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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Columnist: Elizabeth Ohene

Elizabeth Ohene writes: Hello and goodbye

Elizabeth Ohene is a columnist Elizabeth Ohene is a columnist

There are many things I want to write about today. The vetting by Parliament of nominated Ministers of State, the one-upmanship of the committee members is very much in your face. It does seem we must give them a crash course on how to conduct interviews to get something useful and interesting out of the nominees.

The vetting

Or maybe I don’t know what the point of the vetting is; are we trying to find out if they can do a good job at being ministers or are we trying to find out if there are some hidden skeletons in their cupboards.

Does it really matter where someone went to primary school and what grades they got at secondary school 30 years ago? Why hasn’t any of the nominees given a “Yes”, “No” or “don’t know” answer to some of the ridiculously long questions?

Or do you risk being rejected by Parliament and, therefore, have to pretend that you are being asked deep, probing intelligent questions, to which you must find equally deep and intelligent answers? It is probably just pure theatre and we must go through it to get a government in place.

My birthday

I want to write about my birthday, which is January, 24. I am writing this piece late night of the January, 23 and will probably still be at my desk at midnight. That is no way to celebrate a birthday. By the time this piece is out in the newspaper on Wednesday, I would have had all the booze and the food that comes with birthdays.

I would have said and lamented again about how sad it is that greeting cards have gone out of fashion. Maybe it has something to do with me being old, but I really do not like the virtual cards and I hate the virtual cakes and virtual champagne glasses with a passion that goes beyond rationality.

But I know my brother Fred will bring me a card. He still does and he manages to find the most charming of cards. The greetings card business must be in the doldrums and I think we are all the worse for it. Something tells me though I shouldn’t bother to write about being old. It is enough to simply state that I am certainly glad that I don’t have to now go through the rites of passage and growing up pains that face young people.

Yahya Jammeh

I would like to write about The Gambia and Yahya Jammeh and ECOWAS. Throughout this recent crisis in The Gambia, I have been thinking of Sir Dawda Jawara, the first Prime Minister/President of independent Gambia. He certainly was very different from the man who overthrew him in a coup d’etat in 1994.

I remember of course that this was not the first time that Senegalese troops had gone to the Gambia to prop up a Gambian President in trouble.

There had been the Kukoi Samba Sanyang failed coup d’etat in July 1981 when Sir Dawda was attending the wedding of the British Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Sir Dawda invited the Senegalese troops who put down the coup and restored him to power.

I wonder how many people remember that this was followed five months later by the formation of the Senegambia Confederation with the Senegalese President Abdou Diouf as President and Sir Dawda Jawara as Vice-President.

As I recall it, the Gambians were in the least bit enthusiastic about being swallowed up by their neighbour and the confederation collapsed in 1989. I understand Sir Dawda is still alive and lives in the Gambia as an elder statesman.

Doubtless, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Yahya Jammeh will also come back to the Gambia one day as an elder statesman. I am afraid I don’t understand that statement put out by the UN, the AU and ECOWAS as part of the Jammeh departure deal. If indeed he should be free to go in and out of the Gambia as he pleased, why bother with the whole charade and why was President Adama Barrow not yet in the State House in Banjul?

Donald Trump

I would like to write about the concept of Alternative Facts, as being propounded by the new Donald Trump administration. I think there are interesting times ahead for the whole world, especially for journalists.

I wonder if President Trump might not simply do away with the White House Press Corps and communicate with the American people directly without having to rely on irritating journalists. Maybe the American President would continue with his tweets and wear a camcorder to live stream all his meetings direct to the American people.

Journalists might reconsider their profession and position in the scheme of things. I am certainly glad I am not a young reporter looking forward to my first interview with a President of whichever country.

The Obamas

I would like to write about Barack and Michelle Obama. They brought such class to American politics. Maybe one day I will get to meet them.

Asantehemaa’s funeral

I would like to write about the funeral of the Asantehemaa. It is not every day that the funeral of a 111-year-old woman brings a whole country to a standstill for a week. Was she really 111 years old?

Graphic’s Jubilee Ghana

I would like to write about the Graphic publication titled ‘’Jubilee Ghana, A 50-year news journey thro’ the eyes of the Graphic –1956--2006’’. It came in my hamper. Every home must have a copy of this book. You simply need to have a quick look through this book, and you would realise nothing really changes in this dear country of ours.

John Mahama

I would like to write about His Excellency John Dramani Mahama not being around as President any more. Who on earth would provide such effortless copy when faced with a deadline and no obvious subject matter? Dead goat, Yentie Obiaa…I am in a comfortable lead? The man is priceless. Is he really giving up on active politics?

My write-ups

I would like to write about my unceremonious absence the past two Wednesdays when I did not write my column. I have not yet informed my editor; but I am trying to say this is my goodbye to the loyal following I have had since I started writing this column almost three years ago.

It was at the Daily Graphic that I started my formal writing career almost 50 years ago. Thirty-five years ago I was sent on indefinite leave from the paper and I had no intention of writing for the Daily Graphic ever again.

But I must confess it has turned out to be a joy and a privilege to be back on the pages of the paper. I have been very pleasantly surprised at the generosity of the readers.

Something tells me this is not a total goodbye. Who knows I might miss my readers so much, and make a return. In the meantime, thanks for your loyalty.

I have been having a conversation with myself about stopping the column; I will extend the conversation to the editor and I will let you all know what conclusions we come to.