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Opinions of Sunday, 2 October 2016

Columnist: Anyomi, Charles

Why Insult The President?

The president of any nation is the elected head of state and head of government of that country. He is also the father and the number one gentleman, and represents all the people of that land.

On 23 September 2016, a Tanzanian lecturer was charged with insulting President John Magufuli in a WhatsApp message. A Tanzanian newspaper, Mwananchi published an article claiming the number of people who had been arrested across the country for insulting the president had risen to ten.

Moreover, in Turkey, more than 10 people who had been probed for insulting the president were released on 6 September 2016, following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to withdraw such cases.

Right here in Ghana, on 24 September, a Ghanaian-Lebanese pilot and author, Fadi Daboussi, was detained by Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for two days for asking in one of his publications if President John Mahama had HIV/ AIDS and also making reference to a publication that alleged Mr. Mahama had impregnated a daughter of Ashanti monarch, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

Insult Knows No Bounds

Recently, the targeted body part of an insult against US President Barack Obama, was his ears. And for former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, it was his cheeks; French President Francois Hollande, his stature; for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the cartoonists went for the downturned mouth; and for Ghanaian President John Mahama they focused on his HIV/AIDS status.

This culture of insult is not our invention, neither is it exclusive to Ghanaians as we have seen happening elsewhere around the globe with presidents subjected to insults and name calling. However, our culture has trained us to respect elders and fathers.

In our culture, it is unacceptable to stand and hail insults at elders or fathers. We were taught and trained to honour people older than us and to respect them. We learnt not to use our left hand to point at people, let alone use our mouths to insult them.

In recent times, there have been concerns from well-meaning Ghanaians including the Ashanti monarch, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II about insults on our president and the insults common in political debates, discussions in the media, and other public platforms.

Young people who have never achieved anything with their lives mount radio stations, social media and other platforms hailing insults at the president and at people who have built reputation over the years and have achieved a lot with their lives. Men and women who have become statesmen and women, elders and fathers of the land are insulted in public without due regard to their dignity.
All Ghanaian cultures frown on this emerging attitude of our young people and the Bible also strongly forbids it and admonishes us to rather honour our father and mother so that it shall be well with us and we shall live long on the earth. Where lies the honour and the respect for our elders and fathers of the land? What is the motivation for a citizen to open his mouth to insult the president and the father of the land?

This is neither our culture nor the way we were raised up to behave towards elders and fathers in the community. The president is the father of the land and just as a child will never be seen and heard in public insulting his father, it is as well wrong for a citizen to be seen and heard in public insulting the president.

Solution

Perhaps, the media must refuse to be a medium for insults. They should invite onto their shows people who will debate rather than insult. The hosts of radio programmes must be firm and take absolute control over their programmes and regulate as a matter of principle the serial callers and others who call in during radio discussions to make contributions. They must not be allowed to just say anything and the press must not be seen as pouring fuel on every little fire of insults that they find.

Leaders of political parties must be heard condemning the insults of their members, and such people hurling insults must not be treated as some sort of heroes. The ambitious young men and women in political parties who are eager to climb to political heights by insults to please big men whose favours they are courting must not be praised, but rather receive their fair share of censure to act as a deterrent to others.

Church leaders must speak up against the politics of insults. Religious leaders must get involved in the prevention of insults. They must call to order the leaders of political parties for them to calm down their followers. Our eminent chiefs must also play a similar role to religious leaders in the fight against this malodorous practice. Moreover, the National Communication Authority (NCA) must be seen as exercising its power of authority in sanctioning radio stations which allow their mediums to be used for such bad behaviours.

A New Day

However, I pray for the day when Ghanaian politics will gain maturity and be devoid of insults. That day will be the dawn of a new day. Insults cannot always have its way, in the same manner that night would not always reign. It shall be a day when politics in this country shall be based on who has the best ideas and policies to develop the country rather than on personalities and insults.

It will be a dispensation in which those who rain insults on fathers of the land will not be seen as heroes any longer, and never would they be honoured. In those days, insults will not dominate our politics in this country and radio discussions will be about debates on how to develop mother Ghana. It will be a period in which we will tolerate the opinions of one another and people's reputation will not be denigrated through insults. A new day in which no citizen of our great nation will ever use his mouth to insult the president or other dignified members of the country.

By: Charles Anyomi
charlesanyomi@gmail.com