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Opinions of Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Columnist: Confidence, Abdulai Hanan R.

Jerry John Rawlings in trouble!

On Monday July 13th, a day after Obama’s historic visit to Ghana to drum sense in African leaders, I decided to go to the newsstand for Obamas in newspapers. The newsstand expectedly was colourful as the illustrious son of Africa adorned all FrontPages.

Daily Guide on front page had a beautiful and memorable portrait of the two current presidents of Ghana and America including the two former ex-presidents, Jerry Rawlings and John Kufour. I was so happy for this unifying background that could not have been possible but for Obama’s visit.

I was also tantalised by the front headlines of the paper: “Obama Eats Kenkey” and for that matter I felt obliged to buy it for memo and archive. In fact, I could not escape the market gimmick of the paper.

“All that glitters are not gold” quickly bounced to my head as I read few lines into the front page story on page 3. I was utterly disappointed. The Kenkey reason of buying the paper was only given two lines treatment. A story which I had expected to read about Obama’s encounter with Kenkey and “shito” completely shifted focus on Rawlings’ actions and inactions at the castle on the Obama’s visit.

However, the paper dedicated five good paragraphs to talk about the Rawlings in fashion the paper branded as “Rawlings Misdemeanour.” The story was completely deceptive and divisive.

The paper stated that the same-table breakfast arrangement for the two living ex-presidents was turned down as the paper put it “ex-president Jerry John Rawlings, refused to sit with his colleague, John Agyekum Kufour.” Is that the only issue the paper could write on?

This story was a sharp contradiction to a photograph on the same page vividly captured with the ex-presidents sharing shoulder boundaries in conversation with the current presidents, J.E.A. Mills and Barack Hussein Obama.

The paper that front-paged a photograph of unity of the ex-presidents unfortunately accompanied it with a story that seeks to besmirch Mr. Rawlings. I had expected the story to laud the two ex-presidents for showing statesmanship of gracing the function. In the group photograph with Obama, President Mills closely locked shoulders with Mr. Kufour. This was heart-warming after they have for the past week exchanged somewhat impolite words about the state of the economy. This queried journalist named Awudu Mahama did not find that as news but rather to sow more seeds of discord between the two living ex-presidents. Are we happy about the cat and dog situation between the ex-presidents? If we are not, can these type of stories bring them closer? I believe with concerted efforts of all Ghanaians particularly the media, we can let them meet. They must not only meet when the Obamas are in. The media have contributed greatly to the widening gap between Mr. Rawlings and Mr. Kufour and a story of this nature is a classical example. All the photographs shots did not suggest in any case that Mr. Rawlings tried distancing himself from Mr. Kufour.

I would suggest journalist be tutored bit of human psychology in other to appreciate the ramifications of their stories on individuals. The Theory of Behaviour states that an action that is rewarded is likely to be repeated. Therefore, Mr. Rawlings will always feel contained with his successor if he knows that all his actions or inactions ritually suffer wide range of condemnations.

Mr. Rawlings deserved commendations for photographs and tête-à-tête he had with his successor, Mr. Kufour. I believe if journalists and Ghanaians acknowledge that as a plus to his personality, he will always avail himself to meeting his successor and political opponent with or without the presence of Obama-likes.

More so, I found that story inopportune because many foreign journalists and nationals are still in the country. And this people will be tempted to believe by this story that the meeting of the ex-presidents was marriage of convenience and for that matter a blot to our so much touted democracy.

Sadly, when the whole world media writes beautiful stories about Obama’s historic visit to Ghana, we have nothing good to write about it. If this glamorous visit of the first Black American president has no good news, then what occasion can we expect good news. The unity of our former presidents could be a reality after all the sermons Obama delivered to Ghana.

A unity or rapport of the two former presidents should not be overemphasised as impossibility driven by one person. Before Obama won the elections in the US, he had on innumerable occasions had a rigorous intercourse with both his then opponent John McCain and then president, George Bush. I do not think they are angels. So, Rawlings and Kufour can meet as well, yes they can! It behoves the media to create the platform of “yes it can”

However, this same paper on the latter part of the story claimed that they were denied access to the Osu Castle. So, how did the paper have to know that Rawlings snubbed Kufour? Is it not glaring contradiction?

Obama talked about independent and credible press. And I had least expected such a mischief just a day after his (Obama) soul-searching preachings of the roots of Africa’s woes. The media is now termed as the fourth arm of the government beyond manipulation. The first three arms are totally influenced by governments. Therefore, the media can contribute tremendously in building our democracy by counter-pulling the nation from the manipulations of the other arms of government. So, cheap, disintegrative and demonitive stories should not be placed on our newspapers. A question that I want to pose to Daily Guide is “What do you seek to achieve from that story?” Certainly not something positive!

On the same paper reads “Whilst shaking hands, Daily Guide learnt that the ex-president rather chose to move to the table far from former president where he hugged a northern chief...” Very ingenious! Can I know if this sentence could stand without the mention of “...hugged a northern chief”? I hesitate discussing the import of this metaphor. But may I know whether this paper had time to listen to Obama’s address.

This pro-government and pro-opposition newspapers must spare Ghanaians of these nonsenses! I have observed keenly that there are some newspapers that are bent on creating disaffection between some two tribes in Ghana. That is not fair!

But let me make it clear that I am not against the concept of pro-ideology newspapers, but it should seek to propagate and promulgate the values of the said ideology as well as indulge in constructive criticism. For instance, I was not pinched about the paper talking about the present government’s political oddity of unprecedented tea drinking and snacking, which was constructive! Please, we need to respect our ex-presidents because they are crucial and integral elements of democratisation. And I therefore entreat the media to slam the heads of our ex-presidents together for the sake of “two heads are better than one”

Opportunity it is said comes once in life. We need to walk Obama's talk and we will be glad as a nation!

But for Mr. Rawlings, he is in trouble! If he is quite, they put words in his mouth. If he is speaking, they say he is noisy!

God bless Ghana!

Abdulai Hanan R. Confidence

Nurses’ Training College, Tamale

Tertiary Institutions Network (P.R.O.)