By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The dawn of May 27, 2013’s arrest of main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) member Michael Omari Wadie by agents from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) is rather disturbing (See “BNI Arrests Omari Wadie Over Fake Mahama Sex Photo” Vibeghana.com). It is rather disturbing because it merely entails the alleged posting of a doctored photograph of the politically embattled President John Dramani Mahama on the Internet Facebook Wall of Mr. Wadie.
In a robust, albeit fledgling, democratic society like Ghana’s where freedom of expression is jealously guarded, such summary and obviously politically motivated arrests ought to be strongly taken exception to and unreservedly discouraged. We must also quickly point out that as the most prominent and powerful political figure in the country, President Mahama, legally speaking, has no private life as such.
This is not, however, to in any way imply that he has to be luridly subjected to personal ridicule of the sort allegedly displayed on the Facebook Wall of Mr. Wadie. In the main, the accused, a former NPP National Chairmanship aspirant, is alleged to have posted a picture of the President of Ghana in a nude sexual pose with an unnamed woman.
But even more significant is the fact that the picture has been described as so badly doctored that it is quite obvious that other than its patent provocative value, on the part of partisans of the country’s two main political parties, the picture has neither moral nor political credibility. And so other than reflecting poorly on the emotional temperament of the accused, it has no redeeming value whatsoever.
If the foregoing observations have validity, then it clearly appears to me that Mr. Wadie ought not to have been held in custody by agents of the BNI for more that a couple of hours and then, perhaps, charged with a misdemeanor assault on the image and reputation of Mr. Mahama, and then ordered to appear before a judge, or magistrate, to pay a nominal fine and then summarily discharged with a warning.
Indeed, the judge or magistrate could even order Mr. Wadie to seek psychological counseling and/or psychiatric examination. Needless to say, in the climate of the sort of constitutional crisis that has epileptically gripped the country, over the legitimacy of Mr. Mahama’s declaration as the decisive winner of Election 2012 by the Electoral Commissioner, and its attendant high tension on both sides of the political divide, as it were, the sort of vicarious behavior allegedly displayed by Mr. Wadie is only to be expected. This, of course, is not, however, to assert that it ought to be either condoned or tacitly encouraged, particularly when the relatively quite prominent standing of the accused within the main opposition New Patriotic Party is critically taken into account.
We need to also quickly point out that other fairly equally prominent members of the NPP, such as Messrs. Kufuor, Akufo-Addo and Obetsebi-Lamptey have been known to have their pictures doctored in similarly unflattering ways by their political and ideological opponents and their sponsors. Consequently, I would have been more concerned if the allegedly doctored photograph of President Mahama had entailed something virulently suggestive of a threat to the life of the President.
At any rate, and without seeking in any way, whatsoever, to compromise our general sense of decency as a people and a nation, I still feel that a salutary democratic society like Ghana ought to reserve ample room for a remarkable modicum of tolerance for even the most disgusting and detestable forms of verbal, visual and artistic self-expression entailing even the most uncomplimentary portrayal of the most powerful politician in the country, short of flagrant expressions that seek to endanger his existence as a bona fide citizen of Ghana.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York