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Hooooray! We Have A President Who Thinks On His Feet!   
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“You look cool and refreshed!” said one female journalist.

Wow! A press conference is supposed to be an event at which a president answers uncomfortable questions, not be complimented on his appearance and demeanour.

That this gilded gift was presented on a silver platter to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at his second encounter with members of the Ghana media indicates that the president is oozing a relaxed attitude that communicates itself to those with whom he interacts. He was full of good humour throughout the two-hour encounter.

Obviously, he would have preferred not to have to talk, for instance, about the “cash-for-seats” poisoned chalice presented to him by the Ministry of Trade. Yet, he wittily threw the irritant in the “chalice” right back into the faces of his critics.

Said he (in effect): look, the person who sat nearest to me at the event that has excited you so much was this Lebanese businessman [name supplied!] who’s been a client of mine for decades. I eat in his house and he eats in mine. I do like Lebanese food and his table provides one of the best fares of that nature! Why would such a man pay $100,000 to sit next to me?”

Now, I submit that only someone brimming with supreme self-confidence could give vent to such engaging sentiments. In public!

Indeed, of all the heads of government whose performance I have observed in the years I’ve chronicled Ghanaian events, none has exhibited such an insouciant attitude as Nana Addo does. Dr Kwame Nkrumah didn’t hold press conferences because he didn’t want to be caught off guard. Even when the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan visited Ghana in early 1960 with the world press in tow, Dr Nkrumah eschewed the joint press conference that usually takes place on such occasions.

“Super-Mac”, of course, relished the occasion. His mood was ebullient and I wasn’t surprised when a few days later, he went to South Africa and read the riot act to the apartheid practitioners, with his “Wind of Change blowing through Africa” speech that has gone down in history as a major contributor to the eventual liquidation of apartheid.

General Joseph Ankrah, who succeeded Dr Nkrumah in 1966, liked to bully newsmen. He didn’t at all understand the idea of a press conference as a means of eliciting information. When I asked him, after General Kotoka’s murder in April 1967, whether another soldier would be appointed to replace the dead General, he shouted at me: “You are the people spreading rumours! When we made the coup, did we say we would replace a dead member of the NLC with another soldier?”

Which provoked an irreverent newsman sitting near me to mutter under his breath,”When you and who made the coup?” (Ankrah was just “dashed” the job of head of state; he didn’t lift a finger during the 24 February 1966 coup.)

Busia was eloquent but too professorial at press conferences; (he first propounded the eccentric idea of engaging in “dialogue” with South Africa, at a press conference.)

I K Acheampong spoke as if he had a heavy tongue. And JJ Rawlings had the disconcerting habit of throwing one’s question back into one’s face and then going off on a tangent. Kufuor and Mills were spared my scrutiny as I was manly abroad during their period at the top. Ditto Mahama.

Akufo-Addo stands out as one who thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to to argue. He thinks on his feet and is not afraid to lay himself open to criticism by those used to forma declamations of figures and facts, even during a question-and-answer session.

For instance, he’s talking about galamsey. And he recalls and shares the information given to him by his senior minister that this minister had been told in Dubai that Ghana was doing very well, having exported “$7 billion worth of gold” to Dubai last year, whereas official figures here only showed exports of gold to Dubai worth only “$2 billion”.

Now, on the Internet, someone suggests that the president ought to have provided “official figures” not what the minister claimed he was told! But how can the president give official figures ad lib? Write to your MP to ask an official parliamentary question and you’ll get an official answer (I told the Internet guy.|)

By the way, on galamsey, I asked the president whether, given the fact that corruption is rife in the way galamsey operates – the importation of bulldozers and excavators through our ports by people who are not road contractors; the way the bulldozers and excavators are driven along our roads and taken into the bush for gold-digging (despite the numerous police check-posts!) – he would “expand” the functions of the Special Prosecutor to include taking on the galamsey operators.

The president said he thought the existing institutions – i.e. the police, the Ministry of Justice and EOCO – could, if strengthened and given more resources, do the job. He didn’t want the Special Prosecutor’s office to become “a rival” to those other institutions, he explained.

I was allowed only one question, so I couldn’t follow up to ask: “But Mr President, these institutions have existed and watched the galamseyers destroy our country! If they didn’t stop it in the past – and who knows for what reason? – how can we rely on them to stop it now? The Special Prosecutor, on the other hand, being a new broom, can – as you put it yourself – “put the fear of God” into them!

“Loads of people commit “corruption” to facilitate galamsey – paying the chiefs and the farmers; bribing the police at road-blocks; “greasing the palms of the prosecutors who prefer mild charges against galamseyers; the corrupt, hidden hands that bail the galamseyers and pay their fines; the court officials who help to get paltry fines imposed on the galamseyers (as captured on video by Ana Aremeyaw Anas)….”

Oh, well, my hope is that the president will be convinced by his advisors to reconsider this issue.

I also hope that he will break protocol and include the majority leader in parliament, as well as the First Deputy Speaker, in his ministerial advisory team on galamsey. Even if informally!

Source: Cameron Duodu - cameronduodu.com

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