Mass condemnation across the country and beyond forced President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to back down from his plans to punish Appiah stadium over the latter’s comment about the President. Appiah Stadium was heavily condemned for making that reckless comment about the sitting President.
He quickly apologised to the sitting President and Ghanaians and asked for forgiveness. In spite of his show of genuine remorse, he was arrested by the Kumasi police, handcuffed and subjected through unfair treatment.
The combination of the mass condemnation and protests, which showed no sign of abating, and growing international condemnation seems to have weakened the President’s resolve. Even Mr Abdul Kweku Baako, normally a solid supporter of the sitting President, condemned the arrest of Appiah Stadium describing it as “Useless” and “unnecessary”. According to the commanders at the Ashanti Regional Headquarters, an order was issued from “above” to arrest Appiah and be brought to Accra which was perfectly executed by the Ashanti Regional Command. By evening Tuesday, the protest spread across the ccountry
When news reached Ghanaians that the police was bringing Appiah to the national headquarters, hundreds of people denounced all odds and marched to the headquarters to protest against the arrest. Although the protests were aimed at condemning the arrest, they raised broader questions about the President and his current position on free speech. What kind of country so we want to live in ? Is it a nest of intolerant leaders or the Ghana we handed to the current leaders few months ago.
Ghanaians are not averse with the government, they simply want it to be better and to command the respect of Ghanaians and, in turn, respect the citizens themselves in a quid pro quo manner.
The use of heedless steam- roller by government through state institutions is creating unnecessary tension in the country and tarnishing the country’s image on the global stage. The protests were ostensibly a demand for answers to why a President who is an astute lawyer and spoke vehemently against suppression of free speech years ago will suddenly create a climate where freedom of speech and expression is under attack on all numerous front. Even though the constitution recognises that the freedom of speech may be limited through reasonable restrictions in the interest of preventing defamation, the President per his intended action seemed to make freedom of speech itself subordinate to the right to reputation. The Police and its masters who took Appiah through that inhuman ordeal failed to reason why, even if reputation is a sound basis to freedom of speech, defamation should necessarily be criminalised for these purposes as reasonable restriction permitted under the constitution. People in power continue to harass critics with “disguised criminal” defamation when in actual fact the has been removed from the books. It is time for Ghanaians including our courts to aim at creating a proper framework that maintains a healthy balance, recognising both primacy of freedom of speech and the need to have sufficient protection for individual’s reputation as well.