My Take on John Mahama's Address to the Nation
8/17/2012 8:22:30 AM -
The President addressed the nation Wednesday evening, at 20:00hrs. Before his address, I created a wish list of what I expected him to accomplish with his speech:
- Evoke memories of President Mills and express gratitude to mourners
- Promote peace, unity and a sense of oneness
- Connect to Ghanaians, our neighbours
- Appear strong and inspire confidence
- Make a call-to-action for personal and institutional contributions
President John Mahama stirred my emotions with the way he referred to his predecessor and his desire for peace. Though I think he connected to Ghanaians with his use of language and examples, his demeanour didn't quite appear strong on this night. Now, here's my take on what he said.
Remember Mills and thank Ghanaians for support. [Paragraphs 1 - 4]
Mahama sounded presidential in his opening line, using the typical phrase 'fellow countrymen and women.' He evoked strong memories of President Mills, describing him as 'our leader, our president and Commander-in-Chief.' Consistent with our traditional values, Mahama assumed the role of family head, thanking Ghanaians and using poignant words such as 'kindness', 'love' and 'collective grief.'
Call for peace and unity [Paragraphs 5 - 10]
Some may describe Mahama's expression of pride in being Ghanaian as mere rhetoric, but he was quick to establish an important basis for this sentiment when he extolled Ghanaians for coming together - 'to mourn, to remember and to reconcile' - during President Mills' funeral. He addressed a general concern about the fading away of the unity and goodwill shown during the funeral. In an attempt to show Ghanaians how we can put aside our differences and rally around national causes, the symbolic example of Hearts of Oak and Kotoko supporters moving to support the Black Stars was on point. I applaud him for that punch line.
Missed opportunity to reach out to our neighbours [Paragraphs 11 - 14]
In this section, Mahama missed an opportunity to establish our sense of responsibility toward our neighbours. Though he tried to emphasise the ability of the Ghanaian people to coexist in spite of our ethnic and religious diversity, his reference to Ghanaians working, laughing, eating and living together while other nations descended into ethnic rivalry and warfare failed to capture our resolve to work for peace within the sub region and lend help to our neighbours whenever we can. [Paragraph 11]. You don't laugh when your neighbour descends into war, John.
I wish he used this section to accomplish two things: promote our leadership role in the sub region and celebrate our tolerance of diversity. He did well with the latter, not the former.
Responsibility. Service. Patriotism. [Paragraphs 15 - 18]
The president reminds us in these paragraphs of three key ingredients for nation building: responsibility, service and patriotism. The icing on the cake was Mahama's personal commitment to ensuring that 'Government emphasises, appreciates and protects our unity in diversity.'
We can create the change we desire [Paragraphs 19 - 31]
Making his call-to-action, John Mahama invoked our fondest memory of President Mills. He opened this section with President Mills' signature, 'My brothers and sisters.' President Mahama made reference to the legacies of the presidents before him - an act of respect for those individuals, whether he agreed with them or not. This is consistent with his campaign against 'petty name-calling' and 'baseless personal attacks.'
He invited the Ghanaian people, men and women and the youth to challenge themselves and think differently. It was in this section that he displayed his single act of bravado during the night - daring to tell his colleague politicians that politics is dirty because of them. I tip my hat for that honesty, sir, and I dare ask for more.
He expressed his desire to preside over a country that is blooming, and yet he was quick to admit that for many Ghanaians life was still too far from being decent. He promised a policy statement in two weeks. I am certain that the thought of this promise might provoke anxiety in many Ghanaians, especially those desperately waiting for help to come.
Where do we face? [Paragraphs 32 - 38]
Mahama dug deep into his political ancestry to find where we face, quoting Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah - a man under whom his father sharpened his political teeth. 'We face neither East nor West. We face forward.' A fine way to conclude.