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Opinions of Friday, 23 November 2012

Columnist: Bediako, Alexander

Machiavelli Bites Dr. Mensah Otabil

Machiavelli Bites Dr. Mensah Otabil: When Politics Come to the Pulpit

What issues, if any, in our society could be classified as politics or Religion and if any at all, what difference does it make to the complex challenges that confront us daily as human kinds? Who is a politician and who is not a politician, and if a politician is so “evil” why do we chose him or her to “supervise” affairs that appear to matter to all citizens of Ghana? Again who should be drawn into politics and who should not? Sometimes it amazes when I see or hear people we respect so much for what they stand for all of sudden appear to be telling us that they do not really stand for what we take them for.
Let us honestly look a bit deeper into the words and phrases that Dr. Mensah Otabil used to describe those he thought to be surrogates of the ruling National Democratic Congress, for which reason he called on President Mahama to rise up and speak on the issue. Words and phrases such unethical, criminal, evil, marauding and bullying force, mischievous, sinister motive, treachery, this is Machiavellian and others were flying like missiles from the mouth of a man of God! Has Dr. Mensah Otabil just done the very things for which reason he might not want to be associated with politics and its auxiliary issues?
As a guide to follow my point, let me quote a few of Dr. Otabil’s own words here. He said: When political operatives sample, splice and edit a pastor’s words to mean something other than what was intended and then go ahead to lift those words from their proper context and place them within a partisan context, that is immoral; when political operatives hijack a pastor’s words, manipulate them to build partisan jingles and play them on party information vans across the country, that is mischief; when political operatives with sinister motives deliberately position a pastor to become a target for ridicule, animosity and hostile attack, that is evil. He also said that he realized that he was dealing with a marauding and bullying force that was bent on impugning his name and integrity without shame.
Most of the words used in his press statement may be familiar to most of us but what about Machiavellian and why its use in describing those he considered in his defense as NDC surrogates? Niccolo Machiavelli was said to be a Florentine civil servant and a political thinker whose name, many think, epitomizes all the hypocrisy, intrigue, treacheries and gangsterism that were supposedly typical of the Italian Renaissance. Machiavelli believed that successful political behaviour must be drawn from history and experience, not from the realm of imagination or from the demands of Christian ethics or in other words, metaphysics. So Dr. Mensah Otabil’s objective was to project the NDC in the non-religious or negative image that was created for Machiavelli by some of his fellow thinkers in the philosophical culture.

Also the beliefs and teachings of Machiavelli are diametrically opposed to Dr Mensah Otabil’s operational arena, which are metaphysics and theological doctrine of philosophy. It was therefore not surprising for the learned doctor to choose words like evil, treachery, Machiavellian, marauding force and others to describe some fellow Ghanaians who made reference to his teachings to educate others on important national issues.
It is important to note that in a society where there are a lot of ‘Benjamins’ (unconcerned intellectuals) and where culture frowns on challenging and questioning some misleading thoughts and posturing of our leaders or those we perceive as “big men”, then we will continue to be at the mercy of intellectual arsenal of some of these dominant “big men”.
Dr Otabil said his pulpit was not for partisan politics, yet he used the pulpit to preach to his followers about what a politician has discussed with him about free education in private. What an irony! Is it normal for clergyman to preach about politicians but abnormal for the later to use the former’s sermon to educate the citizenry?
Again, pastor Otabil takes quotations from various sections of the Bible in order to plan and deliver his sermons. In other exercises, like research or an enquiry into a subject matter, people engage in what is called in the academia as literature review to examine other people’s views about a subject matter currently under review or investigation in order to draw conclusion. What was it that annoyed the inspirational preacher and a teacher to question the use of his sermons for educational purpose?

Dwight Eisenhower one said that “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage”. It is in this light that I will like to encourage Dr Pastor Mensah Otabil to be happy with, rather than frown on, those who he thinks want to draw him into politics.
If good people like Dr Mensah Otabil can use their knowledge, skills and expertise to influence political engagement and discourse in our society, I believe, that would be a big plus in our collective effort in building the country Ghana.

By: Alexander Bediako.