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Opinions of Friday, 9 September 2011

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Political Science 101 for Dummies

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

I always knew there was something psychologically amiss with the entire National Democratic Congress’ cabinet of President John Evans Atta-Mills. I mean, how does a “whole” Minister of Health arrive at the decision of “firing” an Honorary Director of the Cardiothoracic Center at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital? (See “We Eulogize Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng – Ablakwa” 8/31/11).

It appears the problem started with a gross misunderstanding of the English word “Honorary,” an adjective which defines as follows: “given for honor only, without the usual requirements, duties, privileges and emoluments.” And so, naturally, most Ghanaians who have an intimate familiarity with our national language of official and/or business conduct were stunned to learn that, indeed, their Minister of Health, Mr. Joseph Yieleh Chireh, had actually dispatched a letter to Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the founding-director of the Cardiothoracic Center at Ghana’s flagship health center, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

Well, when the primary motive is political vindictiveness, then, of course, linguistic nuances are of absolutely no relevance at all. It is all about humiliation and embarrassment. The problem, here again, is that the National Democratic Congress is not a political party whose membership has the word “shame” in its largely insult-laden vocabulary arsenal. In essence, the message being sent to the target of abuse or, properly speaking, political nemesis, was “get lost” and “we are now in charge and give not a hoot about whatever you may or may not have contributed to the development of heart surgery in this country.” And even more significantly, “we would rather you have no association, whatsoever, with the hospital that Governor Gordon Guggisberg built with the able and foresighted advice of Osagyefo Nana Sir Ofori-Atta I.”

My concern here regards what happened to the general standard and quality of our country’s educational system, when even cardinal ministerial appointees have a hard time differentiating between honorary appointments and substantive ones. And just exactly when did such bleak appreciation for the English language begin? I ask this question because as the authorial voice in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) aptly observes: “The [wo]/man who does not remember where the rain began to beat him, would also not remember where he began to dry himself.”

And then the otherwise passably respectable President John Evans Atta-Mills does not help matters any, as it were, when, in seeking to effect a damage-control mechanism, he actually complicates matters by asking the already non-resident Honorary Director of the Cardiothoracic Center to stay on for a month, while Prof. Frimpong-Boateng prepares to properly hand over to the substantive director of the center who has been running the affairs of the center for a remarkable while now.

Now, I don’t want to sound as if the NDC machine operators are downright enemies of language, just about any language and not simply the English language, but I am afraid I have absolutely no other alternative but to reach just such decision and make precisely such an observation.

One thing is glaringly clear here; and it is the fact that somebody much, much higher than the Health Minister actually took the decision to “fire” Prof. Frimpong-Boateng. And that somebody, of course, includes the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces and, possibly, also President Mills’ chief lieutenant. Unfortunately, that somebody clearly forgot to instruct Mr. Chireh on how to exactly word the letter summarily revoking the Honorary Directorship of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng.

On the language question, we also find the Deputy Information Minister, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, “eulogizing” the still very much alive Prof. Frimpong-Boateng for his yeomanry contribution to the development of the Cardiothoracic Center and cardiac surgery in the nation at large. Maybe somebody ought to remind Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa that “eulogies” are properly reserved for the dead and dying!

Then again, no one can really blame the 30-year-old Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa who could have made use of further education but pitifully finds himself rudely taken out of the classroom to play out of his league. Another mark of poor leadership on the part of Tarkwa-Atta.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of 22 books, including “Reena: Letters to an Indian-American Gal” (, 2008). E-mail: ###