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Opinions of Saturday, 27 February 2010

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

One African Proverb for Nana Darkwa, NPP & NDC Boys!

Manasseh Azure Awuni: One African Proverb for Nana Darkwa, NPP & NDC Boys!

It was the South African Nobel Laureate and one of Africa’s most respected statesmen, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, who once said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Indeed, there are certain situations one can only be neutral if one is a hypocrite with First Class Honours. One of such situations is the madness which has engulfed this nation and no one has the faintest clue when it will all be over. I have listened to many discussions on the issue and the hypocritical nature of Ghanaians has once again been at its peak. Certain individuals decided to meander around the straight path of truth for the fear of being tagged. But we must not forget what Martin Luther King Jnr once said. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
It is all about Nana Darkwa Baafi’s comments and the weird plot of this unrehearsed drama that unfolded and continues to unfold in its wake.
The events that followed that witlessly wild statement were a real source of worry. We have hundreds of people in the dungeons of Nsawam Maximum Security Prison and elsewhere because they don’t know when their cases will be processed for court. Some have had their dockets missing and their freedom is at the discretion of a presidential pardon. I never knew the police could be so quick in processing cases for court. All of a sudden, the courts had time to respond so swiftly to cases. Then Ghana’s justice system qualifies one of the best in the world, doesn’t it?

The legal brains said the case was supposed to be a civil one but Nana Darkwa was handed what is the preserve criminals. In fact, all was not well and it was as though some super-natural hands were pulling at the invisible strings again after the Free Tatsu campaigners have taken some time off their busy schedule to sip alvaro.

In fact, the boycott of parliament by the Minority was justifiable on that ground in my judgement. Injustice to one means injustice to all. We thought the Criminal Libel Law was lying somewhere beneath the azure Atlantic Ocean. But the Minority have a very short memory. Not only did they see nothing wrong with Tsatsu Tsikata’s incarceration but they said the rule of law was at work. This comparison will, however, not take us anywhere. It is this senseless comparison that is making us look like headless chickens when it comes to deciding who or what to back or condemn.
Some have argued that Nana Darkwa Baafi was not the first person to make such wild and unsubstantiated allegations. This is perfectly true. It was very ironic (or rather fated) that such statements were made against Former President Rawlings. Indeed, Rawlings should have been the last person to complain about such allegations. But as I indicated, such senseless comparisons do not help and will never help us as a nation. And the fact that someone might have done such a thing and got away with it in the past does not justify a current wrong. In fact, in any enlightened country, you cannot go on air and accuse even an ordinary person of arson and get hundreds of party supporters calling you a hero. Not in this era of civilization.

The Ghana Journalists Association, the National Media Commission, President JEA Mills and some “social commentators” expressed various degrees of concerns.
But some called the young man’s action an exercise of freedom of speech and saw nothing wrong with it. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian patriarch and apostle of non-violence, “Democracy does not mean we should behave like sheep.”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Following the liberalization of the airwaves and the subsequent repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, Ghanaians have enjoyed unfettered media freedom and freedom of expression.
Nana Darkwa’s saga has, however, brought to the fore how irresponsible, misguided and unguarded utterances on the airwaves are capable of undoing our democratic gains. It is unfortunate that political commentary in this country is now synonymous with foul language and irresponsible talk. Politicians and social commentators often go on air to make wild allegations and claim to have evidence to back it when they know deep within their heart of hearts that there is no element of truth in what they are saying. Such a political culture is not only detrimental to our young democracy but is also a threat to the peace and stability of the nation.

The Rwandan genocide that lefts over eight hundred thousand people dead in 1994 is too familiar to be cited for what an irresponsible comment in the media can do. What happened last week has demonstrated that Ghanaians are not super humans and can suffer similar fate if we don’t take steps to address this misconception about freedom of speech.

Our politicians should also be wary of the legacy they are bequeathing to the future generation. Foul language and disrespect for authority is alien to our culture and must not be encouraged in the name of politics. It is very unfortunate that Nana Darkwa is seen as a hero in some quarters and he had the guts to announce, after his release, that he was going to do more of what he had done knowing that he has a strong support base. We must not accept indecent language as part of politics in this era of civilization irrespective of who is behind those comments and who is at the receiving end.
Last year, Representative Joe Wilson had to render an apology to President Obama for shouting “You lie” when Barack Obama was addressing the senate on the US health policy. So grave was the comment considered that Former American President and statesman, Jimmy Carter, said it was a racist attack on Barack Obama. Here, not only do our parliamentarians heckle our presidents but ordinary citizens are also found on daily basis using insulting remarks on our leaders, a phenomenon they ignorantly attribute to their freedom of expression. Indecency is not compatible with civilized democratic culture and our politicians and influential people in society must be wary of the examples they are setting for the youth of today.

Perhaps, we were too engrossed in Nana Darkwa saga to listen to the apology Tiger Woods, the world richest and most successful sports personality, rendered to the world following his infidelity. According to him, “Character and decency are what really count.”

To Nana Darkwa and the other NDC and NPP boys who are sent to radio stations to make rank nonsense of our struggle to build upon our democratic gains, I say sit down and rethink. The future belongs to us and we must not allow those selfish individuals who have almost outlived their usefulness on this planet to misuse us. Our elders have a proverb which aptly describes what happens party boys when they are “praised” for mischievous deeds.

Everybody loves a fool but no one wants him for a son.

Those who could not think deeper mistook Nana Darkwa’s notoriety for a heroic welcome by party members. Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, who led the Minority to boycott parliament in solidarity with Nana Darkwa is a very intelligent man I admire so much. I’m not sure he would be proud in his hearts of heart of what Nana Darkwa did. He would never wish Nana Darkwa were his son, I believe. Politicians love dauntless, foolhardy dare-devils who can be tough on their opponents. However, I’m not sure they will take enormous pride in what Nana Darkwa did. I can imagine a conversation like this.
“Did you actually say the former president set his own house ablaze?”
“Yes, I said it.”
“Do you have evidence?”
“No.”
“Then why did you say it?”
No answer!
“Were you drunk?”
“No!”
So the questioner will stop and think deeply. Would he want such a person for a son?
So those NPP and NDC boys contracted to be fouling the airwaves must know that so long as they satisfy the whims and caprices of their paymasters, they will gain their protection. But for how long? Who will be proud of them as worthy citizens of this land? Ghana?
Everybody loves a fool but no one wants him for a son! A word to the wise is in Bongo, where Albert Abongo is MP.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [maxighana.com] email: azureachebe2@yahoo.com. The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. To read more of his work, visit www.maxighana.com