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Opinions of Friday, 25 March 2011

Columnist: Hayford, Kwesi Atta-Krufi

Mills fails again

- this time in his pledge to clean politics of insults

Ever since the NDC won power in December 2008, our nation has moved into a gear of political insults, a tendency that has gained so many roots that the media is rating their scoops as to how much insults are contained in their programmes. Radio and TV presenters including newspaper publications will go every distance to ensure that an insult by one person is responded to with further insults. They are prepared to go as far as it takes to ensure that insults are paid measure for measure. Somehow, our politicians who are supposed to know better have bought into this press echo chamber of insults and sadly the government seems to be rewarding its members who insult with better and bigger positions. Last year a former Chairman Emeritus of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisations, Anthony De Bono bemoaned the trading of political insults in Ghana, adding that the trend is painting an ugly picture of the country to the international community. He stated that he went to the extent of writing personally to President Mills “to mediate, if necessary, but I got no response.” He said he also used the feedback channel on Myjoyonline on several occasions to offer mediation but there was no improvement.

Dr Lawrence Tetteh, President of the Worldwide Miracle Outreach, also asked people in authority not to view politics as a platform to undermine the reputation of their opponents. “Insulting others is not politics. Politics is positive criticism,” he told the Ghana News Agency last year, during the launch of a crusade organised by the Methodist Church of Ghana. “Politics is non-insulting ideological conflict and diplomacy,” he stressed.

In October last year, after allowing the politics of insults to gain roots in our media psyche, President Mills finally spoke, deploring what he says is the politics of insults being perpetrated by detractors of his administration. He said such tendencies will rather stall the development of the country. The President was speaking at the commissioning of the Accra-Tema railway line in Tema.

He said rightly that the development was of grave concern to him and in his opinion larger majority of Ghanaians. He said “When you switch on our TVs, or our radio, you will think that Ghana is at war. Many of us are engaged in politics of insults…[but] insults will not help us to produce…water, insults will not create jobs, insults will not bring about the peace and harmony that we need to develop”

Straight away after the President saying that a leading member of the Convention Peoples Party Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa asked members of the NDC Government to start the process of halting the ‘politics of insults’ which, he said, had inundated the political and media landscape.

Although Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa believed the President's caution was in the right direction and did not point accusing fingers at any particular party, he was of the view that it was prudent for members of the Government to set the tone.

The question I would like to ask the President is what has he done or is doing about this politics of insult since his message in October last year? The just recent vitriolic pouring of insults on the NPP flagbearer by a group of NDC Ministers at a recent TEIN meeting at KNUST has added to the potpourri to NDC ears and the delight of the President who speaks against insults in public, but privately rewards it.

I have chosen in the write up not to mention any names from the simple fact that the list is long and uncharitable. I will not therefore give them the pleasure of printing such names. The President’s consistent failure in this and many other areas is very worrying to me. Abraham Lincoln once said that his “great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure”. When the President declared 2011 an action year, little did we realise that it was a year of insults, insults and insults again.

The 1992 constitution of Ghana guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of expression under Article 21 (1) where it states all persons shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media. However it does not state that such persons should use that right to abuse and insults members of their political divide. The President is supervising a politics of rewards for insults.

Whereas I do not wish to give the culprits of insults the pleasure of mentioning their names here, I know the list will be long if I choose to do a roll call here.

Kwesi Atta-Krufi Hayford