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Opinions of Monday, 25 May 2015

Columnist: Frankly Speaking

Dumsor vigil fever, the missing speech, and the killer acid

A week of mixed feelings: Dumsor vigil fever, the missing speech, and the killer acid

This week has been very remarkable indeed. Starting from the week before, a dumsor vigil fever attacked the Presidency and infected the government’s communicators making some of them speak ‘by heart’.

As the vigil fever was gradually reducing and the Presidency and government communicators were just about to breathe some fresh air, another bombshell emerged, this time with international ramifications. Pages of the President’s speech to be delivered at the Ecowas leaders’ summit in Accra last Tuesday were found by the President to be missing while he was rendering his address at the summit.

The scene at the summit which was telecast on television was a very worrying one and a national disgrace. My mind straightaway went to the dwarfs former NDC Women’s Organiser, Anita de Sooso, once claimed were stealing Ghana’s money, and thought maybe they were still around and might have stolen parts of the President’s speech.

Watching the scene of the summit on TV, a few questions came to my mind. First, why was the President given printed copy of his address instead of his usual ipad which he had used at a number of occasions including his address to parliament? Who was responsible for his address at the summit, and at what point did that person ensure that the address was ready to be delivered by the President? And, why wasn’t a teleprompter used?

It beats one’s imagination that the President who is very familiar with the use of the ipad to deliver addresses, be made to carry printed copies of his speech to the Ecowas summit.

I deeply remembered Victoria Hammah’s August 9, 2013 statement, “Where is the speech I edited, this is not the speech I edited, I can’t read this”, which she made in the middle of delivering an address at a public function.

Unlike Miss Hammah, President John Mahama managed the situation well, yet a disgrace had already befallen the nation, as his fellow Ecowas leaders were surprised to see him turning left and right without anyone coming to his aid. Where were the President’s ADC and his numerous communication advisors?

On June 7, 2013, President Barack Obama suffered a similar fate but his didn’t have that bigger impact because it was not an international conference. He was about to make his first public comments on the then controversy surrounding the US government’s surveillance programme at the White House when his staff forgot to put his comments on the podium.

The President then jokingly said, “By Friday afternoon, things get a little challenged. Oh, goodness. Oh, somebody's tripping. Folks, are, folks are sweating back there right now." With this, he and the audience laughed over the incident while his staff hurriedly managed and brought a printed copy of the speech to him.

In the case of President Mahama, his staff was not alert as Obama’s, hence he was left to manage the situation himself while the audience spontaneously started clapping for him.

I have heard some people saying the Presidency should let the incident go without any investigation or punishment because it was just a mistake. Such people are right with their views, but I disagree.

The duty of the State Protocol Department includes even the attire the President wears to go out, and thus even where the President makes a choice of outing attire, the department’s word is final. However, it appears sycophancy has rendered many of those who are to direct the affairs of the President impotent as they would only sing the soothing chorus to him.

As a young democracy, we are all learning a number of administrative and operational lessons to make things smooth for country. It is for this reason that we need to consider having very qualified civil servants at the Presidency who would effectively service anyone who becomes president instead of packing the Presidency with party members, many of them without any experience at all.

What happened last Tuesday wasn’t a disgrace to John Dramani Mahama, but to the entire nation, hence all efforts must be made to ensure that nothing of that sort happens again to any president or minister as such international fora.

Oh, so the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has allowed its leadership crisis to claim one of its regional chairmen?

How sad, that the show of who has the strongest muscles within the NPP should degenerate into the soaking of Mr Mohammed Adams, the Upper East regional chairman of the party, with acid leading to his death only a few hours after the incident.

This is the third week in a row that we have discussed the crisis in the NPP, yet it seems no one in the party seems to be bothered about the dangerous trends the party is heading into.

This is a party which prides itself of being democratic and believing in the rule of law, yet no one wants to subject themselves to the fact that each office in the party is governed by rules which must be respected.

The National Chairman, Paul Afoko, and General Secretary, Kwabena Agyei Agyapong, go to the Upper East to meet party members and it was the Regional Organiser who had the responsibility of almost entirely organising the programme without the knowledge of the Regional Chairman, Mohammed Adams, forcing him to publicly admonish the two top officials of the party to respect party structures.

Then the next day, the National Chairman grants media interview to say the Regional Chairman was aware of their visit. Who was Afoko fooling, does the Regional Chairman only have to be aware or he must be the one to organise and receive him in his region?

Then only a few days after the Regional Chairman admonishing the National Chairman and General Secretary, he was killed.

As at now, apart from the suspects whose names the late Adams was said to have mentioned before his death, the police is yet to tell us who actually killed the NPP Upper East Regional Chairman.

However, much as nobody would dream that Afoko and Agyapong would plan the killing of their regional chairman, the death of Adams has a very devastating effect on the NPP, especially in the three northern regions, hence we pray that the police would quickly establish who killed Adams to set people’s minds at ease.

For Mohammed Adams, may Allah keep him and give him a good rest, hoping that his death would not be in vein but become a strong pillar around which the NPP will now resolve to build peace in the party.