe at the time that they were accurate"! The problem is that they are not accurate. And it is leading to misleading interpretations. There is nothing that tells us that if the proper name has been used we would have ended up with the same results. Common law, and common sense ought to tell everyone that Mr. Akofo-Addo is not the same individual as Mr. Akufo-Addo on any data anywhere!
The reason why I am not satisfied with the answer from the university is that unlike you, I am more interested in why he left the university than whether or not he was admitted there. Of course, the confirmation that he was ever a student at Oxford became necessary because Akufo-Addo wanted to avoid explaining why he left Oxford with the NPP lie that “Nana Addo never went to Oxford; he never got admission or applied to go to Oxford”!
Thanks to you, we now know that the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo have been throwing dust into the eyes of Ghanaians for four good years! Telling blatant and stupid lies! These lies were designed as a cover-up against the accusation that “the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) flag-bearer’s refusal to make public his academic performance in Oxford University gives credence to rumours that he (Nana) was sacked from the institution for smoking marijuana.” So if they lied to us about any aspect of this Oxford saga, why do you think they would do that if they had nothing to hide? And why is it that Nana Akufo-Addo has not thought it fit to respect the need to be transparent about this dark side of his life that provide the first official proof of drug abuse?
If you say that you are satisfied that the fact that Nana went to Oxford has been established, I am inclined to understand that, even though my focus is more on why he left, rather than whether he was there or not. And I am sure you would agree with me that in respect of why he left, the letters from the university do not mean much. And they certainly do not exonerate Nana Akufo-Addo! I want to ask a Presidential candidate of Ghana to answer these allegations himself. We shall evaluate his answers and find out if he is speaking the truth. The only person who can help us here is Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, not Oxford University, because Oxford University is not the flag-bearer of the NPP!”
How come that the Information Commissioner of the UK, agreed with Mr. Kofi Ata “that [his] request met the public interest test and ordered the university to respond fully to [it]”, and the NPP continues to ridiculously dismiss the issue as an NDC propaganda? Is the independent Information Commissioner of the UK also an NDC foot-soldier? Are all the undecided voters seeking clarification from Mr. Akufo-Addo on this matter NDC propagandists? Why is Akufo-Addo still treating a serious matter of public interest, such his own trustworthiness as a President of Ghana, “with the contempt that this deserves”? Why this unreasonable, stubborn, arrogant, strange, and suspicious silence? What will occur to our universe, if Nana Akufo-Addo clears his throat on this issue? Thunder and lightening?
For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!
Nana Akyea Mensah, Ghana Committee, P-AI, Social Media Campaigns | Nov 30, 2012 SocialMedia@panafricanistinternational.org Pan-Africanist International - a grammar of Pan-Africanism and its manners of articulation! www.panafricanistinternational.org