Feature Article of Monday, 12 September 2011
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
On the whole, the speech nearly dangerously veered into a prolix; in other words, for the quite platitudinous points that it sought to reiterate, the speech could easily have been far more effectively delivered in a third of the time and space devoted to it. At any rate, the problem with long speeches and rambling essays, as I often remind my students, is that they easily fatigue both speaker and listener. They also lose some of their poignancy and coherence after a while. And on the latter score, one could clearly observe the fact that right after the mid-point of the twenty-, or so, page essay, the presentation, at least the widely publicized version of the same, began to rapidly lapse into avoidable grammatical errors, especially those having to do with abrupt shifts in tenses, such as when the New Patriotic Party’s flag-bearer for Election 2012 was raptly recalling his just-concluded “National Listening Tour.”
Needless to say, Akufo-Addo’s listening tour aptly reversed the vapid traditional trend of politicians out on the hustings imperiously pontificating on what they perceive to be the pressing needs and concerns of their constituents and the electorate, at large, rather than having the latter educate the former about the same. Indeed, a quite significant reason why the now-President John Evans Atta-Mills narrowly edged out his most formidable opponent in Election 2008, had to do with Tarkwa-Atta’s unarguably superb decision to troll house-to-house greeting and shaking hands with the proverbial ordinary Ghanaian and hearing them out on their needs, concerns and aspirations.
Granted the fact that the house-to-house campaign was immitigably hypocritical, being that the then-Candidate Mills had been far too long around the helm of Ghana’s proverbial ship-of-state not to have thought of and set about the execution of the same. This is what Americans call “Pressing the Flesh,” or getting an upfront and intimate perspective on national affairs from the electorate. Sadly, though, it was also on the foregoing score that the NPP’s presidential candidate and his associates shockingly demonstrated their crippling naivety when, rather than emulating Candidate Mills, the quite respectable likes of Messrs. Osafo-Maafo and Akufo-Addo resorted to the vacuous impugnation of this time-tested practice, by unimaginatively insisting that the house-to-house campaigning was decidedly infra dig – or absolutely beneath the dignity of patricians like themselves – thus inadvertently guaranteeing that they would be needlessly and indelibly tagged with the label of the obnoxious and snobbish elite.
Indeed, Nana Akufo-Addo has come very far with his listening tour and communal meal-sharing with his admirers, supporters and sympathizers. In the lead-up to Election 2008, for instance, I personally quizzically experienced a whiff of that off-putting elitist demeanor when at a meet-and-greet the candidate reception organized at Dr. Akuoko’s clinic in Queens, New York, in response to the candidate’s hand-shake gesture, I reflexively asked, “How are you, Opanyin?” I must just as well have spoken to a rock. The candidate kept stiffly (and palpably uncomfortably) shaking other hands, almost as if my small-talk query about his health had merely been the annoying buzz of either a fly or some pesky mosquito. I would sadly turn to my good friend and brother, Mr. Kwasi Ohene, who had generously driven me to the event and soulfully lament: “Barima, we are in deep trouble, if such unprovoked coldness is about all the NPP has to offer the nation by way of a presidential candidate.”
Actually, such seemingly deftly choreographed exudation of coldness and aloofness had not altogether been unprovoked. I had facilely, and perhaps rather impertinently, presumed in my usual fervid regard for familial bonds to familiarize myself with a man whose first words, once ceded the prime-time floor, was to remind those of us gathered to bear witness to his quite elaborate policy agenda, that his parents had been laudably written about in Ghanaian history books.
“Could it just be that Nana Addo never heard about the name of my maternal great-grandfather, Nana Theodore Adolf Kwaku Aboagye, the functionally illiterate centenarian from Akyem-Asiakwa who personally led the Basel Missionaries to Akyem-Begoro in the early 1880’s, where the white men established Begoro Boys’ Boarding School, whose most famous alumnus is Dr. J. B. Danquah?” I said to my friend Kwasi Ohene. Nana Aboagye, together with some three or four other relatives would take to living in the forest for nearly six months, after Osagyefo Nana Amoako-Atta dispatched executioners from Kyebi to demand the head of this royal chieftain of both Akyem-Asiakwa and Asante-Dwaben (Juaben). It would be the timely intervention of the British colonial government that would save Nana Aboagye. Ironically, Nana Aboagye would later be honored by another Okyenhene in 1905, or thereabouts in Kyebi!
I would later rise up, seize the microphone and present a copy of a book of selected political writings that I had partly dedicated to this paternal uncle that I had never met and yet whose heroic activities on the proverbial ground in Ghana I so heartily admired – particularly his crafting of the Repeal of the Criminal Libel Code/Law.
I heavy-heartedly make note of the foregoing because in recent weeks, I have been murderously assailed by some key handlers of the Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party for Election 2012, largely for daring to apparently quixotically defend what these authoritative handlers deem to be forensically indefensible, with my hard-earned credibility as a writer and staunch adherent of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo Tradition blisteringly subjected to ridicule.
Still, I hasten to observe the stark fact, even as obliquely acknowledged by the Wikileaks documents, that Nana Akufo-Addo is definitely the one candidate among the pack of the 2012 presidential candidates, including substantive President John Evans Atta-Mills, who is more than likely to make Ghanaians prouder of themselves and their country than ever before.
*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 Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of 22 books, including “Selected Political Writings” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected] ###