Rejoinders: heat not helpful, cordiality and light needed instead

BY: By Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

One of my favourite parts of the national Constitution is the Article under Chapter 12 which underscores the right of people to have their side of the story told.

It states: “Any medium for the dissemination of information to the public which publishes a statement about or against any person shall be obliged to publish a rejoinder, if any, from the person in respect of whom the publication was made.” (Freedom and responsibility of media.)

Nevertheless, choosing the right approach is another matter altogether. Sometimes a rejoinder can greatly enhance image, but a rejoinder could also become an ‘own goal’.

Recently, two reactions, in two newspapers, in my opinion illustrated beautifully, the two faces of rejoinders.

The following are some excerpts from a column in The Spectator and a rejoinder it generated; and a summary of a letter in the Daily Graphic and an ensuing rejoinder:

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COLUMN, ‘Contemplations From The 6th Floor, by G. Frank Asmah’

Parliament: When Bagbin decides to tell a ‘red lie’, Spectator of August 28, 2021

Excerpts:
Many Ghanaians strongly believe that the Rt. Honourable Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, is now ‘a national human property’ for all Ghanaians not only for his political party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

But the recent visitation of the Ethiopian Parliamentary delegation to Ghana seems to be erasing the lofty belief about our Rt. Honourable Speaker.

The Speaker is reported to have told the Ethiopian delegation that “but for last minute movements where some parliamentary seats were snatched by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the NDC would have had Majority in Parliament.

“The NPP General Secretary, John Boadu, even admitted that the NDC won more seats in Parliament, but some last-minute moves were made to snatch some of the seats from the NDC … That one is a statement of fact.”

However, John Boadu has said: “There is no iota of truth in the statement made by Rt. Honourable Bagbin since I have never stated anywhere that the NPP devised tactics to get parliamentary majority in its favour.”

But the question is: Has Mr Bagbin himself got water-tight evidence to back what he allegedly told the Ethiopian delegation?

Assuming the NPP General Secretary said exactly what Mr Speaker is quoting him to have said, does it make his statement true?

Where is the evidence?

Rt. Honourable Bagbin: You are known as a very competent lawyer. In the law, is it not the case that EVIDENCE is supreme?
If you cannot produce the evidence, is it not the case that you told a ‘red’ lie to the Ethiopian delegation?

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REJOINDER, Spectator of September 4, 2021

From Speaker’s office: George Frank Asmah’s aspersions on Speaker expose his ignorance
Excerpts:

Mr George Frank Asmah sought to cast aspersions on the integrity of the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin.

That direct and baseless attack on the integrity of the Speaker is not only an affront to the Office of the Speaker of Parliament of Ghana, but also hypocritical and shameful.

It is a known fact that Mr. John Boadu, in the heat of the 2020 elections, made a categorical statement which was captured on video and has since been trending all over the internet, saying that President Akufo-Addo had won the Presidential election but the NPP lost the parliamentary elections to the NDC.

The evidence Mr. Asmah is looking for is all over the place and in every newsroom.

There can only be one conclusion to draw from this behaviour and that is mischief or a craving to use his column to court the attention of whoever will get him appointed into political office.

One can understand the frustrations of Mr. Asmah, who in 2005 was lifted from the newsroom of the New Times Corporation to become District Chief Executive of the Komenda-Edna-Eguafo-Abirem (KEEA) District Assembly under the NPP administration.

This has been the NPP’s way of encouraging journalists like Asmah to be wayward and unprofessional against the opposition and in turn, they get rewarded with juicy appointments.

Mr. Asmah’s frustration is a result of waiting in vain for another juicy appointment which has eluded him.

Perhaps my little advice to George Frank, is to use his energy, time and column to tout his legacy during his stewardship as District Chief Executive.

How many lives did he transform with his leadership in KEEA? What impact did he make?
Peter Bampoe
Communication Officer,
Office of the Speaker

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Letters Page, Daily Graphic, September 6, 2021

SUMMARY OF A COMPLAINT:

The complaint of a reader was about difficulties he had encountered at a branch of the Absa Bank, concerning a cheque payment, causing a delay of more than one week, and resulting in a lot of stress and inconvenience to him.

Samuel Doe Ablordeppey
Teshie, Accra

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Letters Page, Graphic, September 13, 2021

REJOINDER excerpts:

We sincerely regret the unfortunate experience of Mr Samuel Doe Ablordeppey.

We treasure every feedback as a golden opportunity to improve and continue to deliver superior service experience that adds value to our customers’ interaction and engagement with us ….

We continuously strive to deliver exceptional service that leads to customer satisfaction and have taken appropriate measures to ensure a better experience for customers.

Cyril Nai
Head, Marketing & Communications
Absa Bank Ghana Limited.

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Admittedly, the two are vastly different matters but, to my mind, the essence of any rejoinder is to apologise, or bring light, clarity to a situation.

Moreover, when the image of an institution is at stake, the language needs to be polite and affable.

My verdict on the Absa Bank response: admirably conciliatory; a commendable public relations strategy.

In my view, the rejoinder from the Speaker’s Office did that esteemed office a disservice.

Insults, personal attacks and veering into other issues tend to be counterproductive.

In fact, that stance could create the impression that one doesn't have a solid case.

It also reminded me of a similar situation years ago, about a rejoinder which, instead of offering credible explanations, resorted to insinuations.

A commentator summed it up thus: “this rejoinder provided much heat, but no light.”

Precisely! A rejoinder is supposed to shed light, not provoke a conclusion of “much heat, but no light”.

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