Feature Article of Saturday, 24 November 2012

Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea

Why Was Akufo-Addo Dismissed From Oxford University? Part IV

By Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.

I think Dr. Arthur Kennedy must seriously begin thinking of a sequel to his book, “Chasing the elephant into the bush”, which he wrote for the 2008 elections. For the 2012 elections, I will suggest the title to his second book as, “Why did the elephant not return from the bush?” And my answer to that question would have been so simple, if asked: it was because the elephant is beating about the bush! This is the best time for him to collect the materials for his analysis. For example, one serious fault that the entire party must now pay for is that, they refused to talk seriously to Sir John, long in advance. It was an accident waiting to happen. I read it in the news that, no other person than the General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as Sir John, has just called the bluff of the Research and Advocacy Platform (RAP) questioning why Nana Akufo-Addo concealed his Oxford University education from the public. It seems to me that his response is the worst damage control exercise in the entire history of the scandal-ridden NPP!

Even though I saw it coming, Sir John still managed to shock me. The reasons he gave were so flimsy. The first problem is that I find his response absolutely arrogant and non sequitur. In the first place, the issue of why Akufo-Addo explaining why he was dismissed from Oxford, is not trivial. It is about Akufo-Addo's honesty and his alleged use of drugs. How “trivial” is that when he is accused of drug-abuse over a long period of time, right up to the present moment? The Ghanaian electorate has every right to know! Besides, the best thing one can do to help the poor, is to listen to them and, at least, be honest to them. Of particular importance are issues that bear on character assessment, especially about one's past. Sir John's response is perhaps the greatest disservice to the Akufo-Addo campaign effort by an NPP official to date, because it casts more doubts than it eliminates. The timing is particularly a disaster! His response indicates that he is aware of the attitude adopted by the NPP flag-bearer to treat the issue “with the contempt it deserves”. But why should the question go away because of that? Who cares whether they answer or not? Are Ghanaians no longer going to vote in secret?

Here is how the story was reported: “According to him, the NPP and its presidential candidate will not dignify such triviality with a response at the expense of the teeming Ghanaians who are wallowing in abject poverty.” It was further reported that speaking on Ekosii Sen programme, last Tuesday, 20 November, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie said “the question about whether Nana Akufo-Addo attended Oxford University or not will not solve the bread and butter issues confronting Ghanaians. He noted that the ruling party and its appendages are making a fuss about Nana Addo’s education background because they lack ideas.” What a flimsy excuse! Where is the connection? What is he trying to hide from the public? The top brass of the party ought to have sat him down and given him stern warnings, not to ever be the first party official to respond to delicate matters a long time ago!

It surely should not have been difficult for a political party that is serious about winning a highly competitive election to convince him that he cannot be trusted to provide effective and trouble-free answers to delicate issues, nor even see the difference between straight-forward questions and portmanteau questions. And that issues such as damage control should be strictly be left in the hands of professionals. If I were in any position of leadership of the NPP, I would have made sure that such a meeting took place a long time ago! His opinions certainly do not reflect the best brains available in that formidable party. I would never have left such a meeting until he had repeated the gag orders and appeared to understand what he was saying, together with a clear note of consent! This is democratic. You cannot allow a party official who, each time he opens his mouth, the blood pressure of many NPP supporters, goes up. You could almost feel the heaves of their sighs of relief, if a single interview went well!

Well, there is no point in crying over spilled-milk. It is too late. The cat is out of the bag! This time around, everything went wrong! Indeed, I am willing to concede that my respect for the NPP as a political party, is obviously higher than what its General Secretary currently commands with such a response, so I remain optimistic that perhaps, a better answer is on the way. If I were a member of that party, I would have probably been the first member of the NPP to denounce him as a matter of an urgent damage control exercise. I believe the late Mr. B. J. da Rocha would have done just that. The line he took is easily the most stupid and dangerous line ever to take on such a delicate matter. Even NPP sympathizers are deeply disappointed by the quality of the rebuttal. It is a big political embarrassment and an unnecessary self-inflicted wound! Is Akufo-Addo going to be a father of all Ghanaians, if some Ghanaians, irrespective of political, tribal or religious affiliation? Does his willingness to answer questions posed to him depend upon whether or not he is dignifying the questioner who is a Ghanaian citizen, or the merits of the question? If what is being asked is important, does it matter who is asking it? Why couldn't Nana Addo on his own, for the sake of respect to public opinion and transparency, disclose the “missing link” in his educational background, even without anyone asking?

I saw it from the beginning that it is impossible for Akufo-Addo to survive politically if he continues to maintain such level of opacity about his past. Why this matters is because it is crucial in character assessment, such as his use of psychedelic drugs. And it is happening live! Let me guess something. The father, who was a product of the same University himself, would have been very proud of his boy as he enrolled at Oxford University, and deeply heart-broken that he could not make it past one academic year due to addiction to marijuana. And like all fathers, he would have been utterly disappointed in young William Akufo-Addo who apparently never gave up the bad habit. At least that is the only impression this silence leaves in my mind. Who knows if he is only hiding it from even his own inner circles, but continues to receive his supplies through his old contacts? That should be enough a reasonable doubt that any normal Ghanaian would expect a candidate to the highest office of the land, to throw some light on, for the sake of transparency.

The other natural question is if Akufo-Addo is stubbornly hiding these details, what other narcotic details is he hiding? Who cares whether or not he promises free SHS when the guy cannot even be trusted? Why should anyone take Ghanaians to be so cheap? The NPP seems to be telling Ghanaians, “It does not matter whether or not Nana Akufo-Addo is telling lies, what matters is to believe what he is saying!” Is that a new campaign strategy a la Sir John? It is strange that these same people who lap at obvious hoaxes, to give a life of its own, are unable to confront hard-nosed facts, where there are obvious contradictions between what they say is true, and what we know as true. That is where they begin to fool nobody but their sorry selves! At such a delicate point, one would expect nonsensical statements to be kept at the minimum and not at the maximum! Most especially in response to grave public accusations such as trust!

“RAP, a pro-National Democratic Congress (NDC) group at a press conference in Accra said failure by the NPP flag bearer to include his Oxford University education in his Curriculum Vitae (CV) calls his integrity into question.” The convener of the group, Felix Kwakye-Ofosu said it was “clear by their information that Akufo-Addo enrolled into the Oxford University in London in the 1962/63 Academic Year but left the University under “unexplained circumstances. He wondered how Ghanaians will trust him [Nana] if he cannot be honest and transparent in his CV.”

Let me be clear. I am not saying he has no right to exclude his Oxford University admission on his official CV, because we can sympathetically understand that his experience at Oxford was nothing to write home about. However, I believe that when people ask questions about it, you are obliged to be honest and transparent about it, otherwise, how can you be trusted? If there is any scandal, don't try to cover it up with lies such as you were never admitted to Oxford University, and then turn around and tell us it will not bring food to the table! The reason why this is of public interest is because the original accusation, which is slowly being confirmed is that, about a year ago, when Mr. Felix Kwakye Ofosu questioned the motive behind Nana Akufo-Addo’s exclusion of his academic credential at Oxford University from his curriculum vitae, the NPP denied he ever set foot at Oxford. According to him, “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.”

As I said in the beginning, these latest utterances by Sir John is the worse damage control exercise ever to emanate from the NPP, and Akufo Addo is bound to pay badly for it, if he does not clear his throat and say something himself. God works in mysterious ways! The NPP sympathizers who were in the Allan Cash camp are bound to see this blunder by Sir John as Akufo-Addo's own retributive nemesis. Ever since this gentleman took the mantle of the General Secretary of the NPP, he has only succeeded by providing one nonsense after another nonsense, and after another! Nice people find him an amazing comic relief. Those who wish to be less generous think he is an absolute nuisance to our democracy, his own party, and in particular, the image of the flag-bearer of that party. The response by Sir John amounts to self-elimination, for the real character assassination is not in the genuine questions being asked, but the answers being given, and the rather silly attacks on those asking these pertinent questions!

Like the majority of Ghanaians, I want an honest person who, not only listens and respects public opinion, but also one who has the ability to determine what that public opinion is, to be my President. And so if they are taking such a gargantuan risk even at such a crucial stage of a competitive election with this level of arrogance and opacity, what is going to happen if they are voted into power by mistake? How do you expect someone who is arrogantly asking for your vote to change and be humble, once in power by mistake? They are openly telling Ghanaians that transparency is not in their dictionary, and that whether they can trust Nana Addo or not, they must make sure they vote for him because he is promising free education! The principal issue however remains, who must believe in the promises of a person who is not trustworthy? I am yet to find the logic in that. Who cares what promises of development he is making, if he is simply a character that cannot be trusted? And who says our food will run away from our tables if Akufo-Addo answers such a simple question?

Forward Ever! Backwards Never!

Long live Ghana!

Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.

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