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Opinion | Apr 7, 2018

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

It is to be hoped that the short, crisp radio and TV address to the nation by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on the “non-military-base” agreement between the US and Ghana will persuade the NDC to find more cogent reasons to whip up public sentiment.

Inciting the public to go on a demonstration against an agreement which is nothing but a rewording of similar agreements you had yourselves signed when you were in office? Disgracefully dishonest. But that’s politricks.

But the NDC’s hypocrisy does not mean that the government quite comes out of the affair smelling of roses. The way and manner the agreement was taken to parliament for ratification was totally inept and gave the Minority a totally unexpected weapon to whip the government with. It enabled an NDC that was lying flat on its face, driven apart by the vexed question of whether it wanted Mr John Dramani Mahama to lead it to defeat in the next presidential election, to claim the political high ground.

First of all, the NPP ministers who should have been primarily seized on the agreement – the Ministers of Defence, of Foreign Affairs, the Interior and National Security, appear not to have been too well briefed on Ghana’s past relationships with the US, especially on military matters.

Is it really that difficult to trace agreements signed in the past with foreign countries? Even if the past agreements were merely about kokoo-ne-nkatier (ripe plantain and roasted groundnuts) they ought to have been filed under “Ghana-US Relations”, and copies sent to the presidency and all relevant ministries.

As the situation was, the Minister of Defence seemed to be discovering agreements and versions of agreements by the minute, and sharing their contents with radio and television stations. Is that how an agreement apparently approved by a Cabinet Committee and due to be forwarded to parliament for ratification, should be resented?

That “fire-dousing” modus operandi turned out to be extremely amateurish. For it should have been anticipated that an agreement between a Great Powers (the US) and a traditionally non-aligned country (Ghana) would, of necessity, be minutely examined and that all ambiguous issues not technically germane to the actual operation of the agreement and capable of arousing controversy in the interpretation department, should be expunged from it.

The well-known proverb says that “there are many ways of killing a cat”, and it is not strictly everything that needs to be written down. Okay, so the US has its way of doing things. But the US government has a political constituency that’s different from ours. So, where the US might want explicitness, we might find flexible wording more appropriate.

It is up to our side always to evolve a strategy in negotiations that enables it to benefit from plausible deniability. We should be fully aware that (as the saying goes) “diplomacy is the art of being sent to a foreign country to lie on behalf of one’s own country!”

On this particular agreement with the US, it should have been realised that if you mention the word, runway, in a military agreement, some minds would automatically associate it with military base. And it is only someone who lives on Mars who would not be aware that the term, “US military base” constitutes political dynamite – from Okinawa to Taiwan to the Azores, to Djibouti, to Ascension Island. “Bases equal demo/marches” might quite as easily be taken as an Einsteinian Eureka moment as the mass/energy thing itself.

So, the next time the Ghana Cabinet finds a parliamentary hot potato in one of its folders, it should develop a practical strategy for presenting it. Its own Members of Parliament should come first: any concerns that they might express should be addressed.

Then the hot potato must be presented to selected communicators as deep background, on a non-attributable basis. So, by the time it reaches the floor of parliament, all the knotty/sticky points would have been extruded and, as it were, “disarmed”. US intelligence would, of course, be apprised of these manoeuvres and before the Cabinet knew it, the US itself might suggest “improvements” to the original wording of the draft agreement. I saw the signature of one “Logistics Director” of the US Army on one of the agreements. How could “political dynamite” of that type be left to the military?

Anyway, to wait and then scurry to find explanations AFTER Joy FM had published a leaked version of the agreement was extremely amateurish. Today, the Minister of Defence would say (a). The next day, he would say he had just discovered (b)!

Government spokespersons would rationalise the provisions of (a). But then, a Parliamentary Committee would debate the agreement on the basis of both (a) and (b). What does anyone expect sharp-toothed NDC communicators to do except detect that there is major unease in the government camp itself?

So, of course, the NDC opens fire with all guns blazing. Koku Anyidoho, the Don Quixote of Ghana politics, actually utters the unmentionable words, coup d’etat! And an instant martyr is crafted! Treason; treasonable felony; are we back in the bad old days of “conspiracy to conspire”?

It was right of the president to try and douse the flames of the ruckus. Lessons learned, let there be a line drawn under the issue. For it has been much ado about nothing, really. Isn’t the idea that the NDC is “anti-American”, while the NPP has “sold out” to the Americans, just simply ridiculous beyond belief? Hard-headed political analysts must be having a great laugh – at the expense of our polity. We must never again make such almighty fools of ourselves.

From Cameron Duodu

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2018

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist.

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