columnBy I. K. Gyasi
In desperately trying to distance President John Dramani Mahama from the smelly, faecal taint of homosexuality, Mr. Mahama Ayariga, the new Minister of Information and Media Relations, overzealously committed an unforgivable blunder of gargantuan proportions.
Before I go any further, dear reader, permit me to sketch in the relevant background. You will recall that Vice President John Mahama (as he then was) went to far away United States of America (USA) to launch his autobiography entitled, MY FIRST COUP D'ETAT. The man who was chosen to moderate the function was one Mr. Andrew Solomon. Who is he?
According to the DAILY GUIDE newspaper, "Andrew Solomon is the pioneer of composite family, where he advocates for gays to be allowed to live a complete family life by using surrogate parents to bear kids.
"Mr. Solomon, who is the 'female' partner in a same-sex relationship with another man, is the founder of the Solomon Research Fellowship for the rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered (LGBT), located in the Yale University in Connecticut, USA.
"He is a strong financier of gay advocacy, and a formidable gay lobbyist worldwide. Incidentally, Andrew Solomon's gay 'husband' is a journalist called John Habich..." Mr. Solomon is also noted as fine writer and a winner of the US National Book Award. (See DAILY GUIDE, Monday, February 4, 2013 Page 3).
At the book launch, Mr. Solomon reportedly paid the highest amount of $20,000.00 (Twenty thousand US dollars) for the first autographed copy of the book.
When the story first broke, what happened? According to THE CHRONICLE editorial of Tuesday, February 5, 2013, "last Friday, February 1, (2013), an independent newspaper , the DAILY GUIDE, reported on its front page the news that a well-known homosexual, one Andrew Solomon, a gay and gay rights activist from the US, was a friend of His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama.
"A radio station, after reviewing the story, contacted Presidential Spokesperson John Jinapor to comment on the story. He said he was yet to see His Excellency that morning, so he would not confirm or deny the alleged friendship between the President and Solomon, and pleaded for time to see his boss first."
I believe that Mr. Jinapor must be one of the persons closest, if not the closest, to the President. He (Mr. Jinapor) was the Vice Presidential Spokesperson and Aide.
Yet, when he was reportedly asked to comment on the story, he chose discretion and commonsense, he would check with his boss and report later. But what did the new-kid-on-the-block Ayariga do?
He hastily called a press conference and said, among other things, "The organisers settled on Andrew Solomon purely, purely on the basis of his acumen in writing, journalism and authorship. And for that reason, the organisers thought that somebody like that would be the appropriate person to moderate that particular book launch in New York.
"He wasn't chosen by the President, the President did not know him before the launch, so the President really did not have a relationship with him. (See the DAILY GUIDE issue referred to above).
The paper reported further that Mr. Ayariga had gone on to state that the President did not have to do any background check on Andrew Solomon, and that the gay activist was shoved down the throat of John Mahama by the event organisers.
Mr. Ayariga continued: "Very often, he (the President) only gets to know who is going to be the MC when he gets there; who is going to be the moderator; he gets to know when he gets there. There are so many other actors at the event that he only gets to know when he gets to the event.
"Presidents are too busy to be concerned about such details. If you are going to launch a book, and they say there is going to be a moderator, and then you ask what is his sexual orientation... it is not what you expect of a President." (DAILY GUIDE. Ibid).
The embarrassment which Mr. Ayariga showered himself with could have been avoided if, like a sycophant, he did not try hard to please his master.
Of course, as a general rule, he was right to state that a lot of the details and arrangements for such a function would be left to the organisers.
In this particular case, however, he would have avoided the shame of back-tracking if he had shown the kind of common sense and discretion displayed by Mr. Jinapor.
First, he embarrassed himself by showing indirectly that he had not even read his master's autobiography. On page 316, Mr. Mahama thanks "US National Book Award Winner Andrew Solomon for also providing a gracious advance quote. Andrew was also quite generous with his referrals and other literary resource. I will always remember the fantastic dinner party Andrew hosted for me in his Manhattan home that set the ball rolling" (DAILY GUIDE" Ibid).
So, Mr. Ayariga had not even read his master's book before he opened his mouth wide to rush to his defence? Of course, human rights advocates might defend Mr. Ayariga by saying that there is no law that could compel him to read the book. I would agree, though I would have thought that a Minister of Information would play it safe by doing so, just in case he had to talk about it.
You see, Mr. Ayariga is not a novice in matters of government and governance. The man is a lawyer, and lawyers generally weigh their facts and words and evidence very carefully before they speak.
Mr. Ayariga, who was once a Member of Parliament, went out and has returned to that august house. While he was away, he was a member of the Castle staff of our late President, Professor John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, as his spokesperson.
There was a bit of a tussle between him and Mr. Koku Anyidaho, then the Presidential Communications boss. He lost out, but ended up as one of two Deputy Ministers of Education.
Mr. Ayariga is no stranger to the media. At one time, he was a regular fixture on JOY FM's NEWFSILE programme. His expression, "Is that OK?" became familiar.
He and I were once on a panel on the PERISCOPE programme of GBC's GARDEN CITY RADIO in Kumasi, but that was a long time ago, and he might not even remember. He has spoken on other networks too.
I am saying that if Mr. Ayariga was someone coming into public life for the first time, or dealing with the media as a fresh Minister of Information, he could have been forgiven for his monumental goof.
You see, this was not even a matter concerning the government directly. In writing and launching his autography, Mr. Mahama was engaging in a purely private activity.
Therefore, the most qualified person to answer questions about the book and the launch would have been his publicist, or at least, his spokesperson. In any case, why did Mr. Ayariga not check first with the President? Shame!