Seriously ridiculous and ridiculously serious

BY: Elizabeth Ohene
President John Dramani Mahama
President John Dramani Mahama

Two things got my goat this past week. One was seriously ridiculous and the other was ridiculously serious. Let me start with the seriously ridiculous thing. I know we are into dangerous territory when the President of the Republic starts dressing up funny.

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I don’t know whose bright idea it was for the President to start dressing in military clothes when he goes to military functions. I don’t know if it is part of the election campaign season madness but I hope sincerely he doesn’t do it again. Even if we are supposed to take it as a joke, the President and his advisors should please take it from me that it isn’t funny. 

It took this country an almighty struggle for the military to accept that they are under the authority of the elected civilian government. We went through years of national embarrassment with people who should know better, trying to convince us that a military uniform, bought with taxpayers money, conferred on a soldier the right to rule and terrorise his compatriots. We went through years of chaos when young people joined the Armed Forces hoping for a professional career only to have their prospects derailed by the adventures of a few. 

The Armed Forces are sticklers for adherence to hierarchy and gradually and ever so gradually, they have accepted that their Commander-in-Chief is the elected President of the Republic. 


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The source of the power of the Commander-in-Chief does not come from the uniform he wears. The source of his power does not lie in whatever military rank he assumes. He is a civilian who commands our military. He stands above the military and commands the military through the power granted him by the Constitution. Once elected by the people of Ghana, the President does not need any other trappings.

Is it about titles?

I don’t know if President John Dramani Mahama is beginning to feel underwhelmed by the title of President, and wants to adopt the titles assumed by the likes of President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. You would recall the Gambian President is supposed to be addressed as “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa”. Maybe President Mahama thinks if he got a military title, he would go up in our estimation and Dr Bawumia will stop calling him “Incompetent”. 

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He probably wants us to call him President Field Marshall John Dramani Mahama; but I couldn’t let that pass my lips since I can’t think of Field Marshall without adding Idi Amin. Plus, a Field Marshall is after all a five-star General and so if our President is really angling for a military title, he will have to settle for Generalissimo, which is what you call a six-star General. I don’t think there is any danger of anybody in the Ghana Armed forces ever reaching that rank, so we can safely call him His Excellency President Generalissimo John Dramani Mahama. 

If, however, the President thought he was dressing up in military uniform to frighten us or to buy extra respect, then I have news for him. It did not work. 

He looked passable in the fatigues, but quite frankly, in the ceremonial uniform, the President looked ridiculous. Plus, I hadn’t realised that our “young” Dramani was beginning to show signs of middle-age spread. That uniform showed up what he had been hiding successfully thus far; he was bursting out of the uniform and real soldiers don’t have pouches. Don’t do it please; it is seriously ridiculous. 

Another matter

Now to the ridiculously serious thing. Again, I have no idea if this has anything to do with election campaign madness. 

Last Thursday morning, the offices of the Lands Commission in Accra were invaded by two pickup loads of young men. The pickup trucks were branded with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) election posters and the young men all wore fugus in NDC colours. Those around could see they had knives and clubs in their fugus. 

They tried to storm the office of the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission with menace as they threatened violence. They spoke loudly and said they had come to teach the executive secretary a lesson. They said their government was in power and the executive secretary was denying them a piece of government land at Roman Ridge that they wanted. 

Luckily for the executive secretary, he was not in his office at the time of the invasion but his secretary and the rest of the staff at the commission were well and truly traumatised. 

The police finally arrived and arrested the men. They have not yet been charged or taken to court and the indications are they are not likely to be taken to court. 

I hear the police claim they are under pressure not to prosecute these thugs who invaded a public office, threatening mayhem and destruction. 

It is a frightening state of affairs to have such a display of impunity. These events took place in broad daylight and in these days of smartphones, there are photos and videos of the invasion and the NDC pickups and number plates are clearly visible. These photos and videos are on the Internet and being circulated on social media. 

I understand that the man who wants the land at Roman Ridge to be given to him had been in the office on the Tuesday and Wednesday preceding the invasion. He made no secret he felt entitled because “his party was in power”. He wouldn’t listen to any explanation offered by officials of the commission that Flagstaff House had placed a ban on all allocation of government land. 

He felt entitled to push his way into the office without so much as a by-your-leave and to bang on doors and tables because according to him, “his party is in power”. He felt entitled to then marshal an invasion force of thugs clad in party colours and riding in branded party vehicles to terrorise the Lands Commission. 

This man, Yahya Alhassan, I am told he is called, must surely be standing on a very firm stone. He must be certain he wouldn’t be prosecuted whatever he does and maybe equally certain that in the unlikely event he was prosecuted, he wouldn’t spend a lot of time behind bars. There does exist the Prerogative of Mercy. 

And he would probably get that piece of land because “his party is in power. Now this is ridiculously serious.