Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fools Denigrate Martyrdom

"Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools"—Proverb 26:9


The first president under Ghana's fourth republic is passionate about many things including discipline, albeit defined in his own terms. His passion for discipline saw three ex-military heads of state and five generals dispatched to the otherworld to 'cleanse' the military. For him, Solomon's admonishing expressed in Proverbs 22:15- Foolishness is bound into the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him- is profound. As a thirty something year young officer who shot his way into power twice, he is used to being referred to as 'the oldman' even by much older men as a sign of respect. So when it comes to discipline ala Proverbs, he is the oldman and everyone else his son. For many years the rumour mill had it that he dished a few slaps to this and that minister at the castle to straighten them out. I only believed them when he pounced on his own vice-president a man far his senior in age at a cabinet meeting. President Mills has received a verbal lashing from him for not living up to the Rawlings standard of discipline resulting in too many 'twits' perambulating the corridors of the castle.

So it happened that a certain 27 year old Nana Darkwa thought the shortest path to fame was to talk his way. At a time the whole country was commiserating with the former first family for losing their house in a valentine day blaze, he alleges on a radio station I personally didn't know still existed that ex president Rawlings set fire to his own house. He goes ahead to throw down the gauntlet inviting the Ex president's aid to challenge his facts. Kofi Adam, haven been schooled in the Rawlings discipline doctrine, picks up the gauntlet the Rawlings style. He gets the police to storm the radio station, arrest Nana Darkwa, present him before a judge who remands him for two weeks under a law that most advocates of free speech didn't know existed, all within a matter of hours.

After he was admitted to bail by another court the next day, Nana Darkwa granted interview to JoyFM. Listening to the interview I couldn't help but admire how martyrdom easily opens its doors to fools once it can find foolish conspirators. Like a beautiful piece of art placed in the wrong setting, lovers of free speech had to rally round Nana Darkwa, an epitome of what we don't want free speech to become, to assert our right to speak. Nana Darkwa's speech on radio was not only irresponsible but reckless and repugnant, and must be condemned by all opposed to gagging our society. Ironically, such reckless commentary on radio provides ammunition to those who think our freedom of speech must be criminalized. If we allow the likes of Nana Darkwa to run riot with speech terrorism on our airwaves, we run the risk of reversing all the gains chalked in our quest for a free speech society. It behooves all lovers of free speech to condemn such irresponsible use of our priceless freedom to maintain its sanctity and scare off the likes of Nana Darkwa. I understand he went to church with his parents to thank God for his bail. If I was the preacher for the day, I would have read him Proverbs 18:6 – 'A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating'. Criminal libel may be off the statutes but people who feel defamed by unsubstantiated allegations may seek their pound of flesh in a civil court. Going on radio and swearing to things that be not as if they are is not the smartest thing to do. Mama, please call your son at dawn as our elders used to do and find him some words of advice, surely there is something left in the pot for him at 27.

What do we say about the other conspirators in this saga? Kofi Adams says Rawlings didn't know about his actions and I say, Yeah Right! When it comes to making unsubstantiated and wild allegations against people high and low, Chairman Rawlings stands tall. Where are the names of the people who murdered dozens of women in Ghana? Of course we need a lie detector and Atoa Nyama to bring them out. Between what Nana Darkwa said and the many things the ex president had said, from which commeth fear and panic? Would Kofi Adams have found it prudent, if his boss had been dragged before an over-zealous regional police commander when he made wild allegations against President Kufuor and many other people? The last time I checked, the 'twit' Ludwig said he never used a police escort home. Rawlings and Co are the last to throw stones at Nana Darkwa. They live in a tall glass house. If Chairman Rawlings finds a dose of his own medicine too bitter to swallow, perhaps it can help reform him. Unlike Nana Darkwa, there is little advice left in the pot for him at his age, but maybe a dose of his bitter medicine will be more successful. I hear he will be praying for the young man. So are many men slandered and called thieves by him praying for him. It will be interesting to find out from the police commander what she thinks in retrospect. Were all the resources and efforts spent in the dramatic arrest of Nana Darkwa worth it? The melodrama only popularized Nana Darkwa's allegations. Before Nana Darkwa opened his mouth too wide for his own good, I'd read a humorous piece on Ghanaweb that claimed Yaa Beauty saved Valentine by the blaze. Many contributors told the author what they feel about his piece and they were not all complimentary. Because Auntie Rose didn't create operation Cyber Storm, the good majority of Ghanaians never heard the ludicrous meaning the author read into the blaze. I believe if Kofi Adams and the police had acted differently, not many souls will ever have heard of a certain Nana Darkwa or his nonsensical ramblings at the station. How many Ghanaians listen to that show on Top Radio? But I guess now that they have a star panelist, many more will listen including Rose Atinga, Kofi Adams and a certain judge Wilson.    

Legal experts like Ace Ankomah have delivered informed treatises on the contribution of our laws and the judicial system in creating this avoidable saga. From a lay man's perspective, I'm just at a loss as to how our laws allow a judge to send someone to jail for two weeks even before his case is heard just because he shouted arson! Are we serious about decongesting our prisons? I find it difficult to understand how shouting arson can create panic and fear. How come some people can get a battalion of policemen to execute such a needless operation with alacrity whiles majority of the people will be lucky to get one police man (woman) to defend them when they are really under attack. Is somebody running a parallel security system within the state security apparatus?

The real heroes in this drama are all those who stood to be counted when our freedom was under attack. The message has been succinctly delivered; Ghanaians cherish our freedom of speech and will rise to defend it even if the speech belongs to misguided commentators like Nana. Kudos to the GJA, NMC, Prof. Karikari, Kwesi Pratt, His Excellency President Mills (who doesn't respond to Atta anymore) and many ordinary Ghanaians who told Kofi Adams, his employers and other conspirators that we frown on flagrant abuse of power, even if the perpetrators have unfettered access to the State security apparatus. Had it not been for these heroes, Nana Darkwa would have achieved undeserved martyrdom. I find this particular thought very offensive. Fools denigrate martyrdom, but the truth is they can easily achieve it once they find conspirators who have 'it' in equal measure. When the role call of Ghanaian martyrs is made and we hear Nana Darkwa's name, it should be for reasons more noble than his post valentine day babble. This generation have no business soiling the achievements of  Sergeant Adjetey, Lance Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey-Lamptey who we salute today on the 28th of February.  


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