President Nana Akufo-Addo has said former President John Mahama's distasteful description of people from his tribe as criminals should not go unnoticed.
He said it was time for well-meaning people, particularly the clergy, to speak out against the former President's errant behaviour.
The former President, who is seeking a comeback after his heavy electoral defeat as incumbent in 2016, went dirty on the President last week when he endorsed a tribal jibe aimed at the President by one of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament, Isaac Adongo, in the heat of the Agyapa Royalties debate.
In the course of sharing Isaac Adongo's foul language about the President and his Vice on Facebook, Mr. Mahama even added his own by calling the President's tribe 'Sakawa Boys', a common term largely used to refer to people engaged in cyber fraud and other dubious and criminal activities.
Whilst addressing the leadership of Catholic Bishops Conference last Friday at the Jubilee House, President Akufo-Addo appeared incensed and said the former President should be condemned for his ethnocentric remark.
“A presidential candidate, a former President of Ghana, you can call a group of Ghanaians 'Sakawa people'? And it involves the group the sitting President comes from? And that statement goes without comment? And at the same time we hear this statement 'let's all try and bring the politics of insults to an end and etc etc,” the President told the Bishops.
President Akufo-Addo said “former President Mahama made a remark about the Akyem people as 'Sakawa' people and up till today I have not heard any senior citizen of this country, lay, religious, civil society organizations, public think tanks reprimand him for that statement,” adding “what can be the basis of such a remark?”
He said “Archbishop! This name-calling and insults seem to be a feature of Ghanaian public life which is…but sometimes one would hope that when things come out, people will comment on them,” adding “the comment made by my opponent that 'Akyem Sakawa people' I have not heard any public figure in this country, independent, yourself or anybody comment on it. It is completely unacceptable (sic).”
President Akufo-Addo said if he made a mistake to personally make such a comment about people from the northern part of the country from where the former President hails or even Gonjas (Mr. Mahama's tribe), “you could imagine the uproars that would be in the country.”
He said because of the country's past which is the “authoritarian origins of our state where it was considered dangerous to criticize government” but added that things have changed and everyone is at liberty to criticize the government whether fair or foul.”
“If you criticize government, no matter what you say, it is legitimate. If government is to respond, that's 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, where they conduct themselves in an irresponsible manner (sic),” he stated.
President Akufo-Addo said this is the “package” that needs to be dispassionately acted on when they do occur.
“It goes for me that when the President opens his mouth and says something which is unacceptable, he should be reprimanded. In same way, when opposition politicians and people in the public space, if they conduct themselves in 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 that is a sanitized space (sic),” he added.