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Opinions of Monday, 20 April 2015

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Nana Addo Overcomes “All-Die-Be-Die”

Irmo, SC
20TH April, 2015
Last week, the NPP Presidential candidate, Hon. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, admitted, during an interview, that his use of the above phrase and the attendant publicity following its leakage had hurt him politically.
Well, it is better late than never.
It was a hopeful moment, not just for his political career, but for leadership in our country. There have been many such misstatements by politicians that have been defended by them and their followers long after it has become obvious to many that they had erred. Examples are late President Mills’s threat to “make Ghana like Kenya” if the 2008 elections did not go his way and President Mahama’s ethnocentric appeal to Northerners to “vote for me if you want a President for the North.”It takes courage for a leader to admit that he erred and Nana’s admission was a significant sign that maybe, he has the self-awareness to be President. It returned the former multi-lingual Foreign Minister, who, under President Kufuor, had been, perhaps, West Africa’s foremost peacemaker, back to the ranks of the peacemakers.
It should never have taken this long and this much pain to come to this. Regardless of his intent, it was obvious, as soon as the tape of his remarks became public that Nana had misspoken. And a few of us said so, immediately and consistently. Unfortunately, those in charge of the 2012 campaign proceeded, not just to defend the indefensible, but to turn his unfortunate remarks into iconic statements.
• They were repeated at rallies.
• T-shirts and other campaign paraphernalia were emblazoned with them.
• They were repeated on air.
• And repeating them became a form of loyalty test.
And those who dared to question this strategy were vilified ferociously.
The sad part is that many of those repeating his unfortunate words and urging him to repeat them were privately telling their friends that “All-die-be-die” and some of the other phrases uttered on that dark night were terrible and would hurt the party and its Presidential candidate. Why did they do this? Could it be that at some subconscious level, they believed it could be turned into something positive? Or were their motives more dishonourable? What was it?
Sycophancy? Opportunism? Fear of the candidate? Let them speak up.
It is sad that, like the proverbial king who went into public with excrement on his cloth while his subjects looked on in silence, Nana was betrayed by those he trusted to give him honest advice and good guidance. It is amazing that without missing a beat, the very people who hailed “All-die-be-die” are hailing its renunciation by its author.
Sadly, in the matter of candour with our leaders, the NDC is no better. I recall that in 2012, before he passed away, President Mills announced that he would not participate in the IEA Debates before the elections. Many NDC functionaries took to the air-ways to defend the decision. Then, as fate would have it, the President died. When President Mahama replaced him, he announced that he would take part in the IEA Debates. Without missing a beat, the very people who had hailed the Mills boycott were praising President Mahama’s decision to participate in the debate as bold and visionary!!
Contrast that with this. In 2004, facing a difficult re-election, President Bush had a disastrous debate with Democrat John Kerry in which in addition to performing badly, he pouted like a spoilt child. With the news media filled with pouting stories, President Bush marched into a meeting of his key campaign advisors and declared, “ Now, I wasn’t pouting, was I?” and looked around the table, looking for agreement. From right across the table, Karen Hughes, one of his key advisors said firmly, “Yes, Sir, Mr. President, you were!” Now, that is the candour that a leader deserves from his advisors.
Hopefully, going forward, people in all parties and indeed, in all our institutions will offer honest advice to the leaders they serve.
Our leaders too, need to know that leaders get around them, behaviors they encourage. Encouraging candour will beget more candour. The question for Nana is whether the same “Agbena advisors” who helped him turn a one night mistake into a five-year albatross that may have cost him the Presidency can take him to the Promised Land this time.
As the saying goes, “the path-maker does not know when his path is crooked.” When a man trying to get to Jubilee House is heading for Nima, we should not mislead him that he is on the right path. We should firmly point him in the right direction. Sometimes, loyalty is not asking “How high, sir?” when the leader wants you to jump. It is asking why and how the jump would help that leader.
May God bless us all as we move forward--- together.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy