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Opinions of Thursday, 24 July 2008

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Let Us Test All Presidential Candidates For Drugs

: No More Arguments!!

The issue of drug use in Ghana has taken on a very serious and significant swirl in the upcoming presidential elections. First, let me say that the drug problem is a menace and must be dealt with swiftly or we risk witnessing neighborhood shootouts in Ghana very soon. This is not child’s play and we must not treat it as such. Besides, we need a clear eye, clean nostril, president to represent dignity and make coherent decisions. We cannot risk putting in office, a drug addict, or “wineno”, who ends up being a disgrace to the whole country.

Certainly, a chronically sick person may also not be ideal for the position. A wee addled or cocaine suffused mind in office at this critical juncture will be a catastrophic mistake. Instead of leaving this issue to speculation, why don’t we just test all the presidential candidates for current drug use? Are you not tired of these baseless accusations flying all over the place? Will science not be the ultimate impartial arbiter in this tug? Indeed, incoming ministers and cabinet level officials should all be tested as well.

I think we can all be sympathetic to youthful indiscretion in the use of drugs. Yes, when we were in school, some of our seniors, mates and even juniors smoked Indian hemp. It was relatively cheap and available. Of course, the music of that era glamorized it. In our day, Indian hemp was the only hard drug of choice. It was even rumored to expand one’s mental capacity. Invariably, alcohol use was also in play but we never considered alcohol a drug. Back then, you will be out of your senses to dare tag “apio” a drug. We know better now but were definitely naïve then. In most instances, folks that used “ntampi” or “whiskey in papers” as some called it, tore up their wrappers after their experimental stage in secondary school. A few hardcore knuckleheads made it a life style and still continue to use recreationally.

While most reasonable people are willing to give youthful drug use a pass, continued heavy use into adulthood is a grave and gathering danger that ought to be addressed. I don’t know how drug use impacts effectiveness but I sure don’t want a dope fiend of a president who is always out of his element like a fish out of water running our deal country. It is for this reason that I move that all presidential candidates should be tested for drugs. In this context, I am talking specifically about hard drugs like wee, crack cocaine, pure cocaine, methamphetamines, and any other known uppers or downers. Why do I call for this test? Well, drug use is menace in Ghana. We need a no-nonsense president who will not be sympathetic to drug users. A president that is known to use drugs will sound hypocritical and phony in going after users and pushers. If the president is using drugs, how can he or she get tough with the users and peddlers? What moral right will he invoke to go after these users if he or she is a flaming closet junkie? Having a clean president will not solve all our drug problems because of the windfall profits that it provides. However, it is helpful if the president is on the side of non-users and non-peddlers. We are at a tipping point with this drug business and I pray that we tip toward zero tolerance. Where is Kufour when you need him? Also, like it or not, people look up to the president. Therefore, the president should conduct him or herself with dignity and integrity. A president cannot play his advocacy role if he does not stay above the fray. Notice that I am not bashing any particular segment of the population. All I am saying is that, if you want to be president, leave drugs alone.

Now, we can even be creative and ban smokers from the presidency. Why? Well, if we are going to pay for the health care of the president, then we have the right to ask that risk factors like smoking not be financed by the taxpayer. Not only the latter, presidents are automatically role models. If we don’t want our kids to smoke and drink, why have presidents who do the same? You can add alcohol too. I don’t care! I drink a beer every now and then but I am not running for president and do not intend to. If I ever daze into a dream of running for president, I will be willing to give up the green bottle if that is what it takes to climb into the best seat in town. We should refuse to pay for the health care of any person who continues to inordinately engage in reckless health behaviors. Yes, this includes non-condom use while on official duty. This is one sure way to send a good, unequivocal and positive message to the youth. And please, don’t come back with some crap about how this is not done in the west or other places. We can blaze our own path to suit the challenges we face. We need not follow all the time.

I have read some of the back and forth sniping about who is a drug fiend and who is not healthy to run for the presidency. The simple solution to this is science. Have all the presidential candidates tested for drugs and then give them a military type physical to make sure that they are healthy and ready to go. Remember that these candidates become public charge once they get into office and therefore we must screen them to know what we are getting. Let me be very clear, I am not asking that anyone be screened for all kinds of personal stuff or various health challenges. My focus is specifically on banned substances and overall health. The only equalizer in this equation is science. Hopefully, such testing will be done with utmost respect for privacy. Also, we must employ the best science and up to date methods in carrying out these tests. If you want to use drugs, leave the presidency of Ghana alone. At least, have some respect for the office!! We don’t need a drug user and a pusher’s friend in that 60 million dollar presidential mansion. Enough of the baseless accusations!! Just test all of them so we can move on!

Therefore, the question still remains: Should presidential candidates be tested for drugs, banned substances and overall physical health? Let’s hear from you!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman

(Also known as the double edge sword)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think its hell. By Harry Truman