The Myth of the Sword of Damocles and Speaker Alban Bagbin’s Pandora Box…You open the box at your own peril

BY: Magnus Naabe RexDanquah
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Bagbin
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Bagbin

DAMOCLES is a character, who appears in an anecdote commonly referred to as the “SWORD OF DAMOCLES” in Greek mythology, an allusion to the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power. Damocles was an obsequious courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, Sicily.

Dionysius decreed that a sword be suspended over the throne by a single horsehair, so that Damocles would always know the peril of being a king. Since then the Sword of Damocles has come to represent a threat of doom that could strike without warning. (Wikipedia)

Thus, the famed “Sword of Damocles” dates back to the ancient moral parable popularized by the Roman philosopher Cicero in his 45 B.C. book “Tusculan Disputations.”

The real point of the story and parable is not just, oh, something terrible is going to happen, but it’s about realizing that what looks like an enviable life, a life of wealth for the politician, a life of power for his or her family and friends, a life of luxury is, in fact, fraught with anxiety, terror and possibly death.

It is most amazing when you come to the full realization that our politicians and their power-seeking friends and collaborators, never learn from history as they keep repeating and committing the same old mistakes as their forebears, even dating as far back as centuries before the birth of Christ Jesus; otherwise, why on earth would anybody engineer the disclosure of the Right Honourable Speaker Alban Bagbin’s recent health expenditure: not mindful that it is such a grievous mistake?

When I read the story of the cost of his last health bill to Emirates in my all-time favourite private daily, I asked myself, who could be so naïve to commit such a ‘heinous crime’ of attempting to open such a ‘Pandora Box’. What was even sad about the publication was the amnesia exhibited by conveniently forgetting that within the same period other officers of State had travelled and benefitted from the same concession and its full conditionalities?

Don’t forget, POLITICIANS are so ‘crafted’ or ‘engineered’ as man was created in the beginning, with a certain ‘spirit of forgetfulness’, not to remember the past always, especially between the periods of when in opposition to the other side of the coin, when they are in government: repeating the very ills that they accused and condemned others of, when they were not in public office? Worse, they do not have the decency of ‘shame’ to even admit that they should have known better.

Otherwise, why would the ‘servants of the masses’ - politicians always have and or enjoy the ‘juiciest of all benefits’ by virtue of the fact that we vote for them into these public offices with all sorts of trappings of office to think and act in our supreme interests?

For mere mortals like me, a ‘PANDORA BOX’ is an artifact in Greek mythology connected with the myth of Pandora in Hesiod’s Works and Days. He reported that curiosity led her to open a container left in care of her husband, thus releasing physical and emotional curses upon mankind, especially innocent ones minding their own businesses elsewhere.

The moral of the Pandora’s Box is that unchecked curiosity and disobedience can be dangerous to the extent that it symbolizes “the evils of the world and the temptations that we cannot resist out of curiosity”. I was thus happy but perplexed by the speed of the Majority Caucus in Parliament to issue an apology as well as distance themselves from that act of leaking the details of the Speaker’s recent medical review trip, stating it “has no interest in such an irresponsible deed”.

“Indeed, to protect the Speaker’s integrity, the Chair and the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, we find the said publication unfortunate and unwarranted, and we condemn them accordingly…however, if the persons behind the publications intend to set the Speaker and the Majority Caucus in the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana on a collision course, we would not hesitate to offer the appropriate response,” it noted.

What would it profit a member of the Minority Caucus to commit such a parody – a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing; a poor or feeble imitation or semblance or travesty for the purposes of ridicule?

Unfortunately for the farce – a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than the development of character or foolish show or mockery or ridiculous sham, what would a Minority member stand to gain by such an act, especially coming in the wake of how the Speaker was perceived to have ‘misconducted’ himself with his perceived role in the popular ‘rejection of the 2022 Budget Statement’?

However, the ‘SWORD OF DAMOCLES’ reminds me of the OSIBISA song “FIRE” –

“When you were a baby,
Your Mama told you not to play with fire,
Fire will burn you, and you want to know,
What would really be desire?
Fire will burn you, and you realize,
You don’t have to play with fire,
Fire will burn you…
I’m a big boy, mama,
I know I’ll never ever play with fire,
Fire will burn you,
‘Cause I now know better,
And I realize, I don’t have to play with fire”.

For the unlearned without the eyes to see into the unknown, others realized that the exposure was a call for war for others to also make public the health bills of all manner of ‘big men and women’ in the country, possibly including Ministers of State and their spouses, political actors and actresses of all shades and sorts, others in the judiciary and public service for daring to open Speaker Alban Bagbin’s Pandora Box? Don’t forget when both sides needed to appear in the Chamber to vote and reverse the decision on the 2022 Budget Statement, many had to appear from their ‘sick beds’ to be counted.

Hence, the urgent and almost immediate need for the withdrawal or denying a role in the publication of the story of the Right Honourable Speaker’s health bill to pre-empt the consequences of opening of the ‘Pandora Box’.

Locally, one would adopt the simple and short of all this as: ‘THOSE IN GLASS HOUSES DON’T THROW STONES AT THOSE OUTSIDE MINDDING THEIR OWN BUSINESSES’.

Guess, this is a lesson well learnt.

Oh, how I love the current HUNG PARLIAMENT, by the end of their tenure so many traditions and practices would have changed in this land of our birth for the betterment of her people. Both sides of the aisle should not ever forget that, irrespective of the side they occupy, the Majority or Minority, the Government or Opposition, the real reason is to serve the people of Ghana. FULL STOP, nothing more, nothing less, and worse there should be ‘NO TAKASHIE’. This is how they will all be judged and measured by and nothing else.

The ‘Old Man’ above realizing that Ghana, our Motherland needed such a situation, considering how polarized we had become as a nation and a people, gave us the HUNG PARLIAMENT to force the House to learn to work together in the supreme interest of all Ghanaians, irrespective of any political colorations, affinities of all sorts, be it tribal or regional but definitely not to score political points.

This is the CHARGE for our Parliamentarians and we are determined to hold them to the fire to do just that.


By Magnus Naabe RexDanquah, the Ghanaian - is a Land Economist & Appraiser, Events Architect & Planner,SportBusiness Consultant and an Author.