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Opinions of Monday, 9 January 2017

Columnist: Kobby Gomez-Mensah

Nana Addo’s plagiarized speech an embarrassment we must condemn

I always criticized John Mahama’s speeches for failing to inspire in most cases, though he’s a communications scholar who attended the same school as yours truly and taught by some of the greatest minds in the field within the country.

But my mates, particularly, those with NDC sympathies insisted Mahama was or is a great communicator. I still doubt it. But like they say, opinions are like noses, and mine is slightly bigger.

Unlike Mahama, growing up and observing Ghana’s political space, Nana Addo’s oratory skills seem quite unmatched. I recall with admiration each time he had to make a point in parliament before the 2000 elections.

He rose buttoned up and eloquently parroted whatever proposal he had for any business on the Floor of the House. This has continued till date and I’m sure he will go down in history as one of our better spoken leaders.

Nana Addo speaks well, not just the fluidity of his presentations but also his choice of words often makes him a sight to behold on the screens and a voice you want to hear repeatedly on the air. God blessed him with gift of the gab and he’s learnt to use it well.

Many domestic activities made it impossible to participate in his investiture, but I took the trouble to monitor first on TV and later on radio. I think it was a great event. I monitored Kwame Amofa’s tweet of how the event was nearly marred by the teeming crowd that went out of control, but eventually, it was incident free. However, soon social media will be awash with excerpts of the speech that were apparently borrowed but not duly acknowledged.

Many the exchanges I saw on social media were blinded by loyalty to Nana Addo, with only a few struggling to point out how the speechwriter’s dishonesty cannot be glossed over. Yes we can be loyalists and criticize those we are loyal to. Especially, when their actions embarrass the office they occupy. It is unpardonable for a head of state to plagiarize portions of another’s speech and own them.

I have seen many defenses, my reaction is either those individuals are not well educated, ignorant of how big a deal plagiarism is or are plain stupid. One of the most laughable justifications is that portions of the statement attributed to George Walker Bush was first used by Woodrow Wilson and given the period lapse, Nana Addo can own it. Well, Bush owned it first then, so Nana Addo stole it from him.

I later saw a video showing excerpts that were borrowed from Clinton’s inaugural speech without acknowledgement as well. Maybe subjected to strict proof, after the third of the speech that acknowledged dignitaries, another third will be made of plagiarized content with the final third made up of words that mean nothing to anyone, including the President himself.

Aristotle, Einstein, Plato, Socrates and St. Augustine are still authorities in many scholarly fields and are quoted more than Woodrow Wilson. They died many years before now. So by that logic of the copyright documents and their bearers, these seasoned academics no longer own their words and by extension their works. How unintelligent!

Words mean a lot if they emanate from the innermost part of their purveyors. Therefore, as a student of communication, I rated Nana very high. In fact, I suspected it was the best inaugural speech by any president under the fourth republic, only for the black cat to escape from the buried bag.

Let’s say it’s okay for Nana to steal those words, but do they mean anything to him? Because I monitored a great deal of his speech on radio, I felt it; the impact on me was great. I was convinced Ghanaians did the right thing by electing a leader who speaks to their inner being. But to wake up from a nap to see the great job done by some media houses in exposing what can only be described as Nana’s academic dishonesty, leaves me heartbroken.

What is more, folks have been fixated on who held the state sword with one arm or both. And Nana Addo’s cloth open to show his tummy.

How do we achieve anything positive? Why do we grow loyal to folly? Anyone who is proud that the world will look at our President with any seriousness may be sick in their mind. Donald Trump’s wife was caught to have plagiarized Michelle Obama’s and it was a disaster of international dimensions. Nana’s plagiarism cannot be downplayed. It shows we are not learning.

Technology made it easy for all of us to establish what has happened in other jurisdictions to authors of similar plagiarized speeches unknowingly uttered by leaders to embarrass themselves and their citizens. Let’s see what Nana Addo will do to his kitchen cabinet for this obviously incompetent act.

Nana Addo must be embarrassed by what happened. That having struggled for decades to lead this country he didn’t speak from his inner self to get everyone behind him but stole other people’s words, dead or alive.

I am embarrassed by it and convinced that my good friend Eugene Arhin only took the heat for a bigger fish, who obviously feels too important to fall on his own sword. Time is a kind judge.