“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions”
In a class on ‘Diplomacy’ at the Master’s level some years ago, we were introduced to quotations of some renowned world – class diplomats: Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S.A., and the 6th President, Winston Churchill, war-time Prime Minister of U.K. (1940-45 and 1951-1955), Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary who was a major figure in the Cuban Revolution, Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady (1933 to 1945 during her husband Roosevelt’s four terms in office) – to mention just very few. We analysed some of their speeches, and generally agreed that, one: ‘Diplomacy is the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way’; two: ‘Speech is silvern, but silence is golden’, so Queen Elizabeth I would say: ‘I observe and remain silent’; three: ‘Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy ‘(Isaac Newton); four: ‘An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country’ (Norman Davies); five: ‘Tact is the ability to step on a man’s toes without messing up the shine on his shoes’ et cetera.
Who does not know His Excellency George Ayisi – Boateng? He is such a fine gentleman with whom every person, high or low, literate or illiterate could relate – no matter which party one belonged to. In fact, until he got elevated to the high position of High Commissioner, he was the only person who would open his door to some of us whenever we called at his Goil Station at Asafo Market. ‘Onipa nua’, he would respond and give you a Guinness or a drink of water – melon juice. He would give you free fuel if you had run short of money. Foot – soldiers, communicators… name them… would troop to his office for advice and for ‘goro’–something small for the pocket. On radio, he was fantastic. Neither aggressive nor diffident, neither belligerent nor complaisant, neither pugnacious nor acquiescent.
Some of us were lacing our boots to visit him in Pretoria, some thirty minutes ride with Gautrain from Johannesburg and enjoy his traditional welcome which was likely to surpass the one we received when we last visited South Africa some ten years back. If you find tears welling in my eyes, it may be one of two reasons: the death of my ‘holy’ room – mate, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu in South Africa and the diplomatic conundrum (mess, crux, bewilderment) George Ayisi – Boateng has found himself; it is a Gordian knot – very difficult to untwine until cut by an Alexander the Great!
George’s speech at the meeting of TESCON a week before had been his Achille’s heel- the heel which Achille’s mother Thetis held him as a baby while she immersed him in River Styx and made his whole body non – vulnerable, except for the heel.
Various interpretations have been given Ayisi Boateng’s speech – from mundane through hyperbolic to quixotic. Kwaku Ogboro thinks: “Ambassador Ayisi Boateng did not say anything abominable. What he said was the truth. Unlike many of us who want to be politically correct, the brave diplomat dared to be different. His only crime is that he decided to speak the kind of truth that is not spoken. I’m sure he has learnt his lesson?” Who can fault Enimil Ashon for arguing: “I could imagine myself in the event of a xenophobic attack in South Africa. Where else do I run to but the High Commission! Yet at the gates of Ghana’s mission house, there stands an officer who is on strict orders to open the gates only for Ghanaians who can prove they are members of the NPP! “Well was it said by Benjamin Franklin: “Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults”.
Ayisi – Boateng, after an initial resistance, has rendered an apology, “after sober reflection” for ignoring the country’s Constitution and declaring that his first ‘priority’ shall be the members of the governing NPP. Ex President Mahama has condemned this apology because Ayisi – Boateng had stated that he apologised “for the effect of my words” instead of apologising “for my words”. Semantics? On the platform of the NDC Unity Walk at Cape Coast, Ex – President Mahama had stated: “But finally, when I talk about the President not putting his foot down, we have a Constitution and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If you are a party officer, you can say whatever you want, there’s no problem. You can say, oh, all jobs should go to NDC people before it goes to NPP people, that’s if you are Allotey Jacobs you can say that because Government doesn’t pay you… Have you read Animal Farm before? It says all animals are equal. That’s how they started … President Akufo Addo said we shall open the opportunities of this country to all Ghanaians irrespective of your party, or your ethnic affiliation… so we did the ‘revolution’ and he came to power, Now that the pigs are enjoying they say some Ghanaians are more Ghanaian than others …”. Ex – President Mahama is calling for the head of Ayisi – Boateng. So has Kweku Baako; so have other political purists. But the president appears adamantine.
NDC may have forgotten how they treated some Ghanaians with ‘priority’ over others. I, and I mean, I -was a personal victim and that was in 2009! We have since then been just diplomatic. No ‘equalisation’ intended. Who said Ex – President Mahama’s speech can be given ‘connotative’ and ‘denotative’ meaning? Do you expect NPP people to do a contextual analysis and give the ‘pigs’ its connotative meaning? Do you expect NPP people to see the personification of the ‘pigs’ in Animal Farm? Was he not the one who ridiculed some tribes for confusing ‘l’ and ‘r’? Was he not the one who claimed Kumasi people will not appreciate him even if he laced the streets with gold? Was he not the one who said ‘yenntie obiara’? Montie Three were pardoned, weren’t they? Asem se be.
But now, how and why should the NPP allow vigilantism to fester in our body politic—Invincible Forces. Delta Forces, et cetera. You know the ‘how’ and ‘why’ it is happening? Some of the ‘foot – soldiers’ may not possess any paper qualification. They may have used their brawn instead of brain to help NPP achieve the diadem. After winning, they expect to be simply accorded warm reception. But what happens when their contacts have switched off their phones? They do not know who else to contact. Koomson of Tema is full of praise for Kennedy Agyapong. His vehicle had broken down at Winneba Junction and he saw Kennedy zoom past. He called Kennedy on the phone: and he returned and gave Koomson company till he had the problem on his vehicle solved. Kennedy is one person who has kept faith with the ‘grassroot’- just like Onipa Nua.
In an un-stratified discussion with many people who backed NPP in the last election, it was seen that some are disillusioned; they have threatened not to waste their energies again. Some people may qualify for several positions at the same time—yes–but some may have been forgotten. Some people may qualify for an extension of time after their retirement is due, but some may have been neglected. Unfortunately, they—and I mean the NPP sympathisers use the very words the NDC people use—close to the Ayisiboatengian faux pas. They say: “One man no chop”. For me, it is to Azania.