I personally had taken interest in politics in my country for quite sometime. I have been involved in many political activities over the years, and had kept participating in the processes that led to the election of presidents of my country Ghana for sometime now. To put it simply, I have been a political watcher who was keen on political leadership offered followers of the various political parties.
In my country Ghana, there are two major political parties; the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), with other parties that have been classified as smaller parties.
Since the inception of the 4th Republican Constitution, Ghana had had the opportunity of electing six governments. Out of the six elections, the NDC had won four while the NPP won two.
The political contests had never been devoid of open insults. I can remember the description of a former president as “sasabonsam” if I get the spellings right, meaning “a devil” as well as another referring to the other as “Atta Ayee” the name of a hardened criminal who was incarcerated at the time.
Indeed, the political heat was never lowered even ahead of the 2000 elections between these two former presidents; Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufour. Upon winning political power in 2000, the then NPP under former president Kufour took steps to place former president Rawlings in a bad light.
Indeed, efforts of the Attorney General at the time Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, were geared towards stripping the privileges guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution off Jerry John Rawlings. Indeed, it was so bad that the former president was seen carrying his own luggage at the airport while the VIP lounge was closed to him.
Indeed, the then presidential candidate of the NDC into the 2000, 2004, and who later won the 2008 elections to become president was not spared the political vendetta and attacks. His home was raided and vehicles taken away on the orders of the government of the NPP.
Fast forward, as a matter or fact, the late President Mills’ health was never taken off the political chopping board. He became a subject of attack from supporters and spokespersons of his contender Akufo-Addo including attacks from the man Akufo-Addo himself.
Upon becoming president of the Republic, not on a single opportunity would Akufo-Addo not ask the people of Ghana where their president was knowing very well that his former school mate was not fit. It remained so and on no single occasion had he gathered the courage to condemn attacks on the person of Professor John Evans Atta Mills.
In what appears his demeanour, the good old Professor Mills did not engage himself in retaliating the vitriolics. Indeed, on a couple of occasions, he called to order his own followers whom he considered were abusing the opposition leader Akufo-Addo. On some occasions, when the issue of education of Akufo-Addo became a matter of political discourse, an issue that was to play to his advantage, Professor Mills set the matter to rest by telling everyone that Akufo-Addo was his school mate as well as a colleague hockey player back at the University of Ghana, Legon.
That did not end it. The opposition leader Akufo-Addo went into the trenches of personal attacks and referred the former president, for purposes of records, as “lame duck president”, “Professor-do-little”, as well as ” armchair president”. No one agreed at the time that these were insults. Indeed, the opposition leader was ecstatic and was in his usual laughs when he used those descriptions on the late president.
That was not all, immediately the current president John Dramani Mahama assumed the reigns of government upon the unfortunate demise of Professor John Evans Atta Mills, the same opposition leader Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in his usual self assumed the reigns of insults and called him a “caretaker president” knowing very well that the constitution of the Republic fully recognised the status of the individual as president with all the powers as an elected president and nothing less.
It did not end there. After his defeat at the polls a few months after the burial of Professor Mills, the opposition leader had been at his usual describing the president as “incompetent Mahama”. If for nothing at all, and I have maintained, the president, in terms of education, is above him. Yet, he found the luxury of calling him incompetent. Those were not considered as insults on the president by the opposition leader himself or those who are shouting of insults today.
How some descriptions of the opposition leader have become insults on his person, continue to baffle me. It remain an undeniable fact that the leader of the NPP declared “all die be die”. References to this cannot in anyway be considered to mean insults on his person. Indeed, any candidate contesting his position must always represent the contrary and assure the people that under his administration, the mantra “all die be die” cannot have its way.
Again, if you have an opposition leader who travels to a specific region, having driven on smooth roads, addressed the people and failed to admit that roads are being constructed, but says there is nothing happening, his contender who is constructing roads and who had constructed some of the roads he drove on, wouldn’t be wrong opining that he might be asleep while driving through those roads. This cannot in any way be stretched to mean insults. Unless we are having some other definition for insults.
If you have an opposition leader whose own party member Mr. Attoh Quarshie called him a dictator after a planned press conference was disrupted with canopies and chairs broken by members of the same party sympathetic to his flagbearer, a reference to that by the president as a dictator cannot be regarded as an insult. Again, unless we are assigning different meanings to what constitutes an insult.
Many who seemed to have jumped into the wagon after many years of sitting on the fences and praising the vitrolics are now helping him play the victim. And while at it, the flagbearer had stepped up his game of attacks and landed another on the spouse of the president. Almost immediately, those who were crying victims of insults and attacks have coiled back pretending not to have heard him.
My country appears overly polarised politically. I have tried to remain as factual as I could in bringing specific cases on clear and direct attacks and insults on persons whom the opposition leader Akufo-Addo is opposed to. The above listed are clear cases of abuse of words on sitting presidents. However, his supporters even as of today, do not see anything wrong with his description of the president.
It would indeed be difficult to want to remap the lines and define what insults are from what reality is. We have seen many pictures of the opposition leader yawning and in states that depict sleeping. References to such events whether directly or indirectly, cannot be seen to be insults.
To those who are calling for a de-link of personality from the political campaign the country is witnessing, I beg to disagree. Morality, fine. We can remove that. But traits of a leader? No! For me, it is worth discussing the traits of a leader. The people must be convinced they elect the best traits of a leader. This must not be concealed.
The democracies we always refer as models, are not without assessment of the personal attributes of the leader. Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are perfect examples of modern day test of character and traits of leaders seeking to head my country Ghana.
Yes, the campaign must be of what each of the candidates can do to improve on the lives of the people, but, that cannot be done without knowing the character being elected president.