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Opinions of Thursday, 10 March 2016

Columnist: Ghanaian Chronicle

Mr. President, don’t be afraid to crack the whip

Opinion Opinion

When an 18th Century English poet, Alexander Pope, wrote in one of his poems, An Essay of Criticism Part II, that to “err is humane, to forgive, divine”, he knew that as mortals we are bound to make mistakes.

“Ah ne'er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast, Nor in the Critick let the Man be lost! Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join; To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine”, were the exact words he used. Though the 'humane' has now metamorphosed to human, the meaning remains the same. Ghana has become a laughing stock in the eyes of the international media, because of the blunder that appeared in the brochure prepared for the celebration of Ghana's 59th Independence Day celebration.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was listed as the President of Ghana, whilst the Coat of Arms was spelt as Coat of Arm. There were other mistakes that we cannot repeat here. As a result, journalists from Ghana and their international colleagues decided to focus on the blunder, instead of telling the good stories about the celebration.

Interestingly, this is not the first time some of these blunders are occurring. During the last ECOWAS Summit held in Accra, President Mahama discovered, whilst addressing his colleagues, that some of the pages of his speech were missing.

The situation was so embarrassing that the President had to quickly organise himself and speak extempore. When the issue came up for public discussion, a lame excuse was given that when the prepared text was mailed to the President to make inputs, he failed to mail it back to the speech writers, but rather printed what he had received, edited and gave it to his aide de camp.

This claim is obviously an after-thought, but Ghanaians gave them the benefit of doubt, hoping that the blunder would never occur again. Regrettably, the error was not only repeated on Sunday, but, this time round, in alarming proportions, thus disgracing the President and the entire people of Ghana. The Chronicle, as a newspaper, is not immune to mistakes – we also do make mistakes because staff on the paper are human beings and, therefore, prone to mistakes.

But, whilst The Chronicle has less than 24 hours deadline to meet, Stan Dogbe's outfit at the presidency had luxury of time to have detected all the mistakes that appeared on the brochure. The preparation of the brochure, obviously, did not start a day to the event. It might have started weeks or months ago, yet those in charge could not do all the proof reading work before giving approval for it to be printed.

Granted that no proof reading was done before publication; did Stan Dogbe and his colleagues not see the obvious errors when copies of the printed materials were handed over to them? As if this embarrassment was not enough, the organisers also failed to provide adequate space to accommodate the Ghanaian and foreign media personnel. In the end, journalists were compelled to climb a tipper truck to enable them get a proper view of the event and report on it.

The Chronicle has nothing personal against Mr. Stan Dogbe, who is a trained journalist and, therefore, one of us. Our problem with him is that he seems to be causing blunders that are not only embarrassing the Presidency, but also all Ghanaians. His alleged attack on the GBC reporter and the independence brochure blunder are some of the embarrassments.

When journalists approached Commander Steve Obimpeh, Chairman of the Planning Committee about the errors in the brochure, he readily directed them to Stan Dogbe – meaning he supervised the whole process, but when the shame came, it was the poor Acting Director of the Information Services Department who was asked to issue an apology letter to the President. In all these blunders, no action has been taken against those who caused them. Does it mean that we are glorifying mediocrity?

All what President Mahama said at the parade did not sound like news in the ears of both local and international journalists than the blunder caused by his men which has disgraced the entire nation. Since bad news always sell, no newspaper or media outlet, including The Chronicle, will get such juicy news and spike it. That is why staff in charge of communication at the Presidency must always go beyond the “to err is human” phrase and strive for perfection.

Yes, Mr. John Mahama is the President of Ghana on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), but any embarrassment such as what we are discussing does not affect him and his government alone, but the good people of Ghana as well. President Mahama must be seen to be punishing his appointees when they go wrong, instead of always trying to shield them.