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Opinions of Sunday, 24 May 2015

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

Maintaining a Sense of Proportion in Adams Mahama’s Death

By Samuel Adjei Sarfo

Attorney and Counselor at Law

The recent murder of Mr. Adams Mahama, Upper East Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), has rocked the party in particular and the whole nation at large. That heinous murder is the unforeseeable outcome of a visit to the Region by the Chairman and General Secretary of the NPP, Mr. Afoko and Mr. Agyepong. The two were manhandled during their visit by some party members who accused them of sowing seeds of discord in the party. The Regional Chairman later apologized, but however noted that National Executive members visiting the region should properly inform the regional executive, and avoid creating the impression that they were seeking to undermine and alienate them.

The above facts are innocuous enough, as far as party wrangling goes, and was never expected to lead to any consequence of significance, let alone the aggravated murder of a whole human being. In matters such as this where an unforeseeable and disproportionate reaction occurs, the legal view is to see it as a purely criminal matter. Neither a party nor group can ever be held responsible where the crime committed is of such a nature that it couldn’t have been predicted, by any stretch of the imagination, to have flowed from or been the consequence of any party or group’s actions.

Viewed from this standpoint, the strident and general condemnation of the NPP and its leadership by some people flies in the face of elementary logic, and can only emanate from morbid minds assailed by the rebel passion of opportunistic vindictiveness. This situation where people propound far-reaching guilt by association is yet another evidence of our collective bigotry and irrationality. We begin with deep-seated hatred and extreme prejudice for a group or a party, and then bide our time for an incident to happen so that we can rationalize the prejudice and hatred and confirm in our own minds our presupposition that evil lurks in the heart of the group. We begin by holding an atavistic hatred for the group, and so when we hear that one member has committed an infraction, we bunch up the whole group together and describe them according to the action of the criminal element. This impulsive generalization undermines proper reasoning and analyses about existing problems and creates one size fits all notions about other people or group. It solves no problem for us, except to give us a momentary satisfaction based on our skewed perception. Also, it may well be at the cornerstone of our internal divisions and lack of creative vision. After all, over-generalization is the mainstay of ethnocentric bigotry and unscientific presumptions.

And in the case of the tragic death of Mr. Adams Mahama, the matter is just too sad. Here is a man who devoted a larger part of his life and resources in the cause of restoring dynamic leadership in the country. His sacrifices were for the national good, and his passing should have been mourned as the catastrophic termination of a great patriot, not as an occasion for sectarian jubilation. Wise people should have gathered to utter consolation to the family and examined ways to give them a befitting support. Flags should fly at half mast for him, and the whole nation should be weeping for him. The NPP should be weeping for him. The NDC should be weeping for him. The CPP and all the other parties should be weeping for him and the whole country should be debating how we got to this nadir of patent criminality that has cut short a life of such great potential.

Instead, all around us what do we see? There appears to be an uninhibited gloating by the opposition members. To them, the passing of this great man is a rare opportunity for them to unleash their hatred for the NPP and its leadership. Thus they have concocted irrelevant historical facts to describe the party. They have, misquoted statements to advance spurious arguments, and cast innuendos to score cheap political points. Within the NPP itself, irresponsible claims have been made by certain factions, and many disgruntled members have revived their age-old grievances to drive home their demands. Like necrophiliacs and scavengers, they purge their passions on cadavers and divide up the flesh of the dead in total oblivion of the pain of his relatives, and the sensibilities of his friends.

Meanwhile, they expect that their crocodile tears will veil their secret sense of triumph in any significant ways. And they expect that they will make gains by improper use of dead bodies and tragedies to advance their political fortunes.

There is the need for a sense of proportion in all this. Those making sordid references and casting ugly insinuations must stop. Those wishing to cash in on the tragedy of others must give up the mischief. For they only betray their incapacity to reason up like human beings when they generalize evil by dint of a criminal act by one individual; and they impose dark cloud on the minds of the masses if they are this irrational. After all, crime exists in every group, and every party is susceptible to improper conduct by its members at one time or another. There is no means to control any individual act or criminality, and that is why individuals must be held responsible for their own acts or criminalities. If it is easy for us to condemn groups and parties and describe them on account of one person’s act, then the problem lies in how we reason and establish logic and causality in the chain of life’s events, and the issue has nothing to do with the accuracy or wisdom in what we say or allege.

And as a country, our advancement will not lie in how we use tragedies to assign blame, gain some unfair advantage or score some cheap political points. Rather, our progress lies in how we use tragedy to construct lessons and gain experience, to establish causes and effects, and to build safeguards to ensure that we do not have to suffer a repetition of these tragedies. And if we fail this simple test of survival and rather choose to engage in the politics of blame and insults to satiate our ill-founded prejudices, we would be creating a cycle of hatred and resentment while ignoring the opportunity presented to build a greater society that has learned from its past mistakes.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, J.D., is a practicing attorney in Austin, Texas, USA. He writes the weekly New Statesman column “Thoughts of a Native Son”. You can email him at