Feature Article of Sunday, 11 August 2013
Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.
A stentorian news item, which appeared on Ghanaweb.com on Saturday, August 10, 2013 and titled “Mahama must sack Victoria Hammah – MP,” was both outrageous and disconcerting. Apparently, one Dr. Kwabena Twum Nuamah, the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Berekum East in the Brong Ahafo Region, suffered a paroxysm of rage on the subject of Victoria Lakshmi Hammah’s recent extemporaneously delivered speech at the début of a campaign to combat computer-generated crimes in Ghana. Dr. Twum Nuamah called Ms. Hammah’s emphatic peroration behind the lectern a colossal display of “immaturity and incompetence,” denounced her appointment as a deputy minister, and called for her to be sacked. Indeed, Dr. Twum Nuamah would go on to state that Ms. Hammah had goofed on several occasions prior to the one in question, and therefore ought to be sent back to the unemployment line.
So why this orgulous stance by Dr. Twum Nuamah? We Ghanaians, as a whole, exhibit drab, languorous phonetics. You would never know of this “shortcoming” until you travel to the West – the enclave of the progenitors of the English language. Indeed, Ghanaians collectively lack a solid command of the spoken language, which means that we ought to be careful when we are tempted to point our fingers at our own “kith and kin.” What Ms. Hammah did in front of her listeners that day was absolutely right, because she not only made a beautiful presentation, she also did it in plain, understandable, flawless English, the sort of capability that most of our elected and appointed leaders – from the courts to the legislature to the executive – lack. Sometimes I cringe when I listen to audiotapes of speeches rendered by some of our leaders, for this monumental inability to communicate verbally is a manifestation of the continual decay in our dysfunctional educational system.
What is wrong with Victoria Hammah indicating that her prepared speech had been tampered with? If the prepared speech that was before her had unintelligible phraseology, what other option did she have? Was she to continue to read a speech that, from all indications, was impishly altered to embarrass her? Whether her aides calculatingly, or innocuously, made the errors in the text did not matter at the time that Ms. Hammah was at the lectern; after all, she knew she would be able to question her staffers later. What was important for Ms. Hammah at that moment was to extemporize, a skill that many leaders in Ghana with even advanced degrees do not possess! In other words, rather than condemn Victoria Lakshmi Hammah for her oratory, we should commend her for making the best out of a very difficult – and potentially humiliating – situation.
So, what is wrong with Ms. Hammah complaining about a typographical error in a previous typescript? If the deputy minister cannot depend on her aides to use correct grammar when writing her speeches, then she needs to either send the indolent staffers back to school or find worthy replacements. Had this embarrassing incident occurred while President Mahama was delivering a speech, the speechwriter would have been fired. I am also certain that Dr. Twum Nuamah may not have been so calm under pressure had he found himself in Ms. Hammah’s terrifying situation.
As such, before we commence an outrageous campaign to have Victoria Hammah removed from office, we need to do some introspection and refocus our energies on revitalizing our decrepit educational system, the runaway “Leviathan” with strabismal vision that produced the staffers responsible for the litany of gaffes. Before we commence an invidious campaign to have Ms. Hammah removed from office, we ought to focus our exclusive attention on the rampant pilfering of our nation’s coffers by those entrusted with protecting it. In fact, Dr. Twum Nuamah could pursue a nobler cause as a legislator by exposing graft and seeking the ouster of corrupt officials! As Justice Sarpong, a courageous Ghanaweb.com feature writer, has stated on numerous occasions, some of our politicians would have stolen heavy equipment and edifices had these not been bolted down! Think about that for a minute!
Oratorical prowess is the reason many notable people have achieved their goals in life, and no one exemplifies this transformation better than the current U.S. president, Barack Obama. Speeches are usually geared toward a spectrum of listeners: the dilettante, on one end, and the literati, on the other. Ms. Hammah reached both on this particular occasion, and we ought to commend her for doing what many men in Ghana simply cannot do. Victoria Hammah was right to have displayed public disapproval of a speech that was bungled by her aides. Victoria Hammah was right to have publicly reprimanded an unnamed assistant for not checking a previous typescript for typographical errors. Why should Ms. Hammah take the blame for the carelessness of staffers who are on the John Mahama-led administration’s payroll?
In the future, Ms. Hammah can prevent her problems from becoming fodder for overbearing Ghanaian men by making sure that she carries with her copies of any future speeches she intends to deliver. This ought to be the surest way to prevent another gaffe in a country where men tend to expect women to play second fiddle in all things, including ministerial appointments. Without a doubt, some of these intolerant men would only be satisfied if Ms. Hammah resigned from her position, got married, had a litter, and stayed at home as a full-fledged housewife. Are we any different from those Taliban and Boko Haram zealots on the prowl?
© All rights reserved. The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is currently working on his doctoral dissertation in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He has also served as an adjunct professor in the department. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in the U.S.A. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He can be reached at [email protected]