opinionBy Daniel Nonor
"There is a sinister force on the prowl in our nation. It is a force of impunity. It is a force of treachery. It is a force of evil. To keep silent in such a situation is to allow evil to triumph."
These were the striking observations of Dr. Mensah Otabil, General Overseer of the International Central Gospel church, when he challenged President John Dramani Mahama to speak against what he described as an evil and malicious attempt to impugn his integrity by affiliates and surrogates of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The dynamic clergyman had for the past few weeks been put in harms way and subjected to public criticism by affiliates of the ruling NDC, over his voice recording, purportedly denigrating the hot button issue of Free Senior High School policy, which has been at the heart of the opposition New Patriotic Party campaign message.
The Ruling National Democratic Congress has since made political capital of the doctored tapes and playing them loudest on their campaign platforms, and made campaign commercials of them.
But Dr. Mensah Otabil, who made his strongest response yet on the issue, at a press conference in Accra yesterday, stated in no uncertain terms that attempts by political elements to draft him into partisan politics was most unfortunate.
He stated emphatically that the sound bites that have been played on the various media platforms have been taken out of context and pieced together for political expediencies.
"My voice and sermons have been sampled, spliced and manipulated to appear to take a political position on a very heated political issue. I have also been made to appear as taking a stand against one political group or the other.
"In some cases, phrases from different messages I have preached over the years, with no relation to each other, have been mischievously pieced together to create the impression that I was making a current contribution to the on-going political debate.
"This is defamatory. This is unethical. This is criminal. This is malicious. This is machiavellian. This is evil," Dr Otabil lamented.
He told the media that he would ordinarily have found solace in the comfort silence provides in such situations, but for the crude awakening that he was "dealing with a marauding and bullying force that was bent on impugning [his] name and integrity without shame".
To him, the piecing of his sermons and thoughts for parochial political purposes without prior approval was itself criminal and constituted a violation of his person and integrity.
"It is a sign of grave impunity for any individual to seize a person's thoughts without their consent and use it in a way that seeks to expose them to public hostility and disrespect. No one has the right to force their thoughts into my words. I own my thoughts. I own my words. I own my beliefs," he emphasized.
He described as immoral "when political operatives sample, splice and edit a pastor's words to mean something other than what was intended, and then go ahead to lift those words from their proper context and place them within a partisan context..."
Mischief, he called it, is when political operatives hijack a pastor's words, manipulate them to build partisan jingles and play them on party information vans across the country.
And most evil of it all, according to Dr. Otabil was when political operatives with sinister motives, deliberately position a pastor to become a target for ridicule, animosity and hostile attacks.
Pastor Otabil said he had, through his ministry worked his vision for humanity by building the dreams and aspirations of many Ghanaian youth through education provided by the church and providing for the needy
"...One of the first things we did as a church was the establishment of an Educational Scholarship Scheme to assist boys and girls through secondary school.
"Christians, Muslims, Hindus and traditionalists benefitted from this initiative. Most of the people we have helped are people who are where I used to be - orphans, deprived and distressed. To date, we continue to operate one of the largest non-governmental educational scholarship schemes in the country". He emphasized among many others
He called upon all people of faith - Christians and Moslems, Pastors and Imams - to demand for righteousness, justice and fairness in our national discourse.