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If goofs, gaffes were punishable!

BY: Enimil Ashon
Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo
Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo

Every society has its season of goofs and gaffes. Some of them, whiles serious, are mere annoyances that cost us next to nothing.

In Kwame Nkrumah (now Nsein) Senior High School in the 1960s, such speakers were accused of “opening their buccal cavity to any convenient radius and dissecting any volume of words” .

However, like the “Stop whining” statement attributed to Deputy Minister of Trade in his tirade against diaspora Ghanaians in July 2017, this category of irresponsible statements can be left at the level of gaffes and promptly forgiven – especially when the gentleman apologised.

Others, though high profiled, come only as irritants. Such as many statements attributed to former Presidents Jerry Rawlings (whose speeches were almost always followed later with “further clarifications” by his PR outfit) and John Mahama (especially when he, as President, was out of town), this category of speeches are, at the worst, treated as annoyances and forgotten.

A few, such as Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo’s statement about the Chinese galamsey queen-pin, Aisha Huang, leave an entire country completely speechless, wondering whether we are suffering from an anaemia of wise men.

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There is a fourth category which are completely intolerable were they not so dangerous. I am referring to such statements as the “We know where the kidnapped girls are”, by Director General of Police CID, COP Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah. Because they border on national security, they are no longer gaffes: they are dangerous, so dangerous that in other societies where office holders hold themselves accountable to the people, those who utter them would be expected to resign honourably.

In a country where all government appointees are making regrettable statements, how are we supposed to treat Cecilia Abena Dapaah’s “correction” of the President’s timeline for making Ghana, the cleanest city in Africa.

For readers who have just dropped out of Mars, a background to all of the above is called for.

On April 2, 2019, COP Addo-Danquah announced that the Police had established the whereabouts of the three Takoradi girls who were kidnapped last year in the Western Region.

At a news conference, she said that Priscilla Koranchie, 15, Ruth Love Quayson, 18, Priscilla Blessing Bentum, 21, “are safe”; that “we know where they are and they are safe.”

Pressed for details, however, she replied that “I’m unable to give the details because we don’t want to compromise their safety.”

Compromise? The moment she said that, I knew instinctively that any sensible gang of kidnappers would know by this public announcement that their cover had been blown. I believed her when she said the police knew their whereabouts, but I also knew that the girls might never be found if the police did not already have the hide-out sealed.

Do we have any idea what we are doing to the bowels of these girls’ parents and siblings? To the Police Administration, I say, this is not one of the situations in life when silence is golden. Ghana insists on being told why our Chief Spy in the Police made such an unpardonable professional blunder and what is being done to her.

Talking about high profile utterances, I honestly do not know where and how to place the statement by Sanitation Minister that the President’s promise to make Ghana the cleanest country in Africa will come to pass at the end of his second term in office. With Ministers like this, the President does not need political enemies.

Sanitation, as an issue, is turning out to be in the same category as our intractable exchange rate national challenge. If, as a Minister or government, you don’t find out the root cause of the problem, the piles and carpets of garbage everywhere will expose you. Ask John Evans Atta Mills – if the dead had a tongue. He lost his “100 Days” war against sanitation in the most ignominious fashion.

There is one Ghanaian politician for whom my admiration never diminishes. That is Mr Osafo-Maafo. With performers like him in your corner, you can, as we say in Ghana, “go to sleep”.

So why is a man with such an impressive track record so uncharacteristically walking away from the image I have of him over the years?

In a video recording of his town hall meeting in America, he is heard justifying government’s decision to deport the Chinese galamsey queen, Aisha Huang.

“Today, the main company that is helping develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro, it is a Chinese company. It is the one that is going to help process our bauxite and provide about two billion dollars to us…. Putting that lady (Aisha) in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems."

Eishh!

When governments are silent over very regrettable statements by its appointees,such as the one attributed to Ghana’s High Commissioner to South Africa, George Ayisi Boateng — saying that “My topmost priority is the problems of an NPP person before any other Ghanaian,” — irresponsible talk gets elevated to the level of a culture.

As a Ghanaian above 30, I know that none of the state appointees mentioned above will ever resign honourably. They will say it again given the next opportunity because they know nobody will touch them.

But our children are listening and watching.