The 100-days of the president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo administration has not been without controversy.
There has been highs and lows in equal measure both of which have found expression in the media.
Three researchers , Dr. Etse Sikanku, Kwaku Botwe, & Selasie Kove-Seyram have chronicled the big moments of fame and shame in a piece titled “Hits and Misses: Ranking PR, Media and Communication under President Akufo-Addo’s first 100 days.
LOW POINT RANKINGS (STARTING WITH THE WORST)
No matter how you slice it, the findings of plagiarism in the inaugural day speech of President Nana Akufo-Addo must be one of the most embarrassing moments of the young administration. It put us on CNN; it made us the laughing stock of the international media; it was simply embarrassing in a very painful way. When you earn a spot on Trevor Noah’s very much coveted “Daily Show” (with competition from the likes of Donald Trump) you know you must have done something really really bad.
The government apologized but this was just wrong in every respect. Administrations normally take a while to get their first major scandals but it looked like the Akufo-Addo government hit the ground with scandals. I hope the regime has exorcised whatever omen it was but kicking off your government with such a major international PR disasters is one of the worst possible beginnings anyone can imagine. Thankfully we haven’t seen any such plagiarism embarrassments after that.
Ministerial bonanza: For your appointment Dial *110#
The appointment of 110 ministers by our president Nana Akufo-Addo made sure Ghana was once again the item of ridicule by our own African brothers and beyond. On Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms comparisons were made to countries with even bigger populations but fewer ministers. Others also took the liberty to mock how Ghana had supposedly fallen so low after the high points of the Nkrumah era. It wasn’t a very comfortable feeling seeing your country being the subject of such ridicule. Everyone knows Nana Addo means well but this his 110 ministers conundrum just didn’t fly. We don’t know how Nana settled at 110 but the figure itself sounds like a toll free number. No wonder it was so easy to develop memes and make fun of.
Delta Force & political impunity
This has got to be one of the biggest disappointments of the Akufo-Addo regime so far. Here is a president and a government which prides itself in such enduring democratic principles such as the rule of law. In fact the entire political identity of Nana Addo is anchored on his lifelong commitment to law, discipline and justice. When you see Nana Addo you see law. Yet one of the central pillars of justice delivery–in fact the very crucible of legal adjudication–the judiciary has been seriously undermined by activities of a purported security group with affiliations to the NPP.
Mr. President has repeatedly and roundly condemned the petulant, nefarious and abominable activities of Delta force but one cannot ignore the feeling that more needs to be done. If you consider both the short and long term effects of these so called “vigilante” groups and then place it within the context of International security and law, you know this is one organism that needs no pampering. President Akufo-Addo has built a reputation as the embodiment of law. He’s got to walk the talk.
Independence Day Speech Brouhaha
Overall, when one looks at the subtext and the connotation of the Independence Day speech you cannot help but conclude that the president wanted to re-present history in a way that favoured his party’s ideological leaning. The mere fact that the president chose the Independence Day to tell us about our history, which we mostly know already, raised suspicion. The public reaction (the conflict and drama) afterwards confirms this.
This is rather unfortunate because the speech contained references to some great national figures but all in all, it did tilt towards emphasizing certain partisan ideological heroes with sympathies to the NPP/UP tradition. The speech was unduly bent in terms of foregrounding individuals more attuned towards the NPP’s ideological strain. Sure he did mention Nkrumah and others but generally you leave that speech knowing there was an attempt to promote the Danquah-Busia tradition/elements of our historical narrative. Public opinion was heavily divided and a speech which should have brought the country together on Independence Day rather deepened the ideological schism within the country. Not cool.
Galamsey Communication and “Ministerial Begging”
Galamsey or illegal mining has become one of the topical news stories under the Akufo-Addo regime so far. Various stakeholders including the media, politicians and civil society need to be commended for the campaign and sensitization. However not many Ghanaians were happy with the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu for some of his language/communication/conversations and posturing during his interaction with the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana and the Mayor of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Province (where a majority of Chinese illegal miners are purported to have come from). CITI FM for instance reported that the Minister was “practically begging” the Chinese to help fight the menace. Many felt the Minister should have taken a firmer stance during his communication with the Chinese team.
This is understandable to the extent that such posturing during conversations like this determines or indicative of the balance of power when it comes to international communication. It somewhat makes Ghanaians appear powerless while tilting power towards the Chinese. We all know that in such delicate international dialogues one party is likely to dominate the conversations with the view to maintaining influence and power over the other. Hon. Amewu did not help matters in this particular case.
From an international communication perspective it indicates, even if peripherally, that the ideological framework underpinning Ghanaians relationship/dialogues with the Chinese is hegemonic. Let’s not forget that according to international communication scholar Thussu (2000) “communication has always been critical to the establishment and maintenance of power” (p.1). For a free, independent African nation with a full-fledged democratic credentials— the star of Africa and leader of the African independence movement—this is not acceptable. Not in 2017. Not in the 21st century. Not ever at all.
THE HIGH POINT RANKING (STARTING WITH THE BEST)
Nominee announcements: Akufo-Addo Style
Before Nana Addo, the typical style of announcing ministerial nominees had taken the form of a press releases.
Brief SONA (State of the Nation Address)
Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit. This saying may have its origin in literature but has a lot of implications in communication. Good communication is concise, devoid of clutter and bureaucratese. The president teased out the essential parts of the state of nation address and left the unintelligible jargons having in mind the state of the nation address (unlike the budget statement which may target experts and technocrats) is for the entire nation. The president was fully aware of this and he kept reminding MPs who shouted in request of details that “this is not a budget statement”.
The president has shown some press friendliness which is a good mark of democracy. Within the 100 day period he availed himself to journalists from GTV and Daily Graphic for questioning. This offered him the opportunity to address a myriad of issues including concerns over what many perceive as his bloated government. As one-sided as the communication maybe it still afforded the nation the chance to hear from the presidency on prime issues to concern.
By: Dr. Etse Sikanku, Kwaku Botwe, & Selasie Kove-Seyram
Contact: 020 3295907, 0244998642
Citation: Sikanku, Botwe & Kove-Seyram (2017). Hits and misses: Ranking PR, media and communication under president Akufo-Addo’s first 100 days.
Thussu, D.K. (2000) International Communication: Continuity and Change. London: Arnold.