Journalism in Ghana has sustained a lot of whacking in recent weeks, so I do not intend to reprise the same in this piece. Actually, it is the schlocky quality of what passes for mainstream Ghanaian journalism that has come up for quite a lot of thrashing, and also trashing, recently. And deservedly so, were you to ask me. Which brings us to an article titled “14-Day Ultimatum Ends with Dim Signs of Action” published on Myjoyonline.com and dated November 5, 2008. The same article also appeared on Modernghana.com.
Bylined Fiifi Koomson, the article retailed the at once vicious and mendacious allegation that President Kufuor had supposedly been involved in a racket gone awry, in which the Ghanaian leader acted as a guarantor for a Nigerian oil company doing business with a Kuwaiti counterpart. The deal, we are told, culminated with the President being stuck with a bill in the humongous sum of $ 5.5 billion, $ 4 billion of which Mr. Kufuor appears to have had absolutely no problem, at all, in defraying. The bill in question had, allegedly, resulted from the outcome of an arbitration negotiated with either a Kuwaiti oil mogul or cartel, exactly which was not quite clear.
What is fascinating here, however, is that the story could readily be envisaged to contain several significant missing puzzles which, as was only to be expected, had easily escaped the apparently dull imagination of Mr. Koomson, as well as many a Ghanaian journalist, largely from the ideological opposition, out to get the President, as it were. Thus, for instance, none of these “Gotcha” journalists seemed to have realized, upfront, that it was virtually impossible for Mr. Kufuor to have gotten himself snagged by such a shady racket at anytime during the course of the last 7 or 8 years, as the Fourth-Republican Constitution expressly prohibits the direct engagement of any executive functionary, including the substantive President of Ghana, in any enterprise geared towards the promotion of his/her own private interests, at the same time that s/he is mandated to oversee the affairs of Ghanaian citizens 24/7, or around the proverbial clock.
The second missing puzzle regarded the purported fact of Mr. Kufuor appearing to have not even batted an eye before coming up with $ 4 billion out of only $ 5.5 billion allegedly owed the Kuwaiti oil mogul or cartel. In other words, what may be the rationale behind settling 80-percent of one's debt readily or virtually upfront and not the remaining relatively insignificant, or piddling, 20-and-odd percent, unless the debtor does not intend to ever repay the remainder?
At best, the story appeared to have been poorly cooked by a desperate opposition political hack, particularly when temporally viewed vis-à-vis polling numbers for Election 2008. In other words, the only apparent value of such reportorial malarkey, per force, ought to have lain in an election-eve surprise, an “October Surprise,” as Americans are wont to say. If so, then even here the timing appears to have been out of kilter; for, Americans traditionally anticipate “October Surprises” during electioneering campaigns precisely because these elections are invariably held in November. So an effective Ghanaian equivalent of an “October Surprise” ought to have erupted in November, rather than October, being that general elections in Ghana, these days, are held in December and not in November, as has been the American tradition for generations now. And if, indeed, anything of the preceding nature had occurred, why would anybody intent on registering a desired maximum impact, or effect, on the imagination of the Ghanaian electorate choose a patently low-quality Ghanaian rag like the so-called Weekly Standard, a rag edited by the disgraced Mr. Victor Smith, whose sole claim to fame and/or distinction has been merely serving as the perennial go-fer of the infamous Butcher-of-Dzelukope?
To be certain, Nigerian journalists have been known, for quite awhile now, to do far better and more qualitative investigative reporting than their Ghanaian counterparts; besides, the alleged racket which supposedly involved the sitting Ghanaian President actually took place in Nigeria! So why would any savvy political machinist intent on striking for the absolute maximum effect not have been better off leaking such damning scoop to either a cutting-edge Nigerian newspaper or even the Nigerian press in general? It simply does not make a lot of sense! But then, here again, this is Ghana in 2008 where the presidential candidate of the main opposition party and former vice-president of our Republic could comfortably and unashamedly campaign on the record of Mr. Barack Obama, America's President-Elect, as well as use pictorial images of the latter on P/NDC campaign posters without feeling sheepish or even being promptly called to order by either the Electoral Commission or the threat of a lawsuit by a covey of responsible and civic-minded Ghanaian citizens!
In any event, what actually inspired the writing of this article was the clearly nonsensical suggestion by the author of the article captioned “14-Day Ultimatum Ends with Dim Signs of Action” that even after Mr. Victor Smith had, himself, diffidently and stolidly acknowledged that his series of purported exposés are actually based on “hearsay evidence,” President Kufuor still has to follow through with his initial commonsensical threat of lawsuit against this P/NDC trucker of swill and calumny. In sum, if one may aptly ask: Isn't Mr. Smith's own admission of the Weekly Standard editor's plain and abject stupidity and scam-artistry enough of a judicial verdict?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]
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