I have worked as a PR practitioner in two multinational companies – one mining, the other telecommunications.
In my capacity as a practitioner I have had to deal with media folk of various ilk. Having practiced journalism before, it was quite easy to appreciate the actions of journalism.
A video went viral that showed the news coverage of President Mahama’s visit to the Scottish parliament – I maintain the phrase ‘visit to the Scottish parliament’ and would stay clear of calling it ‘State visit’.
In the said video, and commentaries that preceded it, Stan Xoese Dogbe, the President’s reliable and unmovable right hand man was seen shielding his boss from a potential ambush interview that was sought by a journalist on the issues of gay rights. Stan was seen firmly and effectively preventing the journalist from thrusting a microphone in the direction of the President so he could walk away without answering the question.
I have done a similar thing on several occasions.
As a PR person one of your jobs is to ensure that journalists do not arrest an event to skew the reportage in their interest.
This will sometimes mean stepping in to say something like ‘I am afraid Mr. XYZ and this company will not like to comment on this matter at this moment’. There may be times that the practitioner must be tough and possibly use physical restraints especially when the journalist may be hostile. I therefore appreciate Stan’s actions absolutely.
What however remains of concern is the seemingly undiplomatic manner this trip was organised. I haven’t studied Diplomacy before but I didn’t need to be an expert to realise this was a badly arranged visit that left a tonne of questions left unanswered. Bright Simons of mPedigree and Imani Ghana encapsulated my feelings when he said;
” What has been bugging my mind is: who arranged this visit to the Scottish parliament in the first place? If the host country hasn’t expressed a willingness to grant a state visit then why include on the itinerary a stop usually associated with state visits? Why should the President of a sovereign state go to the Parliament of another country to observe proceedings from a gallery, and then address a small group of parliamentarians in a committee room? It looks like someone was recklessly trying to make this a state visit by force. Why didn’t the President make this a private visit to Aberdeen to collect his doctorate award? Whilst I resent the attitude of some of the Scottish parliamentarians and journalists, I think more blame should be assigned whoever arranged the visit. There was a sense of protest about the whole thing on the Scottish side, and it probably stems from lack of diplomatic preparation to ensure that the political elite was ready and generally willing to host a state visit. Someone probably arranged the whole LGBT controversy to scuttle what was seen as an imposition”.
The President is just one man with a thousand things to do. He can’t do everything himself. He counts on people that you and I pay to do some of this work. For this trip, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, State Protocol Department and Ghana’s Mission to the UK must take the responsibility. Our institutions are often quick to step out for the applause but hasten slowest when the criticisms start falling around them. Again as Simons intimates, the President could have simply gone to the University on a private visit to pick up his award and then come back home quietly. I frankly didn’t find this visit to the Scottish parliament for these unpresidential, undiplomatic heckling to be subjected to our President. Even getting a respectable seating place was disregarded.
Was it the case that State Protocol and National Security didn’t access the area the President was to sit or they did and in their mind, there ws nothing wrong with having the President of Kwame Nkrumah’s government and his wife and key officials cramped on two benches in the public gallery of a colony of Britain? Let’s think about that for a second.
On the issue of Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights, Ace Ankomah, lawyer and member of Occupy Ghana puts it succinctly;
“I am going to try to remain restrained in my language.
I feel offended at what some Scottish MPs did or sought to do yesterday. Some TV footage is making rounds on social media. That behavior was cheap, low, crass and not right. The President did not pass the laws on homosexuality. He has no power to repeal them. That power is for parliament.
And for the information of these dummies, those laws were first written in official statues here by the UK, the country to which they, the Scots, technically and happily remain a colony (and they just gleefully voted to remain so).
And, does whoever arranged that part of the trip still have a job this morning?”
Yes, are we going to punish someone for this or we are going to wallow in our mediocrity and say these are not bread and butter issues? What we saw in photos and videos clearly show that something was not right. Let’s do this right. We are proudly part of the 75 nations left globally who still maintain same-sex relationships must not be given legal stature. If any country won’t invite our President to their country because of it, then they can take their country – that’s my opinion but of course I am not always diplomatic.
Let me congratulate President Mahama on what I believe is a second honorary doctorate in two or so years. Some friends of mine and I have been on a crusade against people who pay for doctorates from institutions that are not recognised by any body. Worse, they pay for full page ads to praise themselves as well. Our President gets these awards from legitimate institutions and then asks us not to call him with the ‘Dr’ prefix – that’s so unGhanaian, isn’t it?