1 November 2012

Ghana: Otabil Tape Doctored - Pastor Okyere

As the presidential and parliamentary elections approach, pure propaganda, doctored tapes and secrete recordings seem to be gaining ground in Ghana's body politics, and fast becoming the game plan of those losing out on ideas.

On Monday morning, social media platforms, radio and news web sites were awash with the content of a tape recording of a purported sermon delivered by Pastor Mensah Otabil, General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church, wading into the controversies surrounding the free Senior High School (SHS) policy proposed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Pastor Otabil, in that widely circulated recording, had questioned the quality of free education, among other issues concerning the free school policy.

".... education can never be free, somebody is paying for it, tell me who is paying for it.....nothing is free. You are paying for it, only that you are being told you didn't pay for it. How do you pay for it, through taxation...and you tell me you are giving me free education, when it's my tax that is paying for it."

"The other thing is, if somebody tells you something is free, ask them what is the quality, anything free without control, when it is bad you can't complain. If you don't know the quality, don't take it," Pastor Otabil said in his alleged sermon.

Opponents of the free SHS policy quickly clinched to the tape as though their very lives depended on it, and flung it in the faces of their political opponents to justify their stance on the raging debate on education, that free the SHS was not possible.

As it turned out, the said recording or sermon was delivered some ten years ago, and not last Sunday, as the faceless promoters of the sudden re-surface of the decade-old sermon sought to portray. Also, the issues raised by the Minister of the gospel had nothing to do with free second cycle education.

A statement from Pastor Otabil's outfit yesterday clearly indicated that the respected man of God had not made any recent comment on the debate on educational policy alternatives, as proposed by the various political parties in the country, neither had he expressed open support for any party's position on the matter.

In effect, the tape recording was not only a vicious attempt by some political elements to gain cheap political advantage, but also a criminal attempt to throw dust into the eyes of the voting public, as indications are that the recording was doctored to suit their purpose.

"The tape being circulated is a collection of thoughts edited from a message shared by Pastor Otabil several years ago, and pieced together to create the impression that he is taking a stand on the current political debate on the issue of education." A statement signed by a Senior Associate Minister of the church, Rev. Kofi Okyere, noted

The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) had, since the launch of its campaign for the 2012 elections, given the ruling NDC a run for their money, with the promise of free Senior High School education if voted into power, but the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has argued that what the nation needs was quality education at all levels, not free education.

When the doctored tape hit the air waves, it attracted varied reactions from the public, most of who obviously fell victim to the ploy to make political gain of the harmless message by Pastor Otabil.

The statement further clarified that, "Pastor Otabil agrees with the constitutional provision that every Ghanaian child is entitled to3 and the state must provide Free Compulsory Basic Education, beginning from pre-school to the Senior High School level. However, each parent must take responsibility for the academic growth and quality of education that their child receives."

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