The political landscape in Ghana is rapidly becoming polarized and diabolical. The battle for voter favourability within the two leading parties and against each other is intensifying as both parties ramp up campaigns to elect their respective presidential candidates. While competitions for political power have traditionally been fought along ideological lines, a creeping, dangerous trend is emerging: the proclivity to demonize political opponents as morally bankrupt, deplorable, and corrupt. In order to excite readers and viewers, the media is amplifying this polarization and demonization through sensationalism, which ultimately reinforces stereotypes and deters decent people with impeccable reputations from getting into politics.
The Anas videotape, dubbed “the galamsey economy,” was released a few weeks ago. It showed us the ugliness of our polarized politics and the creeping dangers of unethical, irresponsible journalism to our nascent democracy. As this article will show, the greatest threat to our democracy today is the growth of scandal-centric, personality-focused journalism that is devoid of the in-depth analysis and fact-based context that would enable the people to objectively assess the root causes of social ills in our country.
The Anas video made an implicit yet unmistakable statement: the Vice President is culpable by the mere mention of his name in the video by a former Minister of State who had fallen victim of Anas’ entrapment and underhanded investigative methods. Anas speculated, without providing any evidence, that Mr. Adu Boahen’s hearsay statement about his connection with the Vice President should be deemed as credible evidence undermining the Vice President’s integrity.
Social media and opposition politicians quickly spread this exaggerated and unfounded claim by Anas to demonize the Vice President and deliberately tarnish his image. Within 24 hours, the Vice President released a statement and publicly asked the President to fire Mr. Adu Boahen, which was unprecedented in the history of this country. In my view, if the video was authentic, it revealed that Mr. Adu Boahen was either eager to use the Vice President’s name to extract some personal benefit or desperate to induce the fake investor to commit.
Mr. Adu Boahen might have needlessly and recklessly mentioned the Vice President’s name to flaunt his own sense of self-importance, but that was exactly what Anas was looking for. He was interested in drawing a bigger fish into his narrative to drum up public interest in the video. In his quest to create a sensational story, and garner media attention, Anas deliberately kept the Vice President’s name in the tape. He showed a careless disregard for the reputational harm to the Vice President, never mind the damage to his own credibility and journalistic integrity, or his responsibility to avoid salacious speculation devoid of any substantiation whatsoever.
Now, let us consider this simple fact. The video had one person at the centre of the story: Mr. Charles Adu Boahen. Further, was only one “issue” at the centre: Mr. Adu Boahene’s alleged attempt to induce a “potential investor” to pay a bribe. The Vice President did not have any dealings with the “fake investor” and there was no evidence to establish that he was even aware of the meeting between the “fake investor’ and Mr. Adu Boahen. Thus, if Anas was indeed interested in objectivity and uncovering the truth, he would have provided the Vice President an opportunity to respond to Mr. Adu Boahen’s allegation on tape and then use the response to either challenge Mr. Adu Boahen or to impeach his credulity. The fact that Anas did not attempt to substantiate the allegations but decided to run with a series of vague, subjective and untested insinuations revealed his agenda: to mine a potential scandal and unfairly “smear” the Vice-President.
Anas’ investigative findings were incomplete, to say the least, as he obviously entrapped Mr. Adu Boahen, and linked the Vice-President’s name to the scandal that he (Anas) engineered. Of course, Mr. Boahen is hardly a sympathetic figure. However, having compromised Mr. Boahen, Anas had a responsibility to test the credibility of Mr. Boahen’s allegations against senior members of the government, including the Vice-President.
Certainly, a scandal-driven video that implicates the Vice President might drive more clicks and garner public interest. The broader question is how did the video empower members of the public to demand systemic change in the fight against corruption? No doubt Anas and his Tiger Eye team are in a position to provide a valuable service to the nation. However, to maintain their credibility in an era of “fake news” and “cancel culture,” where the public is already skeptical of the media, Anas and his team must filter out unsubstantiated narratives that needlessly reinforce the negativity in our country.
I have been exposed to a lot of great leaders throughout my career, some good and some bad. Whether it was during my time in the public service or my experience in the private sector, great leaders I have come to admire and respect always share common qualities: humility, integrity, respect, tolerance, and empathy. The Vice President has not only consistently demonstrated these qualities but has maintained the high level of integrity expected of the office he occupies. Hence, Anas and his team should have exercised the common decency and responsibility to ascertain the veracity of Mr. Adu Boahen’s insinuations rather than putting vague and unsubstantiated information in the public domain.
Certainly, we are all human, and therefore imperfect and vulnerable in our own unique ways. Thus, I do not in any way suggest that the Vice President is beyond criticism. Nonetheless, this was not criticism, but rather a transparent attempt to link the Vice-President to an engineered scandal, with no basis in truth or facts. The Vice President is campaigning to become the flagbearer of his party. Hence, in the eyes of skeptical public, Anas’ video seemed like the work of a political activist determined to tarnish the Vice President’s image ahead of the presidential primaries. If Anas and his team hope to help to combat corruption effectively and address the crisis of impunity in our country, they must break the log jam of demonization. Indeed, corruption is cancer destroying our nation. However, by entrapping people and engineering scandal, the media participates in corruption and loses sight of its truth-seeking mission. Rather than manufacturing scandals, I respectfully urge Anas and the media to focus their investigations on exposing systemic, legislative and administrative weaknesses that enables people who are entrusted with power use to exploit, plunder and steal from the poorest of the poor in our country.
Written by Kwame Abrefah Esq, Canada
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