President Akufo-Addo has expressed disgust at recent ethnocentric comments by former President John Dramanin Mahama.
In a post on his official Facebook wall, Monday, August 31, 2020 endorsing the position of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bongo, Isaac Adongo on the much talked-about Agyapa Royalties Agreement, Mahama wrote “An interesting piece from Hon. Isaac Adongo on the Agyapa Deal. Agyapa Royalties fraud is the last straw: The Akyem Sakawa Boys and Grandpas must go.”
The comment was seen by some as distasteful, especially coming from a man who has presided over the administration of Ghana and seeking reelection, even though the members of his party, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) saw nothing wrong with it.
An obviously unhappy Akufo-Addo could not hide his feelings when the opportunity presented itself Friday evening.
This was when members of the Catholic Bishops Conference led by its President, Most Reverend Phillip Naameh, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale called on him at the Jubilee House and among other things reiterated their call on political actors to ensure decorum and courtesy to their political opponents in how they present themselves before the citizens.
“There is no need to denigrate, debase and dehumanize others to justify your own ability to perform”, Naameh told the President whilst encouraging him to ensure that those who speak, advocate and campaign for him commit to respecting his values and etiquette.
That, however did not seem to have gone that down well with President Akufo-Addo, saying “this name-calling and insulting seems to be a feature of Ghanaian public life; but sometimes we will hope that when things come out, people will comment on them.”
He then went on to say “the comment made by my opponent 'Akyem Sakawa people' I've not heard any public figure in this country independent, ourselves or anybody comment on it; it’s completely unacceptable.”
That, he said was because “if I was to get up to make a comment about Northerners or Gonjas, you can imagine the uproar there will be in the country.”
However, he said “a Presidential candidate, a former President of Ghana you can call a group of Ghanaians 'sakawa' people and it involves the group from which the sitting President comes and that…that statement goes without comment and in the same time, we hear these statements 'let's all try and bring the politics of insults to an end' etcetera.”
“I'm very very disturbed by this remark that the former President Mahama made that Akyem people are 'sakawa' people and up till today, I've not heard any senior citizen of this country, lay, religious, civil society organization, public think tank reprimand him for that statement”, he said whilst asking rhetorically “what can be the basis of such a remark.”
“It's a public act that you have a problem with, fair enough but that the people who are doing it had given this ethnic branding, it cannot be right”, he noted with deep-seated concern, saying “that’s the kind of language that we don’t want in our politics.”
President Akufo-Addo then told the Catholic Bishops “I am a hundred percent on the same wavelength as you as to kind of politics that will make sense in our… but I’m very keen also Archbishop that when things happen, we deal with each mother on its merits, don’t worry ourselves whether the person is government or position or this or that or whether their political persuasion is fine”, insisting “if what they have said is unacceptable, it should be pointed out that it is unacceptable; it goes for me.”
“The President opens his mouth and says something which is unacceptable, he should be reprimanded and in same way opposition politicians, people in the public space comment if they conduct themselves by their utterances in an unacceptable manner they should be brought to book; they should be reprimanded so that we all know that the goal that we are seeking is one about a sanitized public space where we debate issues, are the ones that dominate our public life”, was his belief.
Meanwhile, he said “occasions can be given where specific comments can be made and nothing happens and then it’s lost; it's lost in the generalities.”
He therefore noted, “we need to focus on this matter in an even-handed way.”
His reason was that “I get the impression that because of the unfortunate in some ways authoritarian origins of our state in this area where it was considered dangerous to criticize government, the pendulum has now swung the other way where government is the only group you can criticize, if you criticize government, no matter what you say it's legitimate.”
Interestingly however he indicated that “if government was to respond, this time round illegitimate; media freedom is interpreted as meaning the freedom to criticize others, but you can’t criticize the press if for instance they step out of bounds or they conduct themselves in an irresponsible manner.”
“So all of this, I’m trying to say that it's a package we all have to look at dispassionately and act on this issues when they occur”, the President advised.