Incidents of rulers talking in unsavoury, disrespectful and even insulting terms are well documented in history books. Yet none seems to capture more vividly the disconnect that usually exists between the privileged ruling class and the rest of the populace(especially the suffering masses) than the statement, “Let them eat cake” supposed to have been said by Marie Antoinette.
For historical purposes, Marie Antoinette was theQueen of France from 1774 to 1792 and the wife of King Louis XVI. She became unpopular because she did not seem to care about the poor citizens of France, and when she was told they did not have enough bread to eat, she retorted: “Let them eat cake.” Of course the meaning of the people not having enough bread to eat was not lost on her.She just confirmed their suspicion that she did not care about them. Gravely disappointed, the people let her be. But they had elaborate plans for her-her elimination.
The French revolution of 1789 gathered steam and Marie Antoinette was high on the hit list. In 1793, the lavish, profligate and promiscuous Queen was executed by one of the crudest methods of killing ever devised by man, the guillotine. In the end, the monarchy was abolished forthwith. And a republic was established in its stead in 1799.
Fast-forward to 21st century Ghana and the ghost of Marie Antoinette’s statement still lurks. Over half a decade ago, Stephen Asamoah Boateng came close to quoting Marie Antoinette verbatim. His was “Go and eat kokonte and groundnuts” in response to a question about his constituents inability to afford fufu. As expected, the statement was roundly condemned.
The opposition at the time cashed in heavily on the statement. It incited the much needed contempt against Asamoah Boateng at the time. The statement was also politically engineered for maximum impact. And one could not have faulted the opposition; every politician worth their sort knows too well that their opponents are always on the look out to exploit their verbal haemorrhage.That Asamoah Boateng’s “misspeech” contributed to the NPP’s loss must be obvious to everyone
But after benefiting from the ghost of Marie Antoinette, one would think that the NDC will spare no moment in exorcising it from its house. But as Nikita Khushchev once stated famously, “politicians are the same all over.” Some NDC members have made statements as deplorable as that of Asamoah Boateng.
Bragadier Nunoo-Mensah helpfully advised Ghanaians to leave if they thought the “kitchen was too hot for them.” Many did not take kindly to his piece of advice let alone obey it.Condemnation flowed in thick and fast.
Then Mr Teye Larbi, MP, said quite unnecessarily that only poor people were complaining about the power cuts. His statement was met with the contempt it deserved.
But still undeterred, the MP for Techiman South, Mr Adjei Mensah repeated the statement of Bragadier Nunoo-Mensah. But this time he suggested a destination, Ivory Coast, and also stated specifically what was unbearable in the ‘Kitchen’- dumsor.
Statements like these show a disregard for the electorate. Of course such politicians could be punished in elections. How about if they choose not to contest again? Shouldn’t such high office holders be subjected to some form of punishment more deterring than the condemnation of angry citizens? Shouldn’t civil society be more critical of such politicians? And if the politicians are parliamentarians, shouldn’t parliament protect its ailing integrity by calling them to order? Something more drastic ought to be done about the verbal arrogance of some politicians.
The ghost of Marie Antoinette hovers round politics in Ghana. But it is dangerous for democracy. And since politicians thrive in a democracy, they must do all it takes to exorcise it. But in a country where vituperative speeches are uttered daily by political communicators, the ghost may linger on for a while.
Email: [email protected]