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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

Sorry is all that you can say?

Whose idea was it for NPP operatives to go about shedding crocodile tears and apologising for unspecified wrongs? I am hope it isn’t the recommendation of a paid consultant.

I think the whole thing started in Kumasi where the Mayor – chided for failing to get the people to turn out in their numbers to vote in the first round – decided to say “sorry” for certain wrongs she might have committed. She particularly mentioned the senseless ‘decongestion’ exercise as one of her major mistakes and apologised for the inconveniences it caused and the despair it brought to many hearts.

Shortly thereafter, the MP for Cape Coast, Christine Churcher was on her knees apologising and begging fishermen in Elmina not to vote on tribal lines. That’s euphemism for “the fact that Mills is a Fante doesn’t mean you should vote for him.”

Not long after Miss Churcher’s theatrical display of remorse, the epidemic hit – almost everyone started apologising. Nana Akufo Addo said “sorry” in his own unique way and some of his underlings also muttered a few words of apology. But the icing on the “sorry” cake was provided by President John Kufuor. In all of these cases, though, no one bothered to say exactly why he or she was saying “sorry”, leaving some of us to ask: “what on earth are they apologising for?”

Take President Kufuor’s apology for example. It was carefully couched in nuanced Akan. “I am sorry if I have done anything to offend any of you,” he said. “The one who fetches the water is the one who breaks the pot.” Words like these do not make for a sincere apology. That’s why Ghanaians are asking: what are they apologising for and why now?

I can’t answer the first part of the question and the answer to the second part should be obvious to every Ghanaian above 18. The NPP’s heavy losses in the parliamentary poll have been partly attributed to the ‘arrogance’ of some of its members. The party’s flagbearer is accused of being one of the most arrogant men to ever vie for the highest office in the land.

Arrogance, really, is in the mind of the beholder. But I think in Ghanaian politics today it is synonymous with ‘Asamoah Boateng’. The guy talks anyhow. When people complained that food was getting too expensive, he said they should go eat mangoes and roasted corn. He thinks he is always right and he never bothers to engage in any meaningful way with his opponents. Even after his humiliating defeat in Mfantseman West, he was on radio speaking down on people and saying some rather unsavoury words about the electorate – especially those in the Volta Region. These are words even I will think twice before saying. I think all the apologies we have heard so far are all meant to deflect some of the charges of ‘arrogance’ and paint the NPP as an angelic collection of humble, contrite people. But is it working?

I don’t think so.

If these apologetic overtures had been made about the time President Kufuor accused Ghanaians of being lazy after some of us opened our big mouths to complain about the fact that we didn’t have money in our pockets, the narration would have been different. If these apologies had been rendered after the president inexplicably decided that he deserved to reward himself for all the good he has done for the nation, people would have listened and they may even have been inclined to forgive him without thinking twice about it. In essence, it is rather too late in the day to be apologising. Apart from being patronising and insincere, it’s also not a wise thing to do at this time.

It all smacks of a certain desperation on the part of the ruling party to stay in power by any means. And this, unfortunately for the NPP, plays directly into the hands of the NDC.

The opposition party, which has its own motley collection of arrogant thugs and hoodlums, is now pointing to the NPP’s apologies as a desperate act of deception only meant to win votes. On his latest tour of the Central Region, Prof. Mills has been telling his supporters that he will offer a government which will never have a cause to apologise and ask for forgiveness at the end of its tenure. That’s a very high standard he is setting for himself considering that government decisions are not always welcome with open arms. A government will always offend some people with its decisions and policies. But I wonder if Prof. Mills would have had the guts to say those words if the NPP hadn’t suddenly decided that now is the best time to patronise Ghanaians with half-hearted apologies.

Saying “sorry” is a noble thing to do. It can do wonders sometimes. In this case, however, it is doing more harm than good. But if members of the NPP want to continue with their apologetic theatrics, they should go ahead and hope for the best. Whether they are forgiven or not for “whatever” wrongs they might have done, we will know on December 28th. But for the apologies to really have the desired impact, they should be sincere and unconditional. Those rendering the apologies should also state exactly what they are “sorry” for and the apologies should not be nuanced in any way. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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