The Graphic editorial of 22 August entitled, "TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE" carries the story of a Kumasi apprentice mechanic who passed disparaging comments about the President, John Kuffuor, and who was arraigned before court and later remanded in custody, even after the Judge had ruled that there was insufficient evidence for the prosecution of his case.
Many people have expressed their opinion about this case, and I agree with them: the attitude of the police and the judge, is high-handed. There was certainly a time in this country when such remarks were considered to be really 'derogatory' and would have attracted considerable retributive action from the state's intelligence and security operatives. Today, we are working hard to bury that hideous past; and so we should endeavour not to let such high-handed actions return into our body politic. Which is why I am disturbed by this incident!
As long as the citizens of a democracy do not engage in libel, defamation, and obscenities as the Graphic pointed out, against the person of the President, harmless remarks and benign opinions such as those of the Kumasi mechanic should not even attract the attention of our intelligence and security officials.
I am told that when Prime Minister Kofi Busia went to the University of Science Technology to address a gathering there during the Second Republic, the President of NUGS at the time, P.V. Obeng, whose student government had been waging a war against the PP government, did something that could easily have cost him his life if it had been the PNDC he would later become a member of. It is said that while he was harassing Busia over certain issues, Busia turned to walk away. P.V. Obeng then held the Prime Minister's coat tails to demand his attention. At that point the secret service detail of the Prime Minister grabbed P.V. and wanted to 'deal with him'. It is said that Busia only asked them to release him and let him go because he hadn't done anything to merit that treatment.
I recall the first two years of US President Bill Clinton's administration, when due to a lack of experience in office, he would stumble from one blunder to the other. The American press gave him a hard time, including calling him all kinds of names. Mike Ryoko, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the 'Chicago Tribune', called him a man "who lacks wisdom", in one of his articles. In the Akan language this means that ONNIM NYANSA or OYE KWASEA. Even so, nobody in the American media got into trouble with the law because of these unflattering descriptions of the Commander-in-Chief. And it was not because Americans, including their Presidents, don't smart under insults. They all do in the same measure we in Ghana also feel about insults. However, the difference is that in a democracy, insults do not hurt anyone. If we want to emulate the liberal democratic principles of the West, our security operatives must start closing their ears to comments such as, “your so-called Kuffuor is in town. That Kuffuor who cannot stay in Accra but roams about unnecessarily”, which, after all, do not do any dishonour to the office and person of the President of the land.
As long as the citizens of a democracy do not engage in libel, defamation, and obscenities as the Graphic pointed out, against the person of the President, harmless remarks and benign opinions such as those of Krakye Kwabena Kusi should not attract the attention of our intelligence and security officials. Don't Ghana's Secret Service and the courts have much more important things to do than wasting their time and resources on these frivolous issues?
We have to be careful not to start creating a personality cult again in Ghana. When citizens cannot express harmless opinions about state officials openly, an atmosphere of hero worship and blind adulation emerges; which is usually the prelude to dictatorship. Some have referred to this situation, and others like it in the recent past, as "creeping dictatorship". I dare say that is what it feels like to me. We must not forget that whiles Rawlings' dictatorship began as a "tyre blow-out", Nkrumah's developed as a "slow tyre leak". In either case, we found ourselves in Ghana living under the tyranny of both leaders. Ghana must resist any incipient signs of despotism, and in whatever form it manifests itself. B.K. Obeng-Diawuoh Bardstown, Kentucky USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
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