Linguistic Blunder, Intellectual Inaccuracy and the Presidency; a National Canker or Political Gameball?

Part I

I saw my country go through the hale and brimstones of political campaign. I saw a nation stretched so thinly beyond its possible elastic point, and I saw her recover, pull together and go to the polls.

I saw a nation sit on tenterhooks as it awaited results of what had been, arguably, the most keenly, fiercely and dangerously contested Presidential election in the history of the nation. I saw a nation jump sky-high in victory and glory, and I saw a nation slump in defeat and shock.

I saw a nation gather on the grounds of the Black Star square, awaiting the most celebrated son of the land – their president, and I saw a president hold his people spell-bound as his voice reverberated in the scorching mid-morning tropical sun as he delivered his inaugural speech.

All the chips are down, then it begins . . .

There seems to be some shadow of nonchalance that is subtly, but surely, gaining grounds in the relatively young administration of our new government. In what appears to have become a litany of very grievous slips and missteps, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell whether, as a nation, we have resigned ourselves to celebrating mediocrity or it’s just the case that we have absolutely no regard for the image of our nation.

One is unable to tell whether this development is a consequence of post-election jitters or merely lack of requisite diligence on the part of officials in high positions of responsibility.

Not too long ago, our dear nation became the punchline of international mockery as the world took us to the cleaners over alleged plagiarism of portions of the president’s inaugural speech.

As demeaning and damaging as this incident was, we have consciously opted to reduce the matter to petty political gymnastic. You have state officials, some of whom are surprisingly well-read on the subtleties of language and content, take very shocking positions on the propriety or otherwise of the matter rather than point out, correct and, possibly, condemn an obvious intellectual and moral evil.

You would find people digging up all manner of documents and legal clauses to justify why the president had to deliver what was essentially a ‘stolen’ speech, and pass it off as his own passionate pact with an anxious and expectant nation such as we were that day.

The implication of all this, to me (and to many others out there, I’m sure) is so very simple: It does not really matter whether what happened technically amounts to plagiarism or not. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t; the facts of the matter, nonetheless, remain brutally true. Were significant portions of the president’s inaugural speech (including his popular refrain “I invite you to be citizens”) lifted verbatim from someone else’s speech without proper reference? Yes, they were. Is there evidence of the alleged lifting? Yes, there is. Does this amount to intellectual dishonesty? Absolutely.

My mutton then is, how do I, as a citizen (and not a spectator), keep my confidence reposed in my president when it turns out that the very beautiful and enchanting words with which he won that confidence, in the first place, are actually not his own words? How could he not have been able to convey to me, in his own candid and honest way, his commitment to my welfare and that of the nation, but had to serve me stale leftovers from others’ dinner tables?

Well, in all of this, though, I do not necessarily give the president much blame. In my candid opinion, the man unsuspectingly suffered the consequence of the laziness and misguided smartness of his scribe(s). In as much as the president owes himself (and the nation) a duty to peruse all speeches before delivery, the sheer weight of the burden of presidency will not afford him the luxury of time to check all linguistic technicalities and do the needed anti-plagiarism checks. Someone is being paid heavily by the taxpayer’s money to do just that, for crying out loud! This is why I’m strongly of the conviction that this was the doing of a lazy, inexperienced speech writer who was probably under the illusion that he could just sit in the comfort of his room, surf the net and, with the unfailing aid of Google search engine, cut off portions of other people’s intellectual property, smartly ‘massage’ them and pass it off as his own creativity, just like many of us used to do back in the university. I’m sorry, my-dearest-presidential-speechwriter, those days were lived only in the university when you desperately needed to please your lecturer and make the grades. The days of ‘dabbing’ are long over! The office of the president is a very real and serious institution, not an illusion. The presidency is serious business; a little sleep, a little slumber and your national dignity and respect goes down the drain!

. . .to be continued



Source: 105.1/ Etornam Ohene-Sefadzi

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