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Opinions of Saturday, 14 May 2011

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Herbert M. stampedes a lively circus

By George Sydney Abugri

Ours is a very strange country, Jomo: Sometimes you get this nagging sensation of being caught up in a wild spin through time and at other times the sensation is that of being a passive observer of a type of national chaos that has a mysterious liveliness to it and the potential to suck you into its madness.

One of the conductors of the Mills Must Go orchestra is a gentleman called Mr. Herbert Mensah of the New Patriotic Party. Never heard of Mr. Mensah? He is a former CEO of top football club Kotoko, owner of Xfm radio and the best thing that ever happened to the Rawlingses in terms of loyal friendship, see?

Mr. Mensah has broken into the NDC, hypnotized its founder Jerry Rawlings and his missus and is ordering President Mills’s spokesmen about, and all said and done, is trying to call the shots all over the place in the corridors of political influence, to the bemusement of observers of the NDC circus.

I wonder what is up with Mr. Mensah and Professor Mills. Mensah it was who the last time round, claimed a Mills aide had confided in him how then presidential candidate Mills, conceded to having optical illusions in which he spied trees walking upside down with their roots sticking straight up into the stratosphere or something like that.

This week, Mr. Mensah went for the president’s jugular one more time: He and sweet buddy Jerry Rawlings, he revealed, had a tape recording in which plans to spend the equivalent of more than US$ 60 million on influencing the outcome of the July NDC presidential primary in favour of President Mills was discussed.

Some people noted how a purported tape recording of vital information on the 2002 murder of the king of Dagbon and 40 others, was yet to be released by JJ who claims to be in possession of it. Anyhow, many outraged members of the NDC called for the prompt arrest and questioning of Rawlings and Mensah over the claim. Some asked if it was the case that Rawlings and Mensah had set up a little intelligence snooping system of sorts and were spying on the president.

Mensah appears to have a rather strange understanding of the existential concept of the being as a child of God, irrespective of his station in life, referring as he did, to a corps of young ministers of state in Mills’s administration as “minor beings” who dared show disrespect for his beloved Rawlings!

President Mills said Mensah’s allegation was all a fabricated yarn of his accuser’s imagination and asked his security chiefs to get on the heels of Mensah and his purported tape straight away. Dig this: The allegation was reported in some media as “Mills blows US$ 60 million on primary!”

That is how politicians, their media and media owners with strong political connections, are going to use the tool called propaganda against opponents across the political divide, as the campaigns toward the next elections gather steam: For the sake of the quality of our democracy we need to explain the tricks of this game to voters, so that they are better placed to make informed choices.

We have to explain to them how in the propaganda game, politicians and their media use the various propaganda tools to manipulate the minds of the public in their favour and against their opponents:

The techniques include making deliberately vague, unfavourable statements about their opponents, being very selective in what they quote from what their opponents say or quoting them out of context to project them in a bad light, targeting opponents by ridiculing them in cartoons and in writing and repeating a lie about political opponents so frequently that voters come to believe them.

Other tricks in the game include attacking the character of their opponents instead of their arguments and the creation of emotional prejudices among the public against their opponents, using divisive “them” against “us” scenarios and employing tireless repetitions of slogans and statements which portray opponents in a bad public light.

I have started this tale from the middle. Now let me begin from the beginning: The National Democratic Congress has spent the past fortnight busily stealing all the pre-campaign season headlines from its arch partisan political rival the New Patriotic Party.

Throughout the past troubled week, news headlines have crashed violently across various media in a competition for prominence and catchiness over the issue of the smoldering embers in the NDC. It is getting very boring but then, news is typically driven by public obsession with the bizarre.

The move by some party elements to replace President Mills with someone else as the NDC’s presidential candidate for 2012 after only on term in office is in a Ghanaian political historical context certainly bizarre enough, if even party propaganda and image dress-up men insist it is the best thing to have happened to the NDC in terms of the growth of internal party democracy.

As you must have heard in the news Dr. Spio-Garbrah has joined Mrs. Rawlings as a second contender to race Mills at the Sunyani primary.

The last time round, Spio-Grabrah lost the race for the party’s presidential candidature to Mills when the NDC was out of power. Can Garbrah or Konadu beat Mills, now that Mills is the president of the republic?

Those in the political opposition and Mills’s own party who apparently grossly underestimate Mills’s popularity and voter-appeal appeared to downplay or ignore the significance of the huge mass of party supporters who brought pedestrian and motor traffic movement in the capital to a dead halt last week, as Mills drove across town to party headquarters to take delivery of nomination forms to contest the July primary.

Politicians are all hypocrites, Jomo: When large crowds turn out to meet them on the campaign trail, it is because they are so popular with the people. When crowds welcome their opponent on the campaign trail, it is a case of their opponents having bought the crowds with hard cash and sent them in buses to desired locations.

Oh yes sir, they are an unrepentant bunch of certified hypocrites: When they are in power, they tell us the previous administration was corrupt. When they are out of power they tell us the government is corrupt.

When they are in power, they find it only natural to avail themselves of the resources of state for the promotion of their election campaigns. When they are out of power and their opponents in power do the same, it is called abuse of incumbency!

Take note that I am not from any Mills fan club or anyone else’s. Like Dr- Garbrah who once expressed his chagrin that Mills had not given him a top appointment in his government, I am pissed silly that since coming into office and up till now, Mills has not considered me worthy of a place in his cabinet.

If I appear to express some sympathy with him, it is probably because I am observing the circus and my ever nagging conscience is giving me so much trouble, Jomo.

The daily butt of insults, cruel jibes, scathing attacks and sour jokes, the man has neither caved in nor come apart. It appears that beneath the soft exterior, Mills is an unbelievably steel-hard nut to crack! Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com Website: www.sydneyabugri.com