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Opinions of Thursday, 23 August 2012

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Ignore the Silly Advice of T.B. Joshua

and Investigate the Death of President Mills

The era of fake prophets and scam artists must surely be upon us. What is lucidly frightening is the ignorance and downright asininity that tint the scams that these misguided and self declared prophets continuously peddle. So here comes the callow T. B Joshua in his private jet, bought out of the sweat of his unsuspecting throng of followers. While his followers suffer and wallow in arrant, if not abject poverty, this Scaramouch, parades his ignorance with juvenile glee. Where do these scamps come from and why do we dignify their ignorance and presence? Why?

Where does this fake pastor get off by telling Ghanaians that asking for the cause or causes of death for president Mills is not necessary? If the Daily Guide is right, he even went further to ask, “What do we need that for”? Damn! If T. B. Joshua cannot figure what use such undertaking can benefit Ghana, then we have a real itch on our sore hands. Some nerve this bumbling fake pastor or prophet has! Below, I lay out my case as to why it is critically important to find out what killed the president. Let it be known that the call to investigate the president’s death need not be seen through rose glasses.

Ghana is a nascent democracy. As a result, we learn as we move on. It is critically important to set precedents aimed at promoting accountability and transparency around the presidency. After all, presidents are mere mortals. What if someone poisoned the president? Don’t we deserve to know? What if the president developed a strange disease? Don’t we deserve to know? What if the president’s death could bring awareness to his ailment which might be common within Ghanaian society? What if the president relied on fake pastors instead of modern science? There is a lot of good that the country as a whole can garner from such investigation. If we focus on the positive aspects, take out the conspiracy theories and bogus claims, we will benefit from such undertaking.

President Mills was a public figure! Ghanaians paid for his medical bills. So, Ghanaians, have a right to know what they’ve been paying for. It is crystal clear that the late President Mills was not leveling with the public about his real situation. He either did not know the truth or deliberately misled Ghanaians about his health. I believe he knew but kept it a secret. The problem here is that his performance clearly indicates that he was gravely ill. In the end, Ghanaians got the short end of the stick. We can’t have a cabal running the affairs of the state in the name of an ailing president who will not level with Ghanaians. What happened was a precious waste of time and energy. The harm that has been done will be hard to repair. Ghana deserves far better and can do absolutely better.

If public officials don’t want their cause of death to be public, they should fund their own medical bills and get out of public service. The president died in his official capacity and we owe him, his family, Ghanaians and the entire world the decency of knowing that there was no foul play. In addition, what we learn, should guide policy around the healthcare of a president. Our democracy, at the moment, is like Swiss cheese. There are so many holes that will only be filled by learning and evolving. Our ability to embrace dynamism (flexibility and change) and knead it into our political culture is a key metric in measuring the maturity of our democratic experiment.

I am one who believes the president has a level of privacy that must be protected and respected by all. Notice how Mitt Romney, the USA Republican presidential candidate is fighting attempts to have him disclose his taxes for a long stretch of time. The tug between privacy and public service is a real one. However, I will be damned if I support a move to conceal the cause of death for a president. There is no need to hide the cause of death for president Mills. The only way to get to the truth is to investigate the cause of death. The public has a right to know!

Surely the family of the president should have a say in this matter. However, I don’t believe the president’s family should have veto power in this matter. The public cannot be asked to fund the health and wellbeing of the president yet not have a say in investigating the cause of death. Perhaps we should make it an option and a condition of the presidency. The occupant can choose to fund his or her own healthcare and not be subject to public scrutiny or opt for public care and be subject to public scrutiny. I believe Ghanaians must shed, and in its place, embrace a culture of openness around death, power and leadership. A society that is inquisitive and keen on learning to enhance its future is the society that progresses rapidly. I believe America exemplifies this great national attribute of learning from mistakes and successes to do better in the future. I trust Ghana can do the same if we get away from the superstition and conspiracy claptrap, and see leaders and followers alike as mere mortals.

It is rather interesting to note that public officials in Ghana want to live on the dole to the fullest, yet, feel that, we owe them privacy on all or majority matters. They can’t have their cake and eat it at the same time. The public should not only have a say when it comes to expenses and upkeep. There should be a quid pro quo relationship in this context. These politicians must understand that within reason, the public has a right to know. This is the only way we can get to the heart of responsibility and accountability. There is a symbiotic relationship between the public and its leaders. The relationship between symbionts must be honored, nurtured and leveraged for the greater good of society in times like this.

The death of president Mills should also provide opportunity to develop official policy around the health of a presidential candidate and the resulting president. What should the public know about a candidate before he is sworn in as president? We need a well thought out process that helps us gauge the health and wellbeing of a would-be president. It makes no sense to vote in a president who is sick and cannot perform. Elections are relatively expensive and a country needs stability and performance within elections. I think most people knew that Mills had cancer. Did they? What people did not know is the severity or stage of the ailment. While sickness may not preclude anyone from the presidency, the choice of a gravely ill person as president ought to lie with the electorate based on credible information.

If the rumor that president Mills was performing at a subpar level due to illness is true, it points clearly to the need to keep the public in the loop about the health of all top public officials. We must not tolerate secrecy in this context. Indeed, all top officials should get their annual physicals in Ghana anyway. This annual checkup must become the norm and rigidly enforced. The checkups should also be open to public scrutiny. I pray that sooner, annual check-ups become a way of life for all Ghanaians. Yes, it is that important! We can save a lot of lives if annual checkups become a fixture of our culture. Who will bell the cat on this one? The answer surely lies with you! Viva Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately hailed as the Double Edge Sword) I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell---Harry Truman