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Opinions of Monday, 17 October 2016

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Should Nana Akufo-Addo come clean on his health?

By Kofi Ata

Of late, the state of the health of Nana Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, NPP, has become a subject of discussion, rumour and speculation.

The matter gained some currency when the AfricaWatch Magazine published alleged details of Nana Akufo-Addo’s state of health and the treatment he has been undergoing at Wellington Hospital in London (see, “Full AfricaWatch report: Akufo-Addo has cancer”, Ghanaweb, August 30, 2016).

Though Nana Akufo-Addo’s spokesperson, leading members of NPP, his physician in Ghana as well as a spokesperson for the Wellington Hospital all denied the report, the story is not going away. In this article, I intend to discuss this subject and pose the question whether Nana Akufo-Addo has a constitutional or moral duty to be honest with the Ghanaian electorate on the state of his health.

The following reports, “AfricaWatch vows to expose Nana Addo in response to NPP’s insults” and “Full Text: Africawatch responds to Nana Akufo-Addo”, appeared on some Ghanaian media websites including Ghanaweb on October 13 and 14, 2016 respectively).

AfricaWatch is emphatic that the first reports in August were accurate. There is indication that the Executive Editor of AfricaWatch was once a close associate of Nana Akufo-Addo and therefore may have some inside information on Nana Akufo-Addo’s health. One of the allegations made by AfricaWatch is that since 2013 Nana Akufo-Addo has been travelling abroad for medical treatment.

What is interesting or perhaps, a coincidence is that within hours of the above AfricaWatch reports, it was announced that Nana Akufo-Addo was leaving for UK and Germany on a four-day private visit from October 14 returning on October 18, 2016 (see “Akufo-Addo leaves for UK, Germany”, Ghanaweb, Ocober 14, 2016 with a photo of a smiling, healthy and happy looking Nana Akufo-Addo).

As NPP is stage managing all these deception, his Press Secretary, Eugene Arhin had earlier issued a statement that Nana Akufo-Addo will begin a four-day tour of the Asante Region from Wednesday, October 19, 2016 (accompanied by a tired looking photo of Nana Akufo-Addo (see, “Akufo-Addo begins Aahanti tour Wednesday”, Ghanaweb, October 14, 2016).

This is reminiscent of how NDC drove then president, the late Prof John Attah-Mills to his tragic demise. Nana Akufo-Addo is a 72-year old man, travelling from Ghana to UK, then to Germany and back to Ghana within four days. Yet, he is expected to begin a regional tour a day after his return.

Even if he is going to rest in the UK and Germany, the travels alone should make him tired and would need at least, a full day’s rest on his return before beginning a regional tour, bearing in mind his age. The fact is, from the comments on Ghanaweb regarding his departure, many believe that he was going for medical treatment. It is no secret that Nana Akufo-Addo is going for urgent medical treatment. Why do I say so?

This is his third and final attempt at winning the presidency and his party just launched their election manifesto on Sunday October 9, 2016. What is more important than staying at home to campaign than to go on a private visit abroad, unless of course, it is his health? At least, it’s good he is putting his health first before his political ambition but he should be honest with the people of Ghana.

There is no formal requirement under the 1992 Constitution for presidential candidates to declare the state of their health prior to or during the presidential election. However, Articles 69(1)(c) and 94(2)(b)(ii) presuppose that the state of the health of the president or would be president is of public interest.

For the purpose of this article, I will concentrate only on Article 69(1)(c), which sates, “the President shall be removed from office if he is found, in accordance with the provisions of this article to be incapable of performing the functions of his office by reason of infirmity of body or mind”.

It is therefore important that the Ghanaian electorate is aware of the state of the health of Nana Akufo-Addo and whether he will be fit for the demanding role of the office of president by reason of his firm body or mind.

I am sure those around him and NPP will say that he is fit, firm in body and mind because he has been campaigning and touring the country. Let’s be honest, though that is true, he been taking rests in between whilst Dr Bawumia is doing most of the campaigning unlike 2008 and 2012. Even at the manifesto launch, it was Dr Bawumia who read most of the manifesto. In effect Dr Bawumia has become de facto NPP presidential candidate.

Why is Nana Akufo-Addo’s state of health of public interest and important? It is critical because Ghana has lost a sitting president to similar deception on the state of the health of a presidential candidate who won the presidency, continued to deceive the good people of Ghana and ended up dying tragically.

I do remember the late President Mills giving all sorts of explanations for his apparent illness, the blackening of his palms, etc. Who would forget his jogging on the tarmac on his return from the US after receiving urgent medical treatment just to show that he was well and fit?

Then, the phoning into a radio station in the early hours from his hotel room in New York to say that he was working for Ghana at that time. When he was advised by his medical team to rest, he ignored the advice and carried on working. All these were staged managed deceptions orchestrated by the those around the then president and NDC to fool Ghanaians.

The fact is, we are all mortals and cannot cheat nature. In the end, he paid the ultimate price of deception with his life and Ghana does not need a second national calamity. May the Almighty forbid.

It appears history is repeating itself and Ghanaian politicians do not learn any lessons. Just compare the photo of Nana Akufo-Addo on Ghanaweb form the Asante regional tour and the one at the airport. In the regional tour picture, he looks unwell and tired but in the other, he looks well, happy and smiling. Who is deceiving who? Of course, he is not expected to cry at the airport but the fact is, his happy and smiling appearance are deceptive.

The state of Nana Akufo-Addo’s health is of public interest because the constitution says so under Article 69(1)(c) so he can no longer keep quiet over it because he is now a presidential candidate and a potential president of Ghana if he wins the December 7, 2016 presidential election.

Ghana cannot afford a president who will be an absentee president, always flying out to UK and Germany for urgent medical treatment. In 2016 alone, Nana Akufo-Addo has flown to UK and Germany on at least, three occasions.

I am also of the view that Nana Akufo-Addo has a moral duty to be honest with his God and tell Ghanaians and his party whether he is well enough and fit for the demanding job of the president of the Republic of Ghana. He should not listen to his advisers who for selfish ends will urge him to hand on against medical advice. It may be late but never too late to withdraw as a presidential candidate and hand the baton to Dr Bawumia.

In fact, the presidential election would be sexier if Dr Bawumia was the NPP candidate as Mahama and NDC would be unable to tell the three northern regions to vote for the driver instead of the mate. That way, the votes from the three regions would be split to the advantage of NPP and with a good performance in their two strongholds of Asante and Eastern regions, victory could be assured.

I was against details of Nana Akufo-Addo’s illness that AfricaWatch published because it violated his privacy. Telling the electorate whether one is ill or well enough and fit to be president would not require such level of details about his illness as published by AfricaWatch.

All Ghanaians need to know is a credible assessment on the state of his health by an objective qualified physician with an opinion on whether Nana Akufo-Addo is well enough (firm in body and mind) and fit to be president of Ghana.

Nana Akufo-Add is candidate who is being marketed as the most honest and incorruptible politician. This is the time to be honest and incorruptible on his health. I hope Nana Akufo-Addo will put his health first, listen to and take advice from his doctors and not political advisers. I wish Nana Akufo-Addo a speedy and full recovery and sustainable long life with resilient good health in the future.